Conserving a Cold War relic
Duxford’s Handley Page Victor has been under conservation now for four years, and is among the largest conservation projects the team at the UK’s Imperial War Museum (IWM) have ever undertaken.
The Handley Page Victor is a British jet-powered strategic bomber developed and produced by Handley Page during the Cold War. One of Britain’s V bombers, the Victor was designed from a specification drawn up in 1947. Three candidates were put forward to be built: the Victor, the Vulcan and the Valiant.
The Victor was striking in appearance and sophisticated in design, boasting a range of 6,000 miles (9,656km) and bomb load of 35,000 pounds (15,875kg). The role of the V bombers was to be high-level strategic nuclear bombers. Throughout the 1960s, the main RAF bomber bases each maintained at least two V bombers loaded with nuclear weapons on standby alert, ready to take off at four minutes’ notice. However, this role was relatively short lived, as Soviet surface-to-air missiles plus Polaris missiles made high-level bombing virtually redundant.
The Valiants were switched to become refuelling aircraft, but they were brought out of service due to spar fatigue issues. To fill this gap, six B-variant Victors were converted into refuellers instead. XH648 was one of these, converted in 1965.
Read more in the latest issue of PCE-International