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Avro Vulcan B2 XH537 carrying two dummy Douglas Skybolt missiles circa 1962. The fifth Mk2 to be built, 537 was ordered and began construction as a Mk1 though completed as a Mk2. Early Mk2 Vulcans including 537 were built with narrower air intakes than the definitive Mk2 intakes that anticipated the increased air flow of the future Olympus 301 engines. In the small pair of photographs, the definitive intake (left) is noticeably deeper.

In 1960, consideration was being given to extend the capabilities of the V-force armed with Blue Steel Mk1 (which did not itself become fully operational until 1964). The Mk2 version of Blue Steel had just been cancelled and the UK expressed an interest to buy the Douglas WES138A (GAM87) Skybolt ALBM from the USA. The development of the missile remained with the Americans though the British decided to use a UK-designed warhead. Only the Vulcan was chosen to carry the UK version of Skybolt and XH537 was adapted to carry and drop dummy missiles.

Skybolt was cancelled in December 1962, though the legacy remained with non-Blue Steel aircraft being completed or retrofitted with hard points intended for mounting Skybolt long after its cancellation. However, since some of the weapons proposed for the Vulcan were under-wing mounted, it was probably considered expedient to incorporate the hard points rather than put the fleet through another lengthy modification programme.

Extensive details of 537's history can be read at Famous Vulcans >>

Paul Hartley collection © BAE Systems (Thanks to Ian Lowe, Woodford)

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