Saunders-Roe SR.53
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Saunders-Roe SR.53

In the forefront of British rocket propulsion studies by 1952, Saunders-Roe produced a design, the SR.53, for a single-seat target defence interceptor combining a liquid-fuel rocket motor with an auxiliary turbojet. Submitted to meet the requirements of Specification F.124T, the SR.53 was recipient of a three-prototype contract in October 1952. Of clipped delta wing configuration with a specified armament of two wingtip-mounted Blue Jay (de Havilland Firestreak) AAMs, the SR.53 was powered by an 3629kg de Havilland Spectre HTP rocket and a 744kg Armstrong Siddeley Viper turbojet superimposed one above the other in the rear fuselage. In the event, only two of the SR.53s were to be completed, these making their initial flights on 16 May and 8 December 1957, prior to which, in April 1957, all rocket-powered fighter development in the UK had been cancelled. Nonetheless, the two SR.53s performed 42 test flights before, on 15 June 1958, the second aircraft crashed, the surviving aircraft then being permanently grounded.

Saunders-Roe SR.53

    Take-off weight8618 kg19000 lb
    Empty weight3357 kg7401 lb
    Wingspan7.65 m25 ft 1 in
    Length13.72 m45 ft 0 in
    Height3.29 m11 ft 10 in
    Wing area25.45 m2273.94 sq ft
    Max. speed2135 km/h1327 mph

Saunders-Roe SR.53A three-view drawing (1670 x 1125)

louis Dightmaker, 08.12.2017

I was an apprentice at DeHavilland engine company in the 50's and was involved in the development and prototype build of both the Gyron Junior and the Sprite/Super Sprite and the Spectre rockets whilst on assignment at Deh's Leavesden engine plant. Those engines were top secret at the time whilst the plant was in full production of the Goblin and Ghost engines. I recall that the DeH museum (London Colney?) has examples of the rockets and the Gyron junior on display. Definitely worth a visit - excellent museum with lots of DeH aircraft and engines. I visited some years back and had a brilliant guided tour courtesy of John Cunningham now sadly "flying elsewhere" - lovely, amazing man. Prototype Mosquito also lives in a hanger at the museum with all sorts of other aircraft. See the museum details on the website.

john parsons, 02.08.2017

I was informed by a close relative of John Booth that the instrument panel on the SR53 had not been secured after a minor service and came adrift on takeoff. As a guide I was showing the relative the RAF Museum Cosford SR53.

Michael, 28.07.2016

Hi I'm a scale model maker are there any schematic drawings of the aircraft
Kindest Regards Michael

Michael, 28.07.2016

Hi I'm a scale model maker are there any schematic drawings of the aircraft
Kindest Regards Michael

Paul Martell-Mead, 26.01.2016

I am currently researching a book about the Saunders-Roe SR.53 and SR.177 and would be very interested in any anecdotes, names, photos or other information.

Brian Flowers, 16.12.2013

I did an Aeronautical Engineering 'Sandwhich Course' at Southampton University and Saunders Roe, Cowes, Isle of Wight, in 1956/1957. There was a gantry with the front section of the SR53 fuselage in the grounds of the Saunders Roe Apprentice Training School, near Cowes, which was used for checking visibility on landing. I had the honour of making a spigot for the seat adjustment mechanism as part of my training.

Bryan M. Long, 31.10.2012

I worked at CJC Developments milling parts for many prototype a/c. Including the spar for the fin (vert. Stabilizer) of the SR77, And making a glass fiber drill jig for same. Used the tooling button technique to position precision drill bush spacing. I too would be interestd in a cut-a-way drawing of the Duchess and the Queen designs. I had the Princess one given to me when I was on a fact-find on the C17 vanes tooling.

john payton, 02.04.2012

Being an ex apprentice (1960/65) and looking up this site I see a name Len Brett who I remember well and also that he was at Boscombe Down with my, father Harold Payton, who was an inspector at this time. If any body is interested I have a photo of one of the aircraft together with a Wessex and my father in the forground inside a hangar. by the way, I also recall going to this hangar at the tender age of about 12 years old having being sneaked in late at night with a pipe stuck in my mouth and a hat pulled over my head, the car if I recall was driven by Arthur Morman!

Leonard Brett, 26.02.2012

I was in the Intrument Lab: and ran the ground radio station at S/Roe I also went to Boscombe Down with the 53 it was a realy wonderfull plane to see and behaved exceptionly well.

Brian Dwyer, 13.07.2011

I have several photographs of Saunders Roe apprentices from about 1957 when we live at the Annex near Osbourne House. I know a couple of years ago an ex apprentice was requesting pictures of Saro apprentices, but I cannot locate that person now. Can you help?

Peter Durdin, 18.10.2010

I also worked on the SR53 during my apprenticeship from 1953-1958 My father Bill Durdin also worked at Saunders Roe. I have just retired after 54 years on aircraft.

Brian "Bernie" Banks, 20.08.2010

I was an apprentice at Saunders Roe from 1953 to 1958.Iwas fortunate enough to be the the only apprentice selected to work on the SR 53.Together with a qualified fitter called Vic Brinton we built the port wing.
I was again fortunate to go with Vic and another fitter to go to A&AEE Boscomb Down for flight testing.
I cant explain the first time the Spectre was lit,the shock waves hurt your abdomen.I could go on longer,but will leave it for another day.

leigh.heaton, 08.04.2010


does anyone know where the SR-53 detailed airframe blueprints would be archived?

d.jay, 11.07.2009

This aircraft was a test bed for the jet and rocket powered SR177 which was cancelled because man aircraft became obsolete in 1957. WHAT IDIOTS!

R,Hunt, 02.11.2008

i have done a bit of indepth reaserch Saunders Roe made an aircraft capable of reaching mach 1 before the americans Bell X-1 but the americans spoke to (maybe threaten) the goverment and it was destroyed before it finished so they could reach mach 1 first

M.J.Etheridge, 01.03.2008

I can remember as a 10 year old in 1957 watching the very impressive flight display of the SR 53 at the Farnborough air show on television. Specifically the flight commentary highlighted the switching on and off of the rocket motor whilst the plane was in flight.There were some very good close-up pictures.

My older brother who served an apprenticeship at the Hawker aircraft factory in Kingston had promised to take me to the 1958 Farnborough show,and I was really looking forward to seing the SR 53 fly as I considered it to be right at the forefront of world aircraft technology and an example of this country's expertise. My disapointment of both the SR 53 crash and susequent cancellation of the
SR177 project just before the show was immence. However I suppose this was slightly offset by the appearance of the Blackburn NA 39 at the show.

I have a nephew working on the Nimrod 4 at BAC, and he once stated that the industry still suffers from cancellations of projects in the past particularly the TSR2.
I gather future military schemes are more likely to be for un-manned aircraft. Perhaps these aircraft will not receive the same amount of publicity as past aircraft such as the SR 53 and hence the degree of national pride.

Ben May, 18.02.2008

In 1957 I worked as photographer to Saunders Roe and took the only good air-to-air photographs of this aircraft during the second test flight. for the first I stood at the side of the Boscombe runway just where John Booth pressed the 'fire' button to light up the Spectre. This engine is (or was)on show at the Science museum in london
Governments and the aircraft industry have never mixed well and Duncan Sands has a lot to answer for. Incideltally, my photograph of the '53 above the clouds has been appropriated by "Airliners .com" and attributed to some other photgrapher. This is not true, I have an original print and negative.

john, 10.06.2007

what are the dimensions of the De Havilland Spectre 5A Engine and where can I acquire a Picture of one as all sites sem to have a protection on the copying of such Pictures

W.N. Slatton, 30.05.2007

Can you provide a photo or drawing of the SR 53 cockpit?

Do you have any comments about this aircraft ?

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