Blue Steel missile

From Academic Kids

Blue Steel was a British air-launched, rocket-propelled nuclear stand-off missile, built to arm the V bomber force.

Contents

Development

Blue Steel was the result of a Ministry of Supply memorandum from 5 November 1954 that predicted that by 1960 Soviet air defenses would make it prohibitively dangerous for V bombers to attack with nuclear gravity bombs. The answer was for a rocket-powered, supersonic missile capable of carrying a large nuclear (or projected thermonuclear) warhead with a range of at least 50 miles (90 km). This would keep the bombers out of range of Soviet ground-based defenses installed around the target area, allowing the warhead to "dash" in at high speed.

The weapon (officially termed a Stand-off bomb) was developed primarily by Avro, with guidance electronics by Elliots. Its design period was protracted, with various development problems exacerbated by the fact that designers had no way of knowing the actual size or weight of the still-hypothetical warhead.

Blue Steel emerged as a pilotless, winged aircraft roughly the size of the experimental Saunders-Roe_SR.53 interceptor, with clipped delta wings and small canard foreplanes. It was powered by a two-chamber Armstrong Siddeley Stentor Mark 101 rocket engine, burning a combination of hydrogen peroxide and kerosene. This was a considerable operational problem, because fueling the missile before launch took nearly a half an hour, and was quite hazardous. The warhead was a Red Snow one-megaton device.

On launch the rocket engine's first chamber would power the missile along a predetermined course to the target at around Mach 1.5. Once close to the target, the second chamber of the engine would accelerate the missile to Mach 3. Over the target the engine would cut out and the missile would free-fall before detonating its warhead as an airburst.

Blue Steel finally entered service in February 1963, being carried by Vulcans and Victors, although its limitations were already apparent. The short range of the missile meant that the V bombers were still vulnerable to enemy SAMs. A replacement for Blue Steel, the Mark 2, was planned with increased range and a ramjet engine. but this was cancelled in 1960 due to difficulties in developing Mark 1. The British also sought to acquire the much longer-ranged American AGM-48 Skybolt air-launched ballistic missile, and were greatly frustrated when that weapon was cancelled in late 1962. With no effective long-range weapon the original Blue Steel served on, even though it usefulness in a hot war was likely limited.

Blue Steel officially retired 21 December 1969, with Britain's chief nuclear capacity passing to the submarine fleet.

Specifications

  • Length: 10.7 m (35 ft)
  • Wingspan: 4 m (13 ft)
  • Diameter: 0.71 m (28 in)
  • Launch Weight: 7,270 kg (16,000 lb)
  • Speed: Mach 3
  • Ceiling: 21,500 m (70,500 ft)
  • Maximum Range: 240 km (150 miles)
  • Guidance: inertial
  • CEP: N/A
  • Warhead: W-28 thermonuclear (1.1 MT)

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