Designed in 1948 by Roy Chadwick, and capable of reaching speeds of up to 645mph, the Vulcan was a key part of Great Britain's nuclear deterrent in the Cold War era. The maiden flight of the prototype (VX770) was in 1952 and in 1953 the type 698 was officially named the Vulcan.
Had it not been for the Falklands war in 1982 the Vulcan would have flown for its entire service life without ever dropping a bomb in anger. Although the primary weapon for the Vulcan was nuclear, it could carry up to 21 x 1000 lb bombs and 30 years after its maiden flight the Vulcan was able to successfully complete what was to become the longest successful combat flight in history (until the 15t Gulf War).
The nearest useable airfield and forward base for the Task Force was Ascension Island, some 3,500 miles and 8 hours flying time away. Given the age of the aircraft and the distances covered the Black Buck raids were, in the words of Captain Robert McQueen, Commander British Forces Support Unit, Ascension "a feat of consummate airmanship second to none".
Black Buck raid
The first Black Buck raid, 30th April/1st May required meticulous planning. A total of 11 Victor Tankers were used, refueling both the Vulcan (XM607) and the other tankers so that increasingly few Victors could continue with the Vulcan. Unpredictable fuel consumption led to several of the Victors returning to Ascension with barely enough fuel to land. At one point 4 Victors arrived and landed one after the other without having the time to allow the previous aircraft time to clear the small runway. As the 4th Victor came into the land the end of the runway was blocked and the pilot instructed, should he be unable to stop, to veer off into a volcanic cinder field! Fortunately all 4 Victors landed safely.
Meanwhile, the remaining Victors were transferring spare fuel to the final "long slot" tanker, responsible for providing the Vulcan with its final top up. During the final transfers turbulence caused a refueling hose to whip and break the receiving probe. Continuing south the final Victors had to reverse roles, consuming more fuel than expected. Having provided the Vulcan with sufficient fuel to complete its mission, it became clear that the Victor would run out of fuel some 400 miles south of Ascension. To avoid jeopardizing the mission, the aircraft Captain continued to Ascension maintaining radio silence, anxiously awaiting the code word confirming the success of the Vulcan mission. Thankfully the message was received in time for two tankers to be scrambled and they were met some 600 miles from Ascension. 14 hours after take-off, the final "long slot" Victor arrived safely back at Ascension. A total of a quarter of a million gallons of fuel was used to complete the Black Buck 1 raid, with just 7% being used by the Vulcan itself.
The primary objective of Black Buck 1 was to place at least 1 bomb on the runway at Stanley. As the lone Vulcan approached the Falklands signals were detected from Argentine radar attempting to lock onto her. Two miles out a total of 21 1,000 lb bombs were dropped diagonally across the runway, one hitting the runway dead center, while others hit fuel and ammo stores and even the golf course. Without its payload the Vulcan was able to return to Ascension with just a single Victor for company. It had been airborne for a remarkable 16 hours and 2 minutes.
Postage stamps in detail
Stamp Issue: Falkland Islands, 25 May 2007, 4 values within a souvenir sheet
Design: John Batchelor (illustrations) and Andres Robinson (graphic design)
Print: Lithography by Cartor
Stamp perforation 13 per 2cms
Stamp size: 30.6 x 38mm
More information Postage Stamps
Postage Stamps 2007
Postage stamps of Falkland Islands
Falkland Islands Maritime heritage
Falkland Islands Fisheries