What makes the HP.80 Victor famous was not because of its power but because of its unique design.

The Cold War – a golden age for weapons designers to unleash their creativity, and in this case the Handley Page Victor long-range strategic bomber – one of the RAF trio of death during the Cold War, also included the Vickers Valliant and the Avro Vulcan. Like many bombers of the time, the HP.80 Victor was developed to strengthen the RAF’s strategic nuclear deterrent.

Commissioned in 1958, it was retired from nuclear duty in 1968, due to irreparable technical problems, and the arrival of the Navy’s submarine-launched Polaris missiles in 1969. Some Victors were later modified for strategic reconnaissance, using a combination of radar, cameras and other sensors. Some were converted into tankers, and some of these Victors refueled Vulcan bombers during Black Buck raids during the Falklands War.

Handley Page Victor
Handley Page Victor

The sweep and chord of the wing decreased in three distinct steps from the root to the tip, to ensure a constant critical Mach number across the entire wing and consequently a high cruise speed. The other parts of the aircraft which accelerate the flow, the nose and tail, were also designed for the same critical mach number so the shape of the HP.80 had a constant critical mach number all over. The profile and shaping of the crescent wing was subject to considerable fine-tuning and alterations throughout the early development stages, particularly to counter unfavourable pitching behaviour in flight.

Because of its special wing design, the HP.80 Victor’s engine system is arranged close to the fuselage with the air intake, making it extremely monstrous. The nose of the HP.80 Victor also has a rather distinctive shape that makes it more like a spaceship than a strategic bomber. This design also reduces the space inside the cockpit, the aircraft’s radar system is located below the cockpit next to the front landing gear system.

Despite having an innovative design, to operate the HP.80 Victor still requires a crew of 5 with 2 pilots, a navigator, an electronic warfare officer and a radar officer. And only the pilot’s position is equipped with an emergency ejection seat. Victor has a length of 114 ft 11 in (35.03 m), a wingspan of 110 ft (34 m), a height of 28 ft 1.5 in (8,573 m), an empty weight of 89,030 lb (40.383 kg), and a maximum takeoff weight of 205,000 lb (92.986 kg).

The HP.80 Victor is powered by four Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire turbojet engines with 11,050 lbf (49.2 kN) thrust each. It has a top speed of 545 kn (627 mph, 1,009 km/h) at 36,000 ft (11,000 m), a range of 5,217 nmi (9,662 km), a service ceiling of 56,000 ft (17,000 m). About the weapon system, an HP.80 Victor can carry nearly 16 tons of bombs of all kinds, including the Yellow Sun free-fall nuclear bomb, weighing nearly 3.3 tons.

Only 86 HP.80 Victors entered service with the British Air Force, which operated from 1958 until their retirement in 1993. And like many other British military aircraft a few HP. 80 Victor was also kept by the Royal Air Force for demonstration flights. Basically, the HP.80 Victor was not at all outstanding compared to the long-range strategic bombers of the US or the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but it set the stage for the development of modern bombers later. The Victor was the last of the V-bombers to be retired from service on October 15, 1993, following the earlier retirement of the Valiants in 1965 and Vulcans in 1984.


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