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Unexpected Encounter

Started by Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers, Sat, 20 Jun 2009 09:41

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

My wife and daughter came home yelling they had seen a Stealth fighter come over low, so I looked up what planes were supposed to be at the airshow nearby and I was stunned to see that XH558, a restored Vulcan, was scheduled to be present! That could be the only large delta they reported.

So I headed out to EHVK yesterday and indeed, she was there, I understand it is the first appearance outside the UK. And to my utter surprise, being flown by Martin Withers, no less.

For the people that don't know the details: this thing (same model, not the XM604 that actually did it) went from Ascension Island to the Falklands in 1982, carrying 10 tonnes of explosives over 3300 nm of featureless ocean to Stanley Airport and then itself back to Ascension. Without GPS. Just a strap-on early inertial Carousel nicked from another type of plane. Built in the 1950s, that is quite something... as one article stated: "It was the most daring RAF raid since the Dambusters: Flying a jet 20 years past its sell-by date 4,000 miles beyond its range to bomb a target a few yards wide."

They needed 14 tankers and a Nimrod on top of two Vulcans for the raid...


The raid sounds like a masterpiece of military efficiency.... ahem.
Will /Chicago /USA

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

QuoteThe raid sounds like a masterpiece of military efficiency.... ahem.
In the military, in this particular case, it was all about effectiveness.

The Falklands are so remote that the occupiers didn't consider the possibility that it could be reached by anything but a sea force. They had put up significant air defences, which were fully deployed, but with the British Navy still quite a way out, nothing could get there. The Sea Harriers aboard an approaching carrier could possibly get to the island but with not enough payload to do anything proper. The ultra-modern Tornados, just getting into service, had legs far too short to even think about.

That old clunker Vulcan which was scheduled to be decommissioned in a month was the only bomber that could kick significant ass, and reach the Falklands, providing it was hastily equipped with a midair refueling system (put back after 20 years of storage), the crews trained in midair refueling, tactics changed from low-level under-the-radar bombing to medium-level pop-up bombing to avoid the air defences, addition of reasonable navigation equipment beyond sextants, and overloading the machine significantly beyond its certified max takeoff weight. Plus, of course, a complex system of 14 individual tanker aircraft at least as old as the Vulcan (Victors) that used an inverted pyramid construction to get a full Vulcan fuel load 3000 nm South without dropping into the ocean themselves.

It couldn't be done, and that was why it became so strategically important. When 2 of the 21 bombs hit the Stanley runway completely without warning, the Argentinians lost the use of Stanley Airfield by jet airplanes, and were forced to deviate significant forces to defend the Argentine main land which was as much in reach as the Falklands. And the Brits received the much-needed home front support to press on in their initially quite hopeless attempt to regain the Falklands.

A good, and very entertaining read about this, especially for people that know their way around large aircraft operations a bit, is "Vulcan 607" by Rowland White.
(if you would search for the ISBN, you'll end up here anyway...).



Shares some similarities with the Doolittle Raid.
Will /Chicago /USA

John Davis PC

Many reports I read here said the raid was more about letting the "Argies" know that not only could we bomb the Falklands but we could also bomb Bunos Aeries, other reports say that Maggie Thatcher also considered nuking BA if they didnt back down .... Hell I believe it, u should see what she did to this country :)

As for the vulcan, it used to be stationed near here at RAF Gaydon, I learned to fly there when I was 16 although they had long moved on by then.

I remember going to several air shows there as a kid and seeing Victors, Vulcans and Valiants (They were nicknamed V bombers as they all started with V) in Anti Flash white, I have a picture I will try to post if I can find it.
In operational use the vulcan was positioned on stands on the runway edge, loaded with nukes and on 4 minute standby.

Magnifcent creatures :)


QuoteAs for the vulcan, it used to be stationed near here at RAF Gaydon, I learned to fly there when I was 16 although they had long moved on by then.

wow.. small world, John.. I used to live in Gaydon. Now it's an Aston Martin factory/testing ground (almost as cool). :P


Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

Quote from: Will CronenwettShares some similarities with the Doolittle Raid.
A bit, but the Doolittle Raid had an aspect that still was different: they used planes that were expected to be lost to the war effort after the raid, either by ditching or by being captured after emergency landings. And the crews weren't really taken into account either. Black Buck, on the other hand, was all about getting men and machines back "home". That made it probably more complex.

James Lacey

Quote from: John Davis PCMagnifcent creatures :)

Indeed they are, PC - one of my favourite aircraft.

Remember the joke that went around during the Falklands War?

Q. What do Mr Spock and Port Stanley airport have in common?
A. They've both been f***ed by Vulcans.

John Davis PC

Nice one La Paz .... How long back since you lived in Gaydon Q ?

It has been a test track for years for Rover and now Aston, there is also a large car museum there
I did my first gliding course there with the Air cadets.


QuoteHow long back since you lived in Gaydon Q ?

Centuries, PC. I was probably only in single digits at that time ;)


John Golin

Amazing how quickly things can get done when you chuck beaurocracy out the window... :)
John Golin.

John Davis PC

Oh !   do you find having less fingers than the rest of us a disadvantage in your job  Q :)

John Davis PC

QuoteAmazing how quickly things can get done when you chuck beaurocracy out the window...

They could learn a lesson or two from World flight eh John  ;)