Canberra T Mk.17

Canberra T Mk.17

    Electronic warfare training variant used to train surface-based radar and missile operators and airborne fighter and Airborne Early Warning crews in handling jamming (including chaff dropping) aircraft. 24 conversions from B2 with extended nose for sensors.

Canberra T Mk.17A

    Updated version of the T17 with improved navigation aids, a spectrum analyser in place of the previously fitted AN/APR-20, and a powerful communications jammer.

The T. 17 was the electronic countermeasure (ECM) aircraft, and was in fact an extensively modified B. 2. The work was done in packages on three aircraft, but only one, WJ977, got the full package. The T. 17 radar nose had numerous `blisters’, and it was used to provide electronic countermeasure and radar jamming training to members of all three services. It was a most ugly aircraft, with its bulbous nose and various protrusions having a somewhat sinister fascination.

The T. 17 has a variety of aerials sprouting from its fuselage and also two on the fin. Apart from its extensive range of radio and radar jamming devices, the T. 17 could also carry and release large quantities of window from its wing-tip dispensers. Normal crew consisted of pilot, navigator and electronic warfare officer.

The T. 17 equipped only No. 360 Squadron, a joint RAF/RN electronic warfare training unit that formed at Warton out of B Flight of No. 97 Squadron and the Royal Navy’s ECM unit, No. 831 Squadron, on 23 September 1966.

WJ988 first flew in October 1966, and was the first to be delivered to No. 360 Squadron on 1 December 1966. It was shown publicly for the first time at the Royal Review of the Royal Air Force at Abingdon in July 1968.

A total of twenty-four T. 17s were produced, the last, WH872, being in March 1968. Several T. 17s were held in storage for the intended formation of No. 361 Squadron in the Mediterranean area, but the rundown in the Middle East made this unnecessary, and No. 361 Squadron disbanded in July 1967, its crews and equipment joining No. 360 Squadron.

The principal role of No.360 Squadron was to provide training for all branches of the armed services, to teach them how to operate in a hostile electronic counter-measures environment. This was achieved by jamming communications and radar signals between the ground controllers and interceptors. Chaff dropping, active radar jamming to the Mediterranean area, as well as to NATO bases in Europe. The T.17s appearance also underwent a change, with the dark sea grey/dark green/light aircraft grey underside paint finish being altered to a two-tone hemp scheme. Upgrading of the aircraft’s electronics fit was an on-going exercise. Continual improvement in airborne and air-defence radars meant that development in training were also necessary if they were to be of any operational value. When No.231 OCU closed down, in April 1973, a number of former No.10 Squadron Canberra PR. 7s were transferred to No.360 squadron, where they were fitted with modified tip tanks, which had been adapted as chaff dispensers.

Another relocation took place on 1 September 1975, when No.360 Squadron left Cottesmore for Wyton, where improvements in the T.17s navigation and EW equipment brought the T.17A into existence. T17 WD955, originally the twenty-seventh production B.2 hack in 1951, went were similarly modified, and all six aircraft were operational at Wyton by May 1987.

No.360 Squadron provided radar jamming for Tornado E.3 intercept sorties, and liaison between the Squadron and the Tornado OCU was instrumental in developing the Foxhunter intercept radar that had such a problematic gestation period. The annual utilization of the EW/ECM trainers was bound to take its toll – by spring 1994, nearly 400 hours per aircraft were being flown. The squadron was down to eight EW aircraft, which included all T 17As, plus two T4s and two PR. 7. A decision was made to stand down the service’s only airborne Electronic Warfare unit and, on 31 October 1994, No.360 Squadron was disbanded. The unit’s surviving T4, together with two PR. 7s, were transferred to No. 39 (2 PRU) Squadron at Marham. At the time of No.360 Squadron’s disbanding, its T 17A WD955/’EM’, was the oldest Canberra still flying with the RAF, with forty-three years’ service behind it.

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