THE VULCAN PROVED HIGHLY VERSATILE AND SAW ACTION NEAR THE END OF ITS SERVICE LIFE
The Vulcan was designed as a long-range medium bomber to deliver nuclear payloads on targets in the Soviet Union. The initial design called for a very high-altitude approach, going over enemy air defences. In the early 1960s Soviet high-altitude defences proved more effective than expected, so the supremely versatile Vulcan switched to extreme low-level operations. In exercises, including against the highly advanced air defences of the continental United States, it proved devastatingly effective in both methods.
Vulcans were also fitted for conventional bombing, and their only active service would be in this role. In May and June 1982, five ‘Black Buck’ operations each put a single Vulcan over the Falklands, dropping bombs or launching antiradar missiles. Each sortie needed 11 Handley Page Victor tankers to give the Vulcans the required range.
The final role of the Vulcan was as the K2 tanker, which left service in 1984.
The Vulcan’s first live operation, Operation Black Buck 1, involved 13 aircraft and 18 air-to-air refuelling manoeuvres in a brilliantly choreographed scheme
Avro Vulcans stand ever-ready at RAF Wittering in 1963