YouTube – Avro Vulcan
4- 20,000 lbs ea.
99 ft. 11 in.
The Avro Vulcan was the last long range heavy bomber built by Great Britain. It made up an essential part of their airborne nuclear deterrent before being replaced by submarine launched intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The Avro Vulcan was conceived in 1946 as a British Air Ministry requirement for a high altitude bomber to carry a 10,000 lb. atomic bomb a distance of 1,725 miles. It should be able to probe deep into the enemy’s country while evading interceptor aircraft and anti-aircraft fire.
The Avro Vulcan design was completely new and believed a risky undertaking. The Vulcan represented a huge technological leap from the technology of World War II. It took about six years for the Vulcan to go from concept stage to reaching squadron service.
The Avro Vulcan, like many early jets, had its origins in German aircraft design. The aircraft was the first delta wing jet powered British bomber. Originally a straight delta wing design with winglets, instead of a center tail section, was chosen because it combined good load carrying capabilities and high subsonic speed at altitude.
To help gain data for the wing design, a number of flying scale models of the actual aircraft were made. Gradually the design was changed for additional aerodynamic efficiency until the final shape was produced. What had been a flying wing with wingtip fins acquired a single center fin. The nose of the Avro Vulcan was extended and a distinct fuselage evolved.
The prototype aircraft first flew in August 1952, piloted by Wing Commander Roy Falk. By 1953 the aircraft was officially named “Vulcan”. The aircraft appeared at the Farnborough Air Show and in 1955 performed a full roll.
Future Avro Vulcan models evolved to carry electric counter measure (ECM) equipment in their tail cones, have in-flight refueling capabilities, carry more ordnance, and utilize more powerful engines.
The Avro Vulcan was designed around Great Britain’s atomic bomb that was developed in parallel with the aircraft. The first bomb, named “Blue Danube”, was fully developed by 1953. However it wasn’t until 1957 that Avro Vulcan No. 230 OCU (Operation Conversion Unit) Squadron became operational at Waddington. Eventually ten RAF airfields were updated to base the Vulcan bomber, with an additional 26 airfields becoming dispersal bases for times of international tensions.
Avro Vulcan bombers possessed massive destructive capability. Their effectiveness as a deterrent against the Soviet Union rested on their ability to get airborne and to their targets quickly. A QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) was established whereby a number of aircraft were fueled, armed, and ready to be airborne in just four minutes. That was the time estimated it would take for a detected Soviet ballistic missile to hit a base in Great Britain.
The deterrent credibility of the Avro Vulcan was questioned once Soviet technology developed to the point where a U-2 spy aircraft was downed by a surface to air missile that reached an altitude of 65,000 feet in May of 1960. In response, the Vulcan would fly at low level, operating below the ability of most radars to detect it, then climbing to an altitude of 12,000 feet just before releasing its bomb. By now the bomber was carrying the “Yellow Sun” hydrogen bomb. It was replaced by the WE177 weapon in the mid-1960’s. Later Avro Vulcan bombers were armed with the “Blue Steel” stand-off missile with a range of about 100 miles. This enabled greater survivability when attacking heavily defended targets.
Even after the Avro Vulcan was no longer used in the strategic deterrent role, it remained in front line service as a potent weapons platform with the ability to carry heavy ordnance loads, including nuclear payloads, if required.
When Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982, Britain’s campaign to regain the islands was made more difficult because of the great distances involved. Once Britain’s task force was ready to re-take the islands, Argentine air defenses on the Falklands had to be disabled. The runway at Port Stanley had to be disabled, assuming that the Argentine Air Force would base their fighter aircraft there. Without a base in the Falklands, aircraft operating out of mainland Argentina would have been near the limits of their range to defend the islands. After the runway was disabled, radar sites would have to be taken out. Ascension Island, a British dependency, about 3,850 miles from the Falklands, was chosen as a base of operations. Due to its long range, the Avro Vulcan was chosen to nutralize Falkland defenses.
The Avro Vulcan Falklands missions were code named “Operation Black Buck”, and five were flown by Avro Vulcan bombers. Three were against the runway at Port Stanley, and two were against radar sites. The 16 hour round trip covering some 7,700 miles was the longest ever attempted by the Avro Vulcan.
Each Black Buck Avro Vulcan had to be refueled several times by air tankers, also operating from Ascension Island. Some of the tankers also needed mid-air refueling to complete their missions. Although many RAF Vulcan bombers had refueling probes, they had not been used for a long time. One refueling probe for use on the mission had to be borrowed from a museum. Due to the great distances of over ocean flight, the bombers needed improved navigation. It is rumored that the navigation equipment was aquired from British Airways. Throttle control of the bombers was modified to allow “emergency war power” from the engines as necessary.
The first Avro Vulcan Black Buck mission took place on April 30th through May 1st, 1982. Two Vulcans took off, each carrying a total of 21 bombs weighing 1,000 lbs. each, for the eight hour trip to the Falklands. A total of eleven air tanker aircraft were used for the mission.
One Avro Vulcan had to return to base with technical difficulties, leaving a single bomber to carry out the mission. The last air tanker transferred so much fuel to the Vulcan bomber that the air tanker needed to be refueled by another air tanker to make it back to base.
At approximately 300 miles from Port Stanley, the Avro Vulcan descended to 300 feet above sea level to avoid radar detection. At around 40 miles before its target the Vulcan bomber climbed to 10,000 feet for its bombing run. An anti-aircraft gun radar was detected at about 10 miles from the target, but it was jammed by equipment on the Avro Vulcan supplied by the U.S. All 21 bombs were dropped in a diagonal line across the runway, with one hitting directly on center.
The effect of this and other Black Buck raids showed Argentina that if Vulcan bombers could reach the Falklands, it was possible for them to reach the mainland. As a result, many Argentine fighter aircraft were kept from the Falkland conflict in order to defend against a raid on Argentina.
The Avro Vulcan was also use as an in flight refueling tanker and for reconnaissance.
A total of 144 Avro Vulcan bombers were produced.
RC Avro Vulcan
Pictured above is the amazing RC Avro Vulcan scratch built by David Johnson. It is 1/7 scale with a wingspan of 204 in. Power comes from two TJT 3000 turbine engines. All up weight is about 150 lbs.
RC Avro Vulcan (see comments)
In answer to Michael’s request, the picture above is of Merlin Graves of the Joliet RC Club and his impressive Avro Vulcan. It has a wingspan of 136 in. and a length of 121 in. Power comes from four O.S. .91 engines turning Dynamax fans. All up weight is about 90 lbs. Merlin says that it has a top speed of 100+ mph!
You can find free plans for a 35 in. wingspan RC Avro Vulcan made from foam that weighs around 12 oz. using a CD ROM motor turning an 8 x 4 pusher prop powered by an 1800 mAh battery here: