Author Topic: The BAC (BAe) TSR.2 Eagle in RAAF Service.  (Read 4888 times)

Offline Spellbinder99

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The BAC (BAe) TSR.2 Eagle in RAAF Service.
« on: July 04, 2014, 05:59:37 PM »
Again some backstory writing I did a few years ago. Hope you all enjoy!

As a follow on to the production of the English Electric Canberra by the Government Aircraft Factories, the BAC Eagle was a logical, if not inevitable choice. The RAAF, like the RAF was seeking a strike and reconnaissance aircraft to replace the capable but ageing Canberra. A primary concern to the Australian government was the maintaining of the Australian aircraft industries level of expertise and a development of that expertise into the supersonic age.

 The development of an indigenous supersonic trainer was well in hand, but the RAAF wished to keep itself aligned to the Royal Air Force for its primary strike aircraft and the evolution of the BAC TSR-2 Eagle was a logical conclusion to that train of thought. An evaluation team was sent to the UK in the early 1960s to work with the RAF and BAC in the early days of flight test and development.
 It was always intended that there would be a high level of local manufacturing involved and in the end it would be that a total of 26 of the first 30 airframes procured would be locally manufactured in Australia with the wings being built by CAC and the fuselages built by GAF.
 The surprising choice of General Motors Holden to build the Olympus engines was justified by their higher than expected levels of serviceability over the service life of the aircraft. A specially built facility at GM-H Adelaide to assemble the power units was completed in time for full production of the line airframes to commence.

 The first pattern airframe was to be delivered to Melbourne in 1965, but production of the first 2 airframes was already in hand from the earlier than expected delivery of CKD kits that arrived aboard the HMAS Sydney in 1964. Indeed, it was considered a matter of some pride that the first fully GAF/CAC built Eagle (A8-5) achieved power on trials no more than 6 days after the first flight of the initial RAAF airframe (A8-1) at Warton in November of 1966. Thus the pattern aircraft was delivered direct to the RAAF as a maintenance trainer, a task which it endured until its destruction in a hanger fire at RAAF base Wagga in 1979.

 An interesting aside concerns the often discussed identity of this pattern airframe. Though delivered in an overall coat of primer, it showed signs of a previous white paint scheme on certain components and it was assumed by many who came in contact with it that it had been a structural test airframe, especially as the only paperwork supplied was clearly marked "not for flight" and gave only a constructors number, not an RAF serial number. As it spent its entire stay in Australia up until its destruction in the Aircraft Maintenance Flight hanger at Wagga, there were no attempts by historians able to be made to establish a firm identity. Cross referencing construction numbers to serials was inconclusive but it has been mooted that it was the "missing" XR221. No reason why it would have ended up in Australia has been put forward to this day.

 These were not however to be the first Eagles to take wing in Australia. Two development airframes (XS660 and XS662) were taken from the initial run and sent to Australia for initial pilot training and development trials with the Aircraft Research and Development Unit at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia. Upon arrival, both were repainted in the distinctive ARDU green and gold trials paint scheme and were renumbered A8-660 and A8-662. Affectionately know as Cyril (660) and Cedric (662) by the ground crews and pilots alike, local aircraft enthusiasts soon took to camping out at the runways end at RAAF Edinburgh to catch a glimpse of them.

 Important hot weather trials were carried out at Evans field near Woomera with the pilots expressing admiration for the Eagles ability to handle rougher airfield surfaces. Popular legend has it that Flight Lieutenant Jim "Dusty" Smith rolled Cedrics wheels across the salt flat surface at Lake Eyre during a speed trial by local hot-rodders in the early months of 1966, but this is strenuously denied by official sources.

 Unfortunately, A8-660 was to have a very short flying career with the RAAF. During weapons delivery trails at Lake Hart near Woomera, no more than 3 months after delivery, 660 impacted the lake surface at a high sink rate due to a bird strike with (ironically) a wedge tail eagle. Travelling at in excess of 500 knots, the bird had the misfortune to bounce off the radome and straight down the left hand intake, the number one Olympus being totally destroyed in the process. Unable to pull up in time the aircraft skidded to a stop on the salt surface. Subsequent investigation showed the furrow ploughed in the salt to be over a mile long!
 Although officially chastised for not ejecting, it was apparent that the skills of the pilot were all that prevented a total loss of the aircraft.
 Though a write-off the crew was unharmed and the wreck was recovered to be used as a trials installation airframe by the Weapons Research Establishment for the next 25 years. At the completion of that service, A8-660 was left to rot in a paddock until 1996 when protests by local aviation historians saw it listed as a historically important artefact and it was donated to the Classic Jets Fighter Museum at Parafield for preservation. As the first Eagle to be displayed in an Australian aircraft museum, there was some demand to have the aircraft painted to represent current serving aircraft, but the curator, Bob Jarrett took the admirable step of restoring 660 to her ARDU service colours.

 A8-662 serves to this day with ARDU after being painted in their current orange and white colour scheme in 1983. Virtually every weapon system that has served on the Eagle has been tested on 662 including the locally developed Karinga cluster bomb and the US developed Harpoon anti-shipping missile. The Harpoons were to later be used by RAAF Eagles in the Gulf war but the Karinga was to be abandoned due to cost escalations and the realisation that the American CBU was cheaper.

 A8-662 also tested the Flight Refuelling developed IFR Buddy Pack system, the receiving aircraft for the trials being the RAF early prototype XR220. XR220 was in Woomera for trials that to this day are undefined, but mention has been made of special shapes and trajectory measurement and tracking that made full use of the Woomera Telemetry Range.
 The Buddy Pack system was found to be highly satisfactory and was sorely needed by the RAAF as official funding for Air to Air Refuelling tankers was not voted by Parliament until 1975.

 A8-1 entered service with the RAAF at RAAF base Amberley in Queensland in January of 1968, and by the end of that year ten aircraft were working up with 1 Squadron. Initially the aircraft were delivered with a paint scheme that closely mirrored that of the RAF, dark grey and dark green over medium grey, though of course with the kangaroo replacing the red spot in the roundels. The intended deployment of the squadron to Vietnam did cause a rethink that saw the darker upper surface grey wrapped around to the under surfaces so as to better blend in with the jungle, but the Australian government of the days very public falling out with the Johnson administration and subsequent withdrawal from any participation in the war meant that this scheme was only applied to half of the fleet.

 It is only 30 years later that release of documents has revealed that the US government was still bitter about the Australian rejection of the stillborn F-111 aircraft and had imposed limitations on the use of the Eagle in Vietnam that the RAAF was unwilling to comply with. The subsequent behind the scenes furore apparently culminated with the then Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt telling LBJ to stick his tin pot war up his arse!
 Relations with the US were cool to say the least until 1991 with the Australian participation in the Gulf War.

 Initial reaction to the Eagle at Amberley was positive with many pilots appreciating the state of the art Navigation kit and the immensely smooth ride at low level. As the RAAF did not at that time have an admitted nuclear strike capability, the initial weapons fit was primarily free-fall bombs or alternating with recon-pack equipped aircraft undertaking territorial waters patrols. Very little use was made of the supplied SNEB unguided rocket pods as the pilots disliked them and viewed them as a dangerous toy. This perception was vindicated on 12 August 1972 when an unexploded rocket ricocheted up and punched through A8-5s left hand tail plane on the Evans Head bombing range and the weapon saw little use until decommissioned in 1981.

 The last of the initial build was delivered on the 6th of July 1970 with the arrival of A8-28 to 6 Squadron at Amberley. The 70s saw the Eagle fulfil all its promise in RAAF service, but the loss of 3 airframes in 1978-79 due to pilot error (A8-16 and A8-2 in a mid-air collision at night over Cape York and A8-27 due to a hard landing at Darwin) and the high usage saw an order placed for a second batch of 14 airframes in 1982.

 Retention of the tooling by GAF/CAC meant that almost 90% of the new airframes could be built in country, but expansion of the GMH-Holden plant in Adelaide at the time meant that the engines were all British built. Advantage was taken of developments in the RAF Eagle fleet and the airframes were built to the latest GR-3 standard and the first new build Eagle GR-3 was delivered in mid-1985. Subsequently the surviving Eagle GR-1s were upgraded by the RAAF to GR-1A (Mod) standard with the last remaining completed in 1987.
 Realistically, the various mods and additions that had been pursued over the years were just consolidated in the GR-3 build aircraft but many of the GR1 airframes had some if not most of the features prior to the official upgrade. By1980 most had received Sky-Guardian RWR systems, IFR probes, externally mounted chaff and flare dispensers and strengthened undercarriage units but the most noticeable addition was a podded laser designator under the nose to take advantage of the laser guided weapons entering service at the time.
 An upgraded nav station was added with a glass cockpit design incorporating two large Multi Function Displays and the pilots analogue map display was replaced with a digital display with Head-Down capability.

 The GR-3 aircraft (A8-29 to A8-42) were well received by the re-born 2 Squadron and opportunity was taken to equip four of the aircraft with a locally designed recce packs (A8-30, 31, 38 and 40) for the tactical reconnaissance task. These replaced the by-then dated original British built recce packs.
 As all the GR-3 build were plumbed for the recce pack, the aircraft were not redesignated. The recce aircraft did receive a very pleasing overall medium grey scheme that proved so effective in flight trials that eventually the entire fleet bar the ARDU aircraft and A8-3 received on major servicing.
 A8-3 had by that time been retired to the RAAF Museum at Point Cook as it total airframe hours had doubled that of the fleet average. Interestingly she was repainted to her initial service scheme before retirement even though she had by then been upgraded to -1A standards.

 Introduction of the Harpoon missile to the RAAF inventory saw the Eagle take on a new role of Maritime Strike with two wing mounted Harpoons and the bomb bay filled with a long range tank. Eagle A8-10 set a record that has yet to be matched when it flew thus equipped from Amberley to Perth in Western Australia in December 1988 without refuelling. Up until her last major service and repaint in 2001 A8-10 still proudly carried titling to indicate her achievement.

 The first, and thankfully only, time that the RAAF Eagles have seen combat has been in the Gulf War. A mixed detachment of 1 and 6 Squadron aircraft based in Diego Garcia saw duty on maritime patrol over the Gulf, but only the recce configured A8-30 ventured over Kuwait and Iraq. Hastily repainted in overall sand like most of the Allied aircraft, A8-30 was shot down by friendly fire over Kuwait. The resultant diplomatic infighting almost saw the RAAF withdraw from the theatre, saved only by the safe return of the crew after a week in the desert evading Iraqi forces.

 The Eagle continues to serve to this day and is currently being examined for a mid-life update that will see new build wings and vertical tails being produced at CAC.
 Several of the older airframes have been retired , but of the 38 survivors (A8-42 lost in an engine fire in 1998) the 30 aircraft serving with 1, 2 and 6 Squadrons seem set to carry on well into the 21st century.

 RAAF BAC/CAC Eagle losses.

 A8-660 Bird strike, Lake Hart, South Australia, March 1966
 A8-2 - Mid-air collision, Cape York, November 1978
 A8-16 - Mid-air collision, Cape York, November 1978
 A8-27- Hard landing, Darwin N.T. January 1979
 A8-30 Friendly Fire, Kuwait City, 1991
 A8-42 - Engine fire, Amberly, Queensland, June 1998

 Preserved Airframes
 A8-660- Classic Jets Fighter Museum, Parafield, South Australia*
 A8-3 RAAF Museum, Point Cook, Victoria

 *Note- due to the extensive recovery of parts from 660 over the years before preservation, the aircraft now incorporates parts from other retired airframes, notably the undercarriage from A8-4, the wing from A8-7 and the tail surfaces from an undetermined donor aircraft.

Offline Old Wombat

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Re: The BAC (BAe) TSR.2 Eagle in RAAF Service.
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2014, 08:17:46 PM »
This ain't too shabby, either! :)
« Last Edit: July 04, 2014, 10:58:41 PM by Old Wombat »
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Offline mrvr6

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Re: The BAC (BAe) TSR.2 Eagle in RAAF Service.
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2014, 02:10:49 AM »
great backstory :)

Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: The BAC (BAe) TSR.2 Eagle in RAAF Service.
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2014, 04:06:30 AM »
This thread needs pics…

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Offline elmayerle

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Re: The BAC (BAe) TSR.2 Eagle in RAAF Service.
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2014, 06:15:40 AM »
Great backstory and inspiration for at least one whif from my collection of 1/72 TSR-2 kits.  Might be tempting to do one of the Pit Road or Great Wall 1/144 kits in one, also.

Offline Spellbinder99

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Re: The BAC (BAe) TSR.2 Eagle in RAAF Service.
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2014, 08:24:50 AM »
Thanks guys, I spent a fair amount of time when I wrote it to try to make it sound feasible. I currently work at ARDU and have done for the last seven years so I hope to one day do that orange and white scheme GTX, or the F-111 version adapted with grey/green uppers and white lowers.



Offline Volkodav

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Re: The BAC (BAe) TSR.2 Eagle in RAAF Service.
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2014, 10:06:31 AM »
Very plausible.

I imagine in the real world Australian orders for the TSR2 and CVA01 would have saved both projects as well as beefing up the ADF.  The TSR2 in particular would have been an interesting option as I wonder if it would have suffered the delays and cost over runs experienced with the F-111 and local production, as in your story, would likely have been on the cards. 

I have speculated at the opportunity cost of the F-111 to the ADF, it was a good aircraft but it was very late and cost much more than expected, it was also very expensive to maintain and eventually became an orphan for the last decade of its life.  I have thought of the Vigilante, or Corsair as alternatives, even Vulcan or Victor but never the TSR2, reading you piece the TSR2 really seems to fit the bill.

Offline upnorth

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Re: The BAC (BAe) TSR.2 Eagle in RAAF Service.
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2014, 06:44:16 PM »
I quite like that story.  :)
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Offline KiwiZac

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Re: The BAC (BAe) TSR.2 Eagle in RAAF Service.
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2014, 09:21:23 AM »
Ah yes, I remember this well! The inspiration for my own RNZAF Eagle story!
With warm regards from Whanganui, New Zealand

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Offline M.A.D

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Re: The BAC (BAe) TSR.2 Eagle in RAAF Service.
« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2017, 07:10:07 PM »
 My apologies Spellbinder99, but I have just come across your story, after all this time  :-[

Very interesting how you've kept the Australian affiliation with Britain.
I particularly like the adherence to the importance of 'home-grown' manufacturing content of the TRS.2 Eagle.

Can I ask, when you're talking about
The development of an indigenous supersonic trainer was well in hand
, are you alluding to the CA-31 or something different?