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Rozanoff kills Duncan Sandys, April 3, 1954

Archibald

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Well as said in the title. That day our beloved Rozanoff and his Mystere IVB crashed (frozen controls) Duncan Sandys and a bunch of french and british aviation officials were... uncomfortably close from the impact.
Now look at the date: 3 years and 1 day (!) before that infamous white paper April 4, 1957.
What do you think ?
 

Hood

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Sandys had nothing to do with it. The real hatchet man is Harold Macmillan, he just employed Sandys because he needed a tough old stick like Sandys to make the cuts stick. Sandys had experience in the field and that was a bonus.
So Macmillan would simply find another ambitious MP to fill that role.
 

Nick Sumner

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The problem wasn't Sandys. He was just the messenger. The problem was Britain's economic circumstances and vast responsibilities combined with the fact that those required to predict the future weren't that good at it..
 

JFC Fuller

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Sandy's was pretty good at predicting the future. The force structure, manpower levels, and basic capabilities outlined by the 1957 defence white paper for the Army and RAF were, with some minor reductions and reallocations over the years, essentially the same as how those two services ended the Cold War. Sure, the ballistic missiles were ultimately deployed on submarines rather than in concrete silos and many individual programmes were cancelled but the basics stayed the same.
 
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Archibald

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Ah dang. Surely it is like Diefenbaker getting all the hatred for cancelling the Arrow - blame the wrong person, make it a scapegoat.
 

zen

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It's possible that a less prohibitive to aircraft development solution might have been forthcoming.
Sandys was deeply enamoured by rockets.
 

kaiserd

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As others have already said the ill-will some have directed at Duncan Sandys is not really deserved. He became a convenient scape goat for many individual and collective failures and delusions that finally met reality.
His main blind spot appears to have been on the need for limited-war capacity and the greater flexibility of military aircraft versus the comparative missiles of this era.
However a lot of what he cancelled would indeed have been the wrong piece of kit for the real world 60s-80’s and would hav done less well than what ended up being bought in its stead.
The 1950’s “Golden Age” of British Aviation in the post war jet era was never remotely sustainable and a form of the 1957 mass-extinction event should have happened much sooner.
However I do remain a fan of reading about this era and many charismatic aircraft that emerged (or just failed to).
 

Hood

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Much of the work was started was started by his predecessor, Aubrey Jones, but Macmillan didn't think he had to drive to force the R&D and force cuts through , in his diary he confided his thoughts on Jones, a decent chap but not suited to the rough and tumble world of politics. In Sandys he found the man he wanted.
And of course, Sandys had been involved in rocketry during the war so that probably influenced his thoughts too. Missile-myopia of course was evident in other nations too at the time.

Personally I feel that had it not been for the Korean War, the industry would have been trimmed sooner and some of the wasteful projects never begun.
I must admit I have always been impressed with France, they always seem to have been able to get the stuff they wanted by going it alone (carriers, SSNs, nukes, IRBMs, SLBMs, tanks, fighters, trainers etc.) without seemingly spending crippling amounts and without too much waste in abandoned sidelines. Had the British ministries and services had more focus and a dose of reality, things might have turned out rather different.
 

Archibald

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Much of the work was started was started by his predecessor, Aubrey Jones, but Macmillan didn't think he had to drive to force the R&D and force cuts through , in his diary he confided his thoughts on Jones, a decent chap but not suited to the rough and tumble world of politics. In Sandys he found the man he wanted.
And of course, Sandys had been involved in rocketry during the war so that probably influenced his thoughts too. Missile-myopia of course was evident in other nations too at the time.

Personally I feel that had it not been for the Korean War, the industry would have been trimmed sooner and some of the wasteful projects never begun.
I must admit I have always been impressed with France, they always seem to have been able to get the stuff they wanted by going it alone (carriers, SSNs, nukes, IRBMs, SLBMs, tanks, fighters, trainers etc.) without seemingly spending crippling amounts and without too much waste in abandoned sidelines. Had the British ministries and services had more focus and a dose of reality, things might have turned out rather different.
well in a nutshell France was extremely lucky Dassault barely survived Buchenwald and later swept the unefficient public companies from the combat jet area (minus Vautour and Jaguar, everything else has been 100% Dassault).

And then Dassault was lucky to have De Gaulle in 1958, who endorsed his "efficiency" and enshrined it in the 60's when public companies protested. He basically hammered them with a straight advice - "stay out of combat aircraft and you will get everything else - choppers, rockets, airliners and second line military aircraft - trainers patrol transport whatever." It was kind of deal so they stop competing with Dassault.

Note that the two clashed on trainers and airliners and both were trounced (Alphajet and Falcon were Dassault victories but Mercure vs Airbus ended in disaster for Dassault and triumph for Aerospatiale SNIAS)

And it worked well, post 1970 Aerospatiale excelled at choppers while Airbus and Ariane brought Europe into airliners and rockets.
 
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Grey Havoc

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I'm not sure that Sandys actually deserves the various attempts over the years to rehabilitate his reputation or otherwise make allowances for him. He was a pretty shady character indeed (probably a major reason why Macmillan got on so well with him!). He knew exactly what his 'reforms' would do to Britain's aerospace industry (not to mention the Defence of the Realm), and the fact that he thought that missile development & deployment would offset (some of) the damage he was doing doesn't really excuse his (and Macmillan's) actions.

Separately it should be noted that a fair few of the 'wasteful' projects were only seen so as such in the baleful light of the afore mentioned 'Missile-myopia', for example those relating to high performance manned interceptors and attack/bomber aircraft.
 
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zen

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Piling the next generation of combat aircraft technology onto one product. ....TSR.2 was certainly the way to exponentially raise the cost of that aircraft.

Shooting the developers Fox in terms of fighters, ensured failure of missiles and radar for a decade.

All in all a less extreme and earlier review would have been better.
 

Archibald

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Also Dassault never dared to venture into the area of choppers - the public companies would have crushed them instantly.

Funnily enough in 1972 Dassault was trying to screw the public companies with their Falcon 30 (think Embraer / Bombardier twenty years too early) and Mercure airliners. Meanwhile the public companies tried to regain a combat aircraft foothold, two ways - jet trainers (they lost to the Alphajet) and licence-build U.S design - Aerospatiale wanted the F-5 Tiger and A-7 Corsair, Pompidou (De Gaulle heir) told them to go screw themselves and build something else.

What is really interesting is that early French jets got a very bad year (1948) followed by a very good year (1952). 1952 is the year the Ouragan entered service en masse while Mystere designs took flight, hence Dassault gained the upper hand.
Well, it is neither insulting the British nor licking Dassault... feet to note that, by 1948, the French aircraft industry was bound to a British like decline / major screw ups fate. Things like the Swift insane fiasco, or the Sea Vixen flying in 1950 and entering service in 1959. Things like "it started with an overambitious RFP and ended 10 years later in a complete fiasco".

France surely got their share of disasters. The SO-4000, which was to be our Canberra and proved so bad, it flew only once, after what it was grounded and used as a ground target.
Cormoran (our very own Blackburn Beverley, except it crashed in first flight, all dead).
VG-90 / NC-1080 / Nord 2200 : swept wing jets and naval fighters before there was any carrier - four prototypes, three crashes, three pilots dead. fuck.
The SO-6020 Espadon which was to be our Hunter and flew well, but it was heavy as a brick led, poor Nene, and the Mystères ate him for dinner.
Every single jet program started before the Ouragan was a miserable failure. Dang, the only non Dassault, early jet that worked well enough was the Vautour.
 
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kaiserd

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I'm not sure that Sandys actually deserves the various attempts over the years to rehabilitate his reputation or otherwise make allowances for him. He was a pretty shady character indeed (probably a major reason why Macmillan got on so well with him!). He knew exactly what his 'reforms' would do to Britain's aerospace industry (not to mention the Defence of the Realm), and the fact that he thought that missile development & deployment would offset (some of) the damage he was doing doesn't really excuse his (and Macmillan's) actions.

Separately it should be noted that a fair few of the 'wasteful' projects were only seen so as such in the baleful light of the afore mentioned 'Missile-myopia', for example those relating to high performance manned interceptors and attack/bomber aircraft.
Sandys has been character-assassinated and ridiculed for over 40 years for being the man who was finally responsible for trying to bring reality to what had become a fantasy land for the RAF, Royal Navy fleet air arm and (especially) aviation industry.
The UK couldn’t remotely afford or sustain the multiple projects and firms, rather like with the almost concurrent Suez crisis a harsh lesson for the UK on its sharply reduced place in the world was probably required.
 

pathology_doc

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We have been over this before.
We have, but we're going to go over it again and again on these boards (AND YOU KNOW IT! :p ) because what Sandys did is responsible for a lot of the tech in BSP never getting off the ground, whether as service types or one-offs. It's arguably why we HAVE the Secret Projects series in the first place.

QUESTION: Is rationalisation necessary? YES. But along what lines? Are you, for example, going to put Avro, Gloster and Fairey together because they were all working on deltas? Saro and AW for research because they were the ones doing weird and funky cutting-edge stuff? Vickers and Handley-Page because with Avro in the delta conglomerate they are the two remaining heavy bomber manufacturers? Or do you put Fairey together with Folland and DH because they're doing all the AAM work?

QUESTION: Are cancellations necessary? YES, but along what lines? And is it not a mistake to assume that any future war is going to be a nuclear spasm (and therefore probably the last war ever), and the only thing you're ever going to need fighters for is to give time for the nuclear bombers to get aloft? Sure, F.155T might be a one-trick pony that's caught without a broader role 10 years down the road, but in stopping ALL future manned interceptor work in 1957, you're arguably stopping the most critical generation of combat aircraft and systems development.

Much of the bitterness regarding these cancellations is due to the fact that some of the stuff that got shut down had prototypes partially-built and pre-production aircraft actually on the assembly lines. (Maybe they should never have been allowed to get that far, but that's a whole different argument.) F.155T was still vaporware and relatively painless to kill, but Saro (for example) had gone above and beyond in making the jump from flying boats to supersonic fighters, they'd actually started building P.177, and it's a crime that they got as far as they did with it (with potential international interest), only to have it snatched away at what seemed like the last minute and never see their technological pride and joy fly.

The Americans had their share of dead ends for sure, but a lot more of those made it into metal and got their actual backsides kicked in actual fly-offs against the planes the USAF and USN actually bought, reducing the might-have-been bitterness. F-111B was a demonstrable failure, Crusader III was an outstanding interceptor, but had the (arguably well-timed) misfortune to fly off against one of the greatest and most versatile airframes in aviation history, etc. etc.
 

JFC Fuller

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The Sandys review has many parallels with what happened over the period 1957-1965 in the US and in both cases there were two big drivers:

1) End of high and fast (see Avro 730, B-58B, B-70A for bombers and F-155D, F-108 for interceptors) and focus on ballistic missiles (and defence against) for the strategic nuclear mission

2) Overheated procurement programmes - an issue on both sides of the Atlantic at the time; by which I mean such high levels of defence spending were becoming difficult to sustain politically at the same time as next-gen systems and platforms were becoming more expensive to develop and operate

The way the process unfolded was obviously different in both countries due to different political systems, funding mechanisms etc but the root causes were the same.

I would argue that if either Sandys or McNamara had not made it to high office the axes would still have fell, only the aim may have been very slightly different.
 
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kaiserd

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And, for example, the USSR and France (to some extent) saw similar cancellations at more or less this time, if not quite as extreme a extinction event as the UK.

ICBMs, SBLMs, other missiles and nuclear subs all cost a lot of money and aviation industries and air forces around the world found themselves no longer with the whip hand when allocation of defense spending decisions were being made, having had very much dominated the early Nuclear/ Cold War Age when aircraft had been the only way to deliver “the bomb”.

And it should be noted that both Sandys and McNamara have extremely dubious aspects to their records (attitude/ approach to Rhodesia/ Zimbabwe, and “Vietnam”, respectively) so there is no need to make heroes of them.
However the level of anger and vilification directed at them specifically for cancelling specific aircraft that in truth were misconceived or just unlucky to be overtaken by events has never been deserved and reflected and probably helped propagate a “alternative fact” culture among some enthusiasts that has not been helpful or healthy for society at large.
 
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JFC Fuller

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And, for example, the USSR and France (to some extent) saw similar cancellations at more or less this time, if not quite as extreme a extinction event as the UK.

ICBMs, SBLMs, other missiles and nuclear subs all cost a lot of money and aviation industries and air forces around the world found themselves no longer with the whip hand when allocation of defense spending decisions were being made, having had very much dominated the early Nuclear/ Cold War Age when aircraft had been the only way to deliver “the bomb”.

And it should be noted that both Sandys and McNamara have extremely dubious aspects to their records (attitude/ approach to Rhodesia/ Zimbabwe, and “Vietnam”, respectively) so there is no need to make heroes of them.
However the level of anger and vilification directed at them specifically for cancelling specific aircraft that in truth were misconceived or just unlucky to be overtaken by events has never been deserved and reflected and probably helped propagate a “alternative fact” culture among some enthusiasts that has not been helpful or healthy for society at large.
It was hardly a "near extinction" event. Even after the resulting consolidation the UK was still left with two companies able to design and manufacture combat aircraft (Hawker Siddeley and BAC) and an independent helicopter company (Westland).
 
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Their political views were of their time and not relevant. I agree Sandys is unfairly treated in much aviation literature, starting with Derek Wood's Project Cancelled.
 

Archibald

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yep France too. The coming force de frappe and the Mirage IIIC strangled in the craddle
- Vautour and SMB2 orders
-Etendard IV low level interceptors for AdA
- Griffon
- Trident
- Leduc (all the above - ramjet or rocket high altitude interceptors)
Also Durandal.
1958 was the end for all these...

At some point in 1957 the AdA planned more SMB2 as fighter-bombers and daylight interceptor (think F-100); more Vautours for all-weather and night interceptions (think F-89); Etendard IV at low level (NATO LWF legacy), Mirage IIIC at medium height, Trident II above 60 000 ft (the later eventually completed by the turboramjet types, either Leduc or Griffon). The Mirage IIIC was the only survivor ! SMB-2 was cut to 180 build, Vautour to 140. Etendard IV saved its ass only thanks to the Aéronavale. All the others went to ash heap of aviation history. Truth be told the Leduc 022 was mostly a failure, but the Trident II and Griffon II were dynamite, they broke several records, height, acceleration, speed - to no avail. In their place the Mirage III-C got a SEPR hypergolic rocket belly-pack and validated that zoom-climbing to 25500 m (84 000 ft) in 1960.
 
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pathology_doc

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I agree Sandys is unfairly treated in much aviation literature, starting with Derek Wood's Project Cancelled.
Although to his credit, even Wood admits in the conclusion that not everything he covered could have been built (I read the updated edition; I've never seen the original).
 

royabulgaf

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I agree Sandys is unfairly treated in much aviation literature, starting with Derek Wood's Project Cancelled.
Although to his credit, even Wood admits in the conclusion that not everything he covered could have been built (I read the updated edition; I've never seen the original).
Pathology doc, I recall the line in the first edition.
 

CNH

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He was a pretty shady character indeed (probably a major reason why Macmillan got on so well with him!). He knew exactly what his 'reforms' would do to Britain's aerospace industry (not to mention the Defence of the Realm
Come on - tell us more.
 

CNH

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QUESTION: Are cancellations necessary? YES, but along what lines? And is it not a mistake to assume that any future war is going to be a nuclear spasm (and therefore probably the last war ever), and the only thing you're ever going to need fighters for is to give time for the nuclear bombers to get aloft? Sure, F.155T might be a one-trick pony that's caught without a broader role 10 years down the road, but in stopping ALL future manned interceptor work in 1957, you're arguably stopping the most critical generation of combat aircraft and systems development.
Rather than amalgamate companies with very different cultures, might it have been better to let many firms wither on the vine? Natural selection in operation.

The attitude of the MoS seemed to be that Firm X hasn't got any contracts recently so let's give it to him.
 

Archibald

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Fact is that by 1956-59 french aerospace companies not only lost their challenge to Dassault and the Mirage IIIC.
They also merged. And the two events were related.
The Durandal (best public challenge to the private Mirage by a long shot) was build by SNCA-SE that the same year merged with SNCA-SO to become Sud Aviation.
SNCA National Company to Build Aircraft.
SO : south-west France. Bordeaux Toulouse.
SE: south-east, Cannes.

Leaving only four major players: Breguet Dassault Sud and Nord aviation.

A decade later consolidation went into its final step when Dassault ate Breguet in 1967 and Nord and Sud merged into SNIAS Aerospatiale in 1970.

Somewhat interestingly, the SNCA that were 5 years late started competing with Dassault by 1956 only. Durandal and Vautour were competitive enough to threaten both Mirages. Yet at this very moment the government pushed for consolidation... which was in the end fatal ton non-Dassault combat aircraft. By 1965 De Gaulle confirmed this, rebuking brutally and publically public companies that complained.
In this context Breguet victory of ECAT - later Jaguar - must have scared Dassault... by 1965 it was kind of huge anomaly, although Breguet was private and not a public company, which put them into an "interesting" situation - if only for a brief time. Had Louis Breguet not died in 1955... he was not much older than Dassault (1880 to 1892). There was also Henri Potez, who was Dassault long-time pal but could never get his empire back after WWII.
 
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starviking

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Rather than amalgamate companies with very different cultures, might it have been better to let many firms wither on the vine? Natural selection in operation.

The attitude of the MoS seemed to be that Firm X hasn't got any contracts recently so let's give it to him.
Indeed - despite our government being a democracy, it did share certain aspects of the Soviet “command economy”.
 

kaiserd

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Rather than amalgamate companies with very different cultures, might it have been better to let many firms wither on the vine? Natural selection in operation.

The attitude of the MoS seemed to be that Firm X hasn't got any contracts recently so let's give it to him.
Indeed - despite our government being a democracy, it did share certain aspects of the Soviet “command economy”.
The British secret project books have interesting asides on this topic.
Sustaining industrial capacity for the next big war was a policy that crossed all UK political lines in the immediate post-war period (including the civil service and the military establishment).
It’s very much a later political development for such policies to be widely seen in black and white left/ right political terms or in any sense not associated with democracy.
And such policies (in less explicit forms) are still not uncommon in the defense field, including the US.
In retrospect it’s very clear that the UK should have instigated industrial consolidations a lot sooner and more aggressively than they did but old attitudes and (especially self-) perceptions are hard and slow to change.
 

JFC Fuller

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It had nothing to do with "self perceptions" on the part of the British state. The UK government did not own the UK aerospace industry (at least not until 1977), it could bully, guide and cajole but it couldn't outright force consolidation on companies that didn't want it. The evidence of this is Handley Page which chose bankruptcy over merger or acquisition.

In fact the benefit of consolidation seems to have been apparent to both the Air Ministry and industry long before it actually occurred; Hawker went on an M&A spree in the mid-1930s and only stopped when Vickers/Supermarine declined to merge with them in 1935. The pre-war government was definitely interested in consolidation and the MoS left nobody in any doubt in September of 1957 when it briefed OR.339 to industry.
 
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pathology_doc

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Sustaining industrial capacity for the next big war was a policy that crossed all UK political lines in the immediate post-war period
Not least because the inter-war period had seen British military shipbuilding capability decline (thought treaty-enforced lack of orders as well as lack of funding) to the point where it was necessary to order armour plate overseas (from Czechoslovakia and have it delivered in part by German Rail as late as August 1939. Source: DK Brown "Nelson to Vanguard"). It is to the credit of the relevant civilian authorities in both nations that these deliveries were completed).

The Great Depression would have put a clamp on military shipbuilding in any case, but if not for the stringency of the various naval treaties, who knows? They might at least have had ships on a slow-build program with armour, gun and engine works still having something to do to keep them afloat. It's unfortunate that the very size of the Royal Navy told against it, and it couldn't build anywhere near as many new ships as it arguably should have.
 

JFC Fuller

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The idea that the UK government somehow chose to sustain a large number of aircraft firms to maintain industrial capacity "for the next war" is also flawed. Production capacity is measured in machine tools, factory floor space and production efficiency - not the number of firms. This was aptly demonstrated pre-war and was the ultimate reason behind the shadow factory programme. Indeed expansion of production capacity (re-using some of those pre-war/wartime constructed facilities) was a feature of the 1950-56 period - that expansion would have significantly improved company finances which would have dissuaded them from consolidation.

What the large numbers of firms provided were multiple design teams and competition (of sorts), although again there is no particular reason why a smaller number of large companies couldn't contain the same number of design teams. In reality, the industry was not owned by the state and it chose not to consolidate until it had no other choice (and even then some held out), aside from very extreme actions (full nationalisation - actually considered in the 1930s and ultimately done in 1977) the government had few leavers with which to force the aircraft companies to cooperate aside from withholding or redirecting government orders. All this despite the fact that the government (not that its a singular entity) understood that rationalisation was logical.

It is possible to argue, convincingly, both that the UK government should have been more interventionist in the aerospace industry and less interventionist, but ultimately the industry adapted to the demand of its market for its products.
 
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Hood

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JFC Fuller makes some very valid points above. Industrial capacity was important, but only in the sense of how much capacity was available to fulfill the plans and orders of the Air Ministry and civil production. After the re-emergence of the 'Letter' programmes of the Korean rearmament expansion, war capacity ceased to be a concern. The H-bomb impact meant by 1955 plans for mass wartime production (including mass produced escort vessels) were thrown away as irrelvant.

The main point I want to raise is the oft quoted "Buggins Turn". From the files at Kew I have read, I have never got a sense of this being true. The MoS did spread work around, but it wasn't to give everyone work to keep pockets lined, but rather issuing contracts where capacity existed and making use of the scarce resources available in design capacity and production as and when they allowed. Shorts is one obvious exception, these exceptions perhaps skewed the viewpoint of Wood et al.
 
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Zootycoon

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I’m impressed with the value for money the French got from their defence budget in terms of national achievement, especially considering it was generally very similar in size to the U.K.

As Archibald has already highlighted they had their fair share of pups but Dassault offered a dependable source for good quality products. Much to their credit I think the French take a much longer term view than the U.K. and in general support their own team. A good example is the decline in U.K. ship building in the 70-80’s. At beginning of the seventies one in four ships were built in U.K. yards. But about five years earlier a rising industrialist called Chung Ju-Yung in Korea took on an absurdly risky contract for an oil terminal in Saudi Arabia that no one else would touch. He built it on a beach in Korea and tugged it to the Middle East on barges, where he put it together. It was delivered on time and within budget. So flushed with success and keen to keep his heavy engineering business going, Chung thought he’d have a go at ship building but couldn’t finance it himself. All lenders he approached just laughed until he got to London. Despite never having built so much as a rowing boat he got the money and established the massive Ulsan ship yard in 72. Very soon after, U.K. ship yards were soon closing at the rate of one a week and by the mid eighties one in four ships being built in the world went down a Korean slipway.

The French would never do that.
 
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Archibald

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There was a lot of waste nonetheless. The saga of the Mirage III successor is excruciating, the Mirage F1 and 2000 were redundant when the later entered service, with the Iraqi F1s better equiped than... both French Mirages !
The Force de frappe also ate a very large chunk of the budget after 1960.

The French would never do that.
Depends. Between 1945 and 1975, maybe. After the first oil shock it changed: we become pretty gifted, too, at shooting ourselves in the foot in a way somewhat similar to the story above - of Korea shipyards vs British ones.
There were some memorable quagmires such as the plan calcul or Bull computing. Some areas flourished, some fell down in flames.
Fact is that we managed to "sanctuarize" some major industrial areas - nuclear civilian and military, combat aircraft, - from political shifts, although it was a hard fought battle.
Some major "political earthquakes" were "Mai 68" followed by the fall of the Gaullists after De Gaulle and Pompidou untimely death (april 1974, only six months after the oil shock). Followed by Giscard who was still the right, but center-right, not Gaullist, andhe very nearly screwed Ariane, the idiot. Mitterrand was of course a bigger political change in 1981. Yet there was some continuity of industrial and military affairs. For example fears of Mitterrand scrapping the Force de frappe proved unfounded.
 

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At the risk of derailing the thread into shipbuilding matters, by coincidence I was reading an academic article by Ian Buxton on the Scottish shipbuilding industry 1850-2009 and analysing the ships produced by tonnage, hull numbers, materials used and propulsion methods.

In terms of hulls (both merchant and warships), from 1950 the total dips below 500 per year for the first time since 1850 and continues to decline past the 1930s slump of the depression and never recovers, the line flattens around 1960 to 1980 then virtually plateaus from 1980-2000.
When broken down into merchant/warships, the situation for merchant ships repeats the above profile, output fell from an average of 200 a year in the earlier part of the century to just 5 in 2000-2009. By tonnage the average size was 8,000grt by the 1970s, the tonnage peak was 1950 at 5,000,000grt, the decline being worst from 1950 to 1970, then the East Coast and Lower Clyde yard closures have a drastic impact, dropping the total to 1,000,000grt by 1980. The total now is around 2,000grt.

Unsurprisingly, warships peak 1930-50 at 1,200 hulls, since 1950 the decline is is more or less flat but has risen slightly since 1980. In terms of grt, warship production dwarfs that of merchants today (again unsurprising given both more hulls and the QE class will have bumped that figure up).

When you look at the percentage equivalent for merchant ships and warships things are more interesting. For much of the period from 1850 warships made up only 10% of grt, rising to 50% during the world wars, today it is 90%. The overall average for 1850-2009 is 29.3%. Quite a sizable chunk of the tonnage produced, in real terms that means that shipyards have been more reliant on military orders to stay open for much of the post-war period.

When you look at construction materials for merchant vessels there is a small (2-3%) proportion of wooden hulls, doesn't look much but its notably the percentage was closer to 0-1% between 1900 and 1960 with quite a jump up to 1970. Fishing vessels are a bigger slice of the commercial hulls built. Another 2-3% today are classified as 'other'; aluminium, GRP etc.
As for merchant propulsion, steam turbines were dead by 1970, diesel has reigned supreme since 1950. Expressed in terms of grt steam turbines accounted for 11.9%, diesels 31.1%.

So the seeds of decline were apparent from 1950, indeed had it not been for the second world war the slump would have stretched from 1920 onwards. Production in 1930 was roughly the same level as 1950, the scale of decline post 1950 was as drastic as that following the first world war. The Korean yards was the final nail in the coffin, of course Japanese yards had been a major factor from the the 1960-70s as well. It just wasn't economic, the yards needed a lot of investment and probably consolidation but there just wasn't the guaranteed returns to entice investors to sink their cash into merchant shipbuilding. A lot has been said about the role of the Unions but some of that is smoke and mirrors, and some of it did indeed hinder modernisation. Either way, talk of sustaining the industry today in Scotland seems reliant on warship production and that can never be at a level to keep yards open in the longer-term.

This is of course Scottish data, so not including English and Northern Irish yards, but the patterns I suspect are rather similar and the Clyde was the shipbuilding powerhouse of British shipbuilding.
 

CNH

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Production capacity is measured in machine tools, factory floor space and production efficiency - not the number of firms.
Sadly, the civil servants at the Ministry of Supply seemed unaware of this.
 
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kaiserd

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JFC Fuller makes some very valid points above. Industrial capacity was important, but only in the sense of how much capacity was available to fulfill the plans and orders of the Air Ministry and civil production. After the re-emergence of the 'Letter' programmes of the Korean rearmament expansion, war capacity ceased to be a concern. The H-bomb impact meant by 1955 plans for mass wartime production (including mass produced escort vessels) were thrown away as irrelvant.

The main point I want to raise is the oft quoted "Buggins Turn". From the files at Kew I have read, I have never got a sense of this being true. The MoS did spread work around, but it wasn't to give everyone work to keep pockets lined, but rather issuing contracts where capacity existed and making use of the scarce resources available in design capacity and production as and when they allowed. Shorts is one obvious exception, these exceptions perhaps skewed the viewpoint of Wood et al.
I agree that the realization of what the H-bomb could do and the resulting introspection did more or less do away with concepts of the UK maintaining a large industry for the next big drawn-out war.
However that concept was still an underlying policy in the preceding immediate post-war period that helped frame decisions like 4 bombers built for the v-bomber requirements.
And variations on this theme survived much longer - as late as 1956 as per Minister of Supply’s Reginald Maulding’s 5 year plan for the UK aircraft industry the emphasis was on preserving and protecting the status quo rather than efficiency or consolidations/ mergers.
That and the fact that the UK aviation industry consolidated quite quickly after 1957, and somewhat ironically around what became the TSR2 project, does somewhat qualify the contention above that the UK Government/State couldn’t have done a lot more earlier to better shape the UK aviation industry for the future even if it had wished to.
As in other topic discussions I’d highly recommend reading Chris Gibson’s and Tony Butler’s books on this period for some information on this topic.
I also recommend Dan Sharp RAF Secret Jets of Cold War Britain as I am almost quoting him above.
 

JFC Fuller

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I agree that the realization of what the H-bomb could do and the resulting introspection did more or less do away with concepts of the UK maintaining a large industry for the next big drawn-out war.
However that concept was still an underlying policy in the preceding immediate post-war period that helped frame decisions like 4 bombers built for the v-bomber requirements.
And variations on this theme survived much longer - as late as 1956 as per Minister of Supply’s Reginald Maulding’s 5 year plan for the UK aircraft industry the emphasis was on preserving and protecting the status quo rather than efficiency or consolidations/ mergers.
That and the fact that the UK aviation industry consolidated quite quickly after 1957, and somewhat ironically around what became the TSR2 project, does somewhat qualify the contention above that the UK Government/State couldn’t have done a lot more earlier to better shape the UK aviation industry for the future even if it had wished to.
As in other topic discussions I’d highly recommend reading Chris Gibson’s and Tony Butler’s books on this period for some information on this topic.
I also recommend Dan Sharp RAF Secret Jets of Cold War Britain as I am almost quoting him above.
Again, facts are necessary:

First the V-bombers: the four aircraft types built were really 2 different generations (3 if you include Victor and Vulcan Mk.2), they were the product of trying to get a UK strategic nuclear delivery system into service as fast as possible, in a way that had some insurance behind it, whilst trying to keep the MBF operationally viable against rapidly developing Soviet air defences. For instance, the Valiant B.1 entered operational service 2 years before the Vulcan B.1 and the RB.156/Avro 730 programme was underway before the Vulcan B.2 had even flown in prototype form. Victor and Vulcan being built simultaneously was probably overkill but the same rapidity of development is seen in the US, B-45 to B-52 to B-70 development with the B-58 in the mix and continued B-36 production until 1954.

Industrial Policy: It had been determined by the government in 1950 (and before) that the UK aerospace industry should consolidate, the proposal was to reduce the number of firms eligible for government contracts from 19 to 13, the Korean War breaking out put a stop to that. It was not the end of the thought process though, Denis Haviland (Deputy to Duncan Sandys at the Ministry of Aviation from 1959) had written a paper in February 1954 calling for consolidation of the aircraft industry. I have never seen evidence that Maudling was opposed to such consolidation, he just believed that the industry should do it itself (again, these were private companies - not nationalised industries). It is thus clear that the Government supported consolidation.
 

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I agree that the realization of what the H-bomb could do and the resulting introspection did more or less do away with concepts of the UK maintaining a large industry for the next big drawn-out war.
However that concept was still an underlying policy in the preceding immediate post-war period that helped frame decisions like 4 bombers built for the v-bomber requirements.
And variations on this theme survived much longer - as late as 1956 as per Minister of Supply’s Reginald Maulding’s 5 year plan for the UK aircraft industry the emphasis was on preserving and protecting the status quo rather than efficiency or consolidations/ mergers.
That and the fact that the UK aviation industry consolidated quite quickly after 1957, and somewhat ironically around what became the TSR2 project, does somewhat qualify the contention above that the UK Government/State couldn’t have done a lot more earlier to better shape the UK aviation industry for the future even if it had wished to.
As in other topic discussions I’d highly recommend reading Chris Gibson’s and Tony Butler’s books on this period for some information on this topic.
I also recommend Dan Sharp RAF Secret Jets of Cold War Britain as I am almost quoting him above.
I wrote a Masters thesis on the rationalisation of the aircraft industry, so its something that I have looked into in some depth.
There was an early realisation of the need to rationalise from 1950 but attempts were thwarted by the Korean rearmament programme which reversed these trends. The MoS was grappling with having too many design teams as early as 1948 but the post-war scarcity of materials and resources had a bigger impact in production and design at that time, it was still 'make do and mend' at that stage. It was Macmillan who really went for the trimming, which was by then badly needed and probably should have begun around 1954-55. Indeed the MoS highlighted the need to restructure the industry in February 1954 with a memorandum by Under-Secretary Denis Havilland, but the Cabinet failed to act.

One problem was sub-contracting, which was making efficient large scale production difficult to achieve, for example even aircraft like the Boulton Paul Balliol were planned to produced on two production lines (this this case BP and Blackburn). In many cases these decisions were later reversed. Partly this was forced by a lack of productive capacity at the aircraft companies.

In an attempt to improve production facilities the state spent £106M between 1950 and 1954, by the end of the 1950s some companies had nearly half or more of their available capital from state sources. Oddly the government never considered safeguarding its economic stake until the 1965 Plowden Report which advocated a state shareholding.

Selective tendering was attempted a few times before the mid-1950s. General MoS policy was to reduce number of aircraft companies which relied on MoS contracts to those that had the resources and experience to design modern fighters and bombers and to avoid the dispersion of scarce personnel resources. But the aircraft companies, had the right to see any specification with a security grade of Restricted or lower and could submit a tender even if they were not on the MoS's approved Trade’s List. In addition the MoS feared a political backlash from local MPs in the Commons complaining about selective tendering. So this policy never really worked out. Some attempts were made to tender only on a private venture basis in a few cases but companies were reluctant to do this.
The political willpower was only found during the Macmillan reforms, the infamous meeting at Shell Mex House for the GOR.339 briefing must have come as a big shock to the industry. But then it did come after the Sandys Axe which had clearly shown the industry which way the wind was blowing.

But lets not forget the industry saw the need too, Stanley Hooker, Goerge Dowty, George Edwards and Reginald Verdon-Smith all favoured a rationalised industry before the government acted. Smaller firms like Miles, General Aircraft, Cierva and Supermarine had all been hoovered up and merged, Hawker Siddeley was beginning to finally resemble a unified group.

GOR.339 was a success at merger. But at the same time the government had tried to merge the rest of the industry around the Bristol 200 airliner but BEA told the government where to go they went with the Trident instead, the government powerless to even force BEA as a state-owned company to buy what it told it to buy (the legal loophole was as long as they could self-finance an order they could effectively buy what they wanted). Earlier in 1958 de Havilland had wanted to build a consortium with Fairey, Hunting and Bristol around the BEA requirement, the impetus came from de Havilland because they had the resources to do it.

But as ever caveats, the government wanted exports to keep money flowing into the economy and the industry. Frequently it backed whatever looked to be the winner on the export market, despite often having no clue about the world market. There can be few times in British history when airline export deals were discussed at cabinet level so frequently as during the 1950s. The Transport Aircraft Requirements Committee (TARC) was formed in the early 1950s to represent the ministries, research establishments and the airlines to review civilian aircraft development and make recommendations for future research. But it TARC lacked an executive function, was ignored by the airlines overlooked its work and because the MoA saw TARC as a potential rival, no greater powers were ever given despite repeated criticisms from the Select Committee on Estimates on this point.

Rationalisation was a means to only trim the smaller companies off. When negotiations between de Havilland, Vickers and English Electric broke down in late 1959, Sandys had threatened Aubrey Burke there would be no help for an independent de Havilland. Lord Knollys later noted the comment was omitted from the minutes and when Burke left the room, Sandys admitted he would not let de Havilland die. It was a bluff, losing de Havilland was impossible given their export earning potential. Yet when Scottish Aviation was struggling, the government was torn over keeping the company going to keep jobs in Scotland and the lucrative RCAF overhaul contracts, or let English Electric buy the firm. The Cabinet was split, Aubrey Jones seeing no reason why English Electric should have take on that burden.

But what was the real outcome of the rationalisation policy? What was the real outcome?
It sucked up a lot of capital. BAC spent £1.3M in May 1960 buying up Hunting. Thankfully its plans for merging with Boulton Paul, Handley Page and Shorts never came off or millions more would have been spent. Hawker Siddeley spent £15M acquiring de Havilland in December 1959, Folland in May 1960 cost £814,000. Westland's purchase of Fairey included a £4M sweetner for the Rotodyne.
In 1960 Hawker Siddeley was doing well, its new group had a turnover of £324 million and a net profit of almost £21 million. BAC's pre-tax profit in 1961 was a more miserly £567,000.
But industry wide profits fell post rationalisation as funds were sucked into diversifying (Hawker Siddeley buying up electrical and diesel locomotive manufactuers and large investments in Canada including steel and coal interests) and buying up smaller companies. By 1964 Hawker Siddeley was in dire straits and being refused bank overdrafts.
Industry profits in 1957 had been £29.7M, they had declined to £18.9M by 1960, just £13.8M in 1961, breifly rising in 1963 to £23.3M, 1964 slumped back to £17.9M.

The original aim for the rationalised industry of bigger, stronger units was to self-finance civil programmes. This never happened, by 1960 the govenment was offering 50% launch aid for the VC-10 and VC-11, totalling £73M with as much as a cool £258M if the Super VC-10 and further VC-11 funding was thrown in.
Macmillan later directed Jones to spend funds to reduce unemployment in the aircraft industry due to the defence cutbacks and rationalisation before the October 1959 General Election, which resulted in the award of supersonic airliner feasibility study contracts. The origins of Concorde were as much a vote-winning sop than a technological way to leapfrog ahead.
But the government kept having to pump money into the industry. Treasury Issues for the industry had been £684M in 1956, £647M in 1959 but after the 1960 reorganisation they jumped to £711M in 1961, £751M in 1962 and £782M in 1962. Cutbacks in 1963 saw Issues fall to £707M.

But the performance of the industry declined further. In 1956 all British aircraft exports were worth £102.2M, this peaked in 1959 at £154.6M. After the big mergers of 1959-60 it fell to £140.3M, by 1962 was £114.3M and by 1964 only £107.3M. In 1963 no less than £20.8M of exports were actually second-hand airframes (Hunters etc.) and refurbished engines. Things only picked up from 1965 with £131M and not peaking until a record breaking year of £304.7M in 1969. Britain's share of the world market shrank from 32.9% in 1959 to just 14.2% in 1964. Dollar Area exports fell from £60.7M in 1961 to £20.6M in 1962.
In comparison home (civil and military) orders had been £290M in 1956, peaked at £305M in 1957 then maintained around £350M from 1961 to 1963. In 1964 home orders were worth £432M (only £79.4M being military), that's £300M more than its export value.

The final proof of the policy's failure came with the 1965 Plowden Report to re-examine the industry again. But if offered up the same solutions, more exports, further rationalisation into a state-shareholding company and throwing in international collaboration as a means to cut government funding.
 
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