The National Cold War Exhibition

This exhibition aims to inform and educate present and future generations about the immense threat posed to world peace and security during the Cold War. 

This significant period of the 20th century was a time of tension between capitalist western nations, including the US and Britain, and communist states in central and eastern Europe, led by the Soviet Union. It developed after the Second World War (1939-45) and was to last for more than 40 years. 

The atomic bombs dropped on Japan by the US in 1945 raised the horrifying prospect that future wars could be fought with nuclear weapons. Both East and West raced to build ever more powerful nuclear weapons to protect themselves. This deterrent strategy was based on the theory that if each side could destroy the other, neither would launch an attack. Despite the rivalry, there was no outright conflict between the powers, which was what made it a ‘cold’ war. 

In the early years of the Cold War, the Royal Air Force was responsible for Britain’s nuclear deterrent through its ‘V Force’ bombers. That deterrent role was later passed to the submarines of the Royal Navy.

The story of the Cold War is much larger than one of aviation alone; this exhibition also highlights the social history of the era, as well as technological achievements which evolved from the competition between East and West, through to the eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

See aircraft from the Cold War.

Cold War Medal

Did you serve in the Armed Forces during the Cold War? Have you applied for your Cold War Medal? Thousands of service men and women have applied for their Cold War Service Medal, produced by Award Productions. A contribution to the National Cold War Exhibition will be made for each medal sold.

Visit for details.

Please note: The Museum regularly undertakes a programme of maintenance and conservation, so some exhibits or Hangars may be temporarily inaccessible. If you are visiting us to see something specific, please contact us in advance to ensure it that it is on display and available for public viewing.

Javelin 773wide