|Vickers Type 581|
|581 in anti-flash white default livery|
|Primary Use||Military, tactical strike|
Barnes Wallis and been developing variable geometry wing technology in the background for Vickers since the mid 1940s. In the 1950s, Vickers undertook considerable development on VG wings and extensively wind-tunnel tested with NASA in 1959. The conclusion was to move the engines from the wings to the fuselage, making the design more conventional than Barnes Wallis’ original arrowhead shaped Swallow aircraft.
The technology was not proven enough to be incorporated in the the 571, and further development was limited in the UK. NASA, however, took forward Barnes Wallis’ work producing the F-111 and the designs for the Boeing 2707 SST. The decision on the 571 was probably the correct one as the F-111 was plagued with problems, and the 2707 never got off the drawing board.
In 1959, the Admiralty produced OR.346 to investigate a multi-role aircraft. The first proposed aircraft (ER.206/1) was a modification of the single engined 571 building in TSR.2 learnings. The naval requirements could not be satisfied, so attention turned to varible-geometry and at this point the Air Force became interested. Two variable-geometry designs were presented, before the navy pulled out as their requirements could not be satisfied. After removing the Naval weight restrictions, Type 581 ER.206/4 was presented to the air force in 1960. This was effectively the UK’s version of the F-111 from the joint NASA research programme.
In addition to variable geometry wings the 581 (ER.206/4) had several novel features to meet to the requirements for a high speed, low level, short-take off tactical bomber. Lower speed stability was achieved with unswept wings and full span blown flaps. The nose down pitch caused by the blown flaps was countered by a lift engine behind the cockpit. The 581 featured a Concorde style droop nose to aid landing visibility, and lacked a horizontal stabilizer - pitch and roll control being achieved by elevons on the rounded wing tips. The 581 was Vickers-Supermarines’ first feasible design for a VG combat aircraft. The design work would evolve over to the following few year with the 583, 584, 585 and 589.
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