The Avro Vulcan bomber from Thunderball

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.

Click here to learn more about Vulcan XH558 and to support restoration

David Leigh founded The James Bond Dossier in 2002. A fan of 007 since the age of 8, he is also author of The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond. You can order a copy here if you don't own it already.

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3 Responses to “The Avro Vulcan bomber from Thunderball”

  • Robby

    Thanks for the article on the Vulcan. I always thought it was one of the coolest looking jets ever built, and for years I tried to find a model of one in any hobby shop I could find. I’m still looking. My dream was to find a really nice looking smaller kit, build it,and then place it on the bottom of an aquarium with a little added stuff to make a cool-looking diorama. Oh, and I might throw in a few fish to boot! lol

  • Mark Hazard

    Hadn’t realised the Vulcan’s flying life was to be extended, last I heard 2013 was to be its last year, hope all goes well for future flying.
    As regards Robby looking for a model, Airfix do a great 1/72 scale model, even using the last surviving Vulcans serial on the most recent version.

  • Rondar Pleased

    Corgi make a small ready painted diecast Vulcan, just a few inches long, cheap to buy, might be OK for an aquarium and should last a while. As well as the 1/72 scale plastic kit, there is also a much more expensive 1/200 scale plastic kit by Dragon/Cybermodel, and a 1/144 scale by Great Wall.