UK Airpower in 1968 by UK 75

uk 75

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For a change I have decided to incorporate some of the things I have learnt from this site and take a provocative look at how UK airpower could have looked in 1968. As ever I am sure many of you will disagree with both detail and opinion but it seems a good point to choose. It is presented in the form taken by Government white papers.


Nuclear Deterrent

The Macmillan Eisenhower Memorandum of 1957 committed the US and UK to a closer nuclear relationship. In return for cancelling its Avro 730 and Blue Steel missile programmes, the UK was given a range of new options for continuing the deterrent in cooperation with the US (Macmillan doubted that the UK could go it alone in the 60s). Initially Thor missiles would be deployed with the RAF to supplement the Vulcan freefall bomb force (Victors were cancelled to save money).
When Polaris emerged as a credible system, Earl Mountbatten secured terms for a Royal Navy Polaris force of 5 submarines which is beginning to enter service in 1968. A mixed force of Vulcan B2s and B1As is allocated to NATO and SEATO, some replacing Valiants from 1965.

Fighter Command

The Lightning was chosen as the basis for the RAF’s fighter force in the 60s, with a two seater F7 version entering service in 1966 to replace Javelins. The Lightning is the main military product in the new British Aircraft Corporation’s line up. A swing-wing version is also developed as a possible joint RAF-RN fighter. The BAC VG Fighter/Attacker is under development for service from 1973, with Germany and Italy joining development in 1967 after their own programmes are aborted. France is being actively courted as costs of its own Mirage G family spiral.

Canberra Force

After much soul searching the RAF decides to use its Vulcans to replace Canberras in the nuclear role, and to develop a strike aircraft to replace them in the early 70s. This became the BAC Fighter/Attacker programme, the first aircraft of which is due to fly in 1969. The success of the Buccaneer S2 in RN service allows the RAF to replace some Canberras in Germany and the Far East with Buccaneers freeing up Vulcans.

Number 38 Group and RAFG ground attack

The Hunter FGA 9 continues to serve as an effective close support aircraft, but the Kestrel FGA2 joined Number 1 Squadron in 1968 after extensive development with the UK/US/FRG Tripartite force. The US Marine decision to join this programme has resulted in input from McDonnell Douglas and the resulting aircraft is likely to become the RAF’s standard close support aircraft. However, a cheaper more conventional design derived from the RAF’s Gnat replacement currently being bid for by BAC and Hawker Siddeley may be used as a cheaper aircraft for roles where STOVL is not essential

Transport , Tanker, Recce and Maritime patrol

The VC 10 has replaced the mixed Comet and Britannia force as the standard RAF long range troop carrier. When the Valiants had to be replaced in the Tanker and Recce roles, the VC 10 stepped into the breach for these roles as well. Brize Norton, Marham and Wyton are VC 10 bases.

The Lockheed Hercules was procured in the early 60s at the same time as the VC 10 and is the standard medium transport aircraft. The loss of the Short Belfast and AW Argosy projects has been made up for by joint development and production with Lockheed of Hercules and Starlifter derivatives. The widebodied Starfreighter developed by the UK and US to replace the proposed AW 681 and Jet Belfast first flew in 1967 and is entering service with the RAF and USAF this year.

The need to replace the ageing Shackleton force led to initial purchases of the Breguet Atlantique. However, this aircraft has some limitations and the VC 10 is being looked at to provide a long range alternative.

Helicopters

The UK and Italy have worked closely with US industry to develop and introduce a range of designs. The Wessex and Whirlwind are giving way to a mixed force of Seaking and Chinooks.

Royal Navy

The decision in 1956 in the aftermath of Suez to order three carriers combining features of the Eagle and Hermes in an updated platform sized between the two ships allowed other older ships to be de-commissioned or converted. Eagle and Hermes remain in service with the first of the new ships, Queen Elizabeth, working up in 1967. Eagle will go out of service in 1972 with Hermes following in 1975.
The Buccaneer S2 provides a nuclear equipped strike force. The BAC Scimitar FAW3 is a much developed version of the Scimitar and provides fleet air defence. Both aircraft will be replaced by a variant of the BAC Fighter/Attacker in the 70s, although STOVL developments of the Kestrel are also being looked at. A small number of ex USN Grumman Tracer aircraft have been refurbished to replace the Gannet in the AEW role on these ships. An Anglo French project to develop a joint jet AEW platform capable of operating from the QEs and the Foch/Clemenceau was announced in 1966, but is making slow progress.
The carriers are also able to carry Seakings in the ASW role, although it is hoped that the new Escort cruisers of the Invincible class will take on this task. Invincible is also the Seadart and Ikara trials ship and will be launched in 1969.
The RN recognises that its Air Defence missile systems are still a work in progress. The 4 County class destroyers still carry the Seaslug but the Seaslug II system and an additional 4 ships were cancelled in 1966 to provide more money for the carrier force and the Seadart programme. On a brighter note, the Leander class are to receive the new Seacat 2 point defence SAM. A gas turbine powered frigate capable of carrying either Seadart or Ikara and replacing the Leanders from 1971 in production has been developed and the first of the class HMS Sheffield will start trials in 1970 (It is expected that Sheffield and Invincible will be used to introduce Seadart and Ikara into fleet service by 1973).
The completion of the last Polaris submarine HMS Ramilles in 1972 will free up shipyards to deliver the second generation Swiftsure class Fleet submarines. The four first generation SSNs (Dreadnought, Valiant, Warspite and Churchill) will be replaced in the 80s by a third generation SSN design.
 

pathology_doc

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Interesting. How do you envisage the Lightning F.7 developing? I'm imagining a T.5 layout with the RHS pilot's seat replaced by the WSO or whatever he's going to get called; or are we going for an even more developed version with solid nose, flank intakes and a weapon system that can handle whatever SARH missile happens to be on offer, prior to the VG version entering service?


Either way, it seems that if you're going to get money to develop the Lightning as a proper interceptor, the attack system IS going to need an upgrade; and one of those upgrades (once the electronics components shrink far enough) really ought to be a SARH illuminator. Whether you then go with AIM-7 as the default or put the electronics for what later becomes Sky Flash into the body of a stretched and developed Red Top (thus in effect resurrecting Blue Dolphin/Radar Red Top) becomes the topic of a different discussion, I guess.
 

zen

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I think I'll jump in on the Lightning side first.


Solution is a side by side engine layout, a solid nose but the Lighting wing and tail suitably modified to the partial VG arrangement. Something the Soviets proved could greatly increase the capabilities of a existing machine.
You could squeeze this into the same Lighting dimensions of about 55ft long and 32ft wide as the solid nose phase III design. Would give similar performance to the then Lightning force in terms of speed and climb, but tote the larger dish radar with illuminator for SARH Red Top, and provide easier maintenance of the engines.
 

uk 75

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Thanks for coming back on the Lightning. Originally I just envisaged the F7 as a Trainer Lightning upgraded with radar and sensors to carry 2-4 Sidewinders. Sparrow was not performing well in the mid 60s. However, the brochure for swing wing Lightning (available I think from the Warton Historical Society)tempted me further.
 

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Once you move Lightning to a side by side engine layout, VG and a two-pilot cockpit, you might as well design a new aircraft from the ground up, surely?
 

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Well if we're going to dig into the concept, it would indeed be a 'new' aircraft and have to use smaller engines like the RB.153 or orriginal RB.172 (prior to scaling down for the Jaguar) to get them both side by side.
The logic is to utilise the known aerodynamic properties of the Lightning wing and tail and the benefits of a design that is quite short in length and thus able to fit down the lifts on RN carriers.


Furthermore quite a bit of development work can be done using the Lightning as the testbed while they work up the new fuselage.
The partial VG wing, the new engines etc... can all fly on modified Lightnings, de-risking the effort by a substantial margin.


To my mind the partial VG option is actually quite attractive, and works quite well on a number of Russian designs.
 
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