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Blue Streak ballistic missile

PMN1

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In an article for Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, on UK launchers, Nicholas Hill comments on the slow development of Blue Streak compared to its US and Soviet counterparts.

He says 'A figure of seventeen months is often quoted for the time from inception to first flight for the Thor missile. Even sixty months after inception, Blue Streak had not flown'.

What was the reason for the lengthy development time and what impact would a Thor development time have on the programme?
 

Michel Van

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I think it has something to do with this :

oh dam, we never build a rocket bevor, so we have to figured it out how it works...
so de Havilland Aircraft Company guys talks to the Atlas guys at Convair
and Rolls-Royce used a Rocketdyne S3D to get the how-know for build RZ2 engine
also the programm shoestring budget played also a rolle.
 

JFC Fuller

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Not uncommon in British Industry at the time: Note Blue Steel, it upsets those who believe that UK industry was some great lion of creature betrayed by the evil white witch of the state but in reality it had multitude of flaws.
 

alertken

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Your name isn't Pandora, perchance? Blue Streak, ah, benefited greatly from US data, pace: Proceedings, 17/3/99 R.Ae.S Symposium, History of the UK Strategic Deterrent: “some US ideas rather than hard data”. This is quite as tetchity an issue as TSR.2. Here are dates/facts (US items: J.N.Gibson,History of the US Nuclear Arsenal,Bison,1989):
1/3/54: US tests a lightweight warhead within its MX research program;
26/7/54: Churchill funds an IRBM and its lightweight Orange Herald warhead;
12/6/54 - 30/7/54: Sandys (then at MoS) negotiates a UK/US MoU for GW data "exchange", inc. licencing Rocketdyne propulsion and Sperry guidance;
MoS struggles as between in-house work (like munitions in ROFs) and placement into industry. Which industry? EE(GW) declines to be involved. (sometime in) 1955: MoS ITP on DH Props.;
14/1/55: DoD funds Convair Atlas; Atlas D operational 31/10/59
27/10/55: DoD funds Martin Titan; Titan 1 operational 20/4/62;
8/11/55: DoD funds both USAF Douglas SM-75 Thor and Army Chrysler/Redstone Arsenal SM-78 Jupiter. Thor operational (USAF-manned) in UK from 19/9/58; Jupiter (now a USAF program) operational in Italy, US-manned, 6/61;
(in) 1956: DoD funds 15% of Blue Streak R&D estimated total of £70Mn. (and paid $8Mn to mid-58 P163,I.Clark,Nuclear Diplomacy&the Special Relationship,OUP,94); taken together with:
25/3/57: Sandys, now at Defence, makes US/UK Defense Collaboration Agreement:
much more ICBM/IRBM data was fed into Blue Streak. Which had no warhead:
3/54 Sir W.Penney “we do not know how to make any form of (thermonuclear device)” (to be Sir W.)Cook , 2/12/55: ‘does anybody (in the room) know how it’s done?’…an embarrassed silence.” L.Arnold,Britain and the H-Bomb,Palgrave,01, Pp.43,87. See Violet Club for the consequence. So, Sandys does:
22/2/58: Exchange of Notes on the Supply of IRBMs (Thor); and:
3/7/58: MoU, US W-49 licenced as Orange Herald Light for Blue Streak;
4/8/58: Agreement for Co-operation on Uses of Atomic Energy for Mutual Defense Purposes.
Nothing on Blue Streak seems to be on-schedule, on-budget; 1966 deployment seems remote; Treasury enquires, gently, what it will do that (sort-of-free) Thor will not, RAF/US dual key operational 3/6/60;
29/3/60: US offers Douglas Skybolt ALBM;
13/4/60: Blue Streak cancelled.
Now look at Lockheed's SLBM, merely one gadget within the SSBN program: DoD funded 11/4/56; first operational cruise 15/11/60.

There is no one factual A to your Q. Prime Contractor/Project Management is relevant; so is merrily cascading funding. So is: “RR share the view with everybody else (that DH) can be extremely difficult and unsatisfactory” MoS,1958, in C.N.Hill,A Vertical Empire,ICP,2001,P78.
 

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Thank you so much alertken, multiple things are rarely put into perspective and into a timeline like that! Often we just read isolated technical histories without much context.
 

Michel Van

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THX for details, alertken

(in) 1956: DoD funds 15% of Blue Streak R&D estimated total of £70Mn.
do i read right that's U.S. DoD ?
 

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Yes. I do not know as an actual factual that Clark's $8Mn. is cash money into Treasury coffers, or is a nominal valuation of the Rocketdyne et al data. He wrote "paid".

The A to Treasury's Q, what might BS do that Thor doesn't, was silo-survival. That led straight into First Strike/retaliatory issues which make the brain hurt; and into reluctance of, say Cambridge to cohabit with, say a Duxford silo (they should all be East Coast, for range...but geology was preferable West of the Pennines); and (I joke not) into priority conflict, 60 very deep holes, or the motorway building programme, for the finite output of UK cement industry. Dispersed Skybolt was a blessed relief.
 

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alertken said:
Yes. I do not know as an actual factual that Clark's $8Mn. is cash money into Treasury coffers, or is a nominal valuation of the Rocketdyne et al data. He wrote "paid".

The A to Treasury's Q, what might BS do that Thor doesn't, was silo-survival. That led straight into First Strike/retaliatory issues which make the brain hurt; and into reluctance of, say Cambridge to cohabit with, say a Duxford silo (they should all be East Coast, for range...but geology was preferable West of the Pennines); and (I joke not) into priority conflict, 60 very deep holes, or the motorway building programme, for the finite output of UK cement industry. Dispersed Skybolt was a blessed relief.

Not just the UK with this problem, the infrastructure for the first SAM system around Moscow was estimated by US intelligence to have absorbed an entire years worth of Soviet concrete production.
 

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alertken said:
Yes. I do not know as an actual factual that Clark's $8Mn. is cash money into Treasury coffers, or is a nominal valuation of the Rocketdyne et al data. He wrote "paid".

The A to Treasury's Q, what might BS do that Thor doesn't, was silo-survival. That led straight into First Strike/retaliatory issues which make the brain hurt; and into reluctance of, say Cambridge to cohabit with, say a Duxford silo (they should all be East Coast, for range...but geology was preferable West of the Pennines); and (I joke not) into priority conflict, 60 very deep holes, or the motorway building programme, for the finite output of UK cement industry. Dispersed Skybolt was a blessed relief.

Hi,
Please think about it.
into reluctance of, say Cambridge to cohabit with, say a Duxford silo

Not a jot of difference, how many targets were there already both American and UK as close if not closer to Cambridge. We grew up with threat in the East of England with probably as great a density of potential targets as any where in the Western World.

Thor sites already existed in the region and the operational Thor missile was thought of, known to be by the UK experts as being little better than fifty fifty reliable.

This the locals would have objected too however RR sorted out the major problem with that missile, with Merlin technology not V2!

……they should all be East Coast, for range...but geology was preferable West of the Pennines

Britain is a very small narrow island so location in the context of range was not an issue, think about it, do the sums.

The wider Commonwealth Especially Canada and Australia were always thought of as suitable location for sites.

….for the finite output of UK cement industry six months or fifty years output and over what period of time?

……Dispersed Skybolt was a blessed relief, known damp squib
 

alertken

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Don't nag me about all this - those were the issues of the day. Skybolt in 1960 was no damp squib.
 

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[/quote]
Hi
Please can any one help find references on the web to the definitive operational Blue Streak missile which mention the fact that the RZ13 was the intended engine for the operational missile.
At least for the first phase of deployment before the planned introduction of storable propellants.
 

Michel Van

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Spark said:
Hi
Please can any one help find references on the web to the definitive operational Blue Streak missile which mention the fact that the RZ13 was the intended engine for the operational missile.
At least for the first phase of deployment before the planned introduction of storable propellants.

Spark said:
The RZ2 was a development engine for Blue Streak.

The RZ12, two RZ2 made a cluster designated as RZ12 by Rolls Royce.


The RZ3 was the original basic light weight engine for the operational Blue Streak Missile. (First planned test flight 1963)

The RZ13, two RZ3 made a cluster designated as RZ13 by Rolls Royce originally plan was for use in operational missile

The RZ14 was a super advanced single engine connected to two RZ2 thrust chambers to retain the original Blue Streak gimballed control.. Was for use in the RAF SLV giving potentially in excess of 400,000lbf thrust.


The RZ1? Was a the Definitive military engine for the Blue Streak Missile that used storable propellants but would have been deployed Globally. Not sure about production line?

ALL these engines RZ12, RZ13 and RZ14 could be substituted when necessary on the assembly line that was planned by the MoS to produce Fifty units each year..

The RZ 14 when substituted for RZ12 saved over a thousand pounds of weight and only used one and a half pints of oil when compared to forty gallons of lubricating oil for the RZ12, this is an additional saving of 320lbs


The RZ 14 was also planned with a single thrust chamber giving again potentially in excess of 400,000lbf thrust.

Two RZ14 could be substituted on the 14ft Diameter SLV during manufacture.

LOX, correct answer, hard to believe but YES the RAF would have had the ability to orbit the equivalent of over One hundred Saturn 1 payloads annually if called for with the Existing Woomera facilities.


Blue Streak COST per first stage SLV was £250,000 (1960£ value) Black Knight cost per vehicle £43,000 (1960£ value)
http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,4130.msg58385.html#msg58385
 

JFC Fuller

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Spark,

What are your sources for the Blue Streak engine developments?
 

Mercurius Cantabrigiensis

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According to an old Blue Streak missile engineer who worked on the engine system:

The RZ1 was a UK copy of a Rocketdyne engine built and tested to give Rolls Royce initial experience with a 150,000 lb thrust class engine.

The RZ2 was the initial flight standard of engine.

Two RZ2 made up an RZ12.

A later Mark of the RZ2 and RZ 12 (incorporating fuel latching and hypergolic ignition) was used for the multi-stage SLV version.

He is not aware of what was planned for the definitive combat missile. He only knows the hardware that flew.
 

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sealordlawrence said:
Spark,

What are your sources for the Blue Streak engine developments?

Hi sealordlawrence,

BBC news items, usually wireless, Home Service. (fifty or so years ago)
Personal contacts, sadly now mostly in the past.
Private Archives
Latterly,
The National Archives at Kew, (Dates for RZ13 delivery, trials and service.)
RAF Museum Archive, Hendon.
And a suggestion by our space hero first class, Michel Van of the records kept at Coventry which lists documents that appear relevant but which I have to view but appear to duplicate some that are in private collections.
 

Michel Van

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Spark said:
... our space hero first class, Michel Van ...

i only so good like my source, like Space Commander Scott Lowther ;D
(of a Orion with nuclear plus engine)

there also the British Interplanetary Society
With academic journal "Journal of the British Interplanetary Society" and the magazine "Spaceflight".
and famous Library Facilities at South Lambeth Road (A203) near Vauxhall station, London.
http://www.bis-spaceflight.com/index.htm
 

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The Aeroplane and Astronautics 16 Dec 1960 pages 810-112
Solid Rocket Boosters
Points from a recent lecture given before a meeting of the R.Ae.S. Astronautics and Guided Flight Section outlining the evolution and development of modern solid propellants.
Given by Dr. W.R. Maxwell and Dr. G.H.S. Young of R.P.E. Westcott.
 

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Spark

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Orionblamblam said:
Barrington Bond said:
The Aeroplane and Astronautics 16 Dec 1960 pages 810-112
Solid Rocket Booster

That's an odd design. Why is the solid second stage enveloped in a shroud twice its diameter?

Hi,
With that configuration and seven solid motor units in the first stage the acceleration is going to be phenomenal, Just a thought but with aerodynamic heating its going to be very hot before it leaves the denser atmosphere. The actual diameter ratio maybe artistic license?
Some Ministry Documents 1958/59 (Kew) suggests a multiple 3ft diameter motor unit for a solid propellant missile so it could have been fired from a converted Blue Streak site.
One of the Westcott motors tested circa 1959 fits but would have needed extending to get the range
The Ministry description does not tally with the drawing but I can not remember exactly why, must find those notes but I think they referred to a six motor cluster first stage and a single motor second?
 

Barrington Bond

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There is nothing in the text of the article about Blue Streak. It talks mostly about propellants and sheathing.
Regards,
Barry
 

Michel Van

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OMG

Thanks for early BS study Barrington Bond, Master of all space flight magazine :D

Orionblamblam said:
That's an odd design. Why is the solid second stage enveloped in a shroud twice its diameter?

yes this is odd
can it be that Warhead is bigger as second stage
or that shroud size is because aerodynamics ?
 

Mercurius Cantabrigiensis

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It’s not a fair to compare the timescale of Blue Streak with that of Thor. The basic concept of the US IRBM programmes was that they could adapt ICBM technology to quickly produce a shorter-range weapon. While the Thor team could take advantage of existing hardware – for example, Thor’s rocket engine was derivative of the Atlas booster engine – the Blue Streak team and their subcontractors had to develop their own solutions and manufacturing processes.

A more valid comparison would be with Atlas, and needs to compare the time that both projects took from the point where the customer finally decided what was wanted to the point where flight trials started.

In the case of Blue Streak, as late as 1956 the RAF was not sure what it wanted, and was still dithering between single and twin-engined concepts.

The first vehicle due to fly was on its way to Australia when the programme was cancelled in 1960, so presumably would have flown later that year. So the time between the start of real work and the planned launch date would have been about four and a half years.

On Atlas, the basic configuration was settled by the start of 1955. The A model flew in the summer of 1957, but had only boost motors – development of the sustainer engine was still under way. The first Atlas B with booster and sustainer engines did not fly until the summer of 1958. So the time from the concept being finalised to the first flight of fully-representative hardware was three and a half years.

So why did Blue Streak take a year longer?

One reason was it did not enjoy US-style crash-programme funding and resources.

Nor did it have US levels of engineering manpower. Bill Gunston once stated that in the 1950s, Boeing had more engineers than the entire UK aircraft industry. So Blue streak had to take its place among a huge number of competing UK aerospace projects.

Another little-known fact was that UK was in some cases taking a more sophisticated design approach. The US could afford to develop interim hardware to get missiles flying as soon as possible, then fund a more sophisticated replacement, (Atlas was to see operational service in D, E and F variants) but the UK lacked the money, manpower and industrial capacity for such an approach. The Blue Streak team had to design something close to the definitive hardware at a time when technology was moving fast and transistors were replacing valves (vacuum tubes).

Being only a little bit behind Atlas in timescale meant that they could take advantage of later electronic technology. Some old Blue Streak engineers recall how they were shocked by the bulk and weight of some Atlas subsystems, while visiting Convair engineers were surprised by the technological level of some Blue Streak subsystems.

The statement in Hill’s A Vertical Empire that ““RR share the view with everybody else (that DH) can be extremely difficult and unsatisfactory” would cause high blood pressure in many old DH staffers, who took the view that Rolls Royce seemed to see airframes as little more than mere accessories to be bolted onto their precious engines, and that the task of technical liaison with RR required the patience of a saint.
 

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All true. Tin wraps the powerplant. Add to the saintly point, an internal perception that the second rank got dumped into GW, unqualified for real airthings (generic in UK Aero industry, then and now: see BAE unloading MBDA and Astrium - "non-core").

Ministers, inc. rocketeer Sandys, despaired of cost/time drift despite making US licences for (everything that on later projects would be nodes on the critical path). Production is where much of the US funding contribution would have gone, into the Stevenage facility now MBDA; but the prospect of deploying 60 within 1966 seemed remote. Cheaper/quicker to do Thor, then Skybolt.
 

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alertken said:
Production is where much of the US funding contribution would have gone, into the Stevenage facility now MBDA

Not quite - there were two Stevenage facilities. The English Electric plant is now MBDA, but Blue Streak was tackled at the de Havilland Propellors factory which is now an Astrium satellite facility. I'm told that if you look at the rear of the Astrium plant, you can still see an office block mounted on concrete 'stilts' - an arrangement that allowed Blue Streak to be manoeuvred in and out of the assembly hangar.
 

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It would not be surprising if a solid fueled Blue Streak was considered. After all the 2/5 scale versions were powered by the 15.25 inch diameter Jackdaw and Westcott seems to have got quite good at building large solid motors such as the 36 inch Stonechat. I would be intrigued to know if any consideration was given to using solids in later Blue Streak variants?
 

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mc: thank you: once upon a 1950's spend splurge -DH Props on one side of the road, EE (GW), t'other.
SLL: solids: Br.Academy http://www.britac.ac.uk/pubs/review/perspectives/0703cabinetsandbomb-2.cfm (MoD Director, Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment) Frank Panton: "Sandys in his 1957 paper really looked to the future as well, and concluded that the future was with missiles and not with aircraft, and it was perfectly obvious that aircraft would not be able to penetrate to any great depth in Russia and were a thing of the past. However, in my view, a problem with the British going into longer-range missiles is that earlier on, just after the war, either they took a decision or by inanition did not pursue research and development into solid double-based propellants, so we had no capability for years in that and therefore no prospect of doing anything in the long range - no, sorry, that is too positive - very little prospect of doing anything ourselves with long range ballistic missiles.
An attempt was made to remedy that situation in effect by buying the technology from the Americans and by setting up an establishment at Kidderminster entirely supported by the Ministry of Defence, done by IMI, to do the research under development in it. Again they were limited, or limited themselves, not to long-range solid propellant missiles but to medium range liquid propellant missiles, so our hands on expertise in long range solid propellant missiles was never great."
 

JFC Fuller

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Of course, the usual lack of scientific/industrial knowledge underpinned by general financial stringency. Make sense.

I have been doing some background reading regarding British acoustic torpedos in this timeframe and a similar situation arises with just a general lack of interest being a major problem immediately after the war. I may make a thread at some point.
 

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alertken said:
mc: once upon a 1950's spend splurge -DH Props on one side of the road, EE (GW), t'other.

I don’t know if it constituted a ‘spend splurge’. But I do know that in the late 1960s and early 1970s both facilities were ‘busting at the seams’. Several floors of an office block some distance away from the two plants housed aerospace engineers, and what was then BAC had so many ‘Portacabins’ being used as offices on their huge site that they fell foul of the local planning authorities.

When the cold war ended, it was a different story – on a visit to Stevenage in the early 1990s I found much many of the shops in the town centre boarded up, and my hosts at what had been the BAC facility told me that the site had shed two-thirds of its workforce.

By then I would imagine that the demand for propellors would have been minimal, freeing up a lot of floor space at the former DH propellors plant.
 

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Back to Nicholas Hill's article mentioned at the very beginning of this thread he states that Blue Streak's width was determined by "Welding machines similar to those used for Atlas were purchased from America, giving the missile its ten foot diameter."

Can anyone tell me if welding machines supplied by the following companies were of wholly British origin or American and being supplied by them...

75 kVA portable spotwelder, designed and supplied by Sciaky.
Sciaky 250 kV A wheel-electrode seam welding and spot welding machine. Sciaky Electric Welding Machines, Slough, Bucks.
National 100kVA roller electrode seam-welding machine.
National 100 kVA wheel electrode seam-welder and spotwelder. Supplied by Gasson E. Marbaix Ltd (now Marbaix Industries Ltd.) Battersea, London , SW11.

These are named in the articles describing the construction of the main body in Aircraft Production March and April 1962.

Regard,
Barry
 

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I hope this has not already been posted but it is definitely worth a read, it is truly fascinating and along with the missile programme itself, the various warhead programmes discussed in the "UK Thermonuclear Warheads" thread, the V-Bomber programme and the Avro 730, shows the sheer amount of effort the UK put into its independent deterrent programmes through to 1958-60:

http://www.spaceuk.org/journal/prospero3.pdf

Does anybody know whether there were plans for storable propellent to be used in Blue Streak? Surely there must have been some research in this direction?
 
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sealordlawrence said:
Does anybody know whether there were plans for storable propellent to be used in Blue Streak? Surely there must have been some research in this direction?

Ian Smith said that that Rolls Royce were working on such at the time of the cancellation. there was a newspaper article that said the same circa 1961/62
 

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those plans for storable propellent to be used in Blue Streak

involve this RP-1 paraffin burnt with high test peroxide ?
Wat make sense, need only replace the liquid oxygene
but can RZ.2 burn that RP-1/HTP fuel properly ?
 

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Michel Van said:
those plans for storable propellent to be used in Blue Streak

involve this RP-1 paraffin burnt with high test peroxide ?
Wat make sense, need only replace the liquid oxygene
but can RZ.2 burn that RP-1/HTP fuel properly ?

Hi Michel,

Simple answer, it is not that easy with HTP......They, RR were using the same as Titan 2 or a UK equivalent.

RR had input into Redstone, Atlas ,Titan 2, Saturn1, and Saturn 5 engines. so my guess is Titan 2 type technology.

Westcott were on a range of storable propellants at the time and since. Westcott is I think now American owned and their latest engines were used on the last American Mars Mission.

Note by the time of cancellation Blue Streak had an ICBM range with the planned warhead, what ever that was?

EE LRBM guidance development had been continued so that could have replaced the DH/Sperry tasked guidance and one has a very deadly system.
 

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Spark,

Using Google books I have been reading parts of 'Britain and Ballistic Missile Defence, 1942-2002' by Jeremy Stocker and I stumbled across this fascinating section about Blue Streak and decoys:

'Measures were taken, however, to overcome defences. The design of the Blue Streak re-entry vehicle minimised its radar reflectivity, whilst the booster was to carry 20-30 re-entry decoys. These would have similar drag/mass ratios and radar 'fingerprints' to the re-entry body itself, and would accompany it throughout its trajectory. The decoys would be carried externally on the booster, and be ejected shortly after re-entry body seperation into a cloud about 30 miles in diameter. They would be of radar transparent glass-fibre construction with a radar reflecting metal nose cone and rear sphere together producing similar ballistic and reflective properties to the warhead itself. Some decoys might also carry low power radar jammers.'
 

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sealordlawrence said:
Spark,

Using Google books I have been reading parts of 'Britain and Ballistic Missile Defence, 1942-2002' by Jeremy Stocker and I stumbled across this fascinating section about Blue Streak and decoys:

'Measures were taken, however, to overcome defences. The design of the Blue Streak re-entry vehicle minimised its radar reflectivity, whilst the booster was to carry 20-30 re-entry decoys. These would have similar drag/mass ratios and radar 'fingerprints' to the re-entry body itself, and would accompany it throughout its trajectory. The decoys would be carried externally on the booster, and be ejected shortly after re-entry body seperation into a cloud about 30 miles in diameter. They would be of radar transparent glass-fibre construction with a radar reflecting metal nose cone and rear sphere together producing similar ballistic and reflective properties to the warhead itself. Some decoys might also carry low power radar jammers.'
Hi,
This may have been the case...but I remember seeing an example of the original decoy that was ready for testing in 1960 and it was different to that description.
External Blue Streak was rather hot on the ascent, I understood from documents seen since that the decoys were to be carried in the bay above the tanks.
 

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Once Polaris arrives on the scene at the beginning of the 60s any land based nuclear delivery system
for the UK must have become politically pointless. Skybolt was only intended to fill the gap until Polaris was sufficiently mature for the RN to procure it at the end of the 60s. As events turned out Polaris was more mature than Skybolt and the USN submarines were coming on stream quickly and reliably, as did the UK Resolutions, which were all in service by 1970 (when Skybolt was expected to be obsolete).

The UK could have developed a medium range missile (it was one of the alternatives presented to various governments even after Blue Streak was cancelled) but why would one bother. It would be an obviously British weapon unlike Polaris and Trident which cannot be easily distinguished from US-fired missiles and thus tie the US into any action we take.

France did develop such a missile, and they sat for many years in a mountain in France, which must have offered a juicy target to other country's nuclear systems
 

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Which is why it was cancelled in 1960.......

.......when the UK joined the Skybolt programme which was cancelled in 1962.....

.....when the UK ordered Polaris.

Although frankly decoy equipped Blue Streaks in silos would probably have been less vulnerable than Skybolt equipped Vulcans sat on dispersal air bases (The UK did not deploy the V Bombers as airborne deterrents, instead they sat on the ground).
 

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