Following the transfer of the strategic deterrent role to the Royal Navy’s Polaris fleet, on 30th June 1969, the RAF maintained three nuclear-capable Vulcan wings with different weaponry, and accordingly different standard of aircraft. The Scampton Vulcans were designated B Mk.2A as they had provision for Blue Steel. The Cottesmore aircraft had B Mk.2s armed with WE177B lay- down thermonuclear weapons. Finally, the Waddington Wing of Nos 44, 50 and 101 Squadrons, relinquished their B Mk.1As, and the Yellow Sun Mk.2, in favour of Vulcan B Mk.2s armed with WE177B free-fall thermonuclear weapons.
During November 1973 some of the Vulcans began to take on yet another role, with the establishment of No. 27 Squadron as a Maritime Radar Reconnaissance unit, having been removed from the strike role in March 1972. The Vulcans converted for this new role became known as SR Mk.2s, and No. 27 Squadron took the place of No. 543 Squadron, which had operated SR Mk.2 Victors until its disbandment in May 1974.
The Vulcan’s serviceability rate has always been kept at a high level through the professionalism of RAF ground crews, and through the excellent refurbishing and major overhaul programmes carried out by both the RAF at St Athan and Hawker Siddeley Aviation, now part of British Aerospace, at their airfield at Bitteswell. The RAF Engineering wing at St. Athan completed its 500th Vulcan overhaul in September 1978, when XM573 returned to No. 44 Squadron.
Based within sight of Lincoln Cathedral since 1975, the eight surviving Vulcan B.Mk.2 units remained in the forefront of the RAF’s strike force until the run-down began in 1981, having cost £5million per year* to operate since 1969.
Throughout the Cold War period the RAF’s V Force and Strategic Air Command were free to illustrate their close relationship with the United States, and participation in USAF exercises was regular, as were navigation exercises which ended in Offut AFB, Nebraska.
* £5million in 1971 is worth £63million in 2022 pounds.