My Dad & Rapier

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Well-Known Member
Jan 19, 2009
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Last saturday, a few of us Brits were having a natter in the chat room, and the conversation turned to The Launch Pad kits - in particular the Rapier.

This is a rocket I'd like to build/fly, 'cos my dad worked on Rapier, when he used to work for BAC. I remember him once telling me that the original version was launched and aimed by a bloke with binoculars, and I mentioned this.

Everybody (especially Arthur ;) ) thought I was pulling their proverbials. :rolleyes:

I had a fasinating chat with my dad today, about this: :D

My dad started work on Rapier before it was called that, and was just known as ET316. He was normally assigned to quality control on projects; however he had decided to work in design for this one, for a change.

He can't tell me much about what he did exactly (thats still hush-hush), but he could tell me that he worked in designing the electronics side of the launcher's computer 'brain'. The computer consisted of two armoured boxes, each a bit bigger than a milk crate, one of which was the power supply. It took three years to build the computer. By the time they had finished; the required electronics (motherboard/memory/etc), which they had to design from the ground up, were available 'off the shelf'. :rolleyes:

One of Rapier's main design briefs was to give Ground-to-Air defence to a landing invasion force. Rapier would be one of the first items off the boat after the beach had been secured. Designed to be quickly assembled/deployed on some high ground, it would go in before the main radars & that.

Mk1, which went into service but never 'used in anger', didn't have the computer/radar power to scan the whole sky at once. It was more efficient to have a lookout with a pair of binoculars linked to the launcher, who would 'point' the launcher at the target, press fire, and watch the fireworks. After the fire button was pressed, that was it - the launcher & the missile's guidence systems did the rest. The sentry just pointed launcher in the general direction, the launcher then had the computer power to aim at the target itself.

One of the main upgrades in Mk2 was the initial track & acquire being compleatly computer controled, thanks to technology advances. My dad had moved on to working on the GEOS satalite, by the time that project was running.

My dad does get very 'Frankinstein's Monster' over Rapier. The missile itself (which he had nothing to do with), was an upgraded version of a fire & forget missile manufactured by BAC Stevenidge, the name of which he can't remember. The ET316 project was to build a launcher, therefore Rapier is the LAUNCHER, NOT the missile! (IHHO - In His Humble Opinion) ;)

My dad then started reminising about other projects he was involved in: Bloodhound, Seacat, Skylark, etc... I must question him more about them another day! ;)
I have always wondered why that thing ended up looking like a stack of junk---there HAS to be a good story in there somewhere. Or is it the British flair for designing things to be extra ugly? (Just kidding . . . but you guys DID design the Lightning, and the Buccaneer, all by yourselves)
Originally posted by powderburner
you guys DID design the Lightning, and the Buccaneer, all by yourselves
We had to turn to the French for help to make Concorde look cool! ;) (and didn't she look good!)
Dont forget the spitfire, the most beautiful plane EVER!
Originally posted by WiK
the most beautiful plane EVER!

That would have to be either the F-104 Starfighter, the F-106 Delta Dart, or the SR-71 Blackbird. Possibly you could include the Mustang (the D version) in this list of options.

Spitfires are OK if you like kites. If I had to choose a Brit design, it would be the Mossy (something powerful-looking about those big hulking nacelles) or the Hunter. If I could choose an 'almost built' British airplane, it would be the TSR-2.

(Now I sit back and wait to see if any of these Brits rise to the bait.)
Originally posted by WiK
Dont forget the spitfire, the most beautiful plane EVER!

There's something elegantly sinister in the lines of the ME 262.

But if we're keeping it strictly British... SE-5. Or maybe the Spad.
Great story about your dad. Thanks for sharing that. :)

My own Pop spent a few years in Huntsville working on the General Electric contract building and test-firing the engines on the Saturn V first stage. He doesn't have a lot of war stories, as such, but remembers with fondness rattling the windows of the city when they lit one off.