Sunday, February 16

One of Our Nuclear Bombers Has Gone Missing

Avro Vulcan - Capable of  Carrying a 21,000 Pound Bombload - or Nukes
In 2016, I related how I was impressed when I saw an Avro Vulcan flying at the Edwards Air Force Base Air Show in 1979. There is more to the Vulcan story, however. Just as one went missing in the James Bond movie, Thunderball, one went missing while on a real mission. This happened in the only conflict in which Vulcans were used against targets with live ammunition. The story has not been well known, for obvious reasons.

In 1982, Argentina decided to take the Falkland Islands from Britain. Beset by domestic problems and knowing of upcoming British military spending cuts, the Argentines bet they could succeed. However, Margaret Thatcher was not made of sugar candy. The British soon sent a task force south. To conserve their naval resources, they refitted six Vulcan bombers to attack Argentine targets in the Falklands; principally Stanley Airport. Stanley Airport was a facility capable of supporting Argentine air attacks against the British fleet.

The bombing missions were made from Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. Each mission required 11 aerial refuelings. On one of these missions, a Vulcan's refueling probe broke while returning from the Falkands. The pilot and crew were faced with the unpleasant choice of ditching in the ocean (shades of Thunderball!) or of making it to the nearest land, which was Brazil. After some drama, the Vulcan landed in Rio de Janeiro with no fuel to spare. Brazil, which was neutral, promptly interned both the crew and the British nuclear bomber. The United States also got dragged into the situation since it had secretly supplied the British with anti-radar missles, one of which was still attached to the bomber when it landed.

To make an intriguing story shorter, after many negotiations, the Brazilians eventually released both crew and bomber back to Britain. They kept the American missile and the British agreed to supply quite a few helicpter parts to Brazil. The whole story is related in the video below. Somehow, I don't think we will see a movie entitled "Locked up in a Brazilian Prison!"

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