During the design and build process of the Concorde bomber variant a feasibility study was made of a possible fighter escort version of the aircraft. The study recommended a smaller design but one that used around an 80% commonality in airframe parts and an upgraded engine capable of pushing the new design to Mach 3. As no money was at the time available BAC decided to siphon off some of the Concorde bomber development money to make two pre-production airframes under the Concorde F12 designation to cover its existence from the Whitehall money counters.
Into the light of dayEdit
Rolled out at Boscombe down in August 1975 and now renamed the Conqueror the aircraft entered a stringent regime of testing and operational evaluation. It proved that it was capable of making dashes at Mach 3 in order to evade enemy defences but could not maintain such speeds for extended periods of time due to stresses on the airframe and engines coupled with shockingly high fuel consumption. The aircraft also proved that it could reach altitudes of up to 78,000 feet.
TestingEditThe testing revealed an aircraft of awe inspiring performance but already the critics were lining up to take shots at the aircraft. Fighter Command had rejected the more conventional Hawker Harlot in the penetration fighter role but the aircraft was already serving Maritime Command and although the latter command was impressed with the Conqueror it was simply not feasible to cancel the Harlot order in favour of the new aircraft.
In a last ditch effort to save the aircraft its supporters lobbied for the Royal Air Force to allow Bomber Command to operate its own fighter force equipped with Conquerors. By the end of testing however no requirement for this type of aircraft existed anywhere within the RAF, nor within any Commonwealth or allied air force.
This would not entirely prove the end for the super fighter however. Apart from the two airframes completed at that time two others had been delivered during the testing to make up a total of 3 flying and one ground airframe, these flew for a number of years in the service of various "shadow" squadrons of the RAF and it is believed that they were used to provide high speed targets for interception and radar calibration purposes. The last flight of a Conqueror took place on March 3rd 1985.
At this time only one airframe exists and it is currently on display next to the Concorde and Eagle at the RAF museum Cosford.