English Electric Canberra B.2/B(I).8 (WV787)

English Electric Canberra B.2/B(I).8 (WV787) English Electric Canberra B.2/B(I).8 (WV787)

English Electric Canberra B.2/B(I).8 (WV787)  [@ Newark Air Museum]

With the Gloster Meteor and the de Havilland Vampire in RAF service, it became obvious that the next step was to produce a jet bomber and in 1944, The Ministry of Aircraft Procurement issued Specification B.3/45 calling for design concepts for a fast, high-altitude, jet-powered medium bomber.  Originally designed for the radar-bombing role, the Canberra was the greatest success story of Britain’s post-war aviation industry.  It was unarmed and relied on high speed to escape enemy fighters.   As the Cold War deepened in the early 1950s the Canberra was ordered in large numbers to replace the RAF's Avro Lincolns and 88 Washingtons B.1s (B.29 Superfortress) which were on loan from the USAF.  To meet the demand it was built by Avro, Handley Page and Shorts as well as the parent firm English Electric. 

WV787 was built at Preston and delivered to the RAF in September 1952 as a B.2 variant but was employed as a trials aircraft for all 33 years of its working life.  In 1952 at Bitteswell, Armstong Siddley Sapphire Sa7 engines were installed to allow re-heat trials. The Sapphire's development was for use in the FAW.8 and FAW.9 Javelins. Later it was transferred to Ferranti for radar trials with the NA39 radar and re-built as a B(I)8 at Turnhouse and a "Buccaneer " type nose was installed. WV787 was then moved on to the Aircraft & Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down where it was fitted out as a tanker to carry out de-icing trials on other aircraft; notable amongst these being the Jaguar de-icing tests series. Water was sprayed from a long spray-bar that ran along under the rear fuselage (no longer in evidence) and also from spray nozzles fitted close under both jet exhausts. A rearward facing closed circuit television camera was fitted, just behind the bomb bay, so that test aircraft flying in the spray could be filmed. The aircraft was also used as an aerodynamic test bed for the Canberra T.22, the Buccaneer nose that it was fitted with was similar to that proposed for the new Canberra variant. During the mid 70s, WV787 was employed in an air-to-air photography role and remained at Boscombe Down until 1984. It was then disposed of by being transferred to the Battle Damage Repair Flight at RAF Abingdon but before it could be totally destroyed it was saved by the Newark Air Museum in 1985.

English Electric Canberra B.2/T.11/T.19 (WH904) 

English Electric Canberra B.2/T.11/T.19 (WH904)  [@ Newark Air Museum]

The English Electric design team was headed by the former Westland chief designer W.E.W. Petter.  The aircraft was named Canberra after the capital of Australia by Sir George Nelson, chairman of English Electric, because Australia was the first export customer for the aircraft.  The contract was signed in during 1945 and the first prototype Canberra B.1, VN799, flew on 13th May 1949.  The prototype proved vice-free and required only a few modifications.  It was a simple design, looking like a scaled-up Gloster Meteor with a shoulder wing.  Each crew member had an Martin-Baker ejection seat except in the B(I)8 and its export versions where the navigator had to rely on a conventional escape hatch and parachute.  In total four prototypes were produced, with VN799, VN832 and VN850 were fitted with Rolls Royce Avon engines (the first axial flow jet engine designed and produced by Rolls Royce) [photograph - right] and VN813 with Rolls Royce centrifugal-flow Nene engines. 

WH904 was originally built as a B.2 variant and was delivered to the RAF on the 8th February 1954. Its RAF life started with 207 Squadron, RAF Marham, and was then transferred to 35 Squadron on the same station when 207 was disbanded in 1956. Converted to T.11 configuration with the extended nose for housing an A.I radar, as used for the Javelins, and served to train radar operators. After a brief spell with 228 OCU, WH904 joined the Target Facilities Squadron (TFS), RAF West Raynham, and remained with this unit when it changed to 85 Squadron in 1963 and transferred to RAF Binbrook. WH904 became a T.19 variant after further nose and radar changes and again served with 85 Squadron, RAF Binbrook, and 7 Squadron at RAF St. Mawgen, Cornwall. WH904 was placed in store in 1979 at RAF St Athan and was then sold to BAC as a possible export in 1980. Finally being donated to the museum in 1985. It is worth going to see this fine example of a T.11/19 and noticing the B(I)8 style "windbrake" door in front of the main cabin door. This is most unusual on a "blister" canopied Canberra.

English Electric Canberra B.2/B.6 (WK163)English Electric Canberra B.2/B.6 (WK163)

English Electric Canberra B.2/B.6 (WK163)

English Electric Canberra B.2/B.6 (WK163)   [@ RAF Duxford]

A new glazed nose had to be fitted to accommodate a bombardier because the advanced H2S bombing avionics were not ready for production, the engines were upgraded to more powerful Rolls Royce Avon 103s, and the distinctive teardrop-shaped fuel tanks were fitted under the wingtips.  The resulting aircraft, the B.2, built to Specification B.5/47 first flew on the 21st April 1950 (two prototypes - VX165 & VX169) and entered RAF service first with 101 Squadron (re-equipping from Avro Lincolns) at RAF Binbrook in May 1951 (WD929 was the first production B.2 to be delivered to the RAF on the 9th February 1951) and by the end of the year with 9 Squadron.  The variant had a maximum speed of 570 mph at 40,000 feet and no less than 517 mph at sea level with an internal bomb load, of initially, 6,000lbs.  With the Korean War raging at the time construction of the Canberra (along with other aircraft such as the Hawker Hunter) was regarded as high priority.  Eventually 217 were built by English Electric with a further 75 each by A V Roe and Handley Page and an additional 60 by Shorts (including eight for export).

Delivered to the RAF on the 28th January 1955 as a B.2 variant, WK163 was soon transferred to Armstrong Siddley at Bitteswell for installation of Sapphire Sa 7s and then on to Napier's works at Luton Airport.  At Napier's, the “Double Scorpion” NScD1/2 rocket motor was fitted into the rear of the bomb-bay.  This rocket motor was being developed as a power-booster for the English Electric Lightning.  In August 1957 WK163 captured the world altitude record of 70,310 feet and after setting the record WK163 was transferred to Bristol Siddeley at Filton where WK163 was used for testing the Viper turbojet.  In 1959 WK163 was transferred to the Radar Research Establishment at Pershore for infra-red linescan development.  In 1968 B.6 wings and Avon 109 engines were fitted to WK163 and in 1969 WK163 received the nose from XH568, a B.6 variant.  The original nose, which incorporated a Laser Ranger and Marked Target Seeker System (LRMTS), was later fitted to WT327.  In 1976 WK163 was the first Radar Research Flying Unit Canberra to be handed over to the Royal Aircraft Establishment.  In the photograph WK163 is displayed in the classic grey/black Bomber Command (1Group) colours and the red lightning flash on the nose could represent 617 Squadron.

English Electric Canberra B.2/T.17 (WH740)English Electric Canberra B.2/T.17 (WH740)

English Electric Canberra B.2/T.17 (WH740)  [@  East Midlands Aeropark]

With the 3 crew bomber version established in service, the RAF began to consider the Canberra as replacement for its aging photo-reconnaissance de Havilland Mosquito aircraft.  VX181, a photo-reconnaissance (PR) version, first flew on the 19th March 1951.  The fuselage was lengthened by 14ins to accommodate a forward camera bay, which could carry one F.49 vertical camera and six F.52 oblique cameras.  Eventually 36 (2 crew) PR.3s were built by English Electric and the variant equipped 3 Squadrons, first 540 at RAF Benson in December 1952 and then 58 and 82.  The PR.7 (74 built by English Electric) and PR.9 (14 built by Shorts) were two subsequent reconnaissance variants.  WH773 was the first production PR.7 and it flew for the first time on 16th August 1953 powered by Rolls-Royce Avon 109 engines.  The variant entered RAF with 542 Squadron at RAF Wyton in June 1954.  Until the arrival of the Hawker Hunter into service in July 1954 the Canberra remained effectively immune from interception during air defence exercises.

WH740 was delivered as a B.2 to the RAF on the 30th July 1953 and entered service with 18 Squadron, RAF Scampton, in August 1953 before being transferred to 40 Squadron, RAF Upwood in 1955.  Between July 1958 and January 1962 WH740 was one of 15 B.2s loaned to the Royal New Zealand Air Force as part of the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve.  WH740 joined the newly formed 75 Squadron (RNZAF) based at RAF Tengah, Singapore, and was used on anti-terrorist operations during the Malayan Emergency.  Badly damaged in a landing accident on 19th October 1959, WH740 was not flown again until May 1960.  On returning to the UK WH740 was converted to T.17 standard before joining 360 Squadron at RAF Cottesmore.  WH740 remained with 360 Squadron for the rest of its service life, moving to RAF Wyton in August 1975.  Struck off charge (S.o.C.) on the 1st December 1987, WH740 was used as a ground instructional airframe for RAF Trainees at 2 School of Technical Training (SoTT) at RAF Cosford before finally retiring to the East Midlands Aeropark for display duties in December 1991.  In the photograph WH740 is displayed in the colours of 360 Squadron.

English Electric Canberra B.2 (WK138)English Electric Canberra B.2 (WK138)English Electric Canberra B.2 (WK138)

English Electric Canberra B.2 (WK138)   [@ Luftwaffenmuseum der Bundeswehr, Berlin]

WK138 was one of three English Electric Canberra B.2s to be operated by the West German Air Force.  Delivered to the RAF on the 24th September 1954 and issued to 102 Squadron at RAF Waddington.  This Squadron had reformed on the 20th October 1954 at RAF Waddington and were being issued with B.2s.  At the end of the year 102 Squadron was transferred to RAF Gütersloh, which was the nearest Royal Air Force airbase to the East/West German border, as a nuclear strike bomber squadron.  During August 1956 102 Squadron was re-numbered at RAF Gutersloh as 59 Squadron and flew English Electric Canberra B.2s and B(I).8s.  WK138 returned to the UK and was transferred to 15 MU based at RAF Wroughton, Wiltshire, for storage on the 30th May 1957.  Declared non-effective on the 7th April 1965 WK138 was sold to BAC at Warton on the 28th March 1966 and delivered to the West German Air Force as YA+153 in October 1966 along with two other ex-RAF B.2s (WK130 as YA+151 and WK137 as YA+152).  All three B.2s were all painted in an orange colour scheme for use in the target towing role by Erprobungstelle 61 of Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich.  WK138 was then in 1970 fitted with special cameras and used for geographical and survey purposes as D9567.  During 1976 WK138 was re-numbered as 99+35 and allocated to special duties.  The Canberras were used until 1999 by the Luftwaffe.

English Electric Canberra B.2 (WH725)English Electric Canberra B.2 (WH725)

English Electric Canberra B.2 (WH725)  [@ RAF Duxford]

Built by English Electric as a B.2 WH725 entered RAF service with 15 Squadron based at RAF Conningsby, Lincolnshire, on the 25th May 1953.  15 Squadron were re-equipping with the Canberra B.2 from the Avro Lincoln via the Washington B.1, which they had acquired in 1951.  From 20th March 1950 the RAF were loaned as an interim measure, by the USAF, 87 B-29 Superfortresses under the Mutual Defines Assistance Program.  WH725 was later transferred to 50 Squadron at RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire, following the Suez Crisis (9th October 1956 – 7th November 1956).  WH725 then moved with the squadron to RAF Upwood, Cambridgeshire, on the 9th January 1956 and was then transferred to 60 Squadron that was also at RAF Upwood.  After a flying life of 19 years WH725 was finally “Struck Off Charge” on the 8th March 1972 and arrived at RAF Duxford from 15 MU based at RAF Wroughton, Wiltshire during 1972.

English Electric Canberra PR.3 (WE139)English Electric Canberra PR.3 (WE139)

English Electric Canberra PR.3 (WE139)   [@ RAF Hendon]

The PR.  9 was based on the PR.  7 but it featured a longer wing, an increased wing chord on the centre section and a larger tail-plane.  It incorporated the offset canopy of the B(I).8 and was powered by two Avon 206 engines, making it the most powerful of the Canberra variants.  Napier converted a PR.7, WH793, with the new wing configuration and it flew for the first time on the 8th July 1955.  Shorts produced the "final shape" PR.  9 starting with XH129 which flew for the first time on 27th July 1958 and the variant entered RAF service with 58 Squadron at RAF Wyton, Cambridgeshire, in February 1960.  Interestingly this time the variant had a hinged nose door to allow an easier escape route for the navigator.  A total of 23 built by Shorts with three transferred to Chile after the Falklands War.

WE139 was first flown on the 25th January 1953 and delivered on the 3rd February 1953 to the RAF's Handling Squadron, RAF Manby, before being issued to 540 Squadron, RAF Benson, on the 10th August 1953.  Along with two other Canberras, another PR.3 (WE142) and a PR.7 (WH773), WE139 was selected to be an entrant in the UK to New Zealand Air Race.  The Canberra team were formed into an "Air Race Flight" at RAF Wyton in 1953 for intensive training.  Each Canberra was fitted with additional navigation equipment in the form of Marconi Radio Compass, "Rebecca", and a periscope sextant for astro-navigation.  Cameras were removed and extra fuel tanks added, these increased the all-up weight that necessitated the fitting of slightly larger wheels.  WH139, crewed by Flight Lieutenants R Butron and DH Gannon, was the eventual winner of the speed section of the race with a time of 23 hours 51 minutes at an average speed of 514 mph.  After the Air Race and a visit USA to attend the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the Wright Brother’s first flight, WE139 briefly returned to 540 Squadron on the 22nd February 1954 before being assigned to 69 Squadron of the 2nd Tactical Air Force, RAF Gütersloh and later RAF Laarbruch on the 1st October 1954.  During April 1958 WE139 moved with 69 Squadron (re-numbered 39 Squadron later that year) to RAF Luqa, Malta.  With the arrival of PR.9s to 39 Squadron WE139 was transferred to 231 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), the Canberra conversion and photographic reconnaissance training unit, at RAF Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire, on the 19th December 1962.  With a total of 4,260 flying hours the last flight was into retirement on the 23rd April 1969 to the museum at RAF Henlow, Beds, and then finally by road to RAF Hendon on the 14th January 1971.

English Electric Canberra PR.3 (WF922)

English Electric Canberra PR.3 (WF922)  [@ Midland Air Museum]

The next variant was the T.4 (74 built, including seven for export and conversions from B.2) dual-control trainer and the type entered service in August 1953 with 231 OCU at RAF Bassingbourne.  The prototype, WN467, first flew on the 12th June 1952.  Both the pilot and student had ejection seats in the front under the bubble canopy while the navigator had an ejection seat in the usual place in the back.  The T.4 had a "solid" nose i.e.  no bomb-aimer glazing.  A one off T.13, based on the T.4, was built for the New Zealand air force.

Delivered to the RAF on the 4th December 1952, WF922 entered service in 1953 with 82 Squadron.  During the next few years WF922 went on to serve with 58, 69 and 39 Squadrons before being transferred to the Ministry of Aircraft who placed WF922 with Boulton Paul at Seighford for modifications.  In 1963 WF922 was transferred to Marshall's of Cambridge for Trials Installations and Flight Trials of survey cameras.  In 1967 WF922 was with 15 MU, RAF Wroughton, before being transferred to the Aircraft & Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE ) Boscombe Down, in 1968.  While at the A&AEE WF922 was engaged in trials of Lindholme gear for use on the PR.9 in the Near East Air Force.  In 1969, still at A&AEE, WF922 had more camera modifications carried out and was also fitted with a Sperry vertical gyro for evaluation trials.  In 1970 saw WF922 at the Radar Research Establishment where it underwent overhaul with further new photo equipment being fitted in 1971.  Eventually this PR.3 was sold to BAC and flown to Marshall's of Cambridge.  There (despite the evidence), the record says, WF922 was broken up! Click here to see inside WF922

English Electric Canberra PR.7 (WH791)

English Electric Canberra PR.7 (WH791)  [@ Newark Air Museum]

This was followed by the B.5 with fuel tanks in the wings and Avon 107 engines.  Converted from a PR.3 and intended for target marking only one example was built (VX185) before it was superseded by the B.6, a more powerful version of the B.5 with Avon 109 engines.  WH945, the first production variant, flew for the first time on 26th January 1954 and the first deliveries began with 101 Squadron at RAF Binbrook in June 1954.  English Electric built 55 while Shorts completed the order book with a further 49, of which 12 of the total were for export.  The B.2 was still available in quantity in October and November 1956, when Britain, France and Israel attacked Egypt during the Suez Campaign.   Canberras from 10, 15, 18, 27, 44 and 61 Squadrons were used to attack military targets in Egypt from RAF bases in Cyprus.

WH791 was delivered to the RAF on the 31st May 1954 and entered service with 542 Squadron at RAF Wyton, Cambridgeshire.  Later WH791 was transferred to 82 Squadron, also at Wyton, before moving to RAF Weston Zoyland, Somerset, in the December of 1955.  When 82 Squadron disbanded in the September of 1956 WH791 was transferred to 58 Squadron which was based at RAF Wyton.  At some point during 1960/61 WH791 was transferred to 81 Squadron who were based at RAF Tengah, Singapore.  A detachment of 81 Squadron flew from RAF Labuan during the Borneo conflict in 1962 so probably WH791 was involved.  Due to the pending disbandment of 81 Squadron on the 16th January 1970 WH791 was returned to the UK for storage at RAF St Athan and earmarked for scrap when Struck off Charge in February 1972.  Fortunately WH791 moved to RAF Cottesmore for Gate Guardian duties on the 13th October 1972 before retirement to the Newark museum.

English Electric Canberra PR.7 (WH779)

English Electric Canberra PR.7 (WH779)  [@  East Midlands Aeropark]

The B(I).6 (24 built) was an interim night Bomber/Interdictor variant for the RAF awaiting delivery of the B(I).8.  Powered by Rolls Royce Avon 109s and crewed by 3, the B(I).6 variant could be fitted with a ventral gun-pack containing 4 x 20mm canon as well as underwing bomb pylons for the ground attack role.  Only 213 Squadron of the 2nd Tactical Air Force, Germany, flew the variant from July 1953 and it was soon superseded by the two crew B(I).8 (81 built by English Electric and 12 by Shorts).  Of the total 17 went for export and two were converted B.2s.  It featured some radical modifications, the most notable being an entirely redesigned fuselage nose and offset fighter-type cockpit to improve visibility in the ground attack role.  The Navigator was located forward of the pilot and, interestingly, only the pilot had an ejector seat.  This gave the B(I).8 a very distinctive profile which was shared by the PR.9 photo-reconnaissance variant.  The prototype, VX185, a B.5 conversion flew for the first time on the 23rd July 1954.  Like the B(I).6 it could be fitted with a ventral 4 x 20mm gun-pack and under-wing bomb pylons, but the B(I).8 was also fitted a Low-Altitude Bombing System (LABS) for delivery of a nuclear weapon.  The first production aircraft, WT326, joined 88 Squadron at RAFG Wildenrath in May 1956.  A further 16 B(I).12s were built by English Electric for export to New Zealand and South Africa.

WH779 was delivered to the RAF during March 1954 and entered service with 542 Squadron, RAF Wyton, when it reformed on the 17th May 1954.  Before 542 Squadron disbanded on the 1st October 1955 WH779 was briefly transferred to 13 Squadron, then to 80 Squadron, RAFG Laarbruch, and finally to 31 Squadron, RAFG Laarbruch.  As the PR.7s of 31 Squadron was replaced by McDonnell-Douglas Phanton IIs during 1971 WH779 was allocated to ground instructional duties at RAFG Wildenrath during March 1971.  On returning to the UK WH779 was placed into storage at RAF St Athan and then given an overhaul at 19 MU before being re-designated WH779  and reissued to 13 Squadron after their transfer to RAF Wyton in 1978 from Malta.  WH799 soon moved onto the Holding Flight before being transferred to 100 Squadron in 1991 and then on to 1 PRU in 1992.  In fact WH799 stayed with 1 PRU and its PR.9s when the Squadron moved to RAF Marham (WH799 was probably used for spares).  WH779 was broken down at RAF Marham in 2004 with the front fuselage and the starboard wing being shipped to DERA at Boscombe Down, while the rear fuselage was eventually scrapped on the 12th October 2005 at RAF Shawbury.

English Electric Canberra PR.9 (XH171)

English Electric Canberra PR.9 (XH171)  [@ RAF Cosford]

The four crew Canberra T.11 was a B.2 conversion (9 built) for training Airborne Interception (AI) Radar and Pilot's Attack Sight System (AIRPASS) observers, while the B.15, designed for service in the Near (mainly for the Akrotiri Strike Wing) and Far East, was a modified B.6 with under-wing hard points.  The first B.15, WH967, was converted by Marshalls of Cambridge and in total 39 B.6s was converted by English Electric and Bristol to B.15 standard.  The Nord AS.30 air-to-ground missiles were fitted to the B.15s of 32 and 73 Squadron.  Later 8 B.15s were modified to E.15 standard, an electronic reconnaissance variant.  The B.16, for service in Germany, retained many of the B.6s radar aids and was also fitted with Blue Shadow radar in place of one of the rear crew ejection seats.  Marshalls converted a total of 19 B.6s to B.16 standard. 

Built by Shorts XH171 was delivered to 15 MU at RAF Wroughton, Wiltshire, on the 8th August 1960 and then to 58 Squadron (the first squadron to receive PR.9s), RAF Wyton, on the 5th September 1960.  Before transfer to 39 Squadron RAF Luqa, Malta, on the 9th October 1963 XH171 had a period with the Ministry of Aviation between 27th June 1962 and 27th February 1963 followed by time with 15 MU and 5 MU until 4th July 1963.  When 39 Squadron returned to the UK in September 1970 XH171 stayed on at RAF Luga with 13 Squadron.  On returning to the UK on the 10th March 1976, XH171 was transferred back to 39 Squadron, RAF Wyton, to perform a low level tactical reconnaissance role within NATO together with a shipping reconnaissance commitment and some aerial survey work.  On the 13th July 1982 XH171 made its final flight to 2 School of Technical Training, RAF Cosford, to become a ground instructional airframe.  Finally XH171 was transferred to the museum in January 1992.

English Electric Canberra T.4 (WH846)

English Electric Canberra T.4 (WH846)  [@ RAF Elvington]

The U.10 (later D.10) was a radio-controlled target drone which was a modified B.2.  Shorts produced 17 conversions and the prototype, WJ624, was first flown on the 11th June 1957.  The U.10s were built for and used as target drones on the Australian weapons ranges at Woomera.  A further 6 conversions were made to a U.14 standard, (later termed D.14), for use as targets by the Royal Navy.  The U/D.14 was similar to the U.10 except that hydraulic servo-assisted controls were fitted. 

Built at Preston in 1953/4 WH846 entered RAF service with 231 OCU.  Around 1962 WH846 was transferred to RAF Geilenkirchen (2nd Tactical Air Force) to join 3 Squadrons B(I)8s as one of two T.4s being used for conversion and training.  In 1965 WH846 was transferred to 16 Squadron at RAF Laarbruch before returning the UK to join 100 Squadron T.19s at RAF Wyton in 1972.  Placed into storage at RAF St Athan in 1977 WH846 was sold to British Aerospace (BAe) on the 29th January 1982.  By 1985 WH846 was again in storage at Samlesbury.  Finally, WH846 was bought by the Yorkshire Air Museum and transferred to RAF Elvington in 1988.

English Electric Canberra B.5 (VX185)

English Electric Canberra PR.3/B.5 (VX185)  [@ RAF East Fortune]

The intension was to build VX185 as a PR.3 but was in fact completed as the B.5 prototype.  VX185 first flew as a PR.3 on the 6th July 1951 and as a B.5 in August 1951 before being was transferred to English Electric in the September.  VX185 stayed with them for just over a year during which time it captured an Atlantic crossing record.   VX185 made its record breaking double crossing of the Atlantic on the 26th August 1952.  It was flown from RAF Aldergrove (Ireland) to Gander and back by Wing Commander RP Beamont and crewed by Peter Hillwood and Dennis Watson.  The flight took 10 hours 3minutes 29.28seconds at an average speed of 411.99 mph.  On The 23rd July 1954 VX185 was sent to BAC Warton for conversion to B(I)8 configuration and the original cockpit was acquired by the Science Museum and later the East Fortune Museum, Scotland.  In 1955 VX185 was transferred to the Aircraft & Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) before going to Ferranti as a "target" for their flight trials with A.I Radar.  In 1958 VX 185 was transferred to Shorts in Belfast (RAF Aldergrove) for development work in the PR.9 program.  In 1959 VX185 was transferred to RAF St Athan as a Ground Instructional Airframe and in May 1961 VX185 went to BAC Filton and was broken up at Filton in 1964. The photograph {source:- Sgt Bill Jackson (1923-2009)} below shows VX185 taken shortly after the record breaking historical flight across the Atlantic.

English Electric Canberra PR.3/B.5 (VX185) {source Sgt Bill Jackson (1923-2009)}

English Electric Canberra PR.3/B.5 (VX185)  [@ RAF Aldergrove]

The T.17 ECM (Electronic Counter Measures) trainer variant was a converted B.2 and was used to train surface-based radar and missile operators and airborne fighter and airborne early warning crews in handling jamming (including chaff dropping).  The equipment electronics were housed in a special solid nose configuration and in the bomb-bay.  The prototype, WJ977, flew for the first time on 9th September 1965.  A total of 22 were produced for only 360 Squadron, a joint RAF/RN unit.  Upgraded equipment produced the T.17A.  It featured improved navigation aids, a spectrum analyser in place of the previously-fitted AN/APR 20, and a powerful communications jammer.  Target-tug variant, TT.18, was a B.2 conversion by English Electric and Flight Refuelling.  It was fitted with underwing pylons for Rushton winches to employ sleeve or Rushton Mk 2 targets.  The prototype flew on the 14th April 1970 and entered RAF service with 7 Squadron from the following July.  The TT.18 conversion was also used for a number of years by the Royal Navy's Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit (FRADU) based a Yeoviltion.  In total 23 conversions were undertaken.  The T.19, a target facilities variant, was basically similar to the T.11 but with ballast replacing the AI radar in the nose, an up-rated oxygen system and a later mark ejection seat while the T.22 was a trainer for the Royal Navy's FRADU.  Modified from a PR.7 it was used for radar training with the Buccaneer's Blue Parrot radar system housed in special nose radome.  7 were produced with the first flying in September 1973 and all T.22s retired from service in September 1985. 

English Electric Canberra B(I).8/B.6 (WT333)

English Electric Canberra B(I).8/B.6 (WT333)  [@ RAF Bruntingthorpe]

The Canberra was built (406) under licence in the USA as the Martin B.57 to replace the B.26 Invader.  Apart from the tandem crew seating, the early aircraft were almost identical to the English Electric aircraft however later models had a series of substantial modifications.  During the Cold War modified high-altitude Canberras over-flew the Soviet Union and China before the advent of the Lockheed U.2 reconnaissance aircraft.  In 1955 the USAF ordered 20 RB-57Ds from Martin, with modified Pratt & Whitney J.57 engines and an extended 33m wingspan.  These, and a later version with longer 37m wings, were used for both photographic and electronic reconnaissance.  On 24th December 1957 a USAF RB-57 was shot down by Soviet fighters over the Black Sea and in February 1958 and October 1959 RB-57Ds operated by the Chinese Nationalists were shot down over mainland China.  After President Eisenhower's 1960 ban on over-flying the USSR the Canberras continued to monitor Eastern Bloc nations, often flying just outside territorial limits at about 60,000ft (18,300m), but the these flights were stopped on the 14th December 1965 when an RB-57F was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over the Black Sea near Odessa.  The type also served with the USAF during the Vietnam War.

WT333 was built as a B(I)8 and delivered on the 23rd March 1956 to Marshall's of Cambridge for trials installation of the Smith's Mk.19 autopilot as well as power rudder stabiliser trials.  Shortly afterwards it was transferred to the Royal Aircraft Establishment's Armament Department for LABS (Low Altitude Bombing System) development and flight trials.  During 1959 saw WT333 being transferred to the Controller (Aircraft) and in 1958, at the Aircraft & Armament Experimental Establishment, WT333 took part in rocket firing trials with the Microcell unguided missile system.  In 1964 WT33 returned to Marshall's for a major overhaul before going to BAC Warton in 1965 to take part in flight trials involving drop tanks.  In the 1966 WT333 was sent to 12 Joint Services Trials Unit at Edinburgh Field (Australia) where WT333 undertook a series of weapons trials before returning to the Radar Research Establishment at Pershaw for "Sky Flash" missile homing head development in 1969.  From 1970 to 1976 WT333 was placed in storage at 27 MU RAF Shawbury, WT333 was then removed from store and modified into a "long nose" B.6 - the "nose" fitted came from Canberra WK135.  It was flown to RAE (Royal Aircraft Establishment) Bedford in 1977 and was sold into private hands on the 9th August 1994.

English Electric Canberra B.6/B.15 (WH984)  [@ City of Norwich Aviation Museum]

Built by Shorts as a B.6, the 100th Canberra to be built by them, and delivered on the 20th October 1955 to 49 MU for Special Fit work.  On the 14th September 1956 WH984 was issued to 9 Squadron at RAF Binbrook but within five months, on the 11th February 1957, WH984 was transferred to 32 MU for more Special Fit work before being returned to RAF Binbrook's Station Flight.  WH984 was then transferred on the 12th July 1957 to Marshalls of Cambridge for modifications and returned, once again, to 9 Squadron in January 1958.  The modification program continued, with WH984 being sent to BAe Salmesbury for a further series of modifications on 25th June 1959.   This work lasted around a month and was returned to 9 Squadron on 14th July 1959.  On the 18th April 1961 WH984 was transferred to Boscombe Down for conversion to B.15 standard and was then transferred to 32 Squadron Near East Air Force (NEAF) at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, on 7th March 1962 as a part of the  upgrade for the Squadron’s B.2s.  On 17th December 1963 WH984 was transferred to 103 MU (NEAF) before returning to 32 Squadron on the 21st January 1964.  Then on 11th June 1968 WH984 became part of the 32/73 Squadron Air Strike Wing, RAF Akrotiri.   WH984 was transferred to 1 Engineering Squadron, NEAF, on the 12th March 1969 and on the 11th August 1970 WH984 became a ground instructional airframe with 2 SoTT, RAF Cosford.  Eventually the cockpit was sent to RAF St Athan for storage and the airframe scrapped.  It was sold into private hands on the 30th November 2005.

Sidewinder air-to-air missile  Sea Dart missile

The RAF used the Canberra for flying bombing and reconnaissance missions from both Malta and Cyprus during the Suez Crisis and the only casualty was a PR.7 which was shot down on the 6th November 1956, the last day of war, by a Syrian Gloster Meteor.  During the Malayan Emergency, Canberras were used by the UK, New Zealand and Australia.  In Australia, the Government Aircraft Factory (GAF) built 48 for the RAAF, as the B.20 and T.21.  The B.20 was similar to the B.2, but with a modified leading edge and increased fuel capacity, while the T.21s were converted B.2s and B.20s.  The GAF Canberras from 2 Squadron (RAAF) served with distinction during the Vietnam War.  India was a major export customer, while refurbished Canberras were sold to Argentina (10 B.62 and 2 T.64 trainers in the early 1970s), Chile, Ecuador, France, Peru, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, South Africa, Sweden, Venezuela and West Germany.  Two Argentina Canberras were lost with one damaged in the 1982 Falklands war.  The first kill was due to a Sidewinder air-to-air missile [photograph - above left] strike fired from a Sea Harrier which was flown by Lt Curtiss of 801 NAS on the 1st May with the second kill on the 13th June which was due to a Sea Dart missile [photograph - above right] strike fired from HMS Cardiff, a Type 42 destroyer.  From 1st May to the 14th June the Argentina Canberras made 54 sorties, 36 of them bombing missions, of which 22 were at night against ground troops.

English Electric Canberra B.2/T.17 (WH646)

English Electric Canberra B.2/T.17/T17A (WH646)  [@ Midland Air Museum]

WH646 was delivered for RAF service to 50 Squadron at RAF Binbrook on the 7th October 1952 and later transferred to 10 Squadron, RAF Scampton, and then to 45 Squadron at RAF Conningsby.  From July 1958 to January 1962 WH646 was on loan to 75 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).  Based at Tengah, Singapore, the initial training was carried out in England and then WH646 was ferried out to New Zealand and used on anti-terrorist operations during the Malayan Emergency.  The Squadron strength totalled 9 aircraft which included various aircraft at different times from 1958 to 1962.  Before conversion to T.17/T.17A standards WH646 again served with 45 Squadron of the RAF and after conversion in 1967 WH646 completed its RAF career with 360 ECM Squadron at RAF Watton.

English Electric Canberra B.2/T.17 (WH863)

English Electric Canberra B.2/T.17 (WH863)  [@ Newark Air Museum]

The Canberra remained in front-line service with major air forces throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and continued to serve as bombers and reconnaissance aircraft with other air forces through the 1980s and 1990s.  It was built in 27 versions with a total worldwide production was 1,352 aircraft and once equipped no fewer than 35 RAF squadrons.  The PR.9 variant remained in RAF service with 39 (1 PRU) Squadron until 23rd June 2006, 57 years after its first flight (hence seeing service in Iraq and Afghanistan), for strategic reconnaissance and photographic mapping.  The last full-time military operator of the Canberra was the Indian Air Force who finally retired the type after 50 years of service on 11th May 2007; however, two remain in active service with NASA for high altitude research.  The aircraft perform scientific observations on weather, pollution and ozone layer depletion.  These aircraft entered USAF service in 1964 as WB-57Fs with the 58th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron prior to joining NASA in the early 1970s.

WH863 was built as a B.2 and delivered into RAF service on the 15th August 1953.  During 1957 WH863 was transferred to the Command Signals Establishment, in conjunction with the Institute of Aviation Medicine and Royal Aircraft Establishment, for investigative work into high altitude fires.  During 1963 WH863 was transferred to English Electric for Canberra Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) trials.  Before conversion to T.17 standard during 1966 WH863 spent time with the A&AEE and BAC.  WH863 was probably the first T.17 to be received by 360 Squadron [RN/RAF] just before Christmas 1966.  Formed from the joining of 831 Naval Air Squadron (Gannets) and 97 Squadron Royal Air Force (Canberra B.2s and T.4s) at RAF Watton on the 1st April 1966 the squadron, originally known as the Joint Electronic Warfare Trials and Training Force, was given its official designation of 360 Squadron on the 23rd September 1966.  Struck off charge in 1981 WH863 was sent to the Battle Damage Repair Flight, RAF Marham, and the airframe was cut-up in 1990.

English Electric Canberra B.2/T.11/T.19 (WH903)

English Electric Canberra B.2/T.11/T.19 (WH903)  [@ RAF Elvington]

Sky Flash guided missileAnother interesting development in the Canberra story was the Short SC.9.  A highly modified PR.9 (XH132) which never entered RAF service but spent 36 years of active service as an trials airframe.  Delivered directly into Ministry of Supply in 1960, XH132 was transferred to Shorts and was rebuilt as a specialised "Shorts SC.9" with the capability of carrying several different types of nose mounted equipment for missile homing head trails.  This included the fitting of an AI.23 radar and Infra-Red (IR) equipment in the nose.  XH132 also spent many years as a part of the Red Top guided missile trails programme with de Havilland at Hatfield and later with Hawker Siddeley Dynamics for a continuation of the trails before going on to the Radar Research Establishment at Pershore in 1972 for Sky Flash guided missile [photograph - right] homing head development.  Unfortunately XH132 was broken up at the Battle Damage Research Flight, RAF St Mawgan, in the late 1980s but the cockpit and the distinctive nose was saved. 

WH903 was delivered to 617 Squadron at RAF Binbrook on the 8th February 1954 as a B.2.  Later WH904 was transferred to 102 Squadron which was based at RAF Gutersloh.  In 1965 WH903 was sent to the Boulton Paul works at Seighford where it was converted to T.11 standard, it is probably at this time that its B.2 nose was "saved".  From Seighford WH903 joined 228 OCU before transferring to 85 Squadron, Target Facilities Squadron (TFS), at RAF West Raynham.  In 1966 WH903 was converted to T.19 standard and returned to 85 Squadron.  Sometime after 1970, WH903 was transferred to 7 Squadron at RAF St.  Mawgan, Cornwall.  On the 21st December 1977 WH903 was sent to RAF Marham for fire practice.  The rear fuselage was scrapped 1978 but fortunately the nose was saved.

English Electric Canberra PR.9 

English Electric Canberra PR.9  [@ RAF Waddington 02]

English Electric Canberra PR.9 

English Electric Canberra PR.9  [@ RAF Waddington 04]

39 (1 PRU) Squadron operated 5 Canberra PR.9s from RAF Marham until 31st July 2006 for tactical reconnaissance and photographic mapping.   The squadron first received the PR.9 in 1962, being equipped with 8 by December of that year.   As the only remaining Canberra squadron in RAF service, 39 Squadron conducted its own conversion training, for which it retained 2 T.4s dual-control training aircraft.   The aircraft's camera fit developed through a number of stages over its life.   A variety of daytime 'wet' cameras could be carried for medium and higher-level vertical and oblique photography and survey cameras could also be fitted.   An optional self-contained sensor, recording imagery in digital format on magnetic tape for exploitation at a ground station could also be carried.   In addition to the sensor platform updates, the PR.9 had a much enhanced navigation suite and defensive systems.   The aircraft have now been sold into private hands.

The Canberra also enjoyed success in the export market and a brief list is shown below.  

Mk.  52, 4 refurbished B.2s and sold to Ethiopia. 

Mk 56, 10 refurbished B(I)s, 6 sold to Peru. 

PR 57, 8 tropicalized PR.7s built for India.

B(I) 58, 71 tropicalized B(I)s, 8 for India. 

English Electric Canberra PR.9 (XH177)

English Electric Canberra PR.9 (XH177)  [@ Newark Air Museum]

CMk 62, 10 refurbished B.2s sold to Argentina. 

Mk 64, 2 refurbished T.4 trainers sold to Argentina. 

Mk.  66, 10 refurbished B(I).6 sold to India. 

Mk 67, 2 refurbished PR.7s sold to India. 

Mk 68, 1 refurbished B(I).8 sold to Peru. 

XH177 was first flown on the 18th November 1960 and delivered to 58 Squadron, RAF Wyton, on the 13th August 1960.  After a short period of time XH177 was transferred during late 1961 to 13 Squadron who were based at RAF Luqa, Malta.  In December 1965 XH177 was declared a Cat4R (due to cracks in the main spar) and this was upgraded to Cat5(c) in the following April.  This meaning that XH177 was no longer repairable or flyable, so XH177 was written off at RAF Luqa on the 5th August 1967.  Somehow the nose section found its way back to the UK and eventually into the safe hands of the museum where it will be undergoing restoration.