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Home > Vehicles> Aircraft > Bombers
Designed by Roy Chadwick, the Avro Lancaster had its roots in the Manchester which since its inception, was plagued by instability and problems with its complex Vulture engines. Even before the Manchester flew, Chadwick realized that it had serious problems and made plans for its modification. Adding 12ft to the wingspan and replacing the Vulture engines with the Merlin V-12`s, the resulting Lancaster made its maiden flight in January 1941.The system proved quite capable from the outset and was put into production the same year that the prototype had flown. Production went at such a dizzying pace that the aircraft production lines were outpacing the engine lines. As such the American company of Packard jumped in to pick up the production slack, developing the same Merlin engines for shipment back to England. As further insurance, the Bristol company was in line with its own Hercules VI and XVI engines capable of 1,735 horsepower.
During WWII the Lancaster was the most successful bomber in use by both the RAF and RCAF. It is regarded by many as the best bomber of either side in the Second World War.It had a speed, ceiling and lifting power that no other aircraft of the day could match. With a dry weight of 36,900lbs the Lancaster could take off with an additional 31,000lbs of fuel and armament.
The Bomb Bay was a continuous uninterrupted space which stretched for 33 feet. For this reason the Lanc was versatile enough to undertake raids with large specialized weapons but meant that the wing spar was an obstacle to crew movement. The "Grand Slam", a 22,000lb bomb designed tp penetrate concrete and explode beneath ground could only be delivered by a Lancaster, so large in fact that the bomb bay doors of Lancasters would be removed to accommodate the weapon. Grand Slam-carrying Lancasters would be put to good use against the Bielefeld Viaduct in 1945, causing a great amount of damage in the process, thus it was first choice for special operations as the sinking of the Turpitz and the Dambusters raid.
Crewed by seven personnel, the system was armed with no fewer than eight defensive machine guns, mounting two in the nose, two in a top turret and a further four in a quad assembly tail turret. A ventral turret assembly was proposed as an addition but was never implemented. The crew worked in cramped conditions, the air gunners having to stay at their posts the entire journey, anything up to 10hrs. At night, the air temperature at 20,000ft frequently fell to -40 with frostbite not uncommon.
In its wake, the Lancaster outshone all of its heavy bomber contemporaries including the well-received Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses and Consolidated B-24 Liberators, and would be a considerable reason that the Allies were able to supply such good results in their daytime / night-time bombing raids over the German-held territories.
In total, 7377 were built of which 3932 were lost in action. During the war they flew 156,308 sorties and dropped 608,612 tons in bombs and over 12,000 mines in enemy waters.
Some of the aircrafts finest hours were in non-offensive roles, the first being "Operation Manna", flying a total of 3,156 sorties to drop 6,684 tons of food to the starving Dutch in May 1945. The second saw many squadrons tasked to return Allied POW`s from various locations in Europe back to England. In total, 74,000 ex-POW`s were returned over 24 days, a total of 2900 trips.
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