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Avro Vulcan

The Avro Vulcan was a British built jet engined, delta-winged subsonic bomber, once part of the RAF's V bomber force.


Avro Vulcan XH558.
Larger version

Design work began at A. V. Roe in 1947 under Roy Chadwick, the Ministry of Defence specification required a bomber with a top speed of 500 knots, an operating ceiling of 50,000 feet, a range of 3,000 nautical miles and a bomb load of 10,000 lb. Design work also began at Vickers and Handley-Page, all three designs were approved - the Valiant, the Victor and the Vulcan.

Avro began scale prototype testing in 1948 with the single-seater Type 707, and despite the crash of the first prototype on September 30, 1949 work continued. The first full-scale prototype aircraft, the Type 698, was completed in August 1952 and made its maiden flight on August 31. The Vulcan name was not chosen until 1953.

The RAF received its first Vulcan B1, XA897, in September 1956. Following the crash of XA897 at London Airport in October the second Vulcan was not delivered until 1957, the delivery rate picked up from then. The B2 variant was first tested in 1957 and entered service in 1960, it had a larger wing and better performance than the B1 and had a distinctive kink in its delta wing to reduce turbulence. The last production Vulcan was delivered to the RAf in January 1965. The last operational Vulcan squadron was disbanded in March 1984.


Avro Vulcan XH534.
Larger version

As part of Britain's independent nuclear deterrent the Vulcan initially carried Britain's first nuclear weapon, the Blue Danube gravity bomb. The bomb load was gradually updated to Yellow Sun and then Red Beard and from 1962 the Vulcan was armed with the Blue Steel missile. When Blue Steel was decommissioned and the replacement program for the Skybolt ALBM was cancelled the bombers reverted to gravity bomb loads, despite the lack of credible deterrent value in this delivery method.

Vulcans saw action in the conventional bombing role. The only combat mission involving the Vulcan took place in the 1982 Falklands War with Argentina, when a number of Vulcans flew the 3,900 miles from Ascension Island to Port Stanley[?] to bomb the occupied airfield there with conventional bombs as Operation Black Buck. By this date the number of Victors[?] available for air-to-air refueling was extremely limited, so some Vulcan aircraft were adapted in just fifty days to fulfill that role during the conflict. Five vulcans were chosen for the operation, their bomb bays were modified, the fuel systems replaced and the electronics updated. The first bombing mission was on April 30-May 1 and there were five further bombing missions.

The Vulcan was used as test-beds for the Concorde engine.

A Vulcan featured in the James Bond film Thunderball[?]. There are 21 Vulcans still relatively intact at air museums around the world.

Vulcan B1

  • Wingspan: 30.18 m (99')
  • Wing area: 330.80 m (3554 ft)
  • Length: 29.59 m (97' 1")
  • Height: 8.07 m (26' 6")
  • Speed: Mach 0.92 (cruise)
  • Ceiling: 16,750 m (55,000')
  • Range: 2,607 nm
  • Power: 4 Bristol Siddeley Olympus 101 turbojets at 195,700 N each
  • Crew: 5 Pilot, Co-Pilot, Navigator Plotter, Navigator Radar and Air Electronics Officer

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