Wednesday, 12 January 2011

TSR 2 - Britain's Lost Cold War Strike Aircraft -Tim McLelland





A detailed yet fairly readable history of the development of the TSR-2, with photographs drawn from the BAE Systems Heritage archive at Warton. Difficult though to describe it, as Amazon do in their blurb, as a photographic history. While there are some lovely colour shots sprinkled throughout the work, McLellands earnest tome has been produced by Classic Publications for Ian Allan and as such is designed down to a budget and format - the text packed into its 120 pages so densely that it is uncomfortable to read and Caruana's profile artworks spread over two pages with most of the drawings lost to the tight page binding.  No museum or walkaround photos for modellers and only a page or two of equipment drawings. However the Amazon discount certainly invites a purchase if you only need one volume on the type on your shelves. McLelland looks more at the developmental side of the story rather the political shenanigans which he appears to dismiss as the work of alarmists and dreamers - there were no conspiracy theories - just an advanced new aircraft type that may or may not have performed. Given the array of cutting edge early -60s technology then being designed for it, you suspect the author rather feels it wouldn't have.



The author has researched original sources from the BAe archives at Warton Heritage Group, and uses a compelling array of unpublished photographs and material to illustrate the story. Although various proposals, under the designation OR (Operational Requirement) 343, were considered for a replacement of the existing Canberra bomber, in 1959 the go-ahead was given to the British Aircraft Corporation submission, named the TSR.2. This stood for Tactical Strike and Reconnaissance 2. As is often the case, the original estimates for the TSR.2 were overtaken by rocketing costs. Two prototype aircraft were completed and the first test flight was made on 27 September 1964 with Roland Beamont at the controls. In the course of testing, the TSR.2 was found to meet easily the demanding performance specification. Aerodynamically the aircraft was trouble-free, though there were continual problems with the engines and the undercarriage. By now, some in the RAF were coming to favour the American General Dynamics F-111 over the TSR.2. The new Labour government, which came to power in 1964, at first denied that it was going to drop the British aircraft but in the budget speech of 6 April 1965, the Chancellor announced the cancellation of the TSR.2 in favour of the F-111 on the grounds that the American aircraft would prove cheaper. Subsequently, this decision was used to berate the Labour government by those of an opposite political persuasion who always found it difficult to accept that Britain was no longer the force in world affairs it once had been. The fate of the TSR.2 was seen by some as a metaphor for the decline of Britain itself. This view was reinforced by the famous aircraft designer Sir Sidney Camm, who said, 'all modern aircraft have four dimensions: span, length, height and politics. TSR.2 simply got the first three right.'


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