The Handley Page Victor evolved from Specification B35/46 calling for a bomber capable of carrying a 10,000 bomb over a radius of action of 1,500 miles. Initially designated the HP80, two prototypes were ordered and the first made its maiden flight on 24 December 1952 with chief test pilot Hedley Hazelden at the controls. Shortly thereafter it was given the official name of Victor and development continued alongside the two other ‘V bombers’ under production, the Valiant and Vulcan.
The Victor B1 entered service with No 232 Operational Conversion Unit at Gaydon in 1957 with the first operational unit, No 10 Squadron, forming at Cottesmore in April the following year. Operated by crew of 5, the B1 was powered by 4 x Armstrong-Siddeley Sapphire ASSa7 turbojet engines each of 11,050 lbs static thrust; with a bomb bay significantly larger than that of the Valiant or Vulcan, the Victor was capable of carrying up to 36 x 1,000 conventional bombs, a single Grand Slam of 22,000 lbs, 2 x Tallboys of 12,000 lbs or a free-fall nuclear bomb. Whilst employed primarily in the strategic nuclear deterrent role, the demise of the Valiant through metal fatigue in December 1964, forced an urgent programme to give 20 Victors an in-flight refuelling capability as the K1.
The first prototype Victor B2, powered by Rolls-Royce Conway RCo11 engines generating 17,250 lbs thrust took to the air on 20 February 1959 with production aircraft entering service in 1961. Twenty-one of these were subsequently upgraded to B2R standard with Conway RCo17 engines of 20,600 thrust and the capability to carry the Blue Steel stand-off nuclear missile.
When the nuclear deterrent was transferred to the Royal Navy in 1969, a large V- bomber fleet was considered surplus to requirements and thus 24 Victor B2s were converted to refuelling duties as the Victor K2. It was in this role that the aircraft provided refuelling support for Nimrod and Hercules operations and Op Black Buck raids on Stanley during the Falklands War. The K2 also provided refuelling support during the first Gulf War in 1991, after which it was retired from service.
The Victor equipped 8 front line RAF squadrons. A total of 86 aircraft were built of which 5 survive in museums. None are airworthy (unless one counts Teasin’ Tina which made a short unplanned flight at Bruntingthorpe in May 2009).