Avro Vulcan

A post-WWII analysis of Allied strategic bombing affirmed the success of such tactics during the war. The new importance of nuclear weapons made it all the more imperative that the world's nuclear powers have long-range delivery capabilities. England's Royal Air Force (RAF) issued a requirement for a new aircraft design which could be based anywhere in the world, be able to strike targets up to 1,700 miles away, and deliver a heavy bomb load from high speed and high altitude. One of the three finalists for the job was the Avro Vulcan, first flown on 3 August 1952. The Vulcan's main distinctive physical characteristic, its large delta-wing shape, was a result of the need for structural integrity and a large payload capacity. To prove the as-yet untested design, the Avro company built a series of one-third scale aircraft, designated as Avro 707s.

The first production model of the Vulcan, the B.Mk 1, flew in early 1955, and after a few airframe and wing design changes, entered service. While the first prototype Vulcans were powered by four 6,500-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Avon RA.3 engines, a series of engine upgrades throughout its lifetime resulted in a final configuration of four 20,000-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Olympus 301s, giving the Vulcan significant performance improvements over earlier marks.

Numerous other design improvements were gradually incorporated as well, as follows: The B.Mk 1A variant incorporated a modified tailcone housing an Electronic Counter-Measures (ECM) system. The B.Mk 2 had more powerful engines than the B.Mk 1, a much-modified and larger wing, elevons for pitch and roll control (instead of separate elevators and ailerons), an auxiliary power unit (APU), in-flight refueling capability, and modified weapons-launch capability. In the mid 1960s the B.Mk 2 was adapted as a long-range, low-level conventional bomber. Finally, the SR.Mk 2 strategic reconnaissance variant appeared in 1973.

The Vulcan remained on active duty with the RAF into the 1980s. Few retired aircraft types retain the mystique enjoyed by the handful of remaining examples of the Vulcan which have found their way into museums. For almost a decade after its retirement, at least one Vulcan was flown at air displays throughout Europe and the British Isles, but financial considerations resulted in all Vulcans being grounded by the mid 1990s.

Nicknames: Iron Overcast; The Tin Triangle

Specifications (B.Mk 2):
        Engines: Four 20,000-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Olympus 301 turbojets
        Max Takeoff Weight: ~250,000 lbs.
        Wing Span: 111ft. 0in.
        Length: 99ft. 11in.
        Height: 27ft. 2in.
            Maximum Speed: 645 mph
            Ceiling: 65,000 ft.
            Range: 4,600 miles with normal bomb-load
        Armament: Up to 21,000 pounds of bombs, carried internally

Number Built: 134

Number Still Airworthy: None