British Aircraft Corporation TSR 2

From the outset the TSR 2 project was beset with severe political interference. The Ministry of Aviation, adopted a management by committee culture which created a suffocating layer of bureaucracy that only served to hinder and delay the project. Instead of letting the designers and manufacturers to develop the aircraft, with an appropriate level of accountability, the Ministry caused serious delays.

Other opponents to the TSR 2 included senior members of the Armed Services, specifically the Royal Navy and its First Sea Lord of the Admiralty Louis Mountbatten. He sought to promote the Navy's own acquisition, the Blackburn Bucanneer, as an appropriate replacement for the Canberra to the detriment of the TSR 2 project. This was despite the Bucanneer being a subsonic aircraft and therefore not capable of meeting the original operational requirement of the RAF without significant alterations to her design.

Harold Wilson's Labour Government, elected in October 1964, did all in its power to undermined the TSR 2 by publicly denigrating the project, maintaining a critical stance adopted whilst in opposition. The official public announcement of the cancellation on 6 April 1965 was the final grevious act. In a further attack on the British aviation industry, on 19 November 1964, the British Government announced its intention to withdraw from the Concorde project. The attempt failed. A clause in the agreement to co-build Concorde meant if the British withdrew they would still have to part-fund the project. By ordering the cancellation of the TSR 2, Harold Wilson's Labour government committed a ruthless act which not only weakening the defensive and deterrent capabilities of the Royal Air Force, but seriously undermined the British aviation industry and questioned the commitment of the Wilson Government to an industry which employed an estimated quarter of a million workers.

An investment of over £200 million and four years development on an aircraft with lucrative overseas sales potential was written off, the Government instead securing an option on the General Dynamics F-111. Ironically the F-111 never entered service with the RAF. In fact the English Electric Canberra, the aircraft the TSR 2 was intended to replace, would continue in operation with the Royal Air Force until June 2006.

Nine prototype, eleven pre-production aircraft and an initial production run of thirty aircraft was originally envisaged by the British Aircraft Corporation. With the cancellation of the project, two airworthy and three near-complete prototype aircraft were the only airframes completed. The British Aircraft Corporation offered to fund further research on a limited programme using a small number of aircraft, but the offer was refused.