Considered by many to be one of the finest strike aircraft ever designed, the Blackburn Buccaneer became the Royal Navy's principal carrier-based attack force for almost two decades and continued in service with the RAF for another. It was designed for long-range low-level subsonic penetration for either nuclear strike or attacks against ships and ports with a plethora of innovative design features which made it tremendously effective despite being initially underpowered. Nevertheless, naval operations ceased once the RN scrapped its conventional carriers in the late 1970s and thus the Buccaneer found new life with the RAF where it saw combat in the Gulf War as laser designators for Tornados but also launched their fair share of precision-guided bombs themselves. The only export customer of the Buccaneer was the South African Air Force and RAF units were eventually phased out of service in 1994.
Originally designed as the Blackburn B.103, the initial prototype first flew on 30 April 1958 and entered service four years later as the Buccaneer S.1. Problems arose when it was realized that the S.1 was underpowered and could not be launched from a carrier with its maximum payload, thus the Buccaneer S.2 was developed with with Rolls-Royce Spey engines and eventually served with six FAA squadrons. As Britain's conventional carriers were slowly retired, the RAF began to acquire former-RN units (redesignated S.2A) as well as new builds (S.2B) while others were reworked for land-based use with the ability to use modern weaponry like the Martel missile (S.2C and S.2D). Some South African Buccaneers were designated S.50 with rocket-assisted take-offs (RATO).
|2 x Spey Mk. 101