These Cold War photographs recall a time when the Britain’s V-Bombers carried a nuclear payload
The third and final bomber of the Royal Air Force’s V-force, the Handley Page Victor may not be as iconic as its delta-winged brethren the Vulcan. Neither did it have the Valiant’s dubious distinction of dropping nuclear weapons, but during the height of the Cold War it was at the forefront of Britain’s strategic nuclear strike force.
Like the Vulcan, the Victor boasted a futuristic design that seemed to epitomise the jet age of the 1950s and 1960s and its distinctive high swept T-tail was still gracing the skies as a refuelling aircraft in the early nineties.
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Having entered service in 1957 as the last of the V-bombers, a move to strategic low level flying in response to surface to air missile technology saw the Victor retire from strategic bombing duties in 1968, but by then the V-bombers had seen action in both the 1956 Suez crisis and the Indonesian conflict of 1962 – 3.
Victor tankers were still in use by the time of the Falklands War in 1982 when they were called on to refuel Vulcans on their long range Black Buck bombing missions of Argentinian held airfields, and it was the Victor that was the last of the V-bombers to retire from active duty – in 1993 after deploying for a final refuelling role during the first Gulf War.
One of the last intact Victors, and the sole B1 type with an intact glass panel in the nose cone, now resides at The Imperial War Museum, Duxford.
VictorXH648 undertook its maiden flight on November 27 1959 and, after a series of conversions in 1961, was flown as part of the Far East Air Force during the Indonesian Confrontation and was the only Victor to drop 35 1000lb bombs over the Song Song area.
In 1965 it was converted into a two-point tanker, a role in which it served until its retirement in 1976 to Duxford airfield, where it is now part of Imperial War Museum’s collection.
But years on the tarmac have not been kind to the old aircraft and although it is in good condition internally, there are signs of corrosion externally. A deep survey is needed to assess its condition and experts say conservation may take up to five years.
Help fund the conservation of VictorXH648 by donating at the Just Giving Page
See all three V-bombers together in the Cold War hangar at RAF Museum, Cosford.
Royal Air Force Museum Cosford
The Royal Air Force Museum Cosford is home to over 75 historic aircraft and offers a fun, entertaining day out for the entire family. Aircraft on display include the world’s oldest Spitfire, the unique TSR2 and the mighty Vulcan bomber to name but a few. Plus, visitors can now see…