Newsletter 25
Autumn 2009
Updated on 11Oct2009
Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Contents Hawker Association

America - Washington DC
Book Reviews
Demon News
F-35 lightning II News
Harrier 40th Anniversary
Harrier News
Hawk News
Hawkers In The '50s Part 2
Kestrel Evaluation Squadron
Sea Fury News
Summer Barbecue
   Sir Donald Spiers is well known in Hawker circles for his involvement with the Kestrels, as the Ministry of Defence (Procurement Executive) [MoD(PE)] Hawk Project Director and as Controller Aircraft, responsible for the procurement of all aerospace materiel for the UK armed forces; and issuer of the famous CA Release.
    After reading Mechanical Sciences at Cambridge he served an apprenticeship with the de Havilland Engine Company and became a gas turbine development engineer in the Halford Laboratory. Joining the Air Ministry in 1961 his operational research interests included the Kestrel Evaluation Squadron (KES). With the MoD(PE) he was, amongst other things, also Project Director for Jaguar, Tornado and Eurofighter.
    On leaving the MoD Sir Donald (he was Knighted in1993) held a number aerospace industry directorships and served as President of the Royal Aeronautical Society and of the Popular Flying Association.
The Kestrel Evaluation Squadron - And A Few Other Things

     In 1960, said Sir Donald, the Air Ministry had three principle arms: strategic nuclear deterrence with the ‘V’ force, air defence with Lightnings and ground attack/reconnaissance with Hunters.
    The Douglas AGM-65 Skybolt air-launched nuclear missile was in prospect for the ’V’ bombers but in 1963 the US government cancelled it in favour of the submarine launched Polaris. Harold MacMillan then agreed with John Kennedy that Polaris would be bought for UK submarines, which meant the end of the RAF’s nuclear deterrence role. So the importance of ground attack and reconnaissance increased for the UK’s overseas commitments, especially in Cold War Germany, but also in Aden and Indonesia.
    The Air Ministry became concerned about the vulnerability of the overseas bases - Guttersloh was close to the East German border, for example - so they turned to Hawkers and Bristol Engines with their great engineers, Camm and Hooker. Ralph Hooper’s Hawker funded vertical and short take-off (V/STOL) P.1127 was adopted and two prototypes and four development aircraft were built.
    In 1963 nine developed P.1127s were ordered for an international evaluation squadron to be formed in 1965. These were the Kestrel FGAMk1s operated by the UK(RAF)/US (Army, Navy and Air Force)/FRG(Luftwaffe) manned Tripartite Evaluation Squadron (TES) whose objective was to examine the operational use of V/STOL aircraft. The TES main base (MB) was at RAF West Raynham whence the Kestrels operated to RAF Bircham Newton, the Stanford Army training area, the disused North Pickenham RAF station, and a field called Rabey’s Wood. 
    Sir Donald showed splendid archive film of the KES operating in many environments. From grass, STOs were satisfactory but VTOs were not practicable because of ground erosion and debris ingestion. However, the rolling vertical take-off (RVTO) with some forward movement solved the problem. VTOs were confined to pads of metal planking or sprayed plastic. Vertical landings (VL) also required a forward rolling technique (RVL) or the use of pads. It was possible to operate a number of aircraft from one site and to carry out multiple STOs from the same strip.
    Operating away from the MB was found not to be difficult and between-flights servicing to be practicable. Operationally the VTO radius of action (65 miles) was too small but that from the STO (160 miles) satisfactory. Pads stood out from the air so had to be camouflaged and STO strips became visible in time as the grass turned brown. The KES flew 930 sorties and some 600 hours.
    After the KES was disbanded the Germans took no further interest, their Kestrels joining those allocated to the USA which, named XV-6As, carried out tri-service trials and eventually were allocated to NASA for research flying.
    In the event it was none of the participating US air arms that bought the RAF’s Harrier, but the United States Marine Corps. (AV-8A). Sixty Harriers were ordered for the RAF in 1966 and entered service in April 1969. This led to the Sea Harriers and to today’s GR9s serving in Afghanistan.
    Sir Donald was involved in RAF trials in Aden and Malaya to examine the vulnerability of dispersed aircraft, and showed some interesting film records, which indicated that from the air at low level one had to be within 1,000 ft to see them. He also showed film of the victorious Harrier effort in the 1969 Trans-Atlantic air race code named Operation Nylon; New York - LONdon.
    Moving on to the Hawk Sir Donald said that, as the P.1182, it defeated the BAC P59 to satisfy AST397 for the RAF’s new advanced trainer. The fixed price contract would be worth 100 million to HSA once a twelve point contractual dispute with MoD(PE) was settled. The negotiation between Kingston’s Colin (now Sir Colin) Chandler and Sir Donald was stalled when Sir Donald proposed, “You take six and I’ll take six.” Agreed they sealed the deal over lunch. The Hawk was another Kingston success story - in May 2009 there were 646 in active service with seventeen nations.
    In closing Sir Donald reminded us that the Hurricane won the Battle of Britain, showed a film of ladies working on Camel manufacture and George Bulman with ‘The Last of the Many”.
    Appropriately, the man responsible for devising and developing the P.1127, Ralph Hooper, gave the vote of thanks.