The Fury was designed as a lighter, smaller version of the Hawker Tempest to a joint British Air Ministry and Admiralty wartime specification. The land-based Fury first flew in September 1944 but at the war’s end RAF interest in the ultimate Hawker piston-engined fighter ceased. Development of the Sea Fury did, however, continue, following the version’s test flight in February 1945. This aircraft was essentially a navalized land plane, complete with non-folding wings. The second prototype Sea Fury was a fully navalized aircraft, with folding wings and arrester hook and was powered by a Bristol Centaurus XV.
The production version, the Sea Fury Mk X, began to replace Fleet Air Arm Supermarine Seafires from August 1947. Meanwhile trials with external stores and rocket-assisted take-off equipment led to the Sea Fury FB. Mk 11. It was this aircraft that represented the ultimate development of British piston-engined fighters and the FB.11 proved to be an extremely capable combat aircraft. FAA Sea Furies were among the few British aircraft types that saw combat during the Korean War (1950-3), where they were mainly used in the ground-attack role, operating from HMS Theseus, HMS Ocean, HMS Glory and HMAS Sydney. Korea was the first true jet versus jet war but the Sea Fury is known to have destroyed more Communist aircraft than any other non-US type and even shot down a number of North Korean MiGs.
The Sea Fury, the last piston-engined fighter in RN front-line service, continued flying with Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve units until 1957 and was replaced in FAA service by the Sea Hawk.
Although the RAF rejected the Fury design, a little-known contract with Iraq saw 55 land-based Furies and five two-seat trainers delivered to the Iraqi Air Force between 1948 and 1955. The IAF are known to have used the aircraft in a counter-insurgency role. Pakistan also received Furies and used them in action against India until 1973.
Sea Furies were also exported to Egypt, Burma, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands, where a number were also licence-built by Fokker. At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Cuba’s fighter defence centred on 15 FB.11s, which had been imported in the Batista period.
After their military service a number of these high-performance piston aircraft were snapped up for air racing in the United States, where they set world record speeds.