Along the way to creating successful military and commercial vehicles like the terrifying Terrier, Challenger tanks, and Jetstream jets, BAE Systems have also had a few... non-starters.

Back in the 1960s engineers for the companies predecessor companies were letting their imaginations run riot picturing the future.

Only they appear to have been taking a little too much inspiration from the Thunderbirds.

Story continues after slideshow...

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  • The Jumping Jeep

    The ‘Jumping Jeep’ was a concept reconnaissance vehicle capable of leaping over obstacles - a 4x4 transporter flanked by 12 vertical lift fans, whose angle could be adjusted dependant on the situation - allowing the jeep to overcome enemy barriers. Developed by BAC Warton at the request of the British army in the 1960s, the design was an attempt to adapt vertical take-off and landing technology to vehicles and was developed with the Ministry of Defence’s Fighting Vehicle Research and Development Establishment. The project was cancelled in the mid-1960s, due to assessments that production of the design would be too expensive

  • Jumping Jeep

  • Hypersonic Aircraft

    In 1964 the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) designed a hypersonic aircraft capable of flight at five times the speed of sound, nicknamed MUSTARD (Multi-Unit Space Transport And Recovery Device). The project would have created the world’s first reusable ‘space plane’, with the cost of development having been estimated as ‘20 to 30 times cheaper’ than that incurred by the expendable rocket systems in use that eventually put man on the moon in 1969. The aircraft was formed of three separate crewed, delta-winged sections that are launched as a single unit. Two of those would act as boosters and launch the third into space, and then separate before returning to earth like normal aircraft – followed by the third, once its intended mission was complete. The government decided not to proceed with the project though, prompting Tom Smith - one of the developers - to comment that MUSTARD was too “far ahead of its time”, and that there was “nothing worse than being right at the wrong time.” The ideas behind that original aircraft can still be seen today in current delta-winged space aircraft such as Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, XCOR’s Lynx Mk.III as well as early designs for the US Space Shuttle.

  • Hypersonic Aircraft

    In 1964 the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) designed a hypersonic aircraft capable of flight at five times the speed of sound, nicknamed MUSTARD (Multi-Unit Space Transport And Recovery Device). The project would have created the world’s first reusable ‘space plane’, with the cost of development having been estimated as ‘20 to 30 times cheaper’ than that incurred by the expendable rocket systems in use that eventually put man on the moon in 1969. The aircraft was formed of three separate crewed, delta-winged sections that are launched as a single unit. Two of those would act as boosters and launch the third into space, and then separate before returning to earth like normal aircraft – followed by the third, once its intended mission was complete. The government decided not to proceed with the project though, prompting Tom Smith - one of the developers - to comment that MUSTARD was too “far ahead of its time”, and that there was “nothing worse than being right at the wrong time.” The ideas behind that original aircraft can still be seen today in current delta-winged space aircraft such as Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, XCOR’s Lynx Mk.III as well as early designs for the US Space Shuttle.

  • Intercity Vertical-Lift Aircraft

    The Intercity Vertical-Lift Aircraft design from the Hawker Siddeley company was an attempt to bring vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) to commercial aircraft, to allow airlines to put airports amongst densely-populated cities, open up more direct travel for passengers and to cut down on the amount of space required for airport runways. A number of designs were drawn up over the 1960s, looking very similar to our passenger planes today; however featuring rows of lift fans on either side of the body of the plane. The project was eventually dropped after it was decided that together with the cost of fuel required to fly the aircraft and the extra load from the frames housing the lift fans, combined with the weight of passengers, could lead to instability in flight. VTOL systems inspired by the project are still in use today however, through the F-35 Lightning II, with adaptations of the vertical lift fans having been engineered by BAE Systems to improve some of the most versatile military jets in the world.

  • Intercity Vertical-Lift Aircraft

    The Intercity Vertical-Lift Aircraft design from the Hawker Siddeley company was an attempt to bring vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) to commercial aircraft, to allow airlines to put airports amongst densely-populated cities, open up more direct travel for passengers and to cut down on the amount of space required for airport runways. A number of designs were drawn up over the 1960s, looking very similar to our passenger planes today; however featuring rows of lift fans on either side of the body of the plane. The project was eventually dropped after it was decided that together with the cost of fuel required to fly the aircraft and the extra load from the frames housing the lift fans, combined with the weight of passengers, could lead to instability in flight. VTOL systems inspired by the project are still in use today however, through the F-35 Lightning II, with adaptations of the vertical lift fans having been engineered by BAE Systems to improve some of the most versatile military jets in the world.

A hypersonic space-plane capable of travelling at five times the speed of sound, a jeep that leapt over enemy blockades, and a commercial aircraft able to take off and land vertically in densely populated cities are among those pictured in newly unearthed concept sketches.

Howard Mason, Heritage Manager at BAE Systems said “Although 50 years have passed since these extraordinary designs were first put to paper, we can see how some of the technologies and ideas were developed over time and put to use now in aircraft like the F35 Joint Strike Fighter.

"Aircraft and vehicle engineering involves producing and analysing literally thousands of iterations and whilst today the process is speeded up through the use of computer modelling, it’s fascinating to look through our archives and see what engineers were working on at that time."

The images have been released to coincide with the opening of a new centre in Warton, Lancashire, to celebrate the history of the company.