After seeing the fruits of Russian aeronautic engineering via reverse engineering and spying, here's a chance to see how the UK had the potential to make something truly spectacular but fumbled every step. The story begins in the late 1940s; English Electric had realised the need for a modern Canberra replacement even before the official requirement for the Canberra had been issued. However, it was only in 1956 that serious consideration began in cooperation with the Ministry of Supply. At the time the MoS wanted a small, fast, strike-fighter. Official thoughts turned to developing the P.1B (soon to become the Lightning) but English Electric preferred an all-new aircraft. Studies began on both ideas, and by a month later clearer requirements were also forthcoming. What was wanted was an aircraft with a 2,000 nautical mile [ferry] range, capable of Mach 1.5 at altitude, able to carry a variety of weapons and reconaissance equipment, attack at very low level, and vertical or short take-off capability. English Electric had been working on a design designated the P.17, and this moved on from their initial layout (basically straight wings with podded engines hanging off them) to being a delta wing design with engines buried in the rear fuselage (and now designated the P.17A). Discussions began in the MoS and the RAF. Soon more specific requirements were made available - a crew of two was required, at least four and preferably six 1,000lb bombs were to be carried, and more emphasis was put on low-level performance and short take-off runs, with a preference for vertical take-off. The developed P.1B, the P.18, fell by the wayside as it was not proving to be a viable proposition. Around this time a report on the supply of military aircraft was issued by the House of Commons Select Comitte on Estimates. It included recommendations to limit the number of aerospace companies by forcing them to band together to win contracts. This was the beginning of the end for the majority of the famous British aircraft manufacturers. Meanwhile, the air staff were drawing up General Operational Requirement (GOR) 339 to cover a Canberra replacement, and finished it days before Duncan Sandys, the Minister of Defence, announced in the infamous 1957 Defence White Paper that manned aircraft were obsolete. GOR 339 was then the subject of much debate before it was finally issued to various companies in late September. Shorts Brothers made a submission to cooperate with English Electric and cover all aspects of GOR 339. Their outlandish idea was for the P.17A to be joined by the P.17D, a platform with no fewer than 56 lift engines which would lift off vertically and from which the P.17A would then launch. Understandably this idea did not come to fruition! In March 1958 an announcement was made on which companies had been successful in their bids for the contract - Avro, Hawker, Vickers-Armstrong and English Electric. Cooperation from them all was expected. The requirement was refined, reissued, renamed and renumbered - first OR 339 then OR 343. Now operation from semi-prepared strips was mentioned along with higher speed, longer range, higher altitude, shorter take-off run... the straight-forward Canberra replacement was rapidly becoming the stuff of science fiction, plus the MoS wanted the new aircraft to fulfill every role the Canberra was undertaking, including reconaissance. The MoS had decided that the best way forward was a partnership between Vickers Armstrong and English Electric, even though neither company had much contact with the other. The first public acknowledgement of the new project was made in the House of Commons in December. In January 1959 more details were forthcoming, including the designation of TSR.2 (the Canberra was regarded as the TSR.1). This designation originally stood for Tactical Support and Reconaissance, then later became Tactical Strike and Reconaissance once the possibility of a nuclear role was considered. Blackburn Aircraft had seen GOR 339 and realised that their Buccaneer already went some way towards satisfying the requirements. With improvements, the Buccaneer could be made into an aircraft that would satisfy most of the requirements (though not all). This idea had a lot of merit; developing a completely new aircraft was obviously going to cost much more than modifying an existing one, and the Fleet Air Arm were already delighted with the performance of the Buccaneer. However, the RAF would have none of this - they had nothing but contempt for this naval aircraft, and inter-service cooperation was a concept far removed from their minds. Blackburn's P.150 design (which appeared some years later in 1968) was a supersonic Buccaneer with Spey engines with reheat, new TSR.2 style intakes, longer fuselage, thinner non-folding wings and twin mainwheels. It gives some idea of how Blackburn may have proceeded had their been any interest in their proposal. Despite this lack of interest, the Buccaneer would return to haunt the TSR.2 project later on. Progress continued within Vickers and English Electric to combining the two company's designs to form a single design that could satisfy OR 343. By July 1959 they had submitted their new design (which did not actually differ too much from English Electric's P.17A) despite worries about the restrictive aspects of the specification. Agreement on work-sharing had been reached, though no detailed arrangements were in place. First flight was scheduled for January 1963 with introduction into service by January 1966. While the contract had been expected by late 1959, it was not actually awarded until October 1960, a year late. The delays had begun even before the first part was manufactured, hardly a good omen. In the mean time the British Aircraft Corporation had been formed (on the 1st of January 1960); with the formation of Hawker-Siddeley a few years later much of the British aviation industry would be contained within one of two groups, BAC and Hawker-Siddeley. The government had looked at American methods of project management and development, and while finally admitting that the American's methods were superior to traditional British methods, they make a complete mess of implementing these improved methods. To all intents and purposes it appeared that the government's version threw away all the good points and kept the bad - the new, more 'efficient' management techniques would soon turn into the most bloated and inefficient bureaucracy ever seen in the aviation industry. One celebrated incident occurred when a meeting was called and the meeting's chairman decided that far too many people had turned up. He cleared the room and asked for only essential personnel to turn up for the second attempt at the meeting. When the reconvened meeting arrived, and the essential personnel had trooped in, it was found that there were actually more people present than in the first meeting. Design and manufacture proceeded despite these problems and despite poor cooperation between the constituents of BAC. One example of this was that when the engines were ready to be placed in the airframe it was found that they simply did not fit in the supplied tunnels! In addition, some sub-contractors were not working for BAC, but were working for the Ministry instead, with communication problems being a result. The Ministry's interference extended into the design and manufacture of the aircraft itself; they took charge of the cockpit layout, and often had three hour meetings to decide the location of a single switch (and often got it wrong). Compare that arrangement with the Vulcan cockpit design, where the chief test pilot, Roly Falk, fought for and got permission to design the cockpit himself; after all, who better to decide the layout than a pilot? Other forces were gathering against the TSR.2. The Americans' TFX programme had begun, and much pressure was placed on the UK to buy the TFX (later to become the F-111) instead of the 'more expensive' TSR.2. A BAC delegation had visited Australia and left with high expectations of an export order for the TSR.2; the Australians were very interested in the new wonder-plane. By this time Lord Louis Mountbatten had became famous within the industry for slapping ten photographs of a Buccaneer on a desk followed by a single picture of a TSR.2, and then stating that he could buy that many Buccaneers for the price of a single TSR.2. Then when an Australian delegation visited the UK, Mountbatten joined them to discuss the TSR.2. Afterwards the Australians had lost interest in the TSR.2; we shall never know what Mountbatten actually said, but it had obviously had a big effect, and the TSR.2's export prospects had suddenly disappeared. The Australians chose to buy the F-111 shortly afterward. That this would cost 10 times more than they had been told and would be 10 years late into service was not something they expected. Engine development problems had also surfaced. The Bristol-Siddely Olympus engines were an all-new development and suffered various problems, which resulted in the destruction of a Vulcan testbed aircraft on the ground. With the first prototype now complete, it was transported in sections to Boscombe Down. Vickers had wanted test flying to begin at their airfield at Wisley, but the chief test pilot, Roland Beamont, objected to this because of the short runway there. English Electric's airfield at Warton would have been ideal, but tas a compromise Boscombe Down was chosen. This meant more delays; neither company had a base of operations there, and the prototype had to be reassembled at Boscombe over a period of three months. On the 6th of May 1964 the fully assembled prototype, XR219, was removed from its hangar at Boscombe Down to begin testing, including taxi trials. Various minor problems occurred, including the failure of the braking parachute to deploy on one fast taxi run (where the long runway came in useful, vindicating Beamont's objection to the shorter airfield at Wisley), but most were overcome. The cause of the engine problems was finally identified only days before the TSR.2 was due to fly. However, with pressure on the project increasing all the time, it was decided to go ahead with the first flight. The then-Conservative government was in serious trouble; a general election was looming for the end of the year and Labour were widely expected to win. Obviously BAC hoped that presenting the new government with a flying prototype would put some firmer foundations under the troubled project. The final decision was down to BAC's chief test pilot; Roland Beamont. Despite the engine problems (the manufacturers would not guarantee them lasting beyond five hours of use at a maximum of 97% power), despite many items of equipment not being ready and despite expected problems with the undercarriage and braking parachute, he decided the flight should go ahead; he was prepared to accept the risk for a single flight.