Blackburn Super-Buccaneer and the TSR 2 Fiasco.
A Job for Life.
I was taken on as a Junior Design Draughtsman in the Leeds Design Office of the Blackburn Aircraft Company in 1961. The job had originally been to work on the design details for the Blackburn version of the TSR 2. A job for life and who would ever want to leave. But the bad news was that there was to be no Blackburn version of the TSR 2.
To show you what this proposed Blackburn aircraft may have looked like I have done a freehand sketch shown above. I have had to use some information from the Internet and some imagination. Some of the details were that Blackburn's design (P 150) was based on the Buccaneer with Rolls-Royce Spey engines with reheat, new TSR 2 style intakes, longer fuselage, thinner non-folding wings and twin mainwheels (not shown).
Counting the Cost.
It was widely accepted that this Blackburn P 150, the supersonic Buccaneer (Mach Number 1.8), could have fulfilled the TSR.2 requirement to government specification (GOR. 339) for a long range strike aircraft. But around this time the TSR 2 project was coming under attack from many sides, and the Admiralty played their part in its downfall by pushing for the Buccaneer as a near-ideal aircraft to satisfy the requirement, yet costing far less than the increasingly expensive TSR 2.
Cock-ups All Round.
The RAF and the Navy were not good friends. It seems that the RAF were extremely hostile to the idea of operating an aircraft designed for the Navy, on principle, and it found no favour with them at all.
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 co-operation was a concept far removed from their minds.
Skulduggery at the Top.
Although the Buccaneer was repeatedly offered to the RAF to meet their requirement for a new high-speed low-level bomber to replace the Canberra, the RAF were convinced that the TSR-2 best met their requirements.
Ironically, while Blackburn Aircraft produced a brochure for the Ministry of Supply on the Buccaneer, they did not produce designs for a truly upgraded Buccaneer until after the TSR 2 had already been cancelled.
But, behind the scenes skulduggery by the then Chief of the Defence Staff, Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was utterly biased towards promoting the interests of the RN ahead of the RAF, eventually helped finish off the demise of the TSR-2.
The End of the TSR 2 but the Buccaneer Lives On.
The situation was not helped by the arrival of a new Labour government. Denis Healey the new Secretary of State for Defence marked a change in fortunes for both the RAF and RN. It was announced, in the Budget of April 1965, that the TSR 2 programme was to be terminated immediately.
As well as cancelling the TSR-2 in a new round of defence cuts, they also decided not to build any new aircraft carriers to replace the current fleet carriers that were approaching the end of their service - signalling the end of RN conventional fixed wing flying.
On 10 July 1968, after the RAF's order for the F 111 was cancelled, the Ministry of Defence finally placed an order with Blackburn for on initial order of 26 Mk 2 aircraft for the RAF - this was followed by a further order for 17 aircraft and the RAF also acquired 64 S Mk2 aircraft from the RN.
More P's in the Pod.
Although I had no knowledge of them, during my experience in the Leeds Design Office, there were other design variants of the Buccaneer. These included a fighter variant (the P 140) and a more versatile strike variant (the P 145), but probably the P 150 stood out as the most advanced. However, this never left the drawing board. Never even GOT to my drawing board!
Fortunately there was plenty of work on the Buccanneer prototypes especially the South African Air Force version.
If you got this far and would like to comment about items on this page, especially the TSR 2 or the Super-Buccaneer, I would welcome any Feedback.
Joe Bosher (74th).