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Black Arrow (wikipedia.org)
54 points by x43b on April 11, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 14 comments



Hmm, I never thought the close military relationship between the US and UK would be anything but beneficial for the UK, but this shows a pitfall of that kind of thinking...since its "cheaper" just to purchase from the US, the UK forfeits the development of its own MIC.

I think I remember reading somewhere that the continuous wars between the UK and the other European powers was one of the main reasons for the demand that led to the industrial revolution. If that's true, then what to make of this situation?


Hmm, I never thought the close military relationship between the US and UK would be anything but beneficial for the UK

It was actually extremely toxic for UK-based development of some items. For example, Robert McNamara in the mid-1960s was keen to sell the F-111 to Australia and the UK -- so keen that he leaned hard on the Wilson government to cancel the competing TSR-2 low-level supersonic bomber:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BAC_TSR-2

Again, the USAF's cancellation of the GAM-87 Skybolt air-launched IRBM really screwed with the UK's nuclear delivery plans in the 1960s:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GAM-87_Skybolt

And for a modern reprise, look at the premature-ish retirement of the UK Harrier fleet and the ongoing headache over the QE class supercarriers and the F-35B the UK is planning to buy to fly off them. (Note that early iterations of the Eurofighter Typhoon design spec in the 1980s and early 1990s included strengthened landing gear and an arrester hook for carrier ops -- when France dropped out and went alone on the Dassault Rafale, that's what they were after).

Having a "close military relationship" with a larger power means that your own, smaller military ends up as the tail being wagged by the dog.


Also the Lockheed bribery:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_bribery_scandals

Which damaged plenty of European aerospace companies like Sauders-Roe (who developed the Black Knight and other UK rockets).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saunders-Roe_SR.177#Cancellatio...


It wasn't cheaper.

A member of my family was involved with this - he was navy, involved with requisitioning. Remember him telling me that everyone knew it was wrong, and that it was being done at the behest of a certain U.S. aerospace giant, against the background of vickers, Bristol and others eating their lunch.

It was cheaper in the sense that antagonising the U.S. Government is expensive.


The industrial revolution was mostly a question of having a large number of people not directly producing food. It's hard to get good estimates, but if you look at the ratio of food producers:population, and total population you see a large spike start right before the industrial revolution.

PS: The estimated world population was only 15 million at the time agriculture emerged in around 10,000 BCE. A lot of the 'exponential' increase in technology has to do with the exponential increase in population especially idol population.


_Was_ it actually cheaper?

>Prior to the cancellation of Black Arrow, NASA had offered to launch British payloads for free; however, this offer was withdrawn following the decision to cancel Black Arrow.[2]

That sounds horrible, but both the references are to books so I'm not sure what actually happened.


Related: the UK trying to convince the US to give it nuclear secrets led to Windscale.


There's a great BBC documentary[1] about the Windscale fire that goes into quite some detail about the US-UK "Special Relationship" when it came to atomic weapons information sharing, which largely boiled down to some tacit arrangements that if the UK could show that it could develop its own nukes, the US might be more forthcoming on their designs.

The Windscale accident itself was largely the fault of the British establishment who pushed it beyond the limits of safety for speed, and repurposed it to manufacture isotopes it was never designed to handle.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElotW9oKv1s&list=PLA0A54E363...


Yes, I think it was this documentary which taught me about it.


See also http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zircon_(satellite)

There's a small satellite industry in the UK, which seems to be thriving despite official neglect.

UK procurement is just too small-minded and penny-pinching to do these kind of projects.


There is a large, and rapidly growing satellite industry in the UK. No thanks to any British government prior to roughly 1997, which were all uniformly hostile to space research/development, seeing it as a profitless vacuum. Thatcher, in particular, thought it was pointless and cancelled virtually everything that crossed her desk except for military spy/comsat proposals -- like Zircon. (In the late 90s the civil space industry finally became marginally profitable and attitudes changed: today the UK even has a home-grown space industry.)


It is amazing what ambition post WW2 Britain had for Cold War hardware. Despite the country having been bombed to bits (albeit not quite on Tokyo/Hiroshima/Dresden/etc. scale) there were many companies in the aerospace sector, plus a 'space program' of military ambitions only, that Concorde thing, not to mention various flavours of atom bomb. Incredible! Nowadays there is no huge fleet in the skies, at sea or on land. Right now there isn't even an aircraft carrier with actual planes. Despite that the cost of military hardware is forever going skyward with planes costing $100 million dollars a piece (you could buy and run an F1 team on less).


Not very constructive but am I the only one who thinks that it looks like a giant lipstick?


Hopefully this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skylon

will put us back in the space race.




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