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Bloodhound

 

Top left: The Ready-Use Missile Store contains re-load rounds which are constantly fed with dried air. Replacement is a matter of lowering the launcher to the horizontal position and installing a new round carried on a side-lifting vehicle. Above left: With covering panels removed, a Bloodhound is hooked-up to the Missile Overall Test Equipment (MOTE) for fault analysis. Checking the electronics is 22 year-old Junior Technician Paul Carter from Cleethorpes. Above right: 'Our warriors in serried ranks assembled. Never quaver (they conceal it if they do)' - W.S. Gilbert, The Mikado. Like birds, the missiles stand with their backs to the prevailing wind - which just happens to mean that they point East. Paul Jackson photographs

of the service. Now, almost all those responsible for launching Bloodhound are fighter controllers, to be augmented in the future by a few personnel from the RAF Regiment. Since 1980, women have been joining the ranks of Controllers, the first of them (FIt Lt Fiona Barnes) gaining the further distinction in November 1986 of becoming the first woman to launch a live Bloodhound for a random reliability test. (This, of course, was done at the Aberporth missile range in Cardigan Bay against a Jindivik drone.)

Every minute of the day, every day of the year, there is at least a nucleus of personnel ready for action at each Bloodhound site. The Engagement Controllers maintain proficiency by tracking the plentiful air traffic in eastern England or using the training facility which, with the simple change of a computer programme, turns the LCP caravan into a simulator. Controllers can practice against computer-generated targets, or more Posts can be plugged in to the command and control network to the point where the entire Bloodhound Force is participating in a single, synthetic exercise. When working up to proficiency, new Controllers are pitted against the Canberras of No 360 Squadron, which attempt to jam the radar. No 100 Squadron - another Canberra target facilities unit - makes mock attacks on missile sites for both training and calibration purposes.

At readiness, the Controller will be constantly searching the assigned Missile Engagement Zone (MEZ) for a hostile target. Not only will the definition of a 'hostile' vary according to the tactical situation, but the MEZ itself will also change in area. For example, one sector may be designated a no-fire zone to allow the safe recovery of friendly aircraft to a nearby aerodrome. In another scenario, all aircraft flying low and at high speed may be regarded as hostile and treated accordingly.

A second combat task will involve the Bloodhound being given instructions to hit a specific target, anywhere within range, by the southern Sector Operations Centre at Neatishead - perhaps the survivor of fighter battle out at sea. Finally, if Neatishead so requires it, the Type 86 radar can be used to provide target information for RAF fighters to augment the dedicated radar chain. The opportunity to practice in a realistic situation occurs when No 11 Group, the whole of Strike Command or even a sizeable portion of NATO hold their regular air exercises in the Elder Forest and Elder Joust series.

Sitting in the dim light of the LCP caravan, the Controller will investigate targets until a hostile subject is found. This is presented on a computer-generated display which filters-out the distracting 'mush' of ground echoes. At the next console, the SNCO technician monitors the health of the missiles, his TV screen displaying a score of parameters for each of the six or eight under the LCP's jurisdiction. Meanwhile, the Controller is checking the signal-to-noise ratio to ensure that the Bloodhound will have a reflected signal strong enough to track. Given elevation and azimuth and range by radar, the computer uses trigonometry to calculate height. If parameters are within limits, 'FREE TO FIRE' is displayed in green on the screen.

When the launch button is pressed, the computer begins to check-out each of the Bloodhounds in turn. A fraction of a second later it will select the first missile found to be fully serviceable and send the launch signal through the two thick cables connecting each to the LCP. Initially, the missile and launcher are 'parented' via signals from the Type 86 radar received by the tall Stalk Aerial on the rear of the launcher. On firing of the four booster rockets, a total thrust of 100,000Ib (45,360kg) - more than a Vulcan at full throttle - shears the bolts connecting

 

Bloodhound and launcher. When it is recalled that the missile itself weighs only, 4,000Ib (1,814kg), the reason for its rapid departure becomes obvious.

Close examination of the radar on its plinth reveals several antennae. There is the large dish-shaped transmitter and small 'orange peel' receiver, plus a small circular Jamming Assessment Aerial (the same as in the Bloodhound's nose) providing the Controller with a subsidiary picture. Nearby, looking like a segment of processed cheese, the In-Flight Reference Aerial sends the Bloodhound a simple of radar energy when it is at high altitude.

A moving target reflects the Type 86's radar energy at a slightly different frequency (the Doppler Effect). Because the receiver in the Bloodhound is also travelling through space, a further apparent shift in frequency is produced. The outcome of this process is predicted by the LCP's computer and the missile instructed to search for a signal of that type. The receiver dish inside its nosecone then turns to lock on to the target, whilst the Bloodhound itself points towards the anticipated point of collision. (In other words, the dish does not point straight ahead except in the rare case of a tail-chase.) The master video screen in the LCP includes a clock count-down to interception time, and if the reflected signal display disappears as this reaches zero, there is no need for the Controller to put his/her head outside to listen for the bang.

If that all sounds very simple. . . it is. That is why the Bloodhound will be around for some years to come, for those who sing the praises of everything new and sophisticated tend to forget it is not only the occasional human who can be described as 'too clever for his own good'. Though straightforward - even primitive in some areas - 'The Dog' is still capable of giving a fatal bite to those who trespass on its domain.



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Constructed by Dick Barrett
ęCopyright 2000 - 2005 Dick Barrett
The right of Dick Barrett to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

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