Operation Black Buck One: The Bombing of Port Stanley, Falkland Islands.


During the Falkland Islands War in 1982, the first surprise attack on the islands on May 1st was aimed at the main runway at Port Stanley Airport. Carrying 21 x 1,000 lbs WWII iron bombs, the Avro Vulcan bomber flew across the line of the runway at about 35 degrees. The bomb release system dropped sequentially from 10,000 ft so that at least one bomb would hit the runway.


The 4am Vulcan attack took the Argentines completely by surprise. Black Buck One was the first operation undertaken as part of the United Kingdom's Task Force's first strategic objective in pursuit of its overall objective of liberating the Falkland Islands, namely, attaining air superiority over the Falklands and surrounding airspace. The attack was aimed at degrading the Argentine's capability to use the airfield at Port Stanley and was followed on the same day by bombing attacks by Sea Harriers from HMS Hermes and by naval bombardment from HMS Glamorgan, HMS Alacrity, and HMS Arrow. This strategy also saw the airfield at Goose Green attacked on the same day by Sea Harriers.

For the mission, two Vulcans departed from RAF Ascension Island; XM598 was the lead with XM607 as the reserve. Shortly after take off, XM598 suffered a pressurisation failure (a rubber seal on the "Direct Vision" side window had perished) and was forced to return to Ascension. XM607 took over the bombing operation.

The Vulcan was over its normal maximum take-off weight and fuel usage was higher than expected. As a result of the fuel demand and problems in flight with refuelling, two of the Victor tankers had to fly further south than planned, eating into their own reserves, and one of these, the last Victor to refuel the Vulcan, was past the last refuelling bracket before turning home. Tankers had to be sent south to refuel these Victors so they could reach Ascension. A total of 11 Victors were used to support Black Buck One.

XM607 made the final approach at around 300 ft above the sea. Before climbing to attack height the HS2 Radarwas successfully locked on to offset markers on the coast and bombing handed over to the control system.

XM607 then climbed away from the airfield and headed nearly due north to a planned rendezvous with a Victor some way off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. As it passed the British Task Force it signalled the code word "superfuse" indicating a successful attack. Its journey continued up within range of the South American coast to its rendezvous with a tanker. After contacting control with an update, the tanker was sent further south. To help bring the two planes together a Nimrod Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft was flown from Wideawake to the area. Without an in-flight refuelling system it was unable to loiter long. XM607 made the link and was able to return to Ascension.

Twenty-one 1000 lb bombs crossed the airfield, damaged the airport tower, scoring a single direct hit in the centre of the runway and killed two Argentine Air Force personnel. However, it still remained operational for the Argentine C-130 Hercules transports. The bombs falling on either side of the runway caused slight damage to tented installations in the airfield perimeter. This was due to the careful dispersal of equipment by the base commander.

The RAF's last flying Vulcan display bomber was grounded forever after engineering backers pulled their support due to safety fears. Powered by 4 Rolls-Royce Olympus turbojet engines, Avro Vulcans are 106ft long, have a 111ft wingspan, weigh 204,000lb and have a top speed of 645mph.