The Blackburn Buccaneer

v1.0.1 / 01 feb 02 / greg goebel / public domain

* The Blackburn Buccaneer was designed in the mid-1950s as a low-level carrier-based maritime strike aircraft. It proved to be far more long-lived than its designers ever intended, serving with distinction not only with the British Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (FAA) but with the Royal Air Force (RAF) for decades, and as a finale demonstrating its usefulness in the Gulf War. This document provides a short history of the Buccaneer.

[1] ORIGINS: NA.39 / B.103

[1] ORIGINS: NA.39 / B.103

* During the early 1950s, the Soviet Navy underwent a major fleet expansion to challenge US and NATO naval supremacy, posing a serious threat with their new of SVERDLOSK-class cruisers.

In response, the British Royal Navy decided to obtain a low-level carrier based attack aircraft. This aircraft was intended to penetrate the defenses of Soviet naval battle groups by streaking in at low level and high speed, then destroy them with a nuclear weapon in a "toss-bombing" attack.

The requirement was formalized as "Naval Staff Requirement Number 39 (NA.39)" in June 1952, which called for a two-seat carrier-based aircraft that could carry a nuclear weapon internally, fly at a speed of Mach 0.85 at an altitude of 60 meters (200 feet), and operate over a combat radius of at least 740 kilometers (460 miles).

Total weapons load was to be 1.8 tonnes (4,000 pounds); the length could be no more than 15.5 meters (51 feet) in stowed configuration to allow accommodation on existing carrier-deck elevators; and the maximum weight was to be no more than 20.4 tonnes (45,000 pounds). The aircraft was to have the capability of acting as a tanker.

At the time, Blackburn was building nothing more warlike than transport and cargo aircraft. Nonetheless, the company responded to the requirement with a design with the company designation "B.103", which incorporated a number of advanced features.

The requirements for aircraft payload and performance dictated twin engines. Blackburn originally considered the Armstrong Siddeley "Sapphire Sa.7" engine with 4,990 kilograms (11,000 pounds) thrust, but it proved too bulky and heavy. As an alternative, de Havilland proposed a scaled-down version of their Gyron turbojet, the "PS.43 Gyron Junior", to be known in production as the Bristol Siddeley "Gyron Junior Mark 101". The Gyron Junior was a non-afterburning engine that offered 3,630 kilograms (8,000 pounds) of thrust.

Low-level flight demands an aircraft with small wings and high wing loading to reduce bumpiness from gusts and turbulence, but carrier takeoff and landing generally demands large wings and low wing loading to ensure short takeoff, and slow landing speeds. Blackburn compromised by using a small wing that incorporated a "flap blowing" or "boundary layer control (BLC)" system.

The BLC system used a network of ducts that bled ten percent of the engine compressor flow and routed it to the leading edges of the wings and over the flaps and ailerons. It also directed engine bleed air to the underside of the high-set "tee" tail. The BLC system almost doubled lift at low airspeed, and also provided an effective de-icing system.

The B.103 was designed to be fitted with two stores pylons under each wing, for a total of four, but also had a bomb bay, which was to accommodate four 450 kilogram (1,000 pound) bombs or a single nuclear weapon. A conventional bomb bay was not regarded as suitable for high-speed low-level attack, and so the B.103 was given a rotating bomb bay door, with munitions attached to the door itself. The door could snap around rapidly, reducing aerodynamic difficulties.

The rotating bomb bay not only simplified weapons release, but made it easier to load munitions and perform servicing. The bomb bay could also in principle accommodate a reconnaissance camera pack; a 2,000 liter (528 US gallon) ferry fuel tank; a cargo container; or a pack with twin Aden 30 millimeter cannon.

However, although the other items were built, the cannon pack was not, and the aircraft would never incorporate gun armament. The cargo container would prove useful for transporting golf clubs and other essentials.

Total internal fuel capacity was 7,092 liters (1,871 US gallons). This fuel load was augmented by two underwing "slipper" tanks that were mounted over the inboard stores pylons and had a capacity of 1,136 liters (300 US gallons), as well as the ferry tank mentioned above.

The B.103 incorporated the new "area rule" aerodynamics, where abrupt changes in the cross-sectional area of the aircraft, including the wing, were to be avoided. This allows the fuselage to expand aft of the wing and results in a "coke bottle" appearance. Blackburn engineers used area-ruling to improve the design's aerodynamics, while also increasing the storage capacity of the aircraft's fuselage, giving the aircraft a distinctive set of full-bodied curves. The airframe was designed with an emphasis on strength, and the aircraft would generally be described as being "built like a brick outhouse".

The aircraft met the carrier-deck elevator dimension limits through a number of features. Its wings folded straight up from about half-span through 120 degrees, and its nose cone could be pivoted back to allow access to its radar and reduce length. The tail cone was split and could be hydraulically opened to act as a variable air brake and also reduce length. All these features allowed the B.103 to fit neatly on an elevator and in the hangar deck.

* The design was frozen by the summer of 1954. The British Admiralty selected the B.103 in July 1955 and placed an order for 20 developmental aircraft. This was an unusually high number of pre-production aircraft, but the Royal Navy was in a hurry and wanted to ensure that loss of a prototype would not delay the program, and also wanted to pursue development of various subsystems in parallel.

Development work on the B.103 proceeded in deep secrecy. The Admiralty requested that a prototype be flying by April 1958, and the first prototype managed to take to the air on 30 April.

Successive prototype production gradually incorporated features for operational aircraft. Carrier trials began in early 1960, having been delayed several months by the stall and crash of one of the prototypes, with both crew members killed after ejecting from their inverted aircraft.

On 20 August 1960, the new aircraft was given its official name: "Buccaneer". The initial version was designated "S Mark 1 (S.1)", with the "S" indicating that it was a strike aircraft.

All 20 developmental aircraft had flown by the end of 1961, though there were further losses of prototypes. One went down in October 1960 due to a flight instrumentation failure, the two crewmen ejecting safely. Another was lost in August 1961 on takeoff during carrier trials, with both crewmen drowning because they were unable to escape from the aircraft.

Nonetheless, the flight test program otherwise went well, and the first Buccaneers were delivered to the Royal Navy in August 1961. Number 801 squadron became the first operational Buccaneer unit in July 1962, with operational cruises beginning in 1963. Ground-based Buccaneers operated out of a number of naval air stations, but the Buccaneer would be particularly associated with the naval air station at Lossiemouth, on the northeast coast of Scotland.

Early in development, the B.103 was assigned the designation "ARNA", for "A Royal Navy Aircraft". This acronym became reinterpreted as "Banana", and the Buccaneer would from then on be nicknamed "Banana Jet". The press liked to call it the "Brick", to the annoyance of Buccaneer crews.



* The Buccaneer S.1 was distinguished by its distinctive small circular air intakes. Initial prototypes had a retractable refueling probe, but this didn't work out well, and a bolt-on removeable offset probe was quickly designed in its place.

Two Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm operational squadrons and a training unit were equipped with the Buccaneer S.1. Navy pilots liked the aircraft. It provided a marvelous solid ride down on the deck, and the BLC system gave them slower landing speeds than they were accustomed to. Interestingly, on carrier catapult take-off, the Buccaneer was guyed down to leave its nosewheel hanging in the air in order to give the aircraft a better angle of attack.

The Buccaneer had been designed specifically as a maritime nuclear strike aircraft. Its intended store was a guided nuclear gliding bomb with the odd named of "Green Cheese", but this weapon's development was cancelled, and in its place the designated nuclear store was the unguided 900 kilogram (2,000 pound) "Red Beard", which had been developed for the Canberra.

Red Beard had an explosive yield in the 10 to 20 kilotonne range. It was mounted on a special bomb bay door into which it nested neatly to reduce aerodynamic buffet on the launch aircraft. Red Beard was an unsophisticated weapon, and had to be armed before launch rather than in flight, clearly an undesireable feature.

The Buccaneer S.1 could carry an alternative conventional warload of up to eight 450 kilogram (1,000 pound) bombs, with four in the bomb bay and one on each of its four underwing pylons, though six total was a more typical fit. The Buccaneer could also carry unguided rocket packs on its underwing pylons. The Buccaneer originally used 50-millimeter (2 inch) rockets in 36-round packs, but this weapon was phased out in preference to the 68-millimeter (2.7 inch) Matra SNEB rocket in 18-round packs.

The Buccaneer was evaluated with the US-built AGM-12 Bullpup radio-guided air-to-surface missile in 1965. However, the Bullpup proved to be an unreliable and inaccurate weapon, and was rarely carried in practice.

In tanker operations, the Buccaneer carried a Flight Refueling Limited M20 probe-and-drogue refueling pack with a capacity of 636 liters (168 US gallons) under the right wing, augmented by a slipper tank under the left wing.

For photo-reconnaissance, a "crate" could be fitted into the bomb bay to accommodate a photoflash flare dispenser and up to six cameras, in various configurations of long-range, wide angle, and night vision cameras, installed in vertical orientations and in a forward-looking blister. The photoflash unit was rarely used, with the Royal Navy preferring to use the Gloworm rocket, with eight mounted on the Buccaneer's stores pylons, for night operations.

The Buccaneer was fitted with Ferranti Blue Parrot radar in the nose. This radar had no terrain-following capability, but was very useful for targeting and navigation.

* The Buccaneer S.1 was a very good aircraft, but the Gyron Junior engines were not powerful enough, particularly with ten percent of the airflow siphoned off for the BLC system. This meant that the Buccaneer could not take off with a full fuel load. To obtain good range, the Buccaneer S.1 had to be launched with a partial fuel load and then refuel from a Scimitar fighter configured as a tanker. Only 40 S.1s were built, and by the end of the 1960s the survivors had been relegated to training status.

The career of the Buccaneer S.1 came to an abrupt end in December 1970. On 1 December, an S.1 was making a landing approach when an engine surge disrupted the approach and forced the two crewmen to eject. On 8 December, an S.1 on a training flight suffered a turbine failure. The pilot successfully ejected, but due to a mechanical glitch the back-seater was killed. Inspections showed that the Gyron Junior engines were no longer suited for operations, and all surviving S.1s were grounded immediately and for good.



* Even before the S.1 reached operational status, the Royal Navy was investigating a Buccaneer with better engines, to be designated "S.2". In January 1962 the Admiralty ordered a new version of the Buccaneer with the new Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan. The non-afterburning Spey variant selected provided 5,160 kilograms (11,380 pounds) of thrust, much more than the Gyron Junior, and had lower fuel consumption.

Only a few modifications were required. The most visible of them were the distinctive large elliptical air intakes. The exhaust jetpipes were changed to toe outward and downward, and angled wingtips were added to improve cruising range. The BLC system was enhanced to take advantage of the greater airflow, further reducing the Buccaneer's takeoff and landing speeds, and a new electrical system was fitted. To deal with problems of aircraft escape, miniature detonating cord (MDC) was tacked onto the canopy to shatter it for emergency exit.

Two of the initial developmental aircraft were converted to Spey power, and the first Spey-powered Buccaneer flew on 17 May 1963. The flight test program went more smoothly than that of the S.1, with no aircraft lost in accidents. Three of the test aircraft flew to the US in the summer of 1965 to perform hot weather and carrier trials on the USS LEXINGTON. One of these aircraft flew back across the Atlantic unrefueled, a dramatic demonstration of the Buccaneer's superb range.

The S.2 entered FAA operational service with Number 801 squadron in October 1965. By this time, it was becoming increasingly apparent that the days of the Royal Navy's big carriers were numbered, and that meant an uncertain future for the Buccaneer. Hawker Siddeley proposed a number of improved versions of the Buccaneer, but the Royal Navy was not interested.

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) had placed great hopes on a new low-level strike aircraft, the BAC TSR.2, only to have it cancelled in the midst of controversy in 1965. Hawker Siddeley, which had merged with Blackburn in 1963 and obtained the Buccaneer along with it, suggested an enhanced version of the Buccaneer with the company designation of "P.145" to meet RAF requirements. However, the RAF was much more interested in the General Dynamics F-111K and for the moment had no real interest in the Buccaneer.

* The service introduction of the S.2 was marred by two crashes. One crashed into the sea in June 1966 after catapult take-off. The accident was blamed on pilot error, until a test pilot investigating the matter crashed himself under the same circumstances in October 1966.

As it turned out, the Buccaneer was prone to a certain amount of instability after catapult launch. The problem was addressed with some minor aerodynamic and procedural changes, but the Buccaneer still required careful pilot attention under certain launch conditions.

The Buccaneer S.2 conducted several carrier tours during 1966 and 1967, ironically as the Royal Navy's big carriers were on the way out. In late March 1967, the Buccaneers performed their only sinking of a large ship when they attacked the abandoned oil tanker TORREY CANYON, grounded near Land's End in Cornwall, with 450 kilogram (1,000 pound) bombs. In another irony, the objective hadn't been to sink the tanker but to set its cargo on fire with help from Hunters and Sea Vixens carrying incendiaries.

In the meantime, the Royal Navy was updating its Buccaneers to carry the Martel precision-guided missile. The Martel was available in anti-radar (AS.37) and television-guided (AJ.168) versions, and was felt to be such a significant enhancement that modifying the Buccaneer to carry it was worthwhile, even if there were uncertainties about the future of the aircraft.

The Martel update was formally initiated in September 1966, with the Buccaneers modified to carry four Martels, one on each pylon. Larger pylons were fitted to accommodate the missile, with the side benefit of allowing three 450 kilogram (1,000 pound) bombs to be carried on each pylon using a triple-ejector rack. However, the triple-ejector rack would never be used in practice, though a double-ejector rack was used on occasion to carry two 225 kilogram (500 pound) bombs.

Some strengthening and structural changes were also performed, and the back-seater's station was modified to fit in the television display and joystick controller needed for the AJ.168 Martel. Communications with the AJ-158 were performed though a spindle-shaped datalink pod mounted on one of the stores pylons. While a Buccaneer could carry four anti-radar Martels, the requirement for the pod meant that the aircraft could carry no more than three television-guided Martels.

The Martel update program proved somewhat lengthy, with the first Martel-capable Buccaneers delivered to the Royal Navy at the somewhat late date of October 1972. At this time, the Buccaneer was expected to be out of service with the FAA by mid-decade, though this schedule would slip a bit. The last Royal Navy Buccaneers were actually phased out in December 1978.



* Early in the Buccaneer program, the US Navy had expressed mild interest in the aircraft, but quickly moved on to the development of their comparable Grumman A-6 Intruder. The West Germans showed a greater interest and considered replacing their old Hawker Sea Hawks with the type, though they would eventually decide on the Lockheed F-104G for their maritime strike requirement. The only export customer for the Buccaneer proved to be the Republic of South Africa.

Even before the S.2 entered squadron service, South Africa purchased 16 Spey-powered Buccaneers in January 1963. The aircraft order was part of the "Simonstown Agreement", in which the UK obtained use of the Simonstown naval base in South Africa in exchange for maritime weapons. The South African Air Force wanted to use the Buccaneer for antishipping strike.

The South African Buccaneers were designated "S.50". They were similar to the S.2, with various modifications. Some of the equipment for carrier-deck operations was deleted, such as the hydraulic gear needed to automatically fold the wings, though the wings could still be folded manually. The S.50 also had larger underwing tanks with a capacity of 1,955 liters (516 US gallons), featured two small and distinctive strakes under the rear fuselage, and was fitted with two Bristol Siddeley BS-605 retractable booster rockets.

The rockets were intended to assist takeoffs when operating from airstrips at high altitude in hot weather. They were powered by the Buccaneer's jet fuel and flasks of high-test peroxide oxidizer. They produced 1,810 kilograms (4,000 pounds) thrust for 30 seconds. Despite the expense of adding this feature, they were rarely used for anything but airshows.

The first Buccaneer S.50 flew in early 1965. The 16 aircraft were delivered in two sets of eight, with one Buccaneer lost in the South Atlantic during delivery. The South Africans wanted to buy a replacement, but activism against South African apartheid policies was beginning to increase and the new British Labour government denied the request. SAAF plans to obtain 14 more Buccaneers fell through.

The SAAF Buccaneers served for decades, providing a useful service in a range of roles. In the maritime strike role, SAAF Buccaneers were armed with the French radio-guided AS-30 missile. However, in 1971 Buccaneers fired 12 AS-30s at an abandoned tanker, the WAFRA, that had become a menace to navigation and failed to sink it, the vessel finally being finished off by depth-charge attacks from a Shackleton patrol aircraft. Clearly the AS-30 left something to be desired as an antishipping weapon.

For overland attack, the SAAF Buccaneers carried up to four 450 kilogram (1,000 pound) bombs in the rotary bomb bay, and four bombs, flares, or SNEB rocket packs on the underwing stores pylons. The AS-30 was used in such attacks for effective precision strikes on radar sites and other targets. The Buccaneers saw extensive action over Angola and Namibia in the 1970s and 1980s, and attacked SWAPO guerrilla camps with rockets and bombs.

SAAF Buccaneers were also fitted with a locally-designed reconnaissance pack or the M20 buddy tanker pack. In the mid-1970s, the SAAF Buccaneers were modified to accommodate a large bomb-bay fuel tanks for ferry flights or tanker operations.

The last SAAF Buccaneer S.50s were retired from service in 1991. By this time, only five of the original 15 delivered were still in flying condition.



* The RAF's hopes for the General Dynamics F-111K to fill their low-level strike requirement were crushed when the British government cancelled the order in early 1968. The RAF was forced to cast about for a replacement that was available and affordable, and reluctantly settled on the Buccaneer.

In July 1968, the RAF ordered 26 modified Buccaneer S.2s. These new-build aircraft were to be fitted for the Martel missile and partly denavalized. They would not be capable of carrier operations. Although they had arresting hook and folding wings, they did not have catapult attachments.

The first RAF Buccaneer was delivered in early 1969, and the first operational Buccaneer squadron, Number 12, was formed that year at well. This initial squadron operated out of the UK for maritime strike. Later RAF Buccaneer squadrons were intended for low-level tactical strike and operated mostly in Germany. Tactical strike aircraft were not fitted with refueling probes, as mid-air refueling was not deemed necessary in the Central European operating environment.

The RAF also received 64 Buccaneers from the FAA as the Royal Navy's carrier force was largely scrapped. The RAF eventually obtained 19 more new-build Buccaneers, with the last Buccaneer built delivered in October 1977. British Buccaneer strength was at its highest point in 1978, when five RAF and FAA operational squadrons flew the type.

In 1972, the Buccaneer S.2 was assigned a somewhat confusing series of subvariant designations:

* Although the RAF hadn't been very happy with the idea of flying Buccaneers, they rapidly changed their tune as they discovered it was an excellent and effective aircraft.

Major updates of the Buccaneer were considered during its history, but nothing more sophisticated than the S.2 ever flew. However, some changes were made to keep the Buccaneer up to date.

One significant modification was an auxiliary tank with a capacity of 1,932 liters (510 US gallons) built into a visibly bulged bomb-bay door. This modification was required because aerodynamic difficulties kept the RAF S.2s from using the big South African slipper tanks. A Buccaneer fitted with the new bomb-bay door fuel tank first flew in 1970. The tank was retrofitted to most operational S.2s.

New weapons were introduced. The Red Beard nuclear weapon was phased out in 1970, replaced by the WE-177A, a parachute-retarded 270-kilogram (600 pound) bomb that is believed to have been made in several yield options, though details are still classified. Buccaneers were eventually qualified to carry two WE-177As. The SNEB rocket pack was replaced by the Hunting BL-755 cluster bomb unit, with the last SNEB mission flown in 1973.

On occasion, Buccaneers would also carry a single AIM-9B Sidewinder missile, but early Sidewinders were not very effective weapons and the AIM-9B provided little useful self-defense capability, though later versions of the missile would be much more effective. Buccaneer pilots had another self-defense option, however: they could drop a 450 kilogram (1,000 pound) parachute-retarded bomb while operating at low level over water to discourage a fighter pressing them from the rear. This practice was known as "retard defense", or more informally as "dropping your knickers".

The final batch of new production Buccaneers for the RAF featured a radar warning receiver (RWR) in the tailplane bullet fairing, and this enhancement was retrofitted to earlier aircraft. The American Westinghouse AN/ALQ-101(V)-10 active electronic countermeasures pod was supplied to Buccaneer units from 1976 as a self-defence measure. Minor modifications were made to the Blue Parrot radar system as well.

In 1979, the RAF obtained the American AN/AVQ-23E Pave Spike laser target designator pod. The Pave Spike carried a television camera boresighted with a laser beam, with the optics protected by a retractable nose shield. The Pave Spike was carried by Martel-capable Buccaneers, which had the back-seater TV display and joystick controller needed to make use of the pod. The Pave Spike was wired in through the left inboard stores pylon. Buccaneers carrying Pave Spike were capable of guiding laser-guided bombs for other Buccaneers, Jaguars, and other strike aircraft.

RAF Buccaneers never used the Royal Navy reconnaissance pack, though Buccaneer crew on maritime patrol were sometimes provided with hand-held cameras to photograph Warsaw Pact vessels.

   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                13.4 meters         44 feet
   length                  19.3 meters         63 feet 5 inches
   height                  4.95 meters         16 feet 3 inches

   empty weight            13.6 tonnes         30,000 pounds
   max loaded weight       28.1 tonnes         62,000 pounds

   maximum speed           1,000 KPH           620 MPH / 540 KT
   service ceiling         12,200 meters       40,000 feet
   typical range           3,700 kilometers    2,300 MI / 2,000 NMI
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

* Opportunities for Buccaneer squadrons to engage in realistic training were limited, and so when the US began their Red Flag yearly military exercises at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada in 1975, the RAF became keenly interested. The first Red Flag in which RAF aircraft were involved was in 1977, with ten Buccaneers and two Vulcan bombers participating.

Buccaneers would be involved in later Red Flags through 1983, and in 1979 also participated in the similar Maple Flag exercise over Canada. The Buccaneer proved extremely impressive with its fast low-level attacks, which were highly accurate despite the aircraft's lack of terrain-following radar and other modern avionics. They were able to penetrate adversary defenses, and in fact were credited with "kills" on defending fighters using Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.

However, during the 1980 Red Flag exercises one of the Buccaneers lost a wing and crashed, killing its crew. The cause of the accident was fatigue in the front wing spar, and the entire Buccaneer force was grounded and inspected. Some were repaired while others were condemned and scrapped, and due to this attrition one Buccaneer squadron was disbanded.

In the early 1980s, the Panavia Tornado IDS began to replace the Buccaneer in the overland strike role, and the Buccaneer was increasingly reassigned to maritime strike, retaining overland attack as a secondary mission. RAF Buccaneers gradually accumulated back to their old home at Lossiemouth.



* Although the Buccaneer was clearly on the fade, the type continued in active service through the 1980s. In 1983, six Buccaneers were sent to Cyprus to support British peacekeepers in Lebanon, and on 11 September 1983 two of these aircraft flew low over Beirut as an exercise in "gunboat diplomacy".

In fact, the Buccaneer was updated to keep it effective. The most significant improvement was the Sea Eagle antishipping missile. This weapon is derived from the Martel, but features a small jet engine instead of rocket propulsion. The Sea Eagle has a navigation system that allows it to skim over the top of the waves, and has an active radar seeker to perform terminal attack. The missile's guidance system is completely autonomous.

The Buccaneer could carry four Sea Eagles. An avionics update package (AUP) was provided to 42 Buccaneers to be equipped with the Sea Eagle. The AUP included an inertial navigation system, an improved radio and improved RWR, minor cockpit changes, and support for the AIM-9G and AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles. The "all-aspect" AIM-9L was a great improvement from the older "tail-chase" versions of the Sidewinder, and provided a practical means of self-defense.

Tracor AN/ALE-40 chaff and flare dispensers were fitted on the outer wing and under the jetpipes, replacing improvised dispensing schemes used previously. Plans for a head-up display (HUD) were dropped due to expense.

* Up to the 1990s, the Buccaneer had only seen combat with the South Africans. The type had not participated in the Falklands conflict. However, after the Gulf War broke out in 1990, 12 Buccaneers were modified with secure radios, an updated identification friend or foe (IFF) transponder, and a "desert pink" color scheme and flew to Saudi Arabia.

There they would receive additional modification in the form of classic and skillful combat nose art, accompanied with names such as "Laser Lips Laura", "Flying Mermaid", "Sea Witch", "Hello Sailor", and "Guinness Girl".

These aircraft were assigned to perform Pave Spike target designation for other aircraft, and proved highly successful in that role. After air superiority was established, Buccaneers carried LGBs themselves to perform attacks.

The 12 Buccaneers all returned to the UK safely in March 1991. They had flown 250 combat sorties, "spiking" 169 LGBs dropped by other aircraft and 48 dropped by Buccaneers. Unfortunately, on return the nose art was generally painted out, as it was too politically incorrect for the home front.

* The Gulf War was a satisfying end to long and reliable service by the Buccaneer. The end of the Cold War meant the withdrawal of Tornado squadrons from Germany, and these newer aircraft were assigned to replace the Buccaneer in the maritime strike role. Buccaneer advocates were not entirely enthusiastic about this switch, as the Tornado had shorter range than the Buccaneer, and could only carry two Sea Eagles, in contrast to the Buccaneer's store of four such missiles.

The last military Buccaneer flights took place in early 1995. Two were sold to a South African warbird collector, and on 1 April 1997, the Buccaneer flew out of England's skies. One of the survivors now sits on display at a filling station on the road to Lossiemouth.

A total of 206 Buccaneers were built in all, with the aircraft giving over 30 years of reliable service. While the aircraft was designed for the Royal Navy, it gave its longest service with the Royal Air Force, who ended up liking it almost in spite of themselves.



* There were a few other interesting details about the Buccaneer that did not conveniently fit into the narrative, but are interesting enough to report.

One interesting fact was that the two seats were both offset about 5 centimeters (2 inches) from the centerline, in opposite directions. This allowed the back-seater a better view forward. Another interesting fact was that as dual-control Buccaneers were never built, specially-modified two-seat Hawker Hunters with a Buccaneer control layout in the left seat were used to train flight crews and keep up flying hours.

A few Buccaneers were also used in limited numbers for test programs by British military research organizations and defense contractors. Test fits included a thermal imager, and radar for both the TSR-2 and the Tornado.

* While the Buccaneer is not the best-known of aircraft, its long and reliable service still makes it noteworthy. The Buccaneer flew longer and in more roles than its designers ever intended. It was not a sleek aircraft, with a "big through the hips" appearance, but to some tastes it was nonetheless a pleasing sight.

* Sources for this document include:

* Revision history:

   v1.0   / 01 jun 99 / gvg
   v1.0.1 / 01 feb 02 / gvg / Minor cosmetic update.