Victor K2 XL511 of 55 sqn was heavily involved throughout the Falklands war in 1982. It was one of several Victor tankers deployed to Ascension Island and used to refuel the Vulcans on their Black Buck missions to bomb Port Stanley airfield to deny its use by Argentine aircraft. This limited edition example (one of only 2,300) has a superb “battle scarred” finish and comes complete with a replica Falklands medal. Looks truly stunning on display with the Corgi AA31202 Falklands Black Buck Vulcan XM597.
The Handley Page Victor was a British jet bomber aircraft produced by the Handley Page Aircraft Company during the Cold War. It was the third and final of the V-bombers that provided Britain’s nuclear deterrent. The other two V-bombers were the Avro Vulcan and the Vickers Valiant. Some aircraft were modified for strategic reconnaissance role using both cameras and radar. After the Royal Navy assumed the nuclear deterrence mission using submarine-launched Polaris missiles in 1969 many surviving bombers were converted into aerial refuelling tankers. The last Victor was retired from service on 15 October 1993.
The Victor was the last of the V bombers to enter service, with deliveries of B.1s to No. 232 Operational Conversion Unit RAF based at RAF Gaydon, Warwickshire before the end of 1957. The first operational bomber squadron, 10 Squadron, formed at RAF Cottesmore in April 1958, with a second squadron, 15 Squadron forming before the end of the year. Four Victors, fitted with Yellow Astor reconnaissance radar, together with a number of passive sensors, were used to equip a secretive unit, the Radar Reconnaissance Flight at RAF Wyton. The Victor bomber force continued to build up, with 57 Squadron forming in March 1959 and 55 Squadron in October 1960. The Victor proved popular in service, having good handling and excellent performance. One unusual characteristic of the early Victor was its self landing capability, where once lined up with the runway, the aircraft would naturally flare as the wing was in ground effect while the tail continued to sink, giving a cushioned landing without any intervention by the pilot.
The improved Victor B.2 started to be delivered in 1961, with the first B.2 Squadron, 139 Squadron forming in February 1962, and a second, 100 Squadron in May 1962. These were the only two bomber squadrons to form on the B.2, as the last 28 Victors on order were cancelled. The prospect of Skybolt ballistic missiles, with which each V-bomber could strike at two separate targets, meant that less bombers would be needed, while the government were unhappy with Sir Frederick Handley Page’s resistance to their pressure to merge his company with competitors. In 1964–1965, a series of detachments of Victor B.1As was deployed to RAF Tengah, Singapore as a deterrent against Indonesia during the Borneo conflict, the detachments fulfilling a strategic deterrent role as part of Far East Air Force, while also giving valuable training in low-level flight and visual bombing. In September 1964, with the confrontation with Indonesia reaching a peak, the detachment of four Victors was prepared for rapid dispersal, with two aircraft loaded with live conventional bombs and held on one-hour readiness, ready to fly operational sorties, but they were not required to fly combat missions, with the high readiness alert finishing at the end of the month.
Following the discovery of fatigue cracks, developing due to their low-altitude usage, the B.2R strategic bombers were retired by the end of 1968 with the intention that these would be converted to tankers. Handley Page prepared a modification scheme that would see the Victors fitted with tip tanks, the structure modified to limit further fatigue cracking in the wings, and ejection seats provided for all six crewmembers. The Ministry of Defence delayed signing the order for conversion of the B2s until after Handley Page went into liquidation. The contract for conversion was instead awarded to Hawker Siddeley, who produced a much simpler conversion than that planned by Handley Page, with the wingspan shortened to reduce wing bending stress and hence extend airframe life. The reconnaissance aircraft remained in use until 1974 (one of their last missions was to monitor French nuclear tests in the South Pacific) when they followed the bombers into the tanker conversion line. However, the Victor would be the last V-bomber to retire in 1993, nine years after the last Vulcan (although the Vulcan survived longer in its original role as a bomber). It saw service in the Falklands War and 1991 Gulf War as an in-flight refuelling tanker.