The Vulcan bombing raid on Port Stanley, during the 1982 conflict was, then, THE longest bombing raid ever carried out:
Three 22-year-old Avro Vulcans B2s drawn from No. 44, 50 and No. 101 Squadron RAF were deployed to Wideawake airfield on Ascension Island. The Vulcans were captained by Squadron Leader Neil McDougall, Squadron Leader John Reeve and Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers. The wet wings could contain 9,200 gal (41,823 litres), so eleven Victor tankers, including two standby aircraft, were required to refuel the Vulcans before and after their attacks on the Falklands. The attacking Vulcan was refuelled five times on the outward journey and once on the return journey, using over 220,000 gallons of aviation fuel during the mission. Each aircraft carried either twenty-one 1,000 pound (450 kg) bombs or four Shrike anti-radar missiles (Dash 10 pod) with three 1,000 gal (4,546 litres) auxiliary fuel tanks in the bomb bay. The bombs were intended to cause damage to Argentine installations, especially Port Stanley Airport; it was hoped that the attacks would cause the defenders to switch on defensive radars, which would then be targeted by the missiles. The lighter Shrike armed Vulcans could loiter in the area longer than the bomb armed Vulcans.
The military success of Black Buck remains controversial to this day with some independent sources describing it as minimal , the damage to the airfield and radars being quickly repaired. The runway continued to be used by Argentine C-130s until the end of the war. The Argentines left the runway covered with piles of earth during the day causing British intelligence to surmise that repairs were still in progress. This deception misled the British as to the condition of the airfield and the success of their raids.
British sources claimed that Black Buck was responsible for the withdrawal of Mirage IIIEA from operations over the islands. However, according to the official FAA report they made 58 sorties during May and June, providing decoys for the strike units with particular success on the 8 June attacks against the British landing ships. Their lesser internal fuel capacity, compared to the IAI Daggers, as well their lack of air refueling capability, prevented them from being used in the escort or combat-air role.
To the British, the raids achieved a number of non-material objectives, including demonstrating British willingness and ability to attack Argentine forces on the islands. It also demonstrated the ability (albeit limited) of the RAF to strike at the Argentinian mainland if necessary.
At the time, it was the longest bombing raid in history, covering over 4,000 nautical miles (7,000 km), all of which were conducted over the open sea. This record was not broken until an American B-52 flew from the USA to Iraq, and then returned to RAF Mildenhall in England during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, although a major difference between the two was that the B-52s benefited from forward pre-positioned tankers for their aerial refueling.
The first surprise attack on the islands, on 30 April-1 May was aimed at the main runway at Stanley Airfield. Carrying twenty-one 1,000 lb general-purpose bombs, the bomber was to fly across the line of the runway, with the time between each bomb release having been carefully calculated to ensure that at least one bomb would land on the runway.
For the mission, two Vulcans took off from RAF Ascension Island. XM598 took the lead, and XM607 flew some of the way as a reserve. Shortly after take off, XM598, commanded by Squadron Leader John Reeve, suffered a pressurisation failure (a rubber seal on a side window had come loose) and was forced to return to Ascension. XM607, captained by Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers, took over and successfully cratered the runway with a single direct hit near the runway's mid point. However, it still remained operational for the Argentine C-130 Hercules transports. Other bombs fell to the side of the runway, and caused slight damage to tented installations in the airfield perimeter
The attack took the Argentinians completely by surprise and had a political effect far greater than any material damage caused. They were still convinced that the British would not commit themselves to battle and that the crisis would be resolved diplomatically.
This story, the trials and tribulations of preparing for and flying the mission, is told in well researched detail in the book Vulcan 607. I'd definitely recommend it, it was an excellent read.
I'm a conscientious man... when I throw rocks at seabirds I leave no tern unstoned. (Ogden Nash)
Et nom de dieu! C'est triste Orly la dimanche (Jacques Brel)
I have read the book too and i agree it was an excellent book. As to Black Book being the greatest then i agree totally. If anyone doesnt then read the book!
Yes, an audacious mission and a truly great read, but as discussed at length in Sharkey Ward's book 'Sea Harrier over the Falklands', it was also one heck of a way of using a spectacular amount of fuel, and beyond its strong pyschological message it actually only put one bomb on target. But he would say that, wouldn't he?
I think if you're looking for the most impressive mission you have to look back 65 years to the Dambusters raid - a much greater technological and operational feat, in my opinion.
It wasn't so much the PHYSICAL damage, as the PHYSOLOGICAL damage... The fact that we BOMBED the airport & deliberatly leaked that we could keep up the bombing was a big psychological blow to the Argies
I do have to agree with you though, the Dambusters Raid was a great feat of it's time. But in MY mind the Black Buck raids gets MY vote!
The fact they had inferior jamming equipment & had to 'borrow' the DASH-10 Jamming pods off the Buccaneer's & then 'jurey-rig' them to the underside of the port wing & after everything, they weren't even sure they'd work.
Now, "The Dambusters" is another great book and is worth a read - more for what 617 Squadron did after the Dams mission. (Don't make the same mistake I did and assume the book is the same as the film).
How about on D-Day flying backwards and forwards at low level over the channel towards Calais, dropping a coordinated, advancing wall of chaff so that German Coastal radar would think that a huge fleet was moving across the narrowest crossing point rather than further south to Lower Normandy? Ingenious and supreme low flying.
My wings are like a shield of steel.
Leonard Cheshire also went on to found "Cheshire Homes" initially for disabled veterans and then for all disabled people.
More info here.
I just think it typifies the British spirit using an aircraft near obsoletion fudged with other equipment and performing such a mission.