Originally known by the Ministry of Supply colour code "Blue Sky", Fireflash was the earlier attempts to produce an air-to-air missile for the RAF. Longshot and the later Red Hawk produced unsatisfactory results, the specification being beyond the state of the art, so development of the beam-riding Fireflash began as Pink Hawk. Fireflash was deployed to one development and service trials squadron equipped with the Supermarine Swift fighter.
Beam riding air-to-air missiles were not particularly flexible, so Fireflash was not a great success and was superceded by Infra-Red missiles such as Firestreak and saw no further service. Fireflash gave the RAF valuable experience in the use of air-to-air guided weapons and allow the UK to claim that it had a fully operational AAM.
Fireflash was boosted by a pair of Thrush or Blackbird solid rocket motors on the forward fuselage. These were jettisoned after the boost phase was completed leaving the unpowered Fireflash to coast to its target. The radar receiver was fitted in the rear of the missile to allow it to pick up the beam from the launch aircraft's radar. It was thought that the radar beam would not be picked up by the missile through a sustainer motor exhaust, so Fireflash had no sustainer.
Beam riding AAMs fell by the wayside and semi-active and active homing became the preferred systems for radar guidance.
The Fireflash in the photos is on display at The Aerospace Museum at RAF Cosford.
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