Introduction to the Blackburn Buccaneer S Mk2.
[Sketch by Joe Bosher: "Buccaneer S Mk2B during Gulf War."]
The Buccaneer S Mark 2
To sort out the problem of the underpowered Mark 1 permanently, development had been going on to re-engine the Buccaneer with a more powerful and fuel-efficient powerplant. The underpowered de Havilland Gyrons were replaced by a militarised version of the Rolls-Royce Spey engines, which was designated as the RB.168 and these versions were known as Buccaneer S Mark 2 aircraft.
A Bit More Power with the Rolls Royce Spey Engines
One problem with replacing the engine had been that the main spar actually included ringed sections that went around the jet pipes so to avoid a very expensive redesign, an engine of identical or smaller jet pipe diameter was required. Fortunately, the Rolls Royce's Spey with careful positioning would fit into the spar rings, though a major redesign of the centre fuselage and intakes was still required.
While discussions on the Mark 2 Buccaneer had begun in late 1959, conversion work did not start until January 1962, being completed in May 1963. The delay was put to good use; many components of the Mark 1 were replaced by more modern and more reliable versions and a new electrical generating system was also included, along with stronger undercarriage (in anticipation of the higher loads the Mark 2s would be carrying). Later an improved radar and attack system would be fitted.
It's a Record!
While the new Buccaneer S 2 had first flown in May 1963, carrier trials only began in April 1965 (including cross-deck trials on the USS Lexington later in the year). At the conclusion of trials in American waters, one Buccaneer made the record books by flying from Goose Bay, Canada straight to its base at Lossiemouth in Scotland unrefuelled. Taking four hours and 16 minutes to cover the 1,950-mile trip, it was the first Fleet Air Arm aircraft to make the Atlantic crossing in one hop. Introduction of the Buccaneer S 2 into service went relatively smoothly compared with the S 1, and the higher-powered aircraft rapidly became very popular.
The South African Buccaneer (S 50).
In January 1963, even before the S 2 entered squadron service, South Africa had purchased 16 Spey-powered Buccaneers. The aircraft order was part of the Simonstown Agreement, in which the UK obtained use of the Simonstown naval base in South Africa in exchange for maritime weapons. The South African Air Force wanted to use the Buccaneer for antishipping strikes.
The South African Buccaneers were designated S 50. They were similar to the S 2, with various modifications. Some of the equipment for carrier-deck operations was deleted, such as the hydraulic gear needed to automatically fold the wings, though the wings could still be folded manually. The S 50 also had larger underwing tanks with a capacity of 1,955 litres featured two small and distinctive strakes under the rear fuselage; and was fitted with two Bristol Siddeley BS-605 retractable booster rockets.
The rockets were intended to assist take-offs when operating from airstrips at high altitude in hot weather. They were powered by the Buccaneer's jet fuel and flasks of high-test peroxide oxidizer. They produced 1,810 kilograms thrust for 30 seconds. Despite the expense of adding this feature, they were rarely used for anything but air shows.
The South African Airforce (SAAF) Buccaneers carried up to four 450 kilogram
bombs in the rotary bomb bay, and four bombs, flares, or SNEB rocket packs on
the underwing stores pylons.
One of the first batch of 8 was lost on the delivery flight leaving only 15 to enter service with 24 squadron. The British government soon did an about-face and would not allow any more to be procured.
Reconnaissance Role for the Navy Buccaneers.
Throughout their service, Navy Buccaneers were frequently fitted with reconnaissance packs to ensure the aircrew remained familiar with their operation. These packs were positioned in the large bomb bay. The Buccaneer reconnaissance pack consisted of six F95 cameras arranged as a vertical fan of three, with a further three as forward and sideways obliques.
The reconnaissance pack was first used operationally by the Buccaneers of No 800 NAS (Naval Air Squadron) flying from HMS Eagle during the Beira patrols, the oil blockage of the newly independent Rhodesia, in 1966 when two tankers attempting to break the blockade were identified and photographed. The following year, after the departure of the RAF's 1417 Flight of Hawker Hunters, 800 NAS used the reconnaissance packs again over Aden to cover the final withdrawal of British forces.
The RAF Buccaneer squadrons inherited the reconnaissance packs from the RN; however, the RAF Buccaneer squadrons never had a reconnaissance role. Although the packs were occasionally fitted to RAF aircraft, they were never used operationally and were eventually withdrawn from service.
Final Notes on the RAF Buccaneer
In the late 1960s when the RAF too chose the Buccaneer for service as a low-level
strike bomber, they received 62 ex-Royal Navy aircraft (S 2A) and 51 new-build
planes (S 2B). The RAF career of the Buccaneer started in July 1970. After the
last Navy aircraft carriers able to operate the Buccaneer had been
decommissioned in the early 1970s, only the RAF-Buccaneers were left -
equipping Squadrons in UK and Germany.
By the late 1980s, only Nos. 12 and 208 NAS Squadrons were still operational at RAF Lossiemouth in the maritime strike role and No 237OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) was responsible to provide aircrew training.
The RAF aircraft designated S Mark 2A, carried conventional or nuclear weapons and the S Mark 2B carried the Martel anti-ship missile. On 11 Feb 1969, No 12 Squadron RAF based at RAF Honington was the first RAF squadron to be equipped with the Buccaneer and in 1971 this base became the home of 237 OCU who then trained all subsequent Buccaneer aircrew. Eventually 12, 208 and 216 Sqns were based at Honington and then Lossiemouth, although 216 Sqn was eventually disbanded, whilst 15 and 16 Sqns were based at RAF Laarbruch in West Germany.
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).