Oral history of British science

Dommett, Roy (Part 8 of 19). An Oral History of British Science.

  • Add a note
    Log in to add a note at the bottom of this page.
  • All notes
  • My notes
  • Hide notes
Please click to leave a note

The British Library Board acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors to this recording and the rights of those not identified.
Legal and ethical usage »

Tags (top 25):
(No tags found for this item)
  • Type

    sound

  • Duration

    01:35:19

  • Shelf mark

    C1379/14

  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering

  • Recording date

    2010-04-20

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee’s home, Fleet

  • Interviewees

    Dommett, Roy, 1933- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 8: Remarks on Polaris improvements: [Closed between 00:36-00:46] Antelope, penaids, relationship with USA after Senate bar on transferring decoy information, [Closed between 02:22-02:44]improved Russian defences, effects of X-ray [cough] radiation on re-entry vehicles, plutonium phase changes with temperature concerns of nuclear weapons in service. [06:15] [mic crackle] Remarks on establishing credibility of concepts: Moscow ABM defences; observing Russians test effects of nuclear detonation on airborne missiles; differences of these tests to American equivalent [mic crackle]; using satellite imagery to observe construction of defences. [12:00] Remarks on: intelligence, taking advantage of mistakes [cough] in Russian bureaucracy to ascertain radar and nuclear weapon information; anti-nuclear Labour government of 1960s [mic noise] and Harold Wilson's decision to retain Polaris; problems with American Poseidon C3 alternative [mic crackle]; Royal Navy interest in Poseidon as it would not come out of their budget; general problems of programs. [16:55] Remarks on: relationship with navy, good at working level; inter-service rivalries between RN, RAF and Army, budget problems, history of situation with reference to D-day and retreat from empire; [cough][19:55] Remarks on: political situation c.1970, Vic Macklen, Edward Heath, and start of Chevaline program [mic crackle]; working with Sperry and Marconi on guidance systems, and Huntings [cough]' [24:00] problems with limited volume on Polaris; limited financing of Super Antelope project; importance of industry to RAE, which was purely a research centre; working with Jim Simmons from Huntings in secret; ABM treaty negotiations; handing penaid work over to Sid Barker of Aldermaston in 1968 due to shortage of finance. [27:30] Comments on: [mic crackle] limited volume on Polaris leading to attachment of second warhead to penetration aid carrier; importance of rapid ejection of decoys; importance of trying to challenge your own system and having a systems group to re-evaluate work [cough] [33:00] Comments on modern algorithmic approaches, AIDA artificial intelligence discrimination algorithm, recognising problems, neural networks, random matrices, construction of database of decoys built up during Chevaline tests. [38:50] Remarks on progress of Chevaline from 1972: Aldermaston's re-entry body design; [mic noise] Beryllium's resistance to X-rays; strategic aim of Polaris force, [Closed between 40:51- 44:02] [cough], number of submarines; [42:50] exchange ratio between Polaris and ABM; [cough] original plans for fifth submarine and delicacy of deterrent based on only four submarines [mic noise]; [Closed between 45:04-45:53] [cough] long term irradiation of nuclear submarines. [47:30] Remarks on: navy not wanting Chevaline due to budget problems; project only funded for 6 month at a time, causing problems with Sperry; cost escalation as Chevaline project took shape, background of 1970s British economic problems, problems for Huntings and delays in deliveries, unjustified criticism of Parliamentary Accounts Committee. [52:20] Remarks on: technical problems with Chevaline, re-entry bodies use of Avco supplied 3-Dimensional Quartz Phenolic [3DQP], development of new materials by Aldermaston; different stages of development; working with contractors, system goals set by Aldermaston; importance of keeping superiors fully briefed; [56:45] 1972 ABM treaty's favourable implications for Chevaline plans [cough]; technical problems for defenders using nuclear tipped ABM's. Remark on Chevaline political situation: drip feed of funding whilst alternatives considered; sapping of morale at RAE due to uncertainty; minister ordering navy to find solution to problems and assignment of Fred East to review project; [mic crackle] problems with the navy; trials in Australia. [1:02:30] Story about selection of Chevaline assembly and test area in industrial estate at Farnborough [cough], with remarks on bringing in Powell to manage area due to earlier work on ELDO. Remarks on: establishing a reference facility for Chevaline at Airlogs; [1:07:30] [cough] FE at Admiralty in Bath, bringing BAe contractors to staff flight trials at Cape Kennedy; Navy's slow development of Chevaline procedures and assembly area at Coulport; Roy Harmer and Steve Metcalf working in Scotland frequently. [1:11:00] Remarks on radiation hardening of critical components: component testing on Linac, procedure development by RD and John Flood, assistance of Americans, facilities at Farnborough, Aldermaston and in the USA. [1:14:45] Remarks on: efficiency of UK teams using at American facilities, importance of extensive preparation for UK tests, comparison with nuclear testing; completion of radiation hardening work; launching countermeasures and size of threat cloud; [mic crackle]. [1:19:40] difficulties of bringing components together from multiple sources, including Westcott, Aldermaston, USA [mic crackle], and the importance of designer Alec Beard [??] having a clear idea of the whole; 'doing it for Britain'; testing components in vacuum and zero gravity, and on Skylark and Falstaff rockets. [1:25:40] Comments on development of ejection process at Aldermaston, shape of decoys, problems with original design of penetration aid carrier [mic crackle], use of titanium and carbon fibre materials, unsuccessful Huntings Messerschmitt alloy development. [1:29:30] Remarks on: use of new materials on Chevaline out of necessity; 70% of Chevaline being built of things that didn't exist at the start of the project; use of dynamic models to resolve concerns about flow caused by rapid release of decoys; tests at Foulness [cough] and Aldermaston, admirals' trials.

  • Description

    Interview with rocket scientist and aeronautical engineer Roy Dommett

  • Related transcripts

    Roy Dommett interviewed by Dr Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

  • Metadata record:

    View full metadata for this item

Dommett, Roy (Part 8 of 19). An Oral History of British Science.

Please log in to update your playlists.

Can you tell us more about the context of the recording? Or can you share information on its content - timings of key sections or important details? Please add your notes. Uninformative entries may not be retained.

Please log in to leave notes.