The Folland Gnat first flew in 1955 and was primarily used in the UK in its training configuration as well as being chosen for the British Yellowjacks aerobatic team in 1964.
Throughout most of the 1960s and 1970s it was the UK’s key fast jet trainer. Used extensively by 4 FTS at RAF Valley, when the final Folland Gnat course was completed on the 24th November 1979, the aircraft of No. 4 FTS had flown more than 157,000 hours and trained 1421 fast jet pilots.
In 1965, when the RAF set up its first big jet aerobatic team, the nimble and striking Gnat was an obvious choice. The jets were painted RED and after forming in late 1964 the new team made its first public appearance in 1965 – that team still goes under the same name that it did all those years ago, it is called “The Red Arrows.”
Abroad, the Folland Gnat was used in its fighter configuration, serving in the Indian and Finnish Air Forces with great success. In fact, during the 1965 war with Pakistan, Gnats are credited with shooting down seven F-86 Sabre aircraft and it is as a result of that conflict that the little Gnat gained its well deserved nickname – “The Sabre Slayer”
In the late 1970’s the Gnat was superseded in the UK training role by the BAe Hawk T.Mk1, an aircraft that is still in service today. The Hawk is a larger and more economical aircraft and excels at the training role, but pilots who have had the privilege of operating both types will often remark on the pure exhilaration gained from a sortie in the Gnat.