Folland Fo.141 Gnat
Back to the Virtual Aircraft Museum
  FIGHTER, ATTACK, RECON, TRAINERVirtual Aircraft Museum / United Kingdom / Folland  

Folland Fo.141 Gnat

Perhaps the most widely known of the RAF's jet trainers as a result of its outstanding performances in the hands of the pilots of the Red Arrows aerobatic team, the diminutive Folland Fo.141 Gnat was designed originally as a light fighter, as recounted in the entry for the Midge. The private-venture prototype Gnat, piloted by Folland's chief test pilot, Squadron Leader E. A. Tennant, flew at the Airplane & Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down on 18 July 1955. The aircraft's newly developed 1490kg thrust Bristol Orpheus turbojet was also airborne for the first time and a more powerful version, rated at 1814kg thrust, was installed on 30 August in readiness for the Gnat's debut at that year's SBAC flying display and exhibition at Farnbo-rough. Six development aircraft were ordered by the Ministry of Supply in August 1955, the first flying on 26 May 1956, and these were used for a variety of trials at Boscombe Down, including firing of the 30mm ADEN cannon, one of which was fitted in the lip of each intake. Evaluation in the ground-attack role was undertaken in Aden, in competition with a modified Hawker Hunter which was ordered subsequently as the Hunter FGA.Mk 9. Although the.Royal Air Force had lost interest in the Gnat as a fighter, the Finnish air force took delivery of 13 aircraft in 1958-59 and these remained in service until 1972 when they were replaced by Saab Drakens. Two of the Finnish aircraft were fitted with camera noses for fighter reconnaissance duties. The Yugoslav government also bought two but the major export order was from India: 40 airframes in various stages of completion were supplied from the UK, and licence-production was undertaken by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd at Bangalore, local production accounting for 175 aircraft. The Gnat entered Indian Air Force service in the spring of 1958, when the Gnat Handling Flight was first formed, and ultimately eight squadrons were equipped.

Although the RAF had not selected the Gnat for service in a front-line role, it did have a requirement for an unarmed, two-seat advanced trainer to replace the de Havilland Vampire T.Mk 11 and to follow the Hunting Jet Provost sections of the all-through jet training programme. Folland undertook a private-venture investigation of the changes necessary to install a second seat and to bring the landing speed down to less than 185km/h. The most significant of these changes was a new wing, increased in area by 3.72m2 and with additional fuel capacity, which reduced the fuel storage requirement in the fuselage, making room for additional equipment. The forward fuselage was increased slightly in length, the tail surfaces enlarged, and outboard ailerons and conventional inboard flaps replaced the inboard ailerons of the fighter version. Power was to be supplied by a 1919kg thrust Orpheus 100. A Ministry of Supply design study contract was awarded in the autumn of 1956 and in August 1957 a batch of 14 pre-production Fo.144 Gnat Trainer aircraft was ordered, the first flying on 31 August 1959. It became clear, however, that no production order would be placed while Folland remained outside the major manufacturing groupings which the government favoured; thus the company was taken over by Hawker Sidde-ley Aviation, becoming its Hamble Division. Contracts for 30, 20 and 41 aircraft were awarded in February 1960, July 1961 and March 1962 respectively. The last production Gnat T.Mk 1 flew on 9 April 1965 and was delivered to the RAF on 14 May, in the all-red scheme of the Red Arrows team. The Central Flying School, then at Little Rissington, first in troduced the type in February 1962 but the major operator was No. 4 Flying Training School at Valley, which took its first aircraft on strength in November 1962 and which, in 1964, introduced the Gnat to the formation aerobatic scene, operating five all-yellow Gnats known as the Yellowjacks. The team reformed as the Red Arrows in 1965, under the control of the Central Flying School, and its Gnats were withdrawn finally at the end of the 1979 display season, to be replaced in 1980 by the British Aerospace Hawk T.Mk 1. No. 4 FTS retired its Gnats on 24 November 1978.

Folland Fo.141 GnatA three-view drawing (1280 x 856)

 MODELGnat T.Mk 1
 ENGINE1 x BS "Orpheus 100", 1919kg
    Take-off weight3915 kg8631 lb
    Empty weight2331 kg5139 lb
    Wingspan7.32 m24 ft 0 in
    Length9.68 m32 ft 9 in
    Height2.93 m10 ft 7 in
    Wing area16.26 m2175.02 sq ft
    Max. speed1024 km/h636 mph
    Ceiling14630 m48000 ft
    Range w/max.fuel1600 km994 miles

Mike Laundy, 04.03.2012

I flew the Gnat at the RAF's 4FTS in 1966/7 at RAF Valley. It was quite an eye opener for a young lad with pilot's wings freshly earned on the Jet Provost. My memories are of a fantastic rate of roll, everything happening very quickly in the circuit, surface to 40,000ft in around 7 minutes, the closest airmiss I ever had doing aerobatics (diving with full power to around 400kts for a roll off the top only to meet another Gnat doing the same but going the opposite way, we missed by about 15ft vertically and nothing laterally! We also did supersonic runs by rolling inverted at around 35,000 ft pitching down to 45 degrees, then rolling the right way up and holding full power it would do about Mach 1.03 in the dive.

Barry, 14.03.2011

The Indian Airforce took a total of 213 of the Hindustan Aircraft Ltd (HAL) built Gnat F1 which aquitted themselves well and proved more than adequate in close combat. The Gnat F1 had a higher speed of 714 mph and a service ceiling of 50,000 ft. In 1969 HAL started to develop an improved Gnat, the Gnat II, which entered service in 1974 as the Ajit (Unconqerable).This plane has integral wing tanks which allows the discarding of the wing tanks allowing for a full weapons load without detriment to the range.

goce, 06.08.2009

how much was the crusing speed of gant?

goce, 06.08.2009

how much was the crusing speed of gant?

Reg Finch, 25.07.2008

The San Diego Flight Museum flies a 2 seat ( T-1 ) regularly to airshows out of the Brown Field airport . Memberships start at $ 20/year , 619 435 1075 .

naseby, 05.06.2008

An outstanding little aircraft, 'the pocket rocket' as it was sometimes known, demonstrates that some small aircraft can pack a punch, even though the RAF used it as a trainer. The A-4 Skyhawk is also a case in point.

Paul B, 11.12.2007

Yes in in Denton, TX airport. ask for Mel.. Great cond.

Paul, 25.07.2007

Any of these available on the private market?

Do you have any comments about this aircraft ?

Name    E-mail


All the World's Rotorcraft

Virtual Aircraft Museum

All rhe World's Rotorcraft AVIATION TOP 100 -