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Victor Units of the Cold War

Victor Units of the Cold War Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review February 2011 Title Victor Units of the Cold War
Author Andrew Brookes Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2011 ISBN 978-1-84908-339-3
Format 96 pages, softcover MSRP (USD) $22.95

Review

At the end of World War II, Britain was quick to make use of captured engineering data to advance its own industries (as had other members of the allied powers). When the need for a strategic strike capability arose out of the Cold War, the now-famous V-Force emerged, three advanced nuclear strike bombers: Vulcan, Valiant, and Victor. Of the three, the Victor would have the greatest range and payload and was deemed the most technologically advanced aircraft. First flown in 1952, the aircraft was designed by Godfrey Lee who spent time pouring over captured German research to arrive at his innovative solution.

While the first service example was designated as B.1, it was the B.2 that was the result of engineering enhancements which optimized the aircraft for high altitude flight right on the edge of the sound barrier. In those days, while Chuck Yeager had penetrated the sound barrier a number of years earlier, many pilots still thought supersonic flight was a dangerous and unnatural act. Keeping the Victor on the edge of Mach 1 would force the 'other chaps' to deal with supersonic flight in order to affect an intercept on this high-flying bomber.

As with US bomber tactics, the RAF was forced to abandon high-altitude penetrations of enemy airspace with the widespread deployment of surface-to-air missiles throughout the Soviet Union. The only way to survive long enough to reach the target was to fly very close to the ground to evade the radars that guided those missiles. The Victor, along with the rest of the V-Force, adapted to the new mission profiles. When the Royal Navy deployed its Polaris missile submarines in the late 1960s, the Victor was relieved of the strategic bomber role and transitioned into aerial refueling tankers.

The author carries the timeline of the development, deployment, employment, and front-line experience of the Victor through stories from its crews along the way as well as some great insights into this interesting aircraft. The author uses his own first-hand experience in the Victor as he served as an RAF pilot in the Victor, Vulcan and Canberra. Coverage of this title includes:

  • Victor Emergent
  • Top of the World
  • Ready for War
  • Blue Steel and Skybolt
  • Down to Earth
  • Showing the Flag
  • Reconnaissance and Tanking
  • Victor Triumphant - Falklands to Iraq

As the Victor K.2, the aircraft continued its service into the early 1990s as a tanker. In this role, the Victor was a key force multiplier in supporting land-based aircraft that had to fly great distances in support of the Falklands War such as the Nimrods had ensured that the Argentine Navy didn't sortie its aircraft carrier and other combatants while the Royal Navy was conducting its combat operations around the contested islands. These support duties were repeated during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm as tankers were critical for getting air assets into and safely out of Iraq. It was not unusual to see RAF Tornados tanking on KC-135s nor F-14 Tomcats tanking off the Victors.

The title is nicely illustrated with period black & white and color photography as well 24 color profiles that illustrate the various color schemes worn by the aircraft through its service life.

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!

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