The Last Vulcan
The Avro Vulcan is a jet-powered delta wing strategic bomber, which was operated by the Royal Air Force (RAF) from 1956 until 1984. Aircraft manufacturer A V Roe & Co (Avro) designed the Vulcan.
Although the aircraft’s armament was primarily a nuclear weapon, in a conventional secondary role it was possible for the Vulcans to carry up to 21 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs.148 Since the 1960s, the RAF’s Vulcan squadrons had conducted routine training missions in practice for performing conventional bombing missions in addition to nuclear strike missions.
The only combat missions involving the Vulcan took place in 1982 during the Falklands War with Argentina. This was also the only time V-bombers took part in conventional warfare. The missions flown by the Vulcans became known as the Black Buck raids, which flew 3,889 mi (6,259 km) from Ascension Island to Stanley on the Falklands. On 1 May, the first mission was conducted by a single Vulcan that flew over Port Stanley and dropped its bombs on the airfield concentrating on the single runway, with one direct hit, making it unsuitable for fighter aircraft. The Vulcan’s mission was quickly followed up by strikes against anti-air installations, flown by British Aerospace Sea Harriers from nearby Royal Navy carriers.
In total, three missions were flown against the airfield, two further missions to launch missiles at radar installations; another two missions were cancelled. Victor tankers conducted the air-to-air refuelling; approximately 1.1 million gal (5 million L) of fuel were used in each mission. At the time, these missions held the record for the world’s longest-distance raids. The Vulcan’s ECM system was effective at jamming Argentine radars, British aircraft in the vicinity had a greatly reduced chance of coming under effective fire. Five Vulcans were selected for the operation; their bomb bays were modified, the flight refuelling system that had long been out of use was reinstated, the electronics updated, and new wing pylons fitted to carry an ECM pod and Shrike anti-radar missiles at wing hardpoint locations originally installed for carrying Skybolt missiles.