Vickers Valiant
Overview
 
The Vickers-Armstrongs Valiant was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 four-jet bomber
Bomber
A bomber is a military aircraft designed to attack ground and sea targets, by dropping bombs on them, or – in recent years – by launching cruise missiles at them.-Classifications of bombers:...

, once part of the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

's V bomber
V bomber
The term V bomber was used for the Royal Air Force aircraft during the 1950s and 1960s that comprised the United Kingdom's strategic nuclear strike force known officially as the V-force or Bomber Command Main Force...

 nuclear force in the 1950s and 1960s. The Valiant was originally developed for use as high-level strategic bomber
Strategic bomber
A strategic bomber is a heavy bomber aircraft designed to drop large amounts of ordnance onto a distant target for the purposes of debilitating an enemy's capacity to wage war. Unlike tactical bombers, which are used in the battle zone to attack troops and military equipment, strategic bombers are...

, but its role, like other V bombers, was changed to low-level attacks.

Low-level flying brought a number of serious problems as the Valiant's wing spar attachment castings showed premature fatiguing and inter-crystalline corrosion traced to the use of an inappropriate type of aluminium alloy.
Discussions
Encyclopedia
The Vickers-Armstrongs Valiant was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 four-jet bomber
Bomber
A bomber is a military aircraft designed to attack ground and sea targets, by dropping bombs on them, or – in recent years – by launching cruise missiles at them.-Classifications of bombers:...

, once part of the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

's V bomber
V bomber
The term V bomber was used for the Royal Air Force aircraft during the 1950s and 1960s that comprised the United Kingdom's strategic nuclear strike force known officially as the V-force or Bomber Command Main Force...

 nuclear force in the 1950s and 1960s. The Valiant was originally developed for use as high-level strategic bomber
Strategic bomber
A strategic bomber is a heavy bomber aircraft designed to drop large amounts of ordnance onto a distant target for the purposes of debilitating an enemy's capacity to wage war. Unlike tactical bombers, which are used in the battle zone to attack troops and military equipment, strategic bombers are...

, but its role, like other V bombers, was changed to low-level attacks.

Low-level flying brought a number of serious problems as the Valiant's wing spar attachment castings showed premature fatiguing and inter-crystalline corrosion traced to the use of an inappropriate type of aluminium alloy. The Valiant had been the first of the V bombers to become operational, and its role was already shifting to that of a tanker. Rather than repair or rebuild the fleet, the Valiant was grounded and the Handley Page Victor
Handley Page Victor
The Handley Page Victor was a British jet bomber aircraft produced by the Handley Page Aircraft Company during the Cold War. It was the third and final of the V-bombers that provided Britain's nuclear deterrent. The other two V-bombers were the Avro Vulcan and the Vickers Valiant. Some aircraft...

 took over the tanker role.

V Bomber origins

In November 1944, the Joint Technical Warfare Committee, along with a separate committee chaired by Sir Henry Tizard
Henry Tizard
Sir Henry Thomas Tizard FRS was an English chemist and inventor and past Rector of Imperial College....

, examined the future potential of "weapons of war" and the accompanying Tizard Report published on 3 July 1945 made specific policy directions for the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 (RAF) Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. During World War II the command destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany's industries and many German cities, and in the 1960s stood at the peak of its postwar military power with the V bombers and a supplemental...

. After the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the standing policy of using heavy bombers with four piston-engines for massed raids remained in force in the immediate postwar period, with the Avro Lincoln
Avro Lincoln
The Avro Type 694, better known as the Avro Lincoln, was a British four-engined heavy bomber, which first flew on 9 June 1944. Developed from the Avro Lancaster, the first Lincoln variants were known initially as the Lancaster IV and V, but were renamed Lincoln I and II...

, an updated version of the Avro Lancaster
Avro Lancaster
The Avro Lancaster is a British four-engined Second World War heavy bomber made initially by Avro for the Royal Air Force . It first saw active service in 1942, and together with the Handley Page Halifax it was one of the main heavy bombers of the RAF, the RCAF, and squadrons from other...

, as its standard bomber. In 1946, the Air Staff
Air Staff
The Air Staff is one of the Department of the Air Force's two statutorily designated headquarters staffs: the other staff is the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, also known as the Secretariat. The Air Staff is headed by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force . The Air Staff is primarily...

 issued Operational Requirements OR229 and OR230 for the development of turbojet
Jet aircraft
A jet aircraft is an aircraft propelled by jet engines. Jet aircraft generally fly much faster than propeller-powered aircraft and at higher altitudes – as high as . At these altitudes, jet engines achieve maximum efficiency over long distances. The engines in propeller-powered aircraft...

-powered heavy bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

s at high altitude and speed, without defensive armament, to act as a deterrent particularly to a Soviet attack and, if deterrence failed, to perform a nuclear strike.

In January 1947, the British Air Ministry
Air Ministry
The Air Ministry was a department of the British Government with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the Royal Air Force, that existed from 1918 to 1964...

 issued Specification B.35/46 for an advanced jet bomber intended to carry nuclear weapons and fly near to the speed of sound at altitudes of 50,000 ft (15,000 m). Three firms: A.V. Roe
Avro
Avro was a British aircraft manufacturer, with numerous landmark designs such as the Avro 504 trainer in the First World War, the Avro Lancaster, one of the pre-eminent bombers of the Second World War, and the delta wing Avro Vulcan, a stalwart of the Cold War.-Early history:One of the world's...

, Handley-Page and Vickers-Armstrongs submitted advanced designs intended to meet the stringent requirements. While Short Brothers
Short Brothers
Short Brothers plc is a British aerospace company, usually referred to simply as Shorts, that is now based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Founded in 1908, Shorts was the first company in the world to make production aircraft and was a manufacturer of flying boats during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s...

 submitted a design that was judged too ambitious, the Air Staff accepted another submission from the company for a separate requirement, B.14/46, as "insurance" in case the advanced B.35/46 effort ran into trouble. Short's conservative design became the S.A.4 Sperrin
Short Sperrin
The Short SA.4 Sperrin was a British jet bomber design of the early 1950s built by Short Brothers and Harland of Belfast, popularly abbreviated "Shorts". It first flew in 1951...

. Two prototypes were completed, the first flying in 1951, but the type was relegated to research and development.

Valiant origins

While both Handley-Page and Avro came up with very advanced designs for the bomber competition. These would become the Victor
Handley Page Victor
The Handley Page Victor was a British jet bomber aircraft produced by the Handley Page Aircraft Company during the Cold War. It was the third and final of the V-bombers that provided Britain's nuclear deterrent. The other two V-bombers were the Avro Vulcan and the Vickers Valiant. Some aircraft...

 and the Vulcan
Avro Vulcan
The Avro Vulcan, sometimes referred to as the Hawker Siddeley Vulcan, was a jet-powered delta wing strategic bomber, operated by the Royal Air Force from 1956 until 1984. Aircraft manufacturer A V Roe & Co designed the Vulcan in response to Specification B.35/46. Of the three V bombers produced,...

 respectively, the Air Staff decided to award contracts to each company as a form of insurance in case one design failed. The submissions were known as V bomber
V bomber
The term V bomber was used for the Royal Air Force aircraft during the 1950s and 1960s that comprised the United Kingdom's strategic nuclear strike force known officially as the V-force or Bomber Command Main Force...

s, with all the aircraft names starting with the letter "V" and consequently, were known collectively as the V-class.

Vickers' submission had initially been rejected as not as advanced as the Victor and Vulcan, but Vickers' chief designer George Edwards
George Edwards (aviation)
Sir George Robert Freeman Edwards, OM, CBE, FRS, DL , was a British aircraft designer and industrialist.Edwards was born in Highams Park, England...

 lobbied the Air Ministry on the basis that it would be available much sooner than the competition, going so far as to promise delivery of a prototype in 1951 and production aircraft in 1953. Although developing and putting into service three entirely different large aircraft in response to a single Operational Requirement (OR) was wasteful and very costly, the imperative of deterring Stalin's Soviet Union from aggression in Europe created a situation of urgency.

In April 1948, the Air Staff
Air Staff
The Air Staff is one of the Department of the Air Force's two statutorily designated headquarters staffs: the other staff is the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, also known as the Secretariat. The Air Staff is headed by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force . The Air Staff is primarily...

 issued a specification with the designation B.9/48 written around the Vickers design, which was given the company designation of Type 660. In February 1949, two prototypes of the aircraft were ordered. The first was to be fitted with four Rolls-Royce RA.3 Avon engines, while the second was to be fitted with four Armstrong Siddeley
Armstrong Siddeley
Armstrong Siddeley was a British engineering group that operated during the first half of the 20th century. It was formed in 1919 and is best known for the production of luxury motor cars and aircraft engines.-Siddeley Autocars:...

 Sapphire engines as the Type 667.

The first prototype took to the air on 18 May 1951, as George Edwards had promised, and beat the first Short Sperrin into the air by several months. It had been only 27 months since the contract had been issued. The pilot was Captain Joseph "Mutt" Summers
Joseph Summers
Captain Joseph "Mutt" Summers, CBE , was chief test pilot at Vickers-Armstrongs and Supermarine.During his career Summers flew numerous prototype aircraft , from the Supermarine Spitfire, to the Vickers Valiant...

, who had also been the original test pilot on the Supermarine Spitfire
Supermarine Spitfire
The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War. The Spitfire continued to be used as a front line fighter and in secondary roles into the 1950s...

, and wanted to add another "first" to his record before he retired. His co-pilot on the first flight was Gabe "Jock" Bryce, who replaced Summers on his retirement.

The Vickers Type 660 was given the official name of "Valiant" the next month, recycling the name from the Vickers Type 131 general-purpose biplane of 1931. The name Valiant was selected by a survey of Vickers employees.

The Valiant jet bomber prototype was lost due to an in-flight fire in January 1952, all the crew escaping safely except for the co-pilot, who struck the tail after ejecting. After modifications to the fuel system (thought to be the cause of the fire), the second prototype, Vickers Type 667, flew on 11 April 1952. It was fitted with RA.7 Avon engines with 7,500 lbf (33 kN) thrust each, rather than the Sapphires originally planned, with more rounded air inlets replacing the narrow slot-type intakes of the first prototype, in order to feed sufficient air to the more powerful engines. The short delay before the second prototype was available meant that loss of the initial prototype did not seriously compromise the schedule.

An initial order for 25 production Valiant B.1 (Bomber Mark 1) aircraft had already been placed in April 1951. The first production aircraft flew in December 1953, again more or less on the schedule Edwards had promised, and was delivered to the RAF in January 1955. Britain's "V-bomber" force, as it had been nicknamed in October 1952, was now in operation. The Victor and Vulcan would follow.

Design

The Valiant was a conservative design, with a shoulder-mounted wing and four Avon RA.3 turbojets, each of 6,500 lbf (29 kN) thrust, two in each wing root. The design gave an overall impression of a plain and clean aircraft with simple aerodynamics. George Edwards described it appropriately as an "unfunny" aircraft. The root chord thickness ratio was 12% and allowed the Avon engines to be within the wing rather than on pods as in the contemporary Boeing B-47
B-47 Stratojet
The Boeing Model 450 B-47 Stratojet was a long-range, six-engined, jet-powered medium bomber built to fly at high subsonic speeds and at high altitudes. It was primarily designed to drop nuclear bombs on the Soviet Union...

. This "buried engine" fit contributed to the aircraft's aerodynamic cleanliness. However, it made engine access for maintenance and repair difficult and increased the risk that the failure of one engine would contribute to the failure of its pair due to flying debris such as turbine blades. It also increased the complexity of the design of the main spar which had to be routed round the engines.

The Valiant wing had a "compound sweep" configuration, devised (and patent
Patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

ed) by Vickers aerodynamicist
Aerodynamics
Aerodynamics is a branch of dynamics concerned with studying the motion of air, particularly when it interacts with a moving object. Aerodynamics is a subfield of fluid dynamics and gas dynamics, with much theory shared between them. Aerodynamics is often used synonymously with gas dynamics, with...

 Elfyn Richards. It had a 37° angle of sweepback in the inner third of the wing, reducing to an angle of about 21° at the tips. This was because the thickness/chord ratio could be reduced closer to the tips, balancing this against the sweep reduction in postponement of Mach effects such as buffeting and drag rise. Limiting in-service speed was Mach 0.84 and a typical cruise of Mach 0.75 at heights up to 55,000 ft when light. A "clean" Valiant (one without underwing tanks) could climb straight to 50,000 ft after takeoff unless it had heavy stores in the large bomb bay. The tail surfaces were swept back, and the horizontal tailplane was mounted well up the vertical fin to keep it clear of the engines' exhaust. The wing loading was low by modern standards and the Valiant was fitted with double-slotted flaps for takeoff (20° flap) and landing (40° or full flap, about 60°). The aircraft featured tricycle landing gear, with twin-wheel nosegear and tandem-wheel main gear retracting outward into the wing. Most of the aircraft's systems were electric including flaps and undercarriage.

Initial Valiant production aircraft had four Rolls-Royce Avon 201 turbojet engines, with 9,500 lbf (42 kN) thrust each. Trials were performed with two underwing de Havilland Sprite
De Havilland Sprite
The Sprite was a British rocket engine built by de Havilland for use in RATO applications. For RATO use only a short burn time is required, with simplicity and light weight as major virtues...

 rocket booster engines; however these were deemed unnecessary due to the availability of more powerful Avon variants, as well as fear of accidents if one booster rocket failed on take-off, resulting in asymmetric thrust. The engine inlets were long rectangular slots in the first prototype, but later Valiants featured oval or "spectacle" shaped inlets to permit greater airflow for more powerful Avon engine variants. The jet exhausts emerged from fairings above the trailing edge of the wings. Water injection
Water injection (engines)
In internal combustion engines, water injection, also known as anti-detonant injection, is spraying water into the cylinder or incoming fuel-air mixture to cool the combustion chambers of the engine, allowing for greater compression ratios and largely eliminating the problem of engine knocking...

 was fitted to some Valiants and increased takeoff thrust by about 1,000 lb (450 kg) per engine.

Electrics were based on 112 volt direct current
Direct current
Direct current is the unidirectional flow of electric charge. Direct current is produced by such sources as batteries, thermocouples, solar cells, and commutator-type electric machines of the dynamo type. Direct current may flow in a conductor such as a wire, but can also flow through...

 generators for functions requiring large amounts of electrical power and a 28 V DC system provided a controlling voltage for other systems and the actuators that initiated the high-voltage system functions. Backup batteries were a bank of 24 V units and 96 V batteries. 115 V alternating current
Alternating current
In alternating current the movement of electric charge periodically reverses direction. In direct current , the flow of electric charge is only in one direction....

 was provided to systems such as radio and radar that required it. The brakes and steering gear were hydraulic, however pumps were electrically driven. The flight controls consisted of two channels of power control with full manual back-up; flying in manual was allowed but limited.

The Valiant was built around a massive backbone beam that supported the wing spars and the weight of bombs in the long bomb bay. The crew were contained in a pressurized "egg" and consisted of pilot, copilot, two navigators, and an electronics operator. Only the pilot and copilot had ejection seats. The other three crew members had to bail out of the crew door on the port side of the fuselage. The main structural components, spars and beams etc. were built with the zinc/magnesium/copper aluminium alloy designated as DTD683 in the U.K., which was problematic in the production of the Valiant. The aircraft was designed with a 'Safe-Life
Safe-life design
In safe-life design products are designed to survive a specific design life with a chosen reserve.The Safe-life design technique is employed in critical systems which are either very difficult to repair or may cause severe damage to life and property...

' strategy. This combination of 'Safe-Life' and DTD683 came to be viewed as a severe mistake. In 1956, a publication within the Journal of the Institute of Metals of a paper that condemned the material DTD683 as being unstable and capable of catastrophic failure while stressing the airframe close to its design limits. The "Safe-Life" design strategy was dismissed by a Lockheed engineer in a talk given to the Royal Aeronautical Society
Royal Aeronautical Society
The Royal Aeronautical Society, also known as the RAeS, is a multidisciplinary professional institution dedicated to the global aerospace community.-Function:...

 in 1956, because it did not guarantee safety in a catastrophic failure.

The Valiant B.1 could carry a single 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

 or up to 21 1,000 lb (450 kg) conventional bomb
Bomb
A bomb is any of a range of explosive weapons that only rely on the exothermic reaction of an explosive material to provide an extremely sudden and violent release of energy...

s in its bomb bay. Large external fuel tanks under each wing with a capacity of 1,650 Imp gal (7,500 L), could be used to extend range.

Of the three prototypes, two were Mark 1s and one was for a developed version, the Valiant B.2, designed for low level attack. As such it had a strengthened airframe to cope with the rougher ride at low level. The B.2 had a lengthened fuselage with a total length of 114 ft (34.8 m), in contrast to a length of 108 ft 3 in (33 m) for the Valiant B.1. The strengthened wing entailed changes to the main landing gear. Each main undercarriage leg had four wheels instead of two and it retracted backwards into fairings to the rear of the wings. Finished in a gloss black night operations paint scheme, it became known as the "Black Bomber". Its performance at low level was superior to that of the B.1, 655 mph (1,054 km/h) at sea level compared to 414 mph (666 km/h).

The Air Ministry ordered 17 B.2s, including two prototypes and 15 operational aircraft, in April 1952. The prototype was completed, and flew for the first time in September 1953. However, although the Valiant B.2's low-level capabilities would later prove to be highly desirable, the B.2 program was cancelled in 1955. The B.2 prototype was used for tests for a few years, then incrementally destroyed by being used as a target for ground gunnery.

Nuclear deterrent

Since the Valiant was part of an entirely new class of bombers for the RAF, 232 Operational Conversion Unit was established at RAF Gaydon
RAF Gaydon
RAF Gaydon is a former Royal Air Force station in Warwickshire in the UK located east of Wellesbourne and north west of Banbury.-Second World War:During World War II a RAF station was built near the village of Gaydon...

 in 1955. Valiants were originally assigned to the strategic nuclear bombing role, as were the Vulcan and Victor B.1s when they became operational. The first operational RAF unit to be equipped with the Valiant was 138 Squadron
No. 138 Squadron RAF
No. 138 Squadron RAF was a squadron of the Royal Air Force that served in a variety of roles during its career, last disbanded in 1962. It was the first 'V-bomber' squadron of the RAF, flying the Vickers Valiant between 1955 and 1962....

, located first at RAF Gaydon, later at RAF Wittering
RAF Wittering
RAF Wittering is a Royal Air Force station within the unitary authority area of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. Although Stamford in Lincolnshire is the nearest town, the runways of RAF Wittering cross the boundary between Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire....

. At its peak, the Valiant equipped nine RAF squadrons.

A Valiant B.1 (WZ366) of No 49 Squadron
No. 49 Squadron RAF
No. 49 Squadron was a bomber squadron of the Royal Air Force from 1938 to 1965. They received their first Hampdens in September 1938.They were a famous Hampden squadron; with the only Victoria Cross awarded Rod Learoyd amongst the ones who served on the type....

 was the first RAF aircraft to drop a British operational atomic bomb when it performed a test drop of a down-rated Blue Danube weapon on Maralinga, South Australia
South Australia
South Australia is a state of Australia in the southern central part of the country. It covers some of the most arid parts of the continent; with a total land area of , it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories.South Australia shares borders with all of the mainland...

, on 11 October 1956.

On 15 May 1957, a 49 Squadron Valiant B(K).1 dropped the first British hydrogen bomb, the "Short Granite" (AKA "Green Granite Small"), over the Pacific as part of Operation Grapple
Operation Grapple
Operation Grapple, and operations Grapple X, Grapple Y and Grapple Z, were the names of British nuclear tests of the hydrogen bomb. They were held 1956—1958 at Malden Island and Christmas Island in the central Pacific Ocean. Nine nuclear detonations took place during the trials, resulting in...

. The test was largely a failure, as the measured yield was less than a third of the maximum expected and while achieving the desired thermonuclear explosion the device had failed to operate as intended. The first British hydrogen bomb that detonated as planned, "Grapple X Round A" (AKA "Round C1"), was dropped on 8 November 1957. The Grapple series of tests continued into 1958, and in April 1958 the "Grapple Y" bomb exploded with 10 times the yield of the original "Short Granite". Testing was finally terminated in November 1958, when the British government decided it would perform no more air-delivered nuclear tests.

Conventional warfare

Peacetime practice involved the dropping of small practice bombs on instrumented bombing ranges, also a system of predicted bombing using radio tones to mark the position of bomb drop over non-range targets, the bomb error being calculated by a ground radar unit and passed either to the crew during flight or to a headquarters for analysis. When the Navigational and Bombing System (NBS) was fitted and crews well-trained, bombing accuracies became typical of other aircraft of the time and from high level (say, 40,000 ft/12,190 m) a 100 yd (90 m) error was not uncommon.

The Valiant was the first of the V-bombers to see combat, during the Anglo-French-Israeli Suez intervention in October and November 1956. During Operation Musketeer
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

, Valiants operating from the airfield at Luqa on Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 dropped conventional HE bombs on targets inside Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. Although the Egyptians did not oppose the attacks and there were no Valiant combat losses, the results of the raids were disappointing. Their primary targets were seven Egyptian airfields. Although the Valiants dropped a total of 842 tons (856 tonnes) of bombs, only three of the seven airfields were seriously damaged. It was the last time the V-bombers flew a war mission until Avro Vulcans bombed Port Stanley airfield in the Falkland Islands during the Falklands War
Falklands War
The Falklands War , also called the Falklands Conflict or Falklands Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands...

 in 1982.

Tanker operations

Valiant tankers were flown by 214 Squadron at RAF Marham
RAF Marham
Royal Air Force Station Marham, more commonly known as RAF Marham, is a Royal Air Force station; a military airbase, near the village of Marham in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia....

, operational in 1958 and 90 Squadron at Honington, operational in 1959. These aircraft were fitted with a Hose Drum Unit (HDU or "Hoodoo") in the bomb bay. The HDU was mounted on bomb-mounting points and could be removed if necessary. However, this arrangement meant that the bomb doors had to be opened in order to give fuel to a receiver aircraft.

With inflight refuelling probes fitted to Valiants, Vulcans and Victors and Valiant tankers available, the so-called "Medium Bomber Force" of the RAF could go beyond "medium range", and the RAF had a true strategic bombing capability. Long-range demonstration flights were made using Valiant tankers pre-deployed along the route. In 1960, a Valiant bomber flew non-stop from Marham in the UK to Singapore and in 1961 a Vulcan non-stop from the UK to Australia. The two tanker squadrons regularly practised long range missions, refuelled by other Valiant tankers on the way. In 1963 a squadron of Gloster Javelin
Gloster Javelin
The Gloster Javelin was an "all-weather" interceptor aircraft that served with Britain's Royal Air Force in the late 1950s and most of the 1960s...

 All-weather interceptors was refuelled in stages from the UK to India, the tankers flying on to Butterworth near Penang
Penang
Penang is a state in Malaysia and the name of its constituent island, located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia by the Strait of Malacca. It is bordered by Kedah in the north and east, and Perak in the south. Penang is the second smallest Malaysian state in area after Perlis, and the...

 in Malaysia (exercise "Shiksha"). Other aircraft refuelled at this time included Victor and Vulcan bombers and English Electric Lightning
English Electric Lightning
The English Electric Lightning is a supersonic jet fighter aircraft of the Cold War era, noted for its great speed and unpainted natural metal exterior finish. It is the only all-British Mach 2 fighter aircraft. The aircraft was renowned for its capabilities as an interceptor; Royal Air Force ...

 fighters, also the de Havilland Sea Vixen
De Havilland Sea Vixen
The de Havilland DH.110 Sea Vixen was a twin boom 1950s–1960s British two-seat jet fighter of the Fleet Air Arm designed by de Havilland. Developed from an earlier first generation jet fighter, the Sea Vixen was a capable carrier-based fleet defence fighter that served into the 1970s...

 fighter of the Royal Navy.

Countermeasures and reconnaissance roles

Valiants of No. 18 Squadron RAF
No. 18 Squadron RAF
No. 18 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the CH-47 Chinook HC.2 from RAF Odiham. No. 18 Squadron was the first and is currently the largest RAF operator of the Chinook.-First World War:...

 at RAF Finningley
RAF Finningley
RAF Finningley is a former Royal Air Force station at Finningley, South Yorkshire, partly within the traditional county boundaries of Nottinghamshire and partly in the West Riding of Yorkshire, now wholly within the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster....

 were modified to the "radio countermeasures" (RCM) role - RCM is now called "electronic countermeasures
Electronic warfare support measures
In military telecommunications, the terms Electronic Support or Electronic Support Measures describe the division of electronic warfare involving actions taken under direct control of an operational commander to detect, intercept, identify, locate, record, and/or analyze sources of radiated...

" (ECM). These aircraft were ultimately fitted with APT-16A and ALT-7 jamming transmitters, Airborne Cigar and Carpet jammers
Radar jamming and deception
Radar jamming and deception is the intentional emission of radio frequency signals to interfere with the operation of a radar by saturating its receiver with noise or false information...

, APR-4 and APR-9 "sniffing" receivers, and chaff dispensers. At least seven Valiants were configured to the RCM role.

Valiants of number 543 Squadron at RAF Wyton
RAF Wyton
RAF Wyton is a Royal Air Force station near St. Ives, Cambridgeshire, England.In terms of organisation RAF Wyton is now part of the combined station RAF Brampton Wyton Henlow, a merger of Wyton with two previously separate bases, RAF Brampton and RAF Henlow. Wyton is the largest of the three. It...

 were modified to serve in the photographic reconnaissance role.

Fatigue failures and retirement

Originally the bombing role was at high level but with the shooting down of the Lockheed U-2
Lockheed U-2
The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed "Dragon Lady", is a single-engine, very high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency . It provides day and night, very high-altitude , all-weather intelligence gathering...

 flown by Gary Powers by an early SA-2 Guideline missile, the SAM threat caused the V-force to train for low-level attack. They were repainted in grey/green camouflage, replacing their anti-flash white
Anti-flash white
Anti-flash white is a brilliant white color commonly seen on United States, British and Soviet nuclear bombers. The purpose of the color was to reflect some of the thermal radiation from a nuclear explosion, protecting the aircraft and its occupants....

 scheme. Three squadrons of Valiants were assigned to the low-level tactical bombing role (49, 148, 207) and two more squadrons (90 and 214) served as tankers. They also continued to serve in the strategic photo-reconnaissance role (543 Squadron).

However, low-level operations proved too much for the Valiant. On 6 August 1964, there was a failure of a rear spar in WP217, an OCU aircraft from Gaydon flown by Flight Lieutenant "Taffy" Foreman. The aircraft landed back at Gaydon but without a flap because of damage in the rear of one wing. Later inspection of the aircraft showed the fuselage skin below the starboard inner plane had buckled, popping the rivets; the engine door had cracked and the rivets had been pulled and the skin buckled on the top surface of the mainplane between the two engines.

Inspections of the entire fleet showed that the wing spars were suffering from fatigue at between 35% and 75% of the assessed safe fatigue life, probably due to low level turbulence. After this inspection, the aircraft were divided into three categories, Cat A aircraft continuing to fly, Cat B to fly to a repair base, and Cat C requiring repair before flying again. The tanker squadrons had the highest proportion of Cat A aircraft because their role had been mainly at high level. This also caused the methods of assessing fatigue lives to be reviewed. However, in early 1965, the Wilson government with Denis Healey
Denis Healey
Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey CH, MBE, PC is a British Labour politician, who served as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979.-Early life:...

 as Secretary of State for Defence
Secretary of State for Defence
The Secretary of State for Defence, popularly known as the Defence Secretary, is the senior Government of the United Kingdom minister in charge of the Ministry of Defence, chairing the Defence Council. It is a Cabinet position...

 decided that the expense of the repairs could not be justified and the fleet was permanently grounded as of 26 January 1965. The QRA alert that had been in place for SACEUR was maintained until the final grounding and was then allowed to lapse.

On 9 December 1964, the last Valiant tanker sortie involved refuelling Lightning aircraft over the North Sea. On the same day, the last Valiant bomber sortie was carried out, using XD818. The Valiant was Vickers' last purpose-built military aircraft. It was followed by the Vanguard
Vickers Vanguard
The Vickers Type 950 Vanguard was a British short/medium-range turboprop airliner introduced in 1959 by Vickers-Armstrongs, a development of their successful Viscount design with considerably more internal room. The Vanguard was introduced just before the first of the large jet-powered airliners,...

, a passenger turboprop designed in 1959, and the Vickers VC10
Vickers VC10
The Vickers VC10 is a long-range British airliner designed and built by Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd, and first flown in 1962. The airliner was designed to operate on long-distance routes with a high subsonic speed and also be capable of hot and high operations from African airports...

, a jet passenger aircraft from 1962, also used as a military transport and tanker by the RAF.

Variants

Including three prototypes, a total of 107 Valiants were built.
  • Valiant B.1: 39 pure bomber variants, including five pre-production Type 674, which were powered by Avon RA.14 engines with the same 9,500 lbf (42 kN) thrust each as the earlier Avon 201 and 34 Type 706 full-production aircraft, powered by Avon RA.28 204 or 205 engines with 10,500 lbf (47 kN) thrust each, longer tailpipes, and water-methanol injection for take-off boost power.
  • Type 710 Valiant B(PR).1: eight bomber/photo-reconnaissance aircraft. Edwards and his team had considered use of the Valiant for photo-reconnaissance from the start, and this particular batch
    Batch
    Batch may refer to:Food and drink*Batch , an alcoholic fruit beverage*Batch loaf, a type of bread popular in Ireland*A dialect term for a bread roll used in Nuneaton and Coventry, England*Small batch, bourbon whiskey blended from selected barrels...

     of aircraft could accommodate a removable "crate" in the bomb-bay, carrying up to eight narrow-view/high resolution cameras and four survey cameras.
  • Type 733 Valiant B(PR)K.1: 13 bomber/photo-reconnaissance/tanker aircraft
  • Type 758 Valiant B(K).1: 44 bomber / tanker aircraft. Both tanker variants carried a removable tanker system in the bomb-bay, featuring fuel tanks and a hose-and-drogue aerial refuelling system. A further 16 Valiant B(K).1s were ordered, but cancelled.
  • Vickers also considered an air transport version of the Valiant, with a low-mounted wing, wingspan increased to 140 ft (42.7 m) from 114 ft 4 in (34.8 m), fuselage lengthened to 146 ft (44.5 m), and uprated engines. Work on a prototype, designated the Type 1000, began in early 1953. The prototype was to lead to a military transport version, the Type 1002, and a civilian transport version, the Type 1004 or VC.7. The Type 1000 prototype was almost complete when it, too, was cancelled.


Valiant production ended in August 1957.

Operators

  • Royal Air Force
    Royal Air Force
    The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

     operated Valiants out of RAF Gaydon
    RAF Gaydon
    RAF Gaydon is a former Royal Air Force station in Warwickshire in the UK located east of Wellesbourne and north west of Banbury.-Second World War:During World War II a RAF station was built near the village of Gaydon...

    , RAF Finningley
    RAF Finningley
    RAF Finningley is a former Royal Air Force station at Finningley, South Yorkshire, partly within the traditional county boundaries of Nottinghamshire and partly in the West Riding of Yorkshire, now wholly within the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster....

    , RAF Honington
    RAF Honington
    RAF Honington is a Royal Air Force station located south of Thetford near Ixworth in Suffolk, England. Although used as a bomber station during the Second World War, RAF Honington is now the RAF Regiment depot and home to the Joint CBRN Regiment.-RAF use:...

    , RAF Marham
    RAF Marham
    Royal Air Force Station Marham, more commonly known as RAF Marham, is a Royal Air Force station; a military airbase, near the village of Marham in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia....

    , RAF Wittering
    RAF Wittering
    RAF Wittering is a Royal Air Force station within the unitary authority area of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. Although Stamford in Lincolnshire is the nearest town, the runways of RAF Wittering cross the boundary between Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire....

      and RAF Wyton
    RAF Wyton
    RAF Wyton is a Royal Air Force station near St. Ives, Cambridgeshire, England.In terms of organisation RAF Wyton is now part of the combined station RAF Brampton Wyton Henlow, a merger of Wyton with two previously separate bases, RAF Brampton and RAF Henlow. Wyton is the largest of the three. It...

     by:
    • No. 7 Squadron
      No. 7 Squadron RAF
      No. 7 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the Boeing Chinook HC.2 from RAF Odiham, Hampshire.-Formation and early years:No. 7 Squadron was formed at Farnborough Airfield on 1 May 1914 as the last squadron of the RFC to be formed before the First World War, but has been disbanded and reformed...

    • No. 18 Squadron
      No. 18 Squadron RAF
      No. 18 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the CH-47 Chinook HC.2 from RAF Odiham. No. 18 Squadron was the first and is currently the largest RAF operator of the Chinook.-First World War:...

    • No. 49 Squadron
      No. 49 Squadron RAF
      No. 49 Squadron was a bomber squadron of the Royal Air Force from 1938 to 1965. They received their first Hampdens in September 1938.They were a famous Hampden squadron; with the only Victoria Cross awarded Rod Learoyd amongst the ones who served on the type....

    • No. 90 Squadron
    • No. 138 Squadron
      No. 138 Squadron RAF
      No. 138 Squadron RAF was a squadron of the Royal Air Force that served in a variety of roles during its career, last disbanded in 1962. It was the first 'V-bomber' squadron of the RAF, flying the Vickers Valiant between 1955 and 1962....

    • No. 148 Squadron
      No. 148 Squadron RAF
      No. 148 Squadron of the Royal Air Force has been part of the RAF since World War I.-History:As No. 148 Squadron it was reformed as a special duties squadron and part of the Balkan Air Force in World War II. It dropped men and materiel behind enemy lines in the occupied countries such as...

    • No. 199 Squadron
      No. 199 Squadron RAF
      No. 199 Squadron was a Royal Air Force aircraft squadron that operated during the second world war and later in the 1950s as a radar countermeasures squadron.-History:...

    • No. 207 Squadron
    • No. 214 Squadron
      No. 214 Squadron RAF
      -History:No 214 Squadron was formed from No. 14 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service , itself formerly No. 7A Squadron RNAS only taking on the new number in 9 December 1917. With the creation of the RAF from the Royal Flying Corps and the RNAS on 1 April 1918 it received the number 214. It was later...

    • No. 543 Squadron
      No. 543 Squadron RAF
      No. 543 Squadron RAF was a photographic reconnaissance squadron of the Royal Air Force, active in two periods between 1942 and 1974.-History:...

    • No. 232 Operational Conversion Unit RAF
    • No. 1321 (Valiant/Blue Danube Trials) Flight

Survivors

  • Vickers Valiant B1 XD818 - RAF Museum Cosford, on display with the other two V bomber
    V bomber
    The term V bomber was used for the Royal Air Force aircraft during the 1950s and 1960s that comprised the United Kingdom's strategic nuclear strike force known officially as the V-force or Bomber Command Main Force...

    s, the Victor and Vulcan
    Avro Vulcan
    The Avro Vulcan, sometimes referred to as the Hawker Siddeley Vulcan, was a jet-powered delta wing strategic bomber, operated by the Royal Air Force from 1956 until 1984. Aircraft manufacturer A V Roe & Co designed the Vulcan in response to Specification B.35/46. Of the three V bombers produced,...

     in the National Cold War Exhibition, this is the only fully intact example in existence, and so is the only place where an example of all three V bombers can be seen together.
  • Cockpit sections surviving comprise XD816 at Brooklands Museum
    Brooklands Museum
    Brooklands Museum is an independent charitable trust, established in 1987, whose aim is to conserve, protect and interpret the unique heritage of the Brooklands site. It is located south of Weybridge, Surrey and was first opened regularly in 1991 on of the original 1907 motor-racing circuit...

     in Surrey and XD875 at the Highland Aviation Museum at Inverness Airport
    Inverness Airport
    Inverness Airport is an international airport situated at Dalcross, north east of the city of Inverness in Highland, Scotland. The airport is the main gateway for travellers to the north of Scotland with a wide range of scheduled services throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, and limited...

    . A third surviving section is the cockpit of XD826 which is part of a private collection in Essex and the flight deck of XD857 is displayed at the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum
    Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum
    The Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum is a museum collection of aircraft and aviation-related artefacts, located near the former RAF Bungay airfield on the outskirts of Flixton, in the United Kingdom....

     at Flixton, Suffolk.

Accidents and incidents

  • 12 January 1952; First Prototype WB210 Crashed near Hurn.
  • 29 July 1955; Valiant B1 WP222 of No. 138 Squadron
    No. 138 Squadron RAF
    No. 138 Squadron RAF was a squadron of the Royal Air Force that served in a variety of roles during its career, last disbanded in 1962. It was the first 'V-bomber' squadron of the RAF, flying the Vickers Valiant between 1955 and 1962....

     crashed on takeoff at RAF Wittering
    RAF Wittering
    RAF Wittering is a Royal Air Force station within the unitary authority area of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. Although Stamford in Lincolnshire is the nearest town, the runways of RAF Wittering cross the boundary between Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire....

     following aileron malfunction killing all four crew.
  • 11 May 1956; Valiant B1 WP202 of the Royal Aircraft Establishment lost control and crashed attempting to land at Southwick Recreation Ground, near Hove in Sussex.
  • 13 September 1957: Valiant B(PR)K1 WZ398 of No. 543 Squadron
    No. 543 Squadron RAF
    No. 543 Squadron RAF was a photographic reconnaissance squadron of the Royal Air Force, active in two periods between 1942 and 1974.-History:...

     caught fire in a hangar at RAF Wyton
    RAF Wyton
    RAF Wyton is a Royal Air Force station near St. Ives, Cambridgeshire, England.In terms of organisation RAF Wyton is now part of the combined station RAF Brampton Wyton Henlow, a merger of Wyton with two previously separate bases, RAF Brampton and RAF Henlow. Wyton is the largest of the three. It...

    , not repaired.
  • 11 September 1959: Valiant BK1 XD869 of No. 214 Squadron
    No. 214 Squadron RAF
    -History:No 214 Squadron was formed from No. 14 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service , itself formerly No. 7A Squadron RNAS only taking on the new number in 9 December 1917. With the creation of the RAF from the Royal Flying Corps and the RNAS on 1 April 1918 it received the number 214. It was later...

     flew into the ground after a night take off from RAF Marham
    RAF Marham
    Royal Air Force Station Marham, more commonly known as RAF Marham, is a Royal Air Force station; a military airbase, near the village of Marham in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia....

    .
  • 12 August 1960: Valiant BK1 XD864 of No. 7 Squadron
    No. 7 Squadron RAF
    No. 7 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the Boeing Chinook HC.2 from RAF Odiham, Hampshire.-Formation and early years:No. 7 Squadron was formed at Farnborough Airfield on 1 May 1914 as the last squadron of the RFC to be formed before the First World War, but has been disbanded and reformed...

     nose wheel failed to retract on takeoff from RAF Wittering
    RAF Wittering
    RAF Wittering is a Royal Air Force station within the unitary authority area of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. Although Stamford in Lincolnshire is the nearest town, the runways of RAF Wittering cross the boundary between Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire....

    , while sorting it out the aircraft stalled and crashed into the ground at Spanhoe disused airfield.
  • 11 July 1961: Valiant B1 WP205 of the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment overshot runway and hit control caravan at Boscombe Down.
  • 3 November 1961: Valiant B(PR)K1 WZ399 of No. 543 Squadron
    No. 543 Squadron RAF
    No. 543 Squadron RAF was a photographic reconnaissance squadron of the Royal Air Force, active in two periods between 1942 and 1974.-History:...

     abandoned takeoff at Offut AFB, Nebraska, United States, caught fire after overshooting runway onto a railway line.
  • 14 March 1961 Valiant B. 1 WP200 at RRFU Pershore, failed to complete take off, written off
  • 6 May 1964: Valiant B1 WZ363 of No. 148 Squadron
    No. 148 Squadron RAF
    No. 148 Squadron of the Royal Air Force has been part of the RAF since World War I.-History:As No. 148 Squadron it was reformed as a special duties squadron and part of the Balkan Air Force in World War II. It dropped men and materiel behind enemy lines in the occupied countries such as...

    (although a 148 Sqn aircraft, it was on loan to, and crewed by, members of 207 Sqn) dived into the ground at night at Market Rasen
    Market Rasen
    Market Rasen is a town and civil parish within the West Lindsey district of Lincolnshire, England. It lies on the River Rase northeast of Lincoln, east of Gainsborough and southwest of Grimsby. According to the 2001 census, it has a population of 3,200....

    , Lincolnshire.
  • 23 May 1964: Valiant B(PR)K11 WZ396 of No. 543 Squadron
    No. 543 Squadron RAF
    No. 543 Squadron RAF was a photographic reconnaissance squadron of the Royal Air Force, active in two periods between 1942 and 1974.-History:...

     landed on foam with landing gear problems at RAF Manston
    RAF Manston
    RAF Manston was an RAF station in the north-east of Kent, at on the Isle of Thanet from 1916 until 1996. The site is now split between a commercial airport Kent International Airport and a continuing military use by the Defence Fire Training and Development Centre , following on from a long...

    , not repaired.

Specifications (Valiant B.1)

See also

External links

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