Same universe, 10 years later.

By the mid-1950s, British military thinking was that the manned fighter had become obsolete, and the future defence of the British Isles could be handled by surface-to-air missiles. There were several reasons for this line of thought, but the main idea was that Britain would only be attacked by Russian bombers, and that only missiles would be fast enough to intercept them.

As a stopgap, the English Electric P.1 was developed; the fabled “Last Manned Fighter” to be used before the nation’s fate would be entrusted to a new generation of missiles. The P.1 would be a “point defence” interceptor, with outstanding performance, limited warload and very short range, and with very demanding maintenance needs. This of course limited its export potential to approximately zero.

Midway through the assembly of the first P.1, designer W E Petter chanced to meet Avro Vulcan designer Roy Chadwick. Over lunch, Chadwick convinced Petter to design a tailless delta version of the P.1, in case the tailed “notched delta” original failed to work as hoped. English Electric soon began work on a delta P.1, to be known as the P.2. There was apparently a suggestion that the type should be named “Fulgur”, after the lightning bolts forged by Vulcan. The project was a semi-private venture, with some government funding provided in the belief that the aircraft was intended for research to help the Bristol 198 SST project. NASA, who were worried by the failure of the Convair XF-92A Delta, also provided a large but undisclosed sum in return for flight data.

The P.2 was first flown in late 1955, test pilot Roland Beamont commenting that it was “the only aeroplane in the world which can compete with the P.1b”. Designed from the outset as a fighter, the P.2 had provision for AI radar, missile hardpoints and drop tank mounts under the wings, and 2 x 30mm ADEN cannon. Its Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire engines were fitted with reheat, and its internal fuel load was double that of the P.1.

With the arrival of a British fighter that could outclimb and outfight anything except a Lightning, and with double the Lightning’s radius of action and plenty of growth potential, foreign governments were ecstatic. Purchase enquiries were received from Australia, Canada, West Germany, South Africa and at least six other nations, promising initial foreign sales of 500 to 600 aircraft.

What were the British government to do? Their own last manned fighter was well under way, but here was a supposed research aircraft with enormous export potential, that was guaranteed to generate millions of pounds in foreign revenue, and which had cost the taxpayer comparatively little. The Parliamentary debate lasted a little over an hour, with both sides in complete agreement. Since the aircraft’s production did not agree with current domestic policy, the prototype was immediately grounded and scrapped, and all spares and tooling ordered destroyed.

Which, I suppose, just goes to show that even in a parallel universe, politicians will still be politicians.


About aquadraco

I'm a grey nomad who enjoys living on the same planet as Australian Eastern Water Dragons. And turtles.
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