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The Gnat was designed by W.E.W. Petter as a simple, lightweight fighter with the advantage of low purchase and operational cost.

The Gnat was a development of a concept aircraft the Folland Midge, which first flew on the 11th of August 1954. The Gnat was to have larger air intakes than the Midge to allow for the Bristol Orpheous engine, a slightly larger wing and provision for 30mm ADEN cannon.

The Folland Gnat prototype, serial number G-39-2 flew from Boscombe Down on the 18th of July 1955.

In 1958 the Gnat was evaluated by the Royal Air Force as a replacement for the
de Havilland Venom along with other fighters such as the Jet Provost and the Hawker Hunter, with the latter being chosen.

Although the RAF had little interest in the Gnat as an operational fighter, it had potential as a transitional aircraft for pilots currently flying the de Havilland Vampire who needed to be trained to fly fighters such as the English Electric Lightning.

Folland designed the Gnat as a 2-seat aircraft with a new wing incorporating larger tanks for increased fuel capacity which inturn left more space in the fuselage for additional equipment.

A more powerful Bristol Orpheous engine was also fitted, the length of the front fuselage was increased and the tail surfaces were made larger. The ailerons were changed to outboard and conventional flaps were fitted.

A contract was awarded for 14 pre-production Gnat T.1 aircraft with the first prototye trainer flying on the 31st of August 1959.

Due to the small size of Folland the Ministry did not place a production order, however, when Folland was taken over by Hawker Siddeley Aviation orders for 91 aircraft were placed between February 1960 and March 1962.

The Gnat T.1 was delivered in February 1962 to the Central Flying School of the RAF, based at Little Rissington.

In 1962 4 Flying Training School, RAF Valley, formed an aerobatic team with Gnat T.1 aircraft which were painted yellow. In 1965 the team reformed as part of the Central Flying School as the 'Red Arrow's operating the Gnat until 1979 as the RAF display team.

Specifications: -
Crew:1 or 2 (in tandem)
Length:31ft 9in (9.65m)
Wingspan:24ft 0in (7.32m)
Height:10ft 6in (3.20m)
Empty Weight:5,613lb (2546kg)
Max. Weight:9,350lb (4240kg)
Engine:Orpheus 101
producing 4230 lb st.
Max. Speed:636 mph (1026 km/h)
Range:*1,180 miles (1900km)
*with drop tanks
Armament: -
Cannon:2 x 30mm ADEN
Rockets:18 x 3" or
Bombs:2 x 500lb
Variants: -

Fo.141 Gnat
Prototype fighter, 1 built.

Gnat F.1
Single-seat export fighter, 50 built.

Gnat FR.1
Modified with three nose-mounted 70mm Vinten cameras, 2 converted.

Gnat T.1
Two-seat advanced trainer aircraft for the Royal Air Force, 105 built.

HAL Ajeet
Indian development of the Gnat F.1.

HAL Ajeet Trainer
Two-seat tandem trainer version for the Indian Air Force.

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©Nigel Key Gnat T1 (Kemble 2008)

The Folland Gnat is a small swept wing jet trainer developed for the Royal Air Force and flown extensively by the Indian Air Force.

Folland Gnat T.1, XR991, photographed above in the colours of the former RAF display team the 'Yellowjacks' at the Cotswold Airshow, Kemble in 2008.
Photographs © Nigel Key, Click thumbnail to enlarge.

Related Links: -

BAE Systems Hawk (

Red Arrows (

Red Arrows Gallery (

Cotswold Airshow (

Airshow Calendar (