Black Box Canberras – British Test and Trials Canberras 1951-1994

Published: March 3rd, 2017     
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Author: Dave Forster
Reviewed by: 
Paul Brown, IPMS# 24085
Company: Crecy Publishing, Ltd.
ISBN #: 9781902109534
Other Publication Information: Hardback, 256 pages, color and black and white
Price: $49.95

The English Electric Canberra needs no introduction to anyone familiar with post-World War II military aircraft. Originally entering service in the early 1950's it served with many air forces around the world (including the United States Air Force as the B-57 Canberra) for many years.

Almost from the beginning of its service with the Royal Air Force, the Canberra was used as a testbed for a wide variety of aircraft systems and weapons, ranging from airborne radar systems, to air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, airborne reconnaissance systems, and even ejection seat testing. Dave Forster has collected a wealth of information regarding the various British test programs that the Canberra participated in and presents it in a very well organized and informative way.

The book is organized into thirteen chapters, most of which are dedicated to a specific type of test program such airborne radar systems (both airborne intercept and airborne early warning) and air-to-surface weapons. Each chapter follows the various development projects as they historically evolved and discusses how the Canberras were used in the testing of these projects. The discussion includes aircraft serials of the specific Canberra assigned to each test program along with the modifications that were made to the aircraft for that test program. The text is very well written and easy to follow and more importantly to get interested in. Detail photographs and diagrams of the equipment installations, interior and external modifications to the test aircraft are interspersed throughout each chapter. Many of the photographs have never been published before and are of outstanding quality. They should provide a very fertile ground for aftermarket manufacturers or scratch builders due to the wide variety of new noses, antennas, fairings and camera/reconnaissance packages tested on the Canberra.

There are also a lot of color photographs throughout the book showing the many paint schemes used on the various test aircraft from the basic overall silver to my favorite, the Royal Aircraft Establishment "Raspberry Ripple" scheme with the undersurfaces painted in the yellow and black striped target towing markings, and an orange target drone under the wing!

There are also two Appendices, the first listing the various government testing establishments that used the Canberra and listing the serial numbers of the Canberras used. The second Appendix lists the private contractors that used the Canberras and lists the serial numbers of the Canberras that they used.

This is a great book for those interested in test and development aircraft and provides a really nice look at the multitude of programs and projects that were investigated, successfully and unsuccessfully, by England after World War II. I highly recommend this book!

Thank you to Specialty Press for the review sample and to IPMS-USA for letting me review it.

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