Dr Michael Pryce has pointed out that February 2nd was the 50th anniversary of the cancellation the P.1154 V/STOL fighter for the RAF; the RN variant was already gone in favour of Phantoms. It was a severe blow to Kingston at the time but out of the wreckage came success, the Harrier.
Nobody with today’s hindsight can doubt that we had a lucky escape for the P.1154 would have presented serious development problems and operational difficulties; and surely the USMC would never have bought it. Below are two parts of the statement made to the House of Commons by Prime Minister Harold Wilson fifty years ago.
“The House will recall the many statements, many
changes of policy about replacements for the R.A.F. Hunter and the
Royal Navy's Sea Vixen. In July, 1963 the project P1154 was going to
meet both requirements. By November there was a wobble in policy. In
February, 1964, this was all changed and the then Government decided to
buy American Phantom aircraft as the Sea Vixen replacement. This was
their decision. Meanwhile, the P1154 was to go on to provide a
replacement for the Hunter when that was withdrawn from service. I have
to tell the House that this is not a practicable proposition. … The
problem here is that on these present estimated requirements, and on
the latest realistic estimate of the remaining life of the Hunter
aircraft, the P1154 will not be in service in time to serve as a Hunter
“We have been urgently surveying the needs of our
forces in the light of present revised estimates of commitments. We
believe that there is an urgent need for an operational version of
P1127, a successful aircraft which, in its present experimental form,
is about to go to an American-German-R.A.F. squadron for evaluation by
all three countries. As soon as it can be negotiated a contract will be
placed for a limited development programme so that the R.A.F. can have,
by the time they need it….. an aircraft which will in fact be first in
the field, with vertical take-off for close support of our land forces.
We shall see to close control of the cost of this scheme. We are also
going into the question of further R and D on this, to see whether it
can be boosted into something much more substantial“.