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RAE Guided Weapon Test Vehicles in the 1950s

  • T. L. Smith (a1)


A test vehicle, in the G.W. sense is a body used in free flight to test components, structures, aerodynamics, servo controls, guidance systems and propulsion. The body may have weapon-like characteristics or may be designed purely to investigate a particular phenomenon or theory which has a bearing on the design of weapons. From the inception of the G.W. Department this work was given an important place in the programme and played a major part in laying the foundation of knowledge and experience on which the G.W. work in this country was built.

Two early test vehicles were CTV.1 and KTV.1. CTV.1 was used for a good deal of aerodynamic investigation, together with the development of free flight instrumentation and measurement techniques, it was our first “beam rider”, and was also used in a command guided role. The beam riding work was done in co-operation with TRE who were responsible for the guidance aspects of CTV.1. RTV.1 was a larger vehicle used mainly on beam riding guidance research. A later version was used in a vertically launched role to study launching and stability problems preparatory to the Black Knight work.

The CTV series culminated in CTV.S which itself took various forms. The CTV.S Series I was designed for aerodynamic measurements on a coasting dart at high incidences and therefore high altitude. CTV.S Series 2 was designed for kinetic heating investigations while CTV.5 Series 3 was an upper atmosphere sounding rocket, later known as Skylark and still providing a valuable service.

RTV.2 was designed for further work on liquid fuel propulsion and semi-active radar guidance research and was developed further to become the better known GPV. An interesting method of recovery from the sea was developed for this vehicle. With the requirement for ballistic missiles and satellite launchers a whole new field of work on missile structures, stability, control and guidance was opened up. This called for the development of the latest and very successful test vehicle, Black Knight.



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The 55th lecture to be given before the Astronautics and Guided Flight Section—on 24th March 1964.


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