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Interesting documentary on the TSR-2


Found this on Youtube:

Quite interesting, however it is very one-sided. They neglect the fact that, by the time TSR-2 would've been in service, it would have been replaced by ICBMs. I suppose the uproar was triggered by the fact that everything was destroyed and burned.


That was a very interesting presentation, thanks for posting. It reminds me of Canada's Avro Arrow project, which seemed to suffer a very similar fate.

We may choose to not pursue a technology or achievement, but we DO NOT destroy it, and disrespect those who laboured on it. How would we ever attract a skilled workforce to develop improved technology if the work agreement said: "... and we might decide to completely destroy you hard work, for no good reason."

I would not apply to that work....

Home runway, in central Ontario, Canada

If memory serves me correctly the decision to "destroy" EVERYTHING about this fabulous aircraft was taken by Harold Wilson. It now seems that he was investigated by the security services a number of times, even though he was PM. As pilot dar says - why destroy a very advanced project? I also remember an interview from that era when a reporter asked a senior Russian military man his views, the reply was "we would love to buy it." ICBM capability in my view would not have affected the frankly unbelievable power of the TSR2 and the spin off for Gt Britain would have been immeasurable, of course if the politicians had not given away all the technology as they so frequently do. Why did Wilson destroy this?

UK, United Kingdom

Why did Wilson destroy this?

A guy selling TSR2 titanium rivets at Duxford for 0.50p (think he said they cost £100 each at the time or something stupid) said Wilson cancelled due pressure from America - "don't develop that as it's too good and will 'knock' our world sales. We'll stop selling you other 'advanced' military hardware (rockets etc.) if you don't comply"

The straw that broke the camels back - the UK government were already concerned about the cost.

Take it or leave it.

Regret no current medical
Sandtoft EGCF, North England, United Kingdom

To what extent was it actually destroyed?

I've seen the prototype. The designs still exist - there was someone proposed a modernised version around 1980. The early production airframes were destroyed (perhaps just as well as IIRC they were made out of an alloy that would have proved prone to early fatigue). The jigs were destroyed though I think not some of the concrete formers. Some of the R&D went into Concorde and the Tornado.

Still a real shame that they didn't carry on with the aircraft.

They seem to have destroyed most of the airframes, parts and jigs, but clearly not all since there is a whole one in the museum at Duxford.

I recall reading about it at school, in the UK, c. 1969-70. They had loads of problems with the avionics and with the computers for the terrain following radar. This stuff was vital because, at the time, its primary purpose was to deliver a single nuclear bomb deep into the USSR. In those days, electronics took up a lot of room and dissipated huge amounts of heat. The whole volume behind the cockpit - at a guess several cubic metres - was packed with electronics. This needed supporting systems to power it and to extract the heat. Today you get 10x more raw computing power (MIPS) in a smartphone. But I don't believe any of that stuff actually worked by the time the TSR2 was scrapped. They were flying a basic twin jet. Maybe it had an autopilot?

A decade later it would have been a lot easier. Actually more like two decades later because the UK military always bought well made but obsolete electronics, developed by grand old British safe-job-for-life companies who billed everything at cost-plus and had zero incentive to stick to a budget. I recall, c. 1978, doing some visits to what later became British Aerospace, and the technology, while at least using transistors in place of valves, was early 1960s. It wasn't all that reliable either; I recall reading that during the Falklands war (1982) most of the SAMs (stored for years in some warehouse) didn't actually go off.

The much later Nimrod project was plagued by the same heat and size issues for its computers, which shows how little changes in military electronics. That was mostly ancient Marconi gear; the company got wiped out by some fly by night financiers a bit later.

I guess that, with ICBMs and later the much more versatile cruise missiles, the TSR2 would have been "re-positioned" like the F111 (which dates back to the same era as the TSR2) and later the Eurofighter were - with, ahem, varying degrees of success as some say...

They should have continued with the R&D and used the spinoffs - just like the USA got massive technological spinoffs from Gemini and Apollo. But it now seems to have been a bridge too far in radar and computing technology. I am sure a lot of the people who worked on it moved to later projects which benefited.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom


They destroyed everything. The jigs and all the tooling was cut up with gas axes, the already built airframes, including the single example that flew (also the second prototype's maiden flight was slated for the day when the project was cancelled, so that never flew), were dismantled and everything put on a pile and set alight. The one on display at Duxford is constructed from the only parts that were saved.

Being mostly magnesium, it burned rather well.

Is it pure magnesium, or some alloy?

At home I often machine parts from what I think is pure magnesium (I bought a load of ingots from a chinese metal suppliers who sells them to laptop makers, for casting the cases) and while the stuff is really light, it also has hardly any strength. And it corrodes like there was no tomorrow.

Titanium is something else entirely but I doubt the UK had the technology at the time to fabricate it. The Americans developed that for the SR71, around the same time, but that was top secret.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
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