Apart from the Avro Lancaster, the Vulcan is probably the most famous British bomber and the largest delta winged aeroplane ever built. The Vulcan was concieved as a high altitude nuclear bomber, with the first prototype flying in 1952 piloted by Roly Falk the company’s chief test pilot. Early Vulcan prototypes were looped and rolled by Falk at the annual Farnborough air shows and were supersonic in a shallow dive, which amazed pilots of my fathers generation who had spent the second world war lumbering about in the smaller Lancaster. Infact because of its enormous wing area the Vulcan was far more manouverable above 50,000 ft than most contemporary fighters which relied on thin stubby wings for their speed. The Avro Vulcan B1 entered service with the RAF in May 1956. The Vulcan B1 was marked by its straight delta wing, but research soon showed that a new leading edge profile incorporating a kink would reduce buffeting at transonic speeds. The Vulcan B2 incorporated these refinements as well as more powerful engines and avionics.
The V bomber force was designed to carry thermonuclear weapons deep into Soviet Russia. The definitive weapon system for the V Force was the Blue Steel stand off bomb which was built by Avro’s and was designed to be launched at distance from its target and approach at supersonic speeds. The large missile was slung underneath the belly of the Vulcan as it was too large to be accomodated in the bomb bay. After Gary Powers was shot down by the Soviets the V force was switched to low level and eventually the nuclear deterrent handed over to the Royal Navy. The Vulcan remained in service in the low level strike role until the early 1980’s, with the Vulcans being quietly retired when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. In this conflict,the Vulcan was used in combat for the only time in its long career striking targets on the other side of the world from bases within the UK.