Saunders Roe SR53

Discussion in 'Post-War' started by Hobilar, Nov 4, 2007.

  1. Hobilar

    Hobilar Member

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    In the early 1950s the British Air Ministry was faced with the very real threat to the Defence of the United Kingdom posed by high flying jet bombers delivering a nuclear strike. The Ministry felt that to counter such a threat there would be a requirement for an interceptor which could reach a very high altitude with sufficient speed to be able to manoeuvre into a position from where the nuclear bombers could be attacked, before they could deliver their nuclear payload.

    The obvious answer to this dilemma was of course to use a rocket engine, but the problem with this was that rocket powered aircraft (such as the German ME163 Komet and others experimented with by the Russians) always had a very short duration of powered flight. Once its fuel had been expended it could only be expected to glide back to its base.

    Hence the Air Ministry issued Operational Requirement 301, inviting a number of aircraft manufacturers to submit designs for a simple reusable aircraft employing a rocket for the main propulsion, but with a turbojet to get home. Designs were received from the Blackburn, Westland, Fairey Aviation, Saunders Roe, AVRO and Bristol aircraft companies to the Air Ministry specifications, and after due deliberations the Saunders Roe proposal was accepted for development, with the Avro design as its backup.

    The project was almost stillborn, for the 1952 Defence cuts almost saw the project axed, but somehow it survived, although with the number of prototypes cut from three to two. Saunders Roe produced a preliminary mock-up to evaluate the design in September 1953, but such a unique and revolutionary concept would require a great deal of development work. Thus it was not until the 16 May 1957 that the first prototype SR53 (XD145) took to the air on its maiden flight,This prototype going supersonic on the 15th May 1958

    Meanwhile the English Electric company was working on a rocket powered project of its own, the English Electric F23/49, later to be developed into the supersonic English Electric Lightning jet fighter. The Royal Air Force was also having second thoughts on the desirability of rocket powered aircraft, for by that time, developments in turbojet engines design had resulted in these having a performance being only marginally (with the exception of the climb rate) less than that of a rocket. Another factor was the introduction of both the Bloodhound SAM missile and the ICBM which effectively made the original SR53 purpose obsolete.

    In December 1957 a serious setback occurred when the second prototype, piloted by test pilot, Squadron Leader John Booth who was killed in the accident, crashed and exploded at Boscombe Down having failed to take off in circumstances that were never fully explained.

    Even before this accident the SR53 project had been cancelled by the Defence cuts announced in the 1957 Government White Paper. The remaining prototype continued for a while as a test vehicle for satellite re-entry trials but its career as a fighter was effectively ended. This SR53 was finally retired to the aviation museum at RAF Cosford.
     
  2. Graeme

    Graeme Well-Known Member

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    Interesting post Holibar. Thanks.

    And this would lead onto the Saunders Roe SR.177.

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  3. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    I know this is an old thread, but I have just seen a TV documentary about Planes That Never Flew.
    In this particular episode they went over the SR177 rocket/jet fighter.
    They claimed that a major factor in the new German Airforce going for tha F104 was Lockheeds bribing of officials!
    This lead to President Jimmy Carter bringing in The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in Dec 1977. This being quite some time after the offences started, but shows how significant it was seen to be - I think 22 million dollars were used to encourage buying Lockheed designs in preference to other designs - alot of money in the 1950's.
     
  4. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    The Starfighter had a poor record in the early years - 270 planes lost and 110 pilots killed!
    This may have been in part to the lack of experienced pilots?
    But it would seem to be a handful if you had bad weather and limited experience!
     
  5. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    Duplicate post!
     
  6. Gixxerman

    Gixxerman Member

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    Hmm, a contentious can of worms for sure.
    The 'sale of the century' Starfighter deals (they sold all over Europe as well as tying up blocking European sales to other overseas markets) pretty much killed many of the individual aircraft manufacturers across Europe's efforts to sell almost anything military, forcing the survivors into amalgamation down-sizing.
    Even the French (with their resolute 'buy French' ethos) suffered.
    This led to the creation of Airbus and European involvement in civil aerospace (as well as British concentration on space communications) but besides a small number of exceptions (Jaguar, Tornado Typhoon) it effectively set European aero defence manufacturing back decades.

    Bolting together F16s and/or making small bits of F35s was no substitute.
     
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