TSR2 Britain’s Lost Cold War Strike Jet
Osprey bio: “Andrew Brookes completed RAF pilot training after graduating from Leeds University. Following reconnaissance and strike tours on Victors, Canberras and Vulcans he joined the tri-service policy and plans staff of Commander British Forces, Hong Kong. He flew over 3,000 hours as an RAF reconnaissance and strike pilot. He was a UK nuclear release officer in NATO and the last operational RAF Commander at the Greenham Common cruise missile base. He was coordinator of air power studies at the RAF Advanced Staff College and he is now Chief Executive of The Air League. He broadcasts widely and this is his 18th aviation book, including four for Osprey. He received the Defense Aerospace Journalist of the Year Award in 2004 and 2006. In 2009 he was awarded the C P Robertson Memorial Trophy for the best interpretation of the Royal Air Force to the public.”
Adam Tooby is a rising star in the field of aviation art, creating groundbreaking photo-realistic work. Moving away from traditional approaches to the subject matter, he uses computer technology to produce both technically accurate and visually dynamic images of some of the greatest military aircraft in history.
Warbirds features stunning images of aircraft in action, from the First World War to the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and from around the world, including the iconic Spitfire, the popular P-51 Mustang and the unusual Javelin. Some of the images have been produced exclusively for the book, while others have previously featured in aviation history publications and on the covers of Airfix boxes. With step-by-step sections, close-ups showing the incredible accuracy and detail of the art – down to rivets and bolts – as well as historical context, aviation enthusiasts, military historians and artists will be blown away.
This is the fifth in this new Osprey series that follows the format of the previous four titles (Bell X-1, Messerschmitt Me 264 Amerika Bomber, the North American X-15, and the Luftwaffe Emergency Fighters) and focuses on the technology involved in their development, test flights, and effect on future designs. This 80 glossy page book features a color cover painting by Adam Tooby depicting XR225 reaching Mach 2 at 30,000 feet over the Irish Sea. Adam Tooby also contributes three more paintings, two of them spanning two pages each. I counted 35 black and white photographs, 5 black and white drawings, 2 color drawings, and 3 tables. Adam Tooby also contributes two color 3-views of what the TSR2 might have looked like in full RAF service.
The British Aircraft Corporation’s TSR-2 rivals one of the greatest ‘could have been’ stories, competing hard against a similar story in the Avro Arrow of Canada. Both were cutting edge technology fast aircraft that fell victims to cost and political strife in their respective governments. Only one TSR-2 actually flew, XR219, achieving only 24 test flights over six months trying to explore basic flying qualities. The last test flight occurred on March 31, 1965. Rising costs pushed the British government to cancel the TSR-2 project in favor of the US’s F-111. Not surprisingly, the order for 110 F-111s was also cancelled later. The TSR-2 tooling, jigs and most of the partially completed airframes were scrapped six months later. Two airframes survived, a complete XR220 and a less than complete XR222. The only TSR-2 to fly, XR219, was destroyed in the evaluation of a modern airframe’s vulnerabilities to gunfire.
When Andrew Brookes was learning to fly at Leeds University, his goal was to fly the proposed BAC TSR2. Here, Andrew dives into the development, testing, and ultimate cancellation, and what kind of role it may have played if it was allowed to enter service. Andrew provides not only his views, but interviews many of the personnel involved in the TSR2. The chapters include:
- Chapter One: Introduction
- Chapter Two: Origins
- Chapter Three: The Airframe
- Building the Beast [Page 14]
- Performance Comparisons [Table]
- Chapter Four: Engines and Avionics
- Principle Equipment Suppliers [Table]
- Low-Level Flight
- Radar Navigation and Reconnaissance [Page 29]
- Automatic Flight Control System
- Computing Power
- Chapter Five: Flight Testing
- Jimmy Dell and the TSR2 [Page 48]
- Chapter Six: The Politics
- Eyewitness to Cancellation [Page 65]
- Chapter Seven: What Might Have Been
- Planned TSR2 Flight Profiles [Table]
- TSR2 – An Operational Success? [Page 78]
- Further Reading
One of the sections I found fascinating was on the development and decisions made around the computer systems the TSR2 was to carry. I can remember seeing the Avro Arrow’s vacuum tubes on display in the Toronto Aerospace Museum. The TSR2 was quite ambitious in integrating data transfer. Unfortunately, there was no digital bus here; everything was translated via individual wires. These computers were essential to the TSR2 avionic system to execute the proper navigation to ensure accurate delivery of the TSR2’s nuclear payload. The development of the hardware and software to run this big bird was just one of the cost over-run problems that emerged. It was just too much technology jammed into a system that was not developed in the ‘black’ outside of public review. In the end, flight tests were never conducted using the proposed navigation system.
Andrew Brookes provides a good introduction to the TSR2 with an easy to read style. I went through the 80 pages over two nights. If you own one the previous releases in the X-Planes series, you know what you are getting. If this is your initial entry into this series, you will be quite pleased.
My thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.