Handley-Page VictorVictor 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 Withdrawn as bombers, some B.2s were converted to tankers in the 1970s to replace the retiring K.1/K.1As, and served during the Falklands and Gulf War before retiring in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.