Discussion: Reasons for the Retirement of the V-Bombers

Wyvern

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Before I start my ramble, I would like to ask the moderators that if they feel this is in the wrong area of the forum, that they move this to an area deemed as the right place. I intend this thread to be a discussion mostly about the technical aspects of these aircraft and sources related to the discussion. I do not intend this to become a political discussion, and I ask that members to refrain from beginning a political discussion.

With that sorted, it is time to begin. Whenever the topic of 1950's strategic bombers is being discussed, there are always two common questions "What happened to the V-Bombers? and "Why were they retired?" It is a question that often crops up in online discussions between amateur historians, or even in YouTube comment sections. When discussed properly, it can lead to an interesting discussion. When it isn't, it would usually lead to the Internet equivalent of a bar brawl. I have been involved in both. These questions makes relative sense, especially to those who lack an in-depth understanding of the topic discussed. Bombers such as the B-52 and Tu-95 have been in service for over 60 years, pushing on to 70, and will remain in service until their hundredth anniversary in service. But Britain's V-Bombers had a relatively short stay, when compared to these aircraft. The Valiant was gone by 1965, the Vulcan by 1984 and the final Victor was retired in 1993, after serving in the First Gulf War. So what were the causes for for their retirement?

I have managed to nail it down to these points:

1. A change in the way operations were carried out (From High to Low; a new bomber (TSR.2) was needed)
2. A change in British defence policy (1957 Defence White Paper and subsequent reviews)
3.A change in role of the bomber (power projection weapon and cruise missile carrier)
4. The role of the Deterrent being handed over to the Royal Navy

Here are some reasons for my above statements:
1. The V-Bombers were designed as High Altitude strategic bombers, as most other bombers of this period were. The way they were designed and built, was tailored to this role. The downing of Francis Gary Powers by an SA-2 Guideline surface-to-air missile in 1960 brought about a major change in the methods used by Western bombers. No longer were high altitude penetrations possible, now bombers had to penetrate at low altitudes to evade detection by Soviet radar. This put a massive strain on the designs of these aircraft, and their crew, which were both operating outside of the environment they had been trained in. This would shorten the service lives of all the aircraft, especially the Valiant, which had to be retired in 1965 due to fatigue cracks (although it's retirement could be down to political reasons as well - let's not get into that). The entry into service of the TSR-2 and later the F-111K would have meant the removal of the V-Bombers from the low level role, and put them into roles more suited for their design. The cancellation of both of these types meant that V-Bombers, mainly the Vulcan, served in the low-level role until the entry into service of the Tornado, adding more strain on the fleet.

2. The 1957 Defence White Paper began the withdrawal of British forces from East of the Suez Canal, after the embarrassment of the 1956 Suez Crisis. Subsequent Defence Reviews continued this trend, and the need for a strategic bomber became less and less necessary. Britain's focus was on Europe and focused on defeating Soviet movements in the event of the Cold War turning hot. A tactical bomber was needed, a strategic bomber would be too large for such a task.

3. The role of the strategic bomber since the 1970's has been to mainly carry a large number of cruise missiles and act as a weapon of power projection. The latter was certainly put into practice when RAF Vulcans flew to Southeast Asia during standoffs between Indonesia and Malaysia in 1964, and during the Black Buck raids in 1982. The former however, was never really taken advantage of by the RAF. Blue Steel didn't really give the RAF the capability it wanted, and it's replacements never made is past the drawing board. Skybolt was cancelled in 1962, rendering the modifications the Vulcans received null and void until the Falklands War, when AGM-45 Shrikes were mounted on pylons under the wings, thanks to the strengthening of the wings for the Skybolt program. Cruise missiles began to appear in the Sixties, and eventually became more common by the mid to late Seventies, yet the RAF never jumped on the opportunity to develop or procure cruise missiles (to my knowledge at least, I think giving Vulcan's Hammer a read would help settle some doubts)

4. The role of the deterrent was handed over to the Royal Navy, with their Polaris-armed Resolution-class submarines. These provided a somewhat cheaper alternative to the V-bombers, and provided greater capability and a greater chance of reaching the target.

There is no single factor that lead to the retirement of these aircraft, all factors were responsible for retirement of these aircraft.

I hope my analysis isn't too flawed, this is the first time I've gone into much detail about such a topic. Constructive criticism is always accepted, and I would also like to hear your thoughts and opinions about this topic and my analysis.

Are there any sources, both online and in books that could help to either back-up or disprove my analysis? I have Vulcan's Hammer by Chris Gibson and Tim McLelland's Britain's Cold War Bombers, as a start.

I hope my ramble wasn't too long, and isn't completely wrong.

Wyvern
 

Archibald

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3. The role of the strategic bomber since the 1970's has been to mainly carry a large number of cruise missiles and act as a weapon of power projection. The latter was certainly put into practice when RAF Vulcans flew to Southeast Asia during standoffs between Indonesia and Malaysia in 1964, and during the Black Buck raids in 1982. The former however, was never really taken advantage of by the RAF. Blue Steel didn't really give the RAF the capability it wanted, and it's replacements never made is past the drawing board. Skybolt was cancelled in 1962, rendering the modifications the Vulcans received null and void until the Falklands War, when AGM-45 Shrikes were mounted on pylons under the wings, thanks to the strengthening of the wings for the Skybolt program. Cruise missiles began to appear in the Sixties, and eventually became more common by the mid to late Seventies, yet the RAF never jumped on the opportunity to develop or procure cruise missiles (to my knowledge at least, I think giving Vulcan's Hammer a read would help settle some doubts)

This. Definitively this. The 800 pound gorilla there is SRAM. As in, AGM-69 SRAM.

That one very much kept cruise missiles (and B-52s to carry them) alive between 1963 and 1978.

Between two eras

- the first cruise missile era when they were huge monstrosities like Blue Steel or Hound Dog (note: I do know Hound dog lasted into the late 70's)

- the second cruise missile era lasting to this day, which started with the AGM-86 in 1975. SRAM despite having a nuclear warhead was the first mass produced cruise missile in the modern sense of "cruise missile".

SRAM bridged that gap, how ? because it was very small and cheap. Dumb rocket engine, altimeter guidance, short range, mass production, small size. And thus B-52s could carry shitloads of them to punch holes into Soviet SAMs belts.

SRAM and Rolling Thunder / Linebacker are really what allowed B-52s to survive Skybolt cancellation (and McNamara unabated love for ICBM and hatred of strategic bombers). Note that all B-52s not G nor H went away before 1980, McNamara again (C - D - E - F older BUFFs)
SRAM was small and light enough to even fit FB-111As.

Now I can really see SRAM adapted to Vulcans and Victors, much more than Hound Dog, Blue Steel, or even Skybolt.

Incidentally, SRAM replaced Skybolt as the B-52 lethal weapon to punch holes into Soviet air defenses. It come too late after Nassau however (I checked: 1963-64) and so Polaris went to the RN.

But Victors and Vulcans with SRAMs could have lasted into the 90's (1989 - right between 1984 and 1993 !) - well as long as SRAM itself, which went away only with the Cold War (and because the rocket engine solid-fuel aged badly, and so did the nuke - scary !).
And it had a SRAM II successor planned even with AGM-109s on B-52G and B-52H.
 
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Wyvern

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Thanks for the input! I never thought of it from that point of view. Indeed, it is an interesting thought.
 

Artie Bob

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Not perhaps a reason, but consider the use of the Vulcan during the Falklands war. To put the single Vulcan over target and return required (IIRC!) 16 Victor tankers. It may be that the range vs payload for non-nuclear weapons was not cost effective compared with other weapon delivery systems. Perhaps OK for a propaganda event with little real military importance but not the best way to spend a limited budget for a wide range of scenarios.

Best regards,

Artie Bob
 

Wyvern

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My thoughts exactly, although in fairness, it was never intended to fly such vast distances. The raids did however mean that the Argentines had to concentrate on homeland defence, therefore sacrificing operational aircraft that could have been used over the Falklands. Whether this made enough of a difference is debatable, and I am not completely sure about whether pulling a few aircraft out of the conflict for homeland defence would make much of a difference.
 

Archibald

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Note that Victor and Vulcan would be considered medium bombers - on par with B-47 and Tu-16, rather than B-52 and Tu-95. Which absolutely doesn't change the fact the Victor could have lasted longer - hint, Chinese Tu-16s = H-6K...
Now that would make one interesting TL. Whatif the Victor pulled a Tu-16 / H-6, to the present day ?
The Chinese Tu-16s definitively look the part with the non-glazed nose, modern turbofans and much enlarged intakes. And the Victor also had a pretty awesome look...
Maybe the Chinese are unable to pull out the H-6 after the 1960 split and 1969 near- nuclear war; and GB sell them Victor blueprints in the 70's instead...
 

Wyvern

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I guess it's all about strategy, as a strategic bomber is a bit too large for the requirements of the armed services of the UK post-1957. China wants a strategic bomber because they want to emerge as the next superpower, and also because they need a platform for cruise and hypersonic missiles. If Britain were to remain a global power, then yes, a heavily modernised Vulcan or Victor would have appeared, or at least, been discussed.
 

Hood

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To my mind its amazing that the Vulcan lasted until 1983.
I've always assumed it was because Strike Command wanted to retain some kind of tactical nuclear strike platform until Tornado was ready. And the Vulcan still had some psychological impact on the Soviets in being a long-range bomber.

Comparing with the B-52H and Tu-95 is apples and pears. I don't know what the serviceability is like for the Tu-95 but some money has been spent on integrating weapons systems and EW kit but presumably they are still very much analogue cockpit.
The B-52H has had millions spent on it and almost every internal part has been changed and its kept pace with every phase of technological development going from LLTV, EW and stand-off cruise missiles.
At the end of their lives the Vulcan and Victor were essentially stock B.2s, a 1950s radar, visual bomb-aiming, 1950s ECM, reliance on either dumb bombs or a handful of compatible nukes, manual navigation. Now a lot of 1960s kit lasted in frontline use in many smaller NATO air arms until well into the late 80s and 90s but given the events of Desert Storm its hard to imagine the Vulcan could have had any part to play in that.

If, after the death of TSR.2, the MoD had given HSA a contract to strip out and completely modernise its avionics and engines in the late 1960s then there would be a case of giving them life. Especially if a new stand-off role could have been found.

The removal of the nuclear mission left the RAF holding a bag of V-bombers with no role. Victors could become tankers but what to do with Vulcans? Air sampling for radiation and maritime recon were two minor roles that kept a few airframes busy and didn't need any expensive mods. The RAF wasn't about to waste a penny on the Vulcan, it wanted MRCA. Vulcan was an orphan.

It was a good prestige tool at airshows but didn't fit with ranks of Phantoms and Jaguars. They were the new carriers of WE.177. There was no call for stand-off nuclear weapons or cruise missiles. Even if there had been, they couldn't have been integrated with a late 1950s analogue (and I mean a real mechanical analogue system) NBC system. Archibald raises a good point regarding SRAM, it could have been a life-line but most RAF tac nuke was flying in the weeds and wasn't going to go further than East Germany, so no real need for a SAM-buster.

The RAF didn't even bother keeping the inflight refuelling system fully operational. Also by 1980 the idea of having half the crew without an ejection seat in a strike aircraft was probably not ideal, the back-seaters were on a one-way trip if they got hit at low level. Newer engines would have been difficult to fit given the buried location (look at the Nimrod mess).
Victor never got any avionics upgrades until the Falklands War required some kind of modern assistance to get them over such desolate distances safely.
(Incidentally this is why I never subscribe to the TSR.2 is mighty fanclub, there is a high chance those bulky 1960s analogue/digital black boxes would never have been updated given the Treasury parsimony of the 1970s and 80s).

The V-Bombers were a product of the 1950s. They simply lacked the mission to justify spending any money updating them yet perversely the Air Staff deemed them too valuable as prestige items to scrap them in 1970.
 

Justo Miranda

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On February 26, 1955, the Soviet CPSU Central Committee ordered the development of weapons system Uragan-5, for the automatic guidance interception of enemy supersonic bombers flying at 82,000 ft (25,000 m) and 1,234 mph (2,000 kph).

The system was to be formed by 59 early warning ground radar stations with P-14(5N84A) Tall King VHF radar sets and 400 km of detection range, digital control computer, IFF interrogation system, command data link and a point-defense interceptor with 120 km combat range fitted with TsKB Almaz fire-control radar.

On March 7, 1957, the Mikoyan-Gurevich bureau was charged with the design of the new interceptor, under the codename Ye-150. The prototype was flown on July 8, 1960 reaching a top speed of 2,816 kph (Mach 2.65) and 73,000 ft (22,500 m) ceiling.

The combat version Ye-152-1 was flown on May 16, 1961 reaching Mach 2.28 armed with two underwing air-to-air missiles MKB Raduga K-9-51.

On July 7, 1962, the aircraft established the absolute speed record flying at 1,666 mph (2,681 kph) under the fictitious designation Ye-166.

The K-9 (NATO AA-4 Awl) was a beam-riding air-to-air missile with 5.6 miles (9 km) operational range, 3,130 mph (5,040 kph) top speed and only 55 per cent estimated accuracy because its GOS guidance system was vulnerable to the electronic countermeasures of the SAC bombers.

In 1959 entered service the first Soviet strategic air defense system, deployed around Moscow with 56 launch sites of SA-1 Guild surface-to-air missiles.

The SA-1 had Mach 2.5 top speed, 23 miles (37 km) range, 60,000 ft (18,300 m) operational ceiling and high explosive warhead with 120 ft kill ratios. Their B-200 guidance system was type track-while-scan.

The new surface-to-air missile SA-2 Guideline was deployed in 600 launch sites around the Soviet Union between 1960 and 1964.

The SA-2 had Mach 4 top speed, 21.7 miles (35 km) range, 131,200 ft (40,000 m) ceiling and high explosive warhead with 200 ft kill ratio. Their VHF guidance system P-12 Spoon Rest was type semi-active radar command.

On May 1, 1960 six MiG-19 fighters failed when trying to intercept a high-altitude reconnaissance U-2 piloted by Gary Powers, but the spy plane was shot down little afterwards by two SA-2.

By 1964 the Soviets already possessed small nuclear warheads capable of extending the kill ratio of the SA-2 to 19,680 ft and the ceiling to 80,000 ft.
 

Wyvern

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Also by 1980 the idea of having half the crew without an ejection seat in a strike aircraft was probably not ideal, the back-seaters were on a one-way trip if they got hit at low level.
This was made markedly obvious when a Vulcan exploded over the village of Żabbar on the island of Malta in 1975.

XM645 was flying in to RAF Luqa from Waddington, and undershot the runway, bouncing at least once. The pilots decided that a go-around was necessary, and were going to attempt another landing. By this time, a fire had broken out in the starboard wing, and it was quickly realised that the aircraft wouldn't make it. The two pilots ejected, but the other crew members didn't have time to bail out, and were killed when the aircraft finally succumbed to its wounds, and exploded in mid-air. One ground fatality occurred, an old lady who was walking in the street. There were 20 reported ground injuries. The small number of deaths on the ground has been interpreted by some as a miracle. There was extensive property damage on Sanctuary Street, where most of the debris landed.

The accident was described as "an avoidable accident in which a serviceable aircraft was flown into the ground killing all rear crew members."

The accident is still pierced into the memories of many over here in Malta. My grandfather witnessed it while at the petrol station in Rabat, and my great uncle, who was in the RAF at the time, was tasked with helping stand guard of the crash site, if I am not mistaken.

Some sources:








Here is a quote from the article above:
On October 14, 1975 Flying Officer E.G. Alexander was co-piloting a routine flight of a Vulcan XM645 bomber from the RAF base in Waddington, UK to Malta. He was not normally part of the crew, but the original co-pilot had asked to be replaced because his wife was about to give birth. This change in crew proved to be fatal.

The RAF’s official reports of the incident say the co-pilot was “imprudently” given leave by the captain, Flight Lieutenant G.R. Alcock, to do the first approach at Luqa. Fl. Off. Alexander was not adequately briefed on the problems of landing on a short runway, especially one with a slope.

The Vulcan was landing quite low and the aircraft hit the undershoot and sheared off the undercarriage. It bounced back into the air some 20 feet or so and it then hit the runway again some 600 feet after the first impact. By this time the captain had taken over but instead of staying put and waiting for the fire engines to extinguish any possible fire, the captain decided to climb away again and attempt to do a circuit and crash land. It was an ill-fated judgment and, as, a few seconds later, fire broke out on one of the wings and the bomber exploded in mid-air.

The captain and co-pilot ejected at the last moment and descended by parachute.

The curse of the Vulcans was that the rear crew members didn’t have ejector seats. They had to open the crew door, lower a ladder and bale out with their parachutes on. The five crew members, for unclear reasons, never managed this.

The deadly explosion occurred over Żabbar at lunchtime, claiming the life of Vinċenza Zammit, 48, who was walking in the town’s main road at the time. About 20 others were injured, some seriously.
 

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Archibald

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On February 26, 1955, the Soviet CPSU Central Committee ordered the development of weapons system Uragan-5, for the automatic guidance interception of enemy supersonic bombers flying at 82,000 ft (25,000 m) and 1,234 mph (2,000 kph).

The system was to be formed by 59 early warning ground radar stations with P-14(5N84A) Tall King VHF radar sets and 400 km of detection range, digital control computer, IFF interrogation system, command data link and a point-defense interceptor with 120 km combat range fitted with TsKB Almaz fire-control radar.

On March 7, 1957, the Mikoyan-Gurevich bureau was charged with the design of the new interceptor, under the codename Ye-150. The prototype was flown on July 8, 1960 reaching a top speed of 2,816 kph (Mach 2.65) and 73,000 ft (22,500 m) ceiling.

The combat version Ye-152-1 was flown on May 16, 1961 reaching Mach 2.28 armed with two underwing air-to-air missiles MKB Raduga K-9-51.

On July 7, 1962, the aircraft established the absolute speed record flying at 1,666 mph (2,681 kph) under the fictitious designation Ye-166.

The K-9 (NATO AA-4 Awl) was a beam-riding air-to-air missile with 5.6 miles (9 km) operational range, 3,130 mph (5,040 kph) top speed and only 55 per cent estimated accuracy because its GOS guidance system was vulnerable to the electronic countermeasures of the SAC bombers.

In 1959 entered service the first Soviet strategic air defense system, deployed around Moscow with 56 launch sites of SA-1 Guild surface-to-air missiles.

The SA-1 had Mach 2.5 top speed, 23 miles (37 km) range, 60,000 ft (18,300 m) operational ceiling and high explosive warhead with 120 ft kill ratios. Their B-200 guidance system was type track-while-scan.

The new surface-to-air missile SA-2 Guideline was deployed in 600 launch sites around the Soviet Union between 1960 and 1964.

The SA-2 had Mach 4 top speed, 21.7 miles (35 km) range, 131,200 ft (40,000 m) ceiling and high explosive warhead with 200 ft kill ratio. Their VHF guidance system P-12 Spoon Rest was type semi-active radar command.

On May 1, 1960 six MiG-19 fighters failed when trying to intercept a high-altitude reconnaissance U-2 piloted by Gary Powers, but the spy plane was shot down little afterwards by two SA-2.

By 1964 the Soviets already possessed small nuclear warheads capable of extending the kill ratio of the SA-2 to 19,680 ft and the ceiling to 80,000 ft.

... and in 1964 the NRO refused the mach 4.5+ ISINGLASS proposal from Convair, saying "by 1970, anything slower than mach 9 will be vulnerable to Soviet air defenses".
 

Roland55

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The aircraft was not cheap, sadly a combination of lack of interest and money terminated their service, on the other side of things, the US, China and Russia saw potential in their bombers, upgrades, cruise missiles and more stuff was fitted on them (china recently fitted a massive missile to their Tu-16s).
It probably was for the best since idk how the Vulcan/Victor/Valiant would have faired in an engagement against an enemy with up to date SAM Batteries or a decent number of interceptors.
2 images of the Vulcan fitted with Martel ARM during the Falklands War, i wonder if it would have had a different result than the Shrikes.
 

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Wyvern

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Note that all B-52s not G nor H went away before 1980, McNamara again (C - D - E - F older BUFFs)
I guess he used the excuse of the F-111 entering service to justify their retirement. In all honesty, it could have been worse, look at the B-58s. With SRAM on the subject, would a V-Bomber or B-58 have been able to serve in the new Cold War environment of the Seventies and Eighties? One must remember that, for the V-Bombers at least, it all depended on whether the RAF would have operated strategically in this "new age".
 

Wyvern

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The aircraft was not cheap, sadly a combination of lack of interest and money terminated their service, on the other side of things, the US, China and Russia saw potential in their bombers, upgrades, cruise missiles and more stuff was fitted on them (china recently fitted a massive missile to their Tu-16s).
It probably was for the best since idk how the Vulcan/Victor/Valiant would have faired in an engagement against an enemy with up to date SAM Batteries or a decent number of interceptors.
2 images of the Vulcan fitted with Martel ARM during the Falklands War, i wonder if it would have had a different result than the Shrikes.
Didn't the AS.37 have equipment problems when operating at high altitudes? (I.e. they would tend to freeze up)

Also, one thing to note was that the Vulcans were using methods of bombing that weren't much better than what pilots in Lancasters were using in the Second World War. It was intended as a strategic nuclear bomber, so accuracy wasn't really a priority, especially when the city and the surrounding area you were bombing would have a can of nuclear sunshine opened on them. All you needed to do was get it within the target and buzz off as quickly as possible.

Bombing a relatively small target with conventional weapons from high altitudes, as was done during the Falklands, is harder than one must imagine.
 

kaiserd

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The Falkland attacks (at least Black Buck 1) were not from high altitude.
Port Stanley approached at low altitude, slight “last minute” pop-up to about 1,000 feet to acquire on the bombing radar and engage the automatic bombing system (an evolution of earlier WW2 era systems) involving a further “very last minute” pop-up to about 10,000 feet to drop the bombs, I believe. (By “last minute” I don’t literally mean the last minute of the attack or within a minute.)
In fairness to the crew there was a lot bet on the element of surprise and that the Vulcans ECM could deal with whatever systems could quickly react.
 

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I was always under the impression that the raids (specifically Black Buck 1) were carried out at high altitudes. Thanks for telling me.
 

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If I may....

First things first, Britain was no longer the world power it once was at the end of the Second World War and yet it appears it could and wouldn't (and still hasn't) been able to wean itself of its global power stage, even though it was for all intent and purposes $ broke $. By its own admission and actions, it withdrew itself from East of the Suez and derived it's 1957 Defence White Paper. To this day Britain has continued to fail to stabilise it's wants and needs militaraly.....

I've never been able to get my head around the fact that the Air Ministry/RAF paid for three (well four designs if you include the development of the the Short SA.4 Sperrin) strategic bomber designs. I understand the want to maximise the technological realms at the time, but the cost of R&D, let alone servicing and maintaining a fleet of three different types just doesn't make sense....Even the United States only fielded one strategic bomber at a time to a given specification.

As for the shooting downing of Francis Gary Powers by an S-75 Dvina SAM, I think it's excepted that for what ever reason Powers was flying below his assigned altitude and hence the interception. I think it's also safe to say, that although once the acclaimed leader in the appreciation, knowledge and employment of EW/ECM, Britain/RAF dropped the ball on this critical type of warfare - let alone for it them primary nuclear delivery system....

I've never been able to understand why Britain/RAF could know and appreciate the nacesity of cutting-edge technological warfare as a force multiplier, they almost seemed to muff every project it set out to do - this includes developing and fielding a stand-off air-launched nuclear missile, or a definitive supersonic strike aircraft like TSR.2. Undoubtedly half of Britain's failing was it's willingness to succumb to U.S. political/military pressure to follow doctrine and follow suit in terms of Britain/RAF purchasing American derived systems/weapons/platforms, that for all intent and purposes Britain lost it's self-esteem and drive to develope and deliver British-made. I think the F-111K is a perfect example of this....

As for the RAF not wanting/unable to afford the retention of an operational strategic bomber, with the RN taking up the mantra of Britain's nuclear deterrent, I think the Falklands War was a perfect example of British government/RAF failing. For a meaningful and demonstrated strategic bomber (whether nuclear/conventional or both) force would undoubtedly have been a serious consideration of Argentina before it invaded the Falklands. The raid on the Falkland's airfields were for all intent and purposes a massive undertaking because of the neglect of the V-Force, as it would have been had the one component of the V-Bomber fleet been retained in a full fledge operational status - in fact I'll go as far as saying it would have been far more effective and efficient.
The comparison of the B-52's and Tu-95's longevity is valid in my opinion, what with its continued upgrades and combat employment. Its use as a litoral cruise missile, precision-guided bomb truck and or simply for saturation bombing with conventional bombs against troop concentrations has proven again and again to be overwhelmingly successful. And yet as Britain withdraw it's specialised Tornado IDS for a makeshift substitute - the Typhoon, it's inability to get it's aircraft carrier near resembling effective operationally, it's become very obvious that the British government/military have less and less options to project its power, let alone conduct conventional warfare on any reasonable terms or scale these days. Something a couple of squadrons of upgraded Vulcan's or Victor's could do.

Archibald, I like and concur with your analogy about Britain/RAF employing the AGM-69 SRAM, it would have made complete sense, especially when Britain/RAF had literally sold itself on purchasing U.S. strategic weapons as it's mainstay. I'm wondering if the huge bomb bay of either the Vulcan or Victor could have excepted a rotary launcher, as fitted in the B-52?? Imagine such a launcher equipped with SRAM or even conventional LGB's.....

Regards
Pioneer
 
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Pioneer

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On February 26, 1955, the Soviet CPSU Central Committee ordered the development of weapons system Uragan-5, for the automatic guidance interception of enemy supersonic bombers flying at 82,000 ft (25,000 m) and 1,234 mph (2,000 kph).

The system was to be formed by 59 early warning ground radar stations with P-14(5N84A) Tall King VHF radar sets and 400 km of detection range, digital control computer, IFF interrogation system, command data link and a point-defense interceptor with 120 km combat range fitted with TsKB Almaz fire-control radar.

On March 7, 1957, the Mikoyan-Gurevich bureau was charged with the design of the new interceptor, under the codename Ye-150. The prototype was flown on July 8, 1960 reaching a top speed of 2,816 kph (Mach 2.65) and 73,000 ft (22,500 m) ceiling.

The combat version Ye-152-1 was flown on May 16, 1961 reaching Mach 2.28 armed with two underwing air-to-air missiles MKB Raduga K-9-51.

On July 7, 1962, the aircraft established the absolute speed record flying at 1,666 mph (2,681 kph) under the fictitious designation Ye-166.

The K-9 (NATO AA-4 Awl) was a beam-riding air-to-air missile with 5.6 miles (9 km) operational range, 3,130 mph (5,040 kph) top speed and only 55 per cent estimated accuracy because its GOS guidance system was vulnerable to the electronic countermeasures of the SAC bombers.

In 1959 entered service the first Soviet strategic air defense system, deployed around Moscow with 56 launch sites of SA-1 Guild surface-to-air missiles.

The SA-1 had Mach 2.5 top speed, 23 miles (37 km) range, 60,000 ft (18,300 m) operational ceiling and high explosive warhead with 120 ft kill ratios. Their B-200 guidance system was type track-while-scan.

The new surface-to-air missile SA-2 Guideline was deployed in 600 launch sites around the Soviet Union between 1960 and 1964.

The SA-2 had Mach 4 top speed, 21.7 miles (35 km) range, 131,200 ft (40,000 m) ceiling and high explosive warhead with 200 ft kill ratio. Their VHF guidance system P-12 Spoon Rest was type semi-active radar command.

On May 1, 1960 six MiG-19 fighters failed when trying to intercept a high-altitude reconnaissance U-2 piloted by Gary Powers, but the spy plane was shot down little afterwards by two SA-2.

By 1964 the Soviets already possessed small nuclear warheads capable of extending the kill ratio of the SA-2 to 19,680 ft and the ceiling to 80,000 ft.
Great info Justo Miranda , thanks.

Regards
Pioneer
 

Justo Miranda

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On February 26, 1955, the Soviet CPSU Central Committee ordered the development of weapons system Uragan-5, for the automatic guidance interception of enemy supersonic bombers flying at 82,000 ft (25,000 m) and 1,234 mph (2,000 kph).

The system was to be formed by 59 early warning ground radar stations with P-14(5N84A) Tall King VHF radar sets and 400 km of detection range, digital control computer, IFF interrogation system, command data link and a point-defense interceptor with 120 km combat range fitted with TsKB Almaz fire-control radar.

On March 7, 1957, the Mikoyan-Gurevich bureau was charged with the design of the new interceptor, under the codename Ye-150. The prototype was flown on July 8, 1960 reaching a top speed of 2,816 kph (Mach 2.65) and 73,000 ft (22,500 m) ceiling.

The combat version Ye-152-1 was flown on May 16, 1961 reaching Mach 2.28 armed with two underwing air-to-air missiles MKB Raduga K-9-51.

On July 7, 1962, the aircraft established the absolute speed record flying at 1,666 mph (2,681 kph) under the fictitious designation Ye-166.

The K-9 (NATO AA-4 Awl) was a beam-riding air-to-air missile with 5.6 miles (9 km) operational range, 3,130 mph (5,040 kph) top speed and only 55 per cent estimated accuracy because its GOS guidance system was vulnerable to the electronic countermeasures of the SAC bombers.

In 1959 entered service the first Soviet strategic air defense system, deployed around Moscow with 56 launch sites of SA-1 Guild surface-to-air missiles.

The SA-1 had Mach 2.5 top speed, 23 miles (37 km) range, 60,000 ft (18,300 m) operational ceiling and high explosive warhead with 120 ft kill ratios. Their B-200 guidance system was type track-while-scan.

The new surface-to-air missile SA-2 Guideline was deployed in 600 launch sites around the Soviet Union between 1960 and 1964.

The SA-2 had Mach 4 top speed, 21.7 miles (35 km) range, 131,200 ft (40,000 m) ceiling and high explosive warhead with 200 ft kill ratio. Their VHF guidance system P-12 Spoon Rest was type semi-active radar command.

On May 1, 1960 six MiG-19 fighters failed when trying to intercept a high-altitude reconnaissance U-2 piloted by Gary Powers, but the spy plane was shot down little afterwards by two SA-2.

By 1964 the Soviets already possessed small nuclear warheads capable of extending the kill ratio of the SA-2 to 19,680 ft and the ceiling to 80,000 ft.

... and in 1964 the NRO refused the mach 4.5+ ISINGLASS proposal from Convair, saying "by 1970, anything slower than mach 9 will be vulnerable to Soviet air defenses".
- In 1946 the main weapon of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) was the Boeing B-29 bomber, but this model reached the obsolescence when 57 Superfortress were destroyed by MiG-15 Soviet fighters during the Korean War.

In 1947 the USAF memorandum ‘Global Strategy Concept’ calling for a new intercontinental bomber able to perform nuclear attacks against the Soviet Union if the Red Army invaded Western Europe.

In June 1948, the Convair B-36, a 410,600 pounds (186,000 kg) heavy bomber entered in service. It tripled the gross weight of the B-29 and was able to carry two Mark III atomic bombs and had 8,000 miles (12,900 km) of range.

At the time, the main Soviet air defense radar was the American-supplied SCR-270 which were only effective up to 39,360 ft (12,000 m) and the main Soviet interceptor was the Lavochkin La-9 with 35,400 ft (10,792 m) service ceiling.

The B-36 proved that it could fly at 40,000 ft (12,195 m) over the Soviet air space without being intercepted and the Truman Administration ordered the construction of 386 machines under the Cold War policy of nuclear deterrence.

Unfortunately for the SAC the Soviet fighter MiG-15A, with 50,840 ft (15,500 m) ceiling was delivered to operational units early 1949, followed by the MiG-17 (15,850 m) late in 1953, the MiG-19S (17,900 m) and the MiG-19 PM (17,000 m) armed with four K-5MS Akali air-to-air missiles in 1957. The B-36 served for only ten years.

In 1955 the USAF issued the specification GOR No. 48 calling for a supersonic bomber, with 6,000 miles range, to penetrate the Soviet air defense system. Six months later, the company North American Aviation Inc. proposed a six-engine canard-delta aircraft capable of cruising at Mach 3+ while flying at 70,000 ft (21,341 m).

It was expected that the new bomber would practically be immune to the cannon-armed Soviet interceptors, but it had also been planned to install a five-element defensive system embodying active and passive warning devices to be capable of noise jamming 30 Soviet radars operating simultaneously, threat evaluation equipment, electronic countermeasures, infrared countermeasures as chaff dispersing rockets and plastic smoke to screen the engine exhaust.

In August 1958, the proposal had been approved by the USAF under the codename Weapons System 110A and was expected to enter service in 1963 as the B-70 Valkyrie.

The Valkyrie program suffered numerous delays due to inexperience with the new heat-resistant materials, as well as political and budgetary reasons. When the prototype XB-70 AV-1 was flown on September 21, 1964 the Soviet air defense system was already so consolidated that the WS110A specification was meaningless and the B-70 was cancelled by the Kennedy Administration.

In August 1958, the North American project office submitted the proposal Defensive Antimissile System (DAMS) using air-to-air missiles launched by the Valkyrie.

The Defense Feasibility Study was completed in March 1959 and published by the Air Proving Ground Center-Eglin AFB the same month the U-2 incident occurred.

In 1948 the first experimental AAM-A-2 air-to-air missile was launched and entered in service with the USAF in 1955 as the Hughes AIM-4 Falcon.

The original purpose of the Falcon was a Mach 3.8 self-defense weapon for the B-52 bomber and was shortly revived during the B-70 development. The rail-launched missile was not a particularly maneuverable and needed to be pointed in the right direction of the target.

Due to the B-70 speed the Falcon could just be used against any threat coming from its forward hemisphere, but the Valkyrie would have to defend itself against threats from all direction with spherical coverage.

The Falcon was a cylindrical rocket with four delta wings. Would it have been thrown sideways from a B-70 flying to Mach 3 it would have been destroyed by the crosswind shock waves.

North American proposed the Weapons System WS-740A, a wingless lenticular-form rocket with omnidirectional launch capabilities, capable of engaging incoming missiles at relative speeds of Mach 10 and being able to survive and maneuver at 250g accelerations.

The project was awarded to the Convair Division of General Dynamics Corporation, under the codename Pye Wacket in June 1959.

A general aerodynamic evaluation was conducted to determine the technical feasibility of lenticular cross section/circular planform configuration. Wind tunnel tests with several 1/3 scale models were conducted in the Arnold Engineering Development Centre.

The results indicated that the lenticular configuration with blunted trailing edge, sharp leading edge and modified tangent contours, have best aerodynamic characteristics than the symmetrical lenticular cross section, and the most desirable volume distribution for the propulsion system.

The lenticular configuration was efficient at hypersonic velocities with good maneuverability at altitude. Additional tests demonstrated that the aerodynamic controls are not suitable for use in the omnidirectional launch phase of flight, due to the necessity of alignment with the relative wind.

One reaction-jet control system was used, control in yaw, roll and pitch could be obtained by means of the thrust forces generated by four nitrogen-injected binary thrusters, with exhaust through the top and bottom surfaces of the disc.

Pye Wacket had an inertial midcourse guidance system with terminal infrared homing. The Redeye IR seeker was mounted in the leading edge behind an IR window with a look angle of 40 degrees and cooling system.

The USAF determined that internal carriage of eight wingless missiles could be installed in the Valkyrie with no range penalty.

The weapon was to be structurally rigid to withstand extremely high launch accelerations, rapid change of thrust direction for quick maneuver, maximum flight duration of 50 seconds, cruising at Mach 6.5+ and terminal velocities of Mach 10.

The expected aerodynamic heating of 3,300 ºF at 11 seconds of flight, requires the use of a leading edge made of Pyrographite. The outer skin of the disc was made of polyester resin, with Titanium B-120 alloy honeycomb core, protected by a layer of Teflon ablating material to restrict skin temperatures to under 800ºF. The internal structure was made of magnesium-alloy.

Three Pye Wacket configurations were proposed in 1961:

Additional tests demonstrated that the aerodynamic controls are not suitable for use in the omnidirectional launch phase of flight, due to the necessity of alignment with the relative wind.

One reaction-jet control system was used, control in yaw, roll and pitch could be obtained by means of the thrust forces generated by four nitrogen-injected binary thrusters, with exhaust through the top and bottom surfaces of the disc.

Pye Wacket had an inertial midcourse guidance system with terminal infrared homing. The Redeye IR seeker was mounted in the leading edge behind an IR window with a look angle of 40 degrees and cooling system.

The USAF determined that internal carriage of eight wingless missiles could be installed in the Valkyrie with no range penalty.

The weapon was to be structurally rigid to withstand extremely high launch accelerations, rapid change of thrust direction for quick maneuver, maximum flight duration of 50 seconds, cruising at Mach 6.5+ and terminal velocities of Mach 10.

The expected aerodynamic heating of 3,300 ºF at 11 seconds of flight, requires the use of a leading edge made of Pyrographite. The outer skin of the disc was made of polyester resin, with Titanium B-120 alloy honeycomb core, protected by a layer of Teflon ablating material to restrict skin temperatures to under 800ºF. The internal structure was made of magnesium-alloy.

Three Pye Wacket configurations were proposed in 1961:

60-inch diameter, 21 per cent thickness-to-chord ratio configuration

Power plant: three Thiokol M58A2 solid-fuel rocket motors with 10,200 lbf thrust each. Launch weight: 830 pounds. Warhead: one W54 nuclear device with 50 pounds weight. Range: 100,000 ft at 60,000 ft altitude.

60-inch diameter, 14 per cent thickness-to-chord ratio configuration

Power plant: one integral pancake-shaped solid-fuel rocket motor with 9,700 lbf thrust. Launch weight: 581 pounds. Warhead: 20 pounds of H.E. with impact fuse. Range: 120,000 ft at 60,000 ft altitude.

36-inch diameter, 21 per cent thickness-to-chord ratio configuration

Power plant: one integral pancake-shaped solid-fuel rocket motor with 5,000 lbf thrust. Launch weight: 200 pounds. Warhead: 20 pounds of H.E. with impact fuse. Range: 50,000 ft at 60,000 ft altitude.
 

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Hood

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I have seen Air Staff minutes from circa 1950 regarding bomber crew training where at least one officer present presciently mused whether SAMs wouldn't force bombers back down to low-level by 1960. So its fallacy to suggest the Air Staff wasn't aware of the threat from SAMs. Indeed the V-force carried a fair bit of ECM kit from its inception - Bomber Command had been fighting a technological bomber war since 1941, it knew full well that to get to Russia and back needed good electronic self-defensive protection.
The Avro 730 of course was meant to go over and fast but efforts like the B.126T low-altitude bomber with stand-off weapons showed that the Air Staff were serious about low-level too. There just wasn't enough resources to keep the V-Force updated, the 730 and the B.126T with its associated nav and stand-off bomb R&D costs.

I suspect that the brief interest in Javelin/DH.110/Canberra interdictors circa 1948-50 was to support V-Force raids much like the Mossies did over Germany, not hard to imagine some Canberras spoofing Russian defences and attacking Soviet fighters over Eastern Bloc airfields.
 

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I suspect that the brief interest in Javelin/DH.110/Canberra interdictors circa 1948-50 was to support V-Force raids much like the Mossies did over Germany, not hard to imagine some Canberras spoofing Russian defences and attacking Soviet fighters over Eastern Bloc airfields.

On a PPrune military thread, a question was asked about V force penetration tactics to which there was an interesting reply. It said the principle was to use Canberra’s to lay tactical nuclear weapons at the infiltration points. The V force was timed to fly through the zone of radio disruption shortly after the burst. For very high value targets, a similar coordinated tactic would be used with a pair or more of V force aircraft.
 

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There is very little information available on the first British stealth techniques, I have only been able to find something about anti-radar paints for P.R.Canberras. Any ideas on this subject?
 

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Initially work was undertaken using light reflections from a highly polished scale model. Canberra WX161 flew with a coating called DX3 from Seighford airfield and was tested against an AA No7 X band radar. It’s thought this was between 1953-56. Further follow on work, including operational usage remains classified.

Roy Dommett (RAE Head of Research) is on record saying the groundbreaking RAE work in this area never got the recognition it deserves due the extreme secrecy.
 

uk 75

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I have made the point elsewhere but it is especially relevant here.
The RAF retained its 48 Vulcan B2s between 1968 (Polaris takes on national deterrent) and 1983( Tornado enters service with UK based squadrons) to fulfil the operational nuclear strike role for NATO (and on Cyprus till the 70s for Near East roles). Between 1970 and 1974 they also had a role under the UK/Australia/New Zealand support for Singapore and Malaysia.
Had TSR2 or F111K entered service as planned the Vulcans would have gone. I think at one stage it was planned to retain some of the Victors, which had a longer range, in the strike/recce role.
Had the UK not been in such dire financial straits and retained its commitments to the Gulf States and Malaysia/Singapore the Victors might well have been retained for the bombing role as they were like the B52Ds.
SRAMs would have been a logical weapon for TSR2/F111K in the 70s.
But for the Vulcans there was no money (Tornado had to have what was going).
 

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It all really depends on whether the RAF wished to retain a global strike force, and whether the UK would keep the "East of Suez" role.
 

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It can be added that safety and lack of modern technology (especially in the case of the Vulcan) led to the retirement of the V-Bombers.


I have also decided to discuss this topic in a video. Are there any sources for information or photos that may be of help? Is it possible to use photos and information gathered from this site?

Any thoughts?

Sincerely, Wyvern
 

uk 75

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The Vulcan was closer to the US B47, B58 and FB111 in range and role. Accordingly as soon as Tornado was available it went out of service. It should have been out of service by 1970 if TSR2 or F111K had made it into service -48 Vulcan B2s.
The B52 benefitted from being based in the States and giving the USAF global nuclear and conventional reach.
 

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There is very little information available on the first British stealth techniques, I have only been able to find something about anti-radar paints for P.R.Canberras. Any ideas on this subject?
Both the RAE and Plessey were active in the field from the early post-war onwards. First experimental application of radar absorbent material (foil-backed carbon/rubber absorber/reflector) to aircraft for stealth purposes was a Balliol in 1955, followed by a Canberra. OR issued (OR 3593) and quite a bit of study done on RCS reduction for V-bombers but never came to anything.
 

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Justo Miranda

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"Radar camouflage" was the term used in these British studies and it was one of the many things desired for TSR2 that proved hard to achieve. Any RAM treatment in the intakes would fall off and be ingested by the engine with bad results.
Some additional info here
 

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red admiral

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There's also UK wartime research into RAM completely independent of any knowledge gained postwar from Germany.

Radar Echoing Area was the term used rather than Radar Cross Section if anyone wants to dig in TNA. I'd be surprised if material wasn't there - probably because people don't know to look as there's very little published on UK research in this area
 

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Answering the original discussion point, the 4 reasons listed miss out cost. I think this is probably the crux in addition to the other issues. Quite expensive to modernise and sustain even one type when they don't do that much. For the UK it probably just wasn't worth the cost. Whereas for US and USSR with larger budgets (and more roles) it was.

Interesting point on cruise missile development. Was guidance for a non-nuclear air launched cruise missile basically just not achievable until the late 80s / 90s?
 

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Answering the original discussion point, the 4 reasons listed miss out cost. I think this is probably the crux in addition to the other issues. Quite expensive to modernise and sustain even one type when they don't do that much. For the UK it probably just wasn't worth the cost. Whereas for US and USSR with larger budgets (and more roles) it was.
Noted.
Interesting point on cruise missile development. Was guidance for a non-nuclear air launched cruise missile basically just not achievable until the late 80s / 90s?
The dawn of the conventional cruise missile came in the late Seventies. I guess that conventional cruise missiles weren't really on the cards before that, as their guidance systems were complicated and expensive to develop, and if you were going to go through the effort, might as well make it nuclear. This is my stance on this however, so I could be wrong.
 

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It could be argued that the USAF took on the Vulcan's roles first by adding an F111 wing at Lakenheath to the earlier one at Upper Heyford. Then the Tomahawk GLCM at Greenham Common and Molesworth.
The UK retained a residual commitment to Malaysia and Singapore until 1975.
Had a crisis flared up with a pro-China coup in Indonesia leading to a renewed confrontation in 1970 perhaps RAF Victor BSR2s might have found a role
 

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Yep, but SRAM main advantage was a very large number of them could be stuffed into a single B-52 - unlike Skybolt and unlike Hound Dog. It was a cheap and small missile produced in large numbers, and considering the density of SAMs standing between Western Europe and Moscow... better to have a lot of small but nuclear missiles to blast a huge hole into the wall.
 

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Yep, but SRAM main advantage was a very large number of them could be stuffed into a single B-52 - unlike Skybolt and unlike Hound Dog. It was a cheap and small missile produced in large numbers, and considering the density of SAMs standing between Western Europe and Moscow... better to have a lot of small but nuclear missiles to blast a huge hole into the wall.

Should point out that it did not actually have good standoff range against S-200 SAM
 

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5 aircrew and hefty maintenance man-hours per flight hour. UK went to career/professional personnel by 1960, whose terms of Service became very favourable (=expensive). Bad enough for police - 25 years front line service, for 25 years pension, then some at half for widow. Those numbers for combat crew are awful: 2, maybe 3 tours of 3 years, out 40-ish, pension for 40 years.

Airframes designed long before fatigue index notions - see Valiant failure as soon as sustained low level was imposed.

If Skybolt had been deployed CAS intended to phase out Vulcan/Victor(-finessed out by the missile's Sister Firm...Avro) for VC10 which could, as Vs could not, loiter and/or change sortie duration as Defences were detected. VC10 was sculpted from the solid: agricultural 707s have served >100,000 flight hours, so VC10 could have been trundling around at military utilisation, 500 hr. p.a, quite as long as B-52, without being totally rebuilt every 20 years.

USAF is exploring - is it the 3rd. - B-52 re-engining despite military variants of later Boeing types being much cheaper to own, simply because it is there: the Depot Maintenance infrastructure is...mature. Why they do not weigh the greater personnel cost-of-ownership, I know not.
 

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