As NATO once again lets its airplanes loose on an Arab country to bomb them into liking us, it seemed a good time to look at a Cold War weapon. The Vulcan Bomber was Britain’s main weapon designed to carry a nuclear payload to the Soviet Union, although the only real combat mission it ever took was with conventional payload during the Falklands War.
It was designed for height and speed and so had no defensive armaments although it was equipped with sophisticated electronic counter measures to send back a false detection to enemy radar. These measures were good enough to scare the Americans when they realised during war games that they could track the Vulcan either. Originally the fuselage was white to reflect a nuclear blast and the crew largely had no windows apart from the pilots’.
In the event of the Cuban Missile Crisis turning into war, Britain would only get two minutes warning of a Soviet missile attack so the crews manned the Vulcans around the clock and also slept in their flight suits ready to go. The bombers could be started in less than a minute by pressing a single button and then they would have another minute to climb steeply to avoid an atomic blast. The theory was that Stalin would try to catch Britain’s nuclear deterrent before it could clear the airfield.
It was likely that the bombers would have been able to avoid the Migs that were waiting for them in Eastern Europe and evade Moscow’s anti-aircraft systems and would have been successful in ‘delivering their ordnance’ as the military euphemism goes. Their orders were then to try and return to base for reloading. I wonder what they would have found when they got there?