FORGOTTEN 1960S ‘THUNDERBIRDS’ PROJECTS BROUGHT TO LIFE

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Warton, United Kingdom: A hypersonic space-plane capable of travelling at five times the speed of sound, a jeep that leapt over enemy blockades, and a commercial aircraft able to take off and land vertically in densely populated cities, are just some of the 1960s inventions unearthed in BAE Systems’ archives.

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Coinciding with the opening of a new centre to celebrate heritage at the Company’s military aircraft factory in Warton, Lancashire, some unique documents from the archives have been brought to life through animation to show how the R&D projects might have looked if developed further. The unique designs were produced by engineers in BAE Systems predecessor companies including English Electric, Hawker Siddeley and the British Aircraft Corporation.

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Howard Mason, Heritage Manager at BAE Systems 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. Aircraft and vehicle engineering involves producing and analysing literally thousands of iterations and whilst today the process is speeded up through the use of computer modelling, it’s fascinating to look through our archives and see what engineers were working on at that time.

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“BAE Systems stores more than one million historical documents and artefacts and in addition to celebrating our nation’s engineering achievements, I believe these examples of forward thinking are still inspiring for young people who are thinking about a career in engineering and considering the endless possibilities of what could be designed.”

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Research and development is a hugely important part of BAE Systems’ defence, aerospace and security business, with the company investing £150 million of its own capital in R&D in 2012.

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