England's strike plane that could have been
Several countries have planes that torture aviation aficionados — airframes that showed so much potential but never made it to the field due to complicated politics, technical failures, or other reasons unknown. For the United States, it's the XB-70 Valkyrie, A-12 Avenger, or the YF-23 Black Widow. For Canada, it is the Avro Arrow interceptor.
One plane that might have been: The A-12 Avenger. (U.S. Navy graphic)
The United Kingdom has one as well. It's called the TSR.2, although it never got an official designation because this plane barely got off the drawing board and into prototype stage. Which is a shame, because the Royal Air Force was looking at a strike plane that would have made the Tornado seem second-rate.
An XI(B) Sqn Tornado GR4 training for deployment to Afghanistan. Among its weapons load is a Brimstone missile on the lower left portion of the fuselage. (British Ministry of Defence photo)
The U.K. was developing the TSR.2 with aims to replace both a now-legendary plane, the English Electric Canberra, and their V-bombers (the Vulcan, Valiant, and Victor). One of the primary objectives of this project was to counter the rise of the surface-to-air missile, which took center-stage in the world's consciousness when a SA-2 Guideline shot down a U-2 flown by Francis Gary Powers.
A Romanian SA-2 Guideline is launched during an exercise in 2007. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Petrică Mihalache)
The plane that emerged from years of development was the TSR.2. According to MilitaryFactory.com, it had a two-man crew (a pilot and weapons officer), was designed to have a top speed of Mach 2.35 (it hit 835 miles per hour in test flights), could carry up to 10,000 pounds of bombs, and had a maximum range of 2,877 miles.
After a test flight, the plane was deemed ready for production, and the line had 23 airframes in various stages of completion before politics intervened. To be specific, the Labour Party won elections and quickly proceeded to cancel the TSR.2.
The engines of the TSR.2. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Paul Simpson)
To learn more about this plane that could have been, watch the video below. Do you think the TSR.2 could have succeeded?