English Electric Canberra

English Electric Canberra

Infobox Aircraft
type=Bomber aircraft
manufacturer=English Electric

caption=English Electric Canberra Mk.20
first flight=13 May 1949
introduced=May 1951
retired=23 June 2006 (RAF)
primary user= Royal Air Force
more users= Indian Air Force
Peruvian Air Force Royal Australian Air Force
number built= 901 (UK)
48 (Australia)
403 (USA) as B-57
unit cost=
variants with their own articles= B-57 Canberra

The English Electric Canberra is a first-generation jet-powered light bomber manufactured in large numbers through the 1950s. It proved to be highly adaptable, serving in such varied roles for tactical bombing, photographic, electronics, and meteorological reconnaissance. The Canberra remained in service with the Royal Air Force until 23 June 2006, 57 years after its first flight.

Design and development

The Canberra had its origins in 1944 as a replacement for the unarmed high speed, high altitude de Havilland Mosquito bomber. Several British aircraft manufacturers submitted proposals. Among the companies shortlisted to proceed with development studies was English Electric, a well-established industrial manufacturer with very little aircraft experience. A desperate need for bombers arose during the early years of World War II, when English Electric began to build the Hampden under licence.

The new English Electric design team was headed by former Westland chief designer W. E. W. Petter. The aircraft was named "Canberra" after the capital of Australia by Sir George Nelson, chairman of English Electric, because Australia was the first export customer for the aircraft. [Ransom, Stephen & Fairclough, Robert (1987) "English Electric Aircraft and their Predecessors" Putnam ISBN 0-85177-806-2] In May 1945 a contract was signed, but with the post-war military reductions, the prototype did not fly until May 1949. It was a simple design, looking like a scaled-up Gloster Meteor with a shoulder wing. The fuselage was circular in cross section, tapered at both ends and, cockpit aside, entirely without protrusions; the line of the large, low aspect ratio wings was broken only by the tubular engine nacelles.

Although jet-powered and of all-metal construction, the Canberra design philosophy was very much in the Mosquito mould, i.e. provide room for a substantial bomb load, fit two of the most powerful engines available, and wrap it in the smallest, most aerodynamic package possible. Rather than devote space and weight to defensive armament — which historically could not overcome purpose-designed fighter aircraft — the Canberra was designed to fly fast and high enough to avoid air-to-air combat entirely.

Basic design

The Canberra is an all-metal aircraft. The fuselage is of semi-monocoque construction with a pressurized nose compartment. Each crew member has a Martin-Baker ejection seat, except for the B(I)8 and export versions of the B(I)8, where the navigator has to rely on a conventional escape hatch and parachute. The fuselage contains two bomb bays with conventional clamshell doors (a rotating door was implemented on the Martin-built B-57 Canberra). The wing is of single-spar construction with the spar passing through the fuselage. Outside of the engine nacelles, the wing has a leading edge sweep of 4° and trailing edge sweep of -14°. Controls are conventional with ailerons, four-section flaps, and airbrakes on top and bottom surfaces of the wings.

It is designed for a crew of two, under a fighter-style canopy, but delays in the development of the intended automatic radar bombsight resulted in the addition of a bomb aimer's position in the nose. Wingspan and length were almost identical at just under 20 metres, maximum takeoff weight a little under 25 tonnes. Thrust was provided by a pair of 30 kN axial flow Rolls-Royce Avon turbojets.

Prototypes and first flights

In the autumn of 1945, Air Ministry specification B.3/45 requested production of four prototypes. Although construction began in early 1946, the first aircraft flew only on 13 May 1949. In the interim, the Air Ministry had already ordered 132 production aircraft in bomber, reconnaissance, and training variants. The prototype proved vice-free and required only a few modifications. A new glazed nose had to be fitted to accommodate a bombardier because the advanced bombing avionics were not ready for production, the engines were upgraded to more powerful Avon R.A.3s, and the distinctive teardrop-shaped fuel tanks were fitted under the wingtips.

The resultant Canberra B.2 first flew on 21 April 1950, and entered squadron service with Royal Air Force (RAF) 101 Sqn in May 1951. In a testament to the aircraft's benign handling characteristics, the transition program consisted of only 20 hours in the Gloster Meteor and three hours in the dual-control Canberra trainer. With a maximum speed of 470 kt (871 km/h), a standard service ceiling of 48,000 ft (14,600 m), and the ability to carry a 3.6 tonne payload, the Canberra was an instant success. It was built in 27 versions which equipped 35 RAF squadrons, and were exported to Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Ethiopia, France, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Peru, Rhodesia, South Africa, Sweden, Venezuela and West Germany.

Other manufacturers

In the United States where the US Air Force needed to replace the B-26 Invader, 403Donald 1986, p18] Canberras were manufactured under licence by Martin as the B-57 Canberra in several versions. While these were initially almost exactly the same as the English Electric pattern aircraft, later models had a series of substantial modifications. In Australia, the Government Aircraft Factory (GAF) built 48 for the Royal Australian Air Force, broadly similar to the British B.2 but with a modified leading edge, increased fuel capacity and room for three starter cartridges (although in practice, all three cartridges would sometimes fire, leading to the triple starter units being loaded singly. [Wilson, Stewart, (1989) "Lincoln, Canberra and F-111 in Australian Service." Aerosplace Publications Pty Ltd ISBN 0-9587978-3-8]

In the United Kingdom, the demand for Canberras exceeded English Electric's ability to supply airframes, and so Handley Page and Short Brothers manufactured them under licence. [Barnes and James 1989, p.508.] 901 Canberras were manufactured in the UK, total worldwide Canberra production being 1,352.

Operational history

Canberras remained in front-line service with major air forces throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, and continued to serve as bombers and reconnaissance aircraft with minor air forces through the 1980s and 1990s. In the UK, the PR9 variant remained in service with 39 (1PRU) Squadron until July 2006 for tactical reconnaissance and photographic mapping, seeing service in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and, as recently as June 2006, in Afghanistan. The only Canberras remaining in active service are two American-built B-57s operated by NASA for high altitude research.

The Canberra played a part in many conflicts, being employed as a bomber by the RAF during the Suez Crisis; by the UK, New Zealand, and Australia in the Malayan Emergency; by the United States and Australia in Vietnam; by Ethiopia against Eritrea and then Somalia during the 1970s; by both Rhodesia and South Africa in their respective Bush Wars and by Argentina in the Falklands War.

The Canberra was the backbone of the Indian Air Force for bombing raids and photo reconnaissance. It was first used in 1962 by the IAF as part of the UN campaign against the breakaway Katanga republic in Africa. During the Indo-Pakistani Wars of the 1960s and 1970s, the Canberra was used by both sides. The most audacious use of the bomber was in the "Raid on Badin" during the Second Kashmir War, when the Indian Air Force sent in the Canberra to bomb a vital Pakistani radar post in West Pakistan. The raid was a complete success with the radars in Badin being badly damaged and put out of commission. [ [http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_325.shtml The Kashmir War, 1965: Raid on Badin] - Air Combat Information Group] Verify source|date=May 2008 In the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 they flew a very important sortie hitting the Karachi oil tanks, helping the Indian Navy to carry out their missile boat attacks. [ [http://www.indiadefence.com/canberra.htm WHAT ] ] On 21 May 1999, prior to the commencement of the Kargil War, the Air HQ of the Indian Air Force assigned a Canberra PR57 aircraft on a photographic mission near the LOC (Line of Control), where it took a severe blow from a FIM-92 Stinger infrared homing missile on the starboard engine and with only one operational engine left it still managed to return to base. The Canberras were finally retired by the IAF after 50 years of service on 11 May 2007. [ [http://www.saharasamay.com/samayhtml/Articles.aspx?NewsId=75162 Canberra B-57: IAF's 'Wild Weasel' retires after 50 years of service] ]

During the Vietnam War, GAF Canberras from 2 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force were valued because of their optical bombsights; these meant they could carry out bombing raids from higher altitudes, often with total surprise. More modern bombers and attack aircraft either used less-accurate electronic targeting equipment and/or dive bombing tactics, which risked greater losses to Viet Cong and North Vietnamese anti-aircraft fire.

The Swedish Air Force purchased two Canberras from the RAF in 1960 and had these modified to T11s by Boulton Paul. The aircraft were secretly modified in Sweden to espionage aircraft for eavesdropping on primarily Soviet, Polish and East German military radio transmissions, although this was not publicly admitted until ten years later. The Canberras were given the designation Tp52, and taken into service as 'testing aircraft', until they were replaced by two Tp85 Caravelles in 1971. [van der Aart 1985, p22]

The Argentine Air Force received 10 B.62 and 2 T.64 trainers at the beginning of the 1970s. During the 1982 Falklands War, eight of them were deployed to Trelew, (a distance of 670 mi (1,080 km) from the islands) to avoid congestion on the closer southern airfields. From May 1 to June 14, they made 35 sorties, 25 of them at night against ground troops. Two aircraft were lost, one to a RN Sea Harrier using a AM9L Sidewinder Air-to-air missile on the 1st May 1982 (Lt. Ibanez and Lt. Gonzalez ejected but were not rescued) and another to ship-launched Sea Dart missile on the 13th June 1982 (the pilot, Capt. Pastran, ejected safely but Capt. Casado was killed).

The Canberra could fly at a higher altitude than any other bomber right through the 1950s and set a world altitude record of 70,310 ft (21,430 m) in 1957.

The RAF's three-seat trainer Canberra T4s flew their last flights at RAF Marham in September 2005 because of the retirement of the photo-reconnaissance Canberras on 23 June 2006. In the twilight of their service these had been operational over Afghanistan. Sources indicate that there is no prospective replacement for the Canberra for future reconnaissance work such as that over Afghanistan.


A ceremony to mark the closure of No. 39 (PRU) Sqn took place at RAF Marham on Friday 28 July 2006. The ceremony included a flypast by a Canberra PR9 on its last ever sortie. RAF Canberras made their final flights on 31 July when three were delivered to their new home with Delta Jets at Kemble. They have been purchased by private agencies and will be kept serviceable pending developments which might include contract work.

After the Canberra left RAF service, the other full-time military operator, the Indian Air Force, announced the withdrawal of the Canberra from combat service from March 2007. The last Canberras operated by the Indian Air Force have retired after a 50 year career. Other Canberras are retained by the Air Force of Peru and several ex-RAF machines and RB-57s are flying in the US for research and mapping work.

About ten airworthy Canberras are in private hands today, and are a popular feature at flying displays.

Flight records set by Canberras

* 1951 - first non-stop transatlantic crossing by a jet. [ [http://jsc-aircraft-ops.jsc.nasa.gov/wb57/history.html NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston website] ]
* 1952 - first double transatlantic crossing by a jet.
* 1953 - height record - convert|63668|ft|m|abbr=on [http://records.fai.org/general_aviation/aircraft.asp?id=3218 FAI World Records] ]
* 1955 - height record - convert|65889|ft|m|abbr=on [ [http://www.centennialofflight.gov/user/fact_aug.htm "Centennial of Flight" web-site] ]
* 1957 - height record - convert|70310|ft|m|abbr=on [ [http://www.centennialofflight.gov/user/fact_aug.htm "Centennial of Flight" web-site] ] [ [http://records.fai.org/general_aviation/aircraft.asp?id=3142 FAI World Records] ] ::Canberra B.2 ("WK163") with a Napier "Double Scorpion" rocket motor in August


:"See B-57 Canberra article for the US-built variants."

;English Electric A.1:The first Canberra prototype.;Canberra B.1:Pre-production prototype, 4 built.;Canberra B.2:First production version, crew increased to 3 with addition of bomb aimer, Avon R.A.3 engines with 6,500 lbf (28.91 kN) of thrust, wingtip fuel tanks. 418 built by English Electric (208), Avro (75), Handley Page (75) and Short Brothers & Harland (60) [cite web |url=http://www.britishaircraft.co.uk/aircraftpage.php?ID=12 |title=Canberra |accessdate=2008-05-18 |format=html |work=British Aircraft Directory] including 8 for export (Australia, United States and Venezuela);Canberra PR.3:Photo-reconnaissance version of B.2, 36 built.;Canberra T.4:First trainer variant with dual controls, 75 built including 7 for export.;Canberra B.5:Prototype of second-generation Canberra with fuel tanks in the wings and Avon R.A.7 engines with 7,490 lbf (33.32 kN) of thrust, one built.;Canberra B.6:Production version based on B.5. 1 ft (0.3 m) fuselage stretch, could be fitted with a belly pack with 4x 20 mm Hispano cannon for strafing. 106 built by English Electric (57) and Short Brothers & Harland (49), includes 12 for export.;Canberra B.6RC:RC= Radio Countermeasures - Specialist ELINT version only 4 produced. Extended nose.;Canberra B(I).6:Interim interdictor version for the RAF, 22 built.;Canberra PR.7:Photo-reconnaissance version based on B.6, 71 built.;Canberra B(I).8:Third-generation Canberra derived from B.6 as interdictor. Teardrop canopy on the port site of the fuselage, with navigator in fuselage on starboard. Provision for a ventral pack with 4 x 20 mm Hispano cannon, one external hardpoint under each wing for up to 1,000 lb (454 kg) of bombs or unguided rockets, LABS (Low-Altitude Bombing System) for delivery of nuclear bombs. First flight 23 July 1954, 72 built includiing 17 for export.;Canberra PR.9:Photo-reconnaissance version based on B(I).8 with fuselage stretched to 68 ft (27.72 m), wingspan increased by 4 ft (1.22 m), and Avon R.A.27 engines with 10,030 lbf (44.6 kN) of thrust. 23 built by Short Brothers & Harland. 3 transferred to Chile after the Falklands War;Canberra U.10 :Remote-controlled target drones converted from B.2, later redesignated D.10.;Canberra T.11:Conversions to Radar trainer for weapon systems operators of all-weather interceptors.;Canberra B(I).12:Canberra B(I).8 bomber built for New Zealand and South Africa, 17 built.;Canberra T.13:Training version of the T.4 for the New Zealand, 1 built.;Canberra U.14:Remote-controlled target drones converted from the U.10, later designated D.14.;Canberra B.15:Upgraded B.6 with underwing hardpoints for 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs or rockets.;Canberra B.16:Similar to B.15.;Canberra T.17:Electronic warfare training aircraft used to train surface-based radar and missile operators and airborne fighter and Airborne Early Warning crews in handling jamming (including chaff dropping) aircraft.;Canberra T.17A:Updated version of the T.17 with improved navigation aids, a spectrum analyser in place of the previously-fitted AN/APR 20, and a powerful communications jammer.;Canberra TT.18:Target tug conversion of B.2;Canberra T.19:T.11 with radar removed as silent target.;Canberra B.20:B.2 with additional fuel tanks in the wings license-built in Australia, 48 built.;Canberra T.21:Trainers converted from B.2 and B.20;Canberra T.22:Conversion of the PR.7 for Royal Navy's Fleet Requirement and Air Direction Unit. Used for training Buccaneer navigators.;Canberra Mk.52:4 refurbished B.2 bombers sold to Ethiopia.;Canberra Mk.56:10 refurbished B(I).6 bombers sold to Peru.;Canberra PR.57:Tropicalized PR.7 for India, eight built.;Canberra B(I).58:Tropicalized B(I).8 for India, 71 built.;Canberra Mk.62:10 refurbished B.2 bombers sold to Argentina.;Canberra Mk.64:2 refurbished T.4 trainers sold to Argentina.;Canberra Mk.66:10 refurbished B(I).6 bombers sold to India.;Canberra Mk.67:2 refurbished PR.7s sold to India.;Canberra Mk.68:1 refurbished B(I).8 bomber sold to Peru.;Short SC.9:1 Canberra PR.9 rebuilt by Shorts fitted with an AI.23 radar, plus IR installation in the nose for Red Top air-to-air missile trials. Continued in use for radar missile development work. cite web
title= Canberra - PR.9 (Shorts SC.9) - XH132
format= html
work= A tribute to the English Electric Canberra


* Argentine Air Force (14);AUS
* Royal Australian Air Force (58);CHI
* Chilean Air Force (3);ECU
* Ecuadorian Air Force (6);ETH
*Ethiopian Air Force (4);FRA
* French Air Force (6)
** "Centre d'Essais en Vol
** "Centre du Tir et de Bombardment;GER
* Luftwaffe (3);IND
* Indian Air Force (107);NZL
* Royal New Zealand Air Force (13)
** No. 14 Squadron RNZAF
** No. 75 Squadron RNZAF;PER
* Peruvian Air Force (60);flag|Rhodesia
* Royal Rhodesian Air Force (20);flag|South Africa|1928
* South African Air Force (9);SWE
* Swedish Air Force(2);UK
* Royal Air Force (782):*No. 3 Squadron RAF:*No. 6 Squadron RAF:*No. 7 Squadron RAF:*No. 9 Squadron RAF:*No. 10 Squadron RAF:*No. 12 Squadron RAF:*No. 13 Squadron RAF:*No. 14 Squadron RAF:*No. 15 Squadron RAF:*No. 16 Squadron RAF:*No. 17 Squadron RAF:*No. 18 Squadron RAF:*No. 21 Squadron RAF:*No. 27 Squadron RAF:*No. 31 Squadron RAF:*No. 32 Squadron RAF:*No. 35 Squadron RAF:*No. 39 Squadron RAF:*No. 40 Squadron RAF:*No. 45 Squadron RAF:*No. 50 Squadron RAF:*No. 51 Squadron RAF:*No. 57 Squadron RAF:*No. 58 Squadron RAF:*No. 59 Squadron RAF:*No. 61 Squadron RAF:*No. 69 Squadron RAF:*No. 73 Squadron RAF:*No. 76 Squadron RAF:*No. 80 Squadron RAF:*No. 81 Squadron RAF:*No. 82 Squadron RAF:*No. 85 Squadron RAF:*No. 88 Squadron RAF:*No. 90 Squadron RAF:*No. 97 Squadron RAF:*No. 98 Squadron RAF:*No. 100 Squadron RAF:*No. 101 Squadron RAF:*No. 102 Squadron RAF:*No. 103 Squadron RAF:*No. 104 Squadron RAF:*No. 109 Squadron RAF:*No. 115 Squadron RAF:*No. 139 Squadron RAF:*No. 149 Squadron RAF:*No. 151 Squadron RAF:*No. 192 Squadron RAF:*No. 199 Squadron RAF:*No. 207 Squadron RAF:*No. 213 Squadron RAF:*No. 245 Squadron RAF:*No. 249 Squadron RAF:*No. 360 Squadron RAF:*No. 361 Squadron RAF:*No. 527 Squadron RAF:*No. 540 Squadron RAF:*No. 542 Squadron RAF:*No. 617 Squadron RAF
* Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm (69)
** Fleet and Air Direction Unit;USA
* United States Air Force (Two only for B-57 development);flag|Venezuela|1930
* Venezuelan Air Force (46);ZIM
*Air Force of Zimbabwe

Specifications (Canberra B.Mk.6)

aircraft specifications

plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=jet

ref=Combat Aircraft Recognition [cite book|author=March, PR|title=Combat aircraft recognition|year=1988|publisher=Ian Allan Ltd|id=ISBN 0-7110-1730-1]

length main=65 ft 6 in
length alt=19.96 m
span main=64 ft 0 in
span alt=19.51 m
height main=15 ft 8 in
height alt=4.77 m
area main=960 ft²
area alt=89.19 m²
empty weight main=21,650 lb
empty weight alt=9,820 kg
loaded weight main=46,000 lb
loaded weight alt=21,000 kg
max takeoff weight main=55,000 lb
max takeoff weight alt=25,000 kg

engine (jet)=Rolls-Royce Avon R.A.7 Mk.109
type of jet=turbojets
number of jets=2
thrust main=7,400 lbf
thrust alt=36 kN

max speed main=Mach 0.88
max speed alt=580 mph, 933 km/h
max speed more=at 40,000 ft (12,000 m)
combat radius main=810 mi
combat radius alt=700 nm, 1,300 km
ferry range main=3,380 mi
ferry range alt=2,940 nm, 5,440 km
ceiling main=48,000 ft
ceiling alt=15,000 m
climb rate main=3,400 ft/min
climb rate alt=17 m/s
loading main=48 lb/ft²
loading alt=234 kg/m²

guns=4×20 mm cannons mounted in rear bomb bay with 500 rounds/gun, "Or" 2× 0.30 in (7.62 mm) machine gun pods
rockets=2× unguided rocket pods with 37× 2 in (51 mm) rockets, "Or" 2× Matra rocket pods with 18× SNEB 68 mm rockets each
missiles=A variety of missiles can be carried according to mission requirements, e.g: 2× AS-30L air-to-surface missiles
bombs=Total of 8,000 lb (3,628 kg) of payload can be mounted inside the internal bomb bay and on two underwing hardpoints, with the ability to carry a variety of bombs.
Typically, the internal bomb bay can hold up to 9× 500 lb (227 kg) bombs, "Or" 6× 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs, "Or" 1× 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) bomb; while the pylons can hold 4× 500 lb (227 kg) bombs, "Or" 2× 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs.
Note: in addition to conventional ordnance, the Canberra was also type-approved for tactical nuclear weapons delivery i.e. the Red Beard, Mk 7, B57 and B28 nuclear bombs [ [http://www.janes.com/extracts/extract/jsws/jsws0609.html] ] . All nuclear weapons were carried internally.


ee also


* B-57 Canberra

similar aircraft=
* Ilyushin Il-28/Hong H-5
* Martin XB-51
* Sud-Ouest Vautour

* List of aircraft of the RAF
* List of aircraft of the RAAF
* List of bomber aircraft

see also=
* Gloster Meteor




* Anderton, David A. BofAeE, AFAIA. "Martin B-57 Night Intruders & General Dynamics RB-57F". "Aircraft in Profile, Volume 14". Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1974, p. 1-25. ISBN 0-85383-023-1.
* Barnes C.H. and James, D.N. "Shorts Aircraft since 1900". London: Putnam, 1989, ISBN 0-85177-819-4.
* Gunston, Bill. "Bombers of the West". London: Ian Allan Ltd., 1973, p. 13-30. ISBN 0-7110-0456-0.
* van der Aart, Dick. "Aerial Espionage". Shrewsbury: Airlife Publishing ltd., 1985, ISBN 0-906393-52-3.
* Donald, David. "The Pocket Guide to Military Aircraft". London: Temple Press., 1986, ISBN 0-600-55002-8.

External links

* [http://www.bywat.co.uk/ A Tribute to the English Electric Canberra]
* [http://www.nasa.gov/missions/research/b-57_feature.html NASA Feature on B-57 at 59]
* [http://jsc-aircraft-ops.jsc.nasa.gov/wb57/index.html NASA/JSC WB-57 High Altitude Research Program]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/5190242.stm BBC News - "Vintage jet is flying into sunset"]
* [http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/NEWS/India/IAFs_Canberra_bomber_makes_final_flight/articleshow/1729622.cms Times of India - "India's IAF Canberra bomber makes final flight"]
* [http://www.choiquehobbies.com.ar/revista/notas/camberra/camb.htm Argentine Canberras] in Spanish
* [http://www.spyflight.co.uk/yar.htm Kapustin Yar - spyflight over the USSR]
* [http://www.spyflight.co.uk/robin.htm Operation Robin - other spyflights over the USSR]
* [http://www.bywat.co.uk/wf922.html PR.3 - WF922]
* [http://www.aviationmuseum.com.au/aircraft/Canberra.cfm English Electric Canberra TT.18] - exhibit at Temora Aviation Museum
* [http://www.bywat.co.uk/records.html The English Electric Canberra Records]

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