AVRO VULCAN STRATEGIC BOMBER

A tailless delta-wing RAF high-altitude strategic jet bomber, the Avro Vulcan became the backbone of Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent at the height of the Cold War of the 1950/60’s.

After extensive trials at the close of the Second World War, US military aviation design had taken a different track from the German ‘flying wing’ development but for the British, the swept wing configuration seemed to offer the ideal, low radar profile required for a high altitude bomber designed to penetrate enemy airspace to launch a nuclear strike. 

In effect, the British had managed to develop the first real Stealth technology - a technology the US were to return to and master to great effect in their Stealth wing fighters and bombers of today.

Despite its radical wing and integrated fuselage design, the Vulcan’s airframe was pretty conventional for its day with the basic structure manufactured from standard grade light alloys with only the most stressed components constructed from high tech alloys.

While the stepped, pilots and crew compartments were pressurised, the giant swept wings were unsealed with the wing surfaces forming the outside of the aircrafts fuel tank with the fuel being stored and 4 large bladders in the wing voids.

The Vulcan initially carried Britain's first nuclear weapon, the Blue Danube gravity bomb - a US designed, low-kiloton yield nuclear fission weapon designed to be launched at high altitude. 

The gravity bombs were supplemented by Mk 5 nuclear bombs which like many of the early US nuclear weapon designs enabled the nuclear fission initiator material to be stored separately from the main bomb and assembled during flight.

RAF Bomber Command and the US Strategic Air Command had created a single operational plan pinpointing all major Soviet targets. 108 RAF Vulcan Bombers positioned across the UK were assigned many of these with two aircraft at every base armed with nuclear weapons and on permanent standby.

The Vulcans on standby had to be airborne within four minutes of receiving a Soviet missile launch alert. The four minutes being the estimated time between a Soviet nuclear missile launch and it hitting UK targets.

Fortunately, the closest the Vulcan ever came to participating in a potential nuclear conflict was during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 when Bomber Command moved to a Condition Alert 3 - an increased state of preparedness from normal operations.

The Vulcan had no defensive weaponry, initially relying upon high-speed high-altitude flight to evade interception but after US policy changed from airborne delivery of nuclear weaponry to land based and submarine nuclear missile launches, its mission parameters changed. 

With the commissioning of the Royal Navy’s new Polaris ICBM equiped submarines, the Vulcan was no longer required as the spearhead of the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

The Vulcan was then reconfigured to deliver both a conventional bomb load and much smaller, low yield 400 kiloton WE.177B tactical nuclear bombs which were dropped via a parachute over the target from low altitude.

This new mission profile called for the Vulcan Bomber to maintain a high altitude before dropping down beneath enemy radar on approach and then launching its payload.

This new low altitude approach now exposed the usually high altitude bomber to enemy defences and new missile jamming radar and tracking countermeasures had to be installed in an effort to hide its approach. Unfortunately, the low altitude flight reduced the Vulcan’s airspeed to a mere 350 kts - a dramatic drop from its normal high altitude cruising speed of 890 kts.

In order to increase its mission range, the Vulcan was also given in-flight refuelling capabilities with several bombers being refurbished as air tankers. This enabled the Vulcan to be deployed to South East Asia during the Malaysia and Indonesia conflict and to the Middle East based in Cyprus.

The Vulcan’s only combat missions occurred toward the end of its operational service in 1982, when it was used against Argentinian forces which had occupied the Falkland Islands. The bomber had to fly over 6259 km from Ascension Island to reach the Falklands where it bombed the airstrip and Argentinian radar stations that had been set up to assist in facilitating more Argentinian forces being deployed to the Islands

All Avro Vulcan Instruments listed below come complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.

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