The Swiss Air Force operated 182 de Havilland DH.100 Vampire early jet fighter-bombers. The Vampire was the first jet fighter in the Swiss inventory and they were initially used for air defence.
The first 4 were F.1 fighter variants purchased from the United Kingdom in 1946 to be used for evaluation and flight testing and remained in operation until 1961 (originally only 3 were purchased but one crashed in 1946 and was replaced – they were powered by the de Havilland Goblin 2 turbojet engine). They are neat little jet and the Swiss liked what they saw in the Vampire. In 1949 75 FB.6 fighter-bombers were purchased by the Swiss from the UK for delivery between 1949 and 1950, most were retired by 1969 with a few flying until 1973 (J-1005 to J-1079).
A further 100 Vampire FB.6 fighter-bombers (J-1101 to J-1200) were licence-built in Switzerland with the de Havilland Goblin 3 turbojet engine and entered service between 1951 and 1952 (plus 3 apparently built from spare parts in 1960 – J-1080 to J-1082). 3 DH.115 T.11 Vampire two seat trainers were purchased in 1951, 30 T.55 two-seat trainers were licence-built and entered service between 1953 and 1959, and an additional 9 ex-RAF T.11 trainers were purchased in 1967 and upgraded to T.55 standard (U-1201 to U-1239. The trainers were powered by a de Havilland Goblin 35 turbojet engine). A single NF.10 night fighter was also supplied to the Swiss for evaluation and was flight tested from 1958 to 1961 but no further examples were purchased and the type did not go into operational service.
This little twin boom jet was constructed as a combined metal and moulded plywood airframe (highlighting its DH.98 Mosquito design heritage, the fuselage was primarily plywood). The top speed of the Vampire was 882 km/h (548 mph) and armament consisted of 4 x 20mm Hispano nose mounted cannons and up to 8 x 27kg (60lb) underwing rockets or 2 x 225 kg (500 lb) bombs (or 2 drop tanks). As a fighter-bomber apart from the cannons it was relatively lightly armed but this was the norm for most early jets in the 1940’s.
There is a beautifully restored example of a licence-built Vampire FB.6 fighter-bomber (J-1153) on display in Hall 2 at the Swiss Air Force Centre (Flieger Flab Museum) in Dübendorf near Zurich. A de Havilland Goblin II turbojet engine, Vampire single seat forward fuselage/cockpit (it may be from a DH.112 Venom but from what I interpreted it to say, the sign on it in German was that it was essentially the same) and a wooden fuselage section of Vampire DH.115 two-seat trainer rounded off the Vampire displays.
My understanding it the museum also as a fully restored DH.115 trainer but I did not see it during my visit in December 2015. It may have been in Hall 8 but I never made it into there, as the museum has short hours on certain days and I spent so much time in Hall 1 and 2 that I literally ran out of time before they closed Hall 8 for the day!
55 of the FB.6 Vampires were upgraded in the 1970’s with an extended nose to house additional avionics that could not fit in the small original fuselage. 12 FB.6 Vampires were assigned to the target tug role in 1978 and were painted in bright red and black stripes to increase visibility.
The last Swiss built Vampire fighter-bombers were retired from frontline service in 1974 with many kept in storage until 1990 but the trainer variants and converted single-seater target tugs soldiered on in use until 1990 (some 59 single seat fighters and 30 two-seat trainers were still on hand either in storage or operational). For an early Cold War jet aircraft that utilised wood in its design it sure gave plenty of years of valuable service to the Swiss and many other air forces around the world!
In my next post we will take a look at the successor to the de Havilland DH.100 Vampire, the DH.112 Venom fighter bomber. The latter had a very long career with the Swiss Air Force.