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

History of War - - CONTENTS -

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

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