Hawker Siddeley began development in the late 1950s of the Blue Steel air-to-surface missile with a range of over 100 miles at a speed of Mach 2.5. Blue Steel entered service with No. 617 Squadron (The Dam Busters) in February 1963, equiped with a 1-megaton thermonuclear warhead. As large as a fighter, the missile was 35 feet long with a wingspan of 13 feet and an overall weight of 15,000 pounds. In 1959, work on the improved Blue Steel 2 (with a 700-mile range and Mach 3+0 speed) was cancelled.
The Blue Steel rocket was the subject of great criticism by the Public Accounts Committee, especially concerning cost. The last available figure from the Comptroller and Auditor General, when the Report was issued in September, 1960, was that this weapon was costing £60 million. That was two years ago. It did not come into the Service until December, 1962, so, no doubt, it had cost far more than that. The current version, as far as one can gather, had a range of 150 miles.
It would appear that there was to be an extended version that might be stretched out to 400 miles' range, that was scrapped. Even if the Vulcans were armed with a 400-mile Blue Steel, let alone the 150-mile version, they can still be intercepted by the Russian Fiddler interceptor fighter operating well beyond the ground-based radar. Blue Steel, like Skybolt, was said to be essential. If the Vulcans were to be the proper air missile launcher that the Secretary of State wishes them to be, Skybolt would give them safety because of its 1,000-mile range. This would have allowed them to be outside radar coverage and fighter interception.
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