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Avro Lancaster

Four-Engined Heavy Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft

Avro Lancaster

Four-Engined Heavy Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft


The Avro Lancaster was the definitive heavy bomber of the British cause during World War 2 - considered by many to be the best of the entire conflict.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United Kingdom
YEAR: 1942
STATUS: Retired, Out-of-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Avro (AV Roe) / Armstrong Whitworth - UK
OPERATORS: Argentina; Australia; Canada; Egypt; France; Poland; Soviet Union; Sweden; United Kingdom

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Avro Lancaster B.Mk I model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 69.49 feet (21.18 meters)
WIDTH: 102.00 feet (31.09 meters)
HEIGHT: 20.01 feet (6.1 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 36,901 pounds (16,738 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 69,999 pounds (31,751 kilograms)
ENGINE: 4 x Rolls-Royce Merlin XX V12 water-cooled, inline piston engines developing 1,280 horsepower each.
SPEED (MAX): 287 miles-per-hour (462 kilometers-per-hour; 249 knots)
RANGE: 2,529 miles (4,070 kilometers; 2,198 nautical miles)
CEILING: 24,508 feet (7,470 meters; 4.64 miles)


2 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns in nose turret
2 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns in dorsal turret
4 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns in tail turret

4,000lbs to 22,000lbs of internal ordnance or specialized mission equipment (22,000lb Grand Slam, 12,000lb Tallboy or 9,250lb Upkeep bombs).

Series Model Variants
• Type 683 - Initial Avro Model Designation
• Mk I - Initial Prototype and Production Model Designation (1941); two prototypes completed.
• B.Mk I - Redesignated from 1942 onwards; definitive production model; 3,425 examples completed.
• PR.Mk I - Photo-reconnaissance variant based on the Mk I sans armament.
• B.Mk I (FE) - Tropicalized Far East variant of the Mk I
• B.Mk II - Fitted with Bristol Hercules VI/XVI radial engines; 300 produced by Armstrong Whitworth.
• B.Mk III - B.Mk Is fitted with American Packard Merlin engines; 3,039 produced.
• ASR.Mk I - Air-Sea Rescue Platform
• GR.Mk III / MR.Mk III - Maritime Reconnaissance Platform
• B.Mk IV - Lengthened fuselage with increased wingspan; fitted with Bouton Paul turret and 2 x 0.50 caliber Browning machine guns; mixed Merlin 85 and 68 engine configuration; redesigned nose; becoming the Lincoln B.Mk I.
• B.Mk V - Lengthened fuselage with increased wingspan; Merlin 85 engines; becoming the Lincoln B.Mk II.
• B.Mk VI - B.III conversions with Merlin 85/87 supercharged engines.
• B.Mk VII - Final production Lancaster variant; Martin dorsal turret with 2 x 05.0cal Browning machine guns moved forward along spine; 2 x 0.50cal Browning heavy machine guns at tail turret.
• B.VII (FE) - Far East Variant
• B.VII (Western Union) - French-bound Mk VIIs
• B.Mk X - Canadian-produced Lancaster B.III
• B.Mk XV - Canadian-produced Lancaster B.IV (Lincoln B.Mk I).


Detailing the development and operational history of the Avro Lancaster Four-Engined Heavy Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 10/23/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The Avro Lancaster went on to become the most important British heavy bomber or World War 2. Interestingly, its success was born from the failure of the Avro Manchester bomber - a twin-engined heavy bomber first flown in July of 1939 and adopted in November of 1940. The type was hampered by unreliable engines that led to only 202 examples being produced in all. The Lancaster was born from this failed design to include different engines set along a revised wing. The prototype version was nothing more than a revised Manchester complete with its triple vertical finned tail unit - the key difference lay in the selection of the Rolls-Royce Merlin X series inline piston engines of 1,145 horsepower each. Within time, the triple-finned tail unit was given up in favor of the standard twin rudder arrangement common to the Lancaster history.

In its prototype form, the Lancaster went airborne for the first time on January 9th, 1941. With World War 2 in full swing and the British commitment extensive, the prototype was quickly handed to Boscombe Down for formal evaluations. Development was so speedy that a production-quality form was airborne as early as October 1941 and the series, upon passing its requisite trials, was adopted for operational service in February of 1942, quantitative orders forthcoming. Early production versions were born for Manchester airframes still on Avro lines and inducted into RAF service as the Lancaster B.Mk I.

With production in full swing, the Lancaster was immediately placed into frontline action. Each aircraft required a standard operating crew of seven to include the pilot, bombardier, navigator, flight engineer, radio operator, dorsal gunner and rear gunner. Each man was specifically trained for their respective positions about the craft that ranged from the nose to the tail. The bomb bay was given much of the central internal volume. The flight deck consisted of a heavily glazed canopy with conventional seating and controls. The nose was equally glazed over to provide the bombardier and his equipment unfettered views of the action ahead and below. The undercarriage incorporated two main landing gear legs (single wheeled) with a tail wheel at rear. Outwardly, the Lancaster followed the same design style of other British bomber aircraft of the war, nothing beautiful but full of business. Original Lancasters showcased a bomb bay initially intended to carry up to 4,000lbs of ordnance. During the height of the war, a typical Lancaster set off with approximately 14,000lbs of conventional drop bombs and eventually even fielded the massive 22,000lb "Grand Slam" bombs (their size forced the bomb bay doors to be removed altogether).

Beyond its bomb load out for its offensive armament, the Lancaster was outfitted with no fewer than 8 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns for self-defense across three Frazer-Nash hydraulically-powered turrets at the nose, dorsal spine and tail. Two were installed in a nose/chin turret and operated by the bombardier. Two were fitted to the dorsal turret at amidships along the fuselage spine. Four were installed in a powered tail turret at the extreme aft of the aircraft. Unlike its American brethren, the Lancaster series (on the whole) lacked a belly turret and beam waist gunners for additional defense and utilized a smaller-caliber (7.7mm/0.303) machine gun (as opposed to 0.50 caliber). At one point, the thought of adding a belly turret as standard was entertained but never followed-up. Only a small number of early-form Lancasters were outfitted with ventral turrets (these armed with 2 x 0.303 machine guns).

The need for capable Lancasters was such that its production was tied to other much-needed aircraft meaning that there proved a near-shortage of available Merlin engines threatening manufacture. To supplement stocks of Rolls-Royce Merlins, the American concern of Packard was brought into the fold to produce the same powerplant in the United States (under license). In extreme circumstances, the RAF took on Lancasters fitted with Bristol Hercules VI/XVI radial piston engines of 1,735 horsepower. As Melin engines themselves evolved so too did the various Lancasters coming off the assembly lines - new mounts included the Merlin XX, 22 and 24 series.

Avro Lancaster (Cont'd)

Four-Engined Heavy Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft

Avro Lancaster (Cont'd)

Four-Engined Heavy Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft

Lancasters began their operational careers under rather mixed results. Daylight raids without escort fighters in tow guaranteed ruin for bomber crews as enemy fighter patrols and interceptors coupled with ground-based FlaK fire could cut through Lancaster formations with relative impunity. On one early such raid, Lancasters managed to find their mark on German targets in Augsburg but lost seven of its twelve aircraft in the process. This forced Bomber Command to take the fight to the night skies to which Lancaster crews showcased their mettle. Daylight raids were now protected by escorting fighter groups which allowed for higher success rates in terms of returning crews.

Lancasters were credited with the sinking of the German KMS Tirpitz battleship when, on November 12th, 1944, two Lancaster groups engaged the vessel at Tromso Fjord in Norway with special 12,000lb "Tallboy" bombs designed specifically for armored targets. The battleship was appropriately sunk and a total loss for the shrinking German Navy. In similar-minded sorties, the "Grand Slam" mega-bomb came into play and targeted fortified underground positions, the 22,000lb creation sufficient in cutting through and disrupting the integrity of the concrete structures. The "Upkeep" series was a 9,250lb design intended for the destruction of dams.

Lancaster bombers formed some 59 Bomber Command squadrons and were credited with 156,000 bombing sorties in the whole course of the war, dropping some 681,600 tons (short) of ordnance.

The Lancaster served beyond the British and their RAF, seeing operational service (some during World War 2 and others in the post-war years) with Argentina, Australia, Canada, Egypt, France, Poland, the Soviet Union (via Lend-Lease) and Sweden. Production netted 7,377 units by February 2nd, 1946 when the last airframe was handed over to the RAF from Armstrong Whitworth. The final operational Lancaster was retired from Canadian service in 1963, some two decades since its introduction. Canada produced Lancasters under the B.Mk X (Lancaster B.Mk III) and B.Mk XV (Lincoln B.Mk I) designations.

The Lancaster series was produced in a few notable variants though the original Merlin XX-equipped B.Mk I models (later with Merlin 22 and 24 engines) survived through to the end of the war in 1945. The PR.Mk 1 was a photographic reconnaissance platform sans its guns and turrets and bomb-carrying capability. The B. Mk I (FE) was a tropicalized form intended for Far East actions against the Japanese. The B.Mk II incorporated the Bristol Hercules engines with 300 examples completed by Armstrong Whitworth. B.Mk III was used to signify B.MK I models completed with American Packard engines. The ASR.Mk III was a B.Mk III bomber model appropriately modified with lifeboat and detection antenna for the Air-Sea Rescue (ASR) role. The GR.Mk 3 was a maritime reconnaissance platform version of the B.Mk III series. The B.IV was given a lengthened fuselage with widened wings ad Boulton Paul powered turret with 2 x 12.7mm Browning heavy machine guns with power served through concurrent Merlin 85/68 engines. Such a difference was this mark that it became the Lincoln B.Mk I and this was followed by the B.Mk V becoming the Lincoln B.Mk II with widened wings and an even longer fuselage with Merlin 85 engines. Final production Lancasters became the B.Mk VII with revised armament.

Performance specifications for the definitive B.Mk I model included a top speed of 282 miles per hour, cruise speed of 200 miles per hour, range of 2,530 miles, service ceiling of 21,400 feet and a rate-of-climb nearing 720 feet per minute.


General Assessment (BETA)

Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
MF Power Rating (BETA)
The MF Power Rating takes into account over sixty individual factors related to this aircraft entry. The rating is out of 100 total possible points.
Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (287mph).

    Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Avro Lancaster B.Mk I's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Supported Arsenal
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.