Avro Vulcan

Avro Vulcan B.2 XM607
Avro Vulcan B.2 - XM607
Design and Development

British Air Ministry Specification B.35/46 was born in early 1947. The specification called for a nuclear-capable platform able to operate out of reach of enemy air defences and provide exceptional range from British and allied bases as needed. Avro answered the call and devised an all-new design centred around a straight, delta-wing arrangement. This design was unique in that it featured vertical tail surfaces at the extreme wingtips as opposed to a traditional tail section, offering up a great deal of surface area for improved payload, fuel load and manoeuvrability. The lack of a true tail section meant that, in some ways, the design was in fact a flying wing. The cockpit was positioned well forward on the fuselage, ahead of the wings and engines, and featured four engines in a staggered internal placement - two engines to a wing. The engines were to be fed by a single large rounded intake. The massive expanse of the wings would have also provided maximum space for internal armament in the form of bomb bays mounted outboard of the dual engine arrangements. Avro designated the new design Type 698 and received the British Air Ministry contract in December of 1947. Along with the Avro design, approval of the Valiant and Victor were also granted, essentially beginning the formation of the V-bomber triangle.

In initial Air Ministry contract called for several forms to be built including two prototypes. Along with this commitment included the construction and delivery of several flight demonstrators. The demonstrators, designated as Type 707, proved an important part of early development of the Vulcan and were produced in five examples - Type 707, Type 707A (2), Type 707B and Type 707C. The Type 707 was a unique design in and of itself, featuring a spine-mounted air intake. Type 707 to the skies on her maiden flight on September 4th, 1949 but was involved in a fatal crash just 26 days later. The accident revealed that the airbrake system had not closed, leading the system to enter a stall and eventually crash - and as no ejection seat system was offered to the test pilot. Despite this major setback, the overall design (albeit at low-speed testing) proved sound. A new revised design appeared in the Type 707B and flew a year later, this time with an ejection system in a lengthened nose assembly. The Type 707A was used as a high-speed test platform and completed as two examples while a Type 707C existed as well, this becoming a test platform and featuring side-by-side seating, a single vertical tail fin and a straight-wing delta arrangement. In all, testing revealed the aircraft to be extremely agile considering the type and size of the aircraft, no doubt due to the large area delta-wing design choice. These development models eventually gave rise to the Type 698 prototype.

The Type 698 prototype first flew on 30th August, 1952. The first prototype was fitted with Rolls-Royce brand engines. The straight delta wing was used as was the single vertical tail fin. Later that year, the aircraft design received her official designator of "Vulcan". The first prototype was later lost in a fatal air show accident in September of 1958. The second prototype, this fitting an Olympus 101 series engines, soldiered on in testing. Both prototypes featured a delta wing with 52 degree sweep back. The second prototype was later fitted with a "kinked" wing design that showcased differing degrees of sweep back separated into different sections of the wing leading edge.

The initial production model became the Vulcan B.1. Twenty-five were ordered in 1952 and the first Vulcan squadron became operational in 1957 (this delay in years was caused by yet another fatal accident). B.1's were similar to the two prototypes. Early production models were finished the straight delta wings but these were later revised to the kinked wing design. In many ways, the production models mimicked the prototype with the exception of the kinked wing. Production models were now being fitted with an Olympus 101 series engine. This rating was progressively uprated until reaching the Olympus 104 series.

In the late 1950's, the Vulcan B.1 had her countermeasures suite revised, becoming the Vulcan B.1A. Soviet defence technology advanced to the point that operation of the Vulcans in their originally intended mode was now in danger. As such, the aircraft was fitted with chaff dispensers, a tail warning radar (Red Steer), a radar warning receiver, and jammers. Twenty-eight B.1s were converted in this fashion from 1959 into 1963. B.1A's and the future B.2 models are clearly discernible thanks to the addition of the ECM gear in the tail cone.

The Vulcan B.2 followed with development beginning in 1955. The system featured a revised and lengthened wing, new Bristol Siddeley Olympus 201 series engines (later production models would feature the Olympus 301), updated electrical system, in-flight refuelling probe, a reinforced undercarriage, the countermeasures suite in the B.1A upgrade and overall improvements to the aircrafts performance. First flight of the B.2 prototype occurred on August 19th, 1958 with deliveries beginning two years later.

The Vulcan B.3 was a proposed carrier of the Skybolt missile but this design was ultimately dropped once development of the Skybolt in America had ceased. Eight B.2 models were converted to Maritime Radar Reconnaissance platforms (B.2MRR)) and 6 more were modified as in-flight refuelling tankers (K.2)). A total of 134 Vulcan B.1 and B.2 models were constructed along with the two Type 698 prototypes.

Avro Vulcan B.2 Avro Vulcan B.2 Avro Vulcan B.2
Operational History

The Vulcan series of bombers saw limited use in combat aggression. Vulcan B.1 model bombers were sent as an intimidation factor during the Malayan Insurgency. Beyond that, they were used to showcase the types reach to the Soviet Union by conducting regular global flights to and from. Operations with American forces and other NATO allies were a common occurrence. The only true combat actions including the Vulcan came in the 1982 Falklands War between invader Argentina and responder Britain. Vulcan B.2 bombers were used in small numbers during the conflict and succeeded in providing Britain with an intimidating force, though actual damage caused to enemy ground forces from Vulcan's were minimal. Regardless, the presence of the Vulcan was no doubt on the minds of Argentine ground forces. After the war of 1982, the Vulcan's career as a dedicated bomber was all but over. Several were converted as an interim measure to fulfil a tanker role gap while the Vickers VC-10 airframes were being modified for the job. Six such Vulcan B.2 models were converted for the role and became the Vulcan K.2. These Vulcan's lasted until 1984 as the VC-10s came online.

The last airworthy Vulcan (XH558) has been restored to flying condition by the "Vulcan to the Sky Trust" after years of effort and fund raising. The first post-restoration flight, which lasted 34 minutes, took place on 18th October 2007.

Production Summary
Type 6982 prototypes
B.1A28 B.1 conversions
B.2A26 B.2 conversions
B.2MRR8 B.2 conversions
K.26 B.2 conversions
Specifications(Vulcan B.2)
Length:99.90ft (30.45m)
Width:110.99ft (33.83m)
Height:27.17ft (8.28m)
Empty Weight:106,000lbs (48,081kg)
MTOW:249,122lbs (113,000kg)
Max Speed:646mph (1,040kmh; 562kts)
Max Range:4,598miles (7,400km)
Service Ceiling:55,003ft (16,765m; 10.4miles)
Engine:4 x Bristol Siddeley Olympus 301 turbojet engines generating 20,000lbs of thrust each
Armament Standard:None
Armament Optional:21,000 lbs of internal ordnance including Blue Steel MK 1 Stand-off missile