Vulcan XH558, the last
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A post-WWII analysis
of Allied strategic bombing affirmed the success of such tactics during the war. The new
importance of nuclear weapons made it all the more imperative that the world's nuclear
powers have long-range delivery capabilities. England's Royal Air Force (RAF) issued a
requirement for a new aircraft design which could be based anywhere in the world, be able
to strike targets up to 1,700 miles away, and deliver a heavy bomb load from high speed
and high altitude. One of the three finalists for the job was the Avro Vulcan, first flown
on 3 August 1952. The Vulcan's main distinctive physical characteristic, its large
delta-wing shape, was a result of the need for structural integrity and a large payload
capacity. To prove the as-yet untested design, the Avro company built a series of
one-third scale aircraft, designated as Avro 707s.
The first production model of the Vulcan, the B.Mk
1, flew in early 1955, and after a few airframe and wing design changes,
entered service. While the first prototype Vulcans were powered by four 6,500-pound thrust
Rolls-Royce Avon RA.3 engines, a series of engine upgrades throughout its lifetime
resulted in a final configuration of four 20,000-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Olympus 301s,
giving the Vulcan significant performance improvements over earlier marks.
Numerous other design improvements were gradually
incorporated as well, as follows: The B.Mk 1A variant
incorporated a modified tailcone housing an Electronic Counter-Measures (ECM) system. The B.Mk
2 had more powerful engines than the B.Mk 1, a much-modified and larger
wing, elevons for pitch and roll control (instead of separate elevators and ailerons), an
auxiliary power unit (APU), in-flight refueling capability, and modified weapons-launch
capability. In the mid 1960s the B.Mk 2 was adapted as a long-range, low-level
conventional bomber. Finally, the SR.Mk 2 strategic
reconnaissance variant appeared in 1973.
The Vulcan remained on active duty with the RAF into the
1980s. Few retired aircraft types retain the mystique enjoyed by the handful of remaining
examples of the Vulcan which have found their way into museums. For almost a decade after
its retirement, at least one Vulcan was flown at air displays throughout Europe and the
British Isles, but financial considerations resulted in all Vulcans being grounded by the
mid 1990s. However, in 2007, thanks to the work of the Vulcan to the Sky
Trust and The Vulcan Operating Company (TVOC), one of these magnificent
aircraft was restored to airworthy condition, and flew on the airshow
circuit in the UK for eight years until funding issues grounded it in
Iron Overcast; The Tin
Specifications (B.Mk 2):
Engines: Four 20,000-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Olympus 301 turbojets
Max Takeoff Weight: ~250,000 lbs.
Wing Span: 111ft. 0in.
Length: 99ft. 11in.
Height: 27ft. 2in.
Range: 4,600 miles with normal bomb-load
Armament: Up to 21,000 pounds of bombs,
Number Built: 134
Number Still Airworthy: One
(Now taxi-capable only, as of October 2015).