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Avro Vulcan High-Altitude Long-Range Heavy Bomber (1956)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 5/1/2014

The Avro Vulcan was an impressive design feat though the system itself saw limited combat action.

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The Avro Vulcan formed the second point on the triangle in the British "V-Bombers" collection - a series of three high-altitude, long range, nuclear-capable systems developed during the Cold War from a post-World War 2 British Air Ministry requirement. The three aircraft making up this defensive triangle became the Vickers Valiant, the Avro Vulcan and the Handley Page Victor - entering into service in that very order. The Vulcan formed an integral part of the British strategic nuclear air arm throughout the height of the Cold War years and could also double as a conventional bomber, as it did in the British Falklands War against Argentina - interestingly enough assisted with in-flight refueling by a tanker form of the Handley Page Victor. The Avro Vulcan would be Avro's one and only jet-powered aircraft design to enter production.

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 defenses and provide exceptional range from British and allied bases as needed. Avro answered the call and devised an all-new design centered 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 maneuverability. 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, both man and system were lost in the event. 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 August 30th, 1952. The first prototype was fitted with Rolls-Royce brand engines of 6,500lbf thrust each. Engines were retained in the wingroots based on the original design and featured rectangular intake openings. 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 of 10,000lbf, soldiered on in testing. Both prototypes featured a delta wing with 52 degree sweepback. The second prototype was later fitted with a "kinked" wing design that showcased differing degrees of sweepback separated into different sections of the wing leading edge.

The initial production model became the Vulcan B.Mk 1. Twenty-five such machines 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.Mk 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 of 11,000lbf thrust (each). This rating was progressively uprated until reaching the Olympus 104 series with 13,500lbf thrust. A total of 45 Vulcan B.Mk 1 models were eventually delivered.


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Specifications for the
Avro Vulcan
High-Altitude Long-Range Heavy Bomber


Focus Model: Avro Vulcan B.Mk 2
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Manufacturer: Avro / A.V. Roe - UK
Initial Year of Service: 1956
Production: 136


Crew: 5


Length: 99.90ft (30.45m)
Width: 110.99ft (33.83m)
Height: 27.17ft (8.28m)
Weight (Empty): 106,000lbs (48,081kg)
Weight (MTOW): 249,122lbs (113,000kg)


Powerplant: 4 x Bristol Siddeley Olympus 301 turbojet engines generating 20,000lbs of thrust each.


Maximum Speed: 646mph (1,040kmh; 562kts)
Maximum Range: 4,598miles (7,400km)
Service Ceiling: 55,003ft (16,765m; 10.4miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 0 feet per minute (0m/min)


Hardpoints: 0
Armament Suite:
21,000 lbs of internal ordnance including 1 x Blue Steel MK 1 Stand-off missile


Variants:
Type 698 - Prototype Model Designation; two examples produced; fitted with 4 x Rolls-Royce 6,500lb thrust Avon RA.3 turbojet engines.


B.Mk 1 - Initial Production Model Designation fitted with Olympus turbojet engines; straight wing leading edge.

B.Mk 1A - Modified Mk 1 models fitted with electronic countermeasures equipment in revised tail cone.

B.Mk 2 - Olympus 301 engines; provision for Blue Steel nuclear stand-off missile; improved powerplant and performance; reinforced landing gears; lengthened wings.

B.Mk 2MRR - B.2 bomber models converted for use as Maritime Radar Reconnaissance aircraft; eight conversion models in all.

K.Mk 2 - B.2 bomber models converted for use as in-flight refueling tankers; six conversion models in all.


Operators:
the United Kingdom