|Col Francis Gary Powers|
The answer to this was that the V Force would have to operate at low level and this caused a complete change in both training and operational flying. The pressure suits were no longer needed and the aircraft were painted in camouflage on the upper surfaces, retaining a white underside from the all over earlier white paint scheme.
|In camo whilst on detatchment to RAF Luqa, Malta|
This left the Vulcan and Victor to carry on the role of defending our country from nuclear strikes. The Vulcan was able to take the low level work as the airframe was much more 'solid' with a relatively thick wing and centre section, this although good for the aircraft was not good for the crew who became 'fatigued' rather than the aircraft! The Victor however was a different problem, it rode the buffet of low level work very well but flexed much more than the Vulcan, this helped the crew's comfort but damaged the aircraft heavily and one ex Victor captain known to us said he could quite clearly feel the aircraft 'twang and crack' and crack it did.
The cracking was monitored for the rest of the Victor's Mk2's service life as a bomber and as a Strategic Reconnaisance Platform until retirement from the bombing role in 1968 and reconnaisance in 1974.
Once it was decided to convert most of the Mk2 fleet to the tanker role a 'zero fatigue' life had to be achieved and this involved the manufacture of new 'club feet' as well as the other modifications required to effectively make the aircraft as new again.
Fatigue was always a concern particulary on a finite amount of K2 Tanker airframes (22) and they were treated as gently as possible. Despite this carrying a heavy amont of fuel was bound to stress the airframe and one memorable occasion related to us by several aircrew tells of the time the Victors had to operate from the USAF base at RAF Sculthorpe whilst RAF Marham's runway was being resurfaced. Apparently taxying around had to be kept as gently as possible due to the fact Sculthorpe was so 'bumpy' on its surfaces it was causing the aircraft's fatigue counters to clock up fatigue without even leaving the ground!
Despite gentle operating the dreaded fatigue began to build up and none more so than during the Falklands war of 1982. Heavy tasking of the fleet in the South Atlantic and constant returns to the UK until 1986 took their toll. So much in fact that it was decided to disband No57 Sqn that year as well as No232 OCU, highly fatigued aircraft were retired. All remaining aircraft with acceptable fatigue life were transferred to No55 Sqn, leaving them to see the Victor out of RAF service and this they did with an impecably proud record. The Gulf War of 1990/91 saw the Squadron carry out 299 tasked sorties with a 100% success rate, impressive by anyones standards. The Squadron remained in the Gulf Theatre until Sept 1993 returning to the UK that month for the NATO exercise 'Elder Joust', disbanding the following month.
The Victor K2 was designed with a finite fatigue life of 100 Fatigue Indices, with carefull monitoring and dedication this was extended in some airframes to 132 FI, XL231 'Lusty Lindy' was retired with a calculated 128 FI on the clock and she was never in any danger of falling part.