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

3959. Deptel 4949.2 CIVAIR—Tripartite Meeting on SST. US-UK-French meeting on SST held Feb 16 with Messrs. Halaby, Jenkins and Jacquet leading for respective teams. Jenkins opened meeting by outlining recent British review of Concorde project and decision to proceed with determination and speed. Current schedule called for first prototype 1967, certification in 1970 and service inauguration in 1971/72. He asked Halaby if he could give current status of US program.

Halaby emphasized govt interest in safety, operational and economic requirements. He was pleased to learn that UK proceeding vigorously with environmental tests. Three unknowns in this area inter alia: (1) Public acceptability sonic boom, (2) noise at airports, and (3) atmospheric temperature conditions. US has been studying SST for 8 years at cost of $110 million. In addition safety and environmental factors, US has been working at economics proposed SST operation in light of current and projected subsonic developments. US program still not established although President expected make decision in next 90 days to do one of following: Terminate, study further, or construct prototype. USG had no time schedule established but US industry had made preliminary estimates that, subject to early decision, prototype could be built by 1968, certification in 1972, with service inauguration some time later. Characteristics US SST—gross weight 500,000 lbs., L:D ratio 8.9, approximate transonic over-pressure 2 lbs., cruise over-pressure 1.5 lbs., cruising altitude 55 to 75 thousand feet, Mach 2.6 to 3, capacity 200 to 250, and operating cost equal current jets. Material would be titanium and new engine would be required.

Jenkins noted vast expense SST projects and big govt investment. This demanded govt responsibility ensure economic program. Although in past UK/France had hoped collaboration with US possible, now appeared evident joint development and construction not practical. Nevertheless he felt useful maintain contact on respective schedules. At moment he had no precise proposals but was expressing only general ideas.

Halaby agreed not feasible at present reconsider joint construction; this question really determined by UK/French decision to proceed with Concorde. USG position had always been that respective companies [Page 219] could discuss and work out any arrangements not inconsistent with respective statutes. In fact manufacturers had consulted earlier but could not agree on basic concepts. US did not consider situation involved competitive race but attempt to cooperate on safety and economics. He estimated total investment, operation and maintenance cost of SST program worldwide would be 75 to 100 billion dollars by 1990. Impossible to exaggerate importance of sonic boom acceptability which could easily spell difference between profit and loss. Agreed useful to keep in touch on time scale but could not tie US time schedule to Concorde as limited US design on this account. He would be willing consult UK/French further after President’s decision as suggested by Jenkins and Jacquet.

Jenkins appreciated this response and indicated UK/France would welcome ideas on proceeding faster with sonic boom studies.

Halaby indicated in US view UK/French work on sonic boom so far was largely theoretical. What was needed were practical sonic boom tests to determine public acceptability in UK and on continent. Heretofore aircraft have been built first and acceptability determined later. This not possible with SST. US will do everything possible assist UK/France in environmental studies but substantial info so far provided by US with very little forthcoming from other side. Even if President decides to terminate it was desirable to pursue environmental studies.

Jenkins felt group had moved as far as possible at the moment and UK/France would expect to hear further from US after Presidential decision.

Jacquet’s participation largely consisted of indication general support for position advanced by Jenkins who had been selected as UK/French spokesman.3

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, AV 12. Confidential. Repeated to Paris.
  2. Dated February 3. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 4714 from Paris, February 18, also reported on this meeting. It reads: “It is interesting note that favorite French theme on possible US cooperation with UK and France on SST did not appear during tripartite talks Feb 16 in London. As previously reported by Embassy, this theme has been: ‘Let us agree UK and France build Concorde, US produce bigger, faster and longer range SST and in effect divide the world market.’” At a luncheon, the French stated their rationale for proceeding with Concorde more clearly than ever before: “Old World cannot be left behind. The Concorde is technically feasible. We can do it, we will do it. And we must maintain our aeronautical research, development and production capability.” (Ibid.)