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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

AVRO 730

The development of the supersonic Avro 730 bomber was was canceled in 1957. Immediately after the war the Labour Government did nothing about carrying out development work for supersonic aircraft-abandoned it, in fact. The decision had been made (mistakenly as it turned out) that supersonic aircraft were too dangerous to warrant further research. In 1946 the Director-General of Scientific Research (Air) said: "The impression that supersonic aircraft are just around the corner is quite erroneous ... the difficulties will be tackled by the use of rocket-driven models. We do not have the heart to ask pilots to fly the high-speed models, so we shall make them radio-controlled". What happened was not that all research on supersonic machines was given up. The decision was made that it was not right to risk the lives of pilots and the consequence was that the research was done with unmanned aircraft. Therefore, it is not true to say that supersonic research was given up.

The necessity for long range, high flying aircraft was identified as early as 1948. The attack would arrive at tremendous speed, carried by supersonic bombers or by guided missiles. The factor of high speed leaves the defence no time to get ready: it must be alerted twenty-four hours a day. None of the V-bombers were supersonic, although these bombers were very nearly so.

Between the end of the Korean War in July 1953 and the middle of the last decade the Ministry of Supply authorized an extraordinary number of fighters and bombers: Avro 720 (rocket intercepter), Avro 730 (supersonic bomber), Hawker P. 1083 (and other Hunter developments), Gloster G.50 (thin-wing, Olympus-powered Javelin development), Saunders-Roe SR.177 (mixed-power naval intercepter), Supermarine 508 (heavy naval fighter), Supermarine 525 (508 development to more conventional formula) and Supermarine 545 (supersonic crescent-wing naval fighter). All these aircraft reached an advanced stage of development and construction, but only the Supermarine 525 (which became the Scimitar) ever went into service. Numerous additional projects were terminated before reaching the manufacturing stage.

By 1955 the Air Ministry was fully alive to the importance of developing a supersonic bomber at the earliest possible moment. However, supersonic flight created a great many problems, particularly in the a aeroplane. By 1955 the British supersonic fighter [the Lightning] was already well on the way. These were necessary stages in the evolution of a supersonic bomber and the lessons learned would be applied when it came to building something bigger.

The A.V. Roe company (Avro) in the U.K. was the winner in a 1955 competition (O.R. 330) to produce a high-speed/high-altitude Mach 2.5 reconnaissance aircraft for the RAF. Several configurations were examined, but all featured a straight-wing design featuring a thoroughly enclosed cockpit with no windscreen to reduce drag, large canards, and two engine nacelles, each containing multiple power plants. Early plans called for wing-tip nacelles, but these were later moved closer to the fuselage.) A retractable periscope would be used to aid the pilot with take-offs and landings. By December 1956 the final design had been developed. The plane would carry a crew of two--a pilot and a navigator--who would sit by-by-side. Each shock-cone tipped pod now contained 4 Armstrong-Siddeley P-176 turbo-jets for a total of 8 engines. And, most important of all, the plane could also function as a bomber, carrying either a specially designed short-course weapon or Britain's Red Beard tactical bomb. Operational Requirement 336 was for a recon-bomber for service starting in 1960-62 to replace the V-Force aircraft that were part of the British atomic deterrent at that time.

The 1957 Statement on Defence cast a long shadow over the future of the RAF. While stressing the overriding importance of maintaining the nuclear deterrent as the only way to prevent war and reaffirming British military responsibilities throughout the world, it aimed at what it called "a comprehensive re-shaping of policy". These basic assumptions, therefore, led to crucial statements on research and development; "the Government have decided not to go on with the development of a supersonic manned bomber".

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan), speaking to the Commons on 17 April 1957 on the decision not to proceed with the supersonic bomber, noted that "The present family of V-bombers, with their normal developments, are expected to do good service for many years. If research and development upon the supersonic bomber were to go on now it could not be ready in under ten years-that is the information that we are given. Within that time, in addition to the remaining V-bombers we shall have the support of rockets."

The First Lord of the Admiralty in the House of Lords on 09 May, 1957, when he was giving the Government's policy, said: "The manned supersonic bombers have therefore been cancelled, but I do not want to give the impression that we have in any way terminated research on supersonic problems of air transport. Indeed, a very large volume of supersonic research and development remains in our programme. Much of this may well be of benefit to supersonic air transport, whatever form it ultimately takes.... The cancellation of the present bomber does not affect the Government's determination to press on with the study of supersonic transport aircraft, which has been launched in consultation with a number of aircraft companies."

Armstrong Siddeley, after eighteen months of design study and in competition with the whole of the aero-engine companies in England, had been awarded the contract for the design and development of a very advanced engine. It was the engine of the supersonic bomber. The company was awarded this contract in the face of the most fierce competition must mean that in the opinion of the Ministry of Supply it was technically competent to undertake advanced projects. The Government's decision not to proceed with the supersonic bomber meant that the specific engine requirement no longer existed.

Primary Function: Heavy bomber
Contractor:A.V. Roe
Power Plant:8 Armstrong-Siddeley P-176 turbo-jets
Length: 159 feet / 163.5 ft (49.8 m)
Wingspan:59.6 ft (18.2m)
Speed: Mach 2.5, Mach 3 dash
Ceiling:65,000 feet
Maximum Takeoff Weight:200,000 lb (90,000 kg)
Range: 5,500 miles
Armament:Red Beard nuclear bomb
Unit Cost:
Date Deployed:cancelled 1957

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:50:27 ZULU