HMS Ocean Celebrates Naval Aviators’ Korean Heroics

HMS Ocean Celebrates Naval Aviators'€™ Korean Heroics

Friends and family of HMS Ocean were treated to a vintage air display to mark one of the greatest achievements in naval aviation 60 years ago. A Sea Fury performed for the Mighty O’s families’ day off Plymouth to thrill the helicopter carrier’s guests – and celebrate the 60th anniversary of the piston-engined fighter’s downing of a MiG jet over Korea.

Watching the magnificent Hawker Sea Fury are friends and family of HMS Ocean who were treated to a display from the 60-year-old aircraft to celebrate one of the finest moments in Fleet Air Arm history.

Six decades ago this August a Sea Fury like this one operating from the deck of the previous Ocean downed a Soviet MiG-15 over North Korea – the only occasion a British piston-engined fighter shot down a jet.

And 60 years later, there remain a handful of the 850-plus Sea Furies built still flying – among them this two-seat T.20 trainer once flown by the post-war Luftwaffe but now in the hands of the Royal Navy Historic Flight, the Fleet Air Arm’s counterpart to the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Former Harrier test pilot Lt Cdr Chris Gotke climbed into the cockpit for the ‘reunion’ with the Mighty O in the Plymouth Exercise areas to mark the historic Sea Fury-Ocean ties – and to treat the guests mustered on flight deck of Britain’s biggest warship.

“Being able to fly the Sea Fury is a dream come true, she has excellent handling characteristic making it a really good weapons delivery platform borne out by her operations over Korea. It’s a privilege to be able to fly the aircraft, particularly when linked to occasions such as this,” he said.

The sight of the fighter’s graceful lines and the wonderful sound of her Bristol Centaurus radial engine weren’t the only treats laid on for the helicopter assault ship’s families’ day.

Fellow Yeovilton natives the Black Cats, 702 Naval Air Squadron’s Lynx display team, put on a show of aerial pirouetting, nodding and other skilful tricks, while a Hawk jet speed things up by staging a mock air attack on Ocean – and her ship’s company responded by demonstrating how they would fend off such a foe.

And of a less dynamic nature, static displays were set up in the hangar, vehicle deck and the quarterdeck allowing sailors and marines to explain their roles aboard.

It was the iconic Sea Fury which stole the show, however. The aircraft entered service a couple of months after the end of WW2 and remained on active duties until 1955, by which time the Fleet Air Arm was already on to its third jet fighter.

Despite the advent of the jet age, the Sea Fury was the leading carrier fighter when war broke out in Korea in 1950. Operating from the decks of several Royal and Royal Australian Navy carriers, the aircraft were largely used in ground-attack roles, armed with bombs and rockets.

On 9 August 1952 a Flight of Sea Furies from 802 Squadron flown by Lieutenants Carmichael and Davis, and Sub-Lieutenants Haines and Ellis, were on an armed reconnaissance flight in an area just North of Chinimpo on the Korean peninsula when they were attacked by eight enemy MiG-15s.

Despite the enemy’s superiority in numbers and a 200mph speed advantage, the Sea Fury pilots shot down one MiG – a kill credited to Lt Peter ‘Hoagy’ Carmichael as flight leader – and badly damaged two others without incurring any damage to their own aircraft.

In tribute to their deeds, and all who flew the great fighter, the Historic Flight maintains two Furies, one single-seater (FB11) which served with 802 NAS as well as the two seater.

Naval Today Staff , June 8, 2012; Image: Royal Navy