— the Last British Bomber

DD Video/Impact Image. Approximate running time 50 minutes. £12.99.

THIS IS A WELL constructed and produced video dedicated to the Blackburn Buccaneer and published to commemorate its retirement from service. Apparently, the aircraft is still considered to be the ‘finest low-level bomber ever produced’.

In response to the build-up of the Soviet fleet, and particularly the Sverdlov class of cruiser, the MoD, in the early 1950s, issued a requirement for a carrier-borne bomber. Out of several submissions, Blackburn’s design was adopted, evolving into the Buccaneer that we all know and love. Blackburn had a long tradition of Naval aircraft, but the Buccaneer was its first jet and it had to design and build its own machine tools to manufacture it. The requirement was for a very low-level, 0.85 Mach, bomber — this called for a very strong airframe capable of withstanding the buffeting at this altitude and speed. The need for carrier-borne operation also required high lift at low speed which is usually provided by large wing area — this would mitigate against stability and durability at high speed and low level. The solution was the incorporation of boundary layer blowing.

The prototype first flew in April 1958 (only 33 months after the contract was placed), and the first operational squadron was formed in 1962. The S.1 suffered from poor performance which was remedied in the S.2 by new Rolls-Royce Spey engines — increasing range by 600 miles (966km), and doubling the weapons load to 16,000lbs (7,258kg). Carrier operations were highly successful (even though there were only two inches clearance on the lifts) and we see some very impressive original footage of launches and landings.

After a fascinating clip of an entire mission — bombing a target in a fjord — the various techniques used in the anti-shipping role are discussed. Using a 20 kiloton nuclear bomb, the Buccaneer approaches the target at low level and high speed, and uses this momentum to toss the bomb from the relatively safe distance of three miles (4.8km). The alternative, ‘relatively suicidal’, over-the-shoulder-toss bombing involved looping over the target and lobbing the bomb upwards and backwards — not to be recommended! The first use of the Buccaneer was against the Torrey Canyon (the oil-tanker disaster that threatened our shorelines) and we are told this was very successful (not according to my memory!).

The Buccaneer is described as the «best British aircraft not to hit the export jackpot». We only sold some to South Africa — 16 aircraft were ordered, but one was lost on the ferry flight out! In 1965 the TSR.2 project was cancelled and the RAF adopted the Buccaneer — this also coincided with the demise of our carriers, so the RAF got 43 of its own and 64 ex-RN examples. It proved popular with the air crews and we see the last posting to Gibraltar where they practised bombing HMS Liverpool. Again, more wonderful footage of the aircraft from the deck of the destroyer — they appeared to fly past at high speed below the level of the camera. The only use of the Buccaneer in wartime was over Iraq where it was used in a role quite different from that for which it was designed. As well as laser designation for the Tornados, they even dropped their own laser-guided bombs in the latter stages of that conflict.

This is an excellent informative and evocative video of an aeroplane described as the «last seat- of-the-pants aircraft».

Philip Belsham

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