A model from the estate of a former Aircraft Industry Employee.
A stunning and VERY rare 1:24 scale manufacturer's display model of the Saunders Roe SR.177….a projected mixed-powerplant fighter design, which was intended to go into service alongside the Lightning.
Anyone who visited the Farnborough Air Show in the mid 1950’s will remember the SR.53 the predecessor of this design. As with many British designs of this period……it’s story is fascinating…and largely political ! Firstly, the background to the aircraft…this particular model I will describe after !
The SR.177 began as an advanced design concept for the SR.53, but when a development contract was issued by the Ministry of Defence (specification F.155) the project was given its own designation.
Funding was secured in July 1956 for a total of 27 aircraft, and the first was expected to fly by April (later, October) 1958. However, 1957 was to see a massive re-thinking of air defence philosophy in the 1957 Defence White Paper which called for manned combat aircraft to be replaced by missiles.By the time that the RAF programme was axed later that year, the aircraft was still in prototype production stage, but another development contract was issued for the SR.177 for its use with the Royal Navy.
Work on the aircraft continued a little longer, however, in the anticipation of continued interest from Germany. The British Ministry of Supply agreed to continue funding development of five of the six prototypes, but nothing was to come of it. The German government had changed its priorities from looking for an interceptor to a Strike Fighter, leading Saunders-Roe to redesign the aircraft for this role. This was followed immediately by another redesign when Rolls Royce successfully convinced the German government to replace the de Havilland engine intended for the SR.177 with the Rolls Royce RB.153. Even with Heinkel preparing to manufacture the aircraft locally under licence, Germany withdrew support in December 1957.
Of the remaining aircraft under consideration, the West German Government chose to purchase the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter instead to meet the role of "high-altitude reconnaissance machine, a tactical fighter-bomber, and an all-weather fighter" along with most of the European governments. This Lockheed coup, known as the "Deal of the Century", caused major political controversy in Europe and West German Minister of Defence Franz Josef Strauss was almost forced to resign over the issue. During later investigation into Lockheed's business practices it was discovered that Lockheed had paid out millions of dollars in "sales incentives" in each of these countries to secure the deal. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands confessed to taking more than one million dollars in bribes from Lockheed to buy the F-104.
With the withdrawal of German interest and no requirement for the SR.177 by the RAF, the existing Royal Navy requirement was considered not worth proceeding with and the Ministry of Supply cancelled the project. Saunders-Roe announced an expected 1,000 redundancies as a result.
In 1960 the aircraft interests were merged with those of the Bristol, English Electric Company, and Hunting Aircraft to form the British Aircraft Corporation, owned by Vickers, English Electric and Bristol (holding 40%, 40% and 20% respectively)
Apart from this Historic Manufacturers model, we are only aware of 2 others……One is in the RAF Museum at RAF Cosford, the other, is in the Collection of Sir George Cox.( Both are shown in the accompanying photographs) The airframe is wooden, some of the decals and paintwork have chips, and a repair has been carried out to one of the wingtip missiles. The airframe is good and complete, the metal and wooden stand are original……It is what it is ! a 60 year old Manufacturers model. The length is around 2 feet (62cms) and the weight (with the display stand is just over 3 Kgs!
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