Vickers Valiant B1

Overview

‘The Valiant held Bomber Command’s head high, nationally and internationally’
Air Pictorial, March 1965

First flown May 1951, the Vickers Valiant was the first ‘V’ bomber to enter Squadron service with the RAF, replacing the obsolete Avro Lincoln from February 1955. A versatile aircraft, the Valiant served in four versions in the bomber/tanker-receiver/long range strategic photoreconnaissance roles, in ten RAF Squadrons. In the 1956 Suez campaign, Valiants were the first V-bombers to drop bombs ‘in anger’. The tanker Valiants of No. 214 Squadron pioneered operational development of in-flight refueling in the RAF from March 1958, two squadrons becoming the RAF’s first operational tanker squadrons on 1 April 1962.

On 11 October 1956, Valiant WZ366 of No.49 Squadron carried the first British operational atomic bomb to be dropped from an aircraft during ‘Operation Buffalo’ over Maralinga, Southern Australia. The RAF Museum’s XD818, from the same squadron, dropped Britain’s first live thermonuclear hydrogen bomb off Christmas Island on 15 May 1957.

Stress-induced wing spar fatigue cracking after transfer to the low-level tactical bomber role in 1962 led to a hurried withdrawal from service of all Valiants in January 1965. This was followed by a mass scrapping programme at the home bases when a resparring programme, tested on Valiant XD816 in 1964/65, proved too expensive.

Production ended in August 1957, 107 being built including prototypes.

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