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Blackburn NA 39 Buccaneer

The Blackburn N.A.39 strike fighter was a new strike aircraft to replace the unlamented Wyvern. It incorporated many features of the most modern kind and of great significance, which together should make it a really first-class weapon capable of dealing with targets either at sea or ashore. The NA 39 Buccaneer was designed by Blackburn Aircraft (later Hawker Siddeley Aviation) to a naval requirement for a carrier-based low-level maritime strike aircraft. The Blackburn Company said in 1955 that it would fly in April, 1958, and the first flight in fact took place in that month and year. The N.A.39 gave the Navy a strike capability over a considerable range.

The aircraft combined a number of entirely new elements and features in design of British aircraft—such things as area rule, which reduces drag, integral construction of the wing, and blown flaps to reduce speed on landing, are included from the initial drawing. The Buccaneer was originally produced for carrier-based duty with a low-level strike and attack capability. The Blackburn NA.39 Buccaneer was a two-place strike aircraft that had excellent range and was capable of delivering a nuclear weapon. Powered by twin turbojets, it featured a boundary-layer control system for its wing and tail surfaces.

In 1952 the Soviet Navy introduced the first Sverdlov class cruiser into service. At 18,000 tons they were fast, effectively armed, and numerous, with 16 entering service by 1955. They were seen as presenting a serious threat to the merchant fleets in the Atlantic, as had the German "pocket battleships" of World War II, but in far greater numbers and over 25% faster. To counter this threat the Royal Navy decided not to use a new ship class of its own, but a new specialised strike aircraft employing conventional or nuclear weapons. The requirement was formalized as Naval Staff Requirement Number 39 (NA.39) in June 1952. Operating from its fleet carriers and attacking at high-speed and low-level, it provided a solution to the Sverdlov threat. But he main naval threat still remains the same as in the last half-century, submarines.

Following the Suez operation in 1956 the Fleet Air Arm was on the threshold of another new era with more powerful strike and all-weather fighters coming along, the Sea Vixen, the Scimitar and the Buccaneer. The first development squadron the new Buccaneer was formed in March 1961. The Buccaneer had a nuclear capability, and with its low flying strength, it was able to get underneath a radar network.

The Buccaneer was designed as a true low level strike aircraft. Its operational requirement was influenced by the WWII experience of DeHaviland Mosquito aircraft which flew at extremely low levels on some missions. The Buccaneer had good ride quality at 580 knots at 100ft above the sea. At this altitude pilots also execute maximum rate turns, so precise are the flying qualities of the aircraft. Rapidly improving air defense systems required attack aircraft to be able to penetrate deep into enemy territory, with the aircraft coming very low, underneath the radar, thus leaving no chance for interception until it is too late. This option demands aircraft of great strength, for turbulence is acute at very low levels, and advanced avionics, with forward, downward and sideways looking radar

Most jets which were specially designed for the ground-attack mission have been subsonic, examples being the Grumman A-6 Intruder and the BAE Buccaneer. They are superior because, compared with supersonic aircraft, they carry more, fly further, and can make their attack with at least equal precision and probably at lower altitude. As for speed, none of the supersonic types can actually attack at supersonic speed, and with its internal bombload of 4000 lb. the Buccaneer was faster than (for example) a Jaguar, Phantom, F-111, Mirage, F-15E, Tornado or Su-24 with the same load.

The Blackburn Buccaneer [the ‘Buck’] cockpit was known as an ergonomic slum. Sitting on an ejection seat for more than two hours, while trying to work the myriad switches and read the dials, was often a test of pure physical endurance, and it is only recently that cockpit design and aircrew comfort have achieved the importance they now enjoy.

The Blackburn Buccaneer was produced in two variants, the S1 and the greatly improved and more powerful S2. The Buccaneer S.1 fetured two non-afterburning Gyron Junior Mark 101 turbojets providing 8,000 lbf thrust each. The Gyron Junior engines were not powerful enough, which meant the Buccaneer could not take off with a full fuel load. To obtain good range, the Buccaneer S.1 had to be launched with a partial fuel load and then refuel from a Supermarine Scimitar fighter configured as a tanker. Only 40 S.1s were built, and by the end of the 1960s the survivors had been relegated to training status. The S2 was powered by two RolIs-Royce Spey Mk101 axial flow bypass 11,255 lbs st turbojet engines mounted in the wing roots. The S2 served with both the RN, from 1965 until 1978 and the RAF from 1969 to 1994.

Designed by Blackburn Aircraft (later Hawker Siddeley Aviation) to a naval requirement for a carrier-based, low-level maritime strike aircraft, the Buccaneer S1 entered service with the Fleet Air Arm in 1962. Buccaneer was an atomic bomber; it was not the first atomic bomber to be held by the British Fleet. But it was faster and more efficient than Scimitar and was, therefore, an increase in the nuclear capability of the aircraft carriers.

801 Naval Air Squadron became a jet unit with the introduction of the Sea Hawk in 1957. After a relatively short association with the Sea Hawk, 801 was again decommissioned in 1960, reforming in July 1962 as a dedicated strike squadron equipped with the Buccaneer; an aircraft that the squadron operated in both its S1 and S2 guises throughout the 1960’s. 801 NAS was disbanded in 1970 following a decision to reduce the size of the RN’s carrier force.

The year 1978 saw the end of conventional fixed wing flying with the withdrawal of HMS ARK ROYAL. A new generation began with the commissioning in 1980 of the first of three light aircraft carriers, HMS INVINCIBLE. These carriers are fitted with another British invention, the ski jump, which enables vertical take off Sea Harriers to carry a much greater load when taking off with forward thrust. The Buccaneer continued in service with the UK RAF as a land-based aircraft with maritime missions.

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Page last modified: 22-05-2013 19:41:13 ZULU