Vickers Valiant

Vickers Valiant

:"For other uses see: Valiant"infobox Aircraft
name = Vickers Valiant

type = Strategic bomber
manufacturer =Vickers-Armstrongs

caption =RAF Valiant in anti-flash white
designer =
first flight =18 May avyear|1951
introduced =1955
retired =January 1965
status =
primary user =Royal Air Force
more users =
produced =
number built =107
unit cost =
variants with their own articles =
The Vickers-Armstrongs Valiant was a British four-jet bomber, once part of the Royal Air Force's V bomber force.

The Valiant was originally developed for use as high-level strategic bomber. When the other V-bombers came into use it was also used as a tanker. However, when the RAF moved to low level attacks, low level flying in the Valiant caused premature fatiguing. Rather than repair or rebuild the fleet, it was grounded and the Handley Page Victor took over the tanker role.


V-Bomber origins: B.35/46 and Sperrin

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command left World War II with a policy of using heavy bombers with four piston-engines for massed raids. It remained committed to this policy in the immediate postwar period, adopting the Avro Lincoln, an updated version of the Avro Lancaster, as its standard bomber.

The development of jet aircraft and nuclear weapons soon made this policy obsolete. The future appeared to belong to jet bombers that could fly at high altitude and speed, without defensive armament, to act as a deterrent particularly to a Soviet attack and, if deterrence failed, perform a nuclear strike.

After considering various specifications for such an advanced jet bomber in late 1946, in January 1947 the British Air Ministry issued a request in the form of Specification B.35/46 for an advanced jet bomber that would be at least the equal of anything the US or the USSR had. The request went to most of the UK's major aircraft manufacturers. While Short Brothers submitted a design that was judged too ambitious, the Air Staff accepted another submission from the company for a separate requirement, B.14/46, to provide a very conservative bomber design as "insurance" in case the advanced B.35/46 effort ran into trouble.

Short's conservative design became the S.A.4 Sperrin. A prototype Sperrin was completed and flew in 1951, but its design was too conservative when compared wth the contemporary Vickers Valiant with swept wings and a much superior performance. The Sperrin engine fit was unusual, with nacelles with twin Rolls-Royce Avon turbojets arranged one above the other. Although a second prototype was built and flown, further development of the type was abandoned and its was retained as an engine testbed.

Short's also pursued their earlier, more ambitious bomber concept on a private basis, resulting in a small test aircraft, the Short S.B.4. Sherpa. The Sherpa was basically a tailless glider with small jet powerplants and long, sweptback wings, giving something of the appearance of a boomerang with a fuselage. The Sherpa was intended to test the "aero-isoclinic" wing concept. In this scheme, the outer sections of the wings were pivoted, allowing them to maintain the same incidence even as the wing flexed. However, this line of investigation proved to be a dead end as well.

Valiant origins: Vickers Type 660

Handley-Page and Avro came up with very advanced designs for the bomber competition. These would become the Victor and the Vulcan respectively, and the Air Staff decided to award contracts to both companies as a form of insurance in case one design failed.

Vickers-Armstrong's submission (later named the Valiant) had initially been rejected as not as advanced as the Victor and Vulcan, but Vickers' chief designer George Edwards energetically lobbied the Air Ministry and made changes. Edwards managed to sell the Vickers design on the basis that it would be available much sooner than the competition, going so far as to promise delivery of a prototype in 1951 and production aircraft in 1953. One argument was that the Vickers bomber would be useful as a "stopgap" until the more advanced bombers were available.

Although the idea of developing and putting into service three entirely different large aircraft in response to a single Operational Requirement (OR) is unthinkable today, the imperative of deterring Stalin's Soviet Union from aggression in Europe created a situation of urgency.

In April 1948, the Air Staff issued a specification with the designation B.9/48 written around the Vickers design, which was given the company designation of Type 660. In February 1949, two prototypes of the aircraft were ordered. The first was to be fitted with four Rolls-Royce RA.3 Avon engines, while the second was to be fitted with four Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire engines as the Type 667. Andrews and Morgan 1988, p.438.]

The first prototype took to the air on 18 May 1951, Andrews and Morgan 1988, p.439.] as George Edwards had promised, and beat the first Short Sperrin into the air by several months. It had been only 27 months since the contract had been issued. The pilot was Joseph "Mutt" Summers, who had also been the original test pilot on the Supermarine Spitfire, and wanted to add another "first" to his record before he retired. His co-pilot on the first flight was Gabe "Jock" Bryce, who replaced Summers on his retirement.

The Vickers Type 660 was given the official name of Valiant the next month, recycling the name from the Vickers Type 131 general-purpose biplane of 1931. Traditionally, RAF bombers had been named after towns and cities, for example Lancaster, Halifax, and Canberra, but the new aircraft technology seemed to suggest a break from tradition, and the name Valiant was selected by a survey of Vickers employees. It also fitted in with an equally long held tradition of alliteration in aircraft names.

The Valiant jet bomber prototype was lost due to an in-flight fire in January 1952, all the crew escaping safely except for the co-pilot, who is thought to have struck the tail after ejecting. Flight, 4 July 1958, p.13.]

After modifications to the fuel system (thought to be the cause of the fire), the second prototype, Vickers Type 667, first flew on 11 April 1952. It was fitted with RA.7 Avon engines with 33 kN (7,500 lbf) thrust each, rather than the Sapphires originally planned. The loss of the initial prototype did not seriously compromise schedule, since the accident occurred late in the flight test programme.

An initial order for 25 production Valiant B.1 (Bomber Mark 1) aircraft had already been placed in April 1951. The first production aircraft flew in December 1953, again more or less on the schedule Edwards had promised, and was delivered to the RAF in January 1955. Britain's "V-bomber" force, as it had been nicknamed in October 1952, was now in operation. The Victor and Vulcan would follow.


Valiant details and variants

The Valiant was a conservative design, with a shoulder-mounted wing and four Avon RA.3 turbojets, each of 6,500 lbf (29 kN) thrust, two in each wing root. The design gave an overall impression of a plain and clean aircraft with simple aerodynamics. George Edwards described it appropriately as an "unfunny" aircraft. Andrews and Morgan 1988, p.449.]

The root chord thickness ratio (ratio of wing thickness to length at the root) was 12% and allowed the Avon engines to be within the wing rather than on pods as in the contemporary Boeing B-47. Andrews and Morgan, p.442.] This "buried engine" fit contributed to the aircraft's aerodynamic cleanliness. However, it made engine access for maintenance and repair difficult and increased the risk that the failure of one engine would contribute to the failure of its pair due to flying debris such as turbine blades. It also increased the complexity of the design of the main spar which had to be routed round the engines. For these reasons the buried engine layout is not used nowadays and the podded layout pioneered by the Boeing B-47 is often employed. This also has the advantage of reducing wing root bending moment in flight because the podded engines can be mounted more outboard than in the "buried engine" layout (or engines mounted on the fuselage, for that matter).

The Valiant wing had a "compound sweep" configuration, devised by Vickers aerodynamicist Elfyn Richards. It had a 45° angle of sweepback in the inner third of the wing, reducing to an angle of about 24° at the tips. This was because the thickness/chord ratio could be reduced closer to the tips, balancing this against the sweep reduction in postponement of Mach effects such as buffeting and drag rise. Limiting in-service Mach number was 0.82 and a typical cruise 0.76M at heights up to 55,000 ft when light. A "clean" Valiant (one without underwing tanks) could climb straight to 50,000 ft after takeoff unless it had heavy stores in the large bomb bay.

The engine inlets were long rectangular slots in the first prototype, but later Valiants featured oval or "spectacle" shaped inlets to permit greater airflow for more powerful Avon engine variants. The jet exhausts emerged from fairings above the trailing edge of the wings. Water injection was fitted to some Valiants, for instance those in the tanker role, and increased takeoff thrust by about 1,000 lb per engine.

The tail surfaces were swept back, and the horizontal tailplane was mounted well up the vertical tailplane to keep it out of the engines' exhaust.

The wing loading was low by modern standards and the Valiant was fitted with double-slotted flaps for takeoff (20 flap) and landing (40 or full flap, about 60 degrees). The aircraft featured tricycle landing gear, with twin-wheel nosegear and tandem-wheel main gear retracting outward into the wing. Most of the aircraft's systems were electric including flaps and undercarriage.

*Electrics were based on 128 Volt Direct Current generators for functions requiring large amounts of electrical power and a 28 V DC system provided a controlling voltage for other systems and the actuators that initiated the 128 V functions. Backup batteries were a bank of 24V units for the 28 V low-voltage system and 112V batteries (28 V in series) for the 128 V system. The brakes and steering gear were hydraulic, but its pumps were electrically driven.

*The flight controls consisted of two channels of power control with full manual back-up. Practice flying in manual was allowed, even landings, under conditions of little turbulence and low crosswind. Landings in manual were limited to only 40 flap because it was difficult in manual to counter the trim change when full flap was lowered, resulting in a heavy landing. The controls were very heavy indeed when flown in manual and bank was limited to 20 degrees.

The Valiant was built around a massive backbone beam that supported the wing spars and the weight of bombs in the long bomb bay. The crew were contained in a pressurized "egg" and consisted of pilot, copilot, two navigators, and an electronics operator. Only the pilot and copilot had ejection seats. This was a concern for the other three crew members, who had to bail out of the crew door on the port side of the fuselage. The crew door was held partially open for bale-out to provide shielding from the airflow until the crew man had cleared the aircraft. Chute opening was automatic by a static line.

The Air Ministry had originally requested an escape system that would eject the entire crew compartment or, if that were not possible, ejection seats for all crew. Vickers engineers replied that this requirement was impractical. Experiments were later performed at the Bomber Command Development Unit (BCDU) at RAF Wittering that involved rear-crew ejections using instrumented dummies rather than live crew. This was not put into service due to the expense.

The Valiant B.1 could carry a single 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) nuclear weapon or up to 21 1,000 lb (450 kg) conventional bombs in its bomb bay. Large external fuel tanks under each wing with a capacity of 7,500 litres (1,650 Imperial gallons), could be used to extend range. The aircraft had no defensive armament.

Initial Valiant production aircraft had four Rolls-Royce Avon 201 turbojet engines, with 9,500 lbf (42 kN) thrust each. Trials were performed with two underwing de Havilland Sprite and Super Sprite rocket booster engines. However, these were deemed unnecessary, due to the availability of more powerful Avon variants, as well as fear of accidents if one booster rocket failed on take-off, resulting in asymmetric thrust.


Including three prototypes, a total of 107 Valiants were built, including:
*39 Valiant B.1 pure bomber variants, including five pre-production Type 674, which were powered by Avon RA.14 engines with the same 42 kN (9,500 lbf) thrust each as the earlier Avon 201 and 34 Type 706 full-production aircraft, powered by Avon RA.28 204 or 205 engines with 47 kN (10,500 lbf) thrust each, longer tailpipes, and water-methanol injection for take-off boost power.
*8 Type 710 Valiant B(PR).1 bomber/photo-reconnaissance aircraft. Edwards and his team had considered use of the Valiant for photo-reconnaissance from the start, and this particular batch of aircraft could accommodate a removable "crate" in the bomb-bay, carrying up to eight narrow-view/high resolution cameras and four survey cameras.
*13 Type 733 Valiant B(PR)K.1 bomber/photo-reconnaissance/tanker aircraft
*44 Type 758 Valiant B(K).1 bomber / tanker aircraft. Both tanker variants carried a removable tanker system in the bomb-bay, featuring fuel tanks and a hose-and-drogue aerial refuelling system. A further 16 Valiant B(K).1s were ordered, but cancelled.

Valiant production ended in August 1957.

Valiant tankers were flown by 214 Squadron at RAF Marham, operational in 1958 and 90 Squadron at Honington, operational in 1959. These aircraft were fitted with a Hose Drum Unit (HDU or "Hoodoo") in the bomb bay. The HDU was mounted on bomb-mounting points and could be removed if necessary. However, this arrangement meant that the bomb doors had to be opened in order to give fuel to a receiver aircraft.

With inflight refuelling probes fitted to Valiants, Vulcans and Victors and Valiant tankers available, the so-called "Medium Bomber Force" of the RAF could go beyond "medium range", and the RAF had a true strategic bombing capability. Long range demonstration flights were made using Valiant tankers pre-deployed along the route. In 1960 Valiant Bomber flew non-stop from Marham in the UK to Singapore and in 1961 a Vulcan non-stop from the UK to Australia. The two tanker squadrons regularly practised long range missions, refuelled by other Valiant tankers on the way. In 1963 a squadron of Gloster Javelin All-weather interceptors was refuelled in stages from the UK to India, the tankers flying on to Butterworth near Penang in Malaysia (exercise "Shiksha"). Other aircraft refuelled at this time included Victor and Vulcan bombers and English Electric Lightning fighters, also the De Havilland Sea Vixen fighter of the Royal Navy.

Valiants of No. 18 Squadron RAF at RAF Finningley were modified to the "radio countermeasures" (RCM) role - RCM is now called "electronic countermeasures" (ECM). These aircraft were ultimately fitted with APT-16A and ALT-7 jamming transmitters, Airborne Cigar and Carpet jammers, APR-4 and APR-9 "sniffing" receivers, and chaff dispensers. At least seven Valiants were configured to the RCM role.

Valiants of number 543 Squadron at RAF Wyton were modified to the photographic reconnaissance role.

Originally, Valiants were finished in silver, but once equipped with nuclear weapons they were painted in anti-flash white to reflect some of the glare of a nuclear blast. However, the RAF roundels were left in solid red-white-blue. It was later realized that this insignia might be permanently burned into an aircraft by the flash of its dropped nuclear weapon detonating. In the other V-bombers the roundel became faded pink-white-violet, but the faded insignia was never applied to the Valiant.

Of the three prototypes, two were Mark 1s and one was for a developed version, the Valiant B.2, designed for low level attack. As such it had a strengthened airframe to cope with the rougher ride at low level. The B.2 had a lengthened fuselage with a total length of 34.8 m (114 ft), in contrast to a length of 33 m (108 ft 3 in) for the Valiant B.1. The strengthened wing entailed changes to the main landing gear. Each main undercarriage leg had four wheels instead of two and it retracted backwards into fairings to the rear of the wings. Finished in a gloss black night operations paint scheme, it became known as the "Black Bomber". Its performance at low level was superior to that of the B.1, 655 mph at sea level compared to 414 mph.

The Air Ministry ordered 17 B.2s, including two prototypes and 15 operational aircraft, in April 1952. The prototype was completed, and flew for the first time in September 1953. However, although the Valiant B.2's low-level capabilities would later prove to be highly desirable, the B.2 program was cancelled in 1955. The B.2 prototype was used for tests for a few years, then incrementally destroyed by being used as a target for ground gunnery.

Vickers also considered an air transport version of the Valiant, with a low-mounted wing, wingspan increased to 42.7 m (140 ft) from 34.8 m (114 ft 4 in), fuselage lengthened to 44.5 m (146 ft), and uprated engines. Work on a prototype, designated the Type 1000, began in early 1953. The prototype was to lead to a military transport version, the Type 1002, and a civilian transport version, the Type 1004 or VC.7. The Type 1000 prototype was almost complete when it, too, was cancelled.

Operational history

As the Valiant was an entirely new class of aircraft for the RAF, the 232 Operational Conversion Unit was established at RAF Gaydon. The first operational RAF unit to be equipped with the Valiant was 138 Squadron, also at RAF Gaydon, though it later moved to RAF Wittering. At its peak, the Valiant equipped at least seven RAF squadrons.

A Valiant B.1 (WZ366) of No 49 Squadron (captained by Squadron Leader E.J.G. Flavell AFC) was the first RAF aircraft to drop a British operational atomic bomb when it performed a test drop of a down-rated Blue Danube weapon on Maralinga, South Australia, on 11 October 1956. Mason 1994, p.378.]

The Valiant was the first of the V-bombers to see combat, during the Anglo-French-Israeli Suez intervention in October and November 1956. During "Operation Musketeer", Valiants operating from the airfield at Luqa on Malta dropped conventional HE bombs on Egyptian targets. It was the last time the V-bombers flew a war mission until Avro Vulcans bombed Port Stanley airfield in the Falkland Islands during the Falklands War in 1982.

Although the Egyptians did not oppose the attacks and there were no Valiant combat losses, the results of the raids were disappointing. Their primary targets were seven Egyptian airfields. Although the Valiants dropped a total of 856 tonnes (842 long tons) of bombs, only three of the seven airfields were seriously damaged. Note that the Valiants had not yet been fitted with their operational Navigational and Bombing System (NBS) and were dropping largely using World War II techniques. When NBS was fitted and crews well-practised, bombing accuracies became typical of other aircraft of the time and from high level (say, 40,000ft) a 100 yard error was not uncommon. Peacetime practice involved the dropping of small practice bombs on instrumented bombing ranges, also a system of predicted bombing using radio tones to mark the position of bomb drop over non-range targets, the bomb error being calculated by a ground radar unit and passed either to the crew during flight or to a headquarters for analysis.

On May 15 1957 a 49 Squadron Valiant B(K).1 (captained by Wing Commander K.G. Hubbard OBE DFC AFC) dropped the first British hydrogen bomb, the "Short Granite" (AKA "Green Granite Small"), over the Pacific as part of "Operation Grapple". The blast was impressive, but the test was largely a failure, as the measured yield was less than a third of the maximum expected and while achieving the desired thermonuclear explosion the device had failed to operate as intended. The first British hydrogen bomb that detonated as planned (or actually with a higher yield than planned), "Grapple X Round A" (AKA "Round C1"), was dropped on November 8, 1957.

The "Grapple" series of tests continued into 1958, and the first really satisfactory drop occurred in April 1958, with the "Grapple Y" bomb exploding with ten times the yield of the original "Short Granite" (the November 1957 bomb was considered unsuitable for mass production). Further tests followed, but testing was finally terminated in November 1958, when the British government decided it would perform no more air-delivered nuclear tests. Eventually Britain renounced such tests completely.

Valiants were originally assigned to the strategic nuclear bombing role as were the Vulcan and Victor B.1s when they became operational. By the early 1960s these aircraft were joined by the Victor B.2 and Vulcan B.2. Originally the bombing role was at high level but with the shooting down of the Lockheed U-2 flown by Gary Powers by an early SA-2 Guideline missile, the SAM threat caused the V-force to train for low-level attack. They were repainted in grey/green camouflage, replacing their anti-flash white scheme. The Valiant did not carry the Blue Steel nuclear-tipped stand-off missile that was carried by the Victor and Vulcan.

Three squadrons of Valiants were assigned in the low-level tactical bombing role (49, 148, 207) and two more squadrons (90 and 214) served as tankers. They also continued to give service in the strategic photo-reconnaissance role (543 squadron).

Low-level operations proved too much for the Valiant. In 1964, there was a failure of a rear spar in an OCU aircraft from Gaydon flown by Flight Lieutenant "Taffy" Foreman. This was fortunately without loss, the aircraft being landed back at Gaydon but without flap because of damage in the rear of one wing. Inspections of the entire fleet showed that the wing spars were suffering from fatigue, probably due to low level turbulence. After this inspection, the aircraft were divided into three categories, Cat A aircraft continuing to fly, Cat B to fly to a repair base, and Cat C requiring repair before flying again. The tanker squadrons had the highest proportion of Cat A aircraft because their role had been mainly at high level.

Under this plan, repairs were taking place by Vickers teams at a number of bases and Valiant crews were retained pending the aircraft coming back on line. However, in early 1965 the Wilson government with Denis Healey as Secretary of State for Defence decided that the expense could not be justified and the fleet was permanently grounded. The deterrent bomber role continued with the Victor and Vulcan but the UK air tanker force ceased to exist, and it was over a year before the first of the Victor tankers became operational.

The last known Valiant Tanker sortie was on 9 December 1964 in XD812 on a sortie over the North Sea refuelling Lightning aircraft. The Captain was Wing Commander Ken Smith DFC, commander of 214 Squadron, Marham, flying with Valiant Captain Flight Lieutenant Ian Strachan and his crew.

The last known Valiant Bomber sortie was on 9th December 1964 in XD818. The Captain was Wing Commander John Langston (OC 49 Sqn), in the 6th seat doing a crew check on Flt Lt Brian Pettit and his regular crew. This flight is believed to have landed after that of the Valiant Tanker. XD818, the last remaining Valiant, is now preserved in RAF Cosford museum.

The Valiant was a thoroughly competent and effective aircraft. It was particularly noteworthy for the short time in which it was designed and introduced, with remarkably few changes between the initial prototype and production machines. In fact, some aviation observers suggest that if the Valiant B.2 had been adopted, it could have been more effective than the Victor and Vulcan, particularly at low level.Fact|date=March 2008

The Valiant was Vickers last military aircraft. It was followed by the Vanguard, a passenger turboprop designed in 1959 and flying into the 1990s, and the Vickers VC-10, a jet passenger aircraft from 1962, though the latter is used as a military transport and tanker for the RAF.


*Royal Air Force operated Valiants out of RAF Gaydon, RAF Finningley, RAF Honington, RAF Marham, RAF Wittering and RAF Wyton by:
**No. 7 Squadron
**No. 18 Squadron
**No. 49 Squadron
**No. 90 Squadron
**No. 138 Squadron
**No. 148 Squadron
**No. 199 Squadron
**No. 207 Squadron
**No. 214 Squadron
**No. 543 Squadron
**No. 232 Operational Conversion Unit RAF


*Vickers Valiant B1 "XD818" - RAF Museum Cosford, on display with the other two V bombers, the Victor and Vulcan in the Cold War Jets Collection.

pecifications (Valiant B.1)

aircraft specifications

plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=jet
crew=five - two pilots, two navigators, electronics engineer
length main=108 ft 3 in
length alt=32.99 m
span main=114 ft 4 in
span alt=34.85 m
height main=32 ft 2 in
height alt=9.80 m
area main=2,362 ft²
area alt=219 m²
empty weight main=75,880 lb
empty weight alt=34 420 kg)

  • Military load: 21,000 lb (9500 kg
    max takeoff weight main=138,000 lb
    max takeoff weight alt=62 600 kg)
  • Overload take-off: 175,000 lb (79 400 kg) with underwing tanksFact|date=May 2008
    engine (jet)=Rolls-Royce Avon RA28 Mk 204
    type of jet= turbojet
    number of jets=4
    thrust main=10,000 lb
    thrust alt=44 kN
    max speed main= Mach 0.84 at 30,000 ft plus, 414 mph
    max speed alt= 666 km/h
    range main=4,500 miles with 10,000 lb bomb halfway, with underwing tanks
    range alt=7200 km
    ceiling main=54,000 ft
    ceiling alt=21,000 m
    climb rate main=4,000 ft/min
    climb rate alt= 20 m/s
    loading main= 58 lb/ft²
    loading alt= 286 kg/m²
    * 1 × 10,000 lb (4500 kg) bomb "or"
    * 21 × 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs

    ee also

    similar aircraft=
    * Handley Page Victor
    * Avro Vulcan
    *List of aircraft of the RAF
    see also=


    * Andrews C.F and Morgan, E.B. "Vickers Aircraft since 1908". London: Putnam, 1988. ISBN 0 85177 851 1.
    * Goebel, Greg. [ "The Vickers Valiant" version 1.1] .
    * Gunston, Bill. "Bombers of the West". London: Ian Allan Ltd., 1973, p. 38-53. ISBN 0-7110-0456-0.
    * Mason, Francis K. "The British Bomber since 1914". London:Putnam, 1994. ISBN 0 85177 861 5.
    * " [ Valiant: Last of the Vickers Bombers?] ". "Flight", 4 July 1958, p.13-20.

    External links

    * [ RAF Museum]
    * [ Valiant History]
    * [ V-Bomber History]
    * [ entry for Valiant at British Aircraft Directory]

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