Project Cancelled scenarios


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4 June 2006
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Derek Wood has the following 1957 scenario in Project Cancelled, what do people think of its possibility?

Back-tracking once again, the possible right decisions are about to be taken. Clearly not all the projects can be proceeded with; apart from cost, the duplication of types will lead to lack of standardisation and multiplicity of spares. Inevitably, the big high altitude bomber, the Avro 730, has to go but to ensure long-term supersonic know-how; design and research contracts are issued to A V Roe for a Mach 2.5-Mach3.0 experimental aircraft with sufficient fuel tankage for sustained supersonic flight. On the vehicle many of the problems of Concorde are destined to be sorted out. A replacement for the Canberra is essential and obviously it will be wasteful not to use the Blackburn NA.39, which is intended to fulfil a high-speed low-altitude strike role. After much soul searching the RAF agrees to participate in NA39 provided that a digital rather than an analogue system is ultimately employed, and a new Rolls-Royce engine is installed to improve take-off and radius of action in the Mk2 version.

With the supersonic Hunter already available (from a 1952 scenario) and the P.1B on the production line, the big question remains to sort out the SR.177, the hawker P.1121 and the Fairey FD.2. Operational requirement No.329 for a big twin engined high altitude fighter is abandoned as being too complex. Instead, a requirement is issued for a supersonic single/two-seat fighter/strike aircraft, which is to become a worthy rival to the American Phantom. The contract is placed with Hawkers as Kingston and the Gyron- powered prototype P.1121, hitherto a private venture, is completed under official auspices.

Flight trials are successful and the long-term decision is taken to develop the P.1121 as a two seat all weather aircraft with continuous-wave radar and a semi-active guidance air-to-air missile developed by Fairey. The missile overcomes the serious gap in British technology where concentration has hitherto been only on infra-red fighting weapons, which are unsuitable for low/medium altitude operations in bad weather. The chosen power plant for the production P.1121 is the Rolls Royce RB140 Medway engine with fully-variable reheat. The Government also persuades BEA, in 1958-59, to keep its proposed Trident airliner as a 111-seater with three Medways rather than scaling it down with a smaller power plant. The Medway is thus established in both military and civil fields, and in the latter becomes a key rival to the P + W JT8D, powering the Trident, the Boeing 707 and a second generation V.1000 airliner with underwing pods in place of buried engines. The Medway begins life at 10,000lb thrust and is steadily developed to 12,000lb, 14,000lb and then 17,000lb – keeping pace with both military and civil demands for increased power. For Rolls Royce there is an additional bonus as the P1121 installation gives the company vital ‘hot back end’ experience, which is read across into the ‘Super Conway’, which eventually emerges as the RB211.

The Mk1 P1121 goes into RAF service in 1962, and sells extremely well abroad. The development cycle is maintained with greatly increased weapons load and range as more thrust become available. A version with completely up –dated avionics, new weapons and short field performance is a standard RAF squadron type in 1976. Sorting out the FD.2 and the SR.177 proves to be a more difficult problem. It is realised that Britain cannot go it alone for ever with rising costs and budget limitations, and that the European industry is re-establishing itself. At top level the Government decided to use both types as the start of ‘collaboration’ and as a means of combating the tremendous sales efforts being made buy the US.

Negations with the federal German Republic (begun in 1956) are completed for the joint development and production of the SR.177 rocket-plus-turbojet interceptor. As Armstrong Whitworth is to be the main UK production centre, the aircraft side of Saunders Roe is taken over by Hawker Siddeley and the de Havilland Engine company. Two variants of the SR.177 are agreed upon: the basic mixed power, rapid-reaction, high altitude interceptor for air force/naval use, and a medium to low altitude strike/fighter variant with turbojet only, rocket fuel tankage being used for kerosene and a four per cent thickness wing being employed. German pressure leads to the adoption of a Rolls Royce turbojet in place of the Gyron Junior. The MoD agrees to three RAF squadrons in Germany being equipped with SR.177’s, while the type becomes the standard FAA fighter. Both the Luftwaffe and the German Navy adopt the SR.177 a standard and the joint production programme becomes the largest in Europe. The Lockheed bid with the F-104 Starfighter comes to nothing.

In the case of the FD.2, Whitehall opens discussions with the French on a collaborative agreement between Fairey and Dassault. Information is pooled and joint airframe development started. A batch of six aircraft is ordered in both France and Britain, the former with the SNECMA Atar engine and the latter with the reheated Avon. The outcome is a basic Mach 2.0 aircraft, which becomes standard in France and in Britain, begins to replace the Hunter in 1962. With steady development, the production lines keep rolling to meet export orders, right through to the seventies.
Possibility ?

"and as a means of combating the tremendous sales efforts being made buy the US"
Can't remember a british post-war government, that actually tried this !

"The Lockheed bid with the F-104 Starfighter comes to nothing."
The F-104 wasn't bought as a fighter by germany, but as a nuclear capable fighter
bomber, a task, the SR.177 probably wasn't well suited for. And there were rumours about an
affair, which involved Lockheed and a german minister of defence, maybe Franz Josef Strauß,
but, of course only slander ... ;D

The best argument against these scenarios probably lies here :
".. the possible right decisions are about to be taken"

All could have been plausible, but only with hindsight, I'm afraid !
1952 Scenario

Scenario 1952

How does the scene look with a P.1081 type given top priority by the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm? The time is summer 1952. The RAF has three squadrons of P.1081s in service and the Royal Navy one, with a further unit forming. Naval jet experience has been gained with three squadrons of Sea Vampires and the straight wing, tail wheel undercarriage Sea Attacker has been abandoned. An RAF
Squadron is operating alongside F-86’s in the Korean War and the naval squadron is preparing to embark on HMS Eagle for service in Korean waters. The P.1081 proves itself a match for the Mig15 in dog fighting over the Yalu River and with rockets and bombs does useful work in the ground attack role. The Fleet Air Arm cross-operates with US Navy carriers and for a period flies from the land base alongside the RAF.

The results are far-reaching. There is a massive inflow into the Air Ministry of up-to-date data and many young pilots are rotated through the Koran squadron to gain combat experience. Eight RAF squadrons in Britain and Germany are equipped with P.1081s and the type forms the spearhead of Fighter Command until the full advent of the Hunter in 1955-56. The vital decision is to re-equip the Royal Auxiliary Air Force squadrons with P.1081s and, for export, Government finance is made available for the P.1081 to be re-engined with the up-rated Rolls Royce Tay engine with afterburner. Impressed with the P.1081’s performance, the first nation to order the type is Australia. Thereafter a total of 250 are sold abroad.

The P1081’s successor, the Hunter, is chosen as the basis for long-term development. After the introduction of the Avon Hunter into RAF service, a prototype of the P.1083 variant, with 50-degree sweep and fully variable afterburning, is flown in the autumn of 1953. It is ordered into production. The P.1083 Hunter enters service in late 1956, and the RAF has its first genuine supersonic aircraft at the same time that the US Air Force introduces the Convair F-102 delta. The P.1083 proves capable of 800mph at sea level and around 780mph at 36,000ft. Export sales boom and a further development is ordered, with a twp per cent thinner wing and equipped with either air-to-air missiles or ground attack weapons. Production of single or two-seat Hunters continues into the 1970’s, mainly for export.
1964 scenario

When you have aproven record of screwing up your own industry, i dont think you are going to get the US to agree to your 'demands'....

Scenario 1964

Once again we enter the realms of what might have been. Ignoring all the prophets of doom and the left-wingers who want to turn aircraft works into jam factories, the cabinet thrashes out a workable policy. A team goes to Washington determined on maximum ‘buy back’ for any orders placed. McDonnell Phantoms for the RAF and the RN are ordered as standard, off the line, with General Electric and not Roll-Royce engines. This cuts the ultimate bill by two thirds and allows re-ordering to take place at a later date. In return, the US Government agrees to collaborate on financing supersonic V/STOL development in the UK and to the purchase of an agreed list of electronic and other equipment.

To meet the transport requirement a licence agreement is concluded with Lockheed for the manufacture in Britain of the Hercules with improved STOL performance and powered by Rolls-Royce Tyne engines. The licence includes the right to sell military and civil Hercules to specified territories. With the money saved on the Phantom deal and the dollar research cash from the US, the V/STOL programme is initiated. The Harrier Mk1 goes into production while, at the same time, three prototypes P1154’s are built using Pegasus engines with plenum chamber burning. These are followed by a further three modified aircraft equipped with the BS.100 engine. Following extensive trails, the P1154 is ordered as the successor to the Harrier. It is used by the FAF, FAA, the USN and the USMC. A British-designed nav/attack system including volumetric radar is fitted to the P1154.

Finally, the thorny problem of the TSR.2 is resolved. So much money has been spent and so much effort put in, it is obvious that the project must go on. Sixty TSR2s are ordered, but initially with less sophisticated equipment than originally envisaged. The weapons system package is built up gradually, allowing for an easier flight test programme. TSR2 becomes the most potent strike/recce aircraft in the NATO armoury. A further 25 are ordered and Australia, thoroughly disenchanted with delays and price rises on the F-111 cancels its order for that type and turns to TSR2, with major sub-contracts being placed with Australian companies.

In 1968, after NATO has abandoned the ‘Trip Wire’ policy of nuclear retaliation, it becomes clear that the Soviet conventional build up will require the operation of a very long range air-to-air missile/gun-equipped fighter capable of CAP as far North as the Arctic Circle. The TSR2 with its massive internal and external fuel/weapon capability is the obvious choice. An initial batch of 50 ‘Air Defence Version’ TSR2’s is ordered and at the same time a further batch of strike aircraft is put in hand specifically for maritime operations.

In order not to waste all the variable geometry know-how accumulated in Britain, an experimental TSR2 is flown with VG incorporated and research is kept up. At the same time negotiations are begun with a group of European nations, including West Germany, for a variable-geometry fighter/ground attack aircraft to be the ultimate successor to the F-104.
1945 scenario

I wont post all of it as its mainly about the UK taking more advantage of German research and the Miles M52

Let us turn the clock back to 1945, and see what might have been done. Instead of the Ministry of Supply, a small compact ministry is set up to deal purely with aviation: it has strong and clearly defined ties with the operational requirements and planning branches of the Services and good links with the airlines. The fiat goes out that teams must be strengthened and the number of companies reduced – otherwise no contracts. Hawker Siddeley , in particular is told to stop internal competition among its teams and present one joint design to any particular specification. Firms are urged to specialise and stop trying their hands at everything from bombers to light aircraft. The Services are informed that they must consider the civil market and exports in any transport specification they issue.
Interesting, and urging me to buy "Project Cancelled"... ;D
Project Cancelled mistakes summary

Project cancelled - Derek Wood


Initial cancellation of supersonic aircraft setting back industry by five years.

Abandonment of transonic aircraft.

Too many design offices with limited resources.

Too many civil and military projects initiated of little value and consuming too much time and money.

Duplication of effort in Whitehall and in industry.

Lack of understanding by the RAF of export requirements.


Long-range jet market abandoned. The USA takes over permanently.

British aerodynamics and structural research reaches its peak with excellent designs, followed immediately by the disastrous Sandys White Paper on defence, which wrecks British aircraft development for a decade and stops manned military aircraft for five years.

Too many guided missile projects initiated.


The attempt to rationalise the aircraft industry by means of a shotgun and without a balance of aircraft projects.

Research only for specific purposes – of which there are too few.

Variable geometry know-how frittered away.

Loss of the short- and medium-haul jet airliner export market through BEA ordering the wrong size of aircraft.

Lack of conventional fighter and ground-attack aircraft.

Concentration on the over-complex OR.339/TSR.2 to the detriment off other projects.

Abandonment of Britain’s place in the light- and medium/heavy-lift helicopter market.


Cancellation of the three key British military projects – P.1154, HS.681 and TSR.2. V/STOL transports and supersonic fighters dropped.

Denis Healy’s panic purchases in America going; ‘cap in hand’ to Europe to buy a way into any project, whether or not suitable.

The ill-conceived Plowden report calling for Britain not to produce any more major national aircraft projects.

Britain goes into and retires from the European Airbus.
British Airbus cancelled.
Looks all good.

A good quote to remember on GOR339 was one of the competing firms chairmen saying to an RAF officer, "why on earth a 1000nm (ROA) do you realise it will cost a million per mile for the last 100nm".
There are some flaws in these plans (exciting as they may be).

I wish to explore another option for the 1960s and 70s timeframe. We all know the botched merger that resulted in BAC caused problems but things never improved with the formation of BAe when both BAC and HSA were nationalised. Indeed the Wilson Labour government plans for large Corporations was a heavily flawed plan and failed to deliver the kinds of promises made, whether it was BAC, BMC or the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders.

The fact is by 1977 BAC is on the backfoot, the BAC 1-11 is the sole commerical airliner type and everything else BAC is producing is essentially products of the Anglo-French agreements of the 1960s (Jaguar and Concorde). My perferred choice would to have left HSA an independent company and let BAC either wither or turn them into a pure military specialist company. Hawker Siddeley by 1977 had the lion's share of the nations capabilites (Trident, 146, 125, Harrier and Hawk) and had the more successful product lines and far better export successes. If the government hadn't withdrawn from Airbus then HSA could have had a far more lucrative slice of the Airbus pie and this would have given them the commanding position as the leading aerospace company (inculding all its various divisions like Hawker Siddeley Dynamics). Had Hawker Siddely streamlined its design teams and production centres earlier, say from 1960 onwards, civil and military design teams could have been centralised and a far more efficent management structure set up.
BAC had suffered from the mishaps of the inital merger and the truma of the over-management of the TSR.2, again had the goverment left well alone and gotten Vickers, Bristol and English Electric to work out its own problems and management then BAC may well have been stronger. The reliance on co-operative work limits BAC's market in terms of civil designs and really its Warton and the military aircraft that keep BAC going as a prime defence concern the government can't afford to let go of. Had the Airbus work remained with Hawker Sideley from the beginning Filton would have been largely redundant as the Concorde programme wound down.
Had HSA not been state-owned it may have forged much stronger links with McDonnell Douglas with the Harrier programme and become, with its Airbus partners, a multi-national company (perhaps even a share-owner in McD or vice-versa). Co-operation with American firms like Beechcraft and the 125 series of business jets may have again seen far greater returns than the rather hurried sell-off that happened historically in the late 90s. In the 1980s it could have acquired BAC to become part of HSA Military Aircraft and today, in my alt-history idea, we could have been looking at HSA Systems rather than BAE Systems and it may well have still been producing the 125, 146 RTX and Hawk lines as well as greater Airbus part production.

As ever, this is up for discussion and ideas! As a critque of the post-war government planning of the air industry it opens a new avenue - letting BAC go in favour of the bigger firm rather than keeping two firms propped up. If the harsh mergers of the 50s couldn't have been forced to happen then perhaps market-forces in the 70s would have completed the job?
"Following extensive trails, the P1154 is ordered as the successor to the Harrier. It is used by the RAF, FAA, the USN and the USMC." And by BOAC and BEA, no doubt.

The P.1154 is a never-was that was never missed. The world got along just fine without it. I suspect its development would not be as smooth as imagined, and the real STOVL capability was for the most part used by militaries that could not afford full service carriers for their missions. The RAF was the only land-based service that used it. There was an enormous in-air performance trade off for STOVL. Yes, engines will be improved, etc but these advances will also apply to CTOL aircraft. Regarding the export sales of the P.1121 vis a vis the Phantom, off hand a lot of the exports were used aircraft. The HS 681 was another answer to a question that no one was asking. A broad equivalent, the V-22 Osprey took forever to develop and I don't see any export customers lining up to buy one.

The TSR.2 seemed to be the first British aircraft designed as a Weapons System. The airframe, engine, avionics and weapons were to be a pretty seamless web. You couldn't just slap some bigger wings or VG on it, hang some AAMs on the wings and call it a fighter. If you want to stay all-Empire, and see the need for a large long range fighter, stick with the Fairey product or buy into the CF-105.

The smart move would be:
1. Buy RR engined Mirage 3s in return for selling TSR.2s for France's force de frappe. Jointly develop the Jaguar as a true Harrier replacement, especially the Naval variant. This will also be the NA.39 replacement. Toss around s stripped NA.39 as the Hunter replacement, or unload the used ones. Since the RAF was in on this from the beginning as a Canberra replacement, there should be plenty available.
The TSR.2 seemed to be the first British aircraft designed as a Weapons System. The airframe, engine, avionics and weapons were to be a pretty seamless web. You couldn't just slap some bigger wings or VG on it, hang some AAMs on the wings and call it a fighter. If you want to stay all-Empire, and see the need for a large long range fighter, stick with the Fairey product or buy into the CF-105.
By the time you're looking to develop ADV TSR.2 (or not) from the original aircraft, you've missed the Arrow bus. CF-105 is already irretrievably dead by this time. You need to make that decision a lot earlier, with Fairey at the very least and probably Gloster as well receiving contracts for local construction as compensation for losing Delta 3 and Thin-wing Javelin respectively.

The major problem that an Anglo-Canadian Arrow brings is the weapon system, which up until the point of cancellation was either Active Sparrow or AIM-4 Falcon and the radar/FCS to integrate with it.

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