Preserved Vulcans to become future Airfix classics
Welcome to this latest edition of Workbench and all the news, updates and exclusive announcements from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling.
You may well be asking yourself if we have let all the early festive Christmas spirit get to our heads and have decided we should move to the weekly production of our blog, particularly after we informed readers that our previous blog would be the penultimate edition for the year. Even though this past year has certainly shown that there are so many new project updates to keep on top of, in addition to the many interesting reader supplied features we receive that we could easily sustain a weekly production schedule, an increase in blog frequency is not currently on the cards. This additional blog is being published in support of the Airfix advent calendar which is located on the Airfix website homepage for the duration of the holiday period and will feature lots of interesting Airfix related competitions, prizes and gift guides - you may even discover a couple of Workbench blogs lurking behind some of the doors. We will be back as usual with our regular edition of Workbench next Friday, which will then be the third blog in three consecutive weeks - we really know how to spoil you. Next week’s edition will also include our cracking Christmas competition, so please keep an eye out for that.
For this additional Airfix advent edition, we have a slightly abridged version of the blog, with just a single model in the spotlight, however, you will be pleased to hear that it is a significant one. We are pleased to be bringing you the latest update from our new 1/72nd scale Avro Vulcan B.2 tooling project, a kit which is undoubtedly one many thousands of modellers are desperate to get their hands on. We will be revisiting the stunning artwork which will be gracing the box of this new kit, in addition to bringing you all the scheme details from the two decal options which will be included in the first release of this kit. It is interesting to note that in support of all your forthcoming Vulcan builds, you will be able to visit both of these magnificent machines as part of your research preparation, although only one aircraft is still in complete condition. Without further ado, let’s enjoy some quality Vulcan time.
Our new Vulcan unveiling seems such a long time ago
The calm after the announcement storm. The Airfix stand finally falls silent after an extremely busy day at Scale Modelworld 2019
Even though it has only been a year, it seems such a long time ago that we were all gathered at Scale Modelworld 2019, preparing to announce the existence of our new 1/72nd scale Avro Vulcan B.2 tooling, with a large crowd of enthusiasts around the Airfix stand and members of our on-line team ready to record the reaction. The Airfix team were already fully aware that this new model was one that many thousands of modellers had been hoping to see added to the range, but with so many people waiting patiently to see what our latest announcement was and many thousands more watching the various live social media feeds coming from the show, we wanted everything to go with military precision. Thankfully, exactly as we had planned, our Brand Manager gave his little introductory address to the crowd and the banner which had been positioned above the Airfix stand unfurled to perfection and the big news was out - our new Avro Vulcan B.2 tooling was already in development.
We knew that a newly tooled Vulcan would be an incredibly popular choice with Airfix fans, particularly as we had the reassurance of knowing this was probably the most requested new model addition to our range over recent years, but it is always pleasing when the team receive a seemingly never ending stream of glowing endorsements for the remainder of the show weekend. Our stand featured a unique and rather expensive resin prototype model of the new Vulcan, centrally located under the protection of our now famous display plinth and for the rest of the show weekend, the Vulcan was rarely without a crowd of admirers around it. Indeed, this popularity extended well into the evening, with other exhibitors, traders and show officials all coming to get acquainted with our new Vulcan long after the show had closed to the public. Clearly, the Airfix team get rather attached to our latest tooling projects and a couple of us decided to stay until the hall had completely emptied, acting as Vulcan chaperones for her first public outing - they turned out to be rather quick showers before dinner that evening.
The Vulcan is unquestionably one of the most iconic jet aircraft of the Cold War period and an aircraft which continued to keep the British aviation industry at the forefront of world aviation technology. The mark of Vulcan we decided to model was the later B.2 variant, a much more cultured and operationally capable version of the first Vulcans to enter RAF service in September 1956, with the earlier aircraft actually exhibiting several unforeseen design inefficiencies. The installation of more powerful Rolls Royce Olympus engines brought about a rather radical redesign of the Vulcan’s wing, with the B.2 variant featuring two distinct kinks in its leading edge, well forward of the profile of the original delta.
A computer rendered image featuring the new 1/72nd scale Vulcan B.2, which gives us all an indication of what we have to look forward to early next year
The service introduction of the definitive Vulcan B.2 in July 1960 coincided with the availability of more capable nuclear weapons for Britain’s V-bomber force, both in number and their destructive potential. It would also bring about a change in thinking regarding the delivery of these weapons, as significant advances in Soviet anti-aircraft technology now threatened the successful delivery of a free-fall gravity munitions. A new weapon would have to be developed in order to maintain the effective deterrent threat of the Vulcan and its V-bomber partners, aircraft which kept an uneasy peace in Europe at an extremely volatile period in world history, perversely by virtue of their ability to inflict unimaginable devastation on any potential enemy.
This threat was maintained by modifying Vulcan B.2s to carry the Avro produced ‘Blue Steel’ air-launched, nuclear stand-off missile, a weapon which would allow V-bomber crews to launch their attacks well out of the range of Soviet surface-to-air missile batteries and give them additional time to avoid the resultant blast shock. Further boosting the effectiveness of the V-bomber force the arrival of ‘Blue Steel’ raised the nuclear stakes in Britain’s favour once more and clearly would have caused much consternation amongst the Warsaw Pact nations.
Nuclear equipped Vulcan’s were given an all over anti-flash white paint finish, which was designed to have the dual benefit of making the aircraft extremely difficult to see from the ground and in the event of a nuclear delivery, offer some reflective properties which would help to deflect any thermal energy hitting the aircraft, therefore protecting the aircraft and its crew. Mercifully, this theory was never put to the test and in actual fact, despite possessing incredible destructive power, no British bomber would ever fly with a live nuclear weapon on board, which in itself stands testament to the deterrent threat posed by the Vulcans of the nuclear V-force.
The RAF’s V-Bombers relinquished their role as Britain’s nuclear deterrent force in July 1969, with the Royal Navy and their Polaris missile equipped submarines assuming this significant responsibility. The final Blue Steel equipped V-bomber sortie would take place in December 1970, however the mighty Vulcan would continue to be the offensive first of the Royal Air Force, just flying a little closer to the ground.
Let’s now take a closer look at the two appealing scheme options which will accompany the release of this spectacular new kit.
Scheme A - Avro Vulcan B.Mk.2 XM594, The Scampton Wing (Nos.27, 83 and 617 Squadrons, RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire, England 1966. Aircraft currently preserved at the Newark Air Museum
Avro Vulcan XM594 was the penultimate B.2 variant to be built at Avro’s Chadderton and Woodford factories which was capable of carrying the Blue Steel nuclear stand-off missile, Britain’s most effective deterrent weapon at that time. She was delivered to the Royal Air Force in July 1963 and allocated to No.27 Squadron at Scampton, the Squadron which first introduced the B.2 variant of the Vulcan to RAF service. Pooled into the ‘Blue Steel Wing’, the aircraft would remain at Scampton for the next nine years, serving through the period when the V-Bomber force would be required to change its role from conducting high altitude to low level nuclear operations.
From the mid 1960s, Scampton’s Vulcans gave up their iconic white anti-flash paint scheme for one which featured standard RAF camouflage on all upper surfaces, which reflected the tactical change from high to low altitude operations. Significant advances in Soviet SAM missile capability meant that Vulcan crews could no longer be expected to safely conduct their original high altitude Blue Steel delivery missions and were forced to ‘head for the deck’. Unfortunately, this altitude switch significantly reduced the tactical effectiveness of the missile and the nuclear writing was already on the wall for Britain’s V-force. Vulcan B.2 XM594 would still be at Scampton when all eight aircraft of No.27 Squadron were converted for a nuclear laydown bombload and assigned to fly deep penetration raids into Eastern Europe, supporting Allied ground forces in the event of conflict.
For such an important project as this, we definitely thought we could get away with having two different versions of the box artwork produced, each one showing Vulcan XM594 performing its Blue Steel equipped nuclear deterrent role
By the end of 1971, the Vulcan’s of No.27 Squadron had relinquished their nuclear delivery role altogether and by the following year, XM594 had made the short hop to the nearby Waddington Wing, where she joined No.101 Squadron. During her 20 year RAF career, this Vulcan would see service with Nos. 27, 101 and 44 Squadrons. Her final operational sortie was as part of the last Vulcan scramble on 17th December 1982, where no less than 7 Vulcans took part in this impressive demonstration, as the Vulcan prepared to bow out of RAF service. On the same day, four of the seven Vulcans involved in the scramble demo also flew in formation over former RAF Vulcan stations, as this unique aircraft made its farewell flight - XM594 acted as a reserve aircraft for this tribute.
The last flight of Avro Vulcan B.2 XM594 took place on a rather cold and wintery 7th February day in 1983, when she was flown from her home base at RAF Waddington to the Newark Air Museum site at Winthorpe, the start of a new chapter in her life. Not only would she be one of the largest aircraft to have ever landed at this former RAF Winthorpe site, but on this historic occasion, the aircraft was captained by decorated Falklands War pilot Squadron Leader Neil McDougal. On landing, he was more than happy to recount some of his Vulcan flying exploits to enthralled NAM volunteers who had gathered for his arrival. Significantly, at that time, XM594 was the only Vulcan disposed of by the RAF to be flown into an unlicenced airfield.
This magnificent aircraft is now kept in fine condition by the museum volunteers and is a hugely impressive exhibit and until relatively recently was maintained in an ‘electrically live’ condition. At regular occasions during the year, volunteers would conduct an electrical systems check, where the lights, airbrakes and bomb bay doors would all be operated. Unfortunately, a tightening in regulations meant that these checks can no longer be performed on the Newark Air Museum site, though this magnificent museum is definitely still well worth a visit. Indeed, most UK aviation enthusiast visitors will probably tell you that enjoying the sight of this magnificent mighty delta bomber is worth paying the modest museum entrance fee by itself, even before you consider all the other aviation delights on show at Newark.
Now a much loved exhibit at the Newark Air Museum, Avro Vulcan B.2 XM594 was the aircraft we scanned at the outset of this significant new tooling project
Thanks to the continued efforts of museum volunteers, work on their beloved Vulcan is an ongoing process and she is constantly being cleaned, inspected and restored so this Cold War warrior can be enjoyed by the thousands of visitors who will surely flock to her in the years to come. If you are lucky enough to visit the museum when staffing and weather conditions allow, you may actually be allowed to climb aboard the Vulcan for a very reasonable fee. Clambering into the cockpit area and also sitting at the navigators table, you really do get some appreciation of the operating environment RAF Vulcan crews had to endure - for such a mighty aeroplane, there really isn’t much available moving space inside. It seems probable that most Vulcan crews would probably have been rather slim chaps!
Thanks to our good friends at the Newark Air Museum, this is the magnificent aircraft we were fortunate enough to be allowed to scan at the very start of this project, making this lead scheme a popular choice amongst members of the Airfix team.
Scheme B - Avro Vulcan B.Mk.2 XM602, RAF No.12 Squadron, Coningsby, Lincolnshire, England 1963. Nose section now preserved at the Avro Heritage Museum, former Woodford site
Avro Vulcan XM602 emerged from the assembly hangar at Avro’s Woodford factory in 1963, resplendent it its stunning all white anti-flash nuclear scheme. Immediately joining the RAF’s V-Bomber force, her first posting would be to RAF Coningsby and No.12 Squadron, where she would be tasked with maintaining the nation’s nuclear deterrent threat, helping to ensure the country was not dragged into another devastating conflict. She would actually turn out to be quite a well-travelled Vulcan, spending much time on overseas deployment around the world and representing a modern RAF at international Airshow events. In 1967, she would prove to be a huge attraction at the Dulles International Airport Airshow, where she rather effectively showed the American audience what a real aeroplane looked like.
During her service career, XM602 would spend time based at Coningsby, Cottesmore and Coningsby and in 1971, operated out of McCoy AFB in Florida, as she took part in the US Air Force’s ‘Giant Voice’ Strategic Air Command bombing competition. A little closer to home, she was a regular UK Airshow attendee, where she would usually take her place in the static aircraft display, leaving display performances to other Vulcans. A series of magnificent pictures of the aircraft were taken at the 1981 Greenham Common Airshow, which can be found via a quick web search, interesting as these were taken during the twilight of her RAF career. That career ended in 1982, when XM602 was flown to RAF St Athan to take up residence with the Historic Aircraft Museum located there, but that was not to be the end of her story. In the Autumn of 1993, the aircraft was unceremoniously scrapped, with just the nose section surviving the cull - this surviving section was secured by the Avro Heritage Centre based at Woodford and was later transported back to the airfield of her birth. Regularly worked on by heritage volunteers and Woodford apprentices, the nose section would be displayed at the annual Woodford Airshows, a popular attraction at this home of the Vulcan.
With the Woodford show falling victim to a change in status at the site, the nose section was loaned out to the Vulcan to the Sky trust, where she toured the country in an attempt to gain public support and funds to keep Vulcan XH558 flying for as long as possible. Returning to Woodford some years later, the now beautifully restored nose of Vulcan XM602 is now one of the highlight attractions at the new Avro Heritage Museum, a purpose built facility on the site of the old Woodford factory site. Museum visitors can climb aboard this fantastic exhibit and experience what it was like to sit in the pilots seat of one of Britain’s most famous bombers, made all the more special by the knowledge that you are doing so just a few hundred metres from where the aircraft was originally built.
It is also interesting to note that her sister aircraft, XM603 is also on display at the museum, standing majestically in an enclosed outdoor section, having been the subject of a concerted restoration program. This aircraft is finished in the iconic anti-flash white scheme and is currently the only preserved Vulcan airframe presented this way.
The sister airframe of the second scheme option to be offered with our new Vulcan kit, XM603 was the aircraft which stood slowly falling into disrepair at the Woodford factory site and the one the airline captain in the story below remembers regularly overflying. The aircraft is now preserved with the nose section of XM602 at the Avro Heritage Museum
Adding a little additional local interest to this particular scheme option, most of the former Woodford factory site was demolished to make way for a modern housing development and a recent Vulcan related story in the local press caught our attention. A couple who were thinking about purchasing a house on the development did so because they wanted to be close to family, but also because the location had some sentimental meaning for them. The man of the new house was a former RAF pilot who later embarked on a career as an airline captain. He remembered with some fondness regularly flying out of Manchester Airport and seeing a distinctive white Vulcan on the Woodford airfield site (XM603) as he flew over, always looking for it as an interesting aviation landmark. When the couple were looking round their new house, the story was mentioned and the agent told them that the developers had helped to establish the new Avro Heritage Museum, which was on the opposite side of the airfield and open to the public. Significantly, the white Vulcan he remembered with such fondness was now over there.
The former pilot couldn’t resist going across and reacquainting himself with the aircraft he remembered having seen from the air so many times during his civilian aviation days and once in the museum, he was also shown the beautifully restored nose section of another Vulcan, and was invited to sit in the pilots seat, bringing back happy memories of his Royal Air Force service. On returning home and checking his service log book, he discovered that he had flown both XM602 and XM603 during his RAF career! What a fantastic story and a development which must have certainly sealed the deal when considering the new house purchase.
There is no doubting that this new 1/72nd scale Avro Vulcan B.2 kit will become a firm favourite with modellers all over the world as soon as it is released and we fully expect this to be one of the most popular model kits we have ever produced. With the two scheme options offered with the initial release presenting this magnificent aircraft whilst serving in its RAF nuclear deterrent role, the compelling stories behind each one’s post RAF careers will make scheme selection a particularly difficult one. Currently scheduled for a first quarter of 2021 release, we still have time before we have to make that decision, just as long as we make sure one of these beauties will be heading in our direction once it has been released.
Our next Vulcantastic update will feature built sample models in both of these schemes, but by then, we really will be expecting the imminent arrival of our new Vulcan.
We will be back to our usual Workbench publication slot next Friday, where we will also be announcing our Christmas cracker of a competition, with an extremely desirable Airfix kit awaiting our lucky winner. The next edition following that will be on Friday 8th January, where we will be reviewing all the new models announced in the 2021 Airfix range - something to really look forward to.
If you are thinking of choosing one or two items from the Airfix website as gifts this Christmas, please don’t delay ordering too long, as our warehouse staff are already extremely busy and we would not want you to miss the ordering deadlines for Christmas delivery. Please see the Airfix Homepage for all the latest ordering information.
That’s all we have for you in this latest edition of Workbench, however, we will be back as usual in two weeks’ time with a further selection of Airfix modelling delights for your enjoyment. If you have any suggestions for subjects you would like to see covered in a future edition, please use this firstname.lastname@example.org link to contact us.
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The next edition of Workbench is due to be published on Friday 11th December, when we will have more interesting features from the world of modelling.
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