The Avro Vulcan was world’s first delta-winged bomber to reach operational service.
The origins of the Vulcan lie in an Air Staff Requirement OR 229 in 1946 which called for a high-altitude, high-speed, strategic bomber capable of delivering a single 10,000 lb nuclear weapon to a target 1725 miles distant. No British atomic bomb existed at the time, and so both the aircraft and weapon would need to be developed in parallel. Thus Avro Type 698, later known as the Vulcan was born.
The first Type 698 prototype (VX770) took to the air for its maiden flight on 30 August 1952 powered by Rolls-Royce Avons. The Olympus Mk 100 engines was installed on the second prototype (VX777), which was initially flown on 3 September 1953.
Avro test pilot Roly Falk caused a sensation at the 1955 Farnborough Air Show by slow-rolling the second production aircraft during its display, a clear demonstration of the control and stability of this impressive looking aircraft.
On 31 May 1956, No.230 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) was formed to train Vulcan crews who went on to form No.83 Squadron which received its first aircraft on 11 July 1957. A total of six squadrons were eventually equipped with the B. Mk 1.
In 1956 design work began on a Mk 2 version of the Vulcan. The new variant featured a redesigned wing which was optimised to take advantage of the substantial increases in engine thrust that were expected from new versions of the Olympus engine. By 1963, Olympus Mk 301 engines of 20,000 lb thrust were being fitted a vast improvement over the initial 6,500 lb thrust Avons.
In 1968 the Royal Navy’s Polaris missile equipped submarines took over the role of Britain’s Nuclear Deterrent and the Vulcan B. Mk 2 switched to the tactical bombing role with conventional and nuclear weapons. With the advancement of anti-aircraft missile systems the Vulcans were switched to low-level ‘under the radar’ missions.
By 1982 the Vulcan had been in service for far longer than had been originally envisaged. Its replacement, the Panavia Tornado GR.1, started to enter RAF squadron service in January 1982. The run-down of the Vulcan force began with the closure of No.230 OCU in August 1981 and continued with all the Scampton-based units having disbanded by March 1982. Waddington-based units were expected to continue flying the Vulcan for a couple more years but this plan was soon abandoned for economic reasons.
Following the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands in early 1982, five Vulcan B. Mk 2s were earmarked for possible offensive operations. Operating from Ascension Island in the South Atlantic - the nearest available base - the Vulcans launched a series of high-profile attacks on the occupying forces on the islands, under the codename Black Buck. Refuelled by Victor tankers, the first raid, took place on the night of 30 April/1 May 1982, when XM607 released 21 1,000 lb bombs on the runway at Port Stanley Airport. Further bombing sorties were flown. Three other missions were also flown, using AGM-45A Shrike anti-radar missiles to target Argentinian radars.These were the longest range bombing attack in history. Six in-flight refuellings were needed for the 15-hour 7860-mile flight.The last Vulcans were retied in 1984 ending the operational life of this iconic bomber.
The painting depicts Vulcans of 50 Squadron scrambling from RAF Waddington.
Artist Paul Howard.
Available as an A3 size or 20x16 print.