Kuwait Air Force Supermarine Swift FGA.4E

Gallery Article by Dave Bailey, aka The Rat on Jan 6 2017

Silly Week 2017


The withdrawal of British forces from Iraq in 1954 led to a number of different factions vying for power, and in 1958 a military take-over occurred which resulted in the death of many members of the Royal Family. This development was worrisome to their southern neighbour, Kuwait, as Iraq had long cast a glance toward it, and made dubious claims of historical ownership. 

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It was decided to modernise the Kuwaiti military, and procurement of aircraft and armour was a priority. The air force had taken note of the success of the Supermarine Swift during the Suez Crisis, when 56 Squadron RAF had put them to effective use as ground attack aircraft. This had led to a dedicated variant, the FGA.4. Modifications included wing fences to decrease the chance of pitch problems, and the addition of extra fuel. This was housed in tanks in the fuselage, utilising the internal space created when the engine had been changed from the centrifugal flow RR Nene to the axial flow Avon.

The RAF had finally come to understand that the Swift would never be a high altitude performer, and decided that the FGA.4 would become their standard ground attack aircraft, freeing up Hawker Hunters for the high altitude fighter role, a task to which they were ably suited. An export version was designated the FGA.4E, and Kuwait ordered 30. Armament consisted of bombs and/or rockets, with the nose guns being retained for strafing and air combat.

Trials showed the predictable and chronic problems with hydraulic leakage, something which had plagued the Swift from its very beginnings. But the tireless efforts of Tiltman Langley Labs eventually got things down to a workable and efficient level, and led to the creation of Supermarine TL. This was a joint company which used personnel from each, and operated as a semi-independent entity. They became known around the world as trouble-shooters for the aviation industry, and many successful aircraft, and companies, owe their service lives to their work. 

Dave Bailey

Photos and text by Dave Bailey