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Old 19th Sep 2010, 14:10   #1 (permalink)
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Where to find the truth about the TSR-2?

Can anybody direct me to reliable sources for dispassionate discussion of the TSR-2 story? What I have seen so far is hysterical discussion by nonpilot enthusiasts, many of them claiming the aircraft was the victim of the wildest conspiracy theories--British PMs being secret Commies, people being paid off by Kelly Johnson, etc. etc.

Nor have I seen a word written anywhere by an actual, experienced tactical fast-mover pilot. It seems to all be blather by 70-year-old lords or 20-year-old flightsim players...

I'm not just curious, I'm doing research for an article I'll be writing for Aviation History Magazine.
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Old 19th Sep 2010, 14:46   #2 (permalink)
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I'm nearly 70 but not a lord. I don't think you're likely to find the whole truth anywhere and certainly not on this forum - it's been done to death here if you care to browse for snippets. Roly Beamont (TSR2 test pilot) wrote a good book about TSR2 (Phoenix to Ashes) - a good start. Chapman Pincher was a good and pretty reliable investigative journalist of the time and he had some interesting things to say about the skullduggery within Harold Wilson's Labour Party with regard to TSR2. I remember CP reporting that the Labour minister (name I forget) being told by Dennis Healey (Defence Sec) just before a major speech on the future of TSR2 that 'its wings had just fallen off at Farnborough'. He deliberately didn't mention that they'd stayed on twice as long as expected - design factor x 2.
There's a lot of other evidence to suggest that Wilson and Healey were secret 'commies' who systematically destroyed Britain's aircraft industry and screwed the economy but that's outside the scope of your book. I mention that only because I believe that alleged conspiracies should be properly investigated. It seems that the moment anyone mentions 'conspiracy' they're branded a lunatic and discredited - sometimes they just disappear. How strange, maybe that's how the conspirators, with their unlimited resources and total lack of ethics, get away with it.
Good luck with your research - as one of the pilots of the era who joined the RAF hoping to fly TSR2, I'd like to know the real truth.
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Old 19th Sep 2010, 16:24   #3 (permalink)
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Devil Muggers' Buddle ?

There are so many questions that "the" real TSR2 story is hardly likely to be found, surely. Questions like:
(not in any particular order of importance) ...

- The interference of Lord Mountbatten when First Sea Lord
- The horror among left-wingers at anything capable of carrying nukes
- Government blackmail of aircraft firms reluctant to merge
- The long-standing influence of Wedgie Benn lobbying on behalf of firms in the Bristol area, leading to government insistence on the Olympus being chosen to power the aircraft, rather than a RR proposal said to have been the designers' preference
- Incompatibilities between Weybridge and Warton design and drawing methods
- Unwillingness of the two companies' managements to work together in this forced marriage
- US pressure to select the F/B 111 for the job - specially on the Australians)
- See the Concorde story for the Civil Service's idea of attendants at meetings
Etc, etc, etc

PS. TSR2 without the internal bomb bay gives a shorter fuselage, made shorter by fitting RR engines;
Swing the wings rather than blowing the flaps for the STO function;
add international cooperation and ...
you get ...
And yet another shining example of British (gov't and company) managements' propensity for (see title) at the time.

Tongue somewhat in cheek, of course ...
And yes, I was one of many in the Service who very much hoped to fly TSR2.
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Old 19th Sep 2010, 16:36   #4 (permalink)
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Questions like - what was its job? Tactical strike? In an aircraft as expensive as that, and as complicated to maintain?
Enormously expensive undercarriage for operating from short/rough strips ... where exactly?
Can anyone actually say what its role in the RAF in the 60s and 70s would be?
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Old 19th Sep 2010, 16:47   #5 (permalink)
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You could do worse than have a read of this new book

TSR.2: Britain's Lost Cold War Strike Aircraft: Amazon.co.uk: Tim McLelland: Books

I think the author has looked pretty closely at the facts
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Old 19th Sep 2010, 17:57   #6 (permalink)
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Where to find the truth about the TSR-2?
Can anybody direct me to reliable sources for dispassionate discussion of the TSR-2 story? What I have seen so far is hysterical discussion by nonpilot enthusiasts, many of them claiming the aircraft was the victim of the wildest conspiracy theories--British PMs being secret Commies, people being paid off by Kelly Johnson, etc. etc.

Nor have I seen a word written anywhere by an actual, experienced tactical fast-mover pilot. It seems to all be blather by 70-year-old lords or 20-year-old flightsim players...

I'm not just curious, I'm doing research for an article I'll be writing for Aviation History Magazine.
With that attitude we don't need yet another TSR2 article, thank you very much.

Why would an "actual, experienced fast-mover pilot" opinion be any wiser than the "non-pilots" who ordered it, designed it, built it and cut it up?
There has been plenty of "dispassionate discussion" about it. But that is boring to many "aviation writers", who want to rake up the "hysterical discussion", which they think will bring in more readers.

The "truth" will never be entirely known but enough is surely known to show this was just another project, filled with ideas both great and not so great, but which overall, rightly or wrongly, failed to gain the confidence of the people paying for it - the Government of the time. Masses of information is available to anyone who seriously want to put the time in to study it - which you don't appear to want to do.

So why not go write about UFOs or something?
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Old 19th Sep 2010, 18:59   #7 (permalink)
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If you can get hold of a copy of "Tarnish 6" - The Biography of Test Pilot James L. Dell OBE... that will give you some good info on the TSR 2 project. He was one of the English Electric Test Pilots that actually flew the TSR 2. The book has a chapter on the development and demise of the project.

Additionally, the October issue of "Aircraft" Magazine has a 7 page article on the "Death of the TSR 2" (the article pretty much covers everything, it was written by the author of the book mentioned previsouly in Thunderbird167's post.)
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Old 19th Sep 2010, 23:04   #8 (permalink)
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Thank you, PoC, I've ordered the Airplane issue.

Glad everybody doesn't think my "attitude" disqualifies from researching and writing about this issue, a job I've been doing, on various subjects, since 1960--probably rather longer than Al the Driver has been doing his work. Indeed, I suspect I've been flying longer than he has, and the many tac pilots I know give me somewhat greater confidence in their opinions about airplanes than do those of the ground-pounders.
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Old 20th Sep 2010, 09:03   #9 (permalink)
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If you go on the MoD RAF website there's a link to the RAF Historical Society (RAFHS), on that there's a link to the RAFHS Archive where you can download a copy of 'TSR2 In Hindsight' - well worth a read!
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Old 20th Sep 2010, 10:00   #10 (permalink)
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As for FJ pilots with insight, John Farley has given his views, which seem spot on to little me.

With a bit of luck he might read this, I don't wish to quote him; for me, 'if it looks right it is right' - and TSR2 don't look at all right...
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Old 20th Sep 2010, 11:46   #11 (permalink)
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"Ground-pounders", "tactical fast-mover pilots". Where do you get this stuff from, stepwilk??

Remind me again, just how many "tac pilots" got to actually fly a TSR2?

I say again: if you're going to rubbish opinion because it comes from a non-pilot who helped design and build it, yet treat as Gospel the opinion of a pilot who wasn't born at the time, don't bother writing about it.

Oh! and I'll take a punt on the "mine's bigger than yours" jibe. Any advance on 8/64? And yes, I was there.
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Old 20th Sep 2010, 16:25   #12 (permalink)
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Not just a matter of taste

So, being at the time an aspiring TSR2 pilot (among many) engaged in low-level work, I reckoned it was a real good-looking thoroughbred, with a performance to gasp at and e n j o y ...
As for a "complicated and expensive" undercarriage - try for example the Victor's set-up - retracting up into a box the size of the "wheel chassis" (and very often, at least in its early service life, things called "tip hooks" would fail to engage so the wheels wouldn't go up when you wanted them to and you'd waste what could have been a productive sortie just getting down to Max. landing weight). (Nobody's perfect).
And then look at other designers' solutions (DeH 146 perhaps, Belvedere -with its history - or various Tupolev designs among many others) to the problem of tucking the wheels away tidily while leaving room for fuel and "stuff" ... T'isn't easy ...

P.S. Tornado's system looks eerie too,perhaps but it doesn't have to leave room for a bomb bay

Memory tells me that the TSR2 nose undercarriage had a lengthening function, to give it the necessary angle of attack for short take-offs (see several naval aircraft too), should it be needed (to be determined by fight testing). As far as operating bases went, there were several potentially suitable airfields with runways too short for, e.g. Hunters, in the east of West Germany, and I can think of one at least further west with PSP runway and taxiways, while suitable stretches of autobahn would have come in handy (as Jaguar drivers will remember).
"TSR2 - Phoenix or Folly" by Frank Burnett-Jones is also a "good read", even if somewhat coloured by understandable anger.
Meanwhile, back to contemplation of the 1/72 scale of the elegant and purposeful TSR2 on my mantelshelf ...

Last edited by Jig Peter; 20th Sep 2010 at 18:09. Reason: Afterthoughts
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Old 20th Sep 2010, 16:55   #13 (permalink)
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At least TSR2 flew, unlike Hawker's P1129.....

But what chance did it have, given the behaviour of 'Dickie' Mountbottom decrying it at every opportunity, Zuckerman the Chief Scientific Advisor to the MoD with a clear prejudice for US technology - and a left-wing Labour government.

I too had hoped to fly TSR2 - but it was cancelled about a year before I won my RAF Scholarship.....

Mountbottom even dissuaded the RAAF from buying the TSR2 - they had to wait another 10 years for their 'Pigs', which are only now leaving RAAF service.

Last edited by BEagle; 21st Sep 2010 at 09:14.
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Old 20th Sep 2010, 20:15   #14 (permalink)
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The "truth" will probably be released mid-2060s onwards.

What could the earliest development of the TSR-2 do? Outpace a Lightning with minimal effort perhaps? Yes. Did the USSR have anything that could "out-intercept" the Lightning in the mid-1960s? No, IMHO. Did the TSR-2 therefore threaten to substantially alter the balance of power in Europe? Yes. Did the US fear that the USSR could copy TSR-2 tech? Undoubtably, which may or may not provide some validation for the destruction of the airframes.

Or was it just too expensive? We'll know all the answers by 2070
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Old 20th Sep 2010, 21:08   #15 (permalink)
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Mountbatten's official biography by Philip Ziegler contains some interesting passages regarding Mountbatten's attitude to the TSR 2.

Early in November [1957] Sandys [Duncan Sandys Minister of Defence whose Defence White Paper of February 1957 was regarded by many in the military as a recipe for disaster] visited Portsmouth, dined aboard the Victory and went on to spend the weekend at Broadlands. ‘This will be my first chance of a really quiet spell alone with him,’ announced Mountbatten in his newsletter. ‘Wish me luck!’ This was why even the most hostile admirals had recognized that Mountbatten had something to offer the Navy which nobody else could provide; no other First Sea Lord would have had the style, the status or, for that matter, the country house to entertain the Minister of Defence and deal with him on equal terms. ‘We got on very well,’ Mountbatten told Patricia, ‘too well, I fear.’ He underestimated his achievement. No firm bargains were struck but when the weekend was over it was more or less agreed that, if Sandys would accept the larger Navy of 88,000 men, Mountbatten would agree that west of Suez the aircraft-carriers would concentrate on an anti-submarine role. An extra aircraft-carrier was bought for the price of closing some naval air-stations and the commando-carrier got the Minister’s blessing. The only serious disagreement came over the aircraft the Navy was to use in future operations. The Navy wanted the NA 39 - the Buccaneer, a fast, low-flying aircraft that would come in to attack below the enemy’s radar cover. The Air Force said that this would no doubt do for sailors but that they needed their own aircraft - the heavier, more sophisticated and more expensive TSR 2. Sandys at first insisted that the two Services must use the same aircraft and only after nine months allowed development to proceed on both models. The resultant controversy lingered on for nearly a decade, cost the nation a king’s ransom and gave Mountbatten occasion, time and time again, to employ to the full his talents as a fighter in the Whitehall jungle
Mountbatten - Relations with Solly Zuckerman

Edward Playfair [in 1960] was the newly appointed Permanent Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, occupant of the office that, under Sandys, had seemed to the Chiefs of Staff to be gaining dangerously in importance.
Solly Zuckerman, the Minister’s Chief Scientific Adviser and Mountbatten’s old ally from Combined Operations, had been lured back from academic life by the promise of fresh worlds to conquer. He complemented Mountbatten admirably. Sceptical, iconoclastic, analytical yet brilliantly perceptive, he both fuelled the C.D.S. with the ideas that were to shape Britain’s defence policy over the next five years and acted as a brake on Mountbatten’s more impetuous extravagances. The ‘Zuk-Batten Axis’ dominated its section of Whitehall. Some people have sought to represent Zuckerman as a puppet-master pulling the strings of a personable but vacuous Admiral, others see him as Mountbatten’s creature and hatchet-man. One image is as false as the other. Both men were self-willed and inclined to arrogance; each respected the other’s intelligence and abilities; each accepted that, if the other disagreed strongly with his ideas, there was at least a case for re-examination. They composed a partnership, the sum of which was greater than the parts.
Battle for TSR 2

It was not only defence reorganization that embittered Mountbatten’s relationship with his colleagues. It was the function of the C.D.S. to be above the inter-Service rivalries that occasionally racked the Chiefs of Staff, in the same way as the Minister of Defence was above the conflicts that divided the Service Ministers. The Minister of Defence, however, was a politician whose first loyalty was to his party and Cabinet colleagues; the C.D.S. had spent all his working life in one of the three bodies between which he was now supposed to arbitrate. In such circumstances total objectivity was too much to hope for but an approximation to it was expected. Dickson had been generally accepted as impartial; Mountbatten was another matter, if only because his temperament and the active role which he pursued made him far more conspicuous than his predecessor.
The main clashes of interest came usually between the Navy and the Air Force. Boyle and Pike were convinced that Mountbatten abused his position to obtain advantage for his beloved Navy. More objectively, the Minister of Defence, Harold Watkinson, felt that the C.D.S. had never really shed his naval aura. Yet Alfred Earle, himself an airman and, as Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, well placed to judge his chief’s proclivities, believed that Mountbatten was as nearly impartial on inter-Service issues as it was possible for him to be.
However innocent or guilty Mountbatten may have been, he could have behaved more tactfully. By May 1960 the faithful Brockman was so alarmed at the envenomed atmosphere that he warned the C.D.S. that Pike was disturbed ‘because he thinks you have been handling recent meetings in a dictatorial manner’. In general, Brockman went on, ‘he is believed to be upset at the part you have played in stating the Navy’s case recently’. A C.D.S. must not only be fair, but must be seen to be fair; in this Mountbatten failed. Whether he was indeed unfair is largely a matter of semantics. On two or three of the major issues that divided Navy and Air Force, Mountbatten took the Navy’s side, but these were matters which he believed to be of critical importance, far transcending any mere inter-Service squabble. Should he, for instance, have remained neutral in the great battle over the TSR 2 and the Buccaneer? Mountbatten was convinced that, if the Air Force was allowed to pursue the exaggeratedly expensive TSR 2, they would bankrupt the defence budget and still not end up with the aircraft desired. He thought it essential that Navy and Air Force should standardize on the Buccaneer, an aircraft of lesser performance but vastly cheaper, more readily available and already largely proven. This, he felt, was an issue on which an impartial C.D.S. must decide the best course and fight to impose it. To the Air Force, however, he was displaying not impartiality but wanton favouritism - a naval man supporting a naval plane at the expense of the rival Service.
Mountbatten did his best to oppose the TSR 2 without appearing to do so. First he tried to persuade Solly Zuckerman to lobby the Minister of Defence. He drafted a paper which he suggested the Scientific Adviser might send to Watkinson and scribbled in pencil in a covering note: ‘This is the first occasion on which your action is absolutely vital to the Country’s Defence Policy, and to save the Minister from making a ghastly mistake. You know why I can’t help you in Public. It is NOT moral cowardice but fear that my usefulness as Chairman would be seriously impaired. BURN THIS!’ Evidently Zuckerman alone did not carry big enough guns to carry the day. Ten days later Mountbatten approached Watkinson direct, in a hand-written letter delivered at the Minister’s house:

In the context of the present Defence Organisation I am afraid I have had to make a choice between giving you what I believe to be correct advice and destroying my value to you as the impartial Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, in view of my known opposition to the TSR 2 when First Sea Lord.
I have tried to get round this by giving you my extremely strong views in private about the TSR2-NA39 controversy; but, as I warned you, I did not intend to repeat these views so emphatically in public as to cause a rupture between C.A.S. and myself.
Nor do I intend to do propaganda with the other two Chiefs of Staff, which could cause bad feeling between them and Tom Pike as well.

Mountbatten then recapitulated the arguments for the NA39, or Buccaneer, and against the TSR 2. If he had been Chief of Air Staff, he said, he would either have gone for an improved Buccaneer or for some radically new innovation like Barnes Wallis’s Variable geometry’ plane.
So you can see what a difficult decision I have had to make - should I publicly fight the Air Ministry and thus damage the present C.O.S. organisation, or should I let them persist in pushing through a scheme I believe to be a formidable waste of money, and which may never come into service.
What has come out of my dilemma is a firm conviction that by the end of the year the Prime Minister and you will have to set up an investigation into the whole organisation of defence. I shall leave it to my colleagues while I am away to try and work out proposals for handling this investigation

Mountbatten’s somewhat transparent deviousness gained him little; the Air Force had no doubt that he was leading the attack upon their favourite project, and merely added duplicity to the other charges against him. They took it for granted that, whenever anything went wrong, the C.D.S. was responsible. Quite often they were right. In March 1962 George Edwards of the British Aircraft Corporation, the firm building the TSR 2, did an excellent job selling his aeroplane to Sir Frederick Scherger, the Australian Chief of Defence Staff. Next year Scherger visited London, saw Mountbatten and Zuckerman, and left — according to the somewhat engage historian of the project - with his enthusiasm for the TSR 2 mysteriously diminished. At lunch with Julian Amery, the Air Minister, Scherger is said to have asked pointedly ‘why Earl Mountbatten was opposed to the project’. Lord Zuckerman denies that anything he said could have disillusioned Scherger, and a transcript of Mountbatten’s talk with the Australian would probably prove similarly innocuous. Even when he wanted to, however, the C.D.S. was inept at concealing his feelings. It would have been surprising if Scherger had left his office without a clear impression of his dislike for the whole affair.
Mountbatten overplayed his hand. Watkinson, who anyway felt that the Buccaneer could not match the Air Force’s requirements, finally became so weary of the C.D.S.’s importunities that he ordered him never to mention the subject again. Mountbatten obeyed. It was not till several years and many millions of pounds later that the then Minister of Defence, Denis Healey, finally abandoned the enterprise. ‘One of the tragedies of the aerospace industry is that the R.A.F. didn’t buy the Buccaneer and develop it when it first came out,’ wrote Healey, ‘but they were determined to have their own aircraft.’ On the whole this judgement has stood the test of time. Mountbat­ten today seems more nearly right than his Air Force opponents. His tactics, however, were questionable. He pushed his campaign against the TSR 2 to the limit of the scrupulous, some would say beyond it. The hostility that he generated was to cause him serious problems in the following years.
This was by no means the only case in which Mountbatten seemed to the Air Force to be unacceptably prejudiced. The long-drawn-out battle over the future of Coastal Command came to a head shortly after Mountbatten became C.D.S……
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Old 20th Sep 2010, 21:20   #16 (permalink)
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Links from FZ's post

TSR-2 with hindsight: http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research...0Hindsight.pdf

Journals: RAF Historical Society Journals

Edit: hindsight link only appears to work as right click and download, I know not why..
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Old 20th Sep 2010, 22:04   #17 (permalink)
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If you're looking for a comprehensive account of the true TSR2 story, there's a new book coming out on 4th October TSR2 - Britain's Lost Bomber

With 336 pages of in-depth research and archive photos it covers ground that other researchers didn't realise existed.
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Old 20th Sep 2010, 22:49   #18 (permalink)
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Many thanks for that ... I had to dash so didn't have time to properly link my post!
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Old 21st Sep 2010, 09:49   #19 (permalink)
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You may find more information in the Hansard archives which have details of the debates in the house of commons. Link below:
House of Commons Debates - Hansard - Archive

If there is a specific question you need answered under the freedom of information act this site may be of help:
WhatDoTheyKnow - make and browse Freedom of Information (FOI) requests
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Old 21st Sep 2010, 09:51   #20 (permalink)
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Did I see the TSR2?

Slightly off topic. I attended a family day at Warton in the early 60's with my uncle who worked there, I'd have been 11 or 12, so summer '64 or '65.

My memory convinces me that I saw the TSR2 in the static display.

I also recall Saudi Lightnings on the production line.

My uncle passed away years ago, so I cannot prod him for help.

Was I imagining this? Anyone confirm or deny?
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