Blackburn Buccaneer

The Blackburn Buccaneer was a British low level strike aircraft serving with the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. Designed and initially produced by Blackburn Aircraft it was later known as the Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer when Blackburn became a part of the Hawker Siddeley group. The Buccaneer is one of those classics of aviation, a warplane that pilots loved to fly and which was highly respected by its opponents.

The Buccaneer had its origin in the July 1953 Naval Staff Requirement NA.39 which called for a long range carrier-borne strike aircraft capable of carrying a nuclear weapon beneath enemy radar cover, and for conventional attacks upon enemy shipping or ports.

The Blackburn B-103 was selected in 1955 as the preferred design and this led to a development contract being awarded for twenty 20 pre-production aircraft. The first of these flying on April 30, 1958, and attracted much interest when displayed at that year’s Farnborough Air Show.

From the fourth aircraft on, carrier equipment, such as folding wings, catapult launching fittings, and arrestor hook were incorporated and carrier flight trials began in January 1960 on the carrier HMS Victorious. Deliveries of production aircraft, the Buccaneer S1, to the Royal Navy commenced in 1962, and became operational with No 801 Squadron aboard HMS Ark Royal in January 1963. The Buccaneer S1 was soon appreciated as being rather underpowered and after forty had been built production switched to the improved Buccaneer S2 which had a better range and less thirsty (but with a 30% increase in power) Spey engines. Buccaneers served in the front line of Royal Navy service from 1967 until November 1978 when the progressive rundown of the Royal Navy’s Carrier Fleet brought their naval career to an end.

Meanwhile, in 1969, following the cancellation of the intended purchase of American F-111 bombers and the scrapping of the TSR2 project, the Royal Air Force decided upon the Buccaneer as a suitable aircraft to fill their low-level strike capacity requirement in NATO. No.12 and No.15 Squadron based in Germany were the first RAF Squadron to equip with the type early in 1970 and 1971 respectively, and ultimately the RAF would operate some eighty-eight aircraft of this type (26 new builds plus 62 ex-Royal Navy). No.15 Squadron, based at RAF Laarbruch, would operate the Buccaneer in the Tactical Strike role until 1983 when that task was taken over by the Panavia Tornado. Two Squadrons however were retained in Scotland for Maritime Strike and during the First Gulf War of 1991 a number of these aircraft, fitted with long range fuel tanks, were deployed to act as Laser Designators for laser guided bombs dropped by RAF Tornados. The Buccaneer was finally retired from RAF service in 1994.

Apart from the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm the only other country to operate the Buccaneer was South Africa, who operated sixteen Buccaneer S-50 from 1965 to 1991.

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