- British Aircraft Corporation
Infobox Defunct Company
company_name = British Aircraft Corporation
fate = Merged with
Hawker Siddeleyand Scottish Aviation
foundation = 1960
defunct = 29 April 1977
location = flagicon|UK UK
The British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) was a British
aircraft manufacturerformed from the government-pressured merger of English Electric Aviation Ltd., Vickers-Armstrong (Aircraft), the Bristol Aeroplane Companyand Hunting Aircraftin 1960. Bristol, English Electric and Vickers became "parents" of BAC with shareholdings of 40%, 40% and 20% respectively. BAC in turn acquired the share capital of their aviation interests and 70% of Hunting several months later. [Charles Gardner, "British Aircraft Corporation. A history by Charles Gardner", B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1981 (ISBN 0-7134-3815-0), p.38.]
BAC was formed following a warning from government that it expected consolidation in the aircraft, guided weapons and engine industries. The government also promised incentives for such a move, including the supersonic
BAC TSR-2strike aircraft contract, the maintenance of government research and development spending and the guarantee of aid in launching "promising new types of civil aircraft". ["ibid", p.37.]
When BAC was formed, the Bristol Aeroplane Company (Car Division) was not included in the consolidation, but carved off by Sir George White whose family had founded the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company in 1910 (later the
Bristol Aeroplane Company). It remains operational today as Bristol Cars. [ [http://www.boc.net/history.html Bristol Owners Club : History of the Bristol Marque ] ]
Most of the BAC designs were taken over from the individual companies that formed it. BAC did not apply its new identity retrospectively, hence the VC10 remained the
Vickers VC10. Instead the company applied its name to marketing initiatives, the VC10 advertising carried the name "Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Limited, a member company of the British Aircraft Corporation". The first model to bear the BAC name was the BAC One-Eleven(BAC 1-11), a Hunting Aircraft study, in 1961. Bristol had eschewed the subsonic airliner market and was working on the Bristol 223 supersonic transport, which was eventually merged with similar efforts at Sud Aviationto create the Anglo-French Concordeventure. The first Concorde contracts were signed with Air Franceand BOACin September 1972.
In 1963, BAC acquired the previously autonomous guided weapons divisions of English Electric and Bristol to form a new subsidiary, British Aircraft Corporation (Guided Weapons). The company enjoyed some success, including development of the Rapier,
Sea Skuaand Sea Wolf missiles. BAC eventually expanded this division to include electronics and space systems and, in 1966, started what was to become a particularly fruitful relationship with Hughes Aircraft. Hughes awarded major contracts to BAC, including sub-systems for Intelsatsatellites. [Gardner 1981 "ibid", p.189.]
The cancellation of the TSR-2 in April 1965 was a major blow to the new company. After successfully flying prototype aircraft, political pressure forced development to cease and the remaining airframes and most supporting equipment and documentation to be destroyed. Given the numerous government contract cancellations during the 1960s, the BAC 1-11, launched as a private venture, probably saved the company. ["ibid", p.67.]
In May 1966, BAC and Breguet formed
SEPECAT, a joint company to manage the Jaguar aircraft programme. The first of eight prototypes flew on September 8, 1968 and service entry was achieved with the French Air Force in 1973, by which time Breguet had become part of Dassault Aviation.
Also in 1966, Rolls-Royce acquired Bristol Aeroplane for its
Bristol Siddeleyaero-engine business, but declared it had no interest in the BAC shareholding. Despite this, Rolls-Royce still had not disposed of its BAC shareholding by 1971 when the company was declared bankrupt. The 20% share was eventually acquired from receivership by Vickers and GEC, who acquired English Electric in 1968.
In 1967, the British, French and German governments agreed to start development of the 300-seat
Airbus A300. BAC argued against the proposal in favour of their BAC Three-Elevenproject, intended as a large wide-bodied airliner like the Airbus A300, Douglas DC-10and Lockheed TriStar. Like the One-Eleven, it would have carried two Rolls-Royce turbofanengines, mounted near the tail. The British national airline BEA wanted to order the type, but government intervention prevented it in favour of the Airbus development. BAC was refused development funds and Hawker Siddeleywas awarded the contract to build the Airbus wings.
In the early 1960s, the
Saudi Arabian government announced its intention to launch a massive defence acquisition programme involving the replacement of the country's fighter aircraft and the establishment of an advanced air defence and communications network. American companies seemed guaranteed to win the contract, but, due to the efforts of BAC,Fact|date=February 2008 the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) looked towards British aircraft and equipment to fulfill their needs.
By 1964, BAC conducted demonstration flights of their Lightning in
Riyadhand, in 1965, Saudi Arabia signed a letter of intentto purchase Lightning and Strikemasteraircraft as well as Thunderbird surface to air missiles. The main contract was signed in 1966 for forty Lightnings and twenty-five (ultimately forty) Strikemasters. In 1973, the Saudi government signed an agreement with the British government which specified BAC as the contractor for all parts of the defence system (AEI was previously contracted to supply the radar equipment and Airwork Servicesprovided servicing and training). Overall spending by the RSAF was over £1 billion GBP. ["ibid", pp.244-249.]
BAC, with the Lightning/Strikemaster contract; British Aerospace, with the
Al Yamamahcontracts; and most recently BAE Systems, with the order for Typhoon multi-role fighters, have all benefited from massive arms contracts with Saudi Arabia.
For most of its history, BAC was the subject of rumour and speculation that it was to merge with Hawker Siddeley Aviation (HSA). In September 1966, Anthony Wedgwood Benn, the
Minister of Aviation, announced in the House of Commons that::"...the government had come to the conclusion that the national interest would best be served by a merger of the airframe interests of BAC and Hawker Siddeley into a single company."
The government envisaged acquiring BAC's capital and merging it with Hawker Siddeley. The ownership of BAC would thus give the government a minority stake in the new company. Although BAC's parent companies were prepared to sell their shares for a reasonable price, the government proposal, in their view, undervalued the group. By August 1967, the success of the BAC 1-11 and defence sales to
Saudi Arabiamade the prospect of the parent companies selling their shares less likely. In December 1967, Benn, while reiterating his desire to see a merged BAC and HSA, admitted it would not be possible. ["ibid", pp.156-160.]
In June 1967, the Anglo French Variable Geometry (AFVG), a proposed swing-wing strike aircraft, was cancelled due to the withdrawal of French participation. Britain then turned to a national project, the UK Variable Geometry (UKVG), for which BAC Warton was given a design contract by the
Ministry of Technology. These studies eventually became known as the BAC Advanced Combat Aircraft programme. In 1968, Britain was invited to join Canada and the F-104 Consortium (a grouping of Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands), all of whom wished to replace their current aircraft with a common design, subsequently described as the Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA).
On 26 March 1969,
Panavia Aircraft GmbHwas formed by BAC, MBB, Fiatand Fokker. In May, a "project definition phase" was commenced, concluding in early 1970. Two aircraft designs resulted: the single-seat Panavia 100 and the twin-seat Panavia 200. The RAF favoured the 200, as did Germany after its initial enthusiasms for the 100.
In September 1971, the governments of Britain,
Italyand Germanysigned an Intention to Proceed (ITP) with the Panavia Tornado. On 30 October 1974, the first British prototype (the second to fly) took off from the BAC airfield at Warton. The three governments signed the contract for Batch 1 of the aircraft on 29 July 1976. BAC and subsequently British Aerospace (BAe) would deliver 228 Tornado GR1s and 152 Tornado F3s to the RAF.
Like BAC, the Hawker Siddeley Group was expanded by merger, while engine design and manufacturing was concentrated at Rolls-Royce and the newly-formed
Bristol-Siddeley Engines. Helicopter development was given to Westland Helicopters.
On 29 April 1977, BAC, the Hawker Siddeley Group and
Scottish Aviationwere nationalised and merged under the provisions of Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act. This new group was established as a statutory corporation, British Aerospace (BAe).
Products usually known under the BAC name include;
BAC Two-Eleven and Three-Eleven
* BAC 221
* BAC / Aérospatiale Concorde
* BAC /
English Electric Canberra
* BAC /
English Electric Lightning
* BAC /
* BAC /
Hunting Jet Provost
* BAC /
Sea Wolf missile
* BAC /
* BAC /
English Electric Thunderbird
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