Royal Australian Air Force
Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation TSR.2(A)


Airfix 1/72 TSR.2, A8-127 1 SQN RAAF


by Alfred Stolfa

 

Introduction

Here’s an effort of mine from a few years ago. The Airfix 1/72 TSR.2, built as a ‘What If’ RAAF TSR.2(A). This build was inspired by two individuals. Firstly, Ray Seppala, for introducing me to the subject of ‘What Ifs’, and secondly, John Baxter, who was responsible for, among other publications, ‘The Alternate RAAF and RAN Fleet Air Arm’, which got me interested in the RAAF TSR.2 ‘What If’ theme.

What Could Have Been

In the spirit of John’s book, I made a back story for the ‘What If’ RAAF TSR.2(A). It goes something like this…….

In another place and time (possibly with the aid of Dr. Who’s TARDIS), this is what the British-developed TSR.2 may have looked like in the late 20th century in the service of the Royal Australian Air Force.

This was preceded by a time in the 1960’s where developmental problems with the cutting edge materials technology and mechanical complexity embodied in the swept wing/wing carry through structure intrinsic to a variable geometry supersonic strike/bomber aircraft, and an ambitious multi-role joint US Navy/Air Force specification, ultimately led to the untimely cancellation of the development of the General Dynamics F-111.

Being the natural competitor of this aircraft for the RAAF requirement for a tactical strike and reconnaissance platform, the TSR.2(A), as the Australian variant of the TSR.2 was to become known, was realised.

Having had a long history of collaboration on ‘paper’ projects and RAAF proposals with the British aerospace industry (including the P.1182/HS.1182 which evolved into the Hawk jet trainer and the AA107 variable geometry trainer/attack aircraft), Australia’s Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, undertook to offer an adapted variant of the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) TSR.2 in satisfaction of a specific RAAF operational requirement.

After a period of joint BAC and CAC development effort on the TSR.2(A) and AA107 at Warton in the UK, the CAC team returned to Fishermans Bend to complete the TSR.2(A) proposal for submission to the Australian Government and the RAAF for consideration.

Work commenced locally in the late 1960’s in CAC’s Design Office at Fishermens Bend to develop and integrate the necessary avionics and missions systems, supported by a small team of expatriate engineers, designers and technicians from BAC.

The Australian prototype TSR.2(A) first flew in late 1968, and after completing its developmental and operational test and evaluation program jointly managed by CAC and the RAAF’s Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU), the first production aircraft was accepted by the RAAF almost one year later and entered service soon after with 1SQN, initially to support aircrew conversion training. A further 23 production aircraft were delivered to the RAAF from the CAC Fishermans Bend production line over the next two years, with the final aircraft being delivered in early 1972. The prototype TSR.2(A), after being reworked to align with production aircraft specifications, was further modified to incorporate flight test instrumentation and telemetry equipment as part of its induction into the ARDU fleet, after 1SQN had completed the first tranche of pilot conversion training.

During the mid 1990’s, the TSR.2(A) was subject to a major avionics upgrade. In pursuing this, the RAAF chose a potentially tortuous path by electing to revamp many of the analogue systems and architectures having their genesis in the late 1960’s, while integrating a more contemporary stores management system, allowing carriage of the later generation of ‘smart’ stores. As the RAAF remained as the sole operator of this aircraft type and the TSR.2’s original designer has long been cast to the annals of British aircraft manufacturers’ history, CAC found itself leading a consortium of Australian companies which brought together experience developed through the previous three decades. Government Aircraft Factories leveraged from its experience in control systems and autopilot system development from the Jindivik program, while other avionics and weapons systems technologies were developed and implemented by a range of specialist SMEs who had benefitted from their involvement in major Defence acquisition and in service management programs across the breadth of the ADF’s platforms.

Back to Reality – Building the Airfix 1/72 TSR.2 Kit

Anyone who knows this kit, will know it has some minor vices. The major issues I found were the fit of the aft empennage to the aft fuselage and the upper wing to forward fuselage joint in the vicinity of the engine intakes. These issues have been covered amply in build reviews online and in print. Filling and sanding were the order of the day here.

The two clear canopy parts posed other problems. They appeared both too wide for the assembled fuselage halves. In hindsight, there might be another way of combating this, assuming you do lots of dry-fitting/assembly beforehand. Lesson learned. As my fuselage was assembled before I dry fitted the canopies, locally packing it out with slivers of plastic card to accommodate the canopy profiles was not going to be an option. It’s something I’d investigate in any future build however. In the end, I attacked the canopy parts with a file, taking off at least 0.5mm in thickness (maybe a touch more) all round to get the contour to match the local fuselage profile. Wet and dry paper and polishing compounds restored the canopy clarity, though I didn’t bother restoring the ‘lost’ canopy frame relief on the parts. Painting would have to be sufficient for this purpose. I used Bare Metal Foil and masking tape to mask the clear areas of the canopies, in lieu of having the frames in relief to guide the masking.

When it came to painting, I may have been a been a bit ‘timid’ when it came to the application of the Testors Glosscote over the matt Testors Model Master enamels I used. In spite of the gloss coat, the Airfix decals were not particularly cooperative, in that, the clear carrier film remained obvious. Worst affected were the maintenance stencils on the black under surfaces and the wing and horizontal stabiliser walkway markings. Other decals came from Aussie Decals and the spares box.

The stores configuration mirrors that typical of a Pave Tack equipped TSR.2(A). The Pave Tack pod came from the Hasegawa 1/72 F-111C kit, as did the weapons pylons. Sidewinders and GBUs were from the spares box. Pylon locations on the wing align with the identified location for them on the kit. Not sure how the stores separation would have worked. I am sure it would have given the ARDU guys some interesting times.