Trials Results

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I think both Contractor staff and RAF personnel had a great time visiting and living in Australia. Many stayed here - some came back later!

But what about the work we did? What was achieved during the missile trials? We should not forget that we were developing a nuclear tipped cruise missile - U.K's primary deterrent for a few years in the 1960s. I'm sure that all of us have been overwhelmingly relieved that the missiles were never used "in anger". And as far as I know - a nuclear weapon was never exploded at the end of a Blue Steel flight. But the intention to use them if necessary during the cold war was always there.....

Recently, a file of papers have turned up which were reports from Elliotís staff in Australia back to 'Head office', with copies to many defence department staff. These reports give brief details of some 274 flights made by all 3 V-Bomber types during the trials. I have no doubt that there were many more flights  (Aircraft equipment tests etc. and there are some gaps in the data). But the 274 flights that were covered reveal some interesting statistics.

Probably one of the most interesting statistics is that there were a total of 122 flights where there was the intention to launch, and these resulted in 73 pre-launch aborts and 49 actual launches. Each missile cost over £1 million, so they were not launched unless everyone was satisfied that there was a likelihood of success {:-))

And how many of the launches could be regarded as completely successful?  That is that they reached the target within the specified margin of error. My assessment from the data is 25 launches or 51%. It seems like a high failure rate, but the rate of problems gradually decreased as the trials progressed. There were constant changes to the hardware and to the profiles of what was expected operationally.

A couple more statistics might be of interest. The 274 flights were divided into Valiants (various aircraft W numbers) = 147 flights, Vulcan (XH539) = 69, and Victor (XL161) = 58. The Valiants were often used for 'Carry-over' flights which tested many missile components (particularly the Inertial navigation and other systems). I presume the components were mounted in the bomb bay. But the Valiants also did carry over flights with live missiles and launched at least 13 rounds in Australia.

These days I doubt if a project would survive after such failure rates, but I think we have to realise that it was an immensely complex project for the time. The Aircraft were state of the art and continuously evolving. They used many electronics systems using Valve (Vacuum Tubes for our USA friends) technology!. Many of the systems were electro/mechanical - analogue computers. The missile itself was the same - ahead of the 'state of the art' in many areas, particularly the Inertial Navigator which must have been close to the first in the world. Even the IN system used some Valves! Finally the ground  Range systems (Woomera Range E) were also complicated with many devices spread out over several hundred KM (The range was greatly extended for the Blue Steel trials). All of these systems had to work together or a Launch flight would be aborted prior to launch. But the U.K. had few options at the time if they wanted some sort of deterrent.

In the Table below,
Launch Ht: H=High Level (48,000 to 56,000 ft). L=Low level (Below 1,000 ft)
Launch Flight: A=Intention to Launch but aborted before release. Blank=No intention to launch or no round carried 

The spreadsheet is shown below - if you would like - you can download it HERE and do your own statistics.

Date Round # Aircraft Lauch Ht Launch flight Carry over Comments
6 to 28/02/1961 10 WZ373     9 Six successful 3 aborted before range
Mid Apr 13 Valiant     2 Both aborted before range
17/04/1961 10 WZ375 H Launch flight   Failure. Roll reversal in FRC. Range Breakup
            No Data
27/07/1961 12 WZ373 H A   Hyd Supply EPCU fail before launch
28/07/1961 21 WZ373 H A   A/C Green Satin failure
1/08/1961 21 WZ373 H A   A/C Green Satin failure
4/08/1961 22 WZ373 H Launch flight   Missile MTS failure. Range breakup
22/08/1961 29 Valiant H A   L-2 FRC fore plane balance problem
25/08/1961 29 Valiant H A   A/C Hydraulics failure
29/08/1961 29 Valiant H A   Round EPCU failure
4/09/1961 27 Valiant H Launch flight   Round EPCU failure
21/09/1961 26 Valiant H A   A/C Radar fault
27/09/1961 26 Valiant H Launch flight   IN system accelerometer failure. Missile destroyed
6/10/1961 21 Valiant H A   A/C Green Satin doppler failure
10/10/1961 21 Valiant H A   Round APU fault
13/10/1961 29 Valiant H A   IN system Platform toppled. Suspect Gyro
18/10/1961 21 Valiant H Launch flight   Round Motor failure
24-30/10/1961 38 Valiant     3 First trials with service version W100A
7/11/1961 29 Valiant H Launch flight   Autopilot loop failure
15-28/11/1961   WP206     4 Rapid Take off trials
29/11/1961 34 Valiant H A   Mk 2 Autopilot fail
30/11/1961 36 Valiant H A   A/C #2 engine fault
1/12/1961   WP206     1 Rapid Take off trial O.K
4/12/1961   WP206     1 Rapid Take off trial. A/C Green Satin unserviceable
6/12/1961 34 WZ373 H A   Nitrogen pressure leak
12/12/1961 34 WZ373? H Launch flight   Successful 1200' miss distance
13 to 30/01/1962   Valiant     5 Rapid take off trials. 1 failure A/C pack failed
31/01/1962 35 Valiant H A   Instrumentation failure
1/02/1962 11 Valiant H A   Freon cooling failure
2/02/1962   Valiant     1 Successful Rapid Takeoff trial
6/02/1962 45 XH539 H A   Aircraft pack failure
7/02/1962 35 Valiant H A   Abort when APU would not accept EPC load
7/02/1962   Valiant     1 Successful Rapid Takeoff trial
8/02/1962 35 Valiant H A   APU Failure
12/02/1962 45 XH539     1 Hydraulic pack failure
13/02/1962   Valiant     1 RTO trial Freon cooling failure
16/02/1962   Valiant     1 Successful RTO trial
19/02/1962 45 XH539     1 Freon Pack failure
20/02/1962 45 XH539     1 Successful carry over
21/02/1962 38 Valiant H Launch flight   Successful Launch
22/02/1962 35 Valiant H Launch flight   Successful Launch
1-8/03/1962   WP206     5 Cold start CO trials. Some 4JSTU training
9/03/1962   WZ375     1 Successful trial AWRE Telemetry test
13-20/03/1962   WP206     5 Successful trials and 4JSTU training
21/03/1962 46 XH539 H A   1st Vulcan launch attempt. Incorrect A/C wiring
21-22/03/1962   WP206     2 Route proving, 4JSTU training. 1 abort due A/C engine fail
23/03/1962 46 XH539 H Launch flight   1st Vulcan launch. Round motors did not start due broken lanyard
26-29/03/1962   WP206     4 Mainly successful. 4JSTU training. Cold starts etc.
3/04/1961 40 WZ375 H A   AWRE pod bay temps out of limits
4-6/04/1962   WP206     2 4JSTU crew. 1 O.K.  1 abort due GSR fault
9/04/1962 40 WZ375 H A   GSR Fault
10/04/1962   WP206     1 4JSTU crew. Normal cold start
11/04/1962 40 WZ375 H Launch flight   Green Satin poor
12/04/1962   WP206     1 Cold Start EPCU failure 4JSTU crew
13/04/1962 45 WZ375 H A   APU Fault
16-19/04/1962   WP206     3 1 warm start 2 cold. 2 aborts Green Satin faulty
30/04/1962 45 XH539     1 U-Turn OK
1/05/1962   WP206     1 Warm start 4JSTU crew Suspect heading
4/05/1962 37 WZ375 H Launch flight   Impact within target area
7-10/05/62   WP206     4 4JSTU crew training
11/05/1962 45 WZ375 H Launch flight   Motor Misfire. APU failure after bunt
14-16/05/1962   WP206     2 4JSTU crew. 2 Aborts Suspect GSR and GPI problems
18/05/1962 50 XH539 H A   2nd stage Nitrogen Valve failure
23/05/1962 50 XH539 H A   Pitch rate demand suspect
25/05/1962 44 XH539 H A   IN 28V fuse blew 35 mins after take off
28/05/1962 50 XH539 H Launch flight   Power failure after start of bunt
31/05/1962 44 XH539     1 Successful carry over
31/05/1962   WP206     1 4JSTU crew. Op error with GPI6
01-20/06/1962   WP206     7 Mostly successful
26/06/1962 36 Valiant H A   Fixing errors
28/06/1962 36 Valiant H Launch flight   Angle off launch. Destroyed due Motor malfunction
2/07/1962 44 XH539 H Launch flight   Successful launch
4/07/1962   WP206     1 US pack in A/C
6/07/1962 51 XH539 H A   US doppler and TLM (Telemetry)
9/07/1962   WP206     1 Successful
12/07/1962 51 XH539 H A   US TLM
13-16/07/1962   WP206     2 Both Successful - 1 cold start
18/07/1962 56 XH539 H Launch flight   Angle off launch. Destroyed due missile roll problem
23/07/1962   WP206     1 Successful cold start
27/07/1962 48 XL161     1 Successful carryover
3/08/1962 48 XL161     1 Successful carryover
9/08/1962 55 XH539 H Launch flight   Successful launch
10-14/08/1962   WP206     2 Successful warm starts
17/08/1962 48 XL161 H A   A/C emergency. Round jettisoned at Port Wakefield range
20-24/08/1961   WP206     2 Successful warm starts
30/08/1962 51 XH539 H Launch flight   Successful
3-5/09/1962   WP206     2 Successful
6/09/1962 57 XH539     1 Successful
11-17/09/1962 57 XH539 H A   3 Abort flights - various reasons
24/09/1962   WP206     1 Successful cold start
25/09/1962 57 XH539 H Launch flight   Successful launch angle off
2-3/10/1962   WP206     2 Successful cold starts
4/10/1962 60 XL161 H Launch flight   Successful launch
11/10/1962   WP206     1 Successful cold start. A/C Hydraulic pack failed on return
16/10/1962 63 XL161 H A   APU malfunction
18-25/10/1962   WP206     2 Successful warm starts
30/10/1962 62 XL161 H A   Poor Green Satin performance
31/10- 2/11/1962   WP206     2 Successful cold starts
5/11/1962 62 XL161 H A   Green Satin problems
6/11/1962   WP206     1 GPI6 failure
6/11/1962   XL161     1 Green Satin Test O.K.
12/11/1962 62 XL161 H A   D.R. Errors too large
13-16/11/1962   WP206     2 Successful
19/11/1962 62 XL161 H A   A/C Freon pack failed
22/11/1962 62 XL161 H A   Range Abort. FPS16 failure
23/11/1962   WP206     1 Successful
3/12/1962 61 XH539 H Launch flight   Successful
5-6/12/1962   WP206     2 Crew training
10/12/1962 69 XH539 H A   RTO Hydraulic pack failed
12/12/1962 69 XH539 H A   Warm Start Hydraulic pack failed
13/12/1962 67 XH539 H A   Warm Start Hydraulic pack failed
16/01/1963 63 XH539     1 Check range instrumentation for 160 NM Trajectory
23/01/1963 63 XH539 H Launch flight   Successful 160 NM Trajectory
24/01-5/02/1963   WP206     5 Long range trials - some O.K
11/02/1963 62 XL161 H A   Freon pack overheat
13/02/1963 62 XL161 H Launch flight   Angle off launch. Missile motor problem
18-19/02/1963   WP206     2 Both Aborted. Hydraulic pack failures
26/02/1963   WP206     1 Aborted due Operator error
27/02/1963 72 XL161 H A   Range Abort. FPS16 failure
1/03/1963   WP206     1 Long range carry over O.K.
4/03/1963 66 XH539     1 Stage 2 rapid takeoff
6/03/1963 72 XL161 H A   Missile Hydraulics fault
11-13/03/1963   WP206     2 Training flights
15/03/1963 67 XH539 H Launch flight   Successful
18-20/03/1963   WP206     2 Long range carry over and training
22/03/1963 76 XL161 H A   Missile APU fault
25/03/1963   WP206     1 Long range carry over and training
27/03/1963 72 XL161 H Launch flight   Missile EPCU malfunction
29/03/1963   WP206     1 Aborted. Green Satin failure
30/03-10/04/1963 WP206     3 Local training flights
23/04-2/05/1963   WP206     2 Low level route surveys
17/05/1963 76 XL161 H A   Green Satin fault
20/05/1963 76 XL161 H A   I.N. W sub I term out of spec
            Contractor hand over to RAF
31/05/1963 81 XL161 H Launch flight   Suspected missile foreplane problem
25/06-03/07/1963 76 and 77 XL161     4 Low level route proving and carry overs
11-12/07/1963 64 XH539     2 Low level carry overs
18/07/1963 76 XL161 H A   APU malfunction
22/07/1963 66 XL161 H A   APU malfunction
30/07/1963 76 XL161 H Launch flight   Successful
8/08/1963 64 XH539     1 Successful carry over
9/08/1963 66 XL161 H A   Aborted in error by Nav/Plotter
13/08/1963 66 XL161 H Launch flight   Successful
16/08/1963 64 XH539     1 Low Level carry over.
23/08/1963 77 XL161 H A   D/R error at final fix
27-29/08/1963 65 XH539     2 Low Level carry overs. One abort due A/C radar fault
30/08/1963 77 XL161 H A   INS malfunction
6-13/09/1963 64 and 65 XH539     3 Successful Low level carry overs
17/09/1963 77 XL161 H Launch flight   Successful
19-20/09/1963 64 XH539     2 Successful Low Level carry overs
24/9-3/10/1963 65 XL161     4 Successful Low level carry overs
22/10/1963 68 XH539 H Launch flight   Successful angle off launch
29/10/1963 65 XH539     1 Freon fault
7/11/1963 64 XL161 H A   Missile Aileron sum channel problem
14/11/1963 64 XL161 H A   A/C cabin Overheat
15/11/1963 62 XH539 L A   Range radar U/S
19/11/1963 62 XH539 L Launch flight   Successful
21/11/1963 64 XL161 H Launch flight   Successful angle off launch
26/11/1963 59 XL161 L Launch flight   Successful
6/12/1963 65 XH539 L A   Intermittent I.N. X acceleration error
9/12/1963 65 XH539 L Launch flight   Successful Launch - Range broke up round in error
18/02/1964 74 XL161 H A   Navigator burst disk rupture
25/02/1964 74 XL161 H A   Foreplane indication faulty
3/03/1964 52 XL161 H Launch flight   Only 50 secs of TLM. Otherwise O.K?
6/03/1964 79 XH539 H A   Unserviceable A/C pack
10/03/1964 79 XH539 H A   Autopilot rates out of spec
12/03/1964 79 XH539 H Launch flight   Motor Malfunction
13/03/1964 58 XL161     1 Crew training
17/03/1964 58 XH539     1 Crew training
24/03/1964 74 XL161 H Launch flight   Successful launch Int TLM
8/04/1964 58 XH539 L A   Aborted by Range. Table plots faulty
10/04/1964 54 XH539 L Launch flight   Successful
14/04/1964 58 XL161 L Launch flight   Successful L/L and angle off
6/05/1964 42 XL161 H A   No TLM received
12/05/1964 42 XL161 H A   Foreplane malfunction
19/05/1964 84 XL161 H A   Excessive D.I. offsets
27/05/1964 47 XL161 H A   H2S9 malfunction
3/06/1964 47 XL161 H Launch flight   Motor malfunction
4/06/1964 42 XL161 H A   H2S9 malfunction
9/06/1964 84 XH539 L A   Aborted in error by I.N. operator
17/06/1964 84 XH539 L Launch flight   Successful
18/06/1964 80 XL161 L A   Aborted by Range. Table plots faulty
23/06/1964 42 XH539 L Launch flight   I.N. Power supply failure
24/06/1964 80 XL161 L Launch flight   Successful angle off launch
7/07/1964 73 XH539 L A   A/C Radar problem
10/07/1964 73 XH539 L A   I.N. Bank angle demand problem
14/07/1964 69 XL161     1 Low Level A/C doppler evaluation
16/07/1964 69 XH539     1 Successful Low level
21/07/1964 69 XH539     1 Missile refrigeration problem
22/07/1964 69 XL161     1 Green Satin poor
29/07/1964 73 XH539 L Launch flight   Successful Offset angle launch
11/08/1964 69 XL161 H A   Possible I.N. problem
19/08/1964 69 XL161 H Launch flight   Successful
25/08/1964 83 XH539 H A   Folding fin circuit problem
28/08/1964 83 XH539 H A   Faulty Range system
2/09/1964 83 XH539 H A   Faulty Range system
11/09/1964 83 XH539 H Launch flight   Successful
23/09/1964 78 XH539     1 To check Green Satin at low level
2/10/1964 78 XH539 H A   I.N. Burst disk ruptured
8/10/1964 78 XH539 H Launch flight   Missile motors malfunction
14/10/1964 71 XH539 H A   APU pressure indication fluctuating
16/10/1964 71 XH539 H Launch flight   Successful

So there we have it - I feel it was quite an acheivement - certainly a very busy 42 Months.

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Cheers - John Saxon. 29 Oct 2011 revised 2 May 2012, and 1 Mar 2014