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XL426 - Southend Vulcan Bomber

Blue Steel Vulcan



XL426 was the 44th of the 89 B2 Vulcans built and took to the air for the first time on August 23, 1962. A short series of test-flights followed before she was collected by the RAF, joining 83 Squadron at Scampton on September 12. At that time, the Scampton squadrons (27, 83 and 617) were in the process of equipping with Blue Steel missile, the new stand-off missile which would be at the vanguard of Britain's nuclear deterrent until the end of the 1960's. XL426, like the other Vulcans destined for these squadrons, had been specially modified to carry the new weapon, which was loaded, semi-recessed, in the bomb-bay.



In December 1962, Wing Commander (later Group Captain) John Slessor took over command of 83 Squadron from Wing Commander (later Air Commodore) Ray Davenport. XL426 became the new squadron commander's personal aircraft and, during his three years in charge of 83 Squadron, John Slessor was to spend over 130 hours at her controls. On September 10, 1963, whilst returning from Goose Bay, Canada, he flew XL426 to Scampton in just 4 hours and 5 minutes. This was, at the time, an unofficial record for a crossing of the North Atlantic.