The Avro Vulcan is a delta wing strategic bomber in service with the Royal Air Force from 1956 until 1984.
To gain experience of a delta wings behavior Avro produced two one-third scale aircraft, designated Avro 707, to study handling at low speed and a variant, designated Avro 707A, for high speed study.
The first Avro 707 first flew during September of 1949 but was unfortunately involved in a fatal accident shortly after. The second Avro 707 was built with an ejector seat and re-designated Avro 707B and flew in September of 1950.
The high speed Avro 707A flew in July 1951, however due to the delay in the 707 program information gained from these aircraft was largely insignificant to the design of the Vulcan but it was significant in proving the delta wing concept as tangible.
Further research into the design was carried out in the Wind tunnel at Farnborough which highlighted a required design change to the wing to reduce drag.
The first prototype designated 698, VX770, was flown on the 30th of August 1952 by Roly Falk. It was powered by four Rolls Royce RA.3 Avon engines producing 6,500 lbf of thrust each.
As a temporary measure the fuel tanks were fitted into the bomb bay rather than the ‘normal’ positioning within the wings.
A second prototype , VX777, which flew during September of 1953 was modified to carry a longer nose undercarriage, had a bomb-aimers blister under the cabin and was fitted with four Bristol Olympus 100 engines producing 9,750 lbf of thrust each.
During test flights the aircraft suffered from buffeting when close to the speed of sound which was resolved by altering the delta wing to a ‘Phase 2’ wing which had a kinked and drooped leading edge and vortex generators on the upper surface.
The aircraft was also fitted with an auto-mach trimmer which induced a nose up attiutude during high mach removing the tendency for the aircraft to go into a dive. After trials the Vulcan received it’s initial Certificate of Airworthiness in April 1956.
The first production Vulcan, designated B.1, was designed around the original wing and first flew in February 1955. It was powered by two Olympus 101 engines producing a thrust of 11,000 lbf each and entered service with the RAF in July 1956.
The Vulcan B.1 had its engines upgraded to Olympus 102’s producing 12,000 lbf each entering RAF service in July 1957. Further engine upgrades followed soon after to Olympus 104 producing 13,500 lbf each.
Further engine upgrades to the B.1 were not possible due to buffeting caused by the original wing. So development of the Phase 2C wing for the B.2 commenced, using a second prototype VX777. It also had improved control surfaces and was fitted with Olympus 102 engines and flew in this configuration in August 1957.
The first production Vulcan B.2, XH533, first flew during September 1958 and was fitted with Olympus 200 engines each producing 16,000 lbf thrust, six months before the B.1 specification was completed.
During the transition period it was concluded that it was not economical to modify the existing B.1’s to B.2 so as a compromise the B.1’s were upgraded to B.1A which included the B.2 ECM equipment, in-flight refueling hardware and UHF radio.
The second Vulcan B.2, XL534, was fitted with two Olympus 201 engines producing 17,000 lbf thrust each flying during January 1959. It was fitted with an in-flight refueling probe and a modified tail cone to accept ECM.
After development and trials of various B.2’s the 12th production Vulcan B.2, XH558, was the first to be put in service with the RAF and was delivered in July of 1960.
After further development of the Vulcan it was able to carry the Blue Steel missile with the 26th B.2 XL317 being the first delivered to the RAF with this capability.
The later Vulcan B.2 aircraft were fitted with Olympus 301 engines producing a thrust of 20,000lbf each with seven other aircraft being converted around 1963.
The last Vulcan B.2 was delivered to the RAF in 1965 and remained in service until 1984. The B.1A’s were not further upgraded to B.2 specification and were withdrawn from service in 1968.
|Specifications (B.1): -|
|Length:||97ft 1in (29.59m)|
|Wingspan:||88ft 5in (30.3m)|
|Height:||26ft 6in (8.0m)|
|Empty Weight:||83,573lb (37144kg)|
|Max. Weight:||170,000lb (77111kg)|
|Engines (x4):||Bristol Olympus|
101, 102 or 104
producing 11,000 lbf each.
|Max. Speed:||607 mph (1040 km/h)|
|Range:||2,607 miles (4171 km)|
|21 x 1,000 pounds (454 kg) of bombs.|
1 x Blue Danube nuclear gravity bomb.
1 x Violet Club 400 kT nuclear gravity bomb.
1 x US Mark 5 nuclear gravity bomb.
1 x Yellow Sun Mk.1 400 kT nuclear gravity bomb.
1 x Yellow Sun Mk 2 1.1 MT thermonuclear gravity bomb.
1 x Red Beard nuclear gravity bomb.
The initial production aircraft.
The B.1 with ECM system in a new larger tail cone
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 each, or Olympus 301 engines of 20,000 lbf each.
Vulcan B.2 (MRR)
Maritime Radar Reconnaissance (MRR), 9 converted
Six B.2s converted for air-to-air refueling. Fitted with three bomb-bay drum tanks, it was the only mark of Vulcan that could jettison fuel in an emergency.
The Avro Vulcan is a delta wing strategic bomber which was operated by the Royal Air Force from 1956 to 1984.
The Vulcan B.2 XH558, civil registration G-VLCN, is the only airworthy example in the world. It is currently operated by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust.