100 stories and reflections
In support of RAF100, BAE Systems is communicating 100 unique and compelling stories and reflections from 1st April to mid-October. Together these insights support the RAF and demonstrate our support for RAF100 in particular.
These are key facts around the technological edge we have provided the RAF over the last 100 years (and will continue to in the future), as well as the instances where our colleagues past and present have gone beyond to provide the kind of imagination, invention, service and support the RAF needs in order to carry out their own role.
31/100 - Canopy off
30/100 - "I wanted to do my bit" by Graham Palmer
29/100 - The suited test pilot
Today's experimental test pilots climb into the cockpits of modern combat aircraft wearing similar uniforms to those worn by their Royal Air Force counterparts.
But, Wing Commander Roly Falk, the test pilot for the A.V. Roe and Company, was no ordinary test pilot.
During the Second World War, he became Chief Test Pilot at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough in 1943. He flew more than 2,000 hours in 300 different aircraft ranging from gliders to jet prototypes, including captured German aircraft, all whilst wearing a lounge suit and tie. For his service he was awarded the Air Force Cross, an honour given for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying, though not in active operations against the enemy." However, despite having a distinguished career serving his nation, it was neither this nor his distinctive dress style that Falk is best known for.
In 1950, he joined Avro as Chief Test Pilot and took over the company's development programme of delta-winged aircraft. In August 1952, he took the controls of the Avro 698 prototype VX770, which would later become known as the Vulcan.
Powered by four Rolls-Royce RA.3 Avon engines, with a temporary fuel tank fitted into the bomb bay and only fitted with the first-pilot's ejection seat, Falk took the aircraft through a number of unconventional manoeuvres before opening the throttle to such a point that it shattered a number of factory windows. A matter of weeks later the then unnamed aircraft appeared at the Farnborough Air Show with a number of names rumoured, including 'Ottawa' in honour of the company's connection with Avro Canada, but the Air Council opted for ‘Vulcan’ in recognition of its role in the RAF’s V-Force. The aircraft was the key part of the UK’s airborne nuclear deterrent up to the late 1960s.
Although typically armed with nuclear weapons, the Vulcan’s ability to also carry conventional weapons was used to full effect on Operation Black Buck during the Falklands War between the UK and Argentina in 1982 - these were to be the only missions ‘flown in anger’ by a Vulcan.
Falk demonstrated the aircraft on several occasions including at the 1955 Farnborough Air Show when he barrel-rolled it at the top of the take-off climb, a spectacular manoeuvre in an aircraft weighing 69 tons and with a 99-foot wingspan.
When he ceased test flying, Falk became a sales representative for Hawker Siddeley, of which the Avro company was then part. He eventually retired from Hawker Siddeley and moved to the Channel Islands where he set up his own aircraft company.
28/100 - "It takes one to train one..."
27/100 - Young, courageous and just 20 years old
26/100 - Nat Makepeace - The Family
25/100 - Passing the torch
Today, the jets will touch down at the station in Norfolk where our people have been at the heart of the team behind the construction of state-of-the-art maintenance, training and operational facilities ready for the jets’ arrival.
By this summer, there will be a total of nine F-35s stationed at Marham where our people are working alongside industry partners, including Lockheed Martin, and the RAF to ensure the aircraft is available and its air and ground crews have the skills to operate them when required.
This whole force concept has been something we have achieved at Marham working in partnership with the RAF in support of Tornado, ensuring availability on operations and swifter capability upgrades and maintenance.
We will continue to deliver this support for the RAF until Tornado's out of service date at the end of 2019, as we also open a new chapter of delivery on the F-35.
Together with Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the F-35 programme, we have formed a team of more than 100 skilled technicians at RAF Marham, which will provide engineering and technical expertise, deliver air-crew and ground-crew training, facilitate routine maintenance and help to manage the jets’ global supply chain.
This is just one part of our work in sustaining the global F-35 fleet which includes delivering maintenance, overhaul and upgrade services for avionic and aircraft components of hundreds of jets from across Europe and the South Pacific.
In the United States, we also ensure the readiness of critical electronic warfare systems on the F-35, which are delivered by our BAE Systems Inc business.
Our role at the heart of the F-35 programme and our pedigree of delivering availability servicing for the RAF makes us the perfect partner to open the next chapter in our enduring relationship as the F-35 in the UK moves from a programme to a force.
24/100 - Continuous evolution
23/100 - Taranis first flight
The technology demonstrator is the result one-and-a-half million hours of work by leading scientists, aerodynamicists and systems engineers from 250 UK companies.
However, although Taranis was designed to demonstrate unmanned air systems, during flight it was always under the control of a human operator.
It can undertake sustained surveillance, marking targets, gathering intelligence, deterring adversaries and carrying out strikes in hostile territory.
The Taranis demonstrator aircraft was formally unveiled in July 2010 and underwent ground-based testing, including unmanned pilot training, radar cross-section measurements and ground station integration, before making its first flight in August 2013.
Speaking following the tests, our then-group managing director Nigel Whitehead said: "During its initial sorties – and there were many – Taranis did not just meet our expectations; it surpassed them in every way."
Further flight trials followed and the data, engineering know-how and experience fed back in to Team Taranis, the group of businesses we led to work alongside Ministry of Defence military staff and scientists.
In the same way, the Eurofighter Typhoon flown by today's Royal Air Force pilots was the product of a technology demonstrator, the Experimental Aircraft Programme or EAP, the technologies developed by Taranis are at the heart of our work to develop new capabilities for the RAF of the future.