overscan (PaulMM)

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27 December 2005
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It was a joint Anglo-French project, with British Aerospace leading, for a post TSR.2 strike aircraft. France were never particularly interested in this project; it did however serve as a useful way of getting hold of UK VG technology, which was based on years of research. Note that the Mirage G adopted a number of AFVG design features.

  • Tony Buttler Secret Projects: Jet Bombers since 1945
  • Derek Wood Project Cancelled
  • Annals of the Polymorph, Air International


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2 pictures of the partially completed AFVG mockup.

  • Doug Richardson, Modern Fighting Aircraft: Tornado, Salamander 1986
  • Annals of the Polymorph, Air International, May 1975


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AFVG Specification, 13 July 1965

All up weights of 30,000lb, 40,000lb, 50,000lb considered
Two seater
800kts at sea level, Mach 2.5 at altitude
Ceiling 60,000ft+
Takeoff/landing to 50 ft 850 yards
Radius of action 500nm (strike/recce)
Unrefuelled ferry range 3,500nm
Powerplant 2 x Bristol/SNECMA M45G turbofans
36 in radar dish with minimum AI range of 60nm

"Annals of the Polymorph",Air International, May 1975
How the hell could have the AFVG achieved mach 2.5 and 3500nm ferry range :eek: with M-45 engines? only 5500 kgp each seems a bit weak no? are this good results a virtues of the VG wing? :)

Just love the AFVG program... had Dassault been much less stupid (a pure whatif ;D), France would have had some kind of Tornado to replaced its Mirage IV in the nuclear strike role (much better than a Mirage 2000N!!!). The Mirage G and G8 were good as test aircrafts, but perfectly unuseful (too expensive!!!).
EWR NKF drawing



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Very interesting material again, I haven't seen before !
Just a question : Was the fixed wing design (file AFVG-2) purely for comparison ?
Seems a bit strange in a project, that by its name aimed at a VG aircraft.
I imagine it was for reference, to prove the superiority of the VG layout.

Note the kinked nose: looks to me like it was designed to fit a large radar antenna for the AA role.
will search soon AFVG information on French Armée de l'Air Archives ....
I want to open the archives .. still under "secret defense", but if I am lucky, I could read them !
Fascinating stuff on this period. I think you will find that on the Whatifmodelers site someone (Thorvic?) did a nice model of the UKVG in in-service livery.
Bill Gunston covers the story in his Attack Aircraft of the West and reckons that the French Air Force never intended to take AFVG so I too will be interested to hear the French side of things.
UKFVG is pretty much the aircraft that the UK wanted instead of Tornado, but the compromise was necessary to get German money for the programme.
It is fascinating how the designs from OR 346 evolve into Tornado (a story told well in the Polymorphs article from Air Enthusiast).
BAC tried to give the AFVG its best shot and came pretty close to the eventual Tornado (the Vigilante intakes were a compromise between the German NKF and UKFVG suggestions which took everyone back to the Vickers tailless planes for OR 346).
Does anyone out there have any manufacturers brochures or pamphlets? Maybe at Warton, Manching or Weybridge?
UK 75
OS is right. HSAL had done more VG work (AW.59/DH.127/Fo.147/HS.1170B/1171) than (non-Wallis) BAC, who had only modest study funds while busy on TSR.2. That cancellation left BAC Military Aircraft with zilch. MoA put them into AFVG post-TSR.2, and nominated them, not HSAL, for the Hunter/Gnat replacement (to be Jaguar; neither won a normal tender process), all to support them for the Saudi Magic Carpet deal. That was not just about selling Lightnings &tc., but about Defence burden-sharing East of Suez. BAC had no attributes that HSAL did not have...except an Air Defence platform, which US DoD supported as F-111K offset (R.Howe, Weapons, Sphere,1981: D.Healey: "we could not have made the bid, let alone won, without US assistance)".

The R&D pace of VG was driven by seals, pivot strength...mundane fabrication, solved by electron beam welding (a Cincinatti Milacron machine) in titanium. It was the licence of Grumman's F-111B centre-box that put MBB in the lead on NKF-75, thus MRCA. An IPR fee was paid to Grumman for its Tornado use.
I agree its not quite so straightforward, but;

in February 1965, the Mirage III G, designed by Jean-Jacques Samin and Jean-Paul Emoré, was adopted by the Defense Ministry. Four months later, the dossier was submitted to the Defense authorities and a scale model of the Mirage III G was presented at the Paris Air Show.

One major problem remained to be solved: the wing movement mechanism.

By the fall of 1965, a lot of progress had been made. The wing pivot position had been determined at a point slightly flush of the fuselage. Several Dassault patents were placed on the discovery.

On October 18, 1965, while Anglo-French negotiations on the joint swing-wing project were going on, the Defense Ministry placed an order for a Mirage G experimental variable geometry aircraft. The first drawings were begun immediately, and manufacturing work on the prototype began in January 1966.

On the 13th and 14th of March, 1967, a delegation from BAC led by Mr. Greenwood, came to visit the prototype, then under construction at Saint-Cloud. On May 27, the airframe, for which the general assembly was now complete, was presented for the first time on static display at the Paris Air Show.


As you can see, the Mirage G pivot location was not decided until several months after AFVG work commenced. Much of the discussion in AFVG focussed on the pivot location with BAC arguing for their inboard design, Dassault for a NASA-style outboard pivot.

So yes, in the end Dassault went with a copy of the US pivot design, but that doesn't mean they didn't benefit from exchanging data with BAC.
I wasn't implying Dassault considered an inboard pivot location, simply that they hadn't worked out the details of the pivot mechanism until after AFVG work had started.
overscan said:
So yes, in the end Dassault went with a copy of the US pivot design, but that doesn't mean they didn't benefit from exchanging data with BAC.

In the end, variable geometry technology, whatever the source, was of absolutely no commercial benefit to Dassault. The swept wing ACF, which very nearly went to production, was a final rejection of the concept of variable geometry.
Yeepeee !

I have the autorisation to read the secret Armée de l'Air AFVG archives ! :)

Well, what's new on this program ??? ;)



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Sir George Edwards (MD of Vickers then BAC) biography is a good read on the politics of AFVG. SEPECAT was formed to build a trainer and a VG bomber. His view was that after the French got their Jaguar, they weren't interested in proceeding.

Another observation - whilst Barnes Wallis was researching the aerodynamics of VG, other Vickers teams were working on VG and patented several pivot mechanisms that would find their way into the tornado.

Finally, all this stuff was dreamed up by the Germans prior to and during WW2. George Edwards was a key member of the team sent to acquire German aeronautical capability at the end of WW2. So it's pretty obvious that the knowledge would be retained in the German aerospace firms, and the Vickers design office where Barnes Wallis could review!!!
Did somebody ask about the AFVG? ;D

Some info from the time, and a spiffy artist's impression by Frank Munger, courtesy of Flight, 26th January 1967:

"We require the aircraft primarily in the strike role, although we shall also use it for reconnaissance and to some extent for interception. The French require it primarily for interception, but at this stage we have succeeded in reconciling our requirements so far as is necessary."

"The RAF is planning to take delivery of these aircraft under this programme in 1974 or thereabouts, the time always envisaged over the last two years, although the French Government will be taking delivery of its version of the aircraft a little later than it originally intended."

The total number of variable-geometry aircraft to be acquired by Britain and France is understood to be about 300...The AFVG aircraft, of which about 175 will be acquired
by Great Britain...

So 175 AFVGs for the UK, 125 for France.

The striking force of the RAF will subsequently comprise four squadrons of F-111Ks, ten squadrons of AFVGs and ten Phantom squadrons, together with about five Jaguar squadrons. Eventually, the AFVG is expected to replace the Phantom in the intercepter
role, thus duplicating the Phantom's change of role from strike to intercepter. It is probable that the British Government will keep the level of F-111Ks constant at about 50 by the purchase from time to time of additional aircraft to balance wastage. With the demise of the carrier force in about 1975, there are no plans to procure any AFVGs for the Royal Navy.

Hmmm. How does that compare to our 'Cold War ending' RAF?

The role of the v-g aircraft in the French armed Services has been defined as that of an initercepter fighter for the Air
Force...A number of AFVGs will also be supplied to the French Navy, probably for carrier air-patrol work.

Does anyone think this is possible from the Clemenceau and Foch?

Datum weight of the aircraft is about 40,000lb. This is applicable to the French carrier-landing version and can no doubt be increased for runway operation—the landing-gear stressing necessary for deck landing at this weight would allow land operation at up to 50,000lb. Operation from semi-prepared surfaces is specified. The thrust:weight ratio of the AFVG at 40,000lb will be somewhat greater than that of the F-111B, thus conferring a shorter time-to-height in the intercepter role.

...the hope is that the AFVG will be capable of undertaking about 80 per cent of the F-111K's missions. It will be very much smaller—less than 50,000lb—but, being a second-generation-technology aircraft, and having in particular what will probably be the most advanced turbofan engine in the world, its much greater efficiency will compensate for its smaller size.

In the general weight range of the Tornado. I wonder how the engines compare? Anyone got good figures on the SNECMA/BSE-RR M45G? Skomer gives a M45 development, the RB.410, with 14370lb (63.9KN).

If that's dry then it's much more powerful than the RB199, if with reheat - much less.

No dimensions have been announced, but the gross weight of the aircraft (and the fact that it will use deck lifts measuring
52.5ft X 36ft on the two French carriers) gives some idea of its size. If the structure is as "dense" as that of the Phantom (and for the same reason—strength to meet deck-landing and ground-attack/manoeuvre requirements) then a span of about 33ft (fully swept) or 47ft (unswept), and a length of about 45ft, are suggested as the minimum necessary to carry two crew, two engines and a fairly comprehensive nav/attack system over a radius of about 1,000 n.m. in the high-altitude reconnaissance role.

Shorter than the Tornado.

Maximum speed will be about Mach 2.4, limited by kinetic heating at critical places in the conventional aluminium-alloy airframe. The strike and intercepter versions will probably differ only in their equipment and, unlike the F-111A and F-111B variants, will almost certainly have identical airframes,

And about the same speed...




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Warton VG tunnel model.


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It is very interesting to see how the pivot location changed during the various projects. Though desirable from a pure aerodynamic point of view, the inboard pivot location is a structural nightmare and causes excessive center of lift variation (especially in conjunction with supersonic center of lift shift).
I think the French did well in canceling their VG-project.
Most of the realized VG-fighters came with some very sobering byproducts.
Spooky how much that "final AFVG design looks like the Sukohi Fencer...I'm just sayin...
tdyermobile6 said:
Spooky how much that "final AFVG design looks like the Sukohi Fencer...I'm just sayin...

Well, the original fixed wing Fencer looked a lot like a TSR2... ;D

From "Meilensteine der Luftfahrt: Die deutschen Senkrechtstarter", DaimlerChrysler Aerospace:
An artist impression of the NKF and a 3-view of the Panavia 100, the single seat version of
the MRCA Tornado.


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BAC and MBB feasibility studies for MRCA. Based on UKVG and NKF studies.


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Think thats actually the tha BAC P45 going off the intakes and size of the cockpit in relation to the airframe.

Artist: Wilf Hardy


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Does anyone know if there was a UK AST/ASR/Spec. prepared for AFVG? Also, if there were any Warton P. numbers allocated to the project?

My BSP's are all in storage after a move so apologies if this is an easy look-up - I can't ATM!

Any similar info from the French side would be appreciated too.


AFVG was Specification 260 and ASR.388.

BSP mentions in passing that there was a French Air Staff Target as well, but no number is given.
What were the reasons for the Tornado's limitations as a dog fighter? The "other" Western swing-wing interceptor, the F-14 Tomcat, seems to have been an excellent dog fighter (well, at least in J.A.G. and Top Gun! ;) )
Re Tornado dogfighting, the RB.199 was targeted at two design points IIRC: low level high speed cruise/penetration (mil thrust) and Mach 2 at altitude in a straight line for interception (original MRCA/IDS was intended for this, before ADV) in 'burner. Generally, 'off design', Tornado lacked thrust, and dogfights need lots of it, even with auto-sweep.

That said, I recall someone saying that the most realistic thing about Top Gun was the bedroom scenes. I'm not sure the F-14 was too great a dogfighter - engines also a bit low thrust on A model.

AFVG with M.45s seems to be an even worse candidate.
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