History of Sea Vixen XJ580


Type : FAW.2
Span : 51 feet
Length : 55 feet, 7 inches
Height : 10 feet, 9 inches
A.U.W. (Estimated) : 37,000 lbs
Maximum Speed (Estimated) : 640 m.p.h.
Ceiling : 48,000 ft
Power Plant : 2 x 11,230lb.s.t. Avon 208
Climb Rate : 10,000ft per minute
Range : 200+ miles.

XJ580 (C/No. 110062) was built as a Mk 1 and flight tested at Christchurch. She served with the R.N.A.S. at Abbotsinch from 16/11/60 to 17/12/60. Her final years of service were spent with 899 Squadron, this Squadron having been commissioned on 1st February 1961 at Yeovilton, mainly serving aboard HMS Eagle. It might also be of interest to note that 766 Squadron, with whom she also had an appreciable length of service, was, effectively, the Naval Air Fighter School, and formed the aerobatic team "Fred's Five", using Sea Vixens for aerobatic displays. Although there is no proof of her involvement with this amazing team, it is possible that XJ580 was, at one time or another, involved in their antics.

Active Service

16/11/60 - 17/12/60 RNAS Abbotsinch
17/12/60 - 19/06/62 892 Squadron: Yeovilton, HMS Victorious & HMS Hermes
05/04/62 - 19/06/62 RNAS Yeovilton
19/06/62 - 24/02/63 893 Squadron, HMS Centour (the Kuwait crisis)
24/02/63 - 18/12/63 899 Squadron, Yeovilton & HMS Eagle
18/12/63 - 18/02/65 Conversion to FAW.2 at Hawker Siddeley
18/02/65 - 22/07/65 RNAY Brawdy
22/07/65 - 16/06/66 766 Squadron, Yeovilton
16/06/66 - 31/08/66 RNAY Belfast
31/08/66 - 04/10/68 766 Squadron, Yeovilton
04/10/68 - 29/08/69 RNAY Belfast
29/08/69 - 12/03/70 RNAY Brawdy
12/03/70 - 03/02/72 899 Squadron, HMS Eagle
03/02/72 - 10/01/80 899 Squadron, Llanbedr
10/01/80 - 15/05/84 Flight Refuelling, Hurn Airport, Christchurch


XJ580 was the first production conversion from FAW.1 to FAW.2, being sent to Hawarden on 18/12/63 and leaving there on 18/02/65, the conversion having taken exactly 14 months.

In Singapore on 31st October 1971, XJ580 was on board Eagle for her final commission with 899 Squadron, forming part of the farewell fly-past with Albion's 88 Squadron of Wessex helicopters on the occasion of the handover of the naval Base to the Singapore Government. She and Eagle returned in May 1972 and the squadron was then disbanded. XJ580 was the last Sea Vixen to fly in Naval colours.

On completion of her Naval career, XJ580 was used in 1980 by Flight Refuelling Ltd. at Hurn Airport, Christchurch, for trials of the Mk.32 refuelling pod (subsequently fitted to VC10 tankers).

During her 20 years of active service, XJ580 sustained only two major mishaps: on 16.06.61 the nose undercarriage collapsed and on 13/10/66 she sustained a partial port oleo collapse on landing.

So far as can be established, she had achieved 1723 actual airframe hours by the end of her active life.

XJ580 was purchased from the MoD by Troika Developments Ltd. on 16th May 1984 and was moved, by road, from Hurn to the site on Somerford Road, Christchurch, where she was lifted by crane onto the plinths erected for the purpose and still standing today. She was handed over to the Sea Vixen Society (now Christchurch Aviation Society) on 21/04/85.

Her last journey was, regrettably, to the Aviation Museum at Tangmere, Sussex following concerted and damaging acts of vandalism during her stay at Somerford.



The above statements are made in good faith: unfortunately the material for checking the full history of XJ580 is very limited and, in some areas, taken from recollections or publications which cannot be verified against documented evidence.


Copyright 2021 Christchurch Aviation Society