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Project Prodigal and the Mobile Royal Air Force

uk 75

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It is emerging that the development for the Royal Air Force of its mobile VSTOL and short take off intervention force (TSR2, 1154 Harrier and 681 Transport) in the early 60s was being matched by an ambitious army programme called "Project Prodigal".

We know that the Army received the excellent Scorpion family of light armoured vehicles (sized to be carried by 681 and able to roll thru Malayan rubber plantations!). The Jumping Jeep programme of a light agile recce vehicle was mainly aimed at BAOR but such a vehicle would also have been able to deploy more widely with 681. Now the Contentious airborne tank ( a kind of British Ontos, Scorpion or Sheridan) has been well covered as well. There was also a mobile self propelled 105mm light weapon developed.

(see https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/threads/uk-lightweight-105mm-spg.33359/#post-384031 )

The combination of these systems was quite visionary and would have (but of course for the major technical and financial limitations in reality) produced a wonderful UK Mobile Force capaable of both quick reaction on the NATO flanks and intervention in the final trouble spots of our diminishing Empire. The RAF and Army used other systems to make this capability work (notably the C 130 Hercules and the Harrier 1127) but one can still marvel at the chutzpah of those earlyn 60s dreams.
 
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JFC Fuller

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I have often mused about the prospect of the Fairey Rotodyne Z being procured instead of the Andover. According to Damien Burke in his outstanding TSR-2 book the original requirement for AW.681 was 62 aircraft. For the Belfast (which should have been the HP.111) it was 30 though I have only ever seen that number on wiki, does anyone know where it came from?

For the Belfast:

I agree that the order for the Belfast has proved disastrous to Shorts but I would point out that when the Belfast was originally ordered there were high hopes that it would be sold abroad. The development costs were spread over 30 aircraft. Interest in the aircraft was shown in the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan and in the United Kingdom. If the development costs could have been spread over 30 aircraft instead of only 10 aircraft, it could have been sold competitively.

From: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/...-accounts-reports#S5CV0754P0_19671113_HOC_339
 
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uk 75

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Sealord

I recall the excellent Number 38 Group displays during the late 60s in which a pair of Andovers would land in front of the crowd and kneel down and disgorge Land Rovers and infantry in an airfield assault. Wessex helicopters also took part. The high light was the sight of the Andovers reversing under their own power and taking off in quite a short distance.

The Fairey Rotodyne would have been able to carry a light armoured vehicle. The HS 129 design could also have been adopted instead of the Andover.

The Belfast was the heavy lifter. I am not sure where the number 30 would come from, as I have only ever seen it as a single squadron aircraft. Belfast was offered for the 681 role as well.
 

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I am not quite sure how the Belfast fitted into the Mobile RAF/Project Prodigal. It was already obsolete when ordered compared with what the US were doing. By 1967 the RAF were looking at a small number of C5 Galaxy to replace the single Belfast squadron.

The idea that the US would order the Belfast when they had the Douglas Globemaster and Cargomaster in service and the Starlifter coming down the line..

Had there been sufficent money and requirement, 681 was a reasonable aircraft (minus its curious vstol lift pods) and the Japanese built the similar but smaller Kawasaki C1. The 681 would have fitted the Mobile Air Force requirement well. HS 1154 would have been more STOL than VSTOL, using its deflected jets sparingly and operating more like Jaguar than Harrier 1127. The numbers match those of Jaguar.

The Army implemented the three Airportable Brigades and one Airborne Brigade required for the Mobile Force. It lacked the high tech equipment envisaged by Prodigal, but fielded substitutes like the Ferret with Vigilant/Swingfire and the Land Rover with Wombat. The Italian 105mm pack howitzer was also a useful weapon and more compact than the later British gun.
 

Grey Havoc

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It should be noted that the C-5 Galaxy was initially a disappointment for the USAF, not meeting specifications & expectations, as well as being plagued by technical problems in it's early days. The Belfast in comparison met requirements from the outset and was far more reliable.
 

kaiserd

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It should be noted that the C-5 Galaxy was initially a disappointment for the USAF, not meeting specifications & expectations, as well as being plagued by technical problems in it's early days. The Belfast in comparison met requirements from the outset and was far more reliable.
Not to criticise the Shorts Belfast too much but that is a very charitable interpretation of how the Belfast was considered and of it’s success/ quality versus the C-5.
 

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