HANDLEY PAGE VICTOR BOMBER

The Handley Page Victor was the last of three RAF high-altitude strategic ‘V’ jet bombers which became the linch pin of Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent at the height of the Cold War of the 1950/60’s.

Unlike the ’swept wing’ design of the Avro Vulcan, the Victor was a more streamlined futuristic-looking aircraft with its four turbofan engines buried in its thick wing roots.

Recognisable by its highly swept back ’T’ tail and large chin bulge housing its targeting radar, nose landing gear and auxiliary bomb aimers position, the Victor carried a crew of five in a single pressurised compartment.

Comprising two pilots, a navigator/plotter, navigator/radar operator and an air electronics officer, like the other Avro Vulcan and the Vickers Valiant, only the pilots were provided with ejection seats with the remaining crew relying on ‘explosive cushions’ inflated by CO2 bottles designed to help them from their seats and towards a traditional bailout egress.

In its nuclear delivery role, the Victor was finished in an all-over anti-flash white, designed to protect the aircraft against the damaging effects of a nuclear detonation. The white colour scheme was intended to reflect heat away from the aircraft; paler variations of RAF’s roundels were also applied for this same reason.

When the UK moved their nuclear deterrent capabilities from airborne delivery to their ICBM carrying Polaris submarines, much like the Vulcan and the Valiant, the Handley Page Victor’s flight mission changed to a low level, under the radar, tactical low-yield nuclear bomb deployment so the aircraft's colour scheme was changed to a green/grey camouflage.

The Victor's bomb bay was much larger than that of the Valiant and Vulcan, which allowed heavier weapon loads to be carried at the cost of range. As an alternative to carrying the original single “10,000 lb” nuclear bomb, the bomb bay was designed to carry several conventional armaments, including a single 22,000 lb ‘Grand Slam’ or two 12,000 lb ‘Tallboy’ earthquake bombs, up to forty-eight 1,000 lb bombs or thirty-nine 2,000 lb sea mines. 

In addition to a range of low yield, free-fall nuclear bombs, later Victor B.2s operated as missile carriers for standoff nuclear missiles that allowed for targeting information to be inputted during flight as well as in advance of a mission.

Like all ‘V’ class nuclear bombers, the Victor was widely dispersed across the UK in a high state of readiness should a Soviet missile launch be detected.

In 1964–1965, a series of detachments of Victor B.1As was deployed to RAF Tengah, Singapore as a deterrent against Indonesia during the Borneo conflict, the detachments fulfilling a strategic deterrent role as part of Far East Air Force, while also giving valuable training in low-level flight and visual bombing.

In September 1964, with the confrontation with Indonesia reaching a peak, the detachment of four Victors was prepared for rapid dispersal, with two aircraft loaded with live conventional bombs and held on one-hour readiness, ready to fly operational sorties. However, they were never required to fly combat missions and the high readiness alert finished at the end of the month.

Following the discovery of fatigue cracks, developing due to their low-altitude usage, many of the Victor B2 variants were retired and placed in storage but the RAF had been experiencing intense demand on its existing aerial refuelling tanker fleet, so it was decided that the stored Victor B.2Rs would be converted to tankers as had many of the B1’s earlier.

Several of the Victor B.2s had also been converted for Strategic Reconnaissance missions following the retirement of the Valiant in this capacity. In service, this type was primarily used in surveillance of the Atlantic and Mediterranean Seas, capable of surveying 400,000 square miles in an eight-hour mission; they were also used to sample the fallout from French nuclear tests conducted in the South Pacific. 

Two of the V-bombers, the Victor and the Vulcan, played a high-profile role during the 1982 Falklands War. In order to cross the vast distance of the Atlantic Ocean, a single Vulcan required refuelling several times from Victor tankers. A total of three bombing missions were flown against Argentine forces deployed to the Falklands, with approximately 1.1 million gal of fuel consumed in each mission.

Following the invasion of Kuwait by neighbouring Iraq in 1991, a total of eight Victor K.2s were deployed to Bahrain to provide in-flight refuelling support to RAF and other coalition aircraft during the subsequent 1991 Gulf War.

RAF strike aircraft such as the Panavia Tornado would frequently make use of the tanker to refuel prior to launching cross-border strikes inside Iraq. Shortly after the Gulf War, the remaining Victor fleet was quickly retired in 1993, at which point it had been the last of the three V-bombers in operational service; retiring nine years after the last Vulcan.

All Handley Page Victor Bomber 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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