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Vulcan B2 Blue Steel XL446 of No 27 Squadron at Scampton in 1963. 446 was the third Blue Steel aircraft delivered to No 27 Squadron arriving in 1962. As the Blue Steel aircraft were delivered, 27 Squadron's original free-fall aircraft were transferred to the OCU and the newly-forming Wing at Coningsby. Surplus to Blue Steel requirements, 446 emerged from a modification programme in June 1966 fitted for free-fall and replaced a B1A on the Waddington Wing in September 1966. 446 was transferred to No 230 OCU at Finningley in December 1967 which moved to Scampton in December 1969. In July 1972, 446 joined the Akrotiri Wing, returning with No 35 Squadron to Scampton in January 1975. 446 served at Waddington for five months in 1978 preparing for Operation Giant Voice, a USAF bombing and navigation competition. Returning from GV, 446 was allocated to No 617 Squadron in October 1978 and returned to 35 Squadron in January 1982 after 617 disbanded. 35 Squadron itself disbanded the following month and 446 was scrapped at Scampton. 446 was one of seven Vulcans (XL445, XL446, XM569-573) that had an interesting history. They were the last 200-series engined Blue Steel aircraft to be built being followed by five new 301 engined Blue Steel aircraft and supplemented by seven older aircraft retrofitted with Blue Steel and 301 engines (XL384-390). The batch 445-573 was surplus to requirements and were transferred to free-fall circa 1966 and were modified to carry cylindrical bomb-bay tanks. The Blue Steel aircraft that remained were fitted with saddle A & E bomb bay tanks and retained these after conversion to free-fall circa 1970. This explains why a small number of ex-Blue Steel aircraft were noted with cylindrical tanks.

© Geoff Gaukrodger

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