115. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Kingdom to the Department of State1

3350. Pass personally Halaby,FAA. Embtel 3333.2 Econ Minister and Prill FAA were invited by Minister of Aviation, Jenkins, for briefing on Concorde decision prior to planned announcement first day of new Parliament January 19. Due Churchill illness and reorganization of debate, however, government presentation in Parliament will not be made until later this week or possibly next week. Message on decision is being delivered to Premier Pompidou Tuesday, January 19, and MOA obviously concerned over possible leaks. Embassy will report public statements when made.3

Significant points of conversation with Minister were:

British have decided continue original Concorde program. As nothing on engineering or production side of program has been changed since election, despite political furor, Jenkins feels that Concorde lead still substantial. He would like Administrator Halaby to [Page 212] discuss possibility of agreement on rate of progress both projects during visit February 15th. Discussions would include Minister Jacquet and could be held either London or Paris. In suggesting London, he had not known of Halaby intention of visiting Paris February 11th, 12th. (Jenkins saw Jacquet secretly in France January 11; only January 17 Observer carried news.)

Prill told Minister that he believed Administrator would be willing to discuss subject but that this obviously difficult question for U.S. and that he certain Administrator would wish to discuss with other officials and possibly President before and after meeting British/French. In answer to Prill’s question Minister stated that he believed initial agreement should be between governments but that he would have no objection to Boeing or Lockheed making either technical or sales agreements with BAC and SUD. Prill explained normal American competitive practice as affects delivery dates and delivery position and pointed out that the present Concorde/U.S. SST sales relationship followed this pattern, with U.S. airlines leading scramble to be first on both delivery lists. Minister indicated he understood this but felt agreements to delay production of both aircraft until more experience available with sonic boom and proof of prototypes would help both aircraft.

Minister confirmed that decision to build only prototypes was worst of both worlds and that they did not intend to follow this course. Minister also made it clear that desire to reach agreement with U.S. on rate of progress was not based upon hope that this would give British another chance to cancel but rather a sincere concern about wisdom of committing money for tooling so long before prototype flight.

Minister candidly admitted that initial decision by Labor government to cancel project had been changed by strong French political pressure coupled with obvious French conviction that airplane economically viable. Minister admits there are still many doubters on economic acceptability of airplane. As in U.S., economics and sonic boom are two biggest concerns.

Minister related economic capability to five million pounds selling price. He used this figure in a way that indicated at least tentative agreement had been given to this price, recognizing that it would not cover research and development costs, which governments would not expect to recover.

No decision taken yet on TSR–2 which, if cancelled, would certainly affect development of Olympus engine.

In summary, Embassy believes that if Administrator Halaby willing, he should be prepared to discuss with ministers:

Agreed time-table for prototype flying and in particular, delivery dates to carriers.
Size, range and speed of aircraft.
Sales agreements.
Cooperation between Boeing/Lockheed and SUD/BAC.

Comment follows.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, AV 12. Secret; Limit Distribution. Repeated to Paris.
  2. Not found.
  3. The British made an announcement in Parliament the next day. The Embassy reported: “Despite sharp questioning, Jenkins was careful not to commit govt. on whether original program would or would not be maintained. Govt. purpose here appears to be to maintain flexibility to adjust course of action in light further discussions with French and possibly US.” (Telegram 3392 from London, January 20; ibid.) Roy Jenkins was U.K. Aviation Minister.