Bristol Red Duster


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Found in Bud/Gummett "Cold War, Hot Science",
the Bristol project 29 Red Duster, the "flying part" of an ABM system, based
on the Bloodhound Mk.3, with greater fins and improved ramjets.


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Excellent find, thanks for posting! I have been looking for details on UK ABM projects for years, the best source I have found so far is 'Britain and Ballistic Missile Defence 1942-2002' by Jeremy Stocker. It is mostly about deterrence but there is a good chapter about ABM research. What I am really after is a good diagram of the Bristol Project-36 that emerged out of the RAE Missile-8 studies???
The only informations I found about project 36 in the above mentioned book
are: " ..These studies resulted in the development of Project 29,
a modified Bloodhound with larger fins and improved ram jets (Fig. 4.4). To
supplement this work, further investigations were carried out using a two-stage
missile known as Project 36, designed for a maximum speed of Mach 9.0 and
employing a cone/cylinder/flare layout; test firings of Project 36 were scheduled to
begin at Woomera in July 1961. ..."
No drawings or diagrams, sorry.
Today I tried to tidy up the attic, a herculean task ! ;D
Found an airpictorial article from November 2001 about Britain's
missile defence plans ...
No drawings of actual missile projects, apart from the RAE study
below for a winged missile (as an alternative to a modfied Bloodhound),
but some text about development and problems of an ABM defence
sytem in GB.


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That RAE study is the 'Missile 8' study. Briefly referred to on p78 of BSP4, with a top-view on p81.

Thanks Starviking, now it starts to make sense. I assume that the image here is of the second stage whilst the BSP4 diagram is of both the first and second stage?
sealordlawrence said:
Thanks Starviking, now it starts to make sense. I assume that the image here is of the second stage whilst the BSP4 diagram is of both the first and second stage?

Given the paucity of information, all I can say is - I think so :-\

Just to further complicate this: In 'Britain and Ballistic Missile Defence' by Jeremy Stocker there is reference to concepts for a three stage ABM interceptor initiated after the Project 36/Missile 8 study.

An excellent piece of history here:

Now it Can be Told

David Farrar OBE CEng MA FRAeS HonFIED: in this article David Farrar, the only surviving director of Bristol Aircraft, explains how the company was saved financially by the guided weapons' programme.

For more than fifty years it has been a closely kept commercial secret that in the late 1950s Bristol Aircraft Ltd. would have been legally bankrupt but for one thing.

Without that, there would have been multiple redundancies, and in the prevailing climate the company might not have survived afterwards.

The Company did survive, and was able later to join the British Aircraft Corporation as a junior partner. It would not have been able to do so but for one thing.

With the passage of time these matters can now be disclosed – which, as the only surviving Director of Bristol Aircraft, I now do.

It is the story of Bristol Aircraft and Bristol Guided Weapons. Without the other, neither would have survived the 1950s.
Some background
When I joined the Company in 1941, to work on the design of military and then civil aircraft, the Battle of Britain had just been won by the Royal Air Force, despite the bombing of its radars and airfields. Bristol continued having to endure night raids, against which the defence was 3.7 inch guns and rockets operated by the Army. I was one of the volunteers who ran the system at night to give them some sleep.

It started with searchlights, a simple computer, one man slewing the gun, one elevating it, one setting fuze times [a fuze is an ignition device, more sophisticated than a standard fuse], one to fire the gun (which cost me the hearing in my right ear). Soon we had radars, a better computer, automatic slewing and proximity fuzes. The system was easily moved to the East Coast and was marvellously successful against the horde of V1 weapons arriving every day, which the Royal Air Force (RAF) found difficult and dangerous to cope with.

After the war the Ministry of Defence studied guided weapons for defence against air attack. The Air Force needed a belt of static weapons along the coast, with good range to minimise cost. The Army wanted shorter range weapons as mobile as the guns had been.

Thus were born the English Electric Thunderbird guided weapon for the Army, and later the Bristol-Ferranti Bloodhound for the RAF.

I was to be the founder of Bristol Guided Weapons.
First and last
It was to prove critical to Bristol survival that the Bloodhound, despite all expectations, should be the first into service. Ramjet propulsion dictated an unusual configuration and was unproven. However to get the range we used aircraft proven technology for hydraulic and electrical power rather than fireworks. For the launcher we jumped on proven technology and used the 3.7 inch anti aircraft gun base with its running gear and servos. That gave us transportability; we had replaced the gun by the guided weapon.

There were many problems and setbacks in development. The magic ingredient was Bristol Tradition teaming: people being looked after, doing their best and helping each other.

We made it, just in time for the Swedes.
As a neutral country, Sweden was self reliant on defence and had an excellent policy. Fighters could land on roads anywhere to hide in bomb hardened shelters. They had tried to develop a transportable missile defence system, but unsuccessfully.

It took Greville Beale only a short time to make the rest of our system transportable to their requirements. With money in the bank, they negotiated with us and ordered a complete system including radars and first and second line support equipment and workshops.

Taffy Higginson negotiated a down payment so huge that Ferranti Wythenshawe worked on negative capital employed for years afterwards.

Meanwhile, back at home...
In the late 1950s the main Bristol Board and the Aircraft Board had to give urgent consideration to possible forced marriages with de Havilland and Hawkers, and later with Vickers and English Electric. Bristol was not in a good state in relation to either merger. In a 1993 lecture I recorded that "the Britannia design team was then running down and some staff had transferred to GW. The aircraft's production profit was far short of the launch cost, threatening the company's solvency despite the incoming (hidden) profits from Bloodhound 1 weapon system sales".

Recent research by Professor Keith Hayward has shown that de Havilland and Hawkers had no interest in Bristol other than the Concorde design team. Thus the factory would have closed with no production, and the GW team would have been unable to survive on its own against predatory takeover bids. The official record of the Bristol situation at that time ignored Guided Weapons and stated:

"Sir Matthew Slattery Bristol Aircraft 23rd October 1959
Had sold all but one of production Britannias, loss of £7-8 million. Progress on SST studies and 188 research aircraft, hopes to produce competitor to VC11 and 121, but needed at least 50% from government. Sandys had to be frank and was "obliged to look unfavourably towards the Bristol solution...The likelihood of the company obtaining government money for the project was extremely remote".

"Slattery referred to HSG talks, but they felt there was no point in merging unless good reason, such as the SST contract. He admitted aircraft group was virtually in liquidation. Sandys said he favoured the HSG merger, Bristols also wanted it, but doubted if the terms would be very favourable to his company"

Bankruptcy had in fact been narrowly avoided because we had sold the Bloodhound 1 transportable weapon system to Sweden the year before, and they had made the large down payment at once.

More background
English Electric saw the opportunity to eliminate a competitor by closing down Bristol GW and including the Bloodhound with its profits in their own Division, together with other GW acquisitions. Despite its successes and its unique weapon systems capability, the Bristol GW team had no new project and was vulnerable: attempts to eliminate it had previously been made.

At that time English Electric's guided weapon team had commenced the development of a weapon with second generation continuous wave radar (CW) guidance. We, with Ferranti who had developed a CW ground radar, rapidly modified a Bloodhound I missile to CW guidance, and when launched it achieved a direct hit which destroyed the target aircraft. The other contractors had not reached this stage, so the longer range road and air transportable Bloodhound 2 was developed for the Royal Air Force, and bought by Sweden and Switzerland. Its advanced features were to give it a very long service life.

Bristol with Ferranti became the largest and most successful guided weapons team in the country.

British Aircraft Corporation
Bristol could not have joined British Aircraft Corporation without more money in the bank. Where it came from was another deeply kept secret.

It did not come from aeroplane sales or Government contracts.

During Bloodhound development Jack Jefferies, the Production Manager G.W., worked with the engineers to simplify the design and make it suitable for economic manufacture. He set up a production factory in Cardiff, trained new operators, and introduced new methods. When Ferranti were having trouble with output, he advised them and their costs reduced dramatically.

At both factories, costs fell dramatically below those allowed by the British Government in setting prices.

At Ferranti this difference could not be concealed, leading to the Ferranti Affair. They were made to refund a large sum to the Government.

For this reason Sir Reginald Verdon Smith arranged for the Bloodhound profits not to be visible in the accounts, and kept them outside the British Aircraft Corporation. His bargaining power was unfortunately not great enough to protect his goose which had laid the golden eggs.

In the British Aircraft Corporation merger negotiations Sir George Edwards also had a weak hand of cards, and was forced to give English Electric a free hand on guided weapons to maintain his own position. He later admitted this and apologised to the author for the effect of this on Bristol GW.

On the formation of the Corporation, Bristol Aircraft joined as a junior partner, with all guided weapon work assigned to English Electric. Corporation policy was then for the Bristol GW engineering team to be closed down, with only limited possibilities of employment for its large staff elsewhere in the Corporation.

We refuse the deal.
The Bristol GW team fiercely opposed this policy: I and leading engineers refused to be moved, and our reputation was such that a prolonged stalemate ensued during which the team, which had a good reputation with the Government and the R.A.F. based on its achievements, pursued further missile study and development contracts.

After several months James Harper, the Bristol Managing Director, who was terminally ill at the time, won the support of Sir George Edwards for creating a Guided Weapons Division, comprising the Stevenage and Bristol sites. It would have some Bristol based Directors, initially James Harper and myself.

While the Bristol GW plant was to survive, for the Bristol Directors it did not work out and I became Engineering Director, Concorde. During this period Bristol became dominant on the aeroplane front, and the Weybridge site undertook subcontract work on Concorde. My successor in GW, Dr. Don Rowley, negotiated work areas for Bristol within which he enjoyed much profitable success.(But that is another story.)

Guided weapons system engineering continues at Bristol to this day. (But that is another story.)

Honour is due.
Because of the secrecy, some people who made key contributions to Bristol Aircraft's survival went relatively unknown. I name at Bristol the late Taffy Higginson and the late Jack Jefferies, and at Ferranti the late Norman Searby.

Every person drawing a Bristol Aircraft pension owes a debt of gratitude to them.

Let us honour their memory.

Author's notes: Since writing this article, it has occurred to me that it would be appropriate to give more credit to James Harper, who ensured that guided weapons would continue at Bristol. His premature death robbed British Aviation of a future head of the Corporation. I and all GW staff have good reason to be grateful to him.

There are now seventeen Bloodhound sites listed on the internet. Lots of them are live, with people chatting about it all and exchanging memories. See Among them is the Swedish-language website has marvellous photos not only of the weapon system and how it works, but also its strategic role. As it was the Swedish sale which saved Bristol Aircraft from bankruptcy, pictures of Bloodhound in Sweden are of particular relevance.
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