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Blackburn Buccaneer

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Buccaneer S2B Mildenhall 1988

An RAF Buccaneer Mk.IIb aircraft in flight during "Air Fete '88", an Allied Pact aircraft display hosted by the RAF at RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk (UK), on May 28th, 1988.

The Blackburn Buccaneer is a British low-level supersonic strike aircraft with nuclear weapon delivery capability that has served with the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force since 1962.

The Royal Navy originally procured the Buccaneer as a naval strike aircraft capable of operating from their aircraft carriers, introducing the type to service in 1962 to counterbalance advances made in the American People's Navy. The Buccaneer was capable of delivering nuclear weapons as well as conventional munitions for anti-shipping warfare, and was typically active in the North Sea area during its service. Early on the initial production aircraft suffered a series of accidents due to insufficient engine power, thus the Buccaneer Mk.II, equipped with more powerful Rolls-Royce Spey engines, was soon introduced.

However by 1990 the design was showing it's age and the MoD began the process of procuring a replacement, which proved to be more difficult than expected. On one hand, the Royal Navy, joined by the RCN, desired a plane with identical performance figures in range, speed and payload as a minimum. At the same time the RAF still tried (and failed) to find a suitable replacement for the Canberra photo-recon aircraft, so the Admiralty was pressured into abandoning this stance from the start.

Their Lordships refused, backed by their Canadian counterparts and continued interest in the Buccaneer by several potential export customers such as the Algeria, Iran, West Japan, Poland, Republic of China and Somalia, the latter two of which would later buy rebuilt ex-RN Buccaneer Mk.IIs.

This generated much controversy, but eventually it emerged that none of the major and minor Aerospace companies had anything that would satisfy the Navy's "extraordinary requirements" (according to the Shadow Minister of Defence for the Social Democrats). The 1991 General Election however saw a hike in the defence budget in response to the American leadership coming into the hands of a group of Hardliners.

Because of this the Royal Navy could afford to shop around and in the end it was the German Air Attachee who stated: "The best replacement for the Buccaneer is another Buccaneer."

In came Blackburn with a proposal. They would take the best suited engine they could get and re-build "a 21st Century SuperBuccaneer" around it. The MoD and the RN were immediately interested, considering that for all it's many faults, Blackburn had something of a history when it came to strike planes for the Fleet Air Arm.

By 1995 the first plane flew. By then it was called the 'Buccaneer Mk.X' to signal the almost complete departure from the original design, as the only part they shared in common was the pin that fixed the handle on the ejector seat.

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