The Avro Shackleton was derived from the Avro Lincoln bomber (the Lincoln itself designed from the Avro Lancaster), a four-engine aircraft appearing too late to see action in World War 2. The Shackleton featured a similar (though all-new) fuselage design and became the primary RAF long-range maritime patrol platform in the early years of the Cold War. The aircraft went on to fulfill a variety of other roles until its eventual retirement in 1990.
The Shackleton was designed to a 1946 requirement for an all-new long-range maritime patrol aircraft for use by the Royal Air Force Coastal Command. The Avro offering was initially known as the Lincoln ASR.3 and would later become known simply as Type 696 Shackleton (named after English explorer Ernest Shackleton). First flight was achieved on March 9th, 1949.
The Avro Shackleton shared some design similarities with the Lincoln. Both aircraft featured a slender straight-sided fuselage with the aft end extended out past the tail plane. The tail plane also featured twin vertical fins in much the same way as that of Lincoln design. The Shackleton was also fitted with a low-wing monoplane with two engines to a wing and each engine was fitted with two three-blade propellers in a contra-rotating fashion - the first such British four-engine aircraft to do so. Power was delivered by 4 x Rolls-Royce Griffon liquid-cooled in-line engines. The Griffons were noted for requiring a great deal of attention during the aircraft's career. Armament in the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) role consisted of 2 x 20mm cannons mounted in the nose while internal bombloads could consist of torpedoes, mines and bombs as needed.
The initial MR.1 Shackleton production models entered service in April of 1951 with No. 120 Squadron based in Scotland. The MR.2 appeared later (with changes brought about through operational feedback) and was noted for its ventral-placed radome as opposed to the chin-mounted placement of its forerunner. Additionally, the MR.2 featured a reinforced undercarriage, a lengthened nose and tail section and redesigned tail planes.
The MR.3 would later appear with a whole host of changes thanks again to operational feedback. These changes would include wingtip-mounted fuel tanks, a larger fuselage, sleeping galley for the crew on long flights, redesigned wings and a tricycle undercarriage. Future MR.3's would incorporate the Armstrong Siddeley Viper turbojet in the outboard engine nacelles for increased power on take-offs due to the increased weight, these being noted by their designation of MR.3 "Phase II".
Beyond RAF use, the Shackleton was delivered in a batch of eight to the South African Air Force (replacing their Short Sunderlands). Shackletons served the British as Airborne Early Warning (AEW) platforms (designated AEW.2) until its inevitable replacement by the nation's purchase of E-3 Sentry units in 1991 over the Nimrod AEW model vying for the role. Other roles undertaken by the Shackleton in that time included Search and Rescue (SAR) and Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA). South African models were in service up until 1984.
Shackletons saw their first real use in the Suez Crisis of 1956, the combined British, Israeli and French attack on Egypt after the Egyptian attempt to nationalize the Suez Canal. Production totals for each model type numbered 77 for the Mk 1 series, 70 for the Mk 2 series and 34 for the Mk 3 series with a further 8 of that batch for use in the South African Air Force.
Status Retired, Out-of-Service
Production 189 Units
Avro / A.V. Roe - UK
South Africa; United Kingdom
- Airborne Early Warning (AEW)
- Reconnaissance (RECCE)
87.34 ft (26.62 m)
119.85 ft (36.53 m)
23.33 ft (7.11 m)
56,401 lb (25,583 kg)
100,002 lb (45,360 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Avro Shackleton MR.Mk 3 production model)
20,013 feet (6,100 m; 3.79 miles)
4,213 miles (6,780 km; 3,661 nm)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Avro Shackleton MR.Mk 3 production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
2 x 20mm Hispano cannons in nose
Up to 10,000lbs of 3 x torpedoes, mines or 9 x bombs as needed.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Avro Shackleton MR.Mk 3 production model)
Lincoln ASR.3 - Initial Lincoln Production Model Designation on which the Shackleton is derived from.
Type 696 - Official Avro Shackleton Model Designation.
GR.Mk 1 - Initial Production Models of which 77 examples were produced; redesignated to MR.Mk 1; fitted with 2 x Griffon 57A and 2 x Griffon 57 engines.
MR.Mk 1 - Redesignation of GR.MK 1 models.
MR.Mk 1A - Fitted with 4 x Griffon 57 engines; chin radome.
MR.Mk 2 - Subtle modifications introduced including longer nose; featured ventral-placed ASV radome; 70 examples produced.
MR.Mk2C - MR.2 models with armament and navigation equipment of MR.Mk 3 models.
MR.Mk 3 -Anti-Shipping and Maritime Reconnaissance Model; redesigned wing shape; sans dorsal turret; underwing hardpoints introduced; wingtip fuel tanks for increased range; tricycle landing undercarriage; 34 examples produced.
MR.Mk 3 "Phase II" - MR.3 models fitted with Armstrong Siddeley Viper turbojet engines in outboard engine nacelles; 8 examples produced for South Africa.
MR.Mk 4 - Proposed improved maritime reconnaissance platform; never produced.
AEW Mk 2 - Airborne Early Warning Radar platform from converted MR.2 models; 12 such examples produced.
T.4 - Navigation Trainer Conversion Model
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
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