gives a brief description of each of the functions of
the five crew
members aboard the Avro Vulcan.
Each airman had a vital role to play in ensuring the Vulcan
reached its designated target, delivered its cargo, then
returned home safely before flying its next sortie.
In a Vulcan crew the
Captain was always the pilot and, because of this, he was required
to have experience of both flying and bomber operations. The duty of
the pilot was to control the aircraft as well as to command its
crew. He did this in co-operation with the crew using the individual talents and expertise of each crew member to ensure a successful sortie.
Being such a complex
aircraft the Captain relied upon the other airmen who flew with him
to keep him updated as to how the plane was performing. The Pilot
had, therefore, to earn the respect of those whom he flew with. He
had to be thoroughly proficient at his own job of flying the
aircraft and be able to show good "man management" skills to coax
the best from each man aboard.
The Captain was also
required to give training to the Co-Pilot in the art of Vulcan
flying so as to bring him up to the standard where he himself might
become a Captain.
Such a transition from Co-Pilot to Captain usually took around two and
a half years.
Although several of
the finest co-pilots took less time than this.
The Co-Pilot, was
often on his first operational flying tour since leaving the RAF
training establishments. Being posting to V-Force was usually a big
anti-climax for the young officers, as most wanted to join fighter
squadrons as these were seen (by those outside the RAF at least) to
be the more "glamorous" roles.
Of course the Co-Pilot
had a very significant part to play in the flying of the Vulcan. His
main duty was to control the fuel supply and the cabin conditions as
well as assisting the Pilot with the handling of the aircraft. He
also looked after all the communications with local air traffic
control (ATC). Once the aircraft had left the local ATC this job was
given to the Aerial Electronics Officer (AEO). Although fuel
handling perhaps sounds a rather mundane task it was a job which had
to be carried out precisely. Each Vulcan could carry up to 40 tonnes
of fuel, and if this had been allowed to alter the
centre of gravity of the aircraft, the results could be fatal.
With each successful
mission, the Co-Pilot gained in experience and confidence. He would
be given more flying time, and usually about a year after becoming
Co-Pilot would be sent to an RAF Operational Conversion Unit (OCU)
to be trained in the role of Vulcan Captain. The majority of Vulcan
Co-Pilots received this training and went on to become experienced
Pilots in their own right.
The Air Electronics
Officer (AEO) had numerous responsibilities aboard the Vulcan. His
main role was the operation of the Electronic Warfare (EW)
equipment. The Vulcan was equipped with a wide assortment of EW aids
designed to help it succeed on its missions. Early Vulcan missions
relied heavily on "active" jamming. However it was quickly
discovered that Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) signals used by
the Vulcan to jam enemy radar's etc were in fact used by the enemy
to pin-point the locations of the Vulcans, and enable enemy fighters
to intercept them. Once this was established the Vulcan used more
"passive" countermeasures to prevent detection. The Vulcan was able
to detect enemy fighters with its Tail-Warning Radar. It was also
able to lock onto Surface to Air Missile guidance systems and thus
allowed the AEO to inform the Pilot to perform evasive action whilst
the AEO launched defensive counter such as infa-red flares or
"Chaff" which would (hopefully) confuse the approaching missile.
He was experienced in
long range communications using R/T (voice) and W/T (Morse code),
the latter in order to counteract radio jamming which was often
experienced in combat situations.
A cross-section of
the tail-mounted radar warning detector known as Red-steer
Another Red Steer
unit, this time not behind glass
The Vulcan relied upon
its complex electrical system for all of its functions. It was
equipped with no manual flying controls so if the electrics failed,
then the aircraft would not be able to maintain flight. In an
emergency 28v supply was provided by back up batteries, however, in
the event that all four generators failed the AEO could activate the
Ram Air Turbine (RAT) which was like a mini alternator that could be
dropped into the air flow around the aircraft, and provided a 115V
emergency supply to enable the aircraft's basic operations to be
maintained. This option was only available to the AEO at high
altitude, and was used to give enough time to initiate the starting
of the Airborne Auxiliary Power Plant (AAPP) a gas turbine engine
located near to the starboard engines. This provided a more reliable
supply of electricity from which essential services would be
operated. Although the AEO had all this back-up and emergency
equipment the Vulcan's electrics frequently ran without any
problems. In fact most of these devices were only installed to
prevent aircraft loses due to battle damage received
during bombing missions.
The Navigator Plotter
(Nav Plotter) was in charge of navigating the Vulcan to its desired
location. He achieved this by using the advanced electronic devices
which the Vulcan included. However he was also trained to perform
the same duties with very limited resources (a sextant & compass).
This was in case the electronic aids became unusable due to combat
or other failure. The Nav Plotter was often regarded as the hardest
working member of the Vulcan crew. Before missions he would spend
hours preparing a flight plan. This was often altered at the last
minute or during flight, and thus recalculations needed to be
performed quickly and accurately. Nav Plotters embarking on sorties
carrying the "Blue Steel" nuclear missile used the inertial
navigation system which was built into the weapon. This navigational
aid was very accurate and could be used until the missile was
launched. The Vulcan aided the Nav Plotter in his work with such
equipment as the doppler navigation system, H2S radar, TACAN and the radio-compass.
The radar screen used as part of the Navigational
Bombing System (NBS)
The Nav Plotter also had the
task of using the small "blister" found just in front of the
entrance hatch on the underside of the Vulcan to perform visual
bombing. This system, which had been used during WWII was less
accurate than other methods, and was seen as a "last resort" option.
It was fairly accurate, especially at low level,
but naturally required good visibility in order for the
Nav Plotter to see what he was doing!
The Navigator Radar (Nav
Radar) had the responsibility for co-ordinating the bombing. This
role was especially important on nuclear missions. These had to be
performed "blind" and thus he controlled the radar and Navigation
Bombing Systems (NBS) which allowed the Vulcan to deliver its
payload from an altitude ranging from 57,000 feet down to an
amazingly low height of 250 feet.
A cross section of
the Vulcan's nose-mounted Terrain Following Radar (TFR)
Naturally the lower
the altitude the more accurately the payload could be deployed.
Nuclear munitions had to be released from high altitude, however in
this scenario total accuracy was never deemed to be a major problem
for obvious reasons.
During the final phase
of a "bomb-run" the Nav Radar controlled the "sight" of the aircraft
by using a small joystick located in front of him, on his table.
The Nav Radar also
needed to work in conjunction with the AEO to help defend the
aircraft from enemy interceptors. This was achieved by angling the
radar scanner upwards. This enabled the Vulcan to "see" any aircraft
approaching from the front and also gave a (limited) view from the
sides. This information was then used by
the pilot to help take any evasive action.
As well as these
duties, the Nav Radar would assist the Navigator Plotter with
navigating the Vulcan. He used the terrain-following radar for this
as it illuminated the ground and helped to locate way markings etc.
He could also be asked to use the sextant to help the Nav Plotter
get an accurate indication of exactly where
the aircraft was during longer bombing sorties.