‘Thunderbirds are go’ at last as BAE unveils 1960s future

A computer generated image by BAE Systems of a concept design from the company's archive of  MUSTARD

A computer generated image by BAE Systems of a concept design from the company's archive of MUSTARD

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A HYPERSONIC plane, a jeep that leaps over enemy blockades and an airliner able to take off and land vertically in densely populated cities are all designs worthy of the 1960s sci-fi series the Thunderbirds.

In fact the craft were designed by some of the top engineering minds of the era, but never quite made it off the drawing board.

They have now been bought back to life by BAE Systems using modern animation techniques to coincide with the opening of a new centre to celebrate the company’s heritage at its military aircraft factory in Warton, Lancashire, with more than 1m historical documents and artefacts in its stores.

They were produced by engineers in BAE Systems’ predecessor companies including English Electric, Hawker Siddeley and the British Aircraft Corporation.

BAE’s heritage manager Howard Mason said: “Although 50 years have passed since these extraordinary designs were first put to paper, we can see how some of the technologies and ideas were developed over time and put to use now in aircraft like the F35 Joint Strike Fighter.”

Mr Mason hopes the examples of forward thinking – including a project by BAC to create the world’s first reuseable “space plane” and Hawker-Siddley’s Intercity Vertical-Lift Aircraft, which had rows of lift fans down its sides – will still inspire young people who are considering a career in engineering to think of the “endless possibilities” of what can be designed. They can be viewed at www.youtube.com/user/baesystemsplc.

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