Avro 696

Long endurance Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft, later adapted as an Airborne Early Warning (AEW) platform.
Avro 696 Shackleton MR.1 flypast Avro 696 Shackleton MR.1's & MR.2's flypast at Queen's Coronation Review.


The Avro 696 Shackleton long-range maritime patrol aircraft was first flown (VW126) on 9th March 1949 from Woodford in the hands of Chief Test Pilot JH ‘Jimmy’ Orrell. 
It was designed in response to Air Ministry Specification R 5/46 by a team led initially by Lancaster designer Roy Chadwick. Tragically, Chadwick was killed in a crash in 1947 although the project continued on unabated.
The type was developed as Britain's response to the growing threat of the Soviet Navy and its submarine fleet which could be found in and around UK waters. 
The prototype G.R.1 was later re-designated as a Marine Reconnaissance MR.1 and differed from the later production variants in so far as it featured gun turrets and the capability for air-to-air refuelling.
Initially, it was produced as the Type 696 Lincoln ASR3 for RAF Coastal Command and was evolved predominantly from the Avro Lincoln, although it also drew on a number of Avro Tudor assemblies.
The MR.1 featured a chin-mounted, search radar as well as two 20mm cannon in the nose. Two more cannons were sited in a mid-upper dorsal turret as well as two 0.5in machine guns in the tail.  Engine power was provided by a pair of Griffon 57A engines (inboard) and a pair of Griffon 57 engines (outboard).
Later, and upon entering RAF Service in 1951 with the RAF, its name was changed to Avro Shackleton after the polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Production statistics comprised three prototypes, followed by 29 MR.1 and 48 MR.1A with four Griffon 57A engines (and wider outboard nacelles).


Avro 696 Shackleton MR.2 WL472 Avro 696 Shackleton Mk2 WL742 B-Z of 206 Sqn RAF Coastal Command.


The aircraft recorded significant improvements on previous Avro designs, most crucially with its increased patrol range of up to 3,000 nautical miles as well as featuring the capacity to install large amounts of newly-developed electronic surveillance equipment within the fuselage.

The MR.2 (WB833) first flew on 17th June 1952 and carried a number of improvements initially conceived for the MR.1 such as a more streamlined nose and an improved radar installation, changing to a retractable ‘dustbin’ radome mounted under the fuselage aft of the bomb bay.

The nose and tail gun armament were deleted although the mid-upper turret was initially retained (but deleted from all aircraft once in service). Twin retractable tail-wheels replaced the original single wheel fixed unit.

59 MR.2 were ordered, supplemented by 10 aircraft from the MR.1 production that were completed as MR.2s.


Avro 696 Shackleton MR.3 WR989 Air to air photograph of Avro 716 Shackleton MR.3 WR989 of 120 Sqn RAF.


The final variant of the type was the Avro 716 Shackleton MR.3, the first of which (WR970) flew on 2nd September 1955.
The MR.3 was another redesign in response to crew feedback and introduced a tricycle undercarriage with twin mainwheels, a revised wing planform and wing-tip fuel tanks. The overall dimensions of the fuselage were increased with new wings featuring improved ailerons and the capability for the use of tip tanks. The cockpit and crew sections were also fitted with better sound insulation and those aircraft destined for 15-hour patrols were equipped with a galley and sleeping accommodation.
Twin nose-mounted 20mm cannon were reintroduced on the MR.3 variant whilst the mid-upper turret being deleted.  On the plus-side, provision was made for the under-wing carriage of rockets or sonobuoys.
Normal power was provided by four Rolls-Royce Griffon 27A engines driving contra-rotating propellers although in the case of the Shackleton MR.3 - Phase 3, a pair of 2,500 lbst Rolls-Royce Viper 203 turbojets were added to improve take-off performance with one Viper installed at the rear of each outboard engine nacelle.


Avro 696 Shackleton MR.3 SAAF 1721 Avro 716 Shackleton MR.3 SAAF 1721 on display at the SAAF Museum.


Eight Shackleton MR.3 were purchased for use by the South African Air Force in 1953 in order to monitor Soviet vessels in the sea lanes around the Cape of Good Hope where they also carried out a number of search and rescue missions.

Production of the MR.3 comprised 34 aircraft for the RAF and 8 for the SAAF whilst a number of MR.1 and MR.1A aircraft were modified for use as radio and navigation trainers with the designation Shackleton T. Mk.4.

The long endurance of the Shackleton was demonstrated at the 1960 SBAC Show at Farnborough, when, on each day of the show, an aircraft took off at the start of the flying display, to return a full twenty-four hours later.

Like the Anson and the Vulcan, the Shackleton was destined to have an extremely long service life with the last aircraft being retired in 1991, forty-two years after the first flight of the prototype. The MR.3 aircraft operated at significantly increased gross weight and because of this it suffered a reduced fatigue life.

When a gap in the UK’s Airborne Early Warning (AEW) capability emerged (due to problems with the proposed Nimrod AEW and an inevitable delay before the Boeing E-3 Sentry could be introduced), the decision was taken to modify the Shackleton MR.2 to undertake the AEW role.


Avro 696 Shackleton AEW.2 WL745 The prototype Avro 696 Shackleton AEW.2 WL745 'O'.


Twelve Shackleton AEW.2 conversions were carried out at Woodford and Bitteswell, the first (WL745) flying on 30th September 1971. These aircraft retained the tailwheel configuration and carried an AN/APS-20 search radar (taken from redundant Fairey Gannet AEW3 aircraft) mounted in a distinctive radome, mounted below the forward fuselage.
A grand total of 181 Shackleton aircraft were built, comprising three prototypes, seventy-seven MR.1/1A, fifty-nine MR.2, thirty-four MR.3 and eight additional MR3 aircraft for the SAAF.



                Shackleton MR.2
Powerplant Four 2,450 hp Rolls-Royce Griffon 57A engines (augmented in MR3 - Phase 3 by two 2,500 lbst Viper turbojets, one in the rear of each outboard nacelle). 
Span 120ft 0in (MR.3 119ft 10in)
Maximum Weight 86,000 lb (MR.3 100,000 lb)
Capacity & equipment     Up to ten crew typically. Retractable radar in lower fuselage behind bomb bay. Typical load (MR.3) of 14,000lbs of bombs, depth charges and sonar buoys. In MR.3, cannon positioned in nose with mid-upper turret deleted.
Maximum Speed 296 mph
Range 4,215 miles at 200 mph, endurance up to 24 hours 

Variants & Numbers

Shackleton Type 696
3 prototypes
VW126, VW131 & VW135                                                                
Shackleton MR.Mk.1
29 built
First production variant
Shackleton MR.Mk.1A
48 built
Four Griffon 57A engines with all surviving MR.1s converted to this configuration
Shackleton T. Mk 4
17 Conversions
Conversion from MR.1A
Shackleton MR.Mk.2
59 built
Radome moved to the ventral position with system and equipment upgrades. 
Shackleton T.2
10 conversions
MR. 2 aircraft modified in 1967 to replace T.4s as radar trainers
Shackleton AEW.2
12 conversions
Converted to AEW role with AN/APS-120 radar under forward fuselage
Avro 716 Shackleton MR.Mk.3
42 built 
Tricycle undercarriage, wingtip tanks, system and equipment upgrades - MR.3 Phase 3 introduced two Armstrong Siddeley Viper turbojet engines - wing main spars were also strengthened.
Total production 181 Shackleton aircraft were built, comprising three prototypes, seventy-seven MR.1/1A, fifty-nine MR.2, thirty-four MR.3 and eight additional MR3 aircraft for the SAAF


Shackleton MR.2           
Cornwall Aviation Centre. Newquay , Cornwall
Shackleton MR.2
(WR963 / G-SKTN)
Shackleton Preservation Trust, Coventry Airport
Shackleton MR.3
Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome, Leicestershire
Shackleton MR.3
Newark Air Museum, England
Shackleton MR.3
Gatwick Aviation Museum, England
Shackletom MR.3
Imperial War Museum, Duxford, England
Shackleton MR.3
SAAF Museum, Swartkop
Shackleton MR.3
SAAF Museum at AFB Ysterplaat
Shackleton MR.3
Vic's Viking Garage, Meredale, Johannesburg
Shackleto MR.2
Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona, USA
Shackleton AEW2
Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, England www.msimanchester.org.uk
Shackleton AEW2
(WL747 & WL757)
Derelict end of runway at Paphos Airport, Cyprus

Other information

Avro Heritage Museum (www.avroheritagemuseum.co.uk