Operation Black Buck VULCAN XM607 Falklands' Most Daring Raid
The Vulcan was designed in response to a specification issued in 1947; a four engined nuclear bomber was required as the growing menace of the Soviet Union made itself felt. Avro's chief designer, Roy Chadwick immediately began an unusual design based on a delta wing concept and a matter of months later, the design had been submitted and had won the contest (along with Handley Page's HP.80 design - later to become the Victor). The design was changed before the familiar Vulcan layout was settled on; fins on the wingtips became a single conventional fin, and the nose was extended along with the addition of a distinct fuselage section as opposed to the near-flying-wing idea originally envisaged. Tragically, Chadwick was killed in an air accident later in the year, but Stuart Davies, his assistant, survived the crash and continued development on the Avro Type 698 design, taking over as head of Avro's design team.
Avro 707C WZ744; via Bill BielauskasTo help gain data for the radical new design, several 'mini-Vulcans' were built; these were the Avro Type 707s. At one point the RAF wanted a twin-seat 707 for use as a Vulcan trainer, but eventually this requirement was dropped and only one such 707, the 707C, was built. Finally, in 1952, the first prototype of what would become the Vulcan (Type 698 VX770), was ready to fly. This was recognisably a Vulcan, but the wings were of a pure delta form with none of the now-familiar kinked leading edges, and there were several other detail differences in the aircraft's overall shape. Aircraft development in the 1950s was very different to modern-day development - whereas nowadays it seems most time and effort is put into complex computer simulations and making sure the flight control software is working before risking a first flight, in the days of the Vulcan's development, rather more primitive methods were used.
The 1957 Defence White Paper spelled an end for many defence projects in the UK, reorganising the UK's defences to support the nuclear deterrent force. With the Vulcan as the tip of the nuclear spear, improving the B.1 was high on the agenda. More powerful engines, an electronic warfare (ECM) suite ina new larger tailcone, in-flight refuelling capability, an improved electrical system and further improved and larger wings formed the basis of a new variant - the B.2 (some B.1s had some B.2 improvements made to them, then being called B.1As). With longer range, the ability to carry a heavier payload and much improved self-defence measures in a vastly more powerful ECM suite, the B.2 made sure that missions into the Soviet Union wouldn't be the suicide mission they would have been with the B.1 - particularly when the switch was mode to low level penetration of enemy airspace. The fatigue life of all V-force aircraft would be reduced by low level operations, but the chances of radar detection were much lower, and with the application of camouflage the chances of visual acquisition from above were also minimised.
The nuclear capability of the B.2 was also improved compared to the B.1. Two nuclear weapons (Yellow Sun and Red Beard) could be carried. Even with the B.2's improvements, however, the delivery of free-fall nuclear weapons into the increasingly deadly defences of the Soviet Union was becoming far too dangerous a proposition. Intermediate range Thor missiles became a significant part of the UK's nuclear deterrent, but the flexibility of a manned bomber force was still important. The obvious way to improve the survivability of the V-force was to use stand-off missiles and accordingly Blue Steel was developed. This could be fired up to 100 miles away from the target. As on the Victor, Blue Steels were carried in a partially-recessed manner. The bomb bay area was modified accordingly and the lower tailfin of the missile would be folded over on the ground to give enough ground clearance. On launching the fin would fold down, the missile's rocket engines would fire, boosting it to high altitude and the Vulcan crew would turn for home, leaving Blue Steel to fly on towards the target independently. An improvement over the Blue Steel would have been the American's Skybolt missile, which was intended for use by B-52s and Vulcans. Vulcans would have been able to carry two, one under each wing, and many B.2s were built with suitable attachment points under their wings. However, the programme was a troubled one and despite it looking like becoming a success towards the end, the Americans cancelled it late on in development at the end of 1962.
The loss of Skybolt and the retirement of the obsolete Thor missile meant that the RAF was fielding a nuclear deterrent bomber force that was increasingly outmoded. With the arrival of Polaris ICBMs and associated submarines, the Royal Navy took over the RAF's nuclear deterrent role. Thus, the Vulcan would have flown for its entire service life without ever dropping a bomb in anger - had it not been for the Falklands war in 1982. While of limited tactical use, a succession of Vulcan bombing missions against the Argentine occupiers on the Falklands Islands proved that the UK still had a strategic bomber force to be reckoned with. While damage to Argentine ground forces was limited, the psychological effect was significant and the Argentines kept back a large portion of their air defence fighters to defend against attacks on their mainland.
The huge amount of tanker support required by the missions also resulted in the final version of the Vulcan - the K.2 tanker. Requested by the MoD during the Falklands war, a mere 51 days passed between request and delivery of the first K.2. The K.2 was basically a B.2 with an ugly box tacked underneath the tailcone (containing the drogue unit; hoses and drum unit were held within the ECM bay within the tailcone) and the bomb bay was filled with three huge fuel tanks. Huge white areas painted underneath the wings to help receiving aircraft line up on the tanker added their own final uglification. Two years after the Falklands War, in March 1984, the last Vulcan squadron was disbanded, leaving only the Vulcan Display Team to fly on. XL426 thrilled airshow visitors, until 1986 when it was offered for tender. Bought by Roy Jacobsen, now XL426 is now looked after at Southend airport by the Vulcan Restoration Trust. The sale of XL426 did not mean the end of the Vulcan Display Team though - it was replaced by XH558, which was to roar through the skies for many years, becoming the most famous Vulcan of all.
Many Vulcans ended up being scrapped, or burned as fire practice airframes. A few were thankfully preserved and sold to museums or private individuals. Unfortunately defence cuts began to bite into all of the UK's armed forces, and maintaining a single aircraft for display purposes could no longer be justified by the MoD's bean-counters. In early 1993, despite intensive public lobbying to keep her flying, XH558 was finally also offered for tender, retired from the RAF and sold to David Walton who looked after it for some years at Bruntingthorpe airfield in Leicestershire before selling it on to a company formed with the aim of returning her to the air. As of 18th October 2007, they had done just this
If you wish to read what happend to XH558 click here http://.thunder-and-lightnings.wwwco.uk/vulcan/tothesky.php
Operation Black Buck involved aircraft (three) and crews from the base (44 Sqn, 50 Sqn and 101 Sqn) for a bombing raid on Port Stanley airfield. The three Vulcan B2s were twenty-two years old, and were selected for their more powerful Olympus 301 engines. The complicated refuelling plan (14 Victor tankers) was only contemplated due to the belief of Sir Michael Beetham, then Chief of the Air Staff. Spare parts for the operation were requisitioned from scrapyards in Newark-on-Trent and military museums. Navigation came from the Delco Carousel inertial navigation system, never used previously by the RAF. 44 Squadron left on 21 December 1982