The military inventions that never were

A space aircraft capable of travelling at five times the speed of sound and a Jeep that leaps over enemy blockages are among a number of outlandish unrealised concepts found in the archive of defence company BAE Systems.

The Jumping Jeep design, which would use 12 vertical lift fans to make a jeep 'fly'
The Jumping Jeep design, which would use 12 vertical lift fans to make a jeep ‘fly’

BAE Systems worked with animators to show how the scrapped R&D projects might have looked had they been brought to life (you can see the animations at the end of this article).

The hypersonic aircraft – nicknamed Mustard (Multi-Unit Space Transport and Recovery Device) – would have been the world’s first reusable Space plane.

The Mustard hypersonic Space plane, designed in 1964
The Mustard hypersonic Space plane, designed in 1964

Developed in 1964, it was later dropped after the UK Government decided not to proceed with it, prompting designer Tom Smith to say there is ‘nothing worse than being right at the wrong time’.

Mustard’s ideas can be seen on contemporary projects such as the Virgin Galactic spaceship.

The ‘Jumping Jeep’ meanwhile, was an ambitious attempt to bring vertical take off and landing technology from planes to ground vehicles.

The concept, which would have involved 12 vertical lift fans attached to a 4×4 vehicle, was killed off in the mid-1960s when it was deemed too expensive.

The Intercity Vertical Lift Aircraft design, drawn up in the 1960s
The Intercity Vertical Lift Aircraft design, drawn up in the 1960s

Other designs unearthed include a fighter jet take-off platform, which would rise up from the ground, and a commercial passenger plane capable of vertical take-off and landing in densely populated cities.

The fighter jet take-off platform, which would allow aircraft to operate from small forest clearings
The fighter jet take-off platform, which would allow aircraft to operate from small forest clearings

The designs have been released to coincide with the opening of a new heritage centre at BAE Systems’ military aircraft factory in Warton, Lancashire.

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