Developed as a private Venture by Hawker Aircraft Ltd, the first of 45 production Hunter T.Mk.7s for the RAF, XL563, first flew on 11 October 1957 and deliveries to 229 OCU at Chivenor began in May 1958. The basic airframe was identical to the F.Mk.4, the main exception being an extended front section containing a side-by-side cockpit. In place of the standard Aden four-cannon gunpack, a single 30mm cannon was fitted to the underside of the forward fuselage, offset to the starboard side, sword-tooth extensions were fitted to the wing leading edges and a braking parachute mounted on top of the rear fuselage. Power was provide by a Rolls Royce Avon 122 which retained the cartridge start system from the Mark 4. Despite a reduction in power compared to the Mark 9 and 10, the area rule principle generated by the more bulbous front fuselage, enabled the trainer to attain a maximum speed that was only 20 mph slower the its more powerful cousins.
The Hunter T.7 proved to be an invaluable asset for the MEAF squadrons, not only for regular instrument rating checks but with familiarising new pilots with the hostile terrain over which they would be operating. Equipped with four rocket rails and a single 30 mm cannon, the T.7 was also used to support the FGA.9s in attacking ground targets up country during periods of high unserviceability. XL612/T, seen here at RAF Sharjah bearing 8 Squadron colours, would ultimately have the privilege of being the last RAF Hunter in operational service, its final flight taking place in August 2001 at Boscombe Down. (authorís collection)
To prepare pilots for the conversion from Venom to Hunter in Aden, two T.Mk.7s (XL613-Z and XL615-Y) were delivered to 8 Squadron at Khormaksar in September 1959. After XL615 was lost in a crash in the following year, XL565-Y was sent out from the UK as a replacement. No. 208 Squadron which reformed with the Hunter FGA.Mk.9 between March and June 1960 received a single example (XL597-N), as did No. 43 Squadron (XL566-T) when it converted to the Mark 9, also in 1960. Initially, the aircraft received the tailcodes indicated above. With the reformation of 1417 Flt in 1963, all four Mark 7s were transferred to the Flight and loaned to the three units when required. Apart from tailcodes W-Z, no unit markings were applied until sometime around 1965, when the markings of 8 and 43 Squadrons and 1417 Flight were added, together with pilots' initials on the fins and nosewheel doors.
Despite its principle task being of pilot trainer, the Aden-based T.Mk.7s were occasionally called upon to perform in the ground attack role during periods of low serviceability on the Mark 9s. A pair of rocket rails were fitted between the pylons of each wing and the single cannon would keep heads down, particularly when H.E. ammunition was used.