By Steve Morris, 9 Oct 2012
As a small child I was lucky enough to witness something truly awesome. My father had taken me to an air display where the Vulcan was making an appearance. I didn't see it take off (I was too short to see over the crowds). I don't think I heard it, at least not at first. I just felt it. I'd never felt anything like it.
If you've never experienced a Vulcan bomber taking off, you might not understand why this left such a lasting impression on me. Let me assure you, it's the loudest thing you'll ever hear. Perhaps not in decibels, but in the way you feel it through your whole body rather than hear it. It is literally awe-inspiring.
Independent nuclear deterrent
The delta-wing Vulcan was the most iconic of the UK's three V-class nuclear bombers, developed after World War II and capable of dropping a nuclear bomb. The V-class strategic bombers were the UK's independent nuclear deterrent during the 1950s and 1960s, before being replaced in the 1970s by submarines equipped with Polaris missiles.
Fly high, fly fast
The Vulcan was designed to fly high, fly fast and carry a large payload. This would make it practically invulnerable to attack, and able to guarantee delivery of its single devastating nuclear bomb. This was the key to the deterrent strategy, and in fact no British bomber ever flew with a live nuclear weapon; the deterrent strategy was a success.
The requirements to fly high and fast and to carry a heavy bomb are the reasons why the Vulcan looks and sounds so impressive. Powered by four Rolls-Royce Olympus engines, it was capable of taking off on a short runway within 2 minutes in the event of a Soviet attack. With afterburners on, it could fly almost vertically upwards into the sky. Yet it wasn't supersonic. It's maximum speed was 645 mph and it had a maximum ceiling of 65,000 feet.
This video may give you some idea of what this insanely loud but graceful aircraft is like in the flesh.
The Vulcan was never used in its intended combat role, but it did see action during the Falklands campaign, where it was used to drop conventional bombs. Its 4,600 mile range made it uniquely suited to the task. Flying from Ascension Island, the Vulcan set a world record for the longest-ever bombing mission.
Spirit of Great Britain
The RAF deployed a total of 134 Vulcans. The last of these was withdrawn from service in 1984. However, a small Vulcan Display Team carried on flying and Vulcan XH558 (The Spirit of Great Britain) was restored and now appears regularly at displays. If you want to experience a Vulcan in flight yourself, I'd urge you to go and see it. It's an experience you won't forget.
Got a question? This is the place to ask it!
Please don't ask a question that has already been asked. Duplicates will be removed.
Please do not use swear words or offensive language, and please, no advertising!
Comment by David Coney
on 8th Oct 2014
Worked on these in my early RAF days. Just to correct a comment from above, the Vulcan does NOT have afterburners in the propulsion system.
Comment by Charles
on 11th Dec 2013
Concorde has the same engines. Saw one land and take off again at RAF Finningley in the 90s. AWSOME!
Comment by teppin from uk on 8th Aug 2013
that thing is truly awesome. it has a spitfire effect on me