Memories of TSR2 Past

Some time ago 13th Spitfire wrote an article for Think Defence on the TSR2 and it would seem to be a popular topic. Chris has penned another, below.

When I was but a wee boy, my Father started taking me to air shows, which incidentally kicked off my interest in matters of defence. An early visit, possibly the first, was to the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, Cambridgeshire. One of the exhibits on display was the Bristol Bloodhound Surface-to-Air-Missile (SAM).

TSR2
TSR2

As I looked on in awe at it’s shiny, missile-y-ness, I was regaled with an improbable tale about how a reliance on the Bloodhound killed off something called the “TSR.2”.

As the years past I grew older (funnily enough). My tally of air shows grew, as did the tally of all the different aircraft I’d seen. My collection of Matchbox™ toy aircraft grew. The number of car stickers from air shows pasted on to the back of our “Golden Brown” Ford Fiesta grew. And with each passing year, so the mythical properties of the fabled TSR.2 grew. As did the maniacal and blood thirsty portrayal of the Labour Government under Harold Wilson. The amount of swear words used in the story also steadily increased.

Against this back drop, I recently spotted a book “TSR.2: Britain’s Lost Cold War Strike Aircraft” by Tim McLelland (available from Amazon for just over £12). An excellent book which I would highly recommend, it tells the tale of the TSR.2 from conception, to design, testing, and finally, to cancellation. The book then provides an immense amount of technical data and anticipated mission profiles, which I found to be a nice touch.

What struck me most however was how different the true tale of TSR.2 was to the yarn I’d been spun over the years by an over enthusiastic parent. Far from being an evil and unnecessary exercise in budgetary bloodletting by a crass government hell bent on saving money, it turns out TSR.2 was a failure of many things. It was a victim of politics, industrial strategy, government interference and mismanagement, requirement creep, manufacturer mishandling, and inter-service rivalries.

Sound familiar to anyone?

Conception

No sooner had the English Electric Canberra taken off into RAF service than its replacement was being planned. Two of the leading companies in this push were English Electric, and Vickers (specifically through their subsidiary Supermarine). When the operational requirement finally came around, both companies were well placed to meet it and the government was keen on both proposals.

At this stage the plot begins to thicken and the inevitable fate of TSR.2 was already being sealed.

The government was not happy with so many companies fighting over the rather limited number of contracts available and had made their intentions clear in private; merge or go bust. It was with this in mind that English Electric and Vickers came together. It seemed like a marriage made in heaven.

Both of their designs had merit, but it was felt that the Vickers design was more complete, including as it did plans for the navigation systems and weapons delivery. It would seem reasonable then that the Vickers team were to take the lead with this project, but this completely overlooks the fact that English Electric had the experience of not just the Canberra but also their extensive supersonic work related to the lightning.

The merger threw up other problems along the way. One of the major issues that occurred during the early stages of the flight testing program was related to the under carriage. Vickers felt a larger and more complex system was better, the team from English Electric preferring something a little simpler. Ultimately issues with braking and later a gear down failure in flight brought on tough delays to the schedule, setting the program back and adding to the rising costs.

Part of this though had to do with…

Mission Creep

Or rather – in the case of the under carriage – a completely bonkers specification from the start. It was believed at the time that a war with the Soviet Union would render normal airfields unusable. Thus, it was expounded, aircraft such as the TSR.2 would need to be scattered to less obvious launch sites, namely fields ala WW2. With this in mind, the TSR.2 would need Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) capability.

This requirement lead directly to a gross over engineering of both the main landing gear and the nose gear.

At no point it seems did anyone stop to think about the logic of such a plan. Namely that an aircraft as complex as the TSR.2, eventually designed to carry nuclear warheads along with a large payload of fuel, and fitted out with the then state of the art in navigational and bombing computers, would need a support structure in place that was the complete antithesis of the word “austere”.

That’s before we get on to the requirement creep itself.

What started as a simple replacement for the Canberra, morphed into a low level tactical strike and reconnaissance aircraft, then into a nuclear weapons delivery platform. The range gradually increased. The airspeed – both at altitude and low level – soared. The final specification called for top end speed in excess of Mach 2, something which test pilot “Rolly” Beaumont later described as excessive.

There are many reasons why this happened, including greater fear of the capabilities of Soviet air defences, but some of the blame has to be laid at the feet of the RAF…

Inter Service Rivalry

It was no secret that the RAF and the Royal Navy didn’t get along. Over forty years later, the coldness displayed by each service for the other has progressed from “Arctic” to merely “Glacial”. That rivalry would come to have an important impact on the specifications for TSR.2.

The Navy’s argument was simple; that the RAF and RN should share the Naval Staff Requirement NA.39, what would eventually become the Blackburn Buccaneer S.2 (the S.1 being underpowered). As most of you have probably guessed by now, the Air Staffs response to this was not a happy one and doubtless the language used behind closed doors would have been blue enough to make even the Navy’s pullovers look bright and summery.

Determined not to be saddled with an aircraft designed to meet the inferior specifications of “that other service”, the RAF went about gleefully explaining why exactly it was that they needed a bomber that could race along at low level at more than Mach 1 and could also hit beyond Mach 2 at altitude. It was clear that the Air Staff were making themselves their own worse enemy, as they pushed the newly formed manufacturer BAC to produce a wonder plane that had no hope of coming in on time and on budget.

Not that the Royal Navy was going to sit there and take the argument lying down. There is a widely circulated story – that may be somewhat apocryphal – that the then Lord Mountbatten had a number of business cards printed, of both the TSR.2 and the Buccaneer. So the story goes he would lay down one card of the TSR.2 and five of the Buccaneers, before exclaiming that you could get “five of these for one of them”.

Of course all this inter service nonsense was eventually proved mute and the Royal Navy finally got it’s wish many years later when the RAF took the Buccaneer S.2 into service, though to an extent the RAF also got its wish; with the Tornado. Perhaps as damaging though to the whole process as inter service bickering and the resulting adjustment of specifications was…

Ministerial Mismanagement

For one, nobody in government seemed inclined to question the need for such high specifications for what was essentially just supposed to be a tactical bomber aircraft. But the government went along with it all, willingly playing its part in pushing the design beyond all sane boundaries.

It was, however, to have a much more insipid influence on the whole project. As has already been touched on, it was the insistence of the government that companies should merge in order to win the project, that lead to some of the early troubles. What came next was a damning indictment of the involved ministries.

Keen to make sure the project didn’t run over time or budget, and that the involved companies came together seamlessly, it was decided that a strong committee based approach would be used. The fact that this would produce precisely the opposite result should have been apparent from the start.

Sadly this wasn’t the case.

A perfect example was produced when the overall management committee came together one time and a head count was taken.

There were fifty-one people present, which was deemed rightly to be excessive. It was decided that action should be taken and the size of the committee reduced ahead of the next meeting. When that meeting came around, another head count was taken. Sixty-one.

Again “Rolly” Beaumont provides us with further insight on the matter, explaining later how the committee would often spend inordinate amounts of time debating on small things that either a) had little bearing on the overall success of the project, or b) were destined to be redesigned at a later date to meet the demands of that unbending old mistress, “practicality”.

An example was the cockpit layout, the end design of which was ultimately decided upon by input from the test pilots, as it should be.

All that was left now was for the political winds to blow up a storm…

Politics

Originally it was thought that TSR.2 could be marketed abroad. The primary customer was thought to be Australia, but the British government were in for an upset. Not surprisingly, the Australian government was reassessing its place in the world and had concluded that building ties with America would be more beneficial in the long run than remaining dependent on the UK. On this basis the Australians decided to meet their future needs for a low level strike aircraft by going after the American F-111.

With their only realistic overseas buyer out of the picture, it quickly became obvious that the UK would have to shoulder the ever growing bill for TSR.2 by herself. With the budgetary axe waiting to fall, TSR.2 became an increasingly likely target. The Royal Navy was murmuring still about the Buccaneer. The Americans were keen to find additional customers for the F-111. And day by day the cost expectations for TSR.2 were rising to alarming proportions.

The result was inevitable.

When Harold Wilson was able to secure a fixed cost price at a very generous level for the F-111, coupled with a deal for the Americans to buy certain British products as a form of trade offsetting, the TSR.2 was effectively toast. The program was stopped and the wind down began.

It’s here that some political conspiracy theorising should be finally put to bed. The halting of the program mean the destruction of the current test aircraft, along with all the jigs, plans, and anything else associated with the project. But this was not some devious government drive to erase all trace of TSR.2. In fact, BAC had been offered the chance to keep flying and testing the aircraft, but all expenses would have to be met by the company themselves.

They opted instead to shut it down.

The process followed was one that had been agreed well in advance. One aircraft was kept running for a short while, serving as a ground based test bed for studying engine noise and how this would effect local communities living around airfields, primarily with a view to the new Olympus engines being used on Concorde. XR219, the sole TSR.2 to take to the skies, was used to test the effect of gunfire on modern aircraft.

A Sad Ending for a Superb Machine

Ultimately, Dad was right to a degree. TSR.2 was a beauty. With her powerful engines she once broke the sound barrier in level flight without the aid of reheat; a feat that we now hail in “modern” aircraft, while foaming at the mouth, as Supercruise.

Her advanced navigational systems – terrain following radar, sideways looking radar, and moving map displays – would become a widely held standard on modern combat aircraft for many years after her sad demise.

There is little doubt that TSR.2 would have been a sterling aircraft had she made it all the way into production. But Dad was wrong to heap the blame solely at the feet of the Labour government that finally shot her down. They were merely a cog in the system, one of the many problems that brought about the ultimate failure of the project.

What stings me most about the tragic story of TSR.2 though, is not that we missed out on such a world leading capability. It’s that we are still making the same mistakes when it comes to defence procurement. Even now, nearly fifty years later, politics, MoD mismanagement, inter service rivalries and mission/requirement creep are crippling otherwise promising defence projects.

The question is, which project will be next to enter the annals of history as “the one that got away”?

Which project will be next find itself the subject of bitter arguments and spiteful rhetoric for the next fifty years?

Which project will be next to have many tomes committed to paper about its lost potential?

When I take my (future) children to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, what object, what empty hulk will rekindle in me that angry fire that burns fiercely for another 30 years, just like it did for my Father?

 

[ed: Snafu has some great posts on aircraft that might have been]
34 Comments
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CNH
CNH
March 30, 2011 7:51 pm

You don’t make a ‘tactical’ aircraft that costs millions.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
March 30, 2011 8:27 pm

@ Chris B. – an excellent article, very informative. I will have to see if the money can be stretched to buy a copy of the book.

The story of the Buccaneer is obviously linked to this one and in many ways mirrors it. The RAF finally got the Bucc when the last RN conventional carriers were decommissioned/converted. They didn’t want them, only accepting them when the F-111 deal fell through. Over time the crew grew to love them and their outstanding capabilities but the top brass were already looking towards the nest bright shiny thing, the Tornado, and it never received the equipment/upgrades which could have kept it first class for a long time.

John Hartley
John Hartley
March 30, 2011 8:31 pm

We were crazy to start TSR2. Mountbatten was right. However, we were crazy to scrap it after all that money had been spent & the airtests were starting to go ok.
The rule now as then should be “Think hard before you start a project. If you are truly sure, then commit to the bitter end. Do not wobble”.
True for TSR2 then or Nimrod MRA4 now.
We cannot afford to waste vast amounts on R&D, then scrap it just before we get the benefit of it.
I doubt we saved any money scrapping TSR2 at that late stage. We then wasted money on F-111K procurement before losing it by one cabinet vote. Then we had to develop & buy Tornado instead.
We also scrapped our Blue Streak & Black Arrow space rockets, as the Treasury could not see a future in satellite launches.

x
x
March 30, 2011 8:53 pm

The French took on (poached!) our rocket technology.

If history had gone a different way perhaps GB would have been running a space port in Guyana…….

Mountbatten may have not been much of a combat leader but he did understand technology. In many ways he was like Jacky Fisher, though Mountbatten himself “disliked” the former for displacing his father Prince Louis. It was Mountbatten who drove our SSN programme and dealt with Rickover which was no mean feat. Buccaneer was/is a superb plane and Mountbatten was right to back it.

But the TSR2 too was a thing of wonder. The Bucc did incorporate some wonderful aerodynamics; but it was more a product of sensible pragmatic British belt and braces engineering. Chris in his wonderful article has already listed the TSR2’s more exciting feature so no need to repeat them. TSR2 was very much in the mode of Dreadnought; the UK aircraft industry was slipping down the order and so produce something to steal a march on its competitors. Like of political will failed it.

I know the Airfix TSR2 was very popular with “What if?” aircraft modellers.

Mike
Mike
March 30, 2011 10:12 pm

“When I take my (future) children to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, what object, what empty hulk will rekindle in me that angry fire that burns fiercely for another 30 years, just like it did for my Father?”

Nimrod MRA 4 with pratically all the same reasons you labelled out.
A good clear look on the plane, good one.

Though the F111 and Buccaneer also had their problems, indeed the Australians had the delay their order for years whilst problems were ironed out. Meanwhile the RN acted up the Harrier the very same way the RAF did with the bucc! lol loads of mirror examples.

Its seems after a certain period we repeat past mistakes XD

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 30, 2011 10:27 pm

A Starfighter design: albeit for low level, but high supersonic and longe range delivery (of a nuke). Filled with fuel, very little wing/ manoeuvrability to survive either fighters above or SAMs below – so by the time ready to fly, not capable of delivering the mission. (Wonderful technology, though.)

Everyone remembers that also F-111 was cancelled (Australians flew it until about half a year ago).
– what is less remembered is that in the same savings package went the Fairey Rotodyne, the supersonic Harrier and the HS/AW 681 military freighter, all announced on the same day.

Rich tysoe
Rich tysoe
March 30, 2011 11:10 pm

A good article. I wasn’t around at the time but I’ve had an interest tn TSR2 since seeing XR220 at cosford when I was little- I thought it was the most beautiful plane in the world. For further reading, I thoroughly recommend Damien Burke’s book “TSR2, britain’s lost bomber”. which is very good.

paul g
March 30, 2011 11:53 pm

i watched the video and i thought, ooo that new russian bomber the SU-34 is son of!!(it was the twin wheeled undercarriage) looking at wikki specs only 14ft smaller than tsr2 otherwise quite similar, if only we had the balls to consider buying russian, uprated ej200 (called ej270 i believe)with TVN I’d like it, but i am simple!!

13th spitfire
March 30, 2011 11:55 pm

Well done, much better than mine; thoroughly interesting.

Euan
Euan
March 31, 2011 1:17 am

What aircraft will you look back and think “Silly buggers”? Well for me it will be the Nimrod MRA4 for one. When the replacement for Nimrod was being discussed and it was decided we would like 21 Nimrod airframes to be totally rebuilt and modernised BAe done the math and said if you make it 24 airframes we will build them from scratch. Of course we would have needed to stick to the airframe numbers and cost would still have risen but at the end of it we would have a production line up and running for arguably the world’s best MPA. As the majority of the problems with the MRA4 especially the biggest delays came out of trying to join the computer age newly designed and built components with the metal bashing age old airframes new build would have been arguably better. You never know the yanks could have agreed to buy it if we agreed to let them build their own under license and after all the combat system and other bits and bobs are from the US already.

In the wider view the modern history of British Engineering and design is something that I think would drive most people to suicide or at the very least depression with the number of lost opportunities. As my dad often repeats we are the only nation to have developed independent satellite launch and space capabilities only to throw it away and invest in a supersonic airliner when oil was only going one way. Even today we are still capable of doing some amazing stuff in science and engineering I read in a magazine lately that the bloke at Apple who is responsible for design is British.

Willy Dribble
Willy Dribble
March 31, 2011 1:56 am

TSR2 has such a legendary status, it completely represents our decline and subsequent failures…but it will always be a big what if..
Everytime I go to Duxford or Cosford its always the first exhibit I head for and then gabber about for next half hour…
My dad knew a few guys how were part of the project, they couldn’t believe how rapidly it got wound up…
My dad being ever practical would always point out how much he could see the TSR in both the Jaguar and Tornado(albeit in the most minor ways)
Still breaks my heart…:-(

Willy Dribble
Willy Dribble
March 31, 2011 2:21 am

As always Mr.B excellent points…I’m gonna dream about TSR2s in pink desert cam on Operation Granby…night all..

jackstaff
jackstaff
March 31, 2011 3:41 am

Chris,

Really first class. Smart, thorough, but clear and plain and a really good read. And I learned several things about the wind-up of the project I had no idea of before. More like this please.

Willy,

That’s a nice dream :) Of course SAM sites would’ve given them fits but by then perhaps you have a more evolved version *or*, since we’re down the rabbit hole anyway, you get some kind of supercruising “Wild Weasel” EW aircraft spoofing the hell out of the nervy Iraqis while other RAF and allied airframes do their business …

Euan,

“What aircraft will you look back and think “Silly buggers”?”

“In the wider view the modern history of British Engineering and design is something that I think would drive most people to suicide or at the very least depression with the number of lost opportunities”

MRA4 is a grand candidate for the latter. On sheer numbers, since British aerospace was pretty well eviscerated by the Eighties on, I think the Yanks and French have the UK beat on “silly buggers,” and an entire generation of MiGs (particularly 23 and 25) fall under the heading. But the real problem is your second point. Plenty, plenty of opportunities and there continue to be. But
– The Powers that Am in the UK, the serious ones that dominate political economy and the political types of both right and left, still have a deep unease with nakedly practical things like building good tech
– From really 1918 on (read a good history of the Slump or two in case this sounds newer than that) the financial sector, heavily embedded in weaving credit out of empire and embedded even further in the old-boy networks, did its level best to call the shots on Britain’s overall economic direction (right after the war with enormous impetus in engineering and R&D, under the most genuinely social-democratic Labour government ever, an awful lot of policy — and I read the onion-paper copies of the minutes in the PRO in a past life — was about maintaining sterling as a go-to banker’s currency, knocking down consumer prices, and keeping up London’s position as a commodities-trading mecca. Now those are all useful, but in the end other nations had better resources to make a play for those roles and it unbalanced the economy horribly. Not much sign of “we could be to the Sixties what South Korea is now to the 21st Century.”)
– And of course, though this hits companies worldwide, British firms dealing in R&D are notorious for raiding those research budgets to help post dividends

Chris again,

Looking back now it’s very interesting to see how allergic everybody was, in government or at least parts of the private sector, right or left in their politics, to smaller and potentially agile. Big, centralised organisations were going to Fix The World’s Problems. So kludge English Electric and Vickers (via Supermarine) into BAC. You look at that kind of logic compared to, say, British naval shipbuilding in its heyday (say 1880s-ish to 1945) and have to wonder. Yes it’s less stable, but you have fierce competition to develop ideas, real drivers to establish a quality of performance (sure you can grease palms and cut corners, but if your rival actually makes something better and sells it elsewhere people will notice), and a variety of companies contributing to the old GDP pot. If you want steering from above, why not move one company or another towards an export role, turning out “Elswick cruisers” of the skies, and others to compete for HMG’s work. Or, when you’re on the edge between generations of tech as TSR.2 was, go the pre-dreadnought route and pump out a few technology demonstrators to see what works best, look at your enemies’ responses, and respond in turn? Oh well.

Loved the clips. Forwarded the newsreel every which way.

jackstaff
jackstaff
March 31, 2011 3:45 am

Shipbuilding in its *modern* heyday, I should say, hearts of oak and all that ;-)

jackstaff
jackstaff
March 31, 2011 3:24 pm

Chris just above,

Sounds good to me, since it’s a dominant airframe design/airpower strategy story in the present. Great idea. I’m sure the rest of the crowd feel the same esp. given the subject.

Phil Darley
March 31, 2011 8:04 pm

Excellent post… What this says to me more than
Anything us that thus country gas some of the best minds in the world. We must recapture the spirit to believe on our own abilities and then follow it through.

We have become scared of our own shadow or go put it bluntly, afraid of failure. It was quoted on radio 2 it may have been that trendy professor who used to play keyboards with D-Ream who said if the UK increased it’s funding of science and technology by £3 billion a year it could on the world!!!!

Too often we have given away works beating technology. Now more than anytime in our past
We need to invest in ourselves and kick-start our manufacturing base. Perhaps this could start with an all new Nimrod replacement.all that was wrong with the MRA4 by all accounts was the airframe. Well let’s build a new one , maybe using the A340 as a basis, everything else has been tested. Build it at Woodord the home of the Vulcan. I can see the Sun headlines nowzz

jackstaff
jackstaff
March 31, 2011 11:13 pm

Phil,

You’re on. No, seriously. What’s the name of the ginger group to be?

jackstaff
jackstaff
April 1, 2011 9:40 pm

Chris,

No laughs here. I look at the Replica and see the 5th-generation Eurofighter. Forget F-35 and get moving on that as Typhoon replacement and some kind of Taranis-derived small bomber-ish aircraft. Merlin engines of a sort for the new century?

jackstaff
jackstaff
April 2, 2011 12:17 am

Chris,

Yup. Much as the Short Belfast (now *there’s* the one that makes me scream at the skies like Father Ted after a really bad day) would have been a turboprop C-17 with a few decades to get the range extended, Replica was a chance to have a British-based “Eurofighter” project with clear advantages on method, process, and efficiencies in cost (not necessarily lower costs to start, but more efficient and hopefully then more manageable costs) over Dave. Truly a modern Spitfire.

13th spitfire
April 2, 2011 12:45 pm

Chris B,

I’d never seen the BAE Replica before but that looks amazing. Now I know a thing or two about the aerospace and I wonder why there is an orange ball on the tip of the replica?

Normally what you do with wind tunnel models is to cover the sharp parts -the cone tip- with stuff like that. Why haven’t they taken it off?!

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 2, 2011 12:59 pm

RE “Why haven’t they taken it off?!”
– putting it up there was contracted out, and that orange-y thing was not in the contract?

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
April 4, 2011 1:50 pm

@ Chris B.

Just adding my chorus to the cries of “bravo”.

I fear I am going to look back at the Eurofighter as on of thos silly bugger moments. I still look at the EAP demonstrator and wonder why we didn’t just have the balls to go it alone. It first flew in 1986, so add 5 years to get it fully into service and we would have had it just in time for Gulf War I!

The MoD (and variuos ministries before it) have never been able to run a project properly. My feeling is that mission creep always destroys complex projects because they take so long – it took from 1945 to 1956 for the FAA to get the Scimitar into the air, and at one point it had straight wings and no undercarriage (deliberately!)

Someone in the projects office should have the authority and willingness to use it to just say “no, we’ll add that for the mk2 version” once the design is frozen. Too many times in the past have projects been ballsed up due to Companies playing the “ah, but now we can make it do *this*, if you pay us more” game, over enthusiastic Service chiefs wanting the new toy to do *more* for the same money and finally HMG fretting that the project will be obsolete before it flies/sails/drives due to some learned assessment coming out of a think-tank.

No one re-writes specs, or contracts once the project has started, yet this is exactly what most minstries do on a regular basis. With the technical projects (MoD, Transport, IT) it just messes the whole think up and results in a late cancellation of the project and a whole lot of public money being dropped down a hole. Makes me mad :-(

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
April 5, 2011 11:11 am

B.

As I understand it, during the ’50s & ’60s the Air Ministry and MoD after it had a rotating tour of Officers in the procurement side helping to draw up specs for future projects.

Unfortunately, the officers who were posted in were posted out before the projects they were advising on were completed. Thus when their replacements arrived they usually tried to “make their mark” by tweaking the project specs to reflect their own operational thinking. Hey presto instant project creep!

I’m not sure what the case is today, but I’d definitely be of a mind to involve the relevent service in drawing up the target and requirements (the AST and ASR phase in TSR.2’s case), but then lock down the project spec once a winning design was chosen and only allow variations due to design difficulties or technological obselescence of components (compared to what is available in the final pre-prod. version)

Funny, it all sounds so simple, doesn’t it (at least to me, who’s managed a few projects). So I wonder what’s causing the spanner in the works on so many projects (not just MoD ones)?

x
x
May 4, 2011 7:11 pm

The Airfix TSR2 was quite a popular base for the What If? modellers. Um. When you see TSR2 you forget that its rather blunt nose isn’t how it would have been in service.

Tim McLelland
Tim McLelland
January 19, 2012 12:35 am

Glad you liked my TSR2 book. I agreed to write it because I wanted to set the record straight on this subject as I had become frustrated at all the garbage which has been peddled about this story for so long. The book has been hugely successful (not that I’m on commission – alas!) so at least we now have a “definitive” book on the subject.

The basic conclusion of the story is that a complex warplane is undoubtedly impressive, but ultimately it’s often unaffordable. The lesson of TSR2 was that it is sometimes best to accept this fact before one proceeds too far with a project. Likewise, it is vital that the customer knows what he wants, and also that he doesn’t change his requirements… and also that it is impossible to create an aircraft which can successfully handle a variety of conflicting tasks unless one has a bottomless pocket.

The other vital point which seems to still not have been learned, is that the Government should not allow inter-service politics to influence procurement. Tragically, they are still doing this even now, which is why we’re buying aircraft carriers and aircraft which we can’t afford and don’t even need. Some things never change!