V Bomber

The term V bomber was used for the Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft during the 1950s and 1960s that comprised the United Kingdom's strategic nuclear strike force known officially as the V-force or Bomber Command Main Force. The bombers, whose names all started with the letter "V" and which were known collectively as the V-class, were the Vickers Valiant (first flew 1951, entered service 1955), Avro Vulcan (first flew 1952, in service 1956) and Handley Page Victor (first flew 1952, in service 1958). The V-Bomber force reached its peak in June 1964, with 50 Valiants, 70 Vulcans and 39 Victors in service.

For long range operations, tanker variants of each were developed. When it became clear that Soviet missiles could successfully bring down high flying aircraft, the V bomber force changed to low-level attack methods. As a result the Valiants were removed from service after problems with fatigue in their wings became apparent; a planned low level variant of the Valiant did not progress beyond the prototype.

The V bombers were to carry the GAM-87 Skybolt, an air-launched ballistic missile, to update their strike potential as new innovations in the Cold War made their early style of operation less viable; however Skybolt was cancelled by the US and the Royal Navy became Britain's main provider of the nuclear deterrent, using UGM-27 Polaris intercontinental ballistic missiles from nuclear submarines in the 1970s. While the V bombers no longer held precedence in Britain's nuclear strategic planning, superseded by aircraft such as the SEPECAT Jaguar and Panavia Tornado, which carried smaller tactical nuclear weapons, the Avro Vulcan would be perhaps best remembered for its conventional long range bombing raids during the 1982 Falklands War. The Valiants had been used during the Suez Crisis as conventional bombers. Victors had been deployed to the far East as a deterrence during the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation but not used on missions. Usage of all V bombers as weapons platforms, nuclear or conventional, ended in 1982.

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