Avro Vulcan - History
Designed by a team led by Roy Chadwick, the man responsible for the famous Lancaster, the Vulcan was one of the three bombers designed to carry Britain's nuclear deterrent in the 1950s and 1960's.
The Vulcan was the second of the Royal Air Force's
'V bombers' and like the Valiant and Victor provided part of Great Britain's nuclear deterrent force for fifteen years, until the Royal Navy's Polaris submarines took over that responsibility in 1969.
The Vulcan B1 first flew on 30 August 1952 and four years later work began on an improved B2 design. The increased performance of the Vulcan B2 made it ideal an ideal airframe for the Blue Steel nuclear stand-off bomb.
Avro's delta-winged giant became the backbone of the V-force until the end of the 1960's when the deterrent role passed from the RAF's manned bomber to the Navy's Polaris submarine fleet.
The Vulcan remained in RAF service as a tactical low-level bomber armed with conventional and nuclear weapons, and was only retired following the introduction of the Panavia Tornado.
Britain's Nuclear Deterrant
Vulcans were variously equipped to carry British atomic and hydrogen bombs (‘Red Beard’ and ‘Yellow Sun’) and the ‘Blue Steel’ nuclear-tipped cruise missile.
As the planned tactical delivery of these weapons changed from high flight to low level in response to developments in Soviet technology, the paintwork on planes went from anti-flash white (designed to reflect thermal radiation from a nuclear explosion) to green-and-grey camouflage better suited to low flying.
Vulcans lacked defensive weaponry, however, leaving them vulnerable to air attack. Fortunately, they never needed to fly with a live nuclear weapon, and in 1969 strategic deterrence responsibility passed from the RAF to the Royal Navy’s Polaris submarine fleet.
Throughout the 1970s, Vulcans continued to operate as tactical bombers, with nuclear and conventional capability, but were also used for transportation, reconnaissance and air-to-air refuelling.
The Falklands War
Mere months before the Vulcan was due to retire,
they were suddenly sent into action after Argentine forces landed on the Falkland Islands in April 1982.
During the resulting conflict, Vulcans flew seven missions, taking off from Ascension Island and hitting Port Stanley airfield with 450kg conventional bombs.
These ‘Black Buck’ sorties not only disabled the landing strip, preventing Argentina from landing front-line fighters, the 8,000-mile, 16-hour return journeys also set a world record for the longest-ever bombing missions (with mid-air refueling supplied by Victors).
The most famous raid 'Black Buck One' carried out on April 30th 1982, flown by Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers in Vulcan XM607, with eleven Victor tankers and a combined 18 aerial refuellings, Vulcan XM607 succeeded in putting the runway at Port Stanley out of commission.
XM607 climbed away from the airfield and headed nearly due north to a planned rendezvous with a Victor some way off the Brazilian coast. As it passed the British Task Force,
it signalled the code word "superfuze" indicating a successful attack at 0746Z.
Even before the Falklands conflict, the Vulcan and Britain’s airborne nuclear arsenal were being phased out in favor of nuclear-armed submarines.
The Vulcan entered its last phase of service when it was converted to the K.2 tanker. However, very much aware of the Vulcan’s tremendous public relations appeal, Avro Vulcan Bomber XL426 (from which our miniatures are made) was kept airworthy for air display purposes.
Together with XH560 these two aircraft formed what became known as the Vulcan Historical Flight (later the Vulcan Display Flight - VDF), staffed initially entirely by volunteers. Under the command of Squadron Leader (later Group Captain) Bill Burnett, the Flight and XL426 gave their first display at No IX Squadron’s Standard Presentation Parade at RAF Honington on May 23rd, 1984.
As XL426 neared her limit on flying hours a replacement aircraft (XH558) was retrieved from Marham and XL426 gave her final display at the RAF Coningsby Open Day on June 14th, 1986.