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Supermarine (Vickers) Type 559

High-Speed, High-Altitude Interceptor Proposal

United Kingdom | 1955

"The Vickers Type 559 high-speed, high-altitude interceptor was intended to satisfy a Cold War-era requirement for the Royal Air Force - it was not furthered."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/05/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
Operational Requirement (OR) "F.155" of 1955, calling for a high-speed, high-altitude interceptor, resulted in many proposed designs to come from the usual British defense houses - Armstrong-Whitworth (AW), Fairey, Hawker, Vickers, etc. For Vickers, their contribution became the "Type 559", a large, twin-seat combination propulsion scheme speedster designed around a canard wing configuration. Like others in the series of F.155 proposals, the Type 559 went nowhere as British thinking shifted towards the missile age following the Defence White Paper review of May 1957.

Nuclear-capable Soviet bombers poised the biggest threat to freedom and stability in the West so, as a response, interceptor programs were taken on by the British as well as the United States and the French. The need was great for a Mach 2.0 or greater aircraft built around powerful jets with the possibility of using rockets to augment output thrust. Coupled with this high-performance would be an all-in-one weapons suite encompassing advanced missiles (heat-seeking and beam-riding) as well as Airborne Interceptor (A.I.) radar, the latter set in the nosecone.

To help manage the technologically-heavy aircraft, a crew of two was a necessity and for maximum survival, ejection seats, multiple engines, and cockpit pressurization would become requirements.

The resultant design was unique in that it utilized a canard-centric arrangement - small planes fitted towards the front end of the fuselage. These would work in conjunction with a more traditional set of mainplanes fitted further aft in the design. The mainplanes were given straight trailing edges, swept-back leading edges, and featured the vertical tail fins at their tips. The fuselage was made deep to accommodate the twin turbojets seated over-under (as in the subsequent English Electric Lighting jet-powered fighter later taken on by the RAF). The rocket boosters would straddle the engines at their exhaust ports, concentrating thrust around the aircraft's centerline and mass. Aspiration for the turbojet engines would be had through a ventrally situated intake with ductwork running to the engines at the rear. The entire aircraft would be supported when running on the ground by a wholly retractable undercarriage involving a single-wheeled nose leg and twin-wheeled main legs, the wheels at these legs seated in line. All would retract into the body of the aircraft - which would feature aluminum allow throughout its construction with critical heat-generating components set to be skinned in titanium.

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The cockpit was set at the front of the fuselage in typical fashion, though aft of the nosecone set to house the interception radar fit. The cockpit would be framed as usual and seat its two crew - pilot and navigator/weapons operator - in a side-by-side arrangement.

The aircraft was drawn up with a running length of 68.2 feet, a wingspan of 42 feet and a height of 15.2 feet. Empty weight reached 41,500lb while Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) peaked at near 30,000lb. All told, the Type 559 was one of the larger submissions entertained for requirement F.155.

At the heart of the Type 559's propulsion scheme was a combination powerplant involving two afterburning turbojets and a pair of rocket motors for boost power. This was intended to satisfy high cruising speeds, dash speeds, and rate-of-climb for the interceptor design. 2 x de Havilland "Gyron" PS.26/1 turbojets would output 20,000lb of thrust each while 2 x de Havilland "Spectre Junior" boosters would supply momentary thrust output, adding an additional 5,000lb of power each. All told, this would help to get the interceptor up to speeds of Mach 2.5 and a service ceiling near 60,000 feet while rate-of-climb was estimated to be 51,000 feet-per-minute.

As for armament, and like other F.155 entrants, the Type 559 was set to carry a pair of air-to-air missiles, these to become either the "Red Hebe" beam-riding weapon or the "Blue Jay" Mk.4 heat-seeker. As the wing tips of the mainplanes were taken up by the vertical tail fins, this meant that the missiles would be seated against the fuselage atop wingstub-like protrusions. The supports were added near midships along the dorsal facing of the fuselage to complete the aircraft's look (this physical feature was also used in the English Electric Lighting fighter).

With the end of the F.155/F.155T requirement following the defense review of 1957, hopes for the Type 559 ended as well.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Supermarine Type 559 High-Speed, High-Altitude Interceptor Proposal.
2 x de Havilland "Gyron" PS.26/1 afterburning turbojet engines developing 20,000lb of thrust each; 2 x de Havilland "Spectre" rocket motor producing 5,000lb of thrust each.
1,920 mph
3,090 kph | 1,668 kts
Max Speed
59,055 ft
18,000 m | 11 miles
Service Ceiling
1,025 miles
1,650 km | 891 nm
Operational Range
51,000 ft/min
15,545 m/min
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Supermarine Type 559 High-Speed, High-Altitude Interceptor Proposal.
68.2 ft
20.80 m
O/A Length
42.0 ft
(12.80 m)
O/A Width
15.3 ft
(4.65 m)
O/A Height
41,491 lb
(18,820 kg)
Empty Weight
66,139 lb
(30,000 kg)
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Supermarine (Vickers) Type 559 High-Speed, High-Altitude Interceptor Proposal .
2 x "Red Hebe" radar-guided air-to-air missiles OR 2 x "Blue Jay" InfraRed (IR) air-to-air missiles mounted over the fuselage.
Notable series variants as part of the Supermarine (Vickers) Type 559 family line.
Type 559 - Base Project Designation.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Supermarine (Vickers) Type 559. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 0 Units

Contractor(s): Vickers-Armstrong (Supermarine) - UK
National flag of the United Kingdom

[ United Kingdom ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 2000mph
Lo: 1000mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (1,920mph).

Graph Average of 1,500 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
1 / 1
Image of the Supermarine (Vickers) Type 559
Image from the Public Domain.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Supermarine (Vickers) Type 559 High-Speed, High-Altitude Interceptor Proposal appears in the following collections:
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