Although the TSR-2 proved itself enough to be a successful design, the growing cost and controversy led to the controversial decision in 1965

The post-World War II jet engine era led to a series of high-performance designs at extremely high altitudes, allowing them to fly through most defenses. For example English Electric Canberra. Its large wings gave it the lift needed to operate at very high altitudes, placing it above the range where even jet powered fighters hardly reach. The Canberra could simply fly over its enemy with relative impunity, a quality that made it naturally suited to aerial reconnaissance missions.

This approach was extremely effective until the late 1950s, when the Soviet Union began to introduce its first surface-to-air missiles, which had speed and altitude performance much greater than any contemporary aircraft. The Canberra, and other high-altitude aircraft like the British V bombers or United States’ Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, were extremely vulnerable to these weapons. The solution offered was to fly lower. Because the radar operates in line-of-sight, the curvature of the Earth renders low-flying aircraft invisible beyond a certain range, the radar horizon. This led to the birth of the TSR-2 project – a reconnaissance and attack aircraft developed by the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) for the Royal Air Force.


Design work began in 1958 and the project was approved in 1959. TSR-2 made its maiden flight on September 27, 1964. The designers adopted the latest advances in swept-wing technology, with a small shoulder-mounted delta wing with down-turned tips, an all-moving swept tailplane and a large all-moving fin. Tubular fuselage with a raised spine behind the two-seat cockpit. The airintakes were well fitted behind the cockpit. The undercarriage was a traditional landing gear system with a two-wheeled nose leg and two twin-wheeled main legs.

Other parameters of the TSR-2 include: length of 89 ft (27 m), wingspan of 37 ft 2 in (11.33 m), height of 23 ft 9 in (7.24 m), empty weight of 54,750 lb (24.834 kg), maximum take-off weight is 103,500 lb (46,947 kg). In terms of armament, the TSR-2 was designed with a total weapon load of 10,000 lb (4,500 kg); 6,000 lb (2,700 kg) inside and 4,000 lb (1,800 kg) outside.

At the heart of the TSR-2 were two Bristol Siddeley Olympus Mk.320 afterburning turbojet engines, with 22,000 lbf (98 kN) of dry thrust each, and 30,610 lbf (136.2 kN) with afterburner. The aircraft could reach a top speed of Mach 2.15 at 40,000 ft (12,192 m), and Mach 1.1 at sea level, had a range of 2,500 nmi (2,900 mi, 4,600 km), a service ceiling of 40,000 ft (12,000 m) ), and a rate of climb of 15,000 ft/min (76 m/s).

The aircraft featured some extremely sophisticated avionics for navigation and mission delivery, which would also prove to be one of the reasons for the spiralling costs of the project. Some features, such as forward looking radar (FLR) and side-looking radar for navigational fixing, only became commonplace on military aircraft years later. These features allowed for an innovative autopilot system which, in turn, enabled long distance terrain-following sorties as crew workload and pilot input had been greatly reduced.


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