The Defence Engineering Projects That Never Were

Published: 16 Jul 2013

Defence engineers are frequently required to be innovative and imaginative in their engineering designs and solutions. A creative flair is often the key to success in this field, yet not all initial concepts reach the production stage. Recently, a selection of archived engineering designs from previous decades have been unearthed to discover what engineering projects that were eventually scrapped might have entailed. Here’s a quick look at a few of the defenced engineering projects that never were…

The Jumping Jeep

This design was initially developed at the request of the British Army during the 1960s. The idea was to create a 4x4 vehicle which would be capable of leaping over any obstacles which it encountered through the adaption of vertical take-off and landing technology. The project was developed by BAC Warton, along with the Ministry of Defence’s Fighting Vehicle Research and Development Establishment, but was eventually cancelled due to costs.

Whilst the defence benefits of jumping jeeps remain yet to be seen, there is still a possibility that leaping vehicles may one day make it the front line: US military organisation DARPA unveiled their plans for a similar project just a few years ago.

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The Hypersonic Aircraft

This Multi-Unit Space Transport And Recovery Device (nicknamed MUSTARD) was designed to fly at five times the speed of sound, creating a reusable ‘space plane’ that could considerably reduce the cost of building and flying conventional rockets.

Tom Smith was the engineer behind this innovative development, before going on to work on the Jaguar and Tornado aircraft, as well as a number of top-level defence projects which currently remain classified.  Developed by the British Aircraft Corporation in 1964, the MUSTARD plane consisted of three separate, crewed, delta-winged sections, all of which remained connected during the launch period. Two of the sections acted as ‘boosters’ to propel the third section into space, before detaching and returning to Earth for use on future missions.

When the government decided against proceeding with the MUSTARD project, Smith was quoted as saying that he believe the idea to be too “far ahead of its time”.

The Fighter Jet Take-Off Platform

The Fighter Jet Take-Off Platform was initially developed by English Electric (EE) in collaboration with the Belfast-based Short Brothers. The central idea was to engineer a P17A jet which could be used for tactical strike after launching from small air strips or other tight spaces. The launch platform itself, known as the P17D, would be attached below the aircraft prior to take-off and powered by 56 jet engines in order to rise up from the ground, whilst remaining horizontal. The aircraft would then launch from the platform, once it was significantly above ground level.

It was also hoped that the P17D platform might be used as a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) freight transporter, in order to deliver defence equipment and supplies to less-accessible locations. However, the project was eventually scrapped by the Air Ministry due to the expense and complexity of the design.


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