The last RAAF aircraft to have engaged in combat in a conflict has been restored and is now on display at the RAAF Williamtown Heritage Centre (WLM AHC).
Restoration of the Meteor A77-851 (aka ‘Halestorm’), in which Sergeant George Hale shot down a MiG-15 in the final air-to-air engagement of the Korean War, was overseen by Air Force’s History and Heritage branch (HH-AF).
Warrant Officer Stan Lawler from the Directorate of Air Force Heritage said RAAF Williamtown is the right spot for ‘Halestorm’ as it was an aircraft of 77 Squadron and 77 Squadron is based at Williamtown.
“The ranks of Korean War veterans are getting thin, so it’s good to have Halestorm completed to honour them – especially since this year is the 70th anniversary of the Armistice of the Korean War,” Warrant Officer Lawler said.
On March 27, 1953, Sergeant George Hale from 77 Squadron flew ‘Halestorm’ on a routine reconnaissance mission over North Korea. He engaged with, and shot down, an enemy MiG-15 fighter in the last air-to-air engagement of the Korean War.
Sergeant Hale returned to Australia after his period of duty.
Following the Korean War, Air Force converted ‘Halestorm’ into a remotely piloted aircraft and used it to conduct aviation trials at Woomera in South Australia. Volunteers from the South Australian Aviation Museum later recovered and refurbished ‘Halestorm’s cockpit/forward fuselage and put it on display. In early 2022, the museum gifted the cockpit/forward fuselage to Air Force.
The restoration of ‘Halestorm’ took about 18 months, which included merging the cockpit/forward fuselage to another Meteor to create the aircraft now being showcased at WLM AHC.
“We managed to get a lot of unique components, making the aircraft almost identical to the one that flew in Korea,” Warrant Officer Lawler said.
“We were very lucky to find parts that had been in storage at the RAAF Museum at Point Cook. These included a long-range fuel tank to fit to the underbelly, three out of the four cannons and rocket rails that went underneath the wings.
“The aircraft just bolts together like a Meccano kit.”
Wing Commander Linda New, the officer in charge of WLM AHC, was pleased to receive such an important heritage aircraft into the heritage centre’s collection.
“‘Halestorm’ complements our display of artefacts commemorating 70 years since the cessation of hostilities in Korea, and honours the service and sacrifice of those RAAF members who served in Korea; particularly the members of 77 Squadron,” she said.
Defence image Meteor A77-851 (aka ‘Halestorm’) on display at the RAAF Williamtown Aviation Heritage Centre. Photo: Group Captain Peter Norford