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Avro Vulcan

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Avro Vulcan
A Vulcan B.2 of the RAF
Type Strategic bomber
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Avro
Maiden flight 30 August, 1952
Retired March 1984
Primary user Royal Air Force
Produced 1956-1965
Number built 136 (including prototypes)

The Avro Vulcan is a delta wing subsonic bomber that was operated by the Royal Air Force from 1953 until 1984. The Vulcan was part of the RAF's V bomber force, which fulfilled the role of nuclear deterrence against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It was also used in a conventional bombing role during the Falklands conflict with Argentina. One example, XH558 was recently restored for use in display flights and commemoration of the jets' role in the Falklands Conflict.

Design and development

Design work began at A. V. Roe in 1947 under Roy Chadwick. The Air Ministry specification B.35/46 required a bomber with a top speed of Template:Convert, an operating ceiling of Template:Convert, a range of 3,000 nautical miles (5,500 km) and a bomb load of Template:Convert; intended to carry out delivery of Britain's nuclear armed gravity bombs to strategic targets within Soviet territory (east of the Ural mountains). Design work also began at Vickers and Handley Page. All three designs were approved — aircraft that would become the Valiant, the Victor, and the Avro Vulcan.

The Type 698 as first envisaged was a delta wing tailless, almost flying wing design, as Avro felt this would be able to give the required combination of large wing area, sweepback to offset the transonic effects and a thick wing root to embed the engines; these were staggered in the wing with two forward and below and two back and above. Wingtip rudders gave the control. There were two bomb bays, one in each wing. This design was reworked in light of Ministry comments and became more conventional adopting a centre fuselage with four paired engines and a tail.

As the delta wing was an unknown quantity Avro began scale prototype testing in 1948 with the single-seater Type 707 aircraft, and despite the crash of the first prototype on 30 September 1949 work continued. The first full-scale prototype Type 698 made its maiden flight (after its designer was killed in an unrelated aircrash) piloted by Roly Falk on 30 August 1952,[1] shortly before appearing at the SBAC Farnborough Air Show. Since the Bristol Olympus (mod 01) engines were not ready the aircraft was launched with the Rolls-Royce Avon. These would be replaced with Armstrong Siddeley Sapphires as well, before the Olympus were ready. The Vulcan name was not chosen until 1953 after the Valiant had already been named. The first prototype had a straight leading edge which was subsequently modified to have a kink further out towards the wingtip. The Vulcan bomber in service was not fitted with pure delta wings; but the prototypes models were the first jet bomber design to use a wing of that shape, which was modified in development to give the service machines better flying characteristics than a pure delta could supply.

File:Aerial Vulcan.JPEG
Aerial view of the Vulcan in RAF colours.

Testing the vehicle was relatively crude in those days, for example, recording the instrument readings involved filming the control panel and manually transcribing the results onto graph paper. As well, testing the brakes of the Vulcan included strapping the company photographer Paul Culerne to the front landing gear with the aircraft moving at full landing speed and photographing the brakes in operation.[2]

Despite its large size, it had a relatively small radar cross-section (RCS). It is now known that it had a fortuitously stealthy shape apart from the tail fin.

Avro test pilot Wing Commander (retired) Roly Falk demonstrated the aircraft's high performance in the second production Vulcan, XA890, by performing an upward barrel-roll immediately after takeoff at the 1955 Farnborough Air Show.[3] The roll was performed while gently climbing so that a positive g-force is maintained and stresses reduced.[citation needed]

The Vulcan used entirely powered control surfaces, this combined with the relatively small space for the flight crew meant that a fighter-like stick could be used instead of a control column with the added benefit that ejection could be quicker in an emergency. Power was 100 volts DC electrical supplied from generators on each engine. Backup was from a set of batteries in series to supply the voltage if generators failed. These had little capacity in event of a power loss so the system was revised for the Mark 2 to use a Ram Air Turbine (RAT) that would operate at higher altitude and an Airborne Auxiliary Power Unit (AAPU) which could be started once the aircraft had reached a lower altitude – Template:Convert or less. At the same time the power system was changed to 200 volts at 400 Hz AC from constant frequency generators.

With no view to the rear from the cockpit and with the control surfaces (four elevators and four ailerons in the Mark 1, elevons for the Mark 2) at the extreme rear of the aircraft there was a display board on the pilots control panel that showed the position of all eight so that any non-responding surface could be identified. The AEO also had a periscope that gave a view to the rear so that the bomb bay and the underside could be checked.

The two prototypes and some of the Mark 1 production were used to develop the systems and the improvements that led to the Mark 2

Operational history

The Vulcan had a normal crew of five (two pilots, two navigators and an Air Electronics Operator (AEO), with the AEO responsible for all electrical equipment in a role similar to that of flight engineer on earlier propellor aircraft. Only the pilot and co-pilot were provided with ejection seats. This feature of the Vulcan has been the basis of significant criticism; there were several instances of the pilot and co-pilot ejecting in an emergency and the "rear crew" being killed because there was not time for them to bail out.

The navigator plotter (navigator), navigator radar (bombardier) and AEO (electronic warfare officer) bailed out through the crew entrance door in the cockpit floor immediately ahead of the nosewheel, their parachutes opening automatically by static line. As the crew door was immediately forward of the front undercarriage, it was very important that the pilots retracted the gear before bail-out. The method of escape was practised regularly in ground rigs, and successfully used on more than one occasion, with all crew members surviving.

In September 1956, the RAF received its first Vulcan B.1, XA897, which immediately went on a fly-the-flag mission to New Zealand. On 1 October 1956, while approaching Heathrow to complete the tour, XA897 crashed short of the runway in bad weather conditions, the two pilots ejecting successfully although the rear (i.e., non-ejector seat) crew were killed. The aircraft Captain was Squadron Leader "Podge" Howard and the co-pilot was Air Marshal Sir Harry Broadhurst (an experienced, but out of practice pilot). It appears that due to time delays in the rather primitive Ground-Controlled Approach (GCA) system of the time, the aircraft became too low on the approach without being warned by the GCA system and damaged its undercarriage in an inadvertent touchdown short of the runway threshold. Control was then lost during the subsequent overshoot (go-around).

The second Vulcan was not delivered until 1957, and the delivery rate picked up from then. The B.2 variant was first tested in 1957 and entered service in 1960. It had a larger wing with a different leading edge, and better performance than the B.1 and had a distinctive kink in its delta wing to reduce turbulence. The leading edge was forward of the spar and changes were easily incorporated into the production.

The undercarriage of a Vulcan made heavy contact with the runway during an air show for the opening of Rongotai (Wellington) Airport New Zealand in 1959. Despite one main undercarriage leg being non-functional the aircraft returned to Ohakea and landed safely, toppling onto the grass verge at the end of its run. There was a long delay while it was decided whether to scrap it, ship it back by sea, or repair it in situ. In the end, the aircraft was repaired by the RNZAF - who "helpfully" applied RNZAF kiwi roundels in place of the typical RAF roundels. A display at the Ohakea branch of the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum includes honeycombed skin from the damaged aircraft.

Vulcans frequently visited the United States during the 1960s and 1970s to participate in air shows and static displays, as well as to participate in the Strategic Air Command's Annual Bombing and Navigation Competition at such locations as Barksdale AFB, Louisiana and the former McCoy AFB, Florida, with the RAF crews representing Bomber Command and later Strike Command.

In all, 134 production Vulcans were manufactured (45 B.1 and 89 B.2), the last being delivered to the RAF in January 1965. The last operational Vulcan squadron was disbanded in March 1984.

Nuclear deterrent

As part of Britain's independent nuclear deterrent, the Vulcan initially carried Britain's first nuclear weapon, the Blue Danube gravity bomb. Blue Danube was a low-kiloton yield fission bomb designed before the United States detonated the first hydrogen bomb. The British then embarked on their own hydrogen bomb programme, and to bridge the gap until these were ready the V-bombers were equipped with an Interim Megaton Weapon based on the Blue Danube casing and Green Grass, a large pure-fission warhead of Template:Convert yield. This bomb was known as Violet Club. Only five were deployed before a better weapon was introduced as Yellow Sun Mk.1.

A later model, Yellow Sun Mk 2 was fitted with Red Snow, a British-built variant of the US Mk-28 warhead. Yellow Sun Mk 2 was the first British thermonuclear weapon to be deployed, and was carried on both the Vulcan and Victor. All three V-bombers also carried US thermonuclear bombs assigned to NATO under the dual-key arrangements. Red Beard (a smaller, lighter low-kiloton yield) bomb was pre-positioned in Cyprus and Singapore for use by Vulcan and Victor bombers, and from 1962, 26 Vulcan B2As and the Victor bombers were armed with the Blue Steel missile, a rocket-powered stand-off bomb, which was also armed with the Template:Convert yield Red Snow warhead.

It was intended to equip the Vulcan with the American Skybolt Air Launched Ballistic Missile to replace the Blue Steel, with Vulcan B.2s carrying two Skybolts under the wings – the last 28 B.2s being modified on the production line to fit pylons to carry the Skybolt.[4] It was also proposed to build a stretched version of the Vulcan, with increased wing span to carry up to six Skybolts.[5] When the Skybolt missile system was cancelled by U.S. President John F. Kennedy on the recommendation of his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara in 1962, Blue Steel was kept on. To supplement it until the Royal Navy took on the deterrent role with Polaris submarines, the Vulcan bombers adopted a high-low-high mission profile using a rapidly introduced parachute-retarded "laydown" bomb; WE.177B. After the British Polaris submarines became operational, and Blue Steel was taken out of service in 1970, WE.177B continued in use on the Vulcan in a low-level tactical strike role in support of European NATO ground forces. It would outlive the Vulcan bombers, being used also on Tornado and other low-level strike aircraft until retirement in 1998.

Conventional role

Avro Vulcan from Operation Black Buck at the National Museum of Flight, showing mission markings.

Although the primary weapon for the Vulcan was nuclear, Vulcans could carry up to 21 x Template:Convert bombs in a secondary role. The only combat missions involving the Vulcan took place in the 1982 Falklands War with Argentina, when Vulcans, in the Black Buck operations flew the Template:Convert from Ascension Island to Stanley.[6][7] There were three missions to bomb the airfield at Stanley; two to attack Argentine radar installations with missiles and two missions were cancelled.

Victor aircraft were used for air-to-air refuelling in a complex scheme and approximately 1.1 million gallons (5,000 cubic metres) of jet fuel were used in each mission.[7]

Five Vulcans were selected for the operation: their bomb bays were modified; the flight refuelling system that had long been out of use re-instated; the electronics updated; and wing pylons designed, manufactured, and fitted to carry an ECM pod and Shrike anti-radar missiles where the Skybolt hardpoints remained in the wings The engineering work began on 9 April 1982 with the first mission on 30 April–1 May.

File:RAF Vulcan B.JPEG
Royal Air Force Avro Vulcan B.2.

At the time these missions held the record for the world's longest distance raids. The planning and execution of the "Black Buck One" raid has been described in Rowland White's book Vulcan 607.[8]

Maritime Radar Reconnaissance

On 1 November 1973, the first of nine B.2 (MRR) aircraft was delivered to the No. 27 Sqn at RAF Scampton reforming for its main role of Maritime Radar Reconnaissance. The main external visual difference was the gloss paint finish and the lack of the Terrain Following Radar (TFR) "thimble" from the nose below the air-to-air refuelling probe. The gloss paint finish, which was always with the light grey undersurface, was due to the secondary role of air sampling. As both roles were high altitude the TFR system was removed.

Only five of the B.2(MRR)s were capable of the air sampling role, those that were included XH537, XH558 and XH560. These aircraft could be distinguished by the additional hard points outside of the Skybolt points. These additional points sometimes carried redundant Sea Vixen drop tanks that had the nose section replaced by a newer section of a larger diameter. Another external, but much smaller, piece of equipment was carried just outboard of the port undercarriage main door.

During the late 1970s some of the non-air sampling aircraft were exchanged with other squadrons whose aircraft had a high fatigue usage.

All B2(MRR) aircraft were equipped with Olympus 201 ECUs. Three of the aircraft, XH534, XH537 and XH538 had the small Mk 1 style of engine air intake. The B2(MRR) was withdrawn from service on 31 March 1982, some of the aircraft going on to be converted for use as tankers.

Aerial refuelling role

After the end of the Falklands War, the Vulcan was due to be withdrawn from RAF service. However, the disbandment of 57 Squadron and delays in the operational availability of the TriStar left a gap in the RAF's air to air refuelling capability. As an interim measure, six Vulcan B.2s were converted into air-to-air refueling (AAR) tankers and commissioned into service with 50 Squadron from 1982 to 1984.

Experimental testbed

A Vulcan was used as a testbed for the afterburning Olympus 320 for the TSR-2, the planned Concorde engine, the Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593 and the Rolls-Royce Conway turbofan.[citation needed] While testing the Bristol Olympus for the TSR-2, the engine disintegrated, setting the Vulcan on fire and also the fire tender in attendance. The crew escaped unhurt.[citation needed]

In testing the Olympus, one engine was fitted to the bomb bay of a Vulcan.[citation needed] High level flight testing was carried out with the Olympus engine helping the Vulcan fly faster than with just its original engines.[citation needed] The Vulcan was hung on wires in a hangar to allow access to the engine in the bomb bay.[citation needed]


Two prototypes were built and subsequently modified for development, gaining the Mark 2 wing and testing engines. They differed in several ways from the later production aircraft. Smaller nose (No H2S radar fitted) and no Flight Refuelling Probe (FRP). VX770 did not have the bomb aimer's blister. Both aircraft had a longer nose undercarriage leg than production aircraft.
The initial production aircraft, with the straight wing leading edge, with wide undercarriage track and four underwing airbrakes. Early examples finished in silver, later changed to "anti-flash" white.
The B.1 with an Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) system in a new larger tail cone
Developed version of the B.1. Larger, thinner wing than the B.1 and fitted with Olympus 201 or 301 engines. Terrain following radar in nosecone and passive radar warning in tail fin giving it a square top from mid-1970s . Uprated electrics with Airborne Auxiliary Power Unit and emergency Ram Turbine generator. Smiths Military Flight System (MFS). Originally white "anti-flash" finish, from late 1970s dark all over camouflage finish.
Also known as B.2BS. B.2 with Olympus 301 engines to carry Blue Steel in recessed bomb doors. A & E bomb bay tanks only. After the withdrawal of Blue Steel converted back to B.2
B.2 (MRR)
Nine B.2 converted to Maritime Radar Reconnaissance. Given high gloss protective paint to protect against sea spray effects. No Terrain Following Radar (TFR) but given LORAN navigation aid. Five aircraft further modified for Air Sampling Role taking over from 543 Sqn. Victor SR 2. Retained gloss finish with light grey underside when B 2 given matte all surface camouflage.
Six B.2 converted for air-to-air refuelling with Mark 17 hose drum below tail cone. ECM removed. Could be fitted with three bomb bay drum tanks (for self-use or tanking)



Accidents and incidents

  • On 1 October 1956 Vulcan B1 XA897 crashed at London Heathrow Airport after an approach in bad weather, striking the ground 700yds short of the runway just as engine power was applied.[9] The impact probably broke the drag links on the main undercarriage, allowing the undercarriage to be forced backwards and damage the trailing edge of the wing.[9] After the initial impact the aircraft rose back in the air.[9] The pilot, Squadron Leader D. R. Howard, and co-pilot Air Marshal Sir Harry Broadhurst both ejected. The aircraft then hit the ground and broke up. [9] Howard and Broadhurst survived but the other four occupants including Howard’s usual co-pilot were killed. [10] XA897 was the first Vulcan to be delivered to the RAF. AOC-in-C Bomber Command, Air Marshal Broadhurst, had taken the aircraft with a full Vulcan crew of four and an Avro technician on a round-the-world tour. At the conclusion of the tour Broadhurst was to land at Heathrow Airport in front of the assembled aviation media. RAF aircraft were not equipped to use the Instrument Landing System installed at Heathrow and other civil airports so a Ground Controlled Approach (GCA) was carried out. [9]
  • In 1957 a Vulcan B1 (XA892) attached to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down for acceptance testing was unintentionally flown to an Indicated Mach Number (IMN) above 1.04, alarming the crew that it had reached supersonic speed. The aircraft commander, Flt Lt Milt Cottee (RAAF) and co-pilot Flt Lt Ray Bray (RAF) were tasked to fly with twenty-one dummy Template:Convert bombs and, at Template:Convert and 0.98 IMN, to take the aircraft to a load factor of 3G. The Vulcan was climbed to Template:Convert and then dived with the intention of reaching the target speed at Template:Convert. Approaching the target altitude the Mach trimmer reached the limit of its authority and, even though the crew had closed the throttles and were applying full up-elevator, the aircraft continued to pitch nose-down, passing the vertical at 1.04 IMN. As it went beyond the vertical Flt Lt Cottee contemplated pushing forward to go inverted and then rolling upright. Instead he opened the speed brakes, even though the airspeed was above their maximum operating speed. The speed brakes were not damaged and succeeded in reducing the Mach number. The aircraft came back past the vertical at about Template:Convert and regained level flight at Template:Convert. There was no report of a sonic boom in the vicinity so it is unlikely a True Mach Number of 1.0 was reached. (At Mach numbers close to 1.0 the Vulcan had position error of about 0.07.) After the flight a rear bulkhead was found to be deformed.[11]
  • On 20 September 1958, a Rolls Royce test pilot was authorized to fly VX770 on an engine performance sortie with a fly past at RAF Syerston Battle of Britain "At Home" display. The briefing was for the pilot to fly over the airfield twice at 200–300 ft (60–90 m), flying at a speed of 250–300 knots (460–560 km/h). The Vulcan flew along the main 25/07 runway then started a roll to starboard and climbed slightly. Very shortly a kink appeared in the starboard mainplane leading edge followed by a stripping of the leading edge of the wing. The starboard wingtip then broke followed by a collapse of the main spar and wing structure. Subsequently, the Vulcan went into a dive and began rolling with the starboard wing on fire and struck the ground at the taxiway of the end of runway 07. Three occupants of a controllers' caravan were killed by debris, a fourth being injured. All four of the Vulcan crew were killed. The cause of the crash was pilot error; the captain flew the aircraft over the airfield at 410–420 knots (760–780 km/h) instead of the briefed 250–300 knots he had also descended to a height of 65–70 ft (approximately 20 m). Rolling the Vulcan to starboard while flying at this speed, the aircraft was rolled at a rate of 15–20 degrees/second while pulling up into a Template:Convert per minute climb imposing a strain of between 2–3 g where it should have remained below 1.25 g. The VX770 was a prototype and was not as strong as later production models, indeed buckling of the leading edge in this plane was a known problem and was the primary reason for low flight performance limits being imposed.[12] However, Avro Chief Test Pilot Tony Blackman notes that when Avro display pilots carried out aerobatics it was followed by a careful, but little known, inspection of the inside of the wing leading edge. Blackman understands that Rolls-Royce pilots also carried out aerobatics but he speculates that Rolls-Royce knew nothing of the special inspections, and VX770 may well have been severely structurally damaged before it took off for the display at Syerston.[13]
  • On 24 October 1958, Vulcan B1 XA908 of No. 83 Squadron crashed in Detroit, after a complete electrical systems failure. The failure occurred at around Template:Convert and the backup system should have provided 20 minutes of emergency power to allow the aircraft to divert to Kellogg Airfield. Due to a short circuit in the service busbar, backup power only lasted three minutes before expiring and locking the aircraft controls. XA908 then went into a dive of between 60–70 degrees before it crashed, leaving a Template:Convert deep crater in the ground. All six crew members were killed, including the co-pilot who had ejected. The co-pilot’s ejector seat was found in Lake St Clair but his body was never found. [14] It is thought he was the only member of the squadron who could not swim.[15]
  • On 24 July 1959, Vulcan B1 XA891 crashed due to an electrical failure during an engine test. Shortly after take-off the crew observed generator warning lights and loss of busbar voltage. The Captain climbed XA891 to 14,000 ft and steered a course away from the airfield and populated areas while the AEO attempted to solve the problem. When it became clear that control of the aircraft would not be regained the aircraft commander instructed the crew in the rear compartment to exit the aircraft, and the co-pilot to eject. The aircraft commander then also ejected.[14] All the crew survived[15] making them the first complete crew to escape successfully from a Vulcan.[citation needed] The aircraft crashed near Hull.
  • On 12 December 1963, Vulcan B1A XH477 of No. 50 Squadron crashed in Scotland on an exercise at low level (not less than Template:Convert above ground.)[16] XH477 had struck the ground while climbing slightly. It was assumed XH477 crashed due to poor visibility.[17]
  • On 11 May 1964, Vulcan B2 XH535 crashed during a low speed demonstration. The test pilot was demonstrating a very low speed and high rate of descent when the aircraft began to spin. The landing parachute was deployed and the spin stopped briefly but the aircraft then began to spin again. At around Template:Convert the Captain instructed the crew to abandon the aircraft. The Captain and co-pilot ejected successfully but none of the crew in the rear compartment did so, presumably due to the G forces in the spin.[18]
  • On 16 July 1964, Vulcan B1A XA909 crashed in Anglesey after an explosion and Nos 3 and 4 engines were closed down. The explosion was caused by failure of a bearing in No. 4 engine. The starboard wing was extensively damaged, the pilot had insufficient aileron power, and both airspeed indications were highly inaccurate. The whole crew successfully abandoned XA909 and were found within a few minutes and rescued.[19]
  • On 7 January 1971, Vulcan B2 XM610 of No.44 Squadron crashed after fatigue failure of a blade in No. 1 engine that damaged the fuel system and led to an engine fire. The crew abandoned the aircraft safely and the aircraft crashed harmlessly in Wingate. [20]
  • On 14 October 1975, Vulcan B2 XM645 of No.9 Squadron out of RAF Waddington lost its left undercarriage and damaged the airframe when it undershot the runway at Luqa airport in Malta. The pilot decided to do a circuit to crash land on runway 24 after it was covered with fire prevention foam. As the aircraft was turning inbound for the landing, it broke up in mid-air over the village of Zabbar, killing five of its seven crew members. Only the pilot and co-pilot escaped, using their ejection seats. Large pieces of the aircraft fell on the village. One woman (Vincenza Zammit, age 48), who was shopping in a street was hit by an electric cable and killed instantly. Some 20 others were injured slightly.[21]


Avro Vulcan XL361 on display at CFB Goose Bay in 1988
Former survivors include
  • XA900 Vulcan B1 - On display at RAF Cosford Museum, England. It was the last B1 intact and was used as an instructional airframe until 1966. Corrosion set in and it was scrapped in 1986.
  • XA903 Vulcan B1 - The last flying B1. Used as an engine test bed with Rolls Royce until 1979. With B2s up for retirement, no museum was interested. It was sent to Farnborough where it was scrapped between 1980 and 1984. The nose section survives.
  • XL391 Vulcan B2 - Scrapped on site at Blackpool Airport, England. The aircraft decayed and it was scrapped after its eBay-buyer refused to collect it owing to its poor state.
  • XM569 Vulcan B2 - On display at Wales Aircraft Museum, Cardiff International Airport, Wales from 1983. Scrapped in 1996.
  • XM571 Vulcan B2 - On display at RAF Gibraltar from 1983, scrapped in 1990.
  • XM602 Vulcan B2 - Preserved at RAF St Athan, Wales from 1982, scrapped in 1983.
  • XM656 Vulcan B2 - Preserved at RAF Cottesmore, England from 1982, scrapped in 1983.
  • XJ782 Vulcan B2 - On display at RAF Finningley, England from 1982, scrapped 1988.

Restoration to flight of Vulcan XH558

Main article: Avro Vulcan XH558

The last airworthy Vulcan XH558 has been restored to flying condition by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust after a number of years of effort and fundraising. The first post-restoration flight, which lasted 34 minutes, took place on 18 October 2007.[24][25]


Specifications (Vulcan B.1)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 5 (pilot, co-pilot, AEO, Navigator Radar, Navigator Plotter)
  • Length: 97 ft 1 in (29.59 m)
  • Wingspan: 99 ft (30.18 m)
  • Height: 26 ft 6 in (7.95 m)
  • Wing area: 3554 ft² (330.2 m²)
  • Empty weight: 83,573 lb (including crew) (37,144 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 170,000 lb (77,111 kg)
  • Powerplant:Bristol Olympus 101, or 102 or 104, with higher thrust turbojet, 11,000 lbf (49kN) each



Template:Convert of conventional bombs or single free-fall nuclear weapon

Comparison of variants

B.1 B.1A B.2 B.2A (B.2BS) B.2(MRR) or (K)
Wingspan 99 ft 111 ft
Length 92 ft 9 in 99 ft 11 in[26] 105 ft 6 in 99 ft 11 in 99 ft 11 in
Height 26 ft 6 in 27 ft 1 in
Wing area 3,554 sq ft 3,964 sq ft
Maximum takeoff weight. Template:Convert Template:Convert
Cruising speed Mach 0.86 (610 mph)
Maximum speed Mach 0.93 (632 mph) Mach 0.92 (625 mph)
Range 3,910 miles (3,395 nm, 6,293 km) 4,600 miles (3,995 nm, 7,402 km)
Service ceiling Template:Convert Template:Convert
Engines 4x Bristol Siddeley
Olympus 101, 102 or 104
4x Bristol Siddeley
Olympus 201,202, 203 or 301
4x Bristol Siddeley
Olympus 201,202, 203
4x Bristol Siddeley
Olympus 201,202, 203
Fuel capacity (Avtur/Mains only) 9,250 Imp. Gal. 9,260 Imp. Gal.
Armament nuclear bomb armed with a thermonuclear warhead
or 21 x 1,000 lb bombs
1x Blue Steel nuclear missile or 21 x 1,000 lb bombs

Crew (All Mks):
Pilot, Co-Pilot, Navigator Plotter, Navigator Radar and Air Electronics Officer
(two extra seats could be fitted for Crew Chiefs if required, for a total of seven crew).

Fuel capacity and range are for main tanks only. Various combinations of extra bomb bay tankage (A, E or Drum) could be fitted dependent on the aircraft sortie requirements.

  • B 1 (early production): --- (included in build total below)
  • B 1 (later production) --- 45 built
  • B 2 --- 89 built
  • B 1a (B 1 converted to B 2 Spec internally.) 28 converted from B 1
  • B 2a --- B 2 conversions
  • B 2 (MRR)/SR 2 --- 11 converted (only 9 in existence at any one time.)
  • B 2 K --- six converted – from three B 2 & three B 2(MRR)
  • Total build 136

Popular culture

  • The Vulcan bomber was featured in the 1965 James Bond movie Thunderball. Agents of SPECTRE hijacked a Vulcan B.2 bomber to use its two nuclear bombs for a ransom plot against the US and Britain. In the novel, the bomber is known as the (fictional) Villiers Vindicator.
  • In the 1965 Cold War novel The Penetrators by Hank Searls (writing as Anthony Gray), an RAF officer leads nine Vulcans in a mock attack against the USA to prove that the manned bomber is a more flexible deterrent option than ballistic missiles.
  • Parts from two scrapped Vulcan bombers were used to make the set of the spaceship Nostromo from Ridley Scott's 1979 film Alien.[27]

See also

Comparable aircraft

Related lists

See also


  1. Aircraft of the V-Force - Part 3 - The Avro Vulcan development. Royal Air Force History. Royal Air Force. Retrieved on 2007-12-25.
  2. Vulcan history
  3. Laming 2002, Page 48
  4. Laming 2002, p. 88
  5. Laming 2002, p. 89.
  6. Falklands Vulcan
  7. 7.0 7.1 Falklands
  8. White 2006
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Blackman, Tony. Vulcan Test Pilot. p.142
  10. National Archives: Ref no. AIR 20/12396
  11. Blackman, Tony. Vulcan Test Pilot. p.90
  12. Extract from National Archives: Ref no. BT 233/403 report on crash
  13. Blackman, Tony. Vulcan Test Pilot. p.151
  14. 14.0 14.1 Blackman, Tony. Vulcan Test Pilot. p.161
  15. 15.0 15.1 Laming 2002, p. 60.
  16. Laming 2002, p. 219.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Blackman, Tony. Vulcan Test Pilot. p.154
  18. Blackman, Tony. Vulcan Test Pilot. p.155
  19. Blackman, Tony. Vulcan Test Pilot. p.157
  20. Blackman, Tony. Vulcan Test Pilot. p.159
  21. V-Force XM645
  22. Laming 2002, p. 223.
  23. Unger, Robert and Benjamin, Robert. "Glenview Jet Crash 4 Die." Chicago Tribune, 12 August 1978, p. S1.
  24. "The Vulcan Bomber returns to the sky"
  25. "First Takeoff Video"
  26. 105 ft 6 in with refuelling probe
  27. Aliens Note: Among many other parts, the APC hand controls are recognizable as foot controls from a Vulcan bomber.
  • Arnold, Lorna. Britain and the H-Bomb. Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001. ISBN 0-333-94742-8 (outside North America), ISBN 0-312-23518-6 (North America only).
  • Blackman, Tony. Vulcan Test Pilot. London: Grub Street, 2007. ISBN-13: 9781904943884
  • Chesnau, Roger. Vulcan (Aeroguide 29: Avro Vulcan B Mk 2). Ringshall, Suffolk, UK: Ad Hoc Publications, 2003. ISBN 0-946958-39-4.
  • Holmes, Harry. Avro: The History of an Aircraft Company. Wiltshire, UK: Crowood Press, 2004. ISBN 1-86126-651-0.
  • Jackson, A.J. Avro Aircraft since 1908, 2nd edition. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1990. ISBN 0-85177-834-8.
  • Laming, Tim. The Vulcan Story 1952-2002, Second Edition. Enderby, Leicester, UK: Silverdale Books, 2002. ISBN 1-85605-701-1.
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It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Avro Vulcan".