Oral history of British science
Dommett, Roy (Part 5 of 19). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewee’s home, Fleet
Dommett, Roy, 1933- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 5: Remarks on: many people leaving RAE to join industry after several years service; RD original hopes to join Supermarine; Supermarine's early work on TSR2; RD early years at Farnborough, pressured but flexible atmosphere; early work on Blue Streak and supersonic aerodynamics; [cough] Frank Hazel's work on Skylark; production of airflow handbook; becoming a member of Committee of Engineering Science Data Unit at the RAeS. [05:50] Remarks on: 1962 visit to General Applied Sciences, USA: connected to flow field cone data, only usable on East Kilbride CDC computer; visiting Faslane; problems between data and actual Dazzle trials; flight trials at Delco North Carolina, limitations of interpreting other people's trials. [09:45] Short story about American analysts misinterpreting later British tests in the USA. [mic crackle] and the special relationship. Remarks on: not being terribly impressed by Americans; working practices; working with Lockheed, but not senior staff [mic crackle]; American habit of over-specialisation; advantageous approach to secrecy. [17:25] Short story about closely questioning an American at Cranwell about Minuteman missile details. [mic crackle] Remarks on: differences between British and American engineering philosophy and standards, with example of Sperry team at Bracknell; problems of transferring technology, such as Canberra bomber, Phantom fighter and Nuclear weapons. [22:50] Comments on bureaucratic problems of dealing with Ordnance Board on Chevaline fuses, connectors and warhead explosives, [mic crackle] comparative remarks on French practices, which lead to destruction of two armament factories [27:35] Remarks on: safety concerns, safety committees at establishments, safety handling, Airlogs company at Aldershot [mic crackle]. [31:00] Remarks on starting work on aero-elasticity problems at RAE Guided Weapons Department: story about repairing a rocket with a mallet; starting Blue Streak work on boundary layer theory and heat transfer problems; becoming secretary on re-entry, aerodynamics and materials panel, giving him an insight on political processes; story about discussing subjective nature of minutes with Cabinet Office personnel. [36:50] Remarks on: working of Blue Streak panels; talking to ministers like Michael Heseltine; producing reports and recommendations; [mic crackle] reports on Chevaline, and financial control. [short pause] [40:00]; preliminary jobs that were not followed up; working with a Stevenage company in the 1980s and Fort Halstead to assess danger of laser-guided Soviet anti-aircraft shells on ballistic missiles, while senior ballistic missile consultant, with superintendent Bill Lester and working with Terry Butler. [46:10] Story about Mrs Thatcher stopping plans to intercept a ballistic missile using a Sea Dart missile, because of ABM treaty implications. Remarks on: attempting to intercept a Lance missile off Benbecula; tests building up understanding; limitations of infra-red sensors in detecting re-entry vehicles; modelling simple solutions and building on them; frustrations of lack of finance. [51:50] Remarks on work on countermeasures and penaids: importance of understanding threats, similarity of situation to Enigma in Second World War. Story about work of Strawberry Flavoured Company in detecting theft amongst Heathrow baggage handlers, using AI. [55:55] Remarks on: use of AI; battle models; only now understanding how the political situation affected his work. [mic noise] importance of understanding enemy capabilities to minimum nuclear deterrent. [1:00:30] Comments on: using RAE library of intelligence data to guide work, such as HR169, [Closed between 1:02:21-1:02:58]; purchase of scrap titanium from Russians [entry of Mrs Dommett]
Interview with rocket scientist and aeronautical engineer Roy Dommett