Short SB5 WG 768
Photographed on 23 May 2011 in the RAF Museum, Cosford.
The SB5 was built to compare theories on the design of the wing and tail configuration of a new fighter, later to be known as the Lightning.
A technical dispute arose between the Royal Aircraft Establishment and the English Electric Company (EEC) as to the best configuration for a proposed new supersonic fighter. A research machine was built to investigate the low speed handling of the possible configurations. The contract was awarded to Short Brothers and Harland Ltd of Belfast on 2 August 1950. The machine was designed to allow three different wing sweep angles (50°, 60° and 69°) and two different tail plane positions, (low on the rear fuselage and on top of the fin). This necessitated two entirely different rear fuselages and tail units.
Over the next 11 months the tests with 50° and 60° sweep were concluded with the high tail configuration. In January 1954 the low tail rear fuselage was fitted and tests continued for a further two years and proved that the English Electric configuration was correct.
Before fitting the final wing sweep configuration of 69°, an ejector seat was fitted for the first time and the Rolls-Royce Derwent engine was changed for a Bristol Orpheus of greater thrust. The aircraft was returned to RAE Bedford in September 1960. The first flight was made in the new configuration on 18 October. After completion of its test programme the Empire Test Pilots School at Boscombe Down flew the machine to give students experience in flight-testing slender aircraft.
2 December 1952 following delivery from Belfast by sea and road, first flight at A&AEE, Boscombe Down, with 50-degree wing sweep and high set tailplane. Pilot Tom Brooke-Smith.
29 July 1953 first flight with 60 degree sweep; the aircraft had earlier been returned to Belfast for alteration of the wing angle.
Dec 53 Modified tail with tailplane and elevator at the bottom rather than the top, fitted at Belfast.
January 1954 first flown in this modified form by Tom Brooke-Smith at Boscombe Down.
20 Sep 55 Transferred to Royal Aircraft Establishment Bedford, the results being
correlated with the final development of the Lightning.
1957 withdrawn from use for change from original Rolls Royce Derwent 8 to Bristol Orpheus engine and 69 degree sweep.
20 Apr 58 Returned to Shorts at Belfast for the substantial rebuild including the reengining (Bristol Orpheus), revised instrumentation, installation of zerolevel Martin Baker ejection seat and repainting glossy light blue to enable
it to be quickly distinguished from Lightnings of similar appearance but very different performance.
September 1960 returned to RAE Bedford.
1 December 19 transferred to Empire Test Pilots School, Boscombe Down, coded ‘28’ and wearing a dark blue colour scheme.
7 March 1968 flown to RAF Finningley, Yorks for storage on behalf of the RAF Museum and given RAF maintenance serial 8005M. Aircraft repainted in 1971 whilst with the station museum at Finningley.
1974 to temporary storage at RAF Henlow, then to Aerospace Museum, RAF Cosford, Salop; T-tail rear fuselage displayed alongside.
Picture added on 12 August 2011 at 08:34