Queen of the Sky

The Vulcan Bomber is possibly one of the most iconic British war planes of all time, is a jet-powered tailless delta wing strategic bomber, which was operated by the Royal Air Force between 1956 and 1984. The aircraft as designed by manufacturer A.V. Roe and Company in response to Specification B.35/46. Of the three V bombers produced, the Vulcan was considered the most technically advanced and hence the riskiest option. Several scale aircraft, designated Avro 707, were produced to test and refine the delta wing design principles.

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Photograph By: William Hands

The Vulcan had no defensive weaponry, initially relying upon high-speed high-altitude flight to evade interception. Electronic countermeasures were employed by the B.1 (designated B.1A) and B.2 from circa 1960. A change to low-level tactics was made in the mid-1960s. In the mid-1970s nine Vulcans were adapted for maritime radar reconnaissance operations, re designated as B.2 (MRR). In the final years of service six Vulcans were converted to the K.2 tanker configuration for aerial refuelling.

Since retirement by the RAF one example, B.2 XH558, named “The Spirit of Great Britain” was restored for use in display flights and air shows, whilst two other B.2s, XL426 and XM655, are kept in taxiable condition for ground runs and demonstrations at London Southend Airport and Wellesbourne Mountford Airfield respectively. XH558 flew for the last time in October 2015, before also being kept in taxiable condition at Robin Hood Airport, Doncaster.

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Photograph By: William Hands

The origin of the Vulcan and the other V bombers is linked with early British atomic weapon programme and nuclear deterrent policies. Britain’s atom bomb programme began with Air Staff Operational Requirement issued in August 1946. This anticipated a government decision in January 1947 to authorise research and development work on atomic weapons, the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1946 having prohibited exporting atomic knowledge, even to countries that had collaborated on the Manhattan Project.

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