Sea Vixens and Scimitars stay in service into the 1970s

uk 75

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For a variety of reasons the Scimitar and Sea Vixen seem to be the only UK aircraft in the 1960s which can operate from HMS Centaur and provide a decent sized airgroup for Ark Royal, Eagle, Victorious and Hermes.
They arrived in service much later than their US counterparts and the RN were eager to replace them as quickly as they could.
But was this the right thing to do with aircraft that were only just built.
Scimitar with Bullpups and Sidewinders and Sea Vixen FAW2 with Red Tops could tackle Badgers, Beagles and Bears in the N Atlantic. But faced with Indonesian or Iraqi Mig 19 or 21?
If the RN had been less ambitious/greedy could it have kept these types into the early 70s long enough for a similar sized replacement aircraft to be developed?
 

zen

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So beyond the obvious that both types ought to have entered service in the mid 50's. There is an argument that they never received the upgrades or perhaps the numbers they ought to have.

The Scimitar was a decent Attack platform and from land could certainly haul 10,000lb of stores.
Plus it was cleared for tactical nuclear delivery. Before Buccaneer, only the Canberra and V-Bombers had this.

Curiously the RAF did look at this and did use the argument it was cheaper to fund developing it than the all new Buccaneer.
Was it just to kill Buccaneer, or did have ambitions for something quicker to service than OR.339
There even was an interim OR.339 twin seater option with massive drop tanks....
What it needed, beyond the obvious radar, was an engine change to Speys...or BS.75s.

Arguably it could have taken Tactical nuclear strike years before F4 and Jaguar. The RoA with a Red Beard being good enough.
And good enough to develop the airfield limited side of this tactical concept prior to the then expected P1154.

Sea Vixen certainly could have gained a much improved AI.18 set and this could pair with a variety of AAMs. The avionics side could have been much improved and as it was this type did get cleared for tactical nukes as well as a variety of missiles.
Despite being a lumbering beast at low altitude, it's wingloading would confer reasonable agility at altitude. Where more modern types tended to have the agility of a lead brick.
 

uk 75

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The French Navy would have found a way to update both of them until a suitably sized replacement could arrive in the 70s.
Foch and Clemenceau with their well balanced airgroups serve until after the end of the Cold War. Great value for money compared with the farce in the UK.
 

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I do think replacing the Scimitar with the Buccaneer was the right call - the Buccaneer was significantly better as a strike aircraft than the Scimitar and much more forgiving from a pilot perspective. Despite a pretty short service life almost half the production run was lost in accidents, and while this was definitely an era more forgiving towards flight safety that still stands out.

The Sea Vixen I think has more potential. It was already designed as a two-seater - update the avionics for a proper radar-guided BVR AAM, go with twin Speys as was seriously considered for the FAW.2, and you've got a fleet air defense fighter that has everything but the supersonic speed. Unfortunately, the Sea Vixen's short life was more down to the decision to ditch the carriers entirely, so either you need to get the plane in service earlier (not impossible, due to how convoluted and confusing the process to get the damn thing in service proved, through no fault of the aircraft), or do something about the 1966 decision to ditch the carriers.
 

uk 75

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Buccaneer did operate from Hermes. I am not sure why Centaur only carried Sea Vixens.
A Buccaneer with new radar and Sparrow or equivalent would make more sense than Sea Vixen? Subsonic of course but at least you would have a single airframe in both AD and strike roles.
The 1966 decision is probably unavoidable as far as CVA01 is concerned. The RN were slow to work with Healey on the NATO role for its existing carriers. The Labour government in 1974 keeps Ark Royal in service until 1979 after the Tories extend its life from the original demise planned for 1972. This is down to NATO.
 

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I believe the Buccaneer was too heavy for Centaur's hanger deck, which as built was only rated for 30,000 lbs, and was not something easily corrected after completion. Hermes had the advantage of being under construction when changes were applied to her.

As far as an air-to-air Buccaneer, I don't recommend it given what the Royal Navy would be expected to face against, say, Indonesia. Against supersonic fighters a Sea Vixen may lack speed but it can otherwise handle itself in air combat, something the Buccaneer really can't do.
 

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B.112 was (if my memory is working) a development of B.103 with reheated Avons, a revised wing, and AI radar.....essentially a CAP Fighter development of the Buccaneer.

What reheat delivers is a degree of supersonic speed, but more importantly a much higher rate of climb.

Arguably whether Sea Vixen or Buccaneer, or the Type 556 or PD.13 the main areas for work is AI radar (actually done on AI.18) and missiles.
Since AI.18 could deliver Detection to 45nm and look-down shoot-down to 20nm by 1965 (if not earlier with more funding), the main bottleneck is a decent AAM.
 

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Aaannd....the flipside.

Westlands W.37 Fighter Striker. Actually quite favoured by the RN in FAW configuration.
 

uk 75

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Which brings me back to the French Navy.
They make do with an F8 carrying 2 R530 later with R550?
The RAF sticks with a 2 Red Top/Firestreak Lightning F2 well into the 70s.
The only longer range AAM available is Sparrow. The UK has no resources and an even worse track record on AAMs.
Sea Vixen could easily carry 2 Sparrows in place of 2 Red Top. It has a big enough nose to fit any new radar in a 1968 upgrade.
So either with 4 Red Top or 2 plus 2 Sparrow the SV is as good as you can get until a decent VG based on BAC P45 gets into service in the 70s.
 

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The real scandal of course with Sea Vixen: could have had its IOC in 1953-54; got it in 1959 (DH-116 non twin-boom Sea Venom - WTF ?)

I don't like the Scimitar very much, but the Sea Vixen could have lasted longer, for a simple reason.
It was a subsonic interceptor - so, what ? so was the Sea Harrier. That's were the comparison should be... not with the Phantom. I mean, OTL FAA fate, post 1978 - cough.
And a Scimitar, while needing a CATOBAR, large carrier, if upgraded to 1960's / 1970's level of air-to-air technology, could make an interesting "snoopers interceptor"
No worse than Sea Harrier Mk.1 or... Skyhawk, in speed. As for range and payload... Sea Vixen probably bury them.

I can see no reason why a Sea Vixen couldn't get a Phantom radar and AIM-7 Sparrows along it. It has the big nose and RIO for the job. Just give the poor guy a small canopy instead of a dark pit (the horror !).

Btw, guess which USN fighter introduced the Sparrow III into the fleet, circa 1957-58 ? Phantom ? wrong ! DEMON. As in: F3H Demon. Single-seat, underpowered, wrong engine, led sled speed and manoeuverability.

If a F3H Demon can get Sparrow III and a radar to guide them, so can a Sea Vixen.
 
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uk 75

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Like I said the French Navy would have done it. Thanks Archibald. Super Aquilons anyone?
 

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Buccaneer was so much better than Scimitar, I like the Scimitar but its hard to see it surviving once it loses the strike role and its no fighter.

Sea Vixen should have been in service 4-5 years sooner. But looking at its life-extension - FAW.2 was probably the best upgrade likely structurally. Some of the more involved proposals with new wing planforms etc. were probably too expensive to realise. Fitting new engines like Spey would have needed fuselage changes and of course there are heat/vibration effects on the booms to consider. So that's not likely to happen.

AI.18 needed an upgrade, we know well the MTI upgrades that were mooted, they should have been done. How you keep AI.18 relevant into the 1970s I'm not so sure, but its probably no worse than other 1950s fighters that lingered into the 1980s. Buying a new radar in 1960-65 might have made some sense but you'd probably need to strip out a lot of avionics and add INS too and that's costly for what is a late 1940s design when the world's AF's are gripped by supersonic pointy-nose planes.
Weapons, why not keep Red Top? RAF Lightnings used them until 1988, or swap them out for a quartet or sextet of Sidewinders? Maybe Sparrow but integration wouldn't be simple. I can't think of any other likely retrofit options. Saying that, given the threat from Blinders, and later Backfires, the RN would have wanted a superior head-on supersonic target engagement capability. Red Top might have been cutting it fine and that's when calls for a newer fighter are harder to ignore.

And what next? Even if the Vixen lives until the 1970s when do you replace it? Assuming the carrier fleet drawdown post 1966 still happens, there is no way the Treasury is going to spend millions on a new fighter in 1970-74 for a fleet that will be dead by 1978-79. That means making Sea Vixen last a full decade longer. Even if the MoD got funds to buy new fighters in 1970, the choice is still the same as 1962 or 1964 - F4 and F8, possibly a Jaguar M or A-7 but those lack radar. So really the RN needs to bite the bullet and replace Sea Vixen before the 1970s if it wants a modern fighter.

Now if we had a Spey-powered DH.116 Super Sea Venom FAW.2, that would be more of a mouth-watering prospect.
 

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Could easily have produced Red Top mkII and a radar guided version .
 

uk 75

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Could easily have produced Red Top mkII and a radar guided version .
Not with the real life UK industry and customer of 1960s Britain. Once you change the alt that much you might as well go for broke and have CVA01 or your fave version ordered in 1960 and in service in 1970 with nice shiny VG fighter/attackers.
 

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Scimitar with Bullpups and Sidewinders and Sea Vixen FAW2 with Red Tops could tackle Badgers, Beagles and Bears in the N Atlantic
Very-very theoretically. Subsonic fighter, trying to intercept subsonic bomber with long-range standoff anti-ship missiles just isn't very workable concept.
 

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Sea Vixens on British decks in 1954, then the same year somebody has an Eureka & lightbulb moment and says "let's built anglo-french carriers, since they already have BS-5 catapults in common".
Clemenceau is build as a 35 000 tons, OTL-like one-off, then Foch and Verdun are blended with the 1956 last avatar of the 1954 Medium Fleet Carrier: a sweet spot around 45000 tons for both navies. Three for GB to replace Ark Eagle and Victorious; two for France.
 

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Sea Vixens on British decks in 1954
Frankly, they weren't exactly very suited for fleet defense role even in 1954. USSR already have Il-28T jet bombers with high-altitude dropped RAT-52 rocket torpedoes, and Tu-4K heavy bombers with KS-1 missiles, which have almost 100 km standoff range.
 
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Archibald

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Sea Vixens on British decks in 1954
Frankly, they weren't exactly very suited for fleet defense role even in 1954. USSR already have Il-28T jet bombers with high-altitude dropped RAT-52 rocket torpedoes, and Tu-4K heavy bombers with KS-1 missiles, which have almost 100 km standoff range.

Well you are a bit harsh there. By this metric, even the USN carriers were stark naked by 1954.
Their straight-wing or early-gen swept-wing, gun-armed interceptors would do no better. Some had Sidewinders, admittedly, but being subsonic and short range...
Crusader II got Sidewinders and limited all weather circa 1957-58
Sparrow I was fitted to F7U Cutlass and F3H Demons, 1957-58
Sparrow II was a dead end on F5D Skylancer, 1956
Sparrow III come with another F3H Demon, 1958
Phantom come only in 1960
 

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No on exercise with 984 and CDS, Scimitar alone proved frighteningly effective at interceptions. To US horror and immediate interest in the system.

Sea Vixen was very valid even in late 50's. It's not until certain Anti-ship missiles displayed in '63 that fears about It's effectiveness cut It's future short.
But in part from '58 it was no longer of interest in development. OR.346 was emerging, which is trying to leapfrog a generation.
Which is why funding for advanced AI.18 becomes research only.
 

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The real scandal of course with Sea Vixen: could have had its IOC in 1953-54; got it in 1959 (DH-116 non twin-boom Sea Venom - WTF ?)
"A" Sea Vixen in 1953-54 would have had little in common with "The" Sea Vixen of 1959. That is it would have had Avon engines producing about two-thirds of the power than the "real" Sea Vixen, four ADEN cannon instead of four AAMs, less advanced electronics and probably (because I'm prepared to be contradicted on this point) a different AI radar.

Re-building a 1953-54 vintage Sea Vixen to OTL Sea Vixen standards in the late 1950s would probably be impossible or if it was possible it would be so expensive that it wouldn't cost much more to build a new aircraft. E.g. there was a proposal to rebuild the Vulcan Mk 1s to Mk 2 standard but the plan was abandoned when it was discovered that the cost of a rebuilding a Mk 1 was two-thirds of the cost of a new aircraft.

The first aircraft carrier capable of operating the Sea Vixen was Ark Royal in 1955, followed by Victorious after her "great rebuild" of 1950-58, Centaur after being fitted with steam catapults 1956-58, Hermes in 1959 and Eagle after her 1959-64 refit.

It might have been possible for the De Havilland DH.110 as it existed in the early 1950s to operate from Eagle, Albion, Bulwark and Centaur. However, I suspect that Sea Venom would still be required for the aircraft carriers that were only capable of operating aircraft in the 15-20,000lb class (i.e. the Colossus and Majestic classes) which if I remember correctly was why the Sea Venom was developed.
 

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Sea Vixens on British decks in 1954
Frankly, they weren't exactly very suited for fleet defense role even in 1954. USSR already have Il-28T jet bombers with high-altitude dropped RAT-52 rocket torpedoes, and Tu-4K heavy bombers with KS-1 missiles, which have almost 100 km standoff range.

Far be it from me to dispute mother Russia's complete dominance of the sea but did they have those RORSAT thingamajigs in 1954? I'm fairly certain that the Atlantic and Pacific were as big in '54 as they were in say '83.

Wasn't it said at the beginning of the film The Battle of the River Plate, describing the then changing face of warfare, "At sea, the problems were the same"?
 

Dilandu

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but did they have those RORSAT thingamajigs in 1954?
No, but we have a big array of pelengation stations to seek & triangulate NATO warships in oceans. Up until 1960s, NATO did not bother themselves much with EMCON, underestimating the accuracy of such tracking. And "haystack" concept (hiding the carrier among other warships by uniforming the emissions) wasnt in use before 1958.
 

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I don't doubt your first point but your second seems awfully definitive to me. Is there any literature you can point me to that confirms this or is it just a general impression?

At the very least the airframe changes the Tu-16K-10 (Badger-C) variant went through compared with earlier variants suggests to me (at least on the surface) that finding carriers in 1954 was not so straight-forward as you suggest and could in fact stand some improvement.
 

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Yeah I'd want some serious sources to back that up since the RN had spent decades tracking ships by radio transmission (they even tracked Zeppelins crossing the North Sea long in 1917 before radar was even dreamed of). The USN spent equal effort tracking the IJN by radio during WW2. I can't imagine in 1950 they threw all that in the bin, its just a question of to what extent they were prepared to hamper operational efficiency in peacetime.

The KS-1 was a rather ponderous weapon, a glorified pilotless MiG-15, should be easy meat for any Sea Vixen or SAM system of the time during its cruise-phase. Also the KS-1 had a dual guidance system, reliant on INS during the cruise and then radar in the terminal phase. To cut down the likely INS errors its more likely to be dropped closer than its maximum range, any INS failure or inaccuracy could impair its chances of homing in via radar in the terminal stage.

Later AShMs with reduced radar signatures and improved speed would indeed be trickier to intercept, which is why the emphasis switched to killing the bomber before they dropped their stand-off missiles.

I wonder if Red Top Mk.2 Plus with the enlarged booster rocket might have been useful for an upgraded Sea Vixen in the early 1960s, not only for high-altitude targets but to boost the engagement range too.
 

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Later AShMs with reduced radar signatures and improved speed would indeed be trickier to intercept, which is why the emphasis switched to killing the bomber before they dropped their stand-off missiles.

I wonder if Red Top Mk.2 Plus with the enlarged booster rocket might have been useful for an upgraded Sea Vixen in the early 1960s, not only for high-altitude targets but to boost the engagement range too.
Let's assume that we are confined to our standard Sea Vixen FAW.2 airframe, maybe with incremental improvements, but certainly not the supersonic developments of which DH were dreaming and that never eventuated. It seems to me that eventually the enemy bomber performance is going to demand an in-your-face shot at such range that a Red Top homing head might not be able to handle it (there have already been posts on these forums querying the extent to which Red Top is truly all-aspect). In that case, you're going to need a radar-homing missile and a radar to match.

Your off-the-shelf options are simple: R530, Sparrow, AIM-4 Falcon, AIM-9C and the various radars which can illuminate for them. The last three have homing heads which are either comparable to or smaller in diameter than Red Top's, and might be shoe-horned into the Red Top nose. If none of these options are acceptable, you are left with the requirement to bite the bullet and build Radar Red Top. Your only economy of scale at this point is that the same system could conceivably be retrofitted to the Gloster Javelin fleet.
 

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Later AShMs with reduced radar signatures and improved speed would indeed be trickier to intercept, which is why the emphasis switched to killing the bomber before they dropped their stand-off missiles.

I wonder if Red Top Mk.2 Plus with the enlarged booster rocket might have been useful for an upgraded Sea Vixen in the early 1960s, not only for high-altitude targets but to boost the engagement range too.
R530, Sparrow, AIM-4 Falcon

Are these really a qualitative improvement over Red Top though? I know Sparrow came good eventually but in the period in question, my impression was that none of these seem particularly war-winning. The AIM-4's one-shot cooling particularly stands out as does the AIM-7D/-E's fairly abysmal kill rate. (ETA: I know there are caveats regarding the RoEs).

The earliest an AAM I'd be inclined to invest in to replace Red Top with is available (probably AIM-7F), it's academic as the Sea Vixen is out of service.
 

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The reason Skyflash was developed was that British thinking on the need for a monopulse seeker has been brewing since Red Hebe.

The strong argument is they'd develop such for Radar Red Top. In fact wasn't the A5 seeker just that?

So arguably had Sea Vixen been viewed as worth it, then radar and missile would be forthcoming.
And no that's not fantasy, just pragmatic.
 

zen

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Why not Eagle or AIM-47?
Granted they be big heavy beasts, but at least 2 could arm a Sea Vixen.
 

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As much as I think both but especially the Sea Vixen weren't developed to their full potential the Phantom time and again rears its head in these threads. Good weapon system, good war load and supersonic. Its difficult to see how the Phantom in one way or another doesn't end up in RAF/FAA service.
While upgrading Sea Vixen has some merits for application in the Javelin too I don't see how either Scimitar or Vixen could remain a viable carrier fighter option into the 70's. Buccaneer especially is difficult to argue against. Maybe if a UK Phantom was on the cards with the proper support from parliament then maybe the Sea Vixen gets a MLU and soldiers on till the new type is in service. But then again - the UK by that time had a very poor record of advanced projects concluding succesfully.

In the end the Phantom was the right call interms of cost vs capability even though shoving Spey in created its own extra costs. I would have loved to see a Sea Vixen FAW.3 though! Bar supersonic performance and as capable a weapon system it isn't too far from a Phantom to begin with...
 

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We need to explore why Majestic-Users chose Skyhawk and/or to move to ASW, taking no interest in Vixen or Scimitar. USN types were not evidently splendid - see Demon, until Phantom and that was not opnl. till 1962. Let's look at 1959.

DH110 R&D was languid, Scimitar moreso. The Weapon System concept was challenging everybody. NATO was preparing to make Bullpup ASM/Sidewinder AAM Standard types: RN would buy both for Scimitar: for the AAM, knowing DH was stretched trying to fit Firestreak to their own type (+Javelin+Lightning); for the ASM...faute de mieux, no UK equivalent (RAF would take AS.30). MoS was miffed with DH and V-S for pitching Supers while delaying what was on order, so 100 Scimitars were cut to 78.

Despite powering both with Avon, RR started pitching Spey/Phantom and would displace P.1154/RN in 1964, by when MAC was gearing up to build 75...a month! CDS (13/7/59) Mountbatten was extracting colleagues' support for Buccaneer and (to be CVA: he said-01 and meant 01-03), while deflecting MoD Sandys' scepticism on any Strike carriers.

We forget why Spey? because today we can focus on fat and slow and expensive, but the reason for deleting J79 for RN was not some perceived RR political clout (RR then had none), but the bolter case on Ark/Eagle/Victorious: Spey slam-reheat could respond before F-4K splashed, where J79 would not (Pls don't argue: Ministers were so briefed. Accepting that, they then imposed it, unnecessarily, on F-4M, where RAF wanted the same budget to buy another baseful of J79/F-4D). But that was after TSR.2 died. 1959 was spent by Ministers on "a certain measure of coalescence", deleting minnow teams, using TSR.2 as the carrot. DH was expendable because by then only Sandys, personally, had any sense of ownership of Blue Streak MRBM; V-S was expendable because Swift had embarrassed Mac and Sandys.
Neither Ministers, Marshals, nor Mariners cared to make further commitments to losers.
 
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Opportunistic Minnow

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Indeed, I have a soft spot for the foxy one and consider myself quite fortunate to have seen one fly. It's silhouette is like nothing else out there. It is though, as @BLACK_MAMBA says, difficult to extend the (frontline) longevity of the Sea Vixen without addressing the Rhino in the room.

Perhaps, if the USN pursue and prove the missileer concept then I could see the Sea Vixen being a candidate for conversion as a British equivalent as it's subsonic performance wouldn't be an issue but as @zen points out, it is likely to be only two Eagles max which I think undermines the missileer concept.

Alternatively, the Sea Vixens are given the Prowler treatment but then there is limited deck-space and a spot taken by a Sea Vixen is one less for a Phantom or Bucc. Far more likely that the Buccaneers receive an ALQ-101 pod a little earlier in their career. Ultimately, the Sea Vixen would need some serious investment to compete for a spot on deck and it is hard to envision the RN green-lighting any real investment while Eagle is sent out to pasture and Ark Royal is run to ruination. I would love to discuss an aft-fan Oly, thin-wing Vixen with an ASG-18 up front but perhaps this isn't the venue for that.

@pathology_doc I intended for post #30 to be longer but was called away. I apologize, it's a bit terse in hindsight. Basically, I don't see rare and valuable US $ being spent on the AIM-4 of any stripe when there is a perfectly good British project to under-invest in and then scrap in the nick of time. The time to buy US is before or after the era in question. The only way I can see to get the Falcon into British service is as part of a "package deal" as it were. Perhaps F-89Hs are supplied to the RAF under MDAP to cover the GIUK Gap or similarly F-102/-106s? Interestingly, @overscan (PaulMM) mentions information on the GAR-9 being in the UK National Archives elsewhere on this forum so we can infer it was at least looked at for the RAF.
 

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DH110 was originally selected for RAF and RN 1948 after development of ideasfromm 1946 to 1947


ISD was 1953 if memory serves.

'49 interim Sea Venom. RAF waltzed off to Glosters. ISD being pushed back to '56.
Late '52 crash meant substantive redesign and ISD pushed back yet further as new revised design flies 1954.

'55 order for 110 Sea Vixen.
First full weapons system FAW MkI 1957.
ISD mid '59.
Studies of developed Sea Vixen revolves around new wing, and various turbojets. Not turbofans.

Spey emerges late 50's early 60’s.
Spey option for FAW MkII is early 60’s last throw of the dice.

Majestic operation never on the cards. DH116 maybe. But DH110 was individual weight busting for Colossus/Majestic design.

'54 Trade Protection CV studies 'argument' between DNC and DAW. These are all new CV concepts within drydock limits. Metric was Scimitar.
 
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pathology_doc

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@pathology_doc I intended for post #30 to be longer but was called away. I apologize, it's a bit terse in hindsight. Basically, I don't see rare and valuable US $ being spent on the AIM-4 of any stripe when there is a perfectly good British project to under-invest in and then scrap in the nick of time.
LOL.

No offence taken. I was merely trying to state that if you are looking for a quick lash-up SARH missile job with existing radar and an existing seeker, the missiles I specified - R.530, AIM-7, SARH AIM-4, AIM-9C - are the options you have available. If BSP4 (original edition) is to be believed, of all the purely British radar-guided AAM projects of that era, only Red Dean ever made it to hardware on an airplane and even that never quite got fired against a target it was intended to destroy. (Taildog did, but even the apparently technically successful Taildog never got into service - although hilariously, I seem to recall that one of the test-launch platforms for Taildog was a Sea Vixen...)
 
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