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Avro Lancaster

The Avro Lancaster was a four-engined World War II bomber aircraft made by Avro for the Royal Air Force. First used in 1942, together with the Handley-Page Halifax[?] it was the main heavy bomber of the RAF and the most heavily used.

The original design was for a twin-engined heavy bomber to be powered by the Rolls-Royce Vulture engines. The resultant aircraft was the Avro Manchester[?], a disappointing aircraft that was doubly hampered by the unreliable engines, it was withdrawn from service in 1942 with only 200 aircraft built.

When the Vulture proved unreliable, A. V. Roe's chief designer Roy Chadwick switched to a design using four more reliable Rolls-Royce Merlin engines instead. The result was the aircraft was initially called the Type 683. Renamed the Lancaster it made its first test flight on January 9, 1941.

Avro Lancaster, England, 2002.
Larger version

3399 Mk. Is were constructed, the majority by Metropolitan-Vickers, Armstrong Whitworth and A.V. Roe. Only 300 of the Mk. II with Bristol Hercules engines were made. The Mk. III had newer Merlin engines but was otherwise identical to earlier versions, 3030 Mk. IIIs were built, almost all at A.V. Roe's Newton Heath factory. Of later versions only the Canadian built Mk. X was produced in any numbers, built by Victory Aircraft in Malton, Ontario 430 of this type were built. They differed little from earlier versions, except for using Packard built Merlin engines and having a differently configured mid upper turret. 7,377 Lancasters of all marks were built over the war, a 1943 Lancaster cost 45-50,000.

The Lancasters flew 156,000 operations and dropped 608,612 tons of bombs. 3,249 Lancasters were lost in action. Only 35 Lancasters completed more than 100 successful operations. The greatest survivor completed 139 operations and survived the war to be scrapped in 1947.

An important feature of the Lancaster was its extensive bomb-bay, at 33 feet (10.05 metres) long. Initially the aircraft carried 4,000 lb (1,818 kg) bombs or for special targets the 21 feet (6.4 metres) long 12,000 lb (5,455 kg) 'Tall Boy'. Towards the end of the war, attacking hardened targets, the 'Special B' Lancasters could carry a single 25.5 feet (7.77 metres) long 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) 'Grand Slam' or 'Earthquake' bomb.

The most famous use of the Lancaster was probably the 1943 mission, codenamed Operation Downwood, to destroy the dams of the Ruhr Valley using special drum shaped "bouncing bombs" carried by modified Mk. IIIs. The story of the mission was later made into a film, The Dam Busters.

Avro Lancaster Mark I

  • Gross weight: 63,000 lb (28,636 kg)
  • Span: 102 ft (31.09 metres)
  • Length 69.5 ft (21.18 metres)
  • Crew: 7 - pilot, flight engineer, navigator, bomb aimer, wireless operator, mid upper and rear gunners
  • Power: 4 x Rolls Royce Merlin XX, 1,280 hp each
  • Maximum speed: 280 mph at 18,500 ft (448 km/hr)
  • Ceiling: 23,500 ft (7,163 metres)
  • Range: 2,700 miles (4,320 km) with minimal bomb load
  • Maximum bomb load: 14,000 lb (6363 kg)
  • Defences: 10 x Browning .303 machine-guns

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