The Vulcan was the second of the Royal Air Force’s ‘V bombers’ and like the Valiant and Victor provided part of Great Britain’s nuclear deterrent force for fifteen years, until the Royal Navy’s Polaris submarines took over that responsibility in 1969.
The prototype B1 first flew on 30 August 1952; four years later work began on an improved B2 design. The increased performance offered by the Vulcan B2 made it ideal for modification to carry the Blue Steel nuclear stand-off bomb. This weapon allowed the aircraft to launch its attack from outside the immediate missile defences of a target and thereby extended the effectiveness of the Royal Air Force’s airborne deterrent.
By 1966 Soviet missile defences had become so effective that Vulcans switched from high- to low-level penetration. In 1970, following their withdrawal from the nuclear deterrent, Vulcans switched to the conventional bomber role in support of NATO forces in Europe.
The Vulcan’s range could be greatly increased by in-flight refuelling which was used to such good effect in the long range attacks on the Falkland Islands from Ascension Island in 1982. The last Vulcans retired from operational service in 1984.