JFC Fuller

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The V-bomber fleet spent most of its life with relatively primitive avionics for the age, as far as I can tell only two major(ish) changes were ever made, the first was the addition of the ARI 5959 (General Dynamics AN/APN-170) J-band terrain following radar, however this came with restrictions- it could only be used between 220 knots and 350 knots so was somewhat less than ideal. The TFR was installed in a thimble in the nose and can be seen here: http://studysupport.info/vulcanbomber/tfr.png

The other change that was made was what would today be called a UOR, 5 of the 6 aircraft selected for the Black Buck mission were equipped with the Delco Carousel inertial navigation system. The lack of an INS seems to have been something of an odd omission for such a long range aircraft in service for so long.

Is anybody aware of any other major changes proposed for the V-bombers avionics suite? I am thinking especially around the time that the original TFR was fitted in 1965/66, I assume that other alternatives were considered? Perhaps including a more capable solution, possibly derived from the TSR-2 TFR work? Or possibly a system combined with an INS?

There was a list of modifications for the V-bombers that would support their conversion to the low-level role:

ASR.3600 - Sidecsan radar installation, some books say H2S was modified to do this, was it?*
Ground Position Indicator Mk.6 for all Mk.2 aircraft, this happened as it was part of the fit required to use Blue Steel
Decca Mk.4 roller map, a Decca Type 9033 was installed in the co-pilot's station of a Valiant for low-level trials in Canada in 1961, was it installed more widely?
Green Satin modified to function down to the lowest possible level
Terrain Following Radar, became the GD radar (ARI.5959)

*Various sidescan configurations were tried by the RRE on Victors:

Yellow Aster: I believe this was the H2S Mk.9 scanner locked at 90 degrees and feeding a separate Rapid Processing Unit
Blue Shadow: Apparently mounted inside the H2S Mk.9 radome, rigid 5ft aerials feeding similar equipment to Yellow Aster

Blue Shadow was installed in Canberras, B.6(BS), apparently about 25 of them and operated with the Akrotiri Strike Wing and in ELINT roles as a navigational fixing aid but it is a much earlier radar than the decision to make the V-Bombers low level. Blue Shadow is extensively covered in a number of recent books (Listening In and Black Box Canberras IIRC).
 
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alertken

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Does a week of silence suggest no such plan? B-52 (and various Bears) continue today because other weapons than gravity Big Bangs, and other Missions than Counter Value, were hung on an infinitely renewed platform. UK Ministers, post-Skybolt, perceived their intent as to cease the heavy operational expense - starting with 5 aircrew - as soon as smaller, cheaper-to-own tactical systems arrived. The logic of incremental, add-on tasks, starting with NEAF/WE177B, caused Mk.2 Vs to linger rather longer, but "as is". The GD/TFR exercise was a) resoundingly necessary to bridge the Skybolt gap before Polaris, and b) low risk/low cost. The logic of post-steam boxes liberating the Fleet from the constraints of NBS was successfully sold by HSAL - not to a retread of HSAL's Avro product, but to new build of HSAL's Blackburn one.
 

JFC Fuller

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Trawling through various things today I came across something interesting which is somewhat relevant here. According to the New Scientist (19th August 1971), Ferranti continued its TFR programme after the cancellation of TSR-2 and flew a total of 5 models in a Canberra and Buccaneer and tried to get such a system installed in the Phantom- I have not seen this anywhere before, does anyone have any further information?
 

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MinTech did continue TFR Applied Research on through the gap, TSR.2-MRCA, in order to retain a UK capability. Germany insisted that MRCA avionics procurement be open to US bidders, because the DM:$ offset issue required a chunk of Germany's Defence Budget to be spent in $. When Texas Instruments won MRCA TFR in mid-1971, MinTech's appetite to prop up Ferranti waned.
 

JFC Fuller

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alertken said:
MinTech did continue TFR Applied Research on through the gap, TSR.2-MRCA, in order to retain a UK capability. Germany insisted that MRCA avionics procurement be open to US bidders, because the DM:$ offset issue required a chunk of Germany's Defence Budget to be spent in $. When Texas Instruments won MRCA TFR in mid-1971, MinTech's appetite to prop up Ferranti waned.


Not just Ferranti, Elliots were in on the team as well, the former was responsible for TFR whilst the latter did the mapping and detection element though they had to work together extremely closely due to the fact that the staff requirement demanded both antennas be integrated into a single back-end. However the team did get a consolation prize in the form of Foxhunter which was lead by Marconi-Elliot with Ferranti as the major subcontractor providing the transmitter, scanner, drive and servo units. The RAF originally wanted a Ka band mapping radar and an X band TFR whereas the Germans wanted Ku-band for both, the Germans managed to get the Italians on board and the final nail in the coffin was when Elliot and Ferranti came out twice as expensive with its bid as Texas instruments did.

According to Victor Units of the Cold War by Andrew Brookes and Chris Davey, the General Dynamics TFR was also trialled in a Victor B.2R XI.164 and was later installed across the B.2R fleet in a cone in the Victors nose, apparently it never proved effective. I am still surprised that no British origin option, or more comprehensive/effective solution was considered...?
 
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alertken

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Until the 12/62 Nassau substitution of Polaris for Skybolt, Blue Steel + Yellow Sun Mk.2/Mk.2 Vulcan/Victor were to do the business, at very high level. Mk.1 Vulc/Vict would be gone/and/or Valiant replacement IFR/SR as Skybolt came in, 1966-ish. Unclear what Airships had in mind for post-BS Mk.2 Victor.

Overnight change, early-1963. Quick paint job on some Vulcans to show off unreal low-level capability. Ferranti overloaded on adapting Westinghouse to be TSR.2 TFR. GD offered as is, quick, fixed price. No brainer. Still took into 1965 before fitted.
 

JFC Fuller

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Ken,

I am in complete agreement about why the chosen solution was so ad-hoc, as you say, pre Skybolt cancellation the aircraft were either high-altitude penetrators or (to be) Skybolt carriers. When Polaris was chosen it was assumed that TSR-2 would be the theatre bomber (Canberra) replacement from the mid-60s onwards meaning the V-force would fade away as the Polaris fleet worked up. Even when the the theatre bomber requirement was split into 50 F-111K and a vague number of AFVG in 66/67 it was still assumed that the (by then GD TFR equipped) V-bombers, serving as interim theatre bombers, would leave service from about 1974 as AFVG entered service; nobody ever really expected the V-bombers to serve on in the low level theatre role until the early 80s as actually happened. However, British industry never usually missed an opportunity to generate an unsolicited brochure for mandarin consumption.
 

alertken

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unsolicited brochure for mandarin consumption. Oh! How cynical!
Though 5 crew members became 2, I suggest that retention of a Medium Bomber Force, 1968 (SSBN) to 1983, was primarily to facilitate introduction of Tornado, committed by 1975 as a >300-strong Force. That investment, in turn, was to present UK commitment, to lock in US and FRG, to the various iterations of rolling, flexible in N.Germany. More modest bangs on 200KT WE177C. Flocks of Tornados might do first sortie on iron, with enough surviving for a bigger bang second sortie. Never realistic on TSR.2/F-111K.

You are trying to put logic and reason into plans for RAF, 1964-83: there was none. During this period the logic wobbled around an iron interlude before a tactical nuke exchange, followed by Armageddon. Suicide or surrender. But in practice Commanders in the process of being overrun would politely ask for help by the biggest bang. UK simply never resolved this dilemma. So Papers fluctuated between many and few of everything. Gowing has 1946 Staffs' demand for hundreds of (to be) Blue Danube.

Ministers are more prepared to say No to new build and thus not recruit future lads, than to fire our brave boys in whom much training/infrastructure has already been sunk. So, cobble some more life into existing inventory. Run on Canberra through half-a-century until the last fatigue-hour has been used up, by the last Pontius still sentient, but don't buy P.1121 or VS-swinger, or...or.
 

alertken

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sll: i have a note that GD TFR was ordered 2/65, 158 sets, and deployed through 1966..but I also have a note : daylight only to 1979. Is this my, or my sources, bad? Radar..daylight? Confused.ken.
 

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ASR.3600 - NBS Mk 2/H2S Mk 2 sidescan modification. Terrain Following Radar for low level V-bombers, esp Vulcan.

Don't have a date for it nor any other detail.

Chris
 

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Does anybody have more info on Vulcan EW equipment up to 1982? The B.2 model received a revamped EW suite and later the "tactical style" ARI alerter. However, the Black Buck missions used an ALQ-101 pod, a rather limited piece of ECM, to spoof Argentine radars. These were TPS-43 search radars plus Skyguards/Roland for targetting plus some other, not too state of the art radar equipment. I guess Vulcan EW suite wasn't tuned to handle these tactical threats, or maybe its reliability/operational state wasn't too good? Antenna emplacement? Any ideas?
 

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NBS Mk 2 (OR.3600) was applied to the Blue Steel aircraft. H2S scanner locked sideways (stabilised) feeding an RPU. Yellow Aster was Blue Shadow antennae in nose with photographic recorders. Neither were specifically for low-level role. The advantage of sideways-looking (for the same antenna length) is better resolution/definition. NBS Mk 2 was all about identifying fix-points for en-route navigation, Yellow Aster was radar reconnaissance.
 

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