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In September 1936 the Air Ministry published specifications calling for a twin-engine bomber to be powered by Rolls Royce engines. A. V. Roe & Company took up the challenge and developed the Avro Manchester. The company built 200 but it was not a success.
In 1940 the aircraft was redesigned. The new aircraft, called the Avro Lancaster Mk I, made its first flight on 9th January, 1941. Powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, it had a maximum speed of 287 mph (462 km) and had a range of 1,660 miles (2,670 km). Armed with ten machine-guns it could carry 22,000 lb (9,980 kg) of bombs. It was 69 ft 6 in (21.18 m) long with a wingspan of 102 ft (31.09 m).
The Lancaster soon became Britain's most successful strategic bomber of the Second World War. The demand was so great that A. Roe & Company could not cope and Austin Motors, Vickers-Armstrong and Armstrong-Whitworth also began producing the plane. Over the next five years a total of 7,377 aircraft were built.
In 1943 A. Roe & Company introduced the Avro Lancaster Mk II. The new aircraft, with its Bristol Hercules engine, was slower than the original version, but importantly now had a range of 2,250 miles (3,620 km). The company also built the Lancaster Mk IB Special that had modified bomb-bays that enabled it to carry 10 ton bombs such as the Grand Slam.
During the war Lancasters carried out a total of 156,000 missions and dropped 608,612 tons of bombs. This was double what the Handley Page Halifax, the other major bomber used by the Royal Air Force achieved. In the four years of combat service 3,249 Lancasters were lost in action and another 487 were destroyed or damaged while on the ground. Only 24 Lancasters completed more than 100 successful missions.
Last spring the Germans had constructed huge tents in an open space in the Lager. For the whole of the good season each of them had catered for over 1,000 men: now the tents had been taken down, and an excess 2,000 guests crowded our huts. We old prisoners knew that the Germans did not like these irregularities and that something would soon happen to reduce our number.
Ten Interesting Facts and Figures about the Avro Lancaster Bomber
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In the first war where air superiority really mattered, the Avro Lancaster was Britain’s premier bomber. Avro developed it to meet the UK’s wartime need for a larger bomber that could go further and carry a larger payload, a response to the Junkers Ju 88 that had scarred London and the surrounding counties during the Blitz. Its first flight took place in January 1941 and was officially introduced into the Royal Air Force in February 1942. It remained in service well after the war not only in the UK, but also Australia and Canada, and was not completely retired until 1963 in Canada. Enjoy these ten interesting facts about one of WWII’s most notable airplanes.
The bomb bay of the Avro Lancaster was one of its primary features, and at 33 feet (10 metres) it could carry a lot of ordinance. At first, the heaviest bomb it carried was the 4,000 lb HC Cookie, but after bulging doors were added to the bomber that added 30% to its carrying capacity, it could also handle the 8,000 lb. and 12,000 lb. versions of the Cookie. Eventually, it also carried the 12,000 lb. Tallboy and the 22,000 lb. “Grand Slam”, which was designed to create mini-earthquakes and was the most powerful non-atomic bomb of the war.
Food, Not Bombs
Bombs weren’t the only thing the Lancasters dropped on Europe. During the later days of the war, they would often drop food supplies on the occupied Netherlands.
The Lancaster’s most famous actions during the war came from Operation Chastise, an action by which the Allies hoped to destroy German dams in the Ruhr Valley. Out of three damns on the Eder, Möhne, and Sorpe rivers, Allied forces breached two of them and partially breached the third. The success of the mission is what inspired the film, The Dam Busters, in 1955. The movie’s main title, composed by Eric Coates, is still a featured piece of patriotic music.
The standard machine gun on the Lancaster was 7.7 mm, though later models were fitted with twin 12.7 mm ball turrets.
At 21 metres long and with a wingspan of 31 metres, the Lancaster was one of the largest bombers in WWII and had a crew complement of seven, which is only three men less than the American B-17 Flying Fortress. Its maximum speed was 287 mph (462 kmh), the maximum ceiling height was 24,500 feet (7,470 metres), and its range was 2,530 miles (4,072 km).
During the war, Lancasters flew over 156,000 raids, dropping around 50 million incendiary bombs and 608,000 tons of explosive devices. During a 1942 raid on Cologne, 1,000 bombers destroyed over 600 acres of industrial land.
Flying in Luxury
While the Lancaster itself may have been as Spartan inside as a military mission required, what was under the hood (so to speak) was fairly impressive. While most people equate Rolls Royce with automobiles today, like many car manufacturers during WWII, they contributed aircraft engines to the fight. The Avro Lancasters were outfitted with Rolls Royce Merlin V12 engines which produced 1,280 horsepower *each*.
Following the Bouncing Bomb
One of the more famous payloads carried by the Lancaster was the “Upkeep” bouncing bomb, which was designed by Barnes Wallis, who had also developed the Tallboy and Grand Slam. The bomb was designed to bounce across the surface of the water to avoid nets and other obstacles. The bombs were used heavily in Operation Chastise and became famous as a result of their appearance in The Dam Busters.
Earning a Black Label
A Carling Black Label advert in the 1980s caused some small controversy when it depicted a German soldier catching the bombs like a goalkeeper and a similar ad was run in 1994. The first advert used footage from the 1955 film.
Of the 7,377 built, 17 of the Avro Lancasters survive today. Many are on display in as varied countries as France, Germany, Sweden, and New Zealand. One located in the United Kingdom is still airworthy and flies regularly in air shows as part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight as well as flying in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s 80 th birthday.
About John Rabon
The Hitchhiker's Guide has this to say about John Rabon: When not pretending to travel in time and space, eating bananas, and claiming that things are "fantastic", John lives in North Carolina. There he works and writes, eagerly awaiting the next episodes of Doctor Who and Top Gear. He also enjoys good movies, good craft beer, and fighting dragons. Lots of dragons.
Avro Aircraft Factory, Leeds – The Story of Yeadon’s Hidden War Effort
Today it is an anonymous looking industrial estate alongside Leeds-Bradford Airport. Between 1939 and 1946 it was an industrial production centre contributing to the war effort on a gargantuan scale.
Leeds and Bradford Municipal Aerodrome had opened in October 1931. Regular flights linked it with London and Newcastle. When war broke out in 1939, Avro built a ‘shadow factory’ alongside the aerodrome to contribute to the aircraft production needed for the war effort.
The factory covered a million and a half square feet in area. It was the largest single factory unit in Europe. It was one of a number of shadow factories built around the country for wartime aircraft production. Its size and significance meant that it was at high risk of being a target for enemy bombers.
An elaborate camouflaging operation took place, masterminded by people who had previously worked in the film industry. The camouflage consisted of grass covering the roof of the factory, replicating the original field pattern. There were imitation farm buildings, stone walls and a duck pond in the area around the factory. Hedges and bushes made out of fabric were changed to match the changing colours of the seasons. Personnel moved dummy animals around daily to increase the camouflage. It worked because enemy bombers never detected the factory. It remained untouched throughout the war.
At the height of its operation, more than 17,500 people, mostly conscripts, worked there. The factory was an assembly plant that was in production 24 hours a day. Workers bussed in from all over West Yorkshire and worked 69-hours a week on a three days, followed by three nights basis. Extra homes built in the surrounding towns accommodated the large workforce. Gracie Fields visited the factory to entertain the workers. More than 5,000 at a time crammed into the works canteen for concerts.
Throughout the course of the war, Avro Yeadon produced almost 700 Lancaster bombers, 4,500 Ansons and several other types of aircraft. Service men built a taxiway from the factory to the aerodrome. The taxiway extended so that it could become a test centre for military flights.
The airfield resumed civilian flights in 1947 and subsequently developed into Leeds-Bradford International Airport. The Avro factory closed in 1946 but the site is now the Leeds-Bradford Airport Industrial Estate. The estate’s main building is the same one, albeit modified and without the camouflage, that housed the aircraft factory during the war. The remains of the taxiway from the factory to the main airfield are still visible.
There was also a Royal Ordnance Corps site opposite the Avro factory. Some remains of that can be seen in what is now a secure parking area and caravan park. A plaque commemorating the role of Avro Yeadon is displayed inside the airport’s terminal building. It is still remarkable to imagine, as you drive along the A658 past the industrial estate, that this was once a secret factory that contributed so much to Britain’s war effort.
A Place in History: Britain’s headline news stories remembered by Colin Philpott.
Avro Lancaster - History
Avro 683 &ldquoLancaster&rdquo B.Mk.III
United Kingdom &mdash World War II four-engined heavy bomber
Archive Photos Airplane Trading Cards and Photos 
[Avro 683 Lancaster B.Mk.III (ED865) (Trade Card, A History of British Military Aircraft, 1963, Kellogg, UK, 7 of 16). (The Skytamer Archive, copyright © 2014 Skytamer Images)  ]
[Avro 683 Lancaster Mk.III (ED470, AM-P), Airplane card: 1993 &ldquoWorld War II War Machines, the Flight Series&rdquo, The Rogers Group, USA (The Skytamer Archive)]
- Avro 683 Lancaster
- Role: Heavy bomber
- Manufacturer: Avro
- Designed by: Roy Chadwick
- First flight: 8 January 1941
- Introduced: 1942
- Retired: 1963 (Canada)
- Primary users: Royal Air Force Royal, Canadian Air Force
- Number built: 7,377
- Unit cost: £s45-50,000 when introduced (£s1.3-1.5 million in 2005 currency)
- Developed from: Avro Manchester
- Variants: Avro Lancastrian, Avro Lincoln, Avro York
The Lancaster owes its origin to Air Ministry specification B.13/36 for a twin-engined medium bomber to be fitted with Rolls-Royce Vulture engines. The first aircraft built to this specification was the Manchester, the prototype of which first flew in July, 1939. About 18 months later the Manchester began to go into squadron service in the RAF.
Owing to delays in the development of the Vulture engine the decision was taken in mid-1940 to design a new version of the Manchester to be fitted with four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. The first conversion made use of about 75% of parts and assemblies of the Manchester, the principal change being the provision of a new center-section with mountings for four Merlin × engines. This aeroplane became the first prototype of the Lancaster.
A second prototype fitted with four Merlin XX engines and considerably modified in detail was designed, built and flown in some eight months.
The first production Lancasters began to come off the production lines early in 1942 and in the same year the decision was made to produce the Lancaster in Canada. The first Canadian-built Lancaster was delivered by air across the Atlantic in September, 1943. In 1944 Lancaster production was begun in Australia.
The Lancaster is the most versatile of British heavy bombers. It can carry a maximum internal load of 18,000 lbs without modification to the standard bomb-bay. On a range of 1,000 miles its normal load is 14,000 lbs. With modifications to the bomb-bay it carries both the 12,000 lb and 22,000 lb bombs, the only bomber in the World to carry bombs of these sizes.
There have been four basic versions of the Lancaster. These are as follow:
- Lancaster I: Four Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engines.
- Lancaster II: Four Bristol Hercules VI air-cooled radial engines.
- Lancaster III: Same as the Mk.I but fitted with Packard-built Merlin engines.
- Lancaster X: The Canadian-built version of the Mk.III fitted with Packard-built Merlin engines.
The Avro Lancaster first saw active service in 1942, and together with the Handley Page Halifax it was one of the main heavy bombers of the RAF, the RCAF and squadrons from other Commonwealth and European countries serving within RAF Bomber Command. The &ldquoLanc&rdquo or &ldquoLankie,&rdquo as it was affectionately known, became the most famous and most successful of the Second World War night bombers, &ldquodelivering 608,612 tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties.&rdquo Although the Lancaster was primarily a night bomber, it excelled in many other roles including daylight precision bombing, and gained worldwide renown as the &ldquoDam Buster &rdquo used in the 1943 &ldquoOperation Chastise&rdquo raids on Germany's Ruhr Valley dams.
Design and Development 2
The origins of the Lancaster stem from a twin-engined bomber design submitted to meet Specification P.13/36, which was for a new generation of twin-engined medium bombers for &ldquoworldwide use &rdquo, the engine specified as the Rolls-Royce Vulture. The resulting aircraft was the Manchester, which, although a capable aircraft, was troubled by the unreliability of the Vulture. Only 200 Manchesters were built and they were withdrawn from service in 1942.
Avro's chief designer, Roy Chadwick, was already working on an improved Manchester design using four of the more reliable but less powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engines on a larger wing. The aircraft was initially designated Avro Type 683 Manchester III, and later re-named the Lancaster. The prototype aircraft (BT308) was assembled by Avro's experimental flight department at Manchester's Ringway Airport from where test pilot H.A. &ldquoBill &rdquo Thorn took the controls for its first flight on Thursday, 9 January 1941. The aircraft proved to be a great improvement on its predecessor, being &ldquoone of the few warplanes in history to be &lsquoright&rsquo from the start.&rdquo Its initial three-finned tail layout, a result of the design being adapted from the Manchester I, was quickly changed on the second prototype (DG595) and subsequent production aircraft to the familiar twin-finned specification also used on the later Manchesters.
Some of the later orders for Manchesters were changed in favor of Lancasters, the designs were very similar and both featured the same distinctive greenhouse cockpit, turret nose and twin tail. The Lancaster discarded the stubby central third tail fin of the early Manchesters and used the wider span tailplane and larger elliptical twin fins from the later Manchester Mk.IA.
The Lancaster is a mid-wing cantilever monoplane with an oval all-metal fuselage. The wing was constructed in five main sections, the fuselage in five sections. All wing and fuselage sections were built separately and fitted with all the required equipment before final assembly. The tail unit had twin oval fins and rudders. The Lancaster was initially powered by four wing-mounted Rolls-Royce Merlin piston engines with three-bladed airscrews. It had retractable main landing gear and fixed tail-wheel, with the hydraulically operated main landing gear raised into the inner engine nacelles.
The majority of Lancasters built during the war years were manufactured by Avro at their factory at Chadderton near Oldham, Lancashire and test flown from Woodford Aerodrome in Cheshire. Other Lancasters were built by Metropolitan-Vickers (1080, also tested at Woodford) and Armstrong Whitworth. The aircraft was also produced at the Austin Motor Company works in Longbridge, Birmingham later in the Second World War and postwar by Vickers-Armstrongs at Chester. Only 300 of the Lancaster B II fitted with Bristol Hercules engines were constructed this was a stopgap modification caused by a shortage of Merlin engines as fighter production was of higher priority. Many B.IIs were lost after running out of fuel. The Lancaster B.III had Packard Merlin engines but was otherwise identical to contemporary B.Is, with 3,030 B.III's built, almost all at A.V. Roe's Newton Heath factory. The B I and B III were built concurrently, and minor modifications were made to both marks as new batches were ordered. Examples of these modifications were the relocation of the pitot head from the nose to the side of the cockpit, and the change from de Havilland "needle blade" propellers to Hamilton Standard or Nash Kelvinator made &ldquopaddle blade&rdquo propellers.
Of later variants, only the Canadian-built Lancaster B.Mk.X, manufactured by Victory Aircraft in Malton, Ontario, was produced in significant numbers. A total of 430 of this type were built, earlier examples differing little from their British-built predecessors, except for using Packard-built Merlin engines and American-style instrumentation and electrics. Late-series models replaced the Frazer Nash mid-upper turret with a differently configured Martin turret, mounted slightly further forward for weight balance. A total of 7,377 Lancasters of all marks were built throughout the duration of the war, each at a 1943 cost of £s45-50,000 (approximately equivalent to £s1.3-1.5 million in 2005 currency).
Crew Accommodation 2
Starting at the nose, the bomb aimer had two positions to man. His primary location was lying prone on the floor of the nose of the aircraft, with access to the controls for the bombsight head in front, with the bombsight computer on his left and bomb release selectors on the right. He would also use his view out of the large transparent perspex nose cupola to assist the navigator with map reading. To man the Frazer Nash FN5 nose turret, he simply had to stand up and he would be in position behind the triggers of his twin .303 in (7.7 mm) guns. The bomb aimer's position contained the nose parachute exit in the floor.
Moving backwards, on the roof of the bomb bay the pilot and flight engineer sat side-by-side under the expansive canopy, with the pilot sitting on the left on a raised portion of the floor. The flight engineer sat on a collapsible seat (known as a &ldquosecond dicky seat&rdquo) to the pilot's right, with the fuel selectors and gauges on a panel behind him and to his right.
Behind these crew members, and behind a curtain fitted to allow him to use light to work, sat the navigator. His position faced to port with a large chart table in front of him. An instrument panel showing the airspeed, altitude and other details required for navigation was mounted on the side of the fuselage above the chart table.
The radios for the wireless operator were mounted on the left-hand end of the chart table, facing towards the rear of the aircraft. Behind these radios, facing forwards, on a seat at the front of the main spar sat the wireless operator. To his left was a window, and above him was the astrodome, used for visual signalling and also by the navigator for celestial navigation.
Behind the wireless operator were the two spars for the wing, which created a major obstacle for crew members moving down the fuselage even on the ground. On reaching the end of the bomb bay the floor dropped down to the bottom of the fuselage, and the mid upper gunner's Frazer Nash FN50 or FN150 turret was reached. His position allowed a 360° view over the top of the aircraft, with two .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns to protect the aircraft from above and to the side. The mid-upper gunner had perhaps the most uncomfortable ride of all the crew, as he was seated on a rectangle of canvas that was slung beneath the turret once the gunner had occupied his position. He could be required to occupy this seat for up to eight hours at a time.
To the rear of the turret was the side crew door, on the starboard side of the fuselage. This was the main entrance to the aircraft, and also could be used as a parachute exit. At the extreme rear of the aircraft, over the spars for the tailplane, the rear gunner sat in his exposed position in the FN20, FN120 or &ldquoRose Rice&rdquo turret, entered through a small hatch in the rear of the fuselage, and depending on the size of the rear gunner, the area was so cramped that the gunner would often hang their parachute on a hook inside the fuselage, near the turret doors. In the FN20 and FN120 turrets, he had four .303 in (7.7 mm) Brownings, and in the Rose Rice turret he had two .50 in (12.7 mm) Brownings. Neither the mid upper or rear gunner's positions were heated, and the gunners had to wear electrically heated suits to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Many rear gunners insisted on having the center section of perspex removed from the turret to give a completely unobstructed view.
While eight .303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns were the most common Lancaster armament, twin .50 in (12.7 mm) turrets were later available in both the tail and dorsal positions. A Preston-Green mount was available for a .50 in (12.7 mm) mounted in a ventral blister, but this was mostly used in RCAF service. This blister was later the location for the H2S radar. A Nash & Thomson FN-64 periscope-sighted twin .303 in (7.7 mm) ventral turret was also available but rarely fitted as it was hard to sight. (Similar problems afflicted the ventral turret in the North American B-25C Mitchell and other bombers). Some unofficial mounts for .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns or even 20 mm cannon were made, firing through ventral holes of various designs.
An important feature of the Lancaster was its extensive bomb bay, at 33 ft (10.05 m) long. Initially, the heaviest bombs carried were 4,000 lb (1,820 kg) &ldquoCookies &rdquo. Bulged doors were added to allow the aircraft to carry 8,000 lb (3,600 kg) and later 12,000 lb (5,450 kg) &ldquoCookies&rdquo. Towards the end of the war, attacking special and hardened targets, the B.I Specials could carry the 21 ft (6.4 m) long 12,000 lb (5,450 kg) &ldquoTallboy&rdquo or 25.5 ft (7.77 m) long 22,000 lb (9,980 kg) &ldquoGrand Slam&rdquo &ldquoearthquake&rdquo bombs, the Lancaster was able to deliver the heaviest bombs made. To carry the &ldquoGrand Slam&rdquo extensive modifications to the aircraft were required which led to them being redesignated as B.I (Specials). The modifications included removal of the mid-upper turret, two guns from the rear turret, removal of all of the cockpit armor plating and installation of Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk.24 Engines which had better take-off performance. The bomb-bay doors were removed and the rear end of the bomb bay cut away to clear the tail of the bomb. Later the nose turret was also removed to further improve performance.
Bombsights used on Lancasters included:
- Mark IX Course-Setting Bombsight (CSBS): This was an early preset vector bombsight that involved squinting through wires that had to be manually set based on aircraft speed, altitude and bombload. This sight lacked tactical flexibility as it had to be manually adjusted if any of the parameters changed and was soon phased out in favor of the bombsights below.
- Mark XIV bombsight: A vector bombsight where the bomb aimer input various details of the bombload, target altitude and wind direction, and the analogue computer then continuously calculated the trajectory of the bombs and projected an inverted sword shape onto a sighting glass on the sighting head. Assuming the sight was set correctly, when the target was in the cross hairs of the sword shape, the bomb aimer would be able to accurately release the bombs.
- T1 bombsight: A Mark XIV bombsight modified for mass production and produced in the USA. Some of the pneumatic gyro drives on the Mk.XIV sight were replaced with electronic gyros and other minor modifications were made.
- Stabilizing Automatic Bomb Sight: Also known as "SABS", this was an advanced bombsight mainly used by 617 Squadron for precision raids. Like the American Norden bombsight it was a tachometric sight.
Radio, Radar and Countermeasures Equipment 2
The Lancaster had a very advanced communications system for its time. Most British-built Lancasters were fitted with the R1155 receiver and T1154 transmitter, whereas the Canadian built aircraft and those built for service in the Far East had American radios. These provided radio direction-finding, as well as voice and Morse capabilities.
- H2S: Ground-looking navigation radar system - eventually, it could be homed in on by the German night fighters' NAXOS receiver and had to be used with discretion.
- Fishpond: An add-on to H2S that provided additional (aerial) coverage of the underside of the aircraft to display attacking fighters on an auxiliary screen in the radio operator's position.
- Monica: A rearward-looking radar to warn of night fighter approaches. However, it could not distinguish between attacking enemy fighters and nearby friendly bombers and served as a homing beacon for suitably-equipped German night fighters. Once this was realized, it was removed altogether.
- GEE: A receiver for a navigation system of synchronized pulses transmitted from the UK - aircraft calculated their position from the time delay between pulses. The range of GEE was 3-400 mi (483-644 km).
- Boozer (radar detector): A system of lights mounted on the aircraft's instrument panel that lit up when the aircraft was being tracked by Würzburg ground radar and Lichtenstein airborne radar. In practice it was found to be more disconcerting than useful, as the lights were often triggered by false alerts in the radar-signal-infested skies over Germany.
- Oboe: A very accurate navigation system consisting of a receiver/transponder for two radar stations transmitting from widely separated locations in Southern England which together determined the range and the bearing on the range. The system could only handle one aircraft at a time, and was fitted to a Pathfinder aircraft, usually a fast and maneuverable Mosquito rather than a heavy Lancaster, which marked the target for the main force.
- GEE-H: Similar to Oboe but with the transponder on the ground allowing more aircraft to use the system simultaneously. GEE-H aircraft were usually marked with two horizontal yellow stripes on the fins.
- Village Inn: A radar-aimed gun turret fitted to some Lancasters in 1944.
- Airborne Cigar (ABC): This was only fitted to the Lancasters of 101 Squadron. It was three aerials, two sticking out of the top of the fuselage and one under the bomb aimer's position. These aircraft carried a German speaking crew member on board and were used to jam radio to German night fighters and feed false information on allied bomber positions to them. Due to the nature of the equipment, the enemy was able to track the aircraft and due to this 101 suffered the highest casualty rate of any squadron. Fitted from about mid-1943, they remained until the end of the war.
Operational History 2
Lancasters flew 156,000 sorties and dropped 608,612 long tons (618,378 tonnes) of bombs between 1942 and 1945. Lancs took part in the devastating round-the-clock raids on Hamburg during Air Marshall Harris' &ldquoOperation Gomorrah&rdquo in July 1943. Just 35 Lancasters completed more than 100 successful operations each, and 3,249 were lost in action. The most successful survivor completed 139 operations, and was scrapped in 1947.
A famous Lancaster bombing raid was the 1943 mission, codenamed &ldquoOperation Chastise&rdquo, to destroy the dams of the Ruhr Valley. The mission was carried out by 617 Squadron in modified Mk.IIIs carrying special drum shaped bouncing bombs designed by Barnes Wallis. The story of the mission was later made into a film, &ldquoThe Dam Busters.&rdquo Also famous was a series of Lancaster attacks using &ldquoTallboy&rdquo bombs against the German battleship Tirpitz, which first disabled and later sank the ship.
Lancasters from Bomber Command were to have formed the main strength of Tiger Force, the Commonwealth bomber contingent scheduled to take part in Operation Downfall, the codename for the planned invasion of Japan in late 1945, from bases on Okinawa.
RAF Lancasters dropped food into the Holland region of the occupied Netherlands, with the acquiescence of the occupying German forces, to feed people who were in danger of starvation. Named after the food Manna which miraculously appeared for the Israelites in the Book of Exodus, the aircraft involved were from 1, 3 and 8 Groups, and consisted of 145 Mosquitoes and 3,156 Lancasters, flying between them a total of 3,298 sorties. The first of the two RAF Lancasters chosen for the test flight was nicknamed &ldquoBad Penny&rdquo from the old expression: &ldquoa bad penny always turns up.&rdquo This bomber, with a crew of seven men (five Canadians including pilot Robert Upcott of Windsor, Ontario), took off in bad weather on the morning of 29 April 1945 without a cease fire agreement from the German forces, and successfully dropped her cargo.
A development of the Lancaster was the Avro Lincoln bomber, initially known as the Lancaster IV and Lancaster V. These two marks became the Lincoln B1 and B2 respectively. There was also a civilian airliner based on the Lancaster, the Lancastrian. Other developments were the York, a square-bodied transport and, via the Lincoln, the Shackleton which continued in airborne early warning service up to 1992.
In 1946, four Lancasters were converted by Avro at Bracebridge Heath, Lincolnshire as freighters for use by British South American Airways, but proved to be uneconomical and were withdrawn after a year in service.
Four Lancaster Mk.III's were converted by Flight Refuelling Limited as two pairs of tanker and receiver aircraft for development of in-flight refueling. In 1947, one aircraft was flown non-stop 3,459 mi (5,567 km) from London to Bermuda. Later the two tanker aircraft were joined by another converted Lancaster and were used in the Berlin Airlift, achieving 757 tanker sorties.
Fifty-nine Lancaster B.Is and B.VIIs were overhauled by Avro at Woodford and Langar and delivered to the Aeronavale (France) during 1952/53. These were flown until the mid-1960s by four squadrons in France and New Caledonia in the maritime reconnaissance and search-and-rescue roles. During its Argentinian service, Lancasters saw limited use in military coups, owing to the small number there.
Avro Lancaster B.I &mdash The original Lancasters were produced with Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engines and SU carburetors. Minor details were changed throughout the production series - for example the pitot head design was changed from being on a long mast at the front of the nose to a short fairing mounted on the side of the fuselage under the cockpit. Later production Lancasters had Merlin 22 and 24 engines. No designation change was made to denote these alterations.
Avro Lancaster B.I Special &mdash Adapted to take first the super-heavy &ldquoTallboy&rdquo and then &ldquoGrand Slam&rdquo bombs. Upgraded engines with paddle-bladed propellers gave more power, and the removal of gun turrets reduced weight and gave smoother lines. For the Tallboy, the bomb-bay doors were bulged for the Grand Slam, they were removed completely and the area faired over. For some Tallboy raids, the mid upper turret was removed. This modification was retained for the Grand Slam aircraft, and in addition the nose turret was later removed. Two airframes (HK541 and SW244) were modified to carry a dorsal &ldquosaddle tank&rdquo with 1,200 gal (5,455 L) mounted aft of a modified canopy for increasing range. No. 1577 SD Flight tested the aircraft in India and Australia in 1945 for possible use in the Pacific, but the tank adversely affected handling characteristics when full and flight refueling was later used instead.
Avro Lancaster PR.I &mdash B.1 modified for photographic reconnaissance, operated by RAF No. 82 and No. 541 Squadrons, wartime. All armament and turrets were removed with a reconfigured nose and a camera carried in the bomb bay. The type was also operated by 683 Squadron from circa 1950 for photographic reconnaissance based at Aden and subsequently Habbaniya in Iraq until disbanded 30 November 1953.
Avro Lancaster B.I (FE) &mdash In anticipation of the needs of the Tiger Force operations against the Japanese in the Far East (FE), a tropicalized variant was based on late production aircraft. The B I (FE) had modified radio, radar, navaids and a 400 gal (1,818 L) tank installed in the bomb bay. The mid-upper turret was also removed.
Avro Lancaster B.II &mdash Bristol Hercules (Hercules VI or XVI engines) powered variant, of which 300 were produced by Armstrong Whitworth. One difference between the two engine versions was that the VI had manual mixture control, requiring an extra lever on the throttle pedestal. These aircraft were almost always fitted with an FN.64 ventral turret and pronounced step in the bulged bomb bay.
Avro Lancaster B.Mk.III &mdash These aircraft were fitted with Packard-built Merlin engines and produced at the same time as the B.I, the two marks being indistinguishable externally. The minor differences between the two variants were related to the engine installation, and included the addition of slow-running cut-off switches in the cockpit, a requirement due to the Bendix Stromberg pressure-injection carburetors fitted to the Packard Merlin engines.
Avro Lancaster B.III Special &mdash Known at the time of modification as the &ldquoType 464 Provisioning&rdquo Lancaster, this variant was built to carry the "Upkeep" bouncing bomb for the dam busting raids. The bomb-bay doors were removed and Vickers-built struts to carry the bomb were fitted in their place. A hydraulic motor, driven by the pump previously used for the mid upper turret was fitted to spin the bomb. Lamps were fitted in the bomb bay and nose for the simple height measurement system which enabled the accurate control of low-flying altitude at night. The mid-upper turret was removed to save weight, and the gunner moved to the front turret to relieve the bomb aimer from having to man the front guns so that he could assist with map reading.
Avro Lancaster ASR.III/ASR.3 &mdash B.III modified for air-sea rescue, with three dipole ventral antennas fitted aft of the radome and carrying an airborne lifeboat in the re-configured bomb bay. The armament was often removed and the mid-upper turret faired-over, especially in postwar use. Observation windows were added to both sides of the rear fuselage, a port window just forward of the tailplane, and a starboard window into the rear access door. A number of ASR.3 conversions were fitted with Lincoln-style rudders.
Avro Lancaster GR.3/MR.3 &mdash B.III modified for maritime reconnaissance.
Avro Lancaster B.IV &mdash The B.IV featured an increased wingspan and lengthened fuselage and new Boulton Paul F turret (two × 0.5 in) with re-configured framed &ldquobay window&rdquo nose glazing. The prototypes (PW925, PW929 and PW932) were powered by two-stage Merlin 85s inboard and later, Merlin 68s on the outboard mounts. Because of the major re-design, the aircraft was quickly renamed Lincoln B.1.
Avro Lancaster B.V &mdash Increased wingspan and lengthened fuselage, two-stage Merlin 85s. Renamed Lincoln B.2.
Avro Lancaster B.VI &mdash Nine aircraft converted from B.IIIs. Fitted with Merlin 85/87 which had two-stage superchargers, giving much improved high altitude performance. The Merlin 85/87 series engines were fitted with annular cowlings similar to the post war Avro Lincoln and four bladed paddle-type propellers were fitted. These aircraft were only used by Pathfinder units by No. 7 Squadron RAF, No. 83 Squadron RAF, No. 405 Squadron RCAF and by No. 635 Squadron RAF. Often used as a "Master Bomber" the B.VIs allocated to RAF Bomber Command (2 being retained by Rolls Royce for installation and flight testing) had their dorsal and nose turrets removed and faired-over. The more powerful engines proved troublesome in service and were disliked by ground maintenance staff for their rough running and propensity to 'surge and hunt', making synchronization impossible. The B.VI was withdrawn from service in November 1944 and the surviving aircraft were used by Rolls Royce, the Royal Aircraft Establishment and the Bomb Ballistics Unit (BBU) for various testing and experimental duties.
Avro Lancaster B.VII &mdash The B.VII was the final production version of the Lancaster. The Martin 250CE mid-upper turret was re-positioned slightly further forward than on previous Marks, and the Nash & Thomson FN-82 tail turret with twin 0.50 in (12.7 mm) Browning machine guns replaced the FN.20 turret with four 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns.
Avro Lancaster B.X &mdash The B.X was a Canadian-built B.III with Canadian- and US-made instrumentation and electrics. On later batches the heavier Martin 250CE was substituted for the Nash & Thomson FN-50 mid-upper turret, mounted further forward to maintain center of gravity balance. Canada was a long term operator of the Lancaster, utilizing modified aircraft in postwar maritime patrol, search and rescue and photo-reconnaissance roles until 1964. The last flight by the RCAF was flown by F/L Lynn Garrison in KB-976, on 4 July 1964 at the Calgary International Air Show.
- New Zealand
- Soviet Union
- United Kingdom
Surviving Aircraft 2
- There are 17 known largely complete Avro Lancasters remaining in the world with two airworthy, one of which can be found at Ontario's Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.
Avro 683 Lancaster B.Mk.III Specifications 3,4 (as noted)
- A. V. Roe and Co Ltd
- Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Ltd
- Metropolitan-Vickers Ltd
- Mid-wing cantilever monoplane.
- Wing in five main sections, comprising a center-section of parallel chord and thickness which is integral with the fuselage center-section, two tapering outer sections and two semi-circular wing-tips.
- Subsidiary wing units consist of detachable leading and trailing-edge sections of outer wings and center-section, flaps and ailerons.
- All units are built up individually with all fittings and equipment before assembly.
- Two-spar wing structure, each spar consisting of a top and bottom extruded boom bolted on to a single thick gauge web-plate.
- Ribs are aluminum-alloy pressings suitably flanged and swaged for stiffness.
- The entire wing is covered with a smooth aluminum-alloy skin.
- Ailerons on outer wing sections have metal noses and are fabric-covered aft of the hinges.
- Trimming-tabs in ailerons. Split trailing-edge flaps between ailerons and fuselage.
- Oval all-metal structure in five separately-assembled main sections.
- The fuselage backbone is formed by pairs of extruded longerons located halfway down the cross-section of the three middle sections.
- Cross beams between these longerons support the floor and form the roof of the bomb compartment.
- "U"-frames and formers bolted to the longerons carry the smooth skin plating.
- The remaining sections are built up of oval frames and formers and longitudinal stringers, covered with flush-riveted metal skin.
- All equipment and fittings are installed before final assembly of the separate units.
Tail Unit 3
- Cantilever monoplane type with twin oval fins and rudders.
- Tail-plane in two sections built up in similar manner to the wings, the tail-plane spars being joined together within the fuselage on the center-line.
- Tailplane, fins and rudder, are metal-covered, elevators covered with fabric.
- Trimming-tabs in elevators and rudders.
Landing Gear 3
- Retractable main wheels and fixed tail-wheel.
- Main wheels are hydraulically retracted into the inboard engine nacelles and hinged doors connected to the retracting gear close the apertures when the wheels are raised.
- Track: 23 ft 9 in (7.24 m).
Power Plant 3,4
- Four 1,300-hp Packard Merlin 28 1,480-hp Merlin 38 or 1,640-hp Merlin 224 radial air-cooled engines in welded steel-tube nacelles cantilevered from the front spar of the wings.
- Three-bladed constant-speed full-feathering airscrews.
- Six protected fuel tanks in wings.
- Separate oil tank in each nacelle.
- Provision for a crew of seven.
- Bomb aimer in the nose below the front gun-turret.
- Above and behind and to port is the Pilot's position in a raised canopy with good all-round vision.
- Inside the canopy immediately aft of the pilot's seat is the Fighting Controller's position.
- Slightly aft of this position is the Navigator's station, with table, chart stowage and astral dome in the roof.
- At the rear end of the navigator's table and just forward of the front spar is the Radio Operator's station.
- Within the center-section is a rest room with bed.
- Aft of the rear spar are the mid upper and mid lower turrets, together with various equipment stowage for flares, emergency rations, etc.
- In the extreme tail is the rear turret.
- A walkway is provided along the entire length of the fuselage and the main entrance door is situated on the starboard side just forward of the tail-plane.
Armament, Bombs, Armor and Equipment 3
- Ten Browning .303 machine-guns in four hydraulically-operated Nash & Thompson turrets, one in the nose, two amidships and one in the extreme tail.
- The tail-turret carries four guns, the remainder two each.
- The tail-turret is fed by ammunition tracks from boxes in the rear fuselage.
- The bomb compartment is 33 ft long and has normal accommodation for a maximum weight of approximately 8 tons in various combinations of bombs.
- The largest size which can be carried under special conditions is the 22,000 lb bomb.
- An armored bulkhead is fitted across the center-section portion of the fuselage and is so arranged that it will open up for passage through the fuselage on either side of the center-line.
- The back of the pilot's seat is armor-plated and there is armor protection behind his head.
- Certain other vulnerable parts of the structure and the turrets are armored.
- Special bullet-proof glass is provided for the fighting controller's position.
- Full night-flying equipment, radio, flares, oxygen, de-icing equipment, etc.
- A dinghy is carried in the center-section trailing-edge portion of the wing and is automatically released and inflated in a crash alighting in the sea.
- It can also be operated by hand.
- Span: 102 ft 0 in
- Length: 69 ft 4 in
- Height: 20 ft 6 in
- Net wing area: 1,205 ft²
- Gross wing area: 1,297 ft²
- Tare weight: 36,475 lbs
- All-up weight: 50,000 lbs
- Take-off weight with 22,000 lb bomb load: 72,000 lbs
Performance with normal bomb load 5
- Maximum speed at 11,500 ft: 287 mph
- Cruising speed at 12,000 ft: 210 mph
- Climb to 20,000 ft: 41 min 40 sec
- Service ceiling without bomb load: 24,500 ft
- Range with 14,000 lb bomb load: 1,660 miles
- Range with 22,000 lb bomb load: 1,040 miles
- Shupek, John. The Skytamer Archive. &ldquoA History of British Military Aircraft&rdquo Kellogg Company of Great Britain Ltd., 1963, UK, Card 7 of 16&rdquo
- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Avro Lancaster
- Bridgman, Leonard, &ldquoAvro: The Avro 683 Lancaster.&rdquo Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1945/1946. Sampson Low Marston & Company Limited, London, 1946. pp. 15c-17c
- Jackson, A. J. &ldquoAvro 683 Lancaster&rdquo Avro Aircraft Since 1908, Second Edition. Putnam Aeronautical Books, London, 1990. ISBN 0-85177-797-X, pgs. 358-369.
- Mason, Francis K. &ldquoAvro Type 683 Lancaster&rdquo The British Bomber since 1914, Second Edition. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, USA. 1994. ISBN 1-555750-085-1, pp. 343-349.
Copyright © 1998-2020 (Our 22 nd Year) Skytamer Images, Whittier, California
All rights reserved
A.V. Roe & Co Ltd - Chadderton
Avro Type 683 – Lancaster B I. Serial Numbers R5482-R5517, R5537-R5576, R5603-R5640, R5658-R5703 and R5724-R5763
The second production batch of 200 aircraft was ordered from A.V. Roe and Co Ltd as part of Contract # B69274/40 under Works Order # 7671, Newton Heath, Manchester.
A.V. Roe produced the major components at Chadderton, with assembly and flight testing being undertaken at Avro Woodford. The Avro factory at Yeadon, Yorkshire, both built and flew the aircraft at that site.
Deliveries commenced Feb 1942 and completed Jul 1942.
This order was initially for Manchesters, but all were built as Lancaster B I’s. Those remaining operational in 1943 had their Merlin 20 engines replaced by Merlin 22's.
1 aircraft (R5727) converted to Lancaster B VI after leaving Manufacturers
Form 78 for
R5680 Missing - R5703 Front missing - R5761 Front missing
R5482 - R5625
R5626 - R5763
Metropolitan-Vickers - Trafford Park, Manchester
Avro Type 683 – Lancaster B I. Serial Numbers R5842-R5868 and R5888-R5917
The first production batch of 57 aircraft ordered from Metropolitan-Vickers, Trafford Park Manchester, originally as Manchesters under Contract # B108750/40, but completed as Lancaster B I’s under Contract # 982266/40.
Delivered to Avro Woodford from Mar 1941 to Aug 1942 for assembly and testing.
In 1943, Canada's Victory Aircraft converted a Lancaster X bomber for civil transport duties with Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA). ΐ] (After the war Victory Aircraft was purchased by what became Avro Canada). This conversion was a success resulting in eight additional Lancaster Xs being converted. The "specials" were powered by Packard-built Merlin 38 engines and featured a lengthened, streamlined nose and tail cone. Range was increased by two 400 gal (1,818 L) Lancaster long-range fuel tanks fitted as standard in the bomb bay. These Lancastrians were used by TCA on its Montreal–Prestwick route. Α]
The modification of abundant military aircraft into desperately needed civil transports was common in the United Kingdom in the immediate postwar period: the Handley Page Halton was a similar conversion of the Halifax heavy bomber.
The origins of the Lancaster stem from a twin-engined bomber design submitted to meet Air Ministry Specification P.13/36, which was for a new generation of twin-engined medium bombers for "worldwide use", the engine specified as the Rolls-Royce Vulture. Δ] The resulting aircraft was the Manchester, which, although a capable aircraft, was underpowered and troubled by the unreliability of the Vulture engine. Only 200 Manchesters were built, with the type withdrawn from service in 1942. Ε]
Avro's chief designer, Roy Chadwick, was already working on an improved Manchester design using four of the more reliable, but less powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engines on a larger wing. The aircraft was initially designated Avro Type 683 Manchester III, and later renamed the "Lancaster". The prototype aircraft BT308 was assembled by Avro's experimental flight department at Manchester's Ringway Airport. Test pilot H.A. "Bill" Thorn took the controls for its first flight at Ringway, on Thursday, 9 January 1941. The aircraft proved to be a great improvement on its predecessor, being "one of the few warplanes in history to be 'right' from the start." Ζ] Its initial three-finned tail layout, a result of the design being adapted from the Manchester I, was quickly changed on the second prototype DG595 and subsequent production aircraft, to the familiar twin-finned specification also used on the later Manchesters.
Some of the later orders for Manchesters were changed in favour of Lancasters the designs were very similar and both featured the same distinctive greenhouse cockpit, turret nose, and twin tail. The Lancaster discarded the stubby central third tail fin of the early Manchesters and used the wider span tailplane and larger elliptical twin fins from the later Manchester IA.
The Lancaster is a mid-wing cantilever monoplane with an oval all-metal fuselage. The wing was constructed in five main sections, the fuselage in five sections. All wing and fuselage sections were built separately and fitted with all the required equipment before final assembly. The tail unit had twin elliptical fins and rudders. The Lancaster was initially powered by four wing-mounted Rolls-Royce Merlin piston engines driving 13 ft diameter de Havilland Hydromatic three-bladed airscrews. It had retractable main landing gear and fixed tailwheel, with the hydraulically operated main landing gear raising rearwards into the inner engine nacelles. Η]
Three Avro Lancaster B.Is of 44 Squadron, 1942
The majority of Lancasters built during the war years were manufactured by Avro at their factory at Chadderton near Oldham, Greater Manchester, and test flown from Woodford Aerodrome in Cheshire. Other Lancasters were built by Metropolitan-Vickers (1,080, also tested at Woodford), and Armstrong Whitworth. The aircraft was also produced at the Austin Motor Company works in Longbridge, Birmingham, later in the Second World War and postwar by Vickers-Armstrongs at Chester as well as at the Vickers Armstrong factory, Castle Bromwich, Birmingham. Only 300 of the Lancaster B II fitted with Bristol Hercules engines were constructed this was a stopgap modification caused by a shortage of Merlin engines as fighter production was of higher priority. Many BIIs were lost after running out of fuel. [ citation needed ] The Lancaster B III had Packard Merlin engines but was otherwise identical to contemporary B Is, with 3,030 B IIIs built, almost all at Avro's Newton Heath factory. The B I and B III were built concurrently, and minor modifications were made to both marks as new batches were ordered. Examples of these modifications were the relocation of the pitot head from the nose to the side of the cockpit, and the change from de Havilland "needle blade" propellers to Hamilton Standard or Nash Kelvinator made "paddle blade" propellers. ⎖]
Of later variants, only the Canadian-built Lancaster B X, manufactured by Victory Aircraft in Malton, Ontario, was produced in significant numbers. A total of 430 of this type were built, earlier examples differing little from their British-built predecessors, except for using Packard-built Merlin engines and American-style instrumentation and electrics. The final production version was the Mark VII and was made by the Austin motor company at their Longbridge factory. The main design difference with the Mark VII was the use of the American-built Martin dorsal gun turret in place of the English Nash & Thompson one they had to be mounted slightly further forward on the fuselage for weight balance. All were produced too late for the war in Europe and were tropicalized and upgraded as the Mark VII (FE) for use in the Far East against Japan. A total of 7,377 Lancasters of all marks were built throughout the duration of the war, each at a 1943 cost of £45-50,000.
Crew accommodation [ edit | edit source ]
The bomb aimer on a Lancaster B Mark I at his position in the nose
Starting at the nose, the bomb aimer had two positions to man. His primary location was lying prone on the floor of the nose of the aircraft, with access to the bombsight controls facing forward, with the bombsight computer on his left and bomb release selectors on the right. He also used his view out of the large transparent perspex nose cupola to assist the navigator with map reading. To man the Frazer Nash FN5 nose turret, he stood up placing himself in position behind the triggers of the twin .303 in (7.7 mm) guns. Ammunition for the turret was 1,000 rounds per gun (rpg). The bomb aimer's position contained the nose emergency hatch in the floor at 22 inches by 26.5 inches (two inches narrower than the Halifax escape hatch) it was difficult to exit through while wearing a parachute. Compared with other contemporary aircraft, the Lancaster was not an easy aircraft to escape from in a Halifax, 25% of downed aircrew bailed out successfully, and in American bombers (albeit in daylight raids) it was as high as a 50% success rate while only 15% of the Lancaster crew were able to bail out. ⎗] Operational research experts (Freeman Dyson, amongst others) attempted unsuccessfully to have the escape hatch enlarged.
Lancaster pilot at the controls, left
The flight engineer on a Lancaster B Mark III checks settings on the control panel from his seat in the cockpit
Moving back, on the roof of the bomb bay the pilot and flight engineer sat side by side under the expansive canopy, with the pilot sitting on the left on a raised portion of the floor (almost all British bombers, and most German bombers, had only a single pilot seat as opposed to American practice of carrying two pilots, or at least having controls for two pilots installed). The flight engineer sat on a collapsible seat (known as a "second dicky seat") to the pilot's right, with the fuel selectors and gauges on a panel behind him and to his right. The pilot and other crew members could use the panel above the cockpit as an auxiliary emergency exit while the mid-upper gunner was expected to use the rear entrance door to leave the aircraft. The tail gunner escaped by rotating his turret to the side and dropping out backwards through the two rear turret doors.
Inside G for George of No. 460 Squadron RAAF. Looking forward from between wing spars. At left the wireless operator, at right the navigator
Looking rearward from cockpit. Navigator at his table. Beyond him was the wireless operator
Looking forward from between wing spars. Wireless operator at his position in front of the Marconi T1154/R1155 transmitter/receiver set
Behind the pilot and flight engineer, and behind a curtain fitted to allow him to use light to work, sat the navigator. His position faced to port with a chart table in front of him. An instrument panel showing the airspeed, altitude, and other information required for navigation was mounted on the side of the fuselage above the chart table.
The wireless operator's radios were mounted on the left-hand end of the chart table, facing the rear of the aircraft. Behind these and facing forwards the wireless operator sat on a seat at the front of the main spar. On his left was a window, and above him was the astrodome, used for visual signalling and by the navigator for celestial navigation.
Behind the wireless operator were the two spars for the wing, which created a major obstacle for crew members moving down the fuselage even on the ground. On reaching the end of the bomb bay the floor dropped down to the bottom of the fuselage, and the mid-upper gunner's turret was reached. His position allowed a 360° view over the top of the aircraft, with two Browning .303 Mark IIs to protect the aircraft from above and to the side. The mid-upper gunner sat on a rectangle of canvas that was slung beneath the turret and would stay in position throughout the flight. Ammunition for the turret was 1,000 rounds per gun.
To the rear of the turret was the side crew door, on the starboard side of the fuselage. This was the main entrance to the aircraft, and also could be used as an emergency exit. The Elsan chemical toilet, a type of aircraft lavatory, was located near the spars for the tailplane. At the extreme tail-end of the fuselage, the rear gunner sat in his exposed position in the tail turret, which was entered through a small hatch in the rear of the fuselage. Depending on the size of the rear gunner, the area was so cramped that the gunner would often hang his parachute on a hook inside the fuselage, near the turret doors. Neither the mid-upper nor the rear gunner's position was heated, and the gunners had to wear electrically heated suits to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Many rear gunners insisted on having the centre section of perspex removed from the turret to improve visibility. The transparencies were difficult to see through at night, particularly when trying to keep watch for enemy night fighters that appeared without notice astern and below the aircraft when getting into position to open fire. This removal of perspex from the turret was called the "Gransden Lodge" modification. Ammunition for the tail turret was 2,500 rounds-per-gun, due to the weight the ammunition being stored in tanks situated near the mid-upper turret's position and fed rearward in runways down the back of the fuselage to the turret. ⎘]
Armament [ edit | edit source ]
Defensive armament [ edit | edit source ]
Lancaster Mk I PA474 of the Battle of Britain Flight, in flight showing the original nose, dorsal and tail .303 Browning gun positions
Nose of a B Mark X showing twin .303 Browning turret above the bomb-aimer's position
The Avro Lancaster was initially equipped with four Nash & Thomson Frazer Nash hydraulically operated turrets mounted in the nose, tail, mid-upper and underside. The original tail turret was equipped with four Browning .303 Mark II machine guns and all other turrets with two such machine guns. ⎙] ⎚]
Only the FN-5A ⎙] nose turret which was similar to the FN-5 used on the preceding Avro Manchester, the Vickers Wellington and the Short Stirling remained unchanged during the life of the design, except in instances where it was removed entirely.
The ventral (underside) FN-64 turret quickly proved to be dead weight, being both difficult to sight because it relied on a periscope which limited the gunner's view to a 20 degree arc, ⎙] and too slow to keep a target within its sights. [note 1] Aside from early B Is and the prototype B IIs, the FN-64 was almost never used. When the Luftwaffe began using Schräge Musik to make attacks from below in the winter of 1943/1944, modifications were made, including downward observation blisters mounted behind the bomb aimer's blister ⎛] and official ⎜] and unofficial mounts for .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns or even 20 mm cannon, firing through the ventral holes of the removed FN-64. The fitting of these guns was hampered as the same ventral position was used for mounting the H2S blister, which limited installations to those aircraft fitted with bulged bomb bays which interfered with the H2S. ⎙]
Gunner in Fraser Nash FN50 mid-upper turret with twin .303 Brownings, February 1943
Martin dorsal turret with twin .50 Brownings, seen mounted immediately behind the wing on a Lancaster Mk X
The mid-upper (dorsal or top turret) was an FN-50 ⎙] ⎚] on early examples and the very similar FN-150 with improved sights and controls ⎙] on later examples. On all but the earliest examples this turret was surrounded by a coaming which provided a track for a cam operated interruptor device which prevented the gunner from shooting the tail of his own aircraft. ⎙] The Mk.VII and late Mk.X Lancasters used the heavier electrically-controlled Martin 250 CE 23A turret equipped with two .50 inch machine guns ⎙] which was mounted further forward to preserve the aircraft's longitudinal balance, and because it had an internal mechanism to prevent firing on the aircraft itself, it did not require a coaming. [note 2] ⎙] Other experimental turrets were tried out, including the FN-79 and the Boulton-Paul Type H barbette system. ⎙]
Gunner in the Nash & Thompson FN20 tail turret
The tail turret was the most important defensive position and carried the heaviest armament. Despite this, the turrets used, starting with the FN-20, were never entirely satisfactory and numerous designs were tried. The FN-20 was replaced by the very similar FN-120 which used an improved gyroscopic gun sight (GGS). ⎙] Gunners using both the FN-20 and 120 removed perspex and armour from the turret to improve visibility, but trials by the RAF showed that a Mosquito night fighter was still able to get within a very short distance of the tail gunner without being spotted, confirming what the Luftwaffe had already realised. The Rose turret attempted to improve on the FN turrets by being completely open to the rear (improving visibility and allowing easier emergency egress) and by being fitted with two .50 inch machine guns and was installed in a small number of Lancasters but never became common. ⎙] Ultimately radar, rather than improved visibility, made the turret more effective. The FN-121 was the Automatic Gun Laying Turret (AGLT), an FN-120 fitted with Village Inn gun-laying radar. ⎙] Aircraft fitted with Village Inn were used as bait, flying behind the main formations to confront the night fighters that followed the formations and shot down stragglers. This significantly reduced operational losses and gun-laying radar was added to the last versions of the turret. Before the end of the war Lancasters built in the UK standardized on the FN-82 fitted with two .50 inch machine guns and fitted with gun-laying radar as production allowed, which was also used on early models of the Avro Lincoln. The disadvantage of all radar and radio transmitting systems is that attacking forces can locate aircraft by picking up transmissions.
Later in the war Freeman Dyson made a case for removing all the Lancaster's defensive armament, arguing it would reduce the loss rate by increasing the Lancaster's speed by up to 50 mph (assuming the bomb load was not increased at the same time), and thus make it harder to shoot down. This became even more important when Dyson and Mike O'Loughlin concluded that some of the German night fighters were using Schräge Musik upward firing guns, as the Lancaster had no ventral gun turret to defend itself, although any defence would depend on the crew detecting the attack from underneath. ⎝] Dyson considered that the modification would be justified even if the aircraft loss rate was unchanged, as two defensive air gunners would not be required, reducing human losses. The case for speed over defensive armament was supported by the Mosquito, whose loss rates were far lower than the Lancaster's. As an example, during the Battle of Berlin (18 November 1943 to 30 March 1944) the average loss rate of the heavy bombers (overwhelmingly Lancasters) was 5.1%, whereas for Mosquitoes it was 0.5%, ⎞] though a speed-optimised Lancaster would still be up to 50 mph slower than a Mosquito and unlikely to match its low loss rates.
Bombs [ edit | edit source ]
Lancaster bomb bay showing "Usual" Area bombardment mix of 4,000-pound "Cookie" blast bomb and 30lb incendiary bombs
Lancaster bomb bay showing "Abnormal" industrial demolition load of 14 1,000-pound MC (medium capacity) high-explosive bombs
An important feature of the Lancaster was its unobstructed, 33 ft (10 m) long, bomb bay. At first, the heaviest bomb carried was the 4,000 lb (1,800 kg) high capacity HC "Cookie". ⎟] Bulged doors were added to 30% of B Is to allow the aircraft to carry 8,000 lb (3,600 kg) and later 12,000 lb (5,400 kg) "Cookies". The Lancaster also carried a variety of smaller weapons, including the Small Bomb Container (SBC) which held 236 4 lb (1.8 kg) or 24 30 lb (14 kg) incendiary and explosive incendiary bomblets 500 lb (230 kg) and 1,000 lb (450 kg) General Purpose High Explosive (GP/HE) bombs (these came in a variety of designs) 1,850 lb (840 kg) parachute deployed magnetic or acoustic mines, or 2,000 lb (910 kg) armour-piercing (AP) bombs 250 lb (110 kg) Semi-Armour-Piercing (SAP) bombs, used up to 1942 against submarines post 1942: 250 lb (110 kg) or 500 lb (230 kg) anti-submarine depth charges.
In 1943 617 Squadron was created to carry out Operation Chastise, the raid against the Ruhr dams. This unit was equipped with B.III (Specials), officially designated the "Type 464 (Provisioning)", modified to carry the 9,250 lb (4,200 kg) "Upkeep" bouncing bomb (which was referred to as a mine). ⎠] The bomb bay doors were removed and the ends of the bomb bay were covered with fairings. "Upkeep" was suspended on pivoted, vee-shaped struts which sprang apart when the bomb-release button was pressed. A drive belt and pulley to rotate the bomb at 500 rpm was mounted on the starboard strut and driven by a hydraulic motor housed in the forward fairing. The mid-upper turret was removed and a more bulbous bomb aimer's blister was fitted this, as "Mod. 780", later becoming standard on all Lancasters, while the bombsight was replaced by a simple aiming device. ⎡] Two Aldis lights were fitted in the rear bomb bay fairing the optimum height for dropping "Upkeep" was 60 ft and, when shone on the relatively smooth waters of the dam's reservoirs, the light beams converged into a single spot when the Lancaster was flying at the correct height. ⎢]
Towards the end of the war, attacking special and hardened targets, other variants of B I Specials were modified to carry the 21 ft (6.4 m) long 12,000 lb (5,400 kg) "Tallboy" or 25.5 ft (7.8 m) long 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) "Grand Slam" "earthquake" bombs: to carry the "Grand Slam" extensive modifications to the aircraft were required. The modifications included removal of the mid-upper turret and the removal of two guns from the rear turret removal of the cockpit armour plating (the pilot's seatback) and installation of Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk 24 Engines which had better take-off performance. The bomb bay doors were removed and the rear end of the bomb bay cut away to clear the tail of the bomb. Later the nose turret was also removed to further improve performance. The undercarriage was strengthened and stronger mainwheels, later used by the Avro Lincoln, were fitted. Β] ⎣]
Specific bomb loads were standardized and given code names by Bomber Command: ⎤]
Lancaster B I dropping 4 lb incendiaries followed by a 4,000 lb "cookie" and finishing up with 30 lb incendiaries
Two Tallboy bombs displayed under the nose of a standard Lancaster at RAF Scampton. This aircraft, R5868, is now in the RAF Museum
|Codename||Type of raid or target||Bomb load|
|"Arson"||incendiary area bombing||14 SBC, each with 236 x 4 lb Incendiary and Explosive Incendiary bomblets, total 3,304.|
|"Abnormal"||factories, railway yards, dockyards||14 x 1,000 lb GP/HE bombs using both impact and long delay (up to 144 hours) fuses.|
|"Cookie"—or—"Plumduff"||Blast, demolition and fire||1 x 4,000 lb impact-fused HC bomb. 3 x 1,000 lb GP/HE bombs, and up to 6 SBCs with 1,416 incendiary bomblets.|
|"Gardening"||Mining of ports, canals, rivers and seaways||6 x 1,850 lb parachute mines.|
|"No-Ball"||V-1 flying bomb launch sites||1 x 4,000 lb impact fused HC and up to 18 x 500 lb GP bombs, with both impact and delay fusing.|
|"Piece"||Docks, fortifications and ships||6 x 2,000 lb short-delay fused AP bombs, plus other GP/HE bombs based on local needs or availability.|
|"Plumduff-Plus"||Heavy industry||1 x 8,000 lb impact or barometric fused HC and up to 6 x 500 lbs impact or delay fused GP/HE bombs.|
|"Usual"||Blast and incendiary area bombing||1 x 4,000 lb impact-fused HC bomb, and 12 SBCs with a total of 2,832 incendiary bomblets.|
|no code name given||Medium-range low altitude tactical raids||6 x 1,000 lb short and long delay fused GP/HE bombs, additional 250 lb GP/HE bombs sometimes added.|
|no code name given||Submarines||(up to 1942): 5 x 250 lb short delay fuse SAP bombs for surfaced U-boats (post-1942): 6 x 500 lb and 3 x 250 lb anti-submarine depth charge bombs.|
|Special purpose weapons and codenames||Type of target||Weapon|
|"Grand Slam"||Underground or armoured facilities||1 x 22,000 lb short-delay fused "Grand Slam" bomb.|
|"Tallboy"||Very strong or durable structures (e.g.: submarine pens) battleship Tirpitz||1 x 12,000 lb short-delay fused "Tallboy" bomb.|
|"Upkeep"||Dams||1 x 9,250 lb, hydrostatic-fused "Upkeep" mine.|
Bombsights used on Lancasters included: ⎥]
Mark IX Course Setting Bomb Sight (CSBS). This was an early preset vector bombsight that involved squinting through wires that had to be manually set based on aircraft speed, altitude and bombload. This sight lacked tactical flexibility as it had to be manually adjusted if any of the parameters changed and was soon changed in favour of more advanced designs. Mark XIV bombsight A vector bombsight where the bomb aimer input details of the bombload, target altitude and wind direction and the analogue computer then continuously calculated the trajectory of the bombs and projected an inverted sword shape onto a sighting glass on the sighting head. Assuming the sight was set correctly, when the target was in the cross hairs of the sword shape, the bomb aimer would be able to accurately release the bombs. T1 bombsight A Mark XIV bombsight modified for mass production and produced in the USA. Some of the pneumatic gyro drives on the Mk XIV sight were replaced with electronic gyros and other minor modifications were made. Stabilizing Automatic Bomb Sight Also known as "SABS", this was an advanced bombsight mainly used by 617 Squadron for precision raids. Like the American Norden bombsight it was a tachometric sight.
Radio, radar and countermeasures equipment [ edit | edit source ]
The Lancaster had a very advanced communications system for its time. Most British-built Lancasters were fitted with the R1155 receiver and T1154 transmitter, whereas the Canadian-built aircraft and those built for service in the Far East had American radios. These provided radio direction-finding, as well as voice and Morse capabilities.
H2S Ground-looking navigation radar system - eventually, it could be homed in on by the German night fighters' NAXOS receiver and had to be used with discretion. This is the large blister under the rear fuselage on later Lancasters. Fishpond An add-on to H2S that provided additional (aerial) coverage of the underside of the aircraft to display attacking fighters on an auxiliary screen in the radio operator's position. Monica A rearward-looking radar to warn of night fighter approaches. However, it could not distinguish between attacking enemy fighters and nearby friendly bombers and served as a homing beacon for suitably equipped German night fighters. Once this was realised, it was removed altogether. GEE A receiver for a navigation system of synchronized pulses transmitted from the UK - aircraft calculated their position from the time delay between pulses. The range of GEE was 3-400 mi (483-644 km). GEE used a whip aerial mounted on the top of the fuselage ahead of the mid-upper turret. Boozer (radar detector) A system of lights mounted on the aircraft's instrument panel that lit up when the aircraft was being tracked by Würzburg ground radar and Lichtenstein airborne radar. In practice it was found to be more disconcerting than useful, as the lights were often triggered by false alerts in the radar-signal-infested skies over Germany. Oboe A very accurate navigation system consisting of a receiver/transponder for two radar stations transmitting from widely separated locations in Southern England which, when used together, determined the aircraft's position. The system could only handle one aircraft at a time, and was fitted to a Pathfinder aircraft, usually a fast and manoeuvrable Mosquito which marked the target for the main force rather than a Lancaster. GEE-H Similar to Oboe but with the transponder on the ground allowing more aircraft to use the system simultaneously. GEE-H aircraft were usually marked with two horizontal yellow stripes on the fins. Village Inn A radar-aimed gun turret fitted to some Lancaster rear turrets in 1944. Identifiable by a dome mounted below the turret. Airborne Cigar (ABC) This was only fitted to the Lancasters of 101 Squadron. It had three large aerials, two sticking out of the top of the fuselage and one under the bomb aimer's position. These aircraft carried a German-speaking crew member on board and were used to jam radio to German night fighters and feed false information on allied bomber positions to them. Due to the nature of the equipment, the enemy was able to track the aircraft and due to this, 101 suffered the highest casualty rate of any squadron. Fitted from about mid-1943, they remained until the end of the war. Tinsel An audio microphone installed in the nacelle of one of the engines that allowed the wireless operator to transmit engine noise on the German night fighter control voice frequencies.
Avro Lancaster NX611 “Just Jane” Restoration
Avro Lancaster NX611 ‘Just Jane’ has had a chequered history from her ‘birth’ in April 1945. She was built as a MK7 which was conceived as a tropicalized variant of the famous bomber to continue the fight with the Japanese forces after VE day.
As with every Mk7 Lancaster and Lincoln bomber that was produced around that period she never actually managed to get out to the Eastern conflict areas due to the events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 6 th and 9 th August 1945.
NX611 stood in storage until she was sold to the French Navy ‘L’aerovonale’ for maritime work all around the world and she started her long journey out as far as Australia eventually seeing her as the only flying Lancaster in the world in the late 1960s.
While NX611 was protecting the Pacific regions back in the UK two farming brothers, Fred and Harold Panton, were mourning the loss of their older brother Christopher who was shot down while flying with 433 Squadron on the 30/31 st March 1944 on the infamous Nuremburg raid . Fred and Harold had vowed that they would make a memorial to Christopher and the men and women of Bomber Command. It’s with that intent that the paths of NX611 and the Panton family would cross.
Photo Credit: Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Museum.
In 1972, on the 29 th April, NX611 was put up for auction at Squires Gate, Blackpool. Her final resting spot after flying with Historic Aircraft Preservation Society (HAPS) and Reflectaire in the air show circuit and becoming increasing expensive to operate until it was no longer viable.
Fred Panton saw the advert for the auction in the newspaper and believed the Lancaster would make the perfect memorial that the brothers had been seeking. Fate saw it that Fred and Harold would not win the Lancaster in that year instead the Rt Hon Lord Lilford would beat them to it and become the 5 th owner of NX611 in the hope that he could restore her back to an airworthy condition and take her to Jersey.
Fred and Harold kept in touch with Lord Lilford and waited for the next 11 years to be offered the aircraft once again.
By 1981 NX611 had been moved to be gate guardian at RAF Scampton and stand proud over the A15. The Panton family had now just moved to a site on the old airfield at RAF East Kirkby and were perfectly positioned to house NX611 if she ever came up for sale. Fred and Harold had been given first refusal of the Lancaster if Lord Lilford ever decided he would sell her and true to his word NX611 was offered to them in the summer of 1983. There was a lot of work to do before NX611 could be moved to East Kirkby, building a hangar being a large part of it! There were deals to be struck and logistics to be worked on but after 16 years of patience and hard work Fred and Harold finally saw their Lancaster arrive through the gate at East Kirkby to be rebuilt in the hangar in 1988.
Fred and Harold had originally bought NX611 to stand at East Kirkby so they could “pop in and see her when they wanted” but over time it was decided that the general public should be able to visit this elegant war horse and appreciate her in all her glory as a memorial to Bomber Command. In 1989 the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre officially opened to the public.
Over the coming years there were many conversations about the future of NX611 and whether Fred and Harold would venture down the path of restoring her from a static exhibit to a running aircraft and whether they would go ‘all the way’ and make her airworthy once more.
Photo Credit: Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Museum.
Flying NX611 was believed to be a dream too far at that stage and it was decided to get the engines running again and hear the sound of Merlins at East Kirkby for the first time in almost 50 years. In 1994 crowds at East Kirkby saw a Lancaster running all 4 engines once again and thoughts were turned to the next step with NX611 and whether she should be taxied along the remains of the hard standing. The next stage of work was done to Fred and Harold’s beloved Lancaster and a pilot from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby was invited in to be at the controls. The gathering crowds witnessed the majestic sight of a Lancaster taxying on the wartime concrete of RAF East Kirkby and Fred and Harold had reached their objective of bringing their Lancaster back to life and creating a wonderful memorial to their brother and the men and women of Bomber Command.
Over the coming years the words Lancaster and Panton become intrinsically linked and many thousands of people have witnessed the spectacle of Avro Lancaster NX611 ‘Just Jane’ living and breathing at East Kirkby.
In February 2010 Fred Panton took to local radio to announce that there were plans to restore NX611 to an airworthy condition and that the Centre were starting on the long road to restoration. Each year after that date more and more work has been done behind the scenes and with each passing winter the steps have been getting bigger and the progress has been gaining pace.
The winter of 2016 has seen the biggest steps yet and forms the beginning of some major works on the Panton’s beloved Lancaster. In November 2016 the team will make huge steps forwards in the project to restore NX611 to airworthy condition.
Following the application for the A8-23 approval with the CAA the family are now able to attend to some of NX611’s future needs and address the long list of work needed to make her airworthy once more.
Photo Credit: Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Museum.
You’ll see a complete strip and re-paint of the aircraft which will facilitate an assessment of the aircraft’s aluminium skin and permit any problems encountered to be resolved. To facilitate this work, NX611 will appear at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre as she never has done before as she will be rigged in a flying attitude on trestles and jacks with the following removed:
- Bomb doors
- All turrets
- Wing tips
- Undercarriage doors
- H2S blister
- Engine nacelles
- Fillet panels
Once the components and the paint are removed we will be assessing the condition of the airframe and rectifying any problems discovered along the way. This will provide an excellent base point to determine the extent of work required to be done over the winter overhaul periods. If all goes to plan, the target is to have all of the external airframe work completed.
The work to be performed during the 2016 winter maintenance season amounts to an investment in the region of £250,000. Not only does this work represent a significant step forward in the programme to return NX611 to airworthy but it also creates a unique opportunity for the general public to come and visit to see NX611 in a stripped down condition- something that has never been on offer before- certainly not up close as will be on offer at the Centre. Because of this opportunity there are restoration tours of the overhaul area to enable you to get a close look at the work being done and gain an understanding of the restoration effort. Further information on these tours is available from the website (www.lincsaviation.co.uk).
Photo Credit: Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Museum.
With such a significant investment to be made this winter a new club has been launched and called ‘The Rivet Club’. Although the Club requires a monthly donation it is solely centred around the restoration of NX611 and gives you special access to news updates and the weekly overhaul reports not available to non-members. More info about this can be found HERE.
Any donations towards the restoration project are gratefully received and of course the more funds we have available to us the more work we can complete and the sooner NX611 will return to flight condition.
If you want to make a ‘one off’ donation it can be done HERE
The stripping and re-painting of NX611 is a considerable undertaking and we are very fortunate to be supported this winter by MAAS Aviation (www.maasaviation.com) who is performing this task on a pro-bono basis. MAAS Aviation is an Irish/Dutch headquartered company which has been painting aircraft for 34 years. The company is one of the leading specialist aircraft painting companies in the world and operates aircraft paint shops in the Netherlands, Germany and in Alabama, USA. MAAS is an Airbus qualified company and operates paint shops in Germany an in Alabama for Airbus. This project has particular resonance for one of the directors of MAAS whose father was a Lancaster pilot in 514 squadron based in Waterbeach, Cambs. In addition to the support from MAAS, the repainting project is also being generously supported by Akzo Nobel Aerospace Coatings which has agreed to provide the paint material Larchfield Graphics Ltd which is supplying consumable materials Sea to Sky which is supplying the coating removal material and other sponsors will join the project in due course.
The winter of 2016 marks exciting times for Avro Lancaster NX611 and the World’s warbird community. Will you join us in the next step in the history of ‘Just Jane’?
The Avro Lancaster won immortality with the "Dambusters'. Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron, under Wing Commander Guy Gibson, used the new bomber for their 21 March 1943 low-level attacks on German dams using drum-like 4196-kg(9,230-lb.) bombs designed by Sir Barnes Wallis.
But the Lancaster was much more than a one-mission wonder. Developed from the unsatisfactory twin-engined Avro Manchester, it was one of the few warplanes in history to be 'right' from the start. It was so well-designed that only minor changes were made as production surged ahead through World War II. While Flying Fortresses and Liberators pounded Hitler's 'Fortress Europe' during the day, the Lancaster ruled the night. It was vulnerable to German fighters from below, but it was also fast and heavily armed, and it usually got through to the target.
The Lancaster served well in post-war years, sometimes in civil duties. The final military user was Canada. Today, the Royal Air Force still maintains one flying Lancaster, alongside Spitfires and Hurricanes, in the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
The Avro Lancaster was Britain's greatest bomber of World War II providing the backbone of the RAF's night assault on Germany. This four-engined heavy bomber carried and delivered a bigger bombload than any other bomber in the European theatre. From its first minelaying mission in 1942 to its final bombing sortie of 1945, the 'Lanc' was a formidable fighting machine. One aircraft even survived 140 combat missions over Germany.
It was one of the most spectacular missions of World War II. By the dead of night, RAF bombers mounted an attack on the Ruhr dams, whose associated power stations served Germany's greatest industrial complex. Smashing the Mohne and Sorpe Dams with the revolutionary bouncing bomb, designed by Sir Barnes Wallis, the chosen crews of No. 617 Squadron performed a low-level night attack of unbelieveable precision. But although it disrupted German war production for some months, the raid had little permanent effect, and it cost the lives of 56 of the cream of British and Commonwealth aircrew.
In the final days of the war, the Lancaster conducted humanitarian missions over the Netherlands as part of Operation Manna. These flights saw the aircraft drop food and supplies to that nation's starving population. With the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, many Lancasters were slated for transfer to the Pacific for operations against Japan. Intended to operate from bases in Okinawa, the Lancasters proved unnecessary following Japan's surrender in September.
Retained by the RAF after the war, Lancasters were also transferred to France and Argentina. Other Lancasters were converted into civilian aircraft. Lancasters remained in use by the French, largely in maritime search/rescue roles, until the mid-1960s. The Lancaster also spawned several derivatives including the Avro Lincoln. An enlarged Lancaster, the Lincoln arrived too late to see service during World War II. Other types to come from the Lancaster included the Avro York transport and the Avro Shackleton maritime patrol/airborne early warning aircraft.