December 2022

Avro Blue Steel

Avro Vulcan B.2

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Avro Blue Steel Stand-off Missile

617 Sqn, Royal Air Force V-Bomber Force

RAF Conningsby 1963

Airfix 1/72 (Suppiled with 1983 Avro Vulcan kit)1

The Blue Steel rocket was designed to help the RAF V-Bomber force to overcome advances in Soviet air defences.   Entering service in 1963 for carriage beneath Avro Vulcan or Handley Page Victor bombers, it was armed with a 1.4 Megatonne British “Red Snow” thermonuclear warhead.

Missiles could be launched at high altitude 150 miles from the target, flying at Mach 1.5 until near the target, when it would accelerate to a top speed of Mach 3, followed by a free-fall terminal dive and airburst explosion.  A state of the art inertial navigation system gave a claimed accuracy of 100m around the chosen target.

Unfortunately, Blue Steel was not reliable, with up to 50% of missiles expected to fail.  It required up to 7 hours of preparation before flight,and complex fuelling and safety facilities for its volatile Hydrogen peroxide fuel.  Its comparatively short range meant that the V-bombers were still highly vulnerable to Soviet Air Defences.  The final nail in the coffin came as the V-Force was forced by further Soviet Air Defence advances to move to low level attacks, rendering Blue Steel largely unusable, although a modification was undertaken to allow release at as low as 1,000ft.

Attempts to replace Blue Steel with the longer range US Douglas Skybolt stand-off missile failed when the US cancelled the programme. Although Vulcan bombers were re-equipped with the smaller tactical WE177 weapon, the UK’s Strategic Nuclear Deterrent responsibilities passed instead to the RN’s Polaris SSBN fleet and Blue Steel was retired in 1970.

Building the Airfix Blue Steel Missile Kit:

Not much to say here; the missile comes with the older (1983) Airfix Vulcan kit as armament for the kit’s 1963 617 Sqn anti-flash white decal option.  I consists of 3 parts, plus a bomb-bay fairing to replace the Vulcan’s bomb bay doors.

The cradle was scratch built from sprue to allow me to display the missile.  It is not based on any accurate plans, although it is loosely similar to the raised maintenance/instruction cradle seen in the picture below.  This missile and cradle used to accompany Vulcan XH558 to airshow displays.

Note that a better Blue Steel model now comes with the newer Airfix Vulcan B.2 and Victor B.2 kits

Part 2

Above: © IWM RAF-T 3586  - A Vulcan of 617 Sqn RAF, armed with a Blue Steel missile

Below: © IWM RAF-T 4841 - A Blue Steel missile is fuelled before take-off at RAF Scampton.  The wet area beneath the aircraft is a fire prevention measure for the volatile HP fuel.

Below  Missile

December 2022 Part 1

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