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Vulcan Technical Specifications


Below can be found technical data relating
 to the Avro Vulcan.

 The Vulcan was, and still is, a most remarkable aircraft. Even more significant is the fact that she was designed and built in the 1950's, making the technical accomplishments of the design team even more astonishing.

Vulcan B1 Technical Specifications

Wingspan : 99 ft 0 in
Length : 97ft 1 in
Height : 26ft 6in
Wing Area : 3554 sq ft
Cruising Speed : Mach 0.86
Maximum Speed : Mach 0.93
Range : 2,607 nautical miles
Service Ceiling : 55,000 ft
Engines : 4 Bristol Siddeley Olympus 101, 102 or 104
Fuel Capacity: 9,250 imp gallons

Vulcan B2 Technical Specifications

Wingspan : 111 ft 0 in
Length : 99ft 11 in
Height : 27ft 1in
Wing Area : 3964 sq ft
Cruising Speed : Mach 0.86 (610 mph)
Maximum Speed : Mach 0.92 (625 mph)
Range : 4,000 nautical miles
Service Ceiling : 60,000 ft
Engines : 4 Bristol Siddeley Olympus 201 or 301
Fuel Capacity : 9,250 imp gallons


Vulcan Fuel Tanks

The fuel for the Vulcan was carried in 14 separate pressurised tanks. (See diagram above). Although the tanks are not self sealing, they are crash proof. Two additional fuel tanks can also be carried in the bomb bay to increase mission distance. To give the Vulcan almost unlimited range many had an air-to-air refueling probe attached to the nose, thus enabling them to refuel mid-flight. The tanks are divided into four groups, each normally feeding it own engine. However a cross feed system was incorporated allowing fuel to be pumped to any of the four engines from any of the four tank banks. Fully ladened, the Vulcan was capable of carrying 9260 imperial gallons of Avtur aviation fuel in her fuel tanks. This did does not include fuel stored in optional bomb bay fuel tanks.

Vulcan Colour Schemes

When the Vulcan's bombing role changed from high level to low level, so did her paint scheme. 
Originally painted white to be harder to detect when cruising at high altitude (and to help reflect any heat energy from a nuclear blast) the low level role called for a more conventional camouflage scheme to be used. Many people believe RAF ground crew were sanctioned to paint any suitable patterns onto the mighty delta. However, this is not the case. All Vulcan aircraft were camouflage in the same manner. The actual Vulcan camouflage pattern can be seen in the picture above. If you click on the picture you will see a larger version.

Vulcan Cockpit

Ever wondered what sitting in a Vulcan 
cockpit was like? 
Click below to download a picture of the cockpit and to learn what many of the switches and dials actually did.




Vulcan Cockpit Instruments


Use the mouse to discover what the controls inside the Vulcan were used for. If the pointer turns to a finger left click to discover more!

throttles Mach Meter Mach Meter Control Surface Indicator Rudder pedals adjuster Rudder pedals adjuster Control Handle (Joystick) Rate of Climb Indicator Airspeed Indicator TACAN Indicator Artifical Horizon (Standby) ADF Bearing Compass Engine RPM Indicator Oil Pressure Guage Oil Pressure Guage Altitude and autoland phase indicator Engine RPM Indicator MFS Selector Unit Accelerometer Director Horizon Beam Compass Director Horizon Don't know this one - Sorry! Engine Temperature Indicators Engine Temperature Indicators Engine RPM Indicator Oil Pressure Guage Oil Pressure Guage Engine RPM Indicator Beam Compass 100,000ft Altimeter Engine Temperature Indicators Engine Temperature Indicators Brake Chute Control

Main flight deck

Captain's Seat Captain's Ejector Seat Handle Captain's Rudder Pedals Intercom Control Unit Individual Engine Start Switches Navigational Control Unit Don't know this one - Sorry! Captain's Control Column (Joystick) Captain's Knee Pad Lamp

Controls to the left of the Captain

Bomb Bay Tanks System Control Panel Auto-Pilot Control Panel Fuel System Control Panel Captain's Seat Co-Pilot's Seat Co-Pilot Rudder Pedals Console Handle

Centre Console

Tanks Full Indicator - In-flight Refuelling Landing Light Switches Don't know this one - Sorry! Tank Pressurisation Switch Tank Pressure Indicators Co-Pilot's Seat Probe Dimmer Switches Probe Dimmer Switches Flight Refuelling Pressure Guage Engine Anti-Icing Switch

Controls to the right of the Co-Pilot

Periscope Lamp HRU Power Failure Inidcator HRU Power Failure Inidcator TWR Control Unit Nav Heading Unit (HRS) Indicator Control Unit Indicator Control Unit Don't know this one - Sorry! GPI Mk 6 Abandon Aircraft Sign

Rear Crew Compartment


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These were used to control the amount of thrust delivered by each of the four Olympus engines.

Power Supply Indicator

Used by the rear-facing crew to check the status of the power supply to the navigational & bombing computer.

Track Control Unit

The track control unit for the military flight system (mfs).

AEO Navigation Window

A small window used for navigational purposes. A similar window is located on the opposite side of the aircraft, where the Nav Radar operator would be seated.Top of page


The instrument which indicated how high from the
 ground the aircraft was flying.

Power Supply Panel

The main aircraft power supply panel . 200v 400hz AC is the main source of electrical power in the Vulcan Mk2.  The normal power source would be from the four jet-engine driven alternators, any one of which was capable of providing enough electricity to power all the aircraft systems.  A ground power source could be used before the engines were started. While in the air, an Airborne Auxiliary Power Plant (AAPP) or Ram Air Turbine (RAT) could also be used.  A combination of electromagnetic "dolls eye" indicators, warning lights and dials help to maintain a constant supply of power to the systems. Remember, the Vulcan is an all-electric aircraft. If all the power was to fail the fate of the aircraft was sealed.

TACAN Indicator

The TACAN (Tac(tical) a(ir) n(avigation) system is
  an electronic ultrahigh-frequency navigation device for aircraft which gives a continuous indication of bearing and distance from a transmitting station. This is used to aid navigation.

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The level used by the Captain or Co-Pilot to manoeuvre the aircraft. The large "chinaman's hat" is the trim control used to make small adjustments to the trim of the aircraft to help it fly straight. The small button on the right of the joystick was the intercom switch which allowed the pilot or co-pilot to talk to other crew members. 
The yellow and black switch would be used to disconnect the "artificial feel" systems.

Panel Dimmer Switches

Used to control the intensity of the lighting on the chartboard lights.

Pedal Adjuster

This knob could be used to adjust the distance the peddles
 were from the seats. 
Top of page
Thus allowing pilots of different sizes to fly the Vulcan more easily.

Airspeed Indicator

This instrument would give information to the crew about how fast the Vulcan was traveling.


A device which measures the speed of acceleration
 (or deceleration) of the aircraft.

Fuel System Control Panel

The Vulcan could carry a lot of fuel. The distribution of this fuel had to be carefully monitored by the crew to ensure that the aircraft's centre of gravity did not move, and cause handling problems.

Compass Isolation Switches

Used to isolate the navigational compass.

Grab HandleTop of page

The centre console was only extended when both Captain and co-pilot had been strapped in. Although the Vulcan is a large aircraft, the room given to the crew is small. It would be impossible for the pilots to gain access to the cockpit if the centre console was always extended.

Bomb Bay Fuel Tanks Control Panel

On long sorties the Vulcan could use a fuel tank housed in the bomb bay. This panel would be used to direct the fuel from the bomb bay fuel tank either directly to the engines, or to one of the other fuel tanks housed within the wings.

Rudder Peddle

These are controlled by the pilot's feet to alter the heading of the aircraft.


Used by the Nav-Plotter or Nav-Radar to 
illuminate instruments, maps or charts.


Tanks Full Indication (in flight refueling)Top of page

Tells the crew how much fuel they have in the fuel tanks.

Tank Pressure Indicators

Indicates the pressure in the fuel tanks. This is useful when the distribution of fuel around the aircrafts tanks has to be altered in order to shift the centre of gravity.

Control Surface Indicator

As the Vulcan is an all-electric aircraft (there is no physical linkage between the cockpit joysticks and the rudder or elevons) this instrument shows the crew the position of the control surfaces whilst in flight.

Mach Meter

Used to indicate the Mach velocity of the aircraft. 
Mach 1 equates to the speed of sound.

Beam Compass

Used to aid navigation.

Engine RPM Indicators

These indicate the revolutions per minute of all 4 Olympus engines. 
If the RPM gets too high damage of the engine could result.

Rate of Climb IndicatorTop of page

An instrument which would display the 
rate of climb (or decent) of the aircraft.

Oil Pressure Gauge

Use to display the oil pressure. Low oil pressure could mean a loss of oil, which in turn, could lead to engine seizure.

Engine Temperature Indicators

Instruments used to give the crew an indication of the temperature of each jet engine.

MFS Selector Unit

The military flight system (mfs) can be thought of as a early relative to the integrated computer monitor cockpits of modern airliners.  One instrument displayed aircraft attitude (slightly miffed, or fairly relaxed!!) with the other displayed directional information and steering demands. 

Altitude & Auto Land Phase Indicator

The Vulcan was the first four jet-engined aircraft to be fitted with an automatic landing system. This instrument would give feedback to the crew as to the height of the aircraft, and whether the auto landing mechanism was activated.

Flight Refueling Pressure Gauge

This tells the crew the pressure of the fuel in the tanks during in-flight refueling. If the pressure of the fuel being pumped from the "feeder" aircraft became too high the fuels tanks could have ruptured.

Captain's SeatTop of page

The seat to the left of the cockpit was where the Captain would sit during sorties.


Co-Pilots Seat

The seat to the right of the cockpit was where the Co-pilot would sit during the flight.

Airspeed Indicator

Used to inform the Captain or co-pilot the present air speed of the Vulcan.

Artificial Horizon (Standby)

Used if the cockpit was completely blacked out (likely if a nuclear flash was expected), the artificial horizon would allow the crew to determine the pitch and yaw of the aircraft without having to take a visual reference from the ground or sky.

Bomb Bay Tanks System Control Panel

A bank of switches used to control the movement of fuel from the auxiliary bomb bay fuel tanks to the main fuel tanks.

Nitrogen Purge (in flight refueling)Top of page

Activating this control forces any fuel left in the refueling probe into No 2 tank. Nitrogen is used, as it is non-explosive.

Dimmer Switches For Probe Illumination Lamps

The refueling probe has two lights for illumination positioned in the nose of the aircraft. To prevent glare during air-to-air refueling the dimmer switch could be activated. Similar to domestic dimmer switches.

Intercom Control Unit

Used to adjust communications with the
 crew members or ground crew.

Autopilot Control Panel

Used to control whether the auto-pilot was controlling the flight of the Vulcan. The auto-pilot was a valuable instrument during long flights.

Engine Start Switches

As the name suggests these controls allow the Captain to start the Olympus engines once the pre-flight checks have been completed.

Navigational Control UnitTop of page

Part of the complex equipment carried by the Vulcan to ensure positioning of the aircraft could be established. Especially useful when traveling over tundra, such as that expected when flying towards the heart of the Soviet Union.

Brake Chute Control

This switch controlled the deployment of the brake parachute.
 First position activates the braking chute. 
Second position releases it. 
The braking chute must always be jettisoned before the Vulcan comes to a halt.

Director Horizon

The director horizon unit computes the necessary roll and pitch attitudes needed to intercept and maintain headings, courses, attitudes, and altitudes. These computations are then displayed through the flight director horizon as steering commands, greatly simplifying instrument flight.

ADF Bearing Compass

The automatic direction finding bearing compass used radio signals to "home" in on friendly airfields. Useful in poor weather conditions.

Ejection Handle

Should the Vulcan develop a serious fault the Captain and Co-pilot could both eject safely. Unfortunately, the other crew members were no so lucky, and had to try and open the entrance hatch to escape.

Auto-Pilot Control PanelTop of page

The Vulcan was designed for long range missions, during much of this time the aircraft used its autopilot to head towards its destination, thus giving the Captain and other crew members valuable time to concentrate on other tasks.

Engine Anti-Icing Control

These control govern how much engine exhaust is circulated around the leading edge of the wings to prevent ice from forming at high altitudes.

Nav Heading Unit (HRS)Top of page

The Heading Reference System was used to ascertain the direction in which the Vulcan was currently traveling.

Indicator Control Unit

Sorry, I can't tell you much more about this device I'm afraid.

Tanks Full Indicator

An instrument which indicates when the Vulcan's fuel tanks were full. Used during in-flight refueling.

HRU Power Failure Indicator

The Heading Reference Unit (HRU) is a self-contained strapdown inertial navigation system. If power was to fail on this device the Vulcan could, if the crew were not aware of the failure, become lost. If power was interrupted to the HRU this would be indicated on this instrument.

Tail Warning Radar Control UnitTop of page

The orange rectangle was used to show the presence of enemy missiles or aircraft approaching the Vulcan from the aft. Depending on the frequency used by the incoming missile or aircraft, a number of countermeasures, selected by other control boxes in front of the AEO, could be selected to act as counter-measures to the threat.


The Ground Position Indicator allowed the crew of the Vulcan to gain  accurate knowledge of where the ground was in position to the aircraft. This was especially useful when flying low-level sorties.

Landing Light Switches

Use to activate the landing lights which are located in the wings of the aircraft. The switches have three positions, one for landing, one for taxying (lights extend further from the wings,) and one for fully retracted (lights off). 

Knee Pad Lamp

The Captain and co-pilot would often carry maps in the pockets of their flight suits. When seated they were able to use this light to read the map without having to remove it from their uniform. Top of page


Used by the AEO to view the underside of the aircraft to ensure any missile being carried had detached safely from the Vulcan. Also used to view behind the aircraft for a visual check of the airspace.

Abandon Aircraft Illuminated Sign

This was one sign the AEO, Nav Plotter and Nav Radar did not want to see illuminated. If the aircraft had to be abandoned the Captain or co-pilot could use this to advise the rear crew to quickly escape via the entrance hatch. Remember, only the Captain and co-pilot had ejection seats.

Unknown Instrument

Despite extensive research I have, so far, been unable to find out what this does. If you know, please inform me. Thanks!

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Compare & Contrast

The Avro Vulcan was often compared to the USAF B-52 "Stratofortress"  strategic bomber.
 Both aircraft were in service simultaneously.

  Vulcan B2 B-52h
Max Speed 560 kts 547 kts
Service Ceiling 60,000ft 47,700ft
Max Take Off Weight 200,000lbs 306,358lbs
Range (High Alt) 4000nm 8684nm
Engines 4 x Rolls Royce Olympus 301 Turbojets 8 x Pratt & Whitney TF33 Turbo-Fans
Length 99ft 11in 160ft 11in
Width 111ft 185ft
Crew 5 6


Vulcan B2 Aerial Locations

This diagram shows the numerous aerials each Vulcan was equipped with

Amazing Vulcan facts...

Each Vulcan contains 430,000 bolts, nuts and rivets.

Each Vulcan was constructed from over 100,000 different components.

The Vulcan was a fully electric aircraft. A fore-runner of the modern fly-by-wire jets used by the RAF today.

The Vulcan can weigh up to 100 tonnes fully loaded.

Each Vulcan consists of 2.5 miles of rolled sections.

It has 9,500 feet of tubing.

14 miles of electrical cable.

Contains enough sheet metal to cover 1.5 football pitches.

The Vulcan gulped 25 tonnes of air per minute through her intakes.

Each Vulcan has up to sixteen fuel tanks.

A Vulcan could carry enough fuel to power a Ford Escort motor car for 35 years at 10,000 miles a year.

The 4 Olympus jets produce as much power as 18 railway engines. They were capable of delivering 80,000lbs of thrust.

Vulcans could outmanoeuvre F-15s in high altitude mock dogfights.

If necessary the Vulcan could be started in 27 seconds, and be airborne within 2 minutes of a squadron scramble.

The record altitude flown by a Vulcan was 64,000ft.


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