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Bloodhound

 

New deployment plans called for the Bloodhounds to form a barrier, rather than a point defence system. Accordingly, March 1976 saw 'B' Flight form at North Coates, near Grimsby, whilst 'C' Flight was installed at Bawdsey (the historic site of the RAF's first radar station), near lpswich, in July 1979. With the Thames-Humber line established, No 25 Squadron returned home from Germany between 1981 and 1983 to fill-in the gaps: 'A' Flight at Barkston Heath, Lincs; 'B' Flight and HQ at Wyton, near Huntingdon; and 'C' Flight at Wattisham, Suffolk. On 1 October 1989, No 25 Squadron became a Tornado interceptor unit at Leeming, and its bases were inherited by an expanded No 85 Squadron:

D/85 at Barkston, E/85 at Wattisham and F/85 at Wyton.

Bloodhound remains in service simply because it is still an effective system. Once dedicated to high-level interception, it has been switched to lower-altitude targets with little fuss other than mounting its radars on towers to give them an improved view. Radar energy (continuous wave, replacing the Mk l's pulsed) reflected from the target is received by a dish antenna under the missile's nose cone and the Bloodhound is directed towards the point in the sky at which the enemy aircraft will be intercepted. Changes in direction are achieved by moving the two wings in the centre of the missile body either differentially or in unison: the so-called 'twist and steer' principle.

Sports car aficionados, to whom '0-60' times are of great interest, may care to contemplate the fact that on launching Bloodhound achieves 0 to 760 (1,220 km/h - the speed of sound) within the 25ft (7.62m) of its own length. Four seconds later, the four RoF Gosling solid-propellant boost rockets have accelerated the missile to Mach 2.5 and fallen away. By then, the two Bristol Thor liquid-fuel ramjets are working to sustain the SAM during a flight of up to 80 seconds.

Having been mounted on a ramp inclined at 34o 30' the weapon will now probably be far above its quarry. Tipping over on its nose, it will dive on the victim, guided by the reflected radar energy still originating from its launch pad scanner. The maneuvering tricks for making pulse-Doppler radar break its lock do not work for continuous wave, whilst attempting to jam the radar can be counter-productive unless done with great circumspection, as the Bloodhound has a 'home-on-jam' facility.

Detonated by a proximity fuse, the warhead explodes to scatter a shower of metal rods which form, effectively, a 120ft (37m) circular-saw spinning through the air. Precise details of range are secret, but published data refers to a radius of 50 miles (80 klm) - the Mk2 carries more fuel and target heights up to 59,000ft (17,980m) and well below 1,000ft (305m).

The men and women who operate and service 'The Dog' come under the Bloodhound Force Commander (BFC), who is also the station commander at West Raynham. As the top link in the command chain, the BFC works in the Force Operations Room and is in direct contact with the Southern Sector Commander at Neatishead, the underground bunker which co-ordinates air defence forces south of the Humber.

On the next rung down are the six Bloodhound Flights, each of between two and four Sections. A Section controls six to eight launchers and one radar from its Launch Control Post (LCP) caravan. A back-up stock of missiles is held close-by, ready to be bolted on to the launcher by a side-lifting vehicle. Communication of orders and information between all levels of the command have been expedited by newly installed Auto Data Processing (ADP) system using Hewlett-Packard HP1000A hardware and BAe -designed programmes. ADP extends down to the six operations rooms of the Bloodhound flights, the first to be so equipped commissioning late in 1987. Data presented on screen includes details of potential targets acquired, individual weapon readiness and engagement status. The Force Commander can therefore see the whole tactical picture as a computer-generated map and also call up any one of over 100 pages of engineering status data on the Bloodhound force. If any site is put out of action, the others are quickly able to assume its functions.

LCPs have their own power generators and air conditioning - but the latter is for the benefit of the computers, not the staff! Here, the number-crunching is performed by a recently installed Ferranti Argus 700 computer which processes radar data and checks-out the serviceability of the Bloodhounds on their pads. Appropriate data is displayed on screens monitored by the officer or NCO Engagement Controller and his or her SNCO technical assistant.

The LCP is, from the outside, no more sophisticated than a caravan protected by an earth revetment. This is deceptive, for the caravans are just completing a refurbishment programme which includes a complete re-build with the new computer and consoles. Similarly, the Ferranti Type 86 Firelight I/J-band radar caravans are being gutted and stripped down to bare metal before renovation under a contract due to be completed by the middle of this year.

In the past, No 85 Squadron had the fixed-base Marconi Type 87 Scorpion and No 25 used air-portable Type 86s. For reasons of economy, the force has now standardised on the T86 - even though mobility is not required - because additional second-hand equipment of the same type was available from Sweden and the retired Thunderbird SAMs of the British Army. West Raynham went over to T86 in 1986 and was followed by the coastal stations of North

Coates and Bawdsey in 1988. The other three bases, of course, have had that radar since establishment. Inland-based units have their radar on 30ft (9m) towers, but coastal units use the 14ft (4m) base of the old T87 which, because of its shape, used to be known as a 'Dalek'. It may seem curious, yet is entirely logical, that each Bloodhound missile section is treated like an aircraft - to the extent of having its own 'Form 700' which is handed to each Engagement Controller coming on duty. Every year, missiles receive a Minor Overhaul, and every two years undergo a more searching 'Major', this work being carried out at West Raynham's Missile Servicing Flight for all except the North Coates Bloodhounds (which have their own facility). Because the weapon is fuelled and armed when on the launcher, safety dictates that only minimal servicing can be accomplished in situ. If an 'on-line' signal fails to show on the missile status screen in the control post, the round has to be made safe before removal indoors for technical examination.

Electronic check-out equipment will find any fault in the circuit boards, but there ends the parallel with modern electronics. Instead of plugging in a new board and dispatching the old unit elsewhere for repair, as on a Tornado squadron, the Bloodhound technician plugs in his soldering iron. Throw-away technology has yet to reach No 85 Squadron, and the result is Servicing Flight staff who have the job-satisfaction of being able to follow a fault through from diagnosis to rectification with their own hands.

After 25 years of service, the Bloodhounds are now receiving a well-deserved refurbishment. Despite having been lashed by the elements for the greater proportion of this time, they have resisted well, although just to make sure, each is completely dismantled and stripped of paint. Other programmes have included overhaul of ramjets, nosecones and warheads, plus removal of aluminium covering from the wings to reveal the wooden core for a corrosion check. (The RAF could never live down reports of dry rot or woodworm infestation in its front-line equipment.) Missiles not immediately put back on launchers are kept in the external Ready-Use Missile Store, connected to a pipe which constantly passes dried air through their electronics.

Nearby, Bloodhound launchers supply the same service to ready-to-fire rounds from an air conditioning unit. Also part of the launcher are an electronic power supply and a hydraulic pack to rotate the launcher and power the missile's controls during the first few seconds of flight. Observers have attached great political significance to the fact that all Bloodhounds point East but, in fact, they are simply turned to have their backs to the prevailing (westerly) wind when not at readiness. Called to action, the six or eight weapons of an LCP rotate in unison to point where the Type 86 radar is looking.

Weapon, Airframe, Propulsion, Air Radar and Air Defence technicians pass to and from the Bloodhound Force during their service careers, just as if it were an aircraft -operating unit. Similarly, though volunteers to 'pilot' a Bloodhound in the accepted sense of the word are notoriously scarce, the closely-approximating Engagement Controllers were previously drawn mainly from the same General Duties (Air) Branch



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Constructed by Dick Barrett
ęCopyright 2000 - 2005 Dick Barrett
The right of Dick Barrett to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

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