IT was a plane which revolutionised military strategy – before getting involved in an international incident.
Now, ahead of tomorrow’s 60th anniversary of the RAF’s Avro Vulcan bomber’s first take-off, bosses at the National Museum of Flight in East Lothian are calling on Evening News readers to learn more about an aircraft that was Britain’s first line of defence during the Cold War.
The Vulcan was created as part of the UK’s nuclear deterrent, but the planes were only sent into conflict in the Falklands War in 1982, 30 years after launching.
“Our one is probably the more famous of the two that were sent into conflict,” said Louise Innes, principal curator for Transport at National Museums Scotland.
“It was on its way back from its mission during the Falklands War but had a broken refuelling probe. It was then diverted to Rio de Janeiro and was initially confiscated by the Brazilians. They were going to keep it but the Pope was due to visit the country the following week and the Brazilians didn’t want a foreign war plane on their soil when the eyes of the world were on them.
“The other embarrassing thing, of course, was that there was still an American Shrike anti-radar missile on board and the Americans would not have wanted the Brazilians to get their hands on it – happily, the missile was not taken off.”
Ms Innes said the aircraft – with its 120ft wing span and ability to carry the same payload as the more famous Lancaster bomber over much greater distances – revolutionised military strategy in the years after the Second World War.
She said: “It’s a very special aircraft that has drifted out of public consciousness. The incident in the Falklands was like something out of an Ealing comedy but the Vulcan mostly did its job.
“What it was doing then was destroying radar installations in Port Stanley so that the Harriers could get in to attack. And it did that.
“And it was for many years, before the Polaris submarine came in, our nuclear deterrent, our front-line defence, in the 1950s and 60s. It was ready to take off within two minutes of a Soviet attack.”
Ian Brown, NMF assistant curator for aviation, added: “The Avro Vulcan represented a new era in Britain’s nuclear deterrent.
“The example we have at the museum is particularly significant as it was one of the few to have been used in a war situation.
“We hope that visitors will come and see both this and the dozens of other iconic aircraft on display here.”