Skybolt: At Arm’s Length

Author(s): Nicholas Hill

ISBN: 9781781557044
£17.50 £25.00
British designed cruise missiles for bombers were abandoned for the American Skybolt. The cancellation of Skybolt forced the UK to rethink its deterrent.

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  • The untold story of the British discovery and development of inertial navigation

  • Skybolt: its rise and fall – no longer would the RAF carry the nuclear deterrent

  • What would have happened if the UK had not obtained Polaris on acceptable terms?

  • Much of the story of told by using the letters and memoranda of those taking the decisions

  • A new and fresh angle on British weaponry and of interest to military and aviation historians as well as modellers
Skybolt: At Arm’s Length is the untold story of secret projects, which led to the development of inertial navigation in the UK and the missiles that were designed for the RAF: the result was Blue Steel. These were cruise-type missiles and in 1959, the RAF decided to participate in the American Skybolt air-launched ballistic missile. However, Skybolt was cancelled by the American Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, which brought about a crisis in Anglo-American relations, only resolved when the UK obtained Polaris on acceptable terms.

The cancellation brought about another crisis: Polaris would not be available until 1969 and short-term stopgaps were needed. Many projects are examined in this beautifully illustrated book. But what if the UK had not been able to obtain Polaris? The final chapters examine what options would have been open to Britain: ground-based or air-launched missiles? What part could the TSR 2 have played?

Skybolt: At Arm’s Length is the result of considerable archival research, and there are extensive quotes from contemporary documents to illustrate the thinking of the time.

BOOK ISBN 9781781557044
FORMAT 234 x 156 mm
BINDING Hardback
PAGES 240 pages
PUBLICATION DATE 17 October 2019
ILLUSTRATIONS 97 black-and-white illustrations, profiles and photographs



Nicholas Hill is the author of A Vertical Empire, the UK rocket programme of the 1950s and 1960s, and An Atomic Empire, the story of nuclear power in Britain. He spent 35 years teaching Physics, latterly at Charterhouse, and is now retired. He spends the summer months cruising the Baltic in his yacht and winter researching Government files in the National Archives.