While attention usually focusses on the Vulcan, quite a few members of this site may be unaware that it was only one element in a bomber force known
as the V-force.
This was the force created to carry Britains post war nuclear deterrent, which task it carried out until the redeployment of the nuclear deterrent in
the form of the Royal Navy's Polaris missile force.
Development of the V force was launched in 1946 and four companies were tasked with producing prototypes. Avro and Handley Page, famous for their
wartime Lancaster and Halifax bombers, were to produce prototypes incorporating every technological advance possible in order to produce the ultimate
subsonic bombers, from these two one was to be selected for service.
Another pair of companies were tasked with producing less advanced prototypes as an insurance against the failure of the more advanced types. The
companies who won these contracts were Short, who had built the RAF's first four engined monoplane bomber, the Stirling, in WW2 and Vickers who's
Wellington was the only really successful bomber in RAF service by 1939 when the war started.
Shorts produced the SA.4 Sperrin which was virtually a conventional design. Its one unusual feature was its superimposed pair of engines on each wing,
in the event this ended up being the only one of the four designs not to recieve a service order.
Vickers decided to make their bomber as close to the RAF's specification as they could without making it too complicated. This move paid off as their
aircraft demonstrated performance close to the RAF's specified target and yet was flying as early as 1951, demonstrating the opportunity for the RAF
to retire its piston engined Avro Lincoln and Boeing Washington's earlier than expected.
The Valiant thus became the first true V bomber when it entered service in 1955, the Valiant also became the first British bomber to drop an atomic
bomb in trials. It later became the first V bomber to drop bombs in anger during the 1956 Suez crisis, all of which shows that this aircraft doesn't
really deserve to be forgotten.
Following the Vulcan, covered in a thread of its own, the final V bomber was the Handley Page Victor, this was the biggest and most powerful of the
trio and the last new strategic bomber ever to enter RAF service.
Having already bought the Valiant the RAF's intention of choosing one winner form the Vulcan and Victor whilst keeping the other two designs in
reserve had gone out of the window and the decision was taken that the Valiant would be retained in service and then joined by both the new bomber
thereby removing the risk of technical faults causing the grounding of the entire V-force.
Following the switch to low level bombing techniques in the early '60's
cracks were found in the wing spars of the Valiant fleet, despite the fact that fitting new spars was a perfectly practial solution ( and was done on
other types in service) the financial folly of Britain operating three different types of strategic bomber had long since dawned so, as the oldest and
least capable of the trio, the opportunity was taken to retire the elegant Valiant in 1964.
The Vulcan and Victor carried on until the Victors greater range and payload marked it out as the most suitable of the pair for conversion to a
tanker, which work was carried out from 1969 by Hawker Siddeley. Finally the Vulcan was retired from frontline service during 1983-84, a short stay of
exection being granted by the bad timing of the Argentine Invasion of the Falkands, six months later they wouldn't have had to worry about Vulcan
[edit on 20-10-2005 by waynos]
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[edit on 21/10/2005 by Mirthful Me]