Replacing SACEUR's RAF Valiants

uk 75

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From 1963 to 1965 three squadrons of Valiant B1s at RAF Marham were assigned to NATO to deliver US supplied nuclear weapons to targets chosen by Supreme Allied Command Europe.
They replaced Canberras in the same role.
This always seemed to me a more essential role for 50 TSR2s or F111Ks than reinforcing Singapore.
Yet it was apparently never used to justify them. Curiously from 1968 to 1983 the Vulcan B2 stepped into the role, and then Tornados of 9 and 617 Sqn.

I am puzzled why the RAF did not make a better defence of providing planes for this role and why TSR2 was not described from the offer as a NATO operational range strike aircraft. From 1967 to the end of the Cold War US F111s were allocated to this role too.
 

kaiserd

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As set out in Tony Butler’s excellent books on the British aircraft of this period the TSR2 was meant for both UK/ Europe and “East of Suez” roles (though - in my opinion - even in theoretical scenarios where it survived it’s escalating costs may well have made this unrealistic and forced a cheaper complementary aircraft buy).

As also set out in Tony Butler”s books following TSR1 cancellation the intended F-111 buy was focused on the “East of Suez” roles with the joint British/ French AFVG to be for the UK/ Europe roles.

Again in my opinion - how much of that plan was down to political convenience and/or to some extent retrospectively created and tied up with subsequent cancelation decisions is open to debate.

And after the UK all-but-abandoned it’s “East if Suez” role the RAF eventually got the Tornado for these UK/ Europe roles following excellent interim service types that in evolving combination each successively covered some of these UK/ Europe focused roles (Vulcan, Buccaneer, Phantom, Jaguar, probably more that I’m forgetting).
This includes WE.177 armed Vulcans and Buccaneers in the context of the reduced importance of UK aircraft delivered nuclear weapons following Polaris taking over the strategic nuclear deterrent.
An ironically the Tornado then sees extensive war time service in what could be seen as “East of Suez” service/ roles.
 

kaiserd

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To add to my last comment from a quick web search it appear that RAF Phantoms did also have access to and carry US tactical nuclear weapons under “dual-key” arrangements (potentially more as an expediency measure given the RAF Phantoms interim service in this role and to avoid cost & time integrating and clearing the WE.177) and RAF Jaguars also carried British WE.177 tactical nuclear weapons.
Amazing was you learn or forget then re-learn (can’t remember which).
 

alertken

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Before 15/10/64 Valiant was planned to be replaced by TSR.2.

Saceur's Scheduled Strike Program (SSP) assigned 112 targets to RAF, addressed by dual-carriage, 24xTBF Valiant, 32xRAFG Canberra B.(I).6/8. He thought they would all be replaced wef 1968 by TSR.2, which is why you will find 1963 talk of 150 of them, to include replacing 32xNEAF/8xFEAF Canberra B.15/16. They had single UK Red Beard, TBF/RAFG had dual US B-43.

What weapon(s) would be hung on all those TSR.2s? (Our own CJG in 9/18's Aeroplane has 10xASM schemes)...but what Bangs?

5xSSBNs were on order, 16x3xwarhead FBMs: 287xET317 were in the Production Program: so were 53xWE177B to sustain Cottesmore/Waddington Vulcan B.2 till Polaris. ROF was overloaded and could not produce WE177s to match multiple Bids for variants before 1971. NEAF/FEAF must have a UK weapon (US custodials problem): RAFG and UK TBF could carry US weapons.

UK/MBF had 70 Yellow Sun 2 and 40 Blue Steel "strategic" targets, assigned by Saceur wef 23/5/63 (not in public domain is targets, cf his SSP).

So it was when Ministers changed, 17/10/64. While they were in DC, 7-9/12/64, Valiant cracked. LBJ cared, not so much for Saceur (his targets were all backed up): he did care for UK in 'Nam, but would settle for UK nearby, to share the Deterrent Task v. PRC.

So: 48xVulcan/(Yellow Sun 2, 9/66:) WE177B notionally "move" from (Saceur -ex-SIOP, so reducing UK "strategic" capacity) to Saceur SSP, then, post-Polaris, to NEAF, surge to FEAF (so, wef 15/1/69).
RAFG 96xtargets, wef 1/1/70; F-4M/dual B57(wef 1/7/70, plus Bucc/single WE177C wef 31/12/72).
Need for TSR.2 or F-111K: only 50, to replace (and increase) Vulcan/Canberra, (NEAF and) FEAF.
6/4/65 that became Option, 50xF-111K, UK-weapon to be determined (the 20 SEATO targets, shared with RN Buccaneer/Red Beard, did not require a very Big Bang, so ?WE177A, +ex-Vulcan WE177B for CENTO targets).

Broke, we decided 1/68 that Asian Tigers should defend themselves; 17/7/68 that we would do MRCA for (ex-TBF)/RAFG, with UK WE177C, preceded wef 1/12/75 by Jaguar/WE177C. That released F-4M to non-Strike roles.

Discussion of the TSR.2/F-111K/AFVG/MRCA sequence has overlooked the driver: workload on AWRE/ROF, so retention of US Bombs post-Canberra, so buy F-4M on deferred payment and try to collaborate with France and/or FRG.
 

Hood

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As a related note to Alertken's post above, when SIOP was drawn up in 1960 the RAF rejected SAC's counter-force strategy insisting on being given city targets. Probably this was partly due to it being in ingrained rationale of the V-force and the purpose of the British deterrent.
Therefore the original SIOP assignments for the RAF included 3 air bases, 6 air defence targets and 48 cities.

We could speculate that the preference for cities was probably reflected in the growing realisation that the V-force might not penetrate heavily defended military targets and at the time Blue Steel was still in development and long-range stand-off weapons firmly on the drawing board. Also the V-force replacement Blue Streak was very much a big target weapon.

Also, we mustn't forget that the Valiant assignment to SACEUR was largely a ploy to placate the Kennedy Administration's proposals for a NATO-controlled nuclear force which Britain and France were not prepared to accept. Out of area CENTO and SEATO nuclear commitments in the mid-60s probably meant a lot more politically and practically to both Britain and the US given the overkill weapon assignments already figured in SACEUR and SIOP target lists.
 

uk 75

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Thanks for the detailed replies to my initial proposition.
Good though Tornado was, it only replaced the tactical nuclear Canberras, Jaguars and Buccaneers. The range and payload of the V bombers was not replaced. SACEUR had to rely on US F111s and GLCM systems for longer ranged strikes.
If the UK had given up the role sooner a lot of taxpayer money could have been saved.
 

zen

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If this is History, why is it in Alternative History and Future Speculation section?
 
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