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The Blackburn Buccaneer is a British carrier-capable attack aircraft designed in the 1950s for the Royal Navy (RN). Designed and initially produced by Blackburn Aircraft at Brough, it was later officially known as the Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer when Blackburn became a part of the Hawker Siddeley Group, but this name is rarely used.
The Buccaneer was originally designed in response to the Soviet Union’s Sverdlov-class cruiser construction programme. Instead of building a new fleet of its own, the Royal Navy could use the Buccaneer to attack these ships by approaching at low altitudes below the ship’s radar horizon. The Buccaneer could attack using a nuclear bomb, or conventional weapons. It was later intended to carry short-range anti-shipping missiles to improve its survivability against more modern ship-based anti-aircraft weapons.
The Buccaneer entered Royal Navy service in 1962. The initial production aircraft suffered a series of accidents due to insufficient engine power, which was quickly addressed in the Buccaneer S.2, equipped with more powerful Rolls-Royce Spey jet engines. The Buccaneer was also offered as a possible solution for the Royal Air Force (RAF) requirement for a supersonic interdictor carrying nuclear weapons. It was rejected as not meeting the specification in favour of the much more advanced supersonic BAC TSR-2, but the cost of the TSR-2 programme led to its cancellation, only to be followed by the cancellation of its selected replacement, the General Dynamics F-111K. The RAF purchased Buccaneers and American Phantom IIs as TSR-2 substitutes, the Buccaneer entering service in 1969.
The Royal Navy retired the last of its large aircraft carriers in 1978, moving their strike role to the British Aerospace Sea Harrier, and passing their Buccaneers to the RAF. After a crash in 1980 revealed metal fatigue problems, the RAF fleet was reduced to 60 aircraft, while the rest were scrapped. The ending of the Cold War led to a reduction in strength of the RAF, and the accelerated retirement of the remaining fleet, with the last Buccaneers in RAF service being retired in 1994 in favour of the Panavia Tornado. The South African Air Force (SAAF) also procured the type. Buccaneers saw combat action in the first Gulf War of 1991, and the South African Border War.