48 OPERATOR’S HANDBOOK Avro Vulcan
This iconic Cold War warrior was built for nuclear Armageddon but is best remembered for the Black Buck raids during the Falklands War
Britain’s iconic Cold War bomber was built for nuclear Armageddon
Designed in the 1940s, this classic British bomber served for nearly 30 years before finally seeing action when it was on the brink of retirement. Instantly recognisable because of its size and shape, the Vulcan had a manoeuvrability and speed that defied its bulk, able to perform barrel rolls and out-fly fighters well into the 1970s.
The first B.1s entered service in 1956, too late to take part in the Suez Crisis. In fact, it would be 26 years until the Vulcan would see action. In the meantime, Vulcans served as part of Britain’s V-force, the airborne nuclear deterrent. At any one time, a score of Vulcans sat on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA), ready to scramble at a few minutes’ notice and to launch retaliatory attacks on the Soviet Union. The crews knew these would be one-way missions.
In 1969 the nuclear deterrent passed to the Royal Navy, and the Vulcan moved to a conventional bombing role and maritime reconnaissance. Vulcans were being withdrawn from service when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982. The Vulcans proved to be the only aircraft with the range to strike back immediately (albeit with heavy tanker support), launching what were at that time the longestrange bombing raids in history.
“AT ANY ONE TIME, A SCORE OF VULCANS SAT ON QUICK REACTION ALERT (QRA) READY TO SCRAMBLE AT A FEW MINUTES’ NOTICE, READY TO LAUNCH RETALIATORY ATTACKS ON THE SOVIET UNION”
“THE VAST DELTA WING, EVOLVED OVER SEVERAL YEARS OF DESIGN WORK, PROVIDED A LOW ASPECT RATIO AND LOW WING LOADING OPTIMISED FOR HIGH-SPEED, HIGH-ALTITUDE FLIGHT”
“IN 1982, SHRIKE ANTI-RADAR MISSILES WERE ALSO FITTED FOR ‘BLACK BUCK’ OPERATIONS”
Left: Some of the earliest Vulcans in service, with No. 83 Squadron, in 1957, showing their white, highaltitude anti-flash paint schemes
The unmistakable Avro Vulcan, Britain’s Cold War frontline bomber
The lower aircraft of this pair of Vulcans from 1968 carries the sleek Blue Steel missile in its bomb bay A Blue Steel air-launched nuclear stand-off missile. Guided by an inertial navigation system, it would deliver a 1.1 megaton Red Snow warhead The wing design of the Vulcan coincidentally also gave the aircraft a very low radar profile Vulcan XH558 was the last example flying, taking to the air for the final time in October 2015
The cavernous bomb bay was central to the design of the Vulcan