Vintage footage shows Jaguar attack aircraft undertaking motorway trials


By Dario Leone
Jan 27 2018
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As the Jaguar was the only conventional aircraft capable of being used from unprepared strips or motorways the British Aircraft Corporation decided to undertake a series of trials on the unopened stretch of the M55 motorway near Blackpool, Lancashire

Take on Apr. 26, 1975, the interesting video in this post, shows Tim Ferguson, a test pilot for the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), landing a Jaguar fighter bomber on the M55 motorway in Lancashire shortly before it was opened to the public.

The landing demonstrated the aircraft’s ability to take-off and land on unorthodox landing strips away from main air bases under wartime conditions.

Noteworthy the thought behind these trials was that in the event of a conflict between the Warsaw Pact (WARPAC) and NATO some of the first targets to be damaged or destroyed would be major airfields. This was something already considered in the design of most Soviet combat aircraft, but not in the West and would give WARPAC forces a distinct advantage. As the Jaguar was the only conventional aircraft capable of being used from unprepared strips or motorways the British Aircraft Corporation decided to undertake a series of trials on the unopened stretch of the M55 motorway near Blackpool, not very far from the Warton factory.

As Glenn Ashley says in his book SEPECAT Jaguar In Action, “on 26-27 April 1975 a single Jaguar GR.1, XX109, was used to make a series of landings and take offs from the M55 carrying a full weapon load, after all an unarmed aircraft would prove nothing. Landing took just over 400 yards to complete with the assistance of a braking parachute whilst take off was carried out in 500-600 yards.

“The first landings were undertaken with only a centerline tank fitted and the aircraft was turned around, fuelled and armed with four cluster bomb units before taking off again. The pilot for these trials was Tim Ferguson, the Deputy Chief Test Pilot, who stated that the trials threw up no major problems.

“The aircraft had to make a steep approach and high angle landing using the bulk of the aircraft as well as the braking chute to bring the aircraft to a halt in the short length of motorway. He stated that as the Jaguar had excellent steering and handling the landing was not overly complicated.

“Following the success of the trials four RAF Germany aircraft from No. 31 Sqn undertook similar trials on an unopened stretch of autobahn between Bremerhaven and Bremen in September 1977.

“Another series of trials were undertaken by the A&EE at Boscombe Down using a landing strip that crossed a runway, two taxiways with various elements added to make the surface very uneven. It seems the pilots soon became capable of taking off and landing on this strip with a feeling described as being like a ‘well sprung limousine with four wheel drive’.”

Today, BAC’s successor, BAE Systems, still works on aircraft capable of taking off and landing in tight spots, including the F-35 Lightning II.

Photo credit: BAE Systems

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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