Avro Lincoln B.2 (RF398)

Avro Lincoln B.2 (RF398)  [@ RAF Cosford]

Designed by Roy Chadwick to be the Lancaster's replacement, the prototype flew for the first time on 9th June 1944, and deliveries to the RAF began in the spring of 1945.  Built to the Air Ministry Specification B.14/43, it was the last piston-engined bomber in RAF service.  The Lincoln had a higher operational ceiling and a longer range than Chadwick’s Lancaster.  The Avro Shackleton maritime patrol aircraft was derived from the Avro Lincoln, as was the Tudor airliner, which used the wings of the Lincoln with a new pressurised fuselage.  In fact the only RAF aircraft ever to have been shot down by the Soviet air force was a Lincoln on a training flight (RF531 "C" of the Central Gunnery School), which was brought down by MIG 15s in the Berlin air corridor on the 12th March 1953 resulting in the deaths of the seven crew on board.  Eventually 604 Lincolns were built, the majority to equip the 29 RAF squadrons that eventually operated them.

Initially identified as the Lancaster B.IV and B.V but were quickly renamed Lincoln B.I and B.II respectively.  The B.1 was powered by four Rolls Royce two-stage Merlin 85s inboard and later, Merlin 68s, on the outboard mounts, while the B.II was powered by four Rolls Royce Merlin 66 or 68A or 300.  Both variants were built by Avro, Armstrong-Whitworth and Vickers-Metropolitan.  The Lincoln became operational too late to see active service in WW2 although plans had been prepared to send several squadrons to the Far East as part of "Tiger Force" for operations against Japan.  75 Squadron began re-equipping with the type at RAF Spilsby, Lincolnshire, during August and September 1945.  However, the Lincoln did see active service during the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya and the Malayan Emergency of the 1950's.

The Lincoln B.III was intended to be a maritime reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare aircraft.  This variant later became the Avro Shackleton.  When the B.II was converted to Merlin 85s power-plants the variant was re-designated as the Lincoln IV.  One Lincoln was completed in Canada by Victory Aircraft and designated the Lincoln B.15.

The Lincoln was retiring from front line service with the RAF Bomber Command by the end of 1955, having been totally replaced by the Canberra bomber by 1963.  The last Lincolns in RAF service were five operated by 151 Squadron (formally the Central Signals Establishment (CSE) Development Squadron), Signals Command, at RAF Watton, Norfolk, which were finally retired on the 12th March 1963.  They were also partially replaced by 88 Boeing Washingtons B.1s (B.29 Superfortress), on loan from the USAF, which had a longer range and could reach targets inside the Iron Curtain.  The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) operated the type as the Lincoln B.30 and B.30A (fitted with a longer nose); five aircraft being assembled from UK built components and an additional 54 were built under licence in Australia between 1946 and 1949.  In 1952 eighteen Lincolns were remanufactured by the RAAF for use in anti-submarine warfare.  A longer nose was fitted to house acoustic submarine detection gear and its operator, together with larger fuel tanks to give 13 hours endurance and a modified bomb bay to accept torpedoes.  This variant was classified as the Lincoln B.31.  The final RAAF Lincolns were retired from service in1961.

Built by Armstrong Whitworth as one of 200 Lancaster B.IVs, RF383 was first flown on the 11th September 1945 and was then placed into storage with 46 MU at RAF Lossiemouth.  Subjected to a variety of modifications and periods of storage RF398 finally reached on the 27th November 1957, nearly two years after the withdrawal of the last front-line RAF Lincolns, an RAF flying unit, the Bomber Command Bombing School (BCBS) at Lindholme, Lincolnshire.  Now equipped with Mk.IVA H2S radar and re-designated as a B.2, RF398 carried the unit’s distinctive Royal Blue spinners as one of 14 Lincolns with ‘B’ Squadron of the BCBS.  Having participated in the September 1960 Battle of Britain Display at RAF Gaydon RF398 was transferred to 23 MU RAF Aldergrove, Northern Ireland, on the 4th October 1960.  BCBS retired its last Lincoln, WD143, the last in Bomber Command two days later.  On the 27th July 1961 RF398 was transferred to the Central Signals Establishment (CSE) Development Squadron (renamed 151 Squadron) at RAF Watton, Norfolk.  The CSE was engaged in electronic warfare and countermeasures training, including electronic/radio listening, detection and jamming devices.  RF398 flew with four other Lincolns as well as English Electric Canberras, Handley Page Hastings and Vickers Varsities.  On the 31st March 1963 the Lincoln flight was finally disbanded and RF398 was taken on the penultimate RAF Lincoln flight on the 30th April 1963 when it was flown to RAF Henlow and placed into storage.  Struck off Charge upon arrival RF398 had completed a total of 1043.05 flying hours, 291.05 of these with the CSE.  RF398 was displayed at RAF Abingdon for the RAF's 50th Anniversary Royal Review in June 1968 and later in the year RF398 arrived at RAF Cosford museum.  (ps this Lincoln is reputed to be haunted!)

The last air arm to operate the type as a bomber was the Argentine Air Force, which received 12 Lincolns (including 12 Lancasters) and used them between 1947 and 1967.  The aircraft were used in bombing missions against rebels during the attempted military coup in September 1951 and by both the government and rebel forces during the 1955 Revolución Libertadora coup that deposed Juan Perón.  Lincolns were also used to drop supplies in support of Argentinean operations in the Antarctic. 

Two Lincoln B.IIs were operated by D. Napier & Son Ltd. for icing research from 1948 to 1962.  A transport conversion of the Lincoln B.II, using the streamlined nose and tail cones of the Lancastrian and a ventral cargo pannier, was known as the Avro 695 Lincolnian.  One Lincoln Freighter converted by Airflight Ltd was used on the Berlin Air Lift by Surrey Flying Services Ltd.  In addition, one Argentine example was converted to a Lincolnian by Avro at Langar, Nottinghamshire. 

Lincolns were frequently employed in the vital role of testbeds for jet engine research.

RF403, RE339/G and SX972 flew with a pair of Armstrong Siddeley Python turboprops outboard in place of the Merlins and were used for the ballistic casing drop-test programme for the Blue Danube atomic weapon.

SX972 was further modified to fly with a pair of Bristol Proteus turboprops.

RA716/G flew with a pair of Bristol Theseus turboprops and was later replaced with Rolls Royce Avon turbojets.

RF533 kept its Merlins but had a Napier Naiad turboprop in the nose which was later replaced by a Rolls Royce Tyne engine. 

SX973 had a Napier Nomad turboprop installed in a similar nose-mounted installation. 

RA643 flew with a Bristol Phoebus turbojet in the bomb bay.

SX971 had an afterburning Rolls Royce Derwent mounted ventrally.