Work on the first British anti-aircraft missiles began during World War II. As the British economists calculated, the cost of the used anti-aircraft artillery shells was almost equal to the cost of the downed bomber. At the same time, it was very tempting to create a disposable remotely piloted interceptor, which would be guaranteed to destroy an enemy high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft or bomber.
The first work in this direction began in 1943. The project, which received the name of Breykemina (English Brakemine), provided for the creation of the simplest and cheapest guided anti-aircraft missile.
A bunch of eight solid-propellant engines from 76-mm unguided anti-aircraft missiles were used as a propulsion system. The launch was supposed to be carried out from the platform of a 94-mm anti-aircraft gun. Missile guidance was carried out in the radar beam. The estimated height of the defeat was supposed to reach 10,000 m.
At the end of 1944, test launches began, but due to numerous malfunctions, work on fine-tuning the rocket was delayed. After the end of the war, due to the loss of military interest in this topic, funding for the work was stopped.
In 1944, Fairey began work on the development of the Stooge radio-controlled solid-propellant anti-aircraft missile. A bunch of the same engines from 76-mm anti-aircraft missiles were used as starting boosters. The propulsion engines were four engines from 5-inch unguided rockets "Swallow".
Funding for the work was taken over by the naval department, which needed an effective means to protect warships from attacks by Japanese kamikaze.
On tests that began in 1945, the rocket reached a speed of 840 km / h. 12 missiles were manufactured and tested. However, in 1947, all work on this topic was discontinued due to the apparent lack of prospects.
Anti-aircraft missiles were remembered in the island kingdom after the appearance of nuclear weapons in the USSR. Soviet long-range Tu-4 bombers, operating from airfields in the European part of the country, could reach any facility in Great Britain. And although Soviet aircraft would have to fly over the territory of Western Europe, saturated with American air defense, nevertheless, such a scenario could not be completely ruled out.
In the early 50s, the British government allocated significant funds to modernize existing and develop new air defense systems. According to these plans, a competition was announced for the creation of a long-range air defense system that could fight promising Soviet bombers.
The competition was attended by the firms English Electric and Bristol. The projects presented by both firms were largely similar in their characteristics. As a result, the British leadership, in case of failure of one of the options, decided to develop both.
The missiles created by English Electric - "Thunderbird" and Bristol - "Bloodhound" were even outwardly very similar. Both missiles had a narrow cylindrical body with a conical fairing and a developed tail assembly. On the side surfaces of the missile defense system, four starting solid-propellant boosters were installed. For the guidance of both types of missiles, it was supposed to use the radar radar "Ferranti" type 83.
Initially, it was assumed that the Thunderbird missile defense system would use a two-component liquid-propellant jet engine. However, the military insisted on using a solid fuel engine. This somewhat delayed the process of adopting the anti-aircraft complex and limited its capabilities in the future.
At the same time, solid-propellant missiles were much simpler, safer and cheaper to maintain. They did not require a cumbersome infrastructure for refueling, delivery and storage of liquid fuels.
The tests of the Thunderbird missile, which began in the mid-50s, unlike its competitor, the Bloodhound missile defense system, went quite smoothly. As a result, "Thunderbird" was ready for adoption much earlier. In this regard, the ground forces decided to abandon support for the Bristol project, and the future of the Bloodhound anti-aircraft missile was in question. The Hound was rescued by the Royal Air Force. Representatives of the Air Force, despite the lack of knowledge and numerous technical problems, saw great potential in a rocket with ramjet jet engines.
The Thunderbird entered service in 1958, ahead of the Bloodhound. This complex replaced the 94-mm anti-aircraft guns in the 36th and 37th heavy anti-aircraft air defense regiments of the ground forces. Each regiment consisted of three anti-aircraft batteries of the Thunderbird air defense missile system. The battery consisted of: target designation and guidance radar, control post, diesel generators and 4-8 launchers.
For its time, the solid-propellant SAM "Thunderbird" had good characteristics. The missile with a length of 6350 mm and a diameter of 527 mm in the Mk 1 variant had an aimed launch range of 40 km and an altitude reach of 20 km. The first Soviet mass air defense system S-75 possessed similar characteristics of range and altitude, but it used a rocket, the main engine of which ran on liquid fuel and an oxidizer.
Unlike Soviet and American first-generation anti-aircraft missiles, which used a radio command guidance system, the British from the very beginning planned a semi-active homing head for the Thunderbird and Bloodhound air defense systems. To capture, track and aim the missile defense system at the target, a target illumination radar was used, as a searchlight, it illuminated the target for the seeker of an anti-aircraft missile, which was aimed at the signal reflected from the target. This guidance method had greater accuracy compared to the radio command one and was not so dependent on the skill of the guidance operator. Indeed, to defeat it was enough to keep the radar beam on the target. In the USSR, air defense systems with such a guidance system S-200 and "Kvadrat" appeared only in the second half of the 60s.
Formed anti-aircraft batteries originally served for the protection of important industrial and military facilities in the British Isles. After finishing up to a working condition and adopting the Bloodhound air defense system, which was entrusted with the task of defending Great Britain, all anti-aircraft missile regiments of the ground forces with the Thunderbird air defense system were transferred to the Rhine Army in Germany.
In the 50s and 60s, combat jet aviation developed at a very fast pace. In this regard, in 1965, the Thunderbird air defense system was modernized in order to improve its combat characteristics. The pulse tracking and guidance radar was replaced by a more powerful and anti-jamming station operating in continuous mode. Due to the increase in the level of the signal reflected from the target, it became possible to shoot at targets flying at an altitude of up to 50 meters. The rocket itself was also improved. The introduction of a new, more powerful main engine and launch accelerators in the Thunderbird Mk. II made it possible to increase the firing range to 60 km.
But the capabilities of the complex to combat actively maneuvering targets were limited, and it posed a real danger only for bulky long-range bombers. Despite the use of very advanced solid-propellant missiles with a semi-active seeker as part of this British air defense system, it did not receive much distribution outside the UK.
In 1967, Saudi Arabia purchased several Thunderbird Mk. I. Interest in this complex was shown by Libya, Zambia and Finland. Several missiles with launchers were sent to the Finns for testing, but the matter did not progress further.
In the 70s, "Thunderbird", as new low-altitude systems arrived, gradually began to be removed from service. The army command came to the understanding that the main threat to ground units was not carried by heavy bombers, but by helicopters and attack aircraft with which this rather bulky and low-mobility complex could not effectively fight. The last air defense systems "Thunderbird" were withdrawn from service by the British army air defense units in 1977.
The fate of the competitor, the Bloodhound air defense missile system from Bristol, despite the initial difficulties with fine-tuning the complex, was more successful.
Compared to the Thunderbird, the Bloodhound rocket was larger. Its length was 7700 mm, and its diameter was 546 mm, the weight of the rocket exceeded 2050 kg. The launch range of the first version was a little more than 35 km, which is comparable to the firing range of the much more compact low-altitude American solid-fuel air defense system MIM-23B HAWK.
SAM "Bloodhound" had a very unusual layout, as a propulsion system used two ramjet engines "Tor", which ran on liquid fuel. The cruise engines were mounted in parallel on the upper and lower parts of the hull. To accelerate the rocket to a speed at which ramjet engines could operate, four solid-propellant boosters were used. The accelerators and part of the empennage were dropped after the acceleration of the rocket and the start of the propulsion engines. Direct-flow propulsion engines accelerated the rocket in the active section to a speed of 2, 2 M.
Although the same method and illumination radar was used to target the Bloodhound missile defense system as on the Thunderbird air defense missile system, the Hound's ground equipment complex was much more complicated than the Burevestnik ground equipment.
To develop the optimal trajectory and the moment of launching an anti-aircraft missile as part of the Bloodhound complex, one of the first British serial computers, Ferranti Argus, was used. The difference from the Thunderbird air defense system: the Bloodhound anti-aircraft battery had two target illumination radars, which made it possible to launch at two enemy air targets with a short interval all the missiles available in the firing position.
As already mentioned, the debugging of the Bloodhound missile defense system was going on with great difficulties. This was mainly due to the unstable and unreliable operation of ramjet engines. Satisfactory results of the propulsion engines were achieved only after about 500 firing tests of the Thor engines and test launches of missiles, which were carried out at the Australian Woomera test site.
Despite some shortcomings, representatives of the Air Force greeted the complex favorably. Since 1959, the Bloodhound air defense missile system has been on alert, covering the air bases where the British long-range Vulcan bombers were deployed.
Despite the higher cost and complexity, the Bloodhound's strengths were its high fire performance. This was achieved by the presence in the composition of the fire battery of two guidance radars and a large number of combat-ready anti-aircraft missiles in position. Around each illumination radar there were eight launchers with missiles, while the control and guidance of the missiles at the target was carried out from a single centralized post.
Another significant advantage of the Bloodhound air defense missile system in comparison with the Thunderbird was their better maneuverability. This was achieved due to the location of the control surfaces near the center of gravity. An increase in the rate of turn of the rocket in the vertical plane was also obtained by changing the amount of fuel supplied to one of the engines.
Almost simultaneously with the Thunderbird Mk. II, the Bloodhound Mk. II. This air defense system has in many ways surpassed its initially more successful rival.
The anti-aircraft missile of the modernized Bloodhound became 760 mm longer, its weight increased by 250 kg. Due to the increase in the amount of kerosene on board and the use of more powerful engines, the speed increased to 2.7M, and the flight range to 85 km, that is, almost 2.5 times. The complex received new powerful and jam-resistant guidance radar Ferranti Type 86 "Firelight". Now it is possible to track and fire targets at low altitudes.
Radar Ferranti Type 86 "Firelight"
This radar had a separate communication channel with the missile, through which the signal received by the homing head of the anti-aircraft missile was broadcast to the control post. This made it possible to carry out effective selection of false targets and suppression of interference.
Thanks to the radical modernization of the complex and anti-aircraft missiles, not only the flight speed of the missile defense system and the range of destruction have increased, but also the accuracy and probability of hitting the target have significantly increased.
Just like the Thunderbird air defense system, the Bloodhound batteries served in West Germany, but after 1975 they all returned to their homeland, as the British leadership once again decided to strengthen the islands' air defense.
In the USSR, at this time, Su-24 bombers began to enter service with frontline aviation bomber regiments. According to the British command, having broken through at low altitude, they could launch surprise bombing strikes on strategically important targets.
Fortified positions were equipped for the Bloodhound air defense system in the UK, while guidance radars were mounted on special 15-meter towers, which increased the ability to fire at low-altitude targets.
Bloodhound enjoyed some success in the overseas market. The Australians were the first to receive them in 1961, it was a variant of the Bloodhound Mk I, which served on the Green Continent until 1969. The next were the Swedes, who purchased nine batteries in 1965. After Singapore gained independence, the complexes of the 65th squadron of the Royal Air Force remained in this country.
SAM Bloodhound Mk. II at the Singapore Air Force Museum
In the UK, the last Bloodhound air defense systems were decommissioned in 1991. In Singapore, they were in service until 1990. The Bloodhounds lasted the longest in Sweden, having served for over 40 years, until 1999.
Soon after the adoption of the Royal Navy of Great Britain by the air defense system of the near zone "Sea Cat" this complex became interested in the command of the ground forces.
According to the principle of operation and design of the main parts, the land variant, which received the name "Tigercat" (English Tigercat - marsupial marten, or tiger cat), did not differ from the ship's air defense missile system "Sea Cat". The British company Shorts Brothers was the developer and manufacturer of both land and sea versions of the air defense system. To adapt the complex according to the requirements of the ground units, the company Harland was involved.
The combat assets of the Taygerkat air defense missile system - a launcher with anti-aircraft missiles and guidance means were placed on two trailers that towed Land Rover off-road vehicles. A mobile launcher with three missiles and a missile guidance post could move on paved roads at speeds up to 40 km / h.
PU SAM "Taygerkat"
At the firing position, the guidance post and the launcher were hung out on jacks without wheel travel and were interconnected by cable lines. The transition from the traveling position to the combat position took 15 minutes. As in the shipborne air defense system, the loading of 68 kg of missiles on the launcher was carried out manually.
At the guidance post with an operator's workplace equipped with communication and surveillance equipment, there was a set of computing-decisive analog equipment for generating guidance commands and a station for transmitting radio commands to the missile board.
Just like on the Sea Cat naval complex, the guidance operator, after visual detection of the target, carried out the "capture" and guidance of the anti-aircraft missile, after launching through a binocular optical device, controlling its flight with a joystick.
The operator of the guidance of the air defense missile system "Taygerkat"
Ideally, target designation was carried out from the radar for reviewing the air situation by VHF radio channel or by commands of observers located at some distance from the position of the air defense missile system. This made it possible for the guidance operator to prepare in advance for launch and deploy the missile launcher in the desired direction.
However, even during exercises, this did not always work, and the operator had to independently search and identify the target, which led to a delay in opening fire. Taking into account the fact that the Taygerkat missile defense system flew at subsonic speed, and the firing was often carried out in pursuit, the effectiveness of the complex against jet combat aircraft by the time it was put into service in the second half of the 60s was low.
After quite lengthy tests, despite the identified shortcomings, the Taygerkat air defense system was officially adopted in the UK at the end of 1967, which caused considerable excitement in the British media, fueled by the manufacturing company in anticipation of export orders.
A page in a British magazine describing the Taygerkat air defense system
In the British Armed Forces, Taygerkat systems were mainly used by anti-aircraft units that had previously been armed with 40-mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns.
After a series of range firing at radio-controlled target aircraft, the Air Force command became rather skeptical about the capabilities of this air defense system. The defeat of high-speed and intensively maneuvering targets was impossible. Unlike anti-aircraft guns, it could not be used at night and in poor visibility conditions.
Therefore, the age of the Taygerkat air defense system in the British armed forces, unlike its naval counterpart, was short-lived. In the mid-70s, all air defense systems of this type were replaced by more advanced complexes. Even the conservatism characteristic of the British, high mobility, air transportability and the relatively low cost of equipment and anti-aircraft missiles did not help.
Despite the fact that the complex was outdated by the beginning of the 70s and did not correspond to modern realities, this did not prevent the sale of the Taygerkat air defense missile systems being removed from service in the UK to other countries. The first export order came from Iran in 1966, even before the complex was officially adopted in England. In addition to Iran, Taygerkat was acquired by Argentina, Qatar, India, Zambia and South Africa.
The combat use of this anti-aircraft complex was limited. In 1982, the Argentines deployed them to the Falklands. It is believed that they managed to damage one British Sea Harrier. The comic of the situation lies in the fact that the complexes used by the Argentines were previously in service in the UK and after the sale were used against the former owners. However, the British marines returned them to their historical homeland again, capturing several air defense systems safe and sound.
In addition to Argentina, "Taygerkat" was used in a combat situation in Iran, during the Iran-Iraq war. But there is no reliable data on the combat successes of Iranian anti-aircraft crews. In South Africa, which is fighting in Namibia and in the south of Angola, the Taygerkat air defense missile system, which received the local designation Hilda, served to provide air defense for air bases and were never launched against real air targets. Most of the Taygerkat air defense systems were decommissioned by the early 90s, but in Iran they continued to formally remain in service at least until 2005.