Handley-Page Victor

Victor History
The Handley-Page Victor was the last of the RAF’s V-Bombers to see service, bowing out in the early 1990s, although by that time the surviving aircraft had long been converted to drogue tankers.Overshadowed to some degree by the delta-winged Vulcan, the Victor was nevertheless a very advanced machine for the time, with a crescent wing derived from German research. The HP.80 prototype was followed by fifty B.1 production versions with Sapphire engines, with some of these being updated as B.1As and then shifted to the tanker role as K.2P, K.1, and K.1A tankers. The later B.2 version had Conway engines and was strengthened for low level work.

Even before the V-Bombers entered service, it was recognized that improving Soviet air defenses would eventually dictate the use of standoff weapons, and to meet this need, Avro developed the Blue Steel missile. Powered by a Stentor liquid rocket engine and armed with a Red Snow warhead, Blue Steel was a physically large weapon, and only one could be carried by a Vulcan or Victor. Blue Steel had a maximum range from high altitude launches of around 100 miles; this declined to as little as 25 miles at low level. The ramjet-powered Mk.2 version of the Blue Steel was terminated in favor of buying the American Skybolt; Skybolt’s later cancellation left Blue Steel as Bomber Command’s only standoff weapon, and it continued in service until 1970.

A total of nine B.2s were fitted out for reconnaissance as SR.2s. Withdrawn as bombers, some B.2s were converted to tankers in the 1970s to replace the retiring K.1/K.1As, and served during the Falklands and Gulf War before retiring in 1993.

There were numerous plans for improved Victors; a highly swept supersonic version had been sketched out before the basic aircraft had even entered service, this proposal later giving way to a variant combining the B.2’s tail and wings with a new area ruled fuselage. Also looked at was a low altitude version with a reduced wingspan and the tail moved downwards, as well as an ALBM carrier version with four under wing missile pylons.

Handley-Page Victor Bibliography

Photo: "New Handley Page Crescent-Wing Jet Bomber"   Aviation Week  January 5, 1953  p.13  Side view of HP.80 prototype.
David A. Anderton  "Crescent-Wing A-Bomber Analyzed"   Aviation Week  November 9, 1953
Photo: Closeup of a prototype Victor’s nose   Aviation Week  November 29, 1954  p.9
Photo: Underside view of Victor XA918   Flight  31 August 1956  p.363
John Tunstall  “Sandwich Panels Cut Weight in Victor”   Aviation Week  March 16, 1959  includes cutaway and structural drawings
Humphrey Wynn   “The Sixth Seat: Riding on a Victor Training Sortie”  includes several in-flight photos of Victor XH649   Flight  15 February 1962
Photos (4):  “Victor B.2 Shown in New Low-Level Camouflage”  Aviation Week & Space Technology  September 28, 1964  p.63
“V-Bomber Meet at Wittering” Air Pictorial April 1964  p.118. Photos of Victor XL158 in white paint, and XL513 in camo.
Dave Thomas “Markham – The RAF’s Tanker Base”  Air Pictorial February 1975  p.48-50. Photos include Victor K.1As XH647, XH616, XH620, XH591, XH615, XH667, B.1A XH593, and K.2 XL233
Photo: Victor refueling the second MRCA prototype   Aviation Week & Space Technology  January 5, 1976  p.16
Photo: A camouflaged Victor refueling a Nimrod.  Air International April 1983  p.173
Paul Pignataro  “Workbench Reviews: GWH Handley Page Victor B.2”   FineScale Modeler  April 2015  p.59
Preview of the Victor B.2 kit in 1/72 from Airfix   Scale Aviation Modeller International February 2017
Color profile: Victor B.2 with Blue Steel  Encyclopedia of 20th Century Air Warfare, p.279
Michael J.H. Taylor   Warbirds Illustrated No. 30 Strategic Bombers 1945-1985  p.51: side view of a Victor dropping a load of conventional bombs