Blackburn Buccaneer

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The Blackburn Buccaneer was a British carrier-borne attack aircraft designed in the 1950s for the Royal Navy (RN). Designed and initially produced by Blackburn Aircraft at Brough, it was later officially known as the Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer' when Blackburn became a part of the Hawker Siddeley Group, but this name is rarely used.

The Buccaneer was originally designed in response to the Soviet Union's massive Sverdlov-class cruiser construction program. Instead of building a new fleet of its own, the Royal Navy could use the Buccaneer to attack these ships with relative impunity by approaching at low altitudes below the ship's radar horizon. The Buccaneer could attack using a nuclear bomb, or conventional weapons, in engagements lasting less than a minute, quickly flying out of range whilst its weapons struck. It was later intended to carry short-range anti-shipping missiles to further enhance its survivability against more modern ship-based anti-aircraft weapons.

The Buccaneer entered Royal Naval service in 1962. The initial production aircraft suffered a series of accidents due to insufficient engine power, which was quickly addressed in the Buccaneer S.2, equipped with more powerful Rolls-Royce Spey jet engines. The Buccaneer was also offered as an entrant into a new Royal Air Force (RAF) contest for a new attack aircraft. It was initially rejected in favor of the much more advanced supersonic BAC TSR-2, but the cost of the TSR-2 program led to its cancellation, only to be followed by the cancellation of its selected replacement, the General Dynamics F-111K. The Buccaneer was finally purchased by the MoD for the Royal Air Force, entering service in 1969.

The Royal Navy retired the last of its large aircraft carriers in 1978, moving their strike role to the British Aerospace Sea Harrier (and later the Panavia Tornado RN), and passing their Buccaneers to the Royal Air Force. After a crash in 1980 revealed metal fatigue problems, the RAF fleet was reduced to sixty aircraft, while the rest were scrapped. The ending of the Cold War led to a reduction in strength of the Royal Air Force, and the accelerated retirement of the remaining fleet, with the last Buccaneers in RAF service being retired in 1994; in favor of the Panavia Tornado. The South African Air Force (SAAF) also procured the type. Buccaneers saw combat action in the first Gulf War of 1991, and the South African Border War.

Variants[edit | edit source]

  • Blackburn NA.39: Pre-production build of nine prototype NA.39 aircraft, and a development batch of fourteen S.1s ordered 2 June 1955.
  • Buccaneer S.1: First production model, powered by de Havilland Gyron Junior 101 turbojet engines. Forty built, ordered on September 25th 1959, built at Brough and towed to Holme-on-Spalding Moor for first flight and testing. First aircraft flown on January 23rd 1962. A further ten S.1 aircraft ordered in September 1959 were completed as S.2s
  • Buccaneer S.2: Development of the S.1 with various improvements, and powered by the more powerful Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines. From 1962, ten were built by Blackburn Aircraft Limited, and seventy-four by Hawker Siddeley Aviation Limited.
  • Buccaneer S.2A: Ex-Royal Navy S.2 aircraft reworked for Royal Air Force.
  • Buccaneer S.2B: Variant of S.2 for RAF squadrons. Capable of carrying the Martel anti-radar or anti-shipping missile. Forty-six built between 1973 and 1977, plus three for Ministry of Defence weapons trials work.
  • Buccaneer S.2C: Royal Navy aircraft upgraded to S.2A standard.
  • Buccaneer S.2D: Royal Navy aircraft upgraded to S.2B standard, operational with Martels from 1975.
  • Buccaneer S.50: Variant for South Africa. Wings could be folded, but folding was no longer powered. Aircraft could be equipped with two Bristol Siddeley 605 single-stage RATO rockets to assist take-off from hot-and-high airfields like that of AFB Waterkloof in Pretoria, where the type was mostly based.

Users[edit | edit source]

  • South Africa
    • South African Air Force
  • United Kingdom
    • Royal Air Force
    • Royal Navy

See Also[edit | edit source]