Airborne Awesomosity

Point Defense – The Last Of The Point Defense Fighters

Saunders Roe SR.53

[image credit –]


The merging of jet engines and rocket engines reached a zenith with the British SR.53. It be the last interceptor designed with the point defense role in mind. It would also be the last native British fighter designed before the decision to move to surface to air missiles for defense.



Saunders Roe SR.53



The last of the conventional aircraft designed to be designed to fulfill the point defense role would be a product of Great Britain. As we saw with the Thunderceptor this was another look at the best of both worlds approach. Using the jet engine for both endurance as well as its primary power source. The rocket engine would be used to allow the fighter to reach operational altitude quickly as well as engage targets faster than the base speed of the jet engine alone would allow.



SR.53 Rocket Engine

The performance of the aircraft was never an issue during its development. The program was cancelled due to a wholesale change to British military policy of switching to missiles for interception duties as a means to cut costs. The American military was showing signs of leaning this direction but never actually followed through with it.  Instead opting to go with multirole aircraft in place of dedicated interceptor

[Data from The British Fighter since 1912]
General characteristics

  • Crew: One, pilot
  • Length: 45 ft 0 in (13.72 m)
  • Wingspan: 25 ft 1½ in (7.66 m)
  • Height: 10 ft 10 in (3.30 m)
  • Wing area: 274 ft² (25.5 m²)
  • Airfoil: RAE102
  • Empty weight: 7,400 lb (3,360 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 18,400 lb (8,360 kg)
  • Powerplant:
    • 1 × Armstrong Siddeley Viper 8 turbojet, 1,640 lb (7.3 kN)
    • 1 × de Havilland Spectre rocket, 8,000 lbf (35.7 kN)


  • Maximum speed: Mach 2.2
  • Endurance: 7 minutes at full power
  • Service ceiling: 67,000 ft (20,420 m)
  • Rate of climb: 52,800 ft/min (270 m/s) : 2 min 12 sec from brakes to 50,000 ft
  • Wing loading: 67.2 lb/ft² (328 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight (jet): 0.52


  • Missiles: 2 × de Havilland Firestreak infra-red guided missiles


Saunders Roe SR.53


The Saunders Roe SR.53 would make the end of the point defense fighter. Surface to air missile development had reached a point that the need for a piloted craft would be irrelevant.  Most of early surface to air missiles would even look like unmanned fighters. Still the point defense aircraft filled a gap that was desperately needed for its time.

  • CaptianNemo2001

    What happens when the de Havilland Firestreak infra-red guided missiles miss?

    Design and development 1951-1953.
    Scheduled for a first flight in July 1954.
    First flight16 May 1957.(Typical plane delay development issues of reality)
    Flew until it was cancelled in 29 July 1960.

    Avro tried to sell the CF-105 and the British were looking and wanting and the Maple Leaf said the same thing the US says every time somebody wants the F-22… "um… no." and "we don't care about the money."

  • fodder650

    Ok now I need to learn more about the Firestreak. You make it sound like the Genie when it misses.

    • CaptianNemo2001

      Its that ALL missiles have a known chance at missing/failing in flight under any given situation. And this plane only carry's 2. Not 4, 6 ,8 or 16 missiles just 2.

      • fodder650

        That was bad enough during Vietnam that pilots were ripple firing Sparrows because of their failure rate. In that case they had four at least not just two.

        • CaptianNemo2001

          I always wondered my a fighter never carried 1-2 sparrows aimed backwards…

          • fodder650

            Sounds like a good idea for a B-52 upgrade.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            Or even the B-2. I always thought that a shortened version of the sparrow with the same warhead and seeker but shorter body/range to reduce, excess weight. If needed. (I have been thinking about this off and on for a few years…)

            What a surprise it would be if it dropped out of the bombers bomb bay, or out off a tube in the tail, and went toward the following aircraft…. O.o

          • Dale Brown imagined something similar in "Flight of the Old Dog" I think it might have used Stinger missiles in place of the rear gun turret.

          • fodder650

            I should fix that citation needed on the engines. They have planned a reengine of the B-52 several times with turbofans. Each time they find its a good idea then say that the cost of fuel is still low enough to make it not worth while. Maybe now they will change their minds. Especially when the BUFF is supposed to stay in service until 2040.

          • Jeb Hoge

            It's not just the cost of the fuel, it's the fact that they have (or had) fresh TF-33s stacked like Lincoln Logs at B-52 facilities. At least, that was the observation from ten years ago.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            FOUND IT.

            I had recalled an "larger" aircraft being outfitted with sidewinders… It seems the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod was quickly "upgraded" with some self defense…

            Provision for in-flight refueling was introduced during the Falklands War (as the MR2P), as well as hardpoints to allow the Nimrod to carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile to counter enemy Argentine Air Force maritime surveillance aircraft. 2 × AIM-9 Sidewinder (non-standard in RAF service, only mounted on the MR2 during the Falklands War)
            <img src="; width="600">

          • fodder650

            The British equipped other large aircraft with them as well. I remember seeing pictures of British C-130's with Sidewinders.

            And the good old Nimrod. Yet another failed airliner that found a second life as a maritime aircraft. One of the ugliest decisions of that quarter century as well.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            Just have a bunch of guys tied off in the rear cargo hold with shouldered SAM's, pointing them out the rear.
            (Wonder if it is Geneva convention legal?)

          • fodder650

            I would think the only part many not legal by Geneva would be the smiles on the faces of the shoulders holding the SAM's.