After the official cancellation of the project airframe XR219, the only TSR 2 to fly, along with the virtually complete airframes of TSR 2 XR221 and XR223 were transported to the Ministry of Defence site at Shoeburyness in Essex. There, the aircraft were sacrificed to test the effectiveness of ammunition against an airframe. It was a tragic waste, the latter two airframe were scrapped between 1972 and 1973, while XR219 soldiered on until 1982.
All other components were scrapped, along with all the production tooling and assembly lines. All vestiges of the TSR 2 project including documentation, flight records and photographs were systematically purged in an attempt to ensure the project could never be resurrected. Despite this official act of internal sabotage two airframes survived. The second and fourth prototypes, XR220 and XR222, miraculously escaped destruction. Along with the two surviving BAC TSR 2 aeroplanes a small number of components manufactured for the TSR 2 survived the purge after the cancellation of the project.
The two surviving British Aircraft Corporation TSR-2 airframes reside in two of the United Kingdom's most prestigious aerospace museums. Airframe XR220, the second prototype aircraft, forms part of the Research and Development Collection at the RAF Museum Cosford and airframe XR222, the fourth prototype aircraft, forms part of the Imperial War Museum collection, housed at the former RAF airfield of Hendon.
The RAF Museum at Cosford along with the RAF Museum at London collectively form the RAF Museum Collection and represent Britain's only national air museum. Duxford is a satellite site of the Imperial War Museum London, a organisation with a unique collection spanning some five sites in the United Kingdom, including the Imperial War Museum London, HMS Belfast and the Cabinet War Rooms.
During October 1960 an initial order was placed with the British Aircraft Corporation for nine prototype aircraft. These were assigned the consecutive registration codes XR219 to XR227. XR220 was the second prototype built and she was due to be completed by January 1964. However manufacturing and logistical problems with the first prototype impacted the roll-out date for XR220 and this was delayed.
By 9 September 1964 XR220 was ready to join XR219 at Boscombe Down for testing. XR220 was dismantled and transported to Royal Aircraft Establishment at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire only for her tail section to be damaged in transit when the trailer it was being transported on jack-knifed. It wasn't until 24 February 1965 that XR2220 completed her first successful engine ground tests. After successfully completing a series of ground tests XR220 was prepared for her maiden flight.
On 6 April 1965, the day of her maiden flight, the Labour Government terminated the project. Whitehall were doubtless aware that XR220 was due to fly that day and ministers were conscious that a successful flight would make it even more difficult to justify the cancellation of the TSR 2. She remained at Boscombe Down and was utilised in noise evaluation ground tests as part of the Concorde programme. Her Bristol-Siddeley Olympus 22R-320 engines were a direct predecessor to the Rolls-Royce Snecma Olympus 593 engines used in Concorde.
On 1 February 1967, airframe XR220 was transferred to MOD (Air) for preservation. A few months later, on 20 June 1967 she was transferred by road to RAF Henlow, home to the RAF Signals Engineering Establishment. There, XR220 was placed in storage in a hangar and was largely forgotten. By 1973 plans to move XR220 to the newly opened museum at RAF Cosford in Shropshire were formulated. On 4 May 1975, XR220 was dismantled and transferred to the RAF Museum Collection at RAF Cosford in Shropshire.
XR220 now stands in Hangar 2 at the RAF Museum Cosford and represents a significant aircraft in the Research and Development collection. Along with XR222 she is ome of only two surviving TSR 2 aircraft.
On 6 April 1965 the new Labour Government announced the termination of the TSR 2 on the grounds of cost. At the start of the project in 1960 the estimates for research, development and production were put at £330m, but by 1965 had more than doubled to £750m, whilst the in-service date for the TSR 2 had changed from 1965 to 1968. The fourth prototype aircraft, designated XR222 remained in a virtually completed state at Vickers. After the cancellation of the project XR222 was due to be scrapped along with all other complete and part-built airframes.
Curiously XR222 survived the comprehensive destruction wrought on the rest of the project; she along with the second prototype XR220 were the only surviving airframes. In October 1965 XR222 was transferred to College of Aeronautics at Cranfield in Bedfordshire and displayed alongside other aircraft including a Messerschmitt Me 163B. On display XR222 was still incomplete missing a number of external panels and the leading edges of her delta wing.
On 21 March 1978 XR222 was transferred by road from Cranfield to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford in Cambridge. There she was put on display outside although still missing those external panels, a far from ideal situation given the inclemencies of the British weather. After many years outside XR220 was cosmetically restored and by the 1990s was standing outside again at Duxford, although she was later displayed within the main hangar at Duxford.
The Imperial War Museum AirSpace exhibition hangar represents an investment of £25 million for Britain's premier aviation museum. AirSpace holds a number of significant civilian and military British aircraft including an Avro Lancaster (KB889) bomber, Avro Vulcan (XJ824) bomber, de Havilland Comet (G-APDB) airliner and the British Aircraft Corporation/Aerospatiale Concorde (G-AXDN) supersonic passenger aircraft. All these aircraft have been lovingly restored by volunteers and employees at Duxford for display in the Imperial War Musueum collection. On 16 December 2005 TSR 2 XR222 was officially unveiled at the Imperial War Musueum Duxford after a comprehensive eighteen month restoration programme and now resides alongside these other famous aeroplanes within the AirSpace hangar.
The systematic destruction of anything associated with the TSR-2 signified the intent of the Labour Government to irradicate any possibility, however remote, that the project could be restarted. Three complete airframes and a number of other major structural components were destroyed, along with all the production tooling, assembly lines, documentation, flight records and photographs from the British Aircraft Corporation sites. Fortunately for the historical record and for future generations two complete airframes and a number of components slipped through the net and escaped destruction. This is not necessarily a definitive list of all surviving components but includes the most significant surviving components residing in museum collections in the United Kingdom.