1945 – The dawning of the atomic age

Part of the Vulcan - A Time In History series

With the dawning of the atomic age in August 1945, it was obvious to military strategists that any future bomber to deliver a nuclear weapon would have to be jet powered and of advanced aerodynamic design.


The Royal Air Force Staff requirements for such an aircraft were covered in specification B.35/46, and this was issued to the aircraft industry on New Years Day 1947. It called for a high-altitude, high-speed, strategic bomber capable of delivering a single 10,000 lb (4,536 kg) nuclear weapon to a target 1725 miles (2,780 km) distant. Six companies, including Vickers, Handley Page and Avro, were invited to tender.


Some of the early designs bore little resemblance to the aircraft we know today, but by the time the tender, known as the Avro 698, was submitted to the Air Ministry in May 1947 the triangle-design had grown a nose, with large engine intakes at each side.


Such were the advanced requirements of the B.35/46 specification that the Air staff wisely decided on an ‘insurance’ design for an aeroplane of more conventional nature. Out of this came a type, later known as the Vickers Valiant, being ordered into production as the first generation of V-Bomber.

The summer of 1947 saw the tender for the Avro 698 firmly in the hands of the Ministry of Supply, but the Avro team suffered a grievous loss with the death of Roy Chadwick, who was killed in the crash of the Tudor 2 prototype at Woodford on August 23rd. It was feared that Chadwick’s death might cause the Ministry to lose confidence in the new delta, but all was well with the Ministry having accepted Avro’s proposals on July 23rd 1947. Assistant Chief Designer S.D. Davies, who had survived the accident, now took over design leadership of the delta programme.

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