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Old 15th Jan 2011, 17:13   #1 (permalink)
 
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Effectiveness of Firestreak and Red Top missiles?

I'm currently researching the aforementioned weapons in respect of their employment (historically - the missiles were withdrawn from use over 20 years ago) on RAF and RN aircraft (and technically Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti Lightnings).

I have some good performance stats on the Firestreak but little on Redtop, these would include range parameters by altitude, angle off limits, sun dead zones, manuever limitations, launch aircraft acceleration limits with single or mutli missile carriage, launch success rates etc etc.

I'm happy to post what I have so far, but would really appreciate if anyone with technical knowledge of these weapons has any of the above information.

Many thanks.
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Old 15th Jan 2011, 19:20   #2 (permalink)
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I have a large copy of the last ever Redtop firing still in its packaging if its of any help
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Old 15th Jan 2011, 23:03   #3 (permalink)
 
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Having fired a couple, filmed quite a few, and analysed many others; I concluded that both Firestreak and Red Top were very effective weapons for their era - considering the constraints in design and manufacture (valves and clockwork motors).
The IR detectors and homing head technology probably led the world – I recall reports of an incident in the US involving difficulties in returning a F/S head to the UK.

Air-to-air weapons development advanced rapidly in the post war years, as such F/S & R/T soon appeared to be less capable than competing systems. This might have been true for maximum range or angle-off capability, but there were many mitigating advantages, notably that F/S & R/T worked (high launch success rate), they were accurate, and with their intelligent fusing systems and large warheads ensured a high probability of a ‘kill’.


Jack – splashes ! Firestreak warhead round, Mach 1.3 launch against 48000+ ft target.

I don’t recall any carriage or launch restrictions on Lightning aircraft; both single shot and pairs (ripple) firings were approved throughout the aircraft speed / height / g envelope.
F/S had a sun exclusion angle of about 4 deg, and a very good cloud edge inhibition.
I don’t know about R/T, it used a different sensor.
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Old 17th Jan 2011, 06:52   #4 (permalink)
 
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aaaaah de Havilland.
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Old 17th Jan 2011, 10:26   #5 (permalink)
 
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I remember the call "Guns min range closing for Redtop"
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Old 26th Jan 2011, 23:09   #6 (permalink)
 
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from the pilots notes:
fiirestreak launch Parameters:
300KIAS-1.7M
up to 55k ft
a up to 3g
4g limitation for the Lightning (subsonic) 3g above with one missile remaining

RT:

almost identical to above cept for a 4g launch limitation (up 1g compared to the streak)

further limitations with AAR probe fitted.

hope this helps
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Old 27th Jan 2011, 01:50   #7 (permalink)
 
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ARXW, I assume that you refer to the pilots notes for the Lightning; which mark?
Also, could you check the 300kts figure; this is surprising as I recall test firings from at least 480kts.
Also, IIRC all restrictions of firing with the probe fitted were cancelled.
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Old 27th Jan 2011, 09:35   #8 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
Having fired a couple, filmed quite a few, and analysed many others; I concluded that both Firestreak and Red Top were very effective weapons for their era - considering the constraints in design and manufacture (valves and clockwork motors).
The IR detectors and homing head technology probably led the world – I recall reports of an incident in the US involving difficulties in returning a F/S head to the UK.

Air-to-air weapons development advanced rapidly in the post war years, as such F/S & R/T soon appeared to be less capable than competing systems. This might have been true for maximum range or angle-off capability, but there were many mitigating advantages, notably that F/S & R/T worked (high launch success rate), they were accurate, and with their intelligent fusing systems and large warheads ensured a high probability of a ‘kill’.
Pretty much in a Nutshell.

I worked a spell at MPC Valley, first in the Missile Site itself and later in Operations; the MPC was not simply each squadron shooting off a few missiles every year but also a technical evaluation of missile reliability and home base maintenance (missiles and aircraft systems); in fact, the whole package of maintenance and pilot capability went through the hoop with generally very impressive results.

Last edited by Q-RTF-X; 27th Jan 2011 at 10:43.
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Old 27th Jan 2011, 10:01   #9 (permalink)
 
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Safetypee

Quote:
Also, could you check the 300kts figure; this is surprising as I recall test firings from at least 480kts.
I have absolutely no experience of these missiles but I am sure this is a minimum speed (possibly due to flameout considerations due to arrangement of missiles/intakes).
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Old 27th Jan 2011, 10:02   #10 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
ARXW, I assume that you refer to the pilots notes for the Lightning; which mark?
Also, could you check the 300kts figure; this is surprising as I recall test firings from at least 480kts.
Also, IIRC all restrictions of firing with the probe fitted were cancelled.
Spot on. Mk.6 pilots notes.

In terms of speed limitations I imagine, as with anything, in the notes that these are highly recommended figures I presume test firings would have been taking place at much more "heart-of-the-envelope" conditions. Speed limitation are stated in a slightly more complicated manner. Will check again later for the precise statement.

One thing I do remember (unfortunately I lost the reply! ), from the late Brian Carroll, is that the RT could indeed be launched very successfully head on and indeed he'd shot at least one under these conditions. therefore, the RT was indeed in one way at least, more than a decade ahead of its time (if not 15 years)!
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Old 27th Jan 2011, 11:20   #11 (permalink)
 
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[QUOTE][from the pilots notes:
fiirestreak launch Parameters:
300KIAS-1.7M
/QUOTE]

I've silly question here. Would the 1.7M upper limit on the Firestreak have a bearing on the official upper speed limit for the mark 1 and 2 Lightnings?

FB
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Old 27th Jan 2011, 12:49   #12 (permalink)
 
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beyond M1.2-1.3 it's all pretty academic anyway (though Brian Carroll did mention a M2.0 Lightning F6 shooting head on at a M2.0 target!) but the F1s and F2s, I mean with the short of legs they had you wouldn't need more than M1.7 anyway. In fact a missiled up Lightning I am not sure what sort of speed it could do I presume M2.0 is a reasonable maximum. So no Lightining would have been too restricted by the M1.7-1.8 limitation. But I really ought to let any Lightning pilot phrase this better. (PS I recall Porky Page in an article stating that he could never get to M2.0 in a Lightning (F6). Best he managed was M1.98 in an F6 though that was towards the end of the Lighting era in a beat up old F6 which is understandable).
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Old 27th Jan 2011, 12:53   #13 (permalink)
 
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recall the notes stating the F6 speed limit as 650kts/M2.0 but can check it later. Would that make any pilot attempting higher than that a cowboy? Recall another one stating M2.2 or M2.3 in the 80's in an F3 Lightning (Mike Hale I think).

Then again the same can be said of all those attempting alt records above the notes limit of well..much below FL870 or FL750 (some of the altitude I have heard from various sources ie 87-88,000ft or 75,000ft etc).
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Old 27th Jan 2011, 13:45   #14 (permalink)
 
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FB, 1.7M limit = aircraft speed limit for the small fin - directional stability; very logical. This may also have some relevance to the rolling ‘g’ limits which were tied to the fin size.

ARXW, thanks. I did not read 300kts as a min speed, but if so, then not too bad, but I don’t recall it.
Many of the early test firings were at the ‘edge’ – to define and validate the firing zone.
Yes the RT had a ‘good’ head-on performance against supersonic targets. The design assumed that the homing head would see a reheat plume and navigate on that, the fusing system would sort out the intercept angle and adjust accordingly; the expected threat was Blinder.
In practice, there was a limited head-on capability against kinetically heated targets – mainly supersonic, and also those with exposed jet pipes or hot fuselage vents. I recall one forward hemisphere ‘acquisition’ against a Buccaneer.
Several RTs were fired at MPC on simulated head on profiles (supersonic launch), but the realism was limited by the subsonic Jindivick target. At one time there was talk of using one of the ‘BQM’ (similar) supersonic targets either at Aberporth or at the range just off the Hebrides.

Much of the surmise on speeds is broadly correct. The lightning was at its best between M1.3 and M1.5, and could intercept all but the very highest targets from this speed range (excluding tail intercept / vis ident of Concorde).
From a legal 56,000ft limit (pressure jerkin not the aircraft), Firestreak could be expected to add a further 15,000ft capability depending on launch speed, Red Top even more.
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Old 27th Jan 2011, 13:58   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by safetypee View Post
From a legal 56,000ft limit (pressure jerkin not the aircraft), Firestreak could be expected to add a further 15,000ft capability depending on launch speed, Red Top even more.
In 1964, the FS era, the upper limit was, IIRC, 66,000ft as the pilots used the Taylor Partial Pressure helmet and pressure jerkins with sleeves.
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Old 27th Jan 2011, 20:27   #16 (permalink)
 
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Does anyone have any of the pictures of the RT breaking up caught on the G90 of XS903(?) when on 5 ?
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Old 28th Jan 2011, 09:52   #17 (permalink)
 
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I'm fairly sure that the programme selection for the AI23B/C/D on the indicator was 1 for Firestreak and the others for Redtop. I also vaguely remember that one of the functions of the Computer Red was to determine the closing speed and send the appropriate signal to the missile to fuse it for a head on or a tail shot. I was also told that Red Top would delay it's explosion on a tail shot to try to ensure it got the crew as well as the airframe. Never was quite sure if the plumbers were shooting their own line on that one!

pmills575
ex Air Radar on AI23
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Old 28th Jan 2011, 18:01   #18 (permalink)
 
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From what I remember, the Red Top was the first to incorporate a cooled seeker which gave it the capability against supersonic targets, guiding on the heat generated by skin friction. I once chased a stern shot Red Top fired by the Sqn boss at STCAAME before it became AGWOEU (Welsh for STCAAME). The first missile came off (was only meant to be one) and departed stage right. The second came off and went dead straight to the target. Shortly afterwards, the first missile took the target out as well! The analysis was that Red Top is a lazy missile!
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Old 28th Jan 2011, 23:41   #19 (permalink)
 
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The Vixen Pilot's Notes read as follows :-

Red Top Carriage 610 kts 5.5G Subsonic 4.5G Supersonic
Release .6 to .99M 5G -
Jettison 450 kts -

FStreak Carriage 610 kts 5.5G 4.5G
Release .6 to 1.1M 4G 4G
Jettison 450 kts

Slightly higher G figures than have been quoted for the Frightning, but, of course, lower speeds. Hope this is of interest.
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Old 29th Jan 2011, 01:17   #20 (permalink)
 
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pm, ‘Computer Red’ was a clever device for its time; it calculated many intercept functions and communicated with missile. Some of the functions included ‘angle between courses’ (ABC) – the intercept angle and head / tail aspect, and also in conjunction with the radar provided a target closure rate even in a jamming environment. I recall that many years later, this function was ‘invented’ in the US as angle rate bombing, but it was actually the kinematic ranging function of AI 23.

FS had an intelligent fuse as you describe, using two rings of windows to determine the optimum position to detonate the large ‘hand grenade’ warhead – next to the cockpit. FS accuracy was such that most targets would be hit, thus the back-up contact fuse would be used.
RT had a slightly different fusing arrangement, using 3 small windows and split mirrors to provide the tail aspect delay similar to your description, but also the much earlier head-on fusing. The actual fusing timing / geometry also differed from FS, as RT used an expanding ring warhead which was best detonated at the centre of the aircraft – it was designed to saw through the structure.

AB, yes from memory, RT seemed to at it best when given a challenge; perhaps that is why the head-on performance was relatively good.
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