The Blackburn Buccaneer Mk1.
[Sketch by Joe Bosher: "Buccaneer Mk1."]
The New Strike Aircraft.
Designed in 1954 to meet a Royal Navy requirement for a high-speed strike aircraft capable of operating from existing carriers and having sufficient firepower to destroy major Soviet surface units, the Blackburn B103 Buccaneer flew for the first time on 30 April 1958.
Buccaneer S Mark 1.
On 26 Aug 1960 the new aircraft was formally named the Buccaneer S Mark 1 with the S indicating that it was a strike aircraft. Slightly before my time at Blackburn Aircraft Company, but, I am told that up to this time the aircraft was known as the Blackburn Aircraft Naval Aircraft or BANA for short which led to the Banana jet nickname followed the aircraft throughout its service. It was also known as the Bucc. In March 1961 700Z Flight was formed at RNAS (Royal Naval Air Station) Lossiemouth to conduct the Intensive Flying Trials on the Buccaneer prior to its entry into service and conducted various trials from HMS Eagle and Ark Royal. Forty production Buccaneer S.1 aircraft, with de Havilland Gyron Junior turbojets, were delivered from July 1962. The first Buccaneer squadron was commissioned on 17 July 1962 when 801 Squadron formed up at Lossiemouth.
Some Losses to Development Aircraft.
All 20 development (DB) aircraft had flown by the end of 1961, during which time there were losses. One Buccaneer went down in October 1960 due to a flight instrumentation failure, the two crewmen ejecting safely. Another was lost in August 1961 on takeoff during carrier trials, with both crewmen drowning because they were unable to escape from the aircraft. There was also a non fatal incident when an aircraft from Lossiemouth crashed on a pig farm in Scotland.
The Buccaneer Joins the Royal Navy.
The flight test program otherwise went well, and the first Buccaneers were delivered to the Royal Navy in August 1961. Number 801 squadron, Lossiemouth, became the first operational Buccaneer unit in July 1962
Not without problems; for as it turned out, the Buccaneer was prone to a certain amount of instability after catapult launch.
Epilogue to a Much Loved Aeroplane - the Buccaneer.
The Buccaneer was an aeroplane much loved by those who served on the various squadrons, but having been designed in the 1950's s and never really updated, it's hardly surprising that by the 1980's it was suffering from its poor avionics and could only ever operate at low-level in good weather. In Jan 1991, long after the aircraft should have been withdrawn from service 14 aircraft were rapidly prepared for the Operation Granby (Gulf War) - the deployment of UK forces for the retaking of Kuwait. 12 of the aircraft were send to Bahrain, all painted in ARTF (Alkali Removable Temporary Finish) Desert Pink over their standard camouflage. With the beginning of Desert Storm it was the Buccaneers purpose to provide Pave Spike laser designation for RAF Tornado GR.Mark 1s laser guided bombs.
The Buccaneers flew a total of 226 sorties in their guise as the Sky Pirates, most of them sporting a Jolly Roger flag on the left fuselage side under the windshield.
It says something about the miss-management of the Defence budget that such an antiquated aircraft had to be called at this crucial time upon because the RAF Tornadoes then lacked the ability to designate targets themselves. Eventually, after long and successful service, all the Buccaneer squadrons were re-equipped with the Tornado and in March 1994 the last Buccaneer was retired from RAF service at RAF Lossiemouth.
I would be pleased to hear from anyone who has any stories about this aircraft; humorous, technical or historical. Please use the Feedback Form to contact me briefly, in the first instance.
Joe Bosher (74th).