|The Avro Vulcan was a British-built jet-engined, delta-winged subsonic
bomber, once part of the RAF's V bomber force.
Design work began at A. V. Roe in 1947 under Roy Chadwick.The Ministry
of Defence specification required a bomber with a top speed of 500 knots
(930 km/h), an operating ceiling of 50,000 ft (15,000 m), a range of 3,000
nautical miles (5,500 km) and a bomb load of 10,000 lb (4,500 kg). Design
work also began at Vickers and Handley Page, all three designs were approved
— the Valiant, the Victor, and the Vulcan. The Vulcan was the first
fly-by-wire aircraft to enter service.
Avro began scale prototype testing in 1948 with the single-seater Type
707, and despite the crash of the first prototype on 30 September 1949
work continued. The first full-scale prototype aircraft, the Type 698,
made its maiden flight on 31 August 1952. The Vulcan name was not chosen
In September 1956, the RAF received its first Vulcan B.1, XA897, which
immediately went on a fly-the-flag mission to New Zealand. On 1 October,
while approaching London Airport to complete the tour, XA897 crashed
short of the runway in bad weather conditions. The second Vulcan was
not delivered until 1957, and the delivery rate picked up from then.
The B.2 variant was first tested in 1957 and entered service in 1960.
It had a larger wing and better performance than the B.1 and had a distinctive
kink in its delta wing to reduce turbulence. In all, 134 Vulcans were
produced (45 B.1 and 89 B.2), the last being delivered to the RAF in
January 1965. The last operational Vulcan squadron was disbanded in
As part of Britain's independent nuclear deterrent the Vulcan initially
carried Britain's first nuclear weapon, the Blue Danube gravity bomb.
The bomb load was gradually updated to Yellow Sun and then Red Beard
and from 1962 26 Vulcan B.2A were armed with the Blue Steel missile.
When Blue Steel was decommissioned and the replacement program for the
Skybolt ALBM was cancelled the bombers reverted to gravity bomb loads,
despite the lack of credible deterrent value in this delivery method.
Although the primary weapon for the Vulcan was nuclear, Vulcans could
carry up to 21 x 1000 lb (454 kg) bombs in a secondary role. The only
combat missions involving the Vulcan took place in the 1982 Falklands
War with Argentina, when a number of Vulcans flew the 3,380 nautical
miles (6,300 km) from Ascension Island to Port Stanley to bomb the occupied
airfield there with conventional bombs in Operation Black Buck. By this
date the number of Victors available for air-to-air refueling was extremely
limited, so some Vulcan aircraft were adapted in just 50 days to fulfill
that role during the conflict. Five Vulcans were chosen for the operation:
their bomb bays were modified, the fuel systems replaced and the electronics
updated. The first bombing mission was on April 30–May 1 and there
were five further bombing missions. At the time these missions held
the record for the world's longest distance raids.
Role Strategic nuclear bomber
First prototype flight 30 August 1952
First production flight 4 February 1955
Entered Service 20 July 1956
Manufacturer A. V. Roe & Co., Woodford
Length 97 ft 1 in 29.6 m
Wingspan 99 ft 30.2 m
Height 26 ft 6 in 8.1 m
Wing area 3554 ft² 330 m²
Empty 83,573 lb 37,144 kg
Loaded lb kg
Maximum takeoff 170,000 lb 77,100 kg
Engines Four Rolls-Royce Olympus turbojets
Power hp kW
Thrust lb kN
Maximum speed Mach 0.95 at 12,000 m
Cruising speed Mach 0.92 at 15,200 m
Combat range miles km
Ferry range miles km
Service ceiling 55,000 ft 16,750 m
Rate of climb ft/min m/min
Wing loading lb/ft² kg/m²