Designed by Hawker as a carrier-based fighter-bomber powered by a single Rolls Royce Nene turbojet engine, the Sea Hawk made its maiden flight on 3 September 1948 and first entered service in March 1953 with 806 squadron, embarking on HMS Eagle later the same year.
As production orders at Hawker's Kingston and Langley factories could not cope with the large orders for both the naval Sea Hawk, and the Hawker Hunter being produced for the RAF, it was decided that all Sea Hawk production would be transfered to Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Ltd at Coventry.
Sea Hawks saw front line service with the Fleet Air Arm until 1960, operating from the carriers Eagle, Bulwark, Albion and Ark Royal and being used operationally during the Suez Crisis in November 1956 for ground attack sorties against airfields in an effort to cover the Anglo-French landings in Egypt.
The Sea Hawk also proved attractive to some overseas customers. West Germany, India, Australia and the Netherlands all operated the type with Indian examples being retired in 1984.
In all 434 aircraft were produced for the Royal Navy, making it the largest production run for any British naval jet fighter.
The Sea Hawk in the Ulster Aviation Society's Heritiage collection was built in 1954 as an FB.3 variant and entered service with No. 897 Squadron in February 1956, embarking on HMS Eagle in April of the same year. It was then transferred to 895 squadron on HMS Bulwark, and became one of the aircraft to play an active role during the Suez crisis, flying combat air patrols.
In January 1957 the aircraft arrived at RNAY Fleetlands for conversion to FB.5 standard. In October it again joinied HMS Eagle flying with No. 806 Squadron, in whose service it remained until returned to Fleetlands for repair of damage caused by striking electrical cables whilst taking part in a low-flying exercise.
Whilst at Fleetlands the decision was taken to convert WN108 for use by the Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU) based at Hurn, and it was for this task that the aircraft was painted in its current Gloss Black Scheme. It joined the unit on 2 June 1958 carrying the code 033 and served until 1963 when on 1 August, it was delivered from Hurn to Shorts Admiralty Holding Unit Sydenham, for Long-Term Storage (LTS).
Unlike many LTS aircraft it was saved from the breakers yard and aquired by Shorts for use in their Apprentice Training School. For twenty five years this was to be it's home where it was used as an instructional airframe for many hundreds of Shorts apprentices.
In 1989, WN108 was kindly donated to The Ulster Aviation Society by Shorts. The Sea Hawk finally took to the air again , albeit with the assitance of a crane, when it was lifted through the roof of the Apprentice Training Centre - after 25 years of building developement it was the only way of removing the aircraft. The aircraft is currently the only Seahawk on display preserved in FRU markings.