Doctor of Teleocity
Ad Free Member
- Dec 2, 2003
- The Netherlands
Yeah, I guess everybody, even the ones who don't know a thing about aviation, knows this roundel or at least is aware of it existing. If only for the MOD culture adopting it in the sixties, and it has been plastered on clothing scooters and cars ever since.
The Who, with Keith Moon brandishing an RAF roundel on his sweater.
The Royal Air Force is the world's oldest independent Air arm which still survives today, having evolved from the Royal Flying corps into the RAF at the ending of the first world war in 1918. Throughout its existence, the RAF has flown some legendary planes.
But what also happened throughout its history is that it was flying stopgap hand-me-downs, of were DENIED what could have been some really groundbreaking planes. And that happened quite often, in fact it happened so many times that it makes one wonder what they hell those people in the UK Parliament were drinking, certainly not tea…
This is the Gloster Meteor, a first generation Jet fighter which was the only Jet on the allied side which saw action in the second world war. It was while I was reading up on the history of this jet that I came up with the idea for this thread.
Because as groundbreaking as the Meteor was, it quickly became apparent that it was hopelessly obsolete when conflicts such as the Suez Crisis and the Korean War saw it going into battle again. It simply couldn't compete with the more advanced types it was going up against, such as the MiG-15 and the IL-28 jet bomber, which were both faster and could fly higher than the Meteor could muster.
And after mock scramble interceptions against the English Electric Canberra (More about that later…) and the Boeing B-47 showed that even strapping on more powerful engines to the Meteor didn't make a difference, the writing was on the wall. But the RAF didn't have a replacement for the meteor yet, as both the Hawker Hunter and the Supermarine Swift were still in development and wouldn't be available for a couple of years. Leaving a serious gap in the RAF's capabilities.
And so, using the Mutual Defence Assistance Act, the RAF had to eat crow and got their hands on Off-the-shelf Canadian made F-86 Sabres to fill the gap. Which, although far superior to the meteor, was quite the compromise, certainly for an Air Force who prided themselves on flying indigenous types.
Here's something that not many people are aware of.
Yes, the RAF operated the B-29, naming theirs the “Washington.” Well, nothing wrong with that, right, the B-29 was a good plane, can't blame the RAF for adopting them.
Except for the fact that the RAF didn't WANT the Washington. Because, as the case was with the Sabre, it was an off-the shelf stopgap which was financed by that Mutual Defence Assistance Act I mentioned earlier. The Washington entered service because the Avro Lincoln, which was a development of the famous Lancaster Bomber was readily obsolete and the types that were developed to replace it weren't ready yet.
Regardless, the Washingtons soldiered on until the mid-fifties when they were replaced by the English Electric Canberra jet bomber. The RAF wasn't shedding any tears when the Washington bowed out.
Ah yes, the Canberra one of the very few times that the UK got it so right that even the USAF bought it and the type is still flying today.
But seeing how fast technology was continuing to advance, the RAF and the Ministry of Defence were already looking at a replacement and as impressive as the Canberra was, the intention was to take it up a notch. All the way to 11, that's one louder, innit?
Yeah, I guess all the propeller heads will be shuddering when they see the unmistakable shape of the TSR-2. Even almost 60 years later, people are still going, “They shouldn't have cancelled that one.”
So what was the deal?
Well, that all started before TRS-2 even flew, when the infamous 1957 “White Paper” issued by Minister of defence Duncan Sandys stated that guided, surface-to-air missiles were the future of aerial warfare, what do you need manned aircraft for? Senior RAF officers argued against the White Paper's premise, stating the importance of mobility, and that the TSR-2 could not only replace the Canberra, but potentially the entire V-Force bomber fleet. It had THAT much capability.
But another thing that came up were the development costs of the TSR-2, which were running over budget. (Which again is something you will see coming up again in this thread…) Which caused the people in power to get cold feet. The Chief of the defence staff at the time was the famed former Chief of Naval staff, Lord Mountbatten, a WW2 veteran, who was championing the Blackburn Buccaneer to enter RAF service. Because, “One could buy five Buccaneers for the price of one TSR-2!”
The USA was also offering the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark as an off-the shelf option for the RAF to buy when the Canberra was to be replaced. Both the Buccaneer and the Aardvark, as impressive as they were, couldn't hold a candle to the TSR-2's performance or service ceiling. As both were designed to be low level strike aircraft, not high-flying supersonic, tactical strike and reconnaissance platforms.
In the end, Lord Mountbatten got his wish, the RAF began flying the Blackburn Buccaneer. But not in the way he envisioned. Because in order to get the air frames, the Royal Navy had to phase out their aircraft carriers, which made the Buccaneers available.
Even more bitter, was that it took twenty years with the Panavia Tornado that the RAF finally got the supersonic jet bomber they were denied when the TSR-2 was cancelled.
So, am I done? Oh no, there's more and this time it's about THIS plane…
The Hawker Siddeley Nimrod, maritime patrol aircraft. Developed from the DeHavilland Comet airliner, the Nimrod was a tough and dependable air frame which replaced the Avro Shackleton and gave RAF's coastal command a capable and well liked plane.
Serving for over 30 years, the Nimrod was a great asset, not only in Cold War duties, but also in search and rescue missions, many sailors regarded the Nimrod a very welcome sight indeed.
Having mentioned the fact that the Nimrod replaced the Shackleton in the Maritime patrol role, it was logical that the Nimrod could replace the Shackleton in the airborne early warning role too. And thus the Nimrod was developed into a dedicated AEW platform.
The Nimrod AEW-3, might look ungainly but for the time it had the most advanced Radars that money could buy, and they certainly weren't cheap. Which meant running over budget and that, once again, led to people in the parliament getting cold feet.
So, the decision was made to buy off-the-shelf Boeing E-3 Sentry aircraft, which was an older design, lacked the capabilities of the Nimrod but was right there.
… Or was it?
It took over five years before the Sentry entered service, during which the Avro Shackleton continued to provide the airborne early warning duties. Which it had been doing for over 20 years by that point.
So the millennium comes around, and the Nimrod is getting tired and is in need of replacing, the boffins at British Aerospace go: “No problem, we have THIS!”
The Nimrod MR-4, which updates the design with a glass cockpit, more efficient engines (Note the larger intakes) and even more capabilities to do the Maritime Patrol duties. One ought to think that the politicians would be going “Ah, thanks lads, that will do nicely thank you very much!”
And once again those DREADED words show up, “Running over budget”
After six years of fine-tuning the design and ironing out all the kinks, the project was axed, and the decision was made, to once again…
— Drumroll please -
Buy Off-the-shelf aircraft, which in this case was the Boeing P-8 Poseidon, which again… lacked the capabilities of the Nimrod MR-4 and ended up costing more than the Nimrod MR-4.
AND because Boeing couldn't deliver the Poseidon air frames straight away, it left a NINE YEAR gap in the UK's Maritime patrol capability. So hastily converted Lockheed C-130 Hercules airframes were used as a stopgap, which again ended up costing more than the Nimrod MR-4.
Needless to say, those politicians who made that decision to cancel the Nimrod MR-4 found themselves, quite ironically, in rough seas. As an enquiry into the matter revealed that they never truly got into the matter and flushed £3.4bn down the drain with the cancellation.
Nimrod MR-4's being scrapped.