Vickers Red Dean / Red Hebe

Barrington Bond

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4 May 2007
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Vickers Red Dean.


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Mr Bond,where were those pics taken? also what is the essential difference between Red Dean and Red Hebe?

Imperial War Museum, RAF Cosford. Lots of other missley goodness there as well!
Don't know without looking it up and I'm off to work now...

RAF Museum Cosford in the Missile Annex off Hanger 3 (Half the missiles are in the Cold War Hall now)

There is also a Red Dean VT4 at Midland Air Museum and another at Doncaster Aeroventure (although this is not on general display).

thanks for that, i'm West Midlands based, so 'Coarse FOD' is only up the road for me, but must admit, haven't been for absolutely ages,

robunos said:
also what is the essential difference between Red Dean and Red Hebe?


Hi, new here.

As I understand it (Sources: Forbat Vickers Guided Weapons, Gibson & Buttler British Secret Projects: Hypersonics, Ramjets and Missiles), the essential difference is that Red Hebe was a development of Red Dean insomuch as it was designed using experience that had been gleaned from the RD work - but RH was a semiactive, as opposed to autonomous active, weapon and had a larger size and larger warhead (150lb conventional, or low yield nuke as per the US AIM-26A).

I always thought it was a pity that RD never got to be fired against a live drone target before it got the axe.
With regards to Bill Gunstons Encyclopdia of rockets and missiles :
Both, Red Dean and Red Hebe would have used active homing during the last part of the attack, but probably semi-active homing during mid-course flight. Both were based on the Vickers type 888 missile, Red Dean with with a pulse-doppler guidance, Red Hebe with a continous wave guidance. Specifications for these missiles were N°1105 and 1131, both not published (at least not until Mr Gunston wrote this book !) and so it is pointed out, that most details still are uncertain.
The basic missile fusilage seems the same diameter for both, but a lot of the rest is VERY different.
Red Dean is for operation from subsonic, transonic and low supersonic fighters, against similar target speeds. So the materials include fibreglass I think and aluminium.

Red Hebe is for operation from highly supersonic fighters against highly supersonic targets.

The differences are materials for a start, since the higher temperatures experienced by Red Hebe dictated a change to mainly steel.

The shift from PD to CW seems to relate to resistance to jamming, CW homers where fitted to Bloodhound and Thunderbird for just this reason.
PD may be better in those early days against high flying bombers, we're told CW works better at lower altitudes.

Curious thought is, AI.20 was the only radar that worked in terms of producing a working beam to illuminate a target, but it was never really taken beyond handbuilt prototypes.

AI.18 seems to be a PD radar and polarisation with the CW illuminator degraded performance, so we're told.
AI.23 seems incapable of having an illuminator in the early days, though it seems Fairey thought it could be modified to take one?

In fact as I think about this, it really seems odd that Fairey and ECKO where not favoured. They where the only ones with experience of radar guided AAM's in the late 50's UK.
Fairey's musings on a SARH AAM seem to be evolved from a cleaned up Fireflash rather in the manner of the evolution of Sparrow.

But this does mate with Bill Gunstons statements that Vickers where favoured by their friends in governement.
AI 18 and AI 23 could have been redesigned for SARH illumination, this was discussed several times but the thinking at the time was, from my reading of documents at the National Archive and elsewhere:

1) it will cost money and time to add this feature, and we never like spending money
2) SARH isn't ideal as pilots won't be able to break away after engagement, active homing is better

As often happened, we overlooked the practical solution in pursuit of the unaffordable, unattainable, "better than the Americans" one.
Zen, my understanding from reading Forbat was that Govt. were desperate for Vickers to take Red Dean on as the Company Most Likely To Succeed after Folland chucked it in (according to Gibson/Buttler, because Petter was distracted by his pet project that evolved into the Gnat fighter), and that Vickers did their utmost to (unsuccessfully) refuse. And that furthermore, when the project went over to Vickers, the radar homing head contract went from EK Coles to GEC. Thanks for clarifying the structural/tactical differences between the two missiles. (In the words of Homer Simpson - D'oh!)

Jemiba, I'll have to try to find Gunston's book (Forbat appears to have read it while working on his own), but certainly Forbat (who was intimately involved in the project, and gives data current to 2006) gives the idea that Red Dean's own radar was locked onto the target before the trigger was pulled, and thus it was active homing for the entire flight (hence its miserably short range of 10,000yd, because that's all the homing head could deal with). He goes into detail on airframe shielding of the seeker, e.g. problems associated with firing the starboard missile against a target to port, when such a target would be blanked out by the nose of the fighter, and whether the missile could be relied on to lock-up after launch. So active-all-the-way seems the safest bet.

Does anyone know of other references, particularly where I might find detail regarding the early development work carried out by Folland? We are offered tantalizing glimpses and details, including a VERY primitive missile design with long, rectangular wings on the wingtips of a Meteor, but I'd give my eye teeth for an account of Follands' work to match Forbat's account of what went on at Vickers.

Overscan, I agree with your comments - IMO also, ARH was pursued as the acme of perfection, whereas weapon development is the art of the possible. Tactically, Fighter Command were right to want a launch-and-leave missile, but in asking for it to be ARH (?? for all-aspect advantages), they were asking the near impossible from the technology of the day. On the other hand, if you look at Red Dean/Red Hebe as the British counterpart not of AIM-7 but of AIM-54, you have to ask yourself what the British might have made of it given an in-service due date of 1972 instead of 1960 or so...
ARH for Red Dean is certain, but I'm not certain over Red Hebe. Certainly its scaled down little brother, Vickers Small Radar Weapon seems to be SARH.

Red Dean is said to be switchable between ARH and SARH, and the preference seems to be x-band, likely because A.18 and AI.20 where both of that type.
Curiously Elliot produced a Q-band seeker and its not the only one of that era (several SAMs have q-band), none of which see even a prototype missile.

Integration of a illuminator with the favoured radars seems to hit a buffer that only cash and time can sort out.
Its of note by the early 60's HSD and Ferranti both thought they could produce PD illumination and seekers, presumably compatible with the then radars AI.18 and AI.23.

Vickers had the manpower so I guess thats why the government might officialy favour them, but its always been the rumour Vickers was favoured on a lot of projects and not always for industrial or technical reasons.
But I do think Fairey was the better team and the one with experience of radar guided missiles thanks to Fireflash (Bluesky). It would've made more sense to hand them that as well as F155T for a consistent design authority from missile to aircraft.

Strapdown INS with ARH homing is rather a big jump for the level of technology in the 1950's, which is when Red Dean and Red Hebe exist. Closer comparison might be the big Hughes missiles, like AIM-47.
From my reading of National Archives, note the following.

Red Hebe

Design target speed: Mach 2.0
Launching speed range: Mach 1.5 to Mach 2.5
Launch altitude range: 30,000 -70,000ft
Design altitude: 70,000ft
Acceleration at Mach 2.5, 70,000ft: 8g
Speed increment: Mach 1.0
Altitude increment: 5,000ft [the maximum additional height gained from launch to target]
Weight: 1300lb
Warhead: 150lb (actually, 200lb continuous rod and 180lb blast warheads were studied by Vickers)
Diameter: 15in

The guidance system chosen for Red Hebe was initially X Band CW semi-active homing. Over time it was recommended to use J Band, then additionally to use monopulse ("static split") rather than conical scan to reduce jamming effectiveness.

The intended target being both supersonic and high altitude made a 150lb warhead seem essential - as miss distances might be large and also as blast effects were less effective at 60,000ft and above. It was also considered likely that a supersonic bomber might have tougher structure than a subsonic one (use of steel and titanium for example).

The 1,300lb weight was the brochure figure for Red Hebe. F155T Issue 1 specs had assumed 750lb for the radar guided weapons and this had to be subsequently revised sharply upwards, causing some major headaches for the airframe designers. Considerable effort was then put into trying to assess the likely real miss distance, as it was obviously one driver of the missile weight. It was thought that use of monopulse would reduce angular error and improve miss distance, but with no test results to draw on it was hard to be certain. Results from Hughes in the US suggested they had found miss distances up to 50% greater than calculated, which was then assumed likely to apply to the British weapon. RAE's 150lb warhead recommendation assumed a 26ft RMS miss distance and a resulting pk of 0.5.

Vickers listed some areas where relaxation of requirements would allow weight savings. Reducing design altitude to 60,000ft and requiring a Mach 2.0 launch when used at a Mach 2.0 target, combined with a switch to J band, would allow weight to be reduced to around 900lb.

Interestingly it was noted that the CF-105 using 4 Sparrow 3 AAMs gave slightly higher overall kill probability than F155T with 2 Red Hebes, the greater number of missiles offsetting their lower lethality. In another memo it is noted that Hughes were of the belief that could get 35 miles range at 35,000ft from a 730lb weapon with a 100lb warhead - this is clearly an early (1956) GAR-X study - and that if true this would have dramatic consequences on fighter tactics compared with Red Hebe.
For me its the small radar weapon, the scaled down Red Hebe thats most of interest along with Fairey's thoughts on the subject.
These get closer to Sparrow size and presumably could've been as effective, by virtue of the potentialy greater number that could be carried.
Vickers talk of this being for meduim wars like Korea, but perhaps their thinking only of the carridge of two such weapons?

Curious thought on your mentioning of the Hughes Gar-X study, this is rather close on weight and range to the OR346 fighters missile by Vicker's John Forbat.....

Is this how far behind the US we where?

And yet that talk of the use of a monopulse seeker....would this suggest the ability to retain lockon better than the then Sparrow?
I recall reading a comment about Red Dean from US sources very similar to the "engineering archeology" description used of Belenko's MiG-25. Red Dean had a set of base assumptions along the line of "must use this bulky seeker technology, and this antiquated autopilot, which means the miss distance will be Y, which makes the warhead bigger, so we need a bigger motor to carry it, and we must be able to manouvre well at 70,000ft, so the wings need to be large.... we also seemed to be very obsessed with the threat of Mach 2 bombers bristling with advanced ECM techniques which emphasised the need for monopulse, J band, etc. Monopulse was well understood in late 1950s - we used it on AI 23 - but it made the seeker heavier and bulkier.

The US spend dramatically more across the board and developed new technologies where needed far more than we did, but also in some areas accepted a lower level of performance as a trade for simplicity and cheapness (Sidewinder versus Firestreak or Red Top for example). Don't forget Sparrow never saw service against a bomber threat; Red Hebe and its giant warhead might have been just the ticket for shooting down M-50/52 "Bounders". AAMs were press-ganged into shooting at fighters, and Red Hebe would be a giant overkill in this mission.
Hang on J-band along with a mach 2 launch reduced weight according to your own post.
Surely its x-band and mach 1.5 launch aircraft speed that force the high weight?

So lets just ask the big questions here.
Which is more preferable
Full scale Red Hebe or scaled small weapon?
J-band or X-band?
conical scan or monopulse?
OR ....Fairey's SARH AAM?

Further BIG question.
Would this AAM having been fielded for the RAF and RN FAA, also be produced as a SAM?
Sure - I wasn't linking J band with weight, rather excessive requirements (including ECCM) with weight.

Most likely SARH AAM to get built, in my opinion, is Blue Dolphin (SARH Red Top).
OH well its eaten my nice long post. So now its the short version.

NO blue dolphin is the worst option for a AAM if you want it to be carried in a semi-recessed carridge like Sparrow, it would be pylon only and thus not favoured. Span is too great, length is also a problem I think.

I tried mating it with a Type 583 and it was'nt good.
Zen, you've got a point, except that surely, had Blue Dolphin/Radar Red Top proceeded, all its carrier aircraft would probably have been Firestreak/Red Top users anyway - with pylons. The Javelin users must have been screaming for a SARH missile that they could use in head on attacks against faster bombers - I can't understand why it was never upgraded for Red Top like the Sea Vixen and Lightning, but that's getting off topic.

I also take the point about AIM-54 and Red Dean not being directly comparable - I was mainly trying to say "The Brits almost had an ARH missile in 1956; what might they have managed to do with it by 1972?" Phoenix and Red Dean are, I agree, truly from almost different worlds.

The more I find out, the more I want to know. Come on, Mr Forbat, write the next book and tell us all about the Red Dean redesigns, Red Hebe, and VSW! ;)
Well for the 50's it seems recessed carridge was not that much considered as far as I can tell.

Besides for ARH and IR you need the best possible field of view for the seeker head, and by the time their moving towards a SARH AAM with lock-on after launch '57 hits them all.

F155T efforts would certainly have benefited from recessed VSW. Especialy the winner.
Its quite possible Red Hebe could've had a very long career and much improved over time, as would the VSW.
It would also have given the UK a far greater field of expertese in radar guided AAMs in subsequent decades due to the experience or operating with the missile.
The switch to MAFI/RFNA rocket motors for either would increase range and kinetic energy and moves to a monopulse seeker head with continious rod warhead would increase its chances of a kill when used.

Its quite easy to imagine a 'radar-busting' version of Red Hebe, as it is to concieve of a SAM variant.

In the 50's it seems fitting a CW illuminator to AI.23 was too big a task or even not concievable until too late.
Seems it would need some changes before that could be done, and that in turn would delay the arrival of the system. Time was of the essence since we'd lagged behind and where deeply concerned about what the USSR might field.

What is not clear is just how much was changed on the 'lightweight' AI.18 that such high expectations where raised of it. I have a strong suspicion it never entered service, and SeaVixens made do with the old sets and a minor upgrade to handle Red Top.
The phrase that might be key is "it lacked a pulse doppler mode" which is from SeaVixen users.

Oddly I've pondered the use of PD illumination, would it not permit a possible variable fuze to handle different closing rates with a target?

In attempting to recess a number of AAMs on the Vickers Type583 I found VSW was the ideal length and span to recess well without interference with maingear, ground clearence/arrested clearence or too much problems with the ejector pins.
How would Red Hebe have compared to the Bendix AAM-N-10 Eagle?
In the "Encyclopedia of Rockets and Missiles", Bill Gunston gives the range of Red Hebe
as "more than 65km", but that of the AAM-N-10 "up to 204km" (Not 200, or 205 ... ;) )
Which is, oddly, not a nice round number in US Customary units either (~126.76 mi).
So what was the range for Red Hebe? Range is where the detail for British never were AAM's is really lacking I have never seen any information on possible range's for the Red Dean, Red Heab, Red Top 2 or any of the large Vickers and De Havilland designs? ???
overscan said:
Gunston was completely out on the range for Red Hebe.

Regarding AAM-N-10, 204km is 110nm.

Just 10nm more than the Phoenix. Gee, I wonder why? :D
Red Hebe's maximum range was quoted as 37.5km launched at Mach 2.5 and 70,000ft, though typical guidance ranges were nearer to 7nm with the OR.329 initial radar fit.
What size radar did the F-6 carry for its Eagle missile compared to the various designs for the aircraft to carry Red Hebe?
Regarding the carriage of Red Dean.

The majority of proposed applications (F.153D, developed Sea Vixen, Supermarine 556, Canberra P.12) were pylon mounts.

However, Vickers also looked at carriage on RAF CF-105. Tentative plan was to install two weapons side-by-side in weapons bay, half-buried in fuselage. As others have pointed out - the big problem would be need to lower missiles before firing. Details of this had not been worked out before the RAF CF-105 proposal was canned.
Thinking about this just the other day, I wonder.

Forbat indicates that the RAF (specifically Cochrane) wasn't having a bar of SARH from very early in the AAM programme because it imposed manoeuvrability limitations on the fighter, so all RAF AAMs had to be fire-and-forget.

The two main radars we see used in real life on British-built fighters are AI-18 and AI-23, neither of which in the end had SARH illuminators fitted, despite attempts to do so (e.g to make Blue Dolphin/Radar Red Top a reality).

It seems to me that this 'best is the enemy of good enough' approach had long-term consequences in that the airborne radar designers were never encouraged to integrate SARH illuminator technology into their radars from the start - a far better situation than trying to shoehorn them in later - because they were operating from the clean-sheet-of-paper stage on the assumption that it would never be needed. Had the OR been worded to allow a built-in reversion to SARH (e.g. to enable the more powerful aircraft-based illuminator to burn through jamming or as insurance against the failure of autonomous radar homing), the insistence on a weapon system concept might have seen an illuminator-capable AI.18 or AI.23 evolve side-by-side with Red Dean. Going on from there and assuming the same miserable outcome for Vickers' big active-homer as in real life, one or all of Blue Dolphin, Vickers' "Small Weapon" or Fairey's SARH project could have been considered as a drop-in replacement, requiring only last-minute 'tweaks' to suit them to a particular illuminator set. One would tend to favour Blue Dolphin in this regard, because most of the airframe/warhead/propulsion work would already have been done in the context of Firestreak/Red Top.
The size and weight was to package the systems necessary to guarentee a kill. Thus the exploration of a nuclear warhead for Red Hebe. The whole thrust of F.155T is to blast off and knock down incomming Soviet bombers to give enough time for the V-force to scramble and retaliate.

Radars with intigrated guidance illuminators seem to be the CW set for the OR.346 type (very late 50's and early 60's) by Aspinal and possibly something for replacement to the AI.18 on the SeaVixen (mid 60's), which may or may not have had a provisional designation of AI.25.
Which in turn prompts some disturbing thoughts on how old the AI.24 designation is for a FICMW system.

As is its only SeaSpray that gets an illuminator for guidance of SeaSkua.

Fairey where probably right over the moving AI.18 to J-band, and it could have been the trigger for a more comprehensive improvement of the set.
Red Hebe was to be an all aspect weapon, firing from any angle relative to the target and able to intercept it at quite a higher altitude than the launch aircraft.

The electronics seem to be all valve and a mechanicaly scanning dish. So the system was going to be bulky and thus force size onto the weapon, which in turn forced a larger rocket motor etc...

Being SARH in x-band with a mechincal dish for tracking the weapon needed quite a warhead to guarentee a kill, based on the distance it might be from the target when closest.

Further the launch aircraft was expected to be doing mach2+ and there where thermal concerns as well.

Nuke warheads where likely driven by the expectation of Soviet massed bomber fleets in formation. A nuke could kill a number and throw the rest about severely.
Hi, I have just joined this site as I have a friend who has a Red Dean missile that he has inherited and wants to know if it is worth anything. He would be willing to concider offers. He also has mountains of radar equipment. Your answers would be welcome.
If the AAM is merely a tube then it is a curiosity of no value. If there is internal content it could be of interest...but... One RD tube is held by RAFM Cosford; Vickers Museum, Brooklands is sparse on Special Projects Division Heritage: your friend could, if he were so disposed, offer his RD to them. They would no doubt remove the "mountains" of radar kit and disperse it, either to scrap, or to the(generally modest) in-house Heritage collections of such vendors as (ex-)Elliott.
Given the performance requirements of the missile the range does not seem so far out at 37.5km. One further assumes that the Falcon rocket planned for Red Dean was of roughly the same generation as the Magpie used in Blue Jay. Do we know what motor was planned for Red Hebe?

Either way it seems likely that there was considerable room for improvement in the motor over the coming years not to mention the obvious potential for lightening the airframe and subsystems. Lets not forget that Fire Streak alone had two generations to it before we even get to Red Top which was manufactured in one variant with another proposed.

The decision to move to J-Band for the missile explains the remark in Secret Projects, Hypersonics, Ramjets and Missiles about a J-Band AI.23 being an almost certainty for the F.155T aircraft as well as Hawkers proposal to use that band in the P.1121 set.
Oh I agree there. Serious potential if the effort and money where forthcomming to crank up the performance of Red Hebe through various marks.

Mono-pulse seeker, transistorised electronics, MAFI/RFNA rocket motors, a refined aerodynamic shell and probably cooling for the electronics. Then theres the warhead, likely the continious rod type is favoured, but who knows..... at 15 inches diameter can they squeeze a nuke in there?
Or do they up the diameter to 17inches?
Reading John Forbats book (The Secret world of Vickers guided weapons), it appears that the original plan for Red Dean was X Band, Q-Band was then chosen for an improved Red Dean (but J-Band was ruled out) and then J-Band became the preferred choice for the F-155T system. Concerns about jamming appear to be the key drivers throughout the decision making process.

I have had no luck finding out what rocket motor was planned for Red Hebe?


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B-29s ? in GB and 1961 ? One of the 88 Washingtons that bridged the gap between Lincoln and V-bombers ?

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