- Only if Other nations get aircraft of a similar precedent
Hello and welcome to my suggestion for the BAe P.1216! the Forgotten Cousin of the Harrier and the F-35 (believe it or not) that has been lost to history behind more successful projects like the Eurofighter and JSF programs. I feel this could come to the game as it is part of the often forgotten part of British Aerospace designing from the late 20th century, and also due to how much research was put into it bringing it ever so close to reality. I would like to thank @AVROVULCANXH558, @TerikG2014 and others for helping me out with sources and books that made this suggestion possible, I would also like to give a massive thanks to @Flame2512 for finding a plethora of valuable information in the British archives that massively helped with the creation of this Suggestion.
Please note: Whilst it might seem like this is nothing more than a paper design with a few mock-ups made, I would like to pre-emptively say that this things Engine, the RB.422, Built and being tested on a Harrier airframe, A massive amount of research and development was put into this aircraft and several new production techniques were created purely for the creation of this aircraft, and most importantly it has become evident that the Tail of the aircraft (found in the book BAe P.1216: Supersonic ASTOVL Aircraft) alongside its equipment was built. It is also worth noting that this was originally supposed to be a suggestion for the Vehicle, however due to some gray areas around its construction the Suggestion mods have denied it until I can find further info, if you have any that would be massively appreciated.
The Story of the P.1216 begins all the way back in the 1950s when the UK was strongly entertaining the idea of PCB (Plenum Chamber Burning) Engines for its future VTOL aircraft, This led to the initial P.1150 Nuclear Strike Project, akin to what the Jaguars would become, and then subsequently the P.1154 Project entered into NBMR-3 but never saw production due to Funding issues (More info Here). The Development of The P.1154 whilst not entirely essential to the Later P.1216 Program harboured very similar ideas and lead to the creation of the Harrier PCB Test Airframe used to test the early effects of PCB Engines on the Airframe.
Even After the cancellation of the P.1154, both the RAF and Royal Navy never gave up on the idea of PCB powered aircraft, this lead to a number of designs throughout the 60 and 70s however very few ever progressed past the drawing board (A few being outright impossible, even to this day), one such exception was the P.1214, often referred to as the “X-Wing Fighter” as it featured a forward swept wing, giving it the shape of an X when viewed from above, however the idea of forward swept wings was ditched, in favour of a more achievable design.
This now leads onto the P.1216, having been based mainly off the P.1214 initially, however incorporating more achievable design choices, although initially the government never paid much interest to the project, the unexpected Invasion of the Falklands in 1982 caused government to soon begin to fully support the P.1216 project, this started by BAe Kingston Producing a Full scale Mock-up that was shown to Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet in late 1982, this highlighted the first major step forward and green lighted further development of the idea.
because of this, the old Harrier Test frame was brought back, this time being used to test the effects of the more powerful RB.422 engine planned to be fitted to a production model of the P.1216, this is where ,from what I have learned, the pictures of the Test rig originate from due to the extensive tests put into the PCB idea for the P.1216, Especially after the main issue for the Royal Navy’s P.1154, that of the exhausts being too hot for carrier decks, was largely solved with the introduction of the Phantom FG.1’s (with their Spey engines that ran at a similar heat to the PCB engines) onto the Carriers Ark Royal and Eagle that was solved by having Cooled blast deflectors to dissipate the heat from the burners, it was also established this wouldn’t be as serious a problem on the Navy’s new Invincible Class carriers due to their STOVL (Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing) Configuration rather than the traditional CATOBAR (Catapult assisted Take-Off, But Arrested Recovery) Config.
As design work progressed a series of models were Built in order to test various aspects of the airframe, these Varied from Small wind tunnel models, to almost full scale RCS (Radar Cross Section) models designed around the integration of the RB.422 Engines that would allow the aircraft to fly at supersonic speeds, even at sea level, as well as retaining the STOVL capability of the Harriers in order to operate from the Royal Navy’s Invincible Class Carriers. The Final Design incorporated a 3 Nozzle design for the RB.422 with them having thrust vectoring capabilities to allow for Short take off and vertical landing of the aircraft to allow for operation from the Royal Navy’s carriers alongside short runways in central Europe.
As work continued into the late 80s the programme approached the phase of creating a functional prototype, however due to the unorthodox design of the P.1216, especially in the tail section, doubts were raised as to the Structural integrity of a full scale airframe with the added weight of sensors and other systems. Because of this the decision was made to produce the rear boom components and and structure in order to test this and the Manufacturing techniques required to guarantee the overall flight integrity of a full scale airframe, as such the structure was built in the late 80s at Kingston, in addition to this, Kingston put a massive amount of research into the construction and design techniques required for the full scale production of the Aircraft predicted to start.
However despite the promising development of the aircraft, the cold war was coming to an end in the late 80s, with the further budget cuts to the Armed forces and with the fear of invasion caused by the Falklands war fading the government returned to its nasty habit of cancelling Projects, and with the Sea Harrier FRS.2 (later FA.2) upgrade programme due to be complete before the P.1216 would be ready and planned to serve until the more advanced JSF (aka F-35) that britain was assisting the USA in developing, and the Eurofighter project due to be complete by the 2000s it was decided that there was no place for the P.1216 to be needed as both the Sea Harrier FA.2 and Eurofighter would fill the roles it was needed for, hence signaling its cancelation and the valuable information gained in its development (especially the unique thrust vectoring engines which inspired the F-35s design) being used towards the JSF programme.
- Crew: 1
- Length: 55 ft 10.5 in (17.031 m)
- Wingspan: 34 ft 9 in (10.59 m)
- Height: 15 ft 1 in(4.6m)
- Leading edge sweep: 55°
- Wing area: 427 sq ft (39.7 m2)
- Gross weight: 35,289 lb (16,007 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Rolls-Royce RB.422 turbofan with three vectoring nozzles, 25,500 lbf (113 kN) thrust
- Mach 1.13 at sea level
- Mach 1.83 at 36,090 ft (11,000 m)
- Mach 0.9 to 1.38 in 90 seconds at 36,090 ft (11,000 m)
- Guns: 2 × 27 mm (1.063 in) Mauser cannon (in boom)
- Hardpoints: 2 Wingtip Pylons, 2 Wing Pylons and 4 Boom Pylons (8 Total) (Boom and Wing Pylons could be modified to carry 2 Bombs of up to 1000 lbs each)
- 2 x 270 gal. Drop tanks (Wing mounted)
- 2 x 270 gal. Boom Fuel tanks (Optional but not Droppable mid Flight)
- 2 × AIM-9/ ASRAAM and 6 × Skyflashes/ AMRAAM
- 4 × AIM-9/ ASRAAM and 4 x Skyflashes/ AMRAAM
- 2 x Sea Eagle Anti Ship Missiles (on boom pylons) (only source is BSP so unconfirmed)
- up to 12 x 540/ 1000 lbs Bombs (2 on each Pylon)
- up to 12 x BL755 Cluster bombs (2 on each Pylon)
- Blue Vixen Radar
More in depth Stats (from the National Archives) (note that the final designs only difference from these was a slightly larger wing and Radar Provisions)
Place in game
I feel this has a place in game as the British Naval line will be empty between the Sea Harrier FA.2 and the F-35B, hence this would sit well as a Filler for the Naval line in the UK, whilst it is impossible to accurately suggest what BR it would sit at, I predict around 13.3 - 14.0 given its good flight performance and good offensive armament coming after the Sea Harrier FA.2 but before the F-35B.
In terms of Fighting with this, it would play similarly to the Su-27, as a pure air superiority fighter due to its rather good performance, Good Radar and good Missiles, however with extremely limited in the Ground attack role having no guided armament (other than the unconfirmed Sea Eagles) and not having a game changing amount of bombs, however it would be a rather good air superiority aircraft with up to 4 AMRAAMs and 2 ASRAAMS or vice versa making this thing lethal in both BVR combat and Dogfights.
British Aerospace P.1216 - Wikipedia
FLIGHTS OF FANTASY: What if the P.1216 went into production? | Secret Projects Forum
Hawker Supersonic V/STOL - HS.1205 to P.1216 | Secret Projects Forum
British Secret Projects: Jet Fighters Since 1950 (2000), Tony Buttler
British Secret Projects 1: Jet Fighters Since 1950 (2017), Tony Buttler
BAe P.1216: Supersonic ASTOVL Aircraft (2011), Michael Price