The Avro Vulcan was worlds 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
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 Navys Polaris missile equipped submarines
took over the role of Britains 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
The last Vulcans were retied in 1984 ending the operational life
of this iconic bomber.
Artist Paul Howard.
Available as an A3 size or 20x16 print.