Williams tells of his work on this little-known Kingston project...
The mention in the Newsletter of the recent discovery of a
brochure at the RAF Museum, Hendon, warrants noting a little of the
background to events in 1957.
venture, the P.1121 supersonic fighter prototype with a deHavilland
Gyron engine, was half built but had aroused no interest and was
halted. This Gyron engine was left over from the cancelled Avro large
supersonic bomber programme (it used four), which is probably one of
the reasons it was offered to us.
As usual the Project Office looked
for alternatives. Ralph Hooper came up with the P.1127 based on a
Bristol Engines vectored thrust proposal. John Fozard drew up the
P.1128, a six seat twin Bristol Orpheus engined executive transport
based on the wing and tail unit of the Hunter. I took on the P.1129 to
meet the OR 339 specification (TSR.2 - Tactical Strike and
Reconnaissance). This required a long range, high speed, low level
bomber carrying a tactical nuclear weapon, a mission more suited to
Tomahawk cruise missiles now.
'TSR.2' - The P.1129
The P.1129 was an extended wing version of my twin engined
which used the P.1121's wing and tail unit. Jack Simmonds in the Design
Office did the detailed drawings for a submission. The aircraft did not
meet all the requirements but was deemed to offer better all-round
capability should scenarios change, as it did for the Hunter which was
designed to an interceptor specification but was used for ground attack.
Meanwhile Avro at Manchester, another Hawker Siddeley (HS)
had their own design looking very much like how the TSR.2 finished up.
It was decreed by senior management that two HS companies should not be
seen to be competing against eachother so a meeting was set up at
Manchester to sort it out. Kingston sent its top team; Sir Sydney Camm
and Ron Williams.
We went by
train to Wilmslow arriving in the
late evening where we were to be met by a car from Avro to take us to a
hotel (pub) in Macclesfield. However, we arrived in Wilmslow in thick
fog with about five yards visibility, and there was no car. The only
taxi had already gone. We waited some time; Sir Sydney was not happy.
Eventually the taxi, looking like a pre-war London cab, returned and
after quite a ride we made it to the hotel.
Next day was clear
and a car took us to the Avro design offices at Chadderton. Coming from
the leafy South I was shocked to see fields of smoking factory chimneys
on the way, which obviously caused the fog. The meeting was with the
Avro big-wigs. I do not remember their names but Roy Dobson or Roy
Chadwick might well have been there. It was agreed to submit only the
P.1129. Maybe this was to please Sir Sydney after the car fiasco and
not because of the eloquence of my argument. On the way to lunch I
overheard the Avro people congratulating Sir Sydney on having such a
young, talented team around him (big head!) I probably looked about
submitted but lost to Warton. The
P.1127 went ahead ,and as Ralph Hooper is quoted in Roy Braybrook's
excellent book 'Harrier and Sea Harrier' (Osprey, 1984), had we won the
OR.339 contract the P.1127/Harrier series would not have happened. We
would have been left with a void, as was Warton when, as TSR.2, the
project was cancelled and the RAF adopted the Navy's HS Buccaneer as an
interim solution. However, Warton did go on to make the operationally
more flexible Tornado for a similar purpose.
An example of how
changing objectives affect the design is when my proposal for a Jet
Provost basic trainer replacement (met later by the turboprop Tucano)
was turned by Ralph Hooper into a Gnat replacement advanced trainer,
the P.1182/Hawk. Thankfully!