British Aircraft Corporation TSR-2

The TSR-2 project ran from 1957 until its cancellation in the budget speech on 5 April 1965. The origins of the project lay in the RAF's need to replace its Canberra jet bomber which faced an uncertain future after the appearance of the MiG-15 in the Soviet Union. The Ministry of Supply had originally issued Specification B126T which called for design studies of a bomber capable of carrying a six-ton nuclear store over a combat radius of 1,500 nautical miles and be capable of flying at least 0.85 Mach at low-level. The technology wasn't available at the time to fulfil B126T, but Specification M148T (written around Naval Air Staff Target 39) which was for a naval low-level strike aircraft was fulfilled by the B103 from Blackburn and went into service as the Buccaneer. Although the Buccaneer was a low-level strike aircraft, the RAF considered it too slow.

Front view of the TSR-2
Front view of the TSR-2
By 1956 the RAF had resurrected B126T and formalised it after the 1957 Defence White Paper as General Operational Requirement 339. Eight firms were invited to tender proposals, and the Air Staff came down in favour of a combination of English Electric's P17A and Vickers-Armstrong's Type 571, coming up with a new Operational Requirement 343 which virtually demanded the amalgamation of the two firms. This they did, and together with the Bristol Aeroplane Company formed the British Aircraft Corporation in 1960. They won the contract to develop a new Tactical Strike Reconnaissance (TSR) aircraft which was to be based on the P17 airframe and be powered by Bristol-Siddeley (an amalgamation of Armstrong Siddeley Motors and Bristol Aircraft Engines) Olympus 300-series engines. The choice of engines remained controversial and was probably the biggest technical hurdle the programme faced as for quite a while, any attempt to run the engines over 97 percent of thrust would cause LP shaft failure and engine disintegration.

Side view of the TSR-2
Side view of the TSR-2

The development work was carried out at Weybridge and Warton and the project was under the control of a Management Board with representatives from industry, the Ministry of Aviation and the RAF. The management process and structure proved very costly in terms of time and was unwieldy. Despite this work on the plane continued and it soon showed itself to have enormous potential and as a deep penetration system, the TSR-2 was years ahead of its time with excellent performance at both low-level and altitude, have terrain following and sideways-scanning radar, be capable of take-off and landing on surfaces only 3,000 feet long and have inertial dead-reckoning navigation. Project delays continued to mount however (as did costs) and the new Labour Government, influenced by opposed interests from the Royal Navy and Ministry of Defence cancelled the project in the belief that a cheaper solution could be bought from the United States (who also had an interest in seeing the TSR project fail as it was developing its own low-level strike aircraft, the F-111). It wasn't to be and it wasn't until 1982 with the entry into service of the Tornado that the RAF had a comparable aircraft. SEE ALSO: TSR-2: The Plane That Barely Flew (Longer articles)

TSR-2 Memories Project

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How to cite this article: Antill, P. (12 January 2001), British Aircraft Corporation TSR-2, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_tsr2.html

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