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Avro Vulcan

The Avro Vulcan - Britain's premier V Force Nuclear Bomber
The Avro 698 Vulcan is a jet-powered delta wing strategic bomber, which first flew on 30th August 1952 at Woodford. The design was considered the most technically advanced of the submissions in response to Specification B.35/46 although it was thought by some as the riskiest option.
A number of scale aircraft such as the Avro 707 and 710 were designed and produced to test and refine the delta wing design principles and handling characteristics although the latter aircraft failed to come to fruition due to numerous delays.
Avro 698 Vulcan Prototype VX770 Avro 698 Vulcan Prototype VX770 in 1952
Avro Test Pilot Wing Commander Roland 'Roly' John Falk, dressed in his distinct pin-striped suit, finally took the gloss white Type 698 prototype (VX770) into the air on 30th August 1952, albeit single crewed for safety reasons. 
Powered by four Rolls-Royce RA.3 Avon engines, with a temporary fuel tank fitted into the bomb bay and only fitted with the first-pilot's ejection seat, Falk took the aircraft through a number of unconventional manoeuvres before opening the throttle to such a point that it shattered a number of factory windows.
Avro 698 Vulcan VX777 and VX770 with 4 x Avro 707's enroute to Farnborough 1953 Avro 698 Vulcan VX777 and VX770 with 4 x Avro 707's enroute to Farnborough 1953
A matter of weeks later the yet unnamed aircraft appeared at the SBAC Farnborough Air Show although a number of options were being considered.  These included the ‘Ottowa’ (in honour of the contribution made by Avro Canada).
However, the UK press were full of their own suggestions including the Albion, Avenger, Apollo or Assegai.  Eventually, pressure from the Chief of the Air Staff to reflect the V-Bomber classification, the Air Council announced the aircraft as the Avro Vulcan.
The second prototype (VX777) flew in September 1953 and was more representative of the production aircraft having been lengthened to accommodate a longer nose undercarriage leg, a visual bomb-aiming blister under the cabin and fitted with Bristol Olympus 100 engines. At Falk’s suggestion, a fighter-style control stick replaced the control wheel.
During trials in July 1954, VX777 was substantially damaged in a heavy landing at Farnborough although it was repaired and then fitted with Olympus 101 engines before resuming trials in October 1955.
Handling problems as the aircraft approached the speed of sound at high altitude resulted in a tendency to enter an uncontrollable dive which proved unacceptable to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down.  The solution included the ‘Phase 2 wing’, featuring a kinked and drooped leading edge and vortex generators on the upper surface, first tested on the Avro 707A.
The Vulcan B.1 was first delivered to the RAF in 1956 whilst deliveries of the improved Vulcan B.2 started in 1960. A number of foreign governments expressed an interest in the aircraft although none ever came to fruition. The later B.2 featured more powerful engines, a larger wing, an improved electrical system and Electronic Counter-Measures (ECM), many of which were modified to accept the Blue Steel missile.
As a part of the RAF's V-Force, the aircraft was the key part of the UK’s airborne nuclear deterrent during much of the Cold War.  Although typically armed with nuclear weapons, the Vulcan’s ability to also carry conventional weapons was used to full effect on Operation Black Buck during the Falklands War between the United Kingdom and Argentina in 1982 - This was to be the only mission ‘flown in anger’ by an Avro Vulcan.
Avro 698 Vulcan B.2.a XM575 over sea - Aircraft now on display at East Midlands Aeropark Avro 698 Vulcan B.2.a XM575 was delivered to No. 617 Squadron (Dambusters) at Scampton in May 1953
Carrying no defensive weaponry, the Vulcan relied upon high-speed high-altitude flight to evade interception and whilst electronic countermeasures were employed by the B.1 (designated B.1A) and B.2 from circa 1960, the Vulcan was always vulnerable to air attack.
All 134 production aircraft (45 B.1 design / 89 B.2 design) were built at Avro’s Woodfood Factory in Cheshire between 1948 and 1965 although one aircraft remained on the ground as a static test frame.
A change to low-level tactics was made in the mid-1960’s and by the mid-1970’s nine Vulcans were adapted for Maritime Radar-Reconnaissance operations, re-designated as B.2 (MRR). In the final years of service six Vulcans were designated K.2 and converted to tanker configuration for aerial refueling before reaching final retirement in 1984.
At one point a Vulcan B.3 was proposed as a long-endurance missile carrier with up to 12 hours duration but it was never built.


Avro Vulcan B.1                    The initial  production aircraft. First few with straight leading edge, later retrofitted with Phase2 (kinked) wing. Early examples finished in silver, later changed to "anti-flash" white. Many converted to B.1A standard 1959-1963. Last few unmodified B.1s in RAF service with No. 230 OCU retired by 1966. Last flight by any B.1, an engine testbed XA903, March 1979.
Avro Vulcan B.1A The B.1 with an Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) system in a new larger tail cone (as in B.2). Unlike the B.2, the B.1As did not undergo extensive wing strengthening for low-level flying and were withdrawn from service 1966-67.
Avro Vulcan B.2 Developed version of the B.1. Larger, thinner wing than the B.1 (Phase 2C wing) and fitted with Olympus 201-202 engines of 17,000 lbf (76 kN) each, or Olympus 301 engines of 20,000 lbf (89 kN) each. Uprated electrics with Auxiliary Airborne Power Plant (AAPP - Auxiliary power unit) and Ram Air Turbine (RAT). ECM similar to B.1A. Terrain-Following Radar (TFR) in nose thimble radome fitted to most aircraft in mid-60s. New Radar warning receiver aerials on tail fin giving it a square top from the mid-1970’s.
Avro Vulcan B.2 (MRR) Nine B.2s converted to Maritime Radar Reconnaissance (MRR). Five aircraft further modified for Air Sampling Role. Distinctive gloss-finish with light grey underside.
Avro Vulcan Vulcan K.2 Six B.2s converted for air-to-air refueling with Mark 17 Hose Drum Unit (HDU) mounted semi-recessed in tail cone. Fitted with three bomb-bay drum tanks, it was the only mark of Vulcan that could jettison fuel in an emergency.
Avro Vulcan B.3 Proposed version intended as a long endurance missile carrier capable of carrying up to six ‘Skybolt’ ALBMs on flights of up to 12 hours duration. Never built.

Specification (Vulcan B.2)

Powerplant                          4 x Bristol-Siddeley Olympus 201 or 301
Span 111 feet 0 inches (33.83 m)
Maximum Weight 250,000 lbs / 113,398 kg
Minimum Weight  83,573 lbs / 37,908 kg
Capacity 5 crew
Maximum Speed 644 mph (560 kts,1037 km/h)
Range  4,603 mi (4,000 nmi / 7,408 km)

Number built

Prototype (XV770 / XV777)  2                                                                                                 
B.1 45
B.2 89


AVRO Vulcan B.2 (XH558)       
Vulcan to the Sky, Robin Hood Airport, Doncaster, Yorkshire, UK
AVRO Vulcan B.2 (XJ823)
Solway Aviation Museum, Carlisle Airport, Carlisle, UK   
AVRO Vulcan B.2 (XJ824)
Imperial War Museum, Duxford, Cambridgeshire, UK  
AVRO Vulcan B.2 (XL318)
RAF Museum, Hendon, London, UK 
AVRO Vulcan B.2 (XL319)
North East Aircraft Museum, Sunderland Airport, Sunderland, UK
AVRO Vulcan B.2 (XL360)
Midland Air Museum, Coventry Airport, Coventry, Warwickshire,  UK 
AVRO Vulcan B.2 (XL361)
CFB Goose Bay, Happy Valley, Goose Bay, Labrador , Nova Scotia
AVRO Vulcan B.2 (426)
Southend Airport, Southend, Essex, UK 
AVRO Vulcan B.2 (XM573)
Strategic Air and Space Museum, Ashland, Nebraska, USA  
AVRO Vulcan B.2a (XM575)
East Midlands Aeropark, East Midland Airport, Castle Donnington, UK
AVRO Vulcan B.2 (XM594)
Newark Air Museum, Newark, Nottingham, UK  
AVRO Vulcan B.2 (XM597)
National Museum of Flight, East Fortune, Scotland UK     
AVRO Vulcan B.2 (XM598)
RAF Museum, Cosford, Shifnal, Staffordshire, UK        
AVRO Vulcan B.2 (XM603)
Avro Heritage Museum, Woodford, Cheshire, UK 
AVRO Vulcan B.2 (XM605)
Castle Air Museum, Castle AFB, California, USA    
AVRO Vulcan B.2 (XM606)
Barksdale AFB, Bossier City, Louisiana, USA
AVRO Vulcan B.2 (XM507)
RAF Waddington, Waddington, Lincolnshire, UK         
AVRO Vulcan B.2 (XM612)
City of Norwich Aviation Museum, Norwich Airport, Norfolk, UK
AVRO Vulcan B.2 (XM655)
Wellesbourne Mountford Airfield, Wellesborne, Warwickshire,  UK      

More information

Avro Heritage Museum (
RAF Museum, Cosford (
Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre (
Vulcan to the Sky (
Vulcan Restoration Trust (

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