Weight & dimensions
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The Vickers Valiant was a British high-altitude jet bomber designed to carry nuclear weapons, and in the 1950s and 1960s was part of the Royal Air Force’s “V bomber” strategic deterrent force. It was developed by Vickers-Armstrongs in response to Specification B.35/46 issued by the Air Ministry for a nuclear-armed jet-powered bomber. The Valiant was the first of the V bombers to become operational, and was followed by the Handley Page Victor and the Avro Vulcan. The Valiant was the only V bomber to have dropped live nuclear weapons (for test purposes).
In 1956, Valiants operating from Malta flew conventional bombing missions over Egypt for Operation Musketeer during the Suez Crisis. From 1956 until early 1966 the main Valiant force was used in the nuclear deterrence role in the confrontation between NATO and the Warsaw Pact powers. Other squadrons undertook aerial refuelling, aerial reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare.
In 1962, in response to advances in Soviet Union surface-to-air missile (SAM) technology, the V-force fleet including the Valiant changed from high-level flying to flying at low-level to avoid SAM attacks that they would have received if they were flying at high altitudes. In 1964 it was found that Valiants showed fatigue and crystalline corrosion in wing rear spar attachment forgings. In late 1964 a repair programme was underway, but a change of Government led to the new Minister of Defence Denis Healey deciding that the Valiant should be retired from service, and this happened in early 1965. The Victor and Vulcan V-bombers remained in service until the 1980s.