The only TSR-2 to ever fly, XR219, at Boscombe Down between September 1964 and March 1965. Designed to conduct low level, high speed flights into Eastern Europe, penetrating air defences to deliver a nuclear strike, the aircraft was the last all-British wonder-child of aviation. With the V-Force ever increasingly the vulnerable force, in the face of new Soviet missiles, this was a necessary evolutionary step.
It must be said that this aircraft was one of the most advanced designs of it’s time; genuinely comparable to the SR-71 and XB-70 as regards innovation. Capable of Mach 2+ at medium-high altitudes, the design’s focus was on low level performance. At sub-200 feet, the aircraft would penetrate into the Eastern Block at around Mach 1.1. To achieve such performance at tree-top level, a completely new fully automatic radar system was required, far in advance of anything previously concocted. It would use terrain following and sideways looking systems which automatically maintained a prescribed altitude. Much speculation stands around it’s illogical cancellation.