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The Avro Vulcan and the Black Buck raids

The Black Buck Missions

The Shrike Missile

Avro Vulcan releasing bombsThe Vulcan was designed as one of the Royal Air Forces' Triumverate of strategic bombers known as the V-Force. A huge delta-winged aircraft, it was capable of carrying the Blue Steel stand off nuclear missile, and during its career served in the Strategic Bomber role, before converting to the low-level bomber role and finally to the tanker role in its last few years. The Vulcan's most well-known operation in the RAF, were the 8,000 mile bombing trips against the Argentine held Falkland Islands in 1982. These were the Black Buck missions. Some Vulcans were equipped with wings pylons to carry the American supplied Shrike anti-radar missile, and plans for the aircraft to carry the Skybolt were abandoned. The last Vulcan was retired from service in March 1984. None of the Vulcan raids actually destroyed Stanley runway, nor did they deny the Argentines using the runway.  Craters show in the image below were in fact heaps of earth placed there by the Argentines to make it look as though the runway was damaged. What the Black Raids did did do, was to discourage  the Argentine Air Force from keeping fast attack aircraft stationed at Stanley.

Aircraft Type: Bomber
Crew:  5
Powerplant:  4 Bristol Olympus 201 turbojets, each rated at 17,000lb thrust
Range (Km):  7400 at high altitude with bomb load
Service Ceiling (m):  19812
Wingspan (m):  33.83
Wing Area(m2):  368.3
Length (m):  30.50
Height(m):  8.29
Max. Payload  21000lb of bombs internally, or One Blue Steel stand off nuclear missile, or externally upto four Shrike or two Skybolt missiles

The Black Buck Missions

Stanley Airfield after raidThree Vulcans were deployed to Wideawake airfield on Ascension Island, of which two flew Black Buck raids against the Falkland Islands. Eleven Victor tankers, including a standby aircraft were required to refuel the Vulcans before and after their attacks on the Falklands. The attacking Vulcan was refuelled five times on the outward journey and once on the return journey. These raids, although representing only a small part of the effort directed against the Argentines' on the Falklands, also graphically demonstrated RAF Strike Command's ability to strike the Argentine homeland if it had been necessary. These raids also forced the Argentine Air Force to withdraw their Mirage II fighters to stand defense over the mainland instead of engaging the Royal Navy and RAF Sea Harriers over the Falklands.

The Vulcans were captained by Squadron Leader Neil McDougall, Squadron Leader John Reeve and Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers.

Black Buck One: 30th April and Black Buck Two: 4th May
Bombing raids on the Port Stanley airfield, The Attacking Vulcan carried 21 1,000lb bombs, and the attacking aircraft were backed up by another Vulcan on standby in case of problems.

A Vulcan on the tarmac

Black Buck Three: 31st May and Black Buck Four: 3rd June
Missile strikes against Argentine Skyguard radar on the Falklands using American supplied Shrike Anti-Radar missiles on hastily improvised underwing pylons. During the 3rd June mission, the Vulcan sustained damage to its air refuelling probe and was forced to land at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, where the aircraft was impounded until the 11th June, and the remaining Shrike missile was confiscated, This Vulcan was captained by Squadron Leader Neil McDougall.

Black Buck Five: 12th June

The final Black Buck mission was against Argentine troop positions close to Port Stanley using 1,000lb bombs.

The Raytheon Shrike Anti-radar missile was carried by the Vulcans in Black Buck missions Three and Four, to engage and destroy Argentine Skyguards radar's. These missile require an active radar to target, and if the radar is switched off, lose their lock.

Type: Air launched anti-radiation missile (Defense suppression)
Length (m): 3.048
Body Diameter (m): 0.2
Fin Span (m): 0.914
Launch Weight (kg): 177
Weight of Warhead (kg): 66
Type of Warheads available: High explosive fragmentation
Maximum Range (km): Estimated at between 12 and 16 km
Maximum Velocity (km/h): Mach 2+

The Epic Story of the Most Remarkable
British Air Attack since WWII
Rowland White
Bantam Press £16.99 (hb)

The first full account of the most ambitious British bombing raid since the Dambusters: the dramatic Vulcan attack on Port Stanley airfield at the start of the Falklands War When the Argentinian forces invaded the Falklands on 2 April, 1982, it took the British government under Margaret Thatcher completely by surprise. They needed a response, and fast. The military chiefs were ordered to come up with a plan of retaliation. Operation Black Buck, the plan to bomb Port Stanley airfield, was their only realistic option. And even that was fraught with difficulties and danger.

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