“They have retreated, our troops reached the outskirts of Port Stanley. A large number of Argentinian soldiers have lain down their arms. White flags are flying over Port Stanley. Our troops have issued the command to shoot only in self-defence. Discussions among the commanders on the capitulation of the Argentinian troops in the Falklands have begun.”
– British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, reporting on the British victory over Argentine forces, June 14th, 1982
Back in 1982, Argentina attempted to wrest control of a group of islands in the South Atlantic, known as the Falkland Islands (a.k.a. The Maldives), from the clutches of Great Britain, citing their proximity as the principal reason why it should become Argentinian soil. In response, the British sent the bulk of their fleet and Royal Marines to retake the islands from the Argentinians, and supported the attack with Avro Vulcan strategic bombers carrying conventional ordnance. On May 1st, British operations on the Falklands opened with the first in a series of “Black Buck 1” attacks (of which there were five) on the airfield at Stanley. A Vulcan bomber from Ascension flew on an 8,000-nautical-mile (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) round trip dropping conventional bombs across the runway at Stanley and back to Ascension.
As the final RAF Avro Vulcan squadrons were contemplating their impending withdrawal from service in early 1982, developments in the South Atlantic would see this mighty bomber go to war for the first time in its 26-year service history. Operation “Black Buck” would require a Vulcan to drop 21 conventional 1,000 lb bombs on the runway at Port Stanley, in the Falkland Islands, preventing Argentine forces from using their most capable strike and support aircraft. It would also send a strong message to Argentina’s political leaders that Britain would stop at nothing in re-taking the Islands.
The raid would be launched from RAF Ascension Island, which was some 6,300 km from the Falklands and presented something of a logistical nightmare for military planners. Flown almost entirely over the sea, the Black Buck raids would require the support of twelve Victor tankers on the outbound leg, with a further two for the return flight and all the associated contingency plans.
Taking off from Ascension Island at midnight on April 30th, 1982, Avro Vulcan B.2 XM607 piloted by Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers was to fly as reserve aircraft to the primary bomber XM598 on this highly complex raid, but was quickly promoted to lead aircraft on “Black Buck 1” following technical difficulties encountered by XM598. Embarking on what was the longest bombing raid attempt in history, XM607 was refuelled seven times on its way to the Falkland Islands, before successfully releasing its payload of bombs across the Port Stanley runway.
Following a further rendezvous with a Victor tanker on the way home, XM607 returned to its base on Ascension Island and a place in the history books – if nothing else, this raid illustrated Britain’s determination to take back the Falkland Islands and that they had the capability to do it. Of the seven Black Buck raids planned against Argentine forces on the Falkland Islands, five actually took place and proved to be the only time that Britain’s Mighty Avro Vulcan went to war.
Corgi’s RAF Avro Vulcan B.2 Strategic Bomber – XM607, RAF No. 44 Squadron, “Operation Black Buck”, Falklands Conflict, South Atlantic, 1982 (AA27203) is expected later this holiday season.