Most readers should be familiar with the plotline of the fourth James Bond movie, Thunderball (1965), which centres around the theft of two atomic bombs following the hijacking of an RAF Vulcan bomber on a training exercise.
Of course, in the book the aircraft was a Villiers Vindicator, a fictional experimental plane and later, when Kevin McClory got to take a second stab at Thunderball when he made Never Say Never Again independent of the Eon Productions film series, the technology had been upgraded to cruise missiles, but the delta winged Avro Vulcan bomber is something of a icon of the Cold War years.
For the filming of Thunderball two Vulcans were used for the ground and flying sequences, and as well as scale model work a full size mockup of a Vulcan was built in the Bahamas and submerged in the water (click here for photos of the mockup being constructed in the Bahamas).
The remains of the Vulcan are in poor condition owing to the fact that they were destroyed by explosives following filming to prevent them appearing in other films. After nearly half a century in the water what remains is barely recognisable, but can still be reached using a local dive centre (as well as Tears of Allah from Never Say Never Again).
The Avro Vulcan in service
The Vulcan was an integral part of the RAF’s airborne strategic nuclear deterrent as one of the “V Bombers” that also included the Vickers Valient and Handley Page Victor and designed for quick response capability.
The first Vulcans were introduced in 1956 and used by the RAF until 1984 after seeing service in the Falklands. While they formed the backbone of the strategic Bomber Command Main Force, it could also be armed with conventional weapons and, later, tactical nuclear weapons
The Vulcan could start all four Olympus turbojets simultaneously and required little ground support and with a crew on alert it could be airborne within 15 minutes. Furthermore, it required just 5,000 feet of runway, compared with double that for the B-47 or B-52, and climbed quickly at a steep 45-degree angle to achieve altitude fast.
XH558, the last flying RAF Vulcan bomber
Of the 134 Vulcans that served with the RAF, just one airworthy example remained until recently, which could be seen at air displays between 2008 and 2012.
Although it was expected that it would not be able to fly beyond 2013, it was announced in January 2013 that wing modification investigations on Vulcan XH558 have been started by Cranfield Aerospace with the aim of keeping it airborne for several years to come.
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