The crescent winged Handley Page Victor was one of the longest serving aircraft designs to be found within the Royal Air Force during the Cold War period. It was also one of the most adapted aircraft, serving as a conventional & nuclear bomber, strategic reconnaissance aeroplane and air-to-air refuelling tanker.
Work began on the H.P.80 in 1945 as a private project within the Handley Page aircraft company. Released to service on the 29 July 1957 the Victor was to form one of the key elements in the United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent, initially equipped with the Blue Danube free fall nuclear bomb. The Victor, in its B.2 incarnation, went on to carry the Blue Steel nuclear stand off bomb until the Royal Navy took over the deterrent role with Polaris at the end of the 1960’s.
The Victor also undertook strategic reconnaissance; the dedicated Victor SR.2 version being operated by 543 Squadron. Defence Minister Denis Healey was able to say that the British knew where every Soviet ship was in the Mediterranean, largely due to the work of the SR.2. However, the Victor was to see its first real combat as an aerial tanker in the Falklands Conflict, supporting long range bombing missions from Ascension Island. The Victor’s swansong was to be the first Gulf War being based at Muharraq, Bahrain, supporting coalition air forces along ‘the olive trail’ tanker route over southern Iraq. The Victor retired from RAF service on the 15th October 1993.
RAF Nuclear Deterrent Forces
Postwar Military Aircraft: 6 Handley Page Victor
Warpaint Series No. 36 Handley Page Victor