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AFVG - Anglo-French Variable Geometry

The collaborative project known as the Anglo-French Variable Geometry (AFVG) swing-wing aircraft was begun in 1965. The collaboration was a fiasco, and the French pulled out in 1967. The British stayed with the concept and formed another collaboration with the Germans and Italians, which eventually produced the Panavia Tornado. The Mirage 2000 then evolved from a series of Dassault design efforts performed from 1965 to 1975. Dassault worked on several new aircraft concepts evolved from their Mirage G variable-geometry experimental prototype.

Britain and France signed the original Memorandum of Understanding to study a variable geometry combat aircraft together on 17th May, 1965. At this time, the French were Interested only in the strike rôle, and the UK envisaged the aircraft as a replacement for the Lightnings as an interceptor. The French wanted the aircraft in 1974, the UK in 1977.

On 22nd February 1966, the date of publication of the Defence Review in the White Paper, came a sudden and startling transformation; for in the Defence Review it was announced that a successor to the Canberra aircraft was required, and that that successor was going to be the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft. The White Paper said: ‘By the mid-1970s, we intend that the Anglo-French variable-geometry aircraft should begin to take over this"—’ that is, the Canberra— ‘and other roles. Both operationally and industrially, this aircraft is the core of our long-term aircraft program.’

This was a completely new context in which the AFVG aircraft was suddenly placed. It was not surprising that the then UK Minister of Aviation, not having been let into the secret — as he was not let into so many secrets at that time by his colleagues — found himself in great difficulty in explaining what he had heard in the past and what he now learned about the functions of the AFVG. In his speech on the debate on 7th March 1966, he contradicted himself hopelessly, representing the AFVG sometimes as a replacement and sometimes as a complement to the F111A.

When they met on 6th May, 1966, the British Government had decided to take an option on the minimum number of F-111s required to replace the Canberra against more sophisticated targets and to shift the Vulcans into the tactical/strike/reconnaissance rôle against the less well defended targets up to 1975. This gave the UK both the money and the operational opportunity which enabled the British to develop the variable geometry aircraft as the French originally wished, for strike — to replace the Vulcans and later the Buccaneers in the latter 'seventies. Meanwhile, however, the French had begun to put greater emphasis than before on the aircraft's interceptor performance. An operational requirement for the new aircraft in this mixture of rôles had been already agreed by the military staffs of the two countries.

Not surprisingly, severe difficulties were soon encountered in the definition of the AFVG aircraft. Although it was alleged that by the middle of 1966 agreement upon a very general specification had been arrived at between the UK and France, by the autumn of 1966 ominous news was begriming to come across the Channel. On 25th October 1966 M. Messmer, Minister of Aviation, indicated in the French Assembly that ‘Franco-British plans to build a supersonic variable geometry aircraft might have to be 1133 shelved because of the cost. The studies we have carried out jointly show that this aircraft, though technically possible, would be very expensive.’ He went on to say what the French might do ‘if we come to the conclusion that our financial means force us to put off its realization.’ That was in October, 1966.

By April 1967 it became clear that Britain and France had still been unable to agree on joint specifications for the aircraft. This was two years after the original agreement and 15 months after this alleged aircraft has been made the core of Britain's long-term aircraft program. At a further meeting in May 1967 the Ministers at last agreed on specifications, on cost and on the industrial arrangements between the two countries. But, as the Secretary of State said, this was ad referendum to the two Governments. It was merely an agreement between the Ministers.

RoleInterceptor, tactical strike, reconnaissance
National originUnited Kingdom / France
ManufacturerBritish Aircraft Corporation / Dassault Aviation
Number builtNone
Similar Aircraft
Crew Two
Length 57.19 ft (17.43 m)
Wingspan 42.6 ft (unswept) (12.98 m)
Height 17.68 ft (5.39 m)
Loaded weight 30,000 to 50,000 lb (13,608 to 22,680 kg)
Powerplant 2 × SNECMA/Bristol Siddeley M45G
Maximum speed Mach 2.5 (1,875 mph, 3,017 km/h)
Range 3,500 nm (ferry) (6,486 km)
Service ceiling 60,000 ft (18,290 m)
  • 2× 30-millimeter (1.2 in) autocannon
  • 2,500 lb (1,134 kg) tactical nuclear weapon
  • AFVG - Anglo-French Variable Geometry AFVG - Anglo-French Variable Geometry AFVG - Anglo-French Variable Geometry

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    Page last modified: 29-05-2013 18:45:35 ZULU