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Avro Lancaster

British heavy bomber in action during World War II

Avro Lancaster Mk I heavy bomber of British RAF

Avro Lancaster
Type: British heavy bomber.
History: Undoubtedly one of the major import planes of World War II, and one of the greatest aircraft of history, the Avro Lancaster came about because of the failure of its predecessor.
In September 1936 the Air Staff issued specification P13/36 for a twin-engined bomber of exceptional size and capability to be powered by two of the very powerful engines then under development: the Rolls- Royce Vulture 24-cylinder X engine was preferred.

Avro Lancaster bomber dropping incendiaries Window
Lancaster bomber in action: incendiaries cascade from one of the highly secret Lancaster Mk I of No 101 Sqn, from Ludford Magna, with Airborne Cigar electronic jamming equipment.

Handley Page switched to four Merlins with the Halifax bomber, but Avro adhered to the big-twin formula and the first Type 679 Avro Manchester flew on 25 July 1939. Altogether 209 Manchesters were delivered by November 1941, but the type was plagued by the poor performance and unreliability of its engine. Though it equipped eight Bomber Command squadrons, and parts of two others plus a flight in Coastal Command, the Manchester was withdrawn from service in June 1942 and survivors were scrapped.
Nevertheless the basic Manchester was clearly outstandingly good, and in 1940 the decision was taken to build a longer-span version with four Merlin engines.

The first Lancaster (BT 308) flew as the Manchester III at the beginning of 1941. So outstanding was its performance that it went into immediate large-scale production, and Manchesters already on the line from L7527 onwards were completed as Lancasters (distinguished from later aircraft by their row of rectangular windows in the rear fuselage).

Deliveries began in early 1942 to 44 Sqn at Waddington, and on 17 April 1942 a mixed force of 44 and 97 Sqns made a rather foolhardy daylight raid against the MAN plant at Augsburg, whereupon the new bomber's existence was revealed.
From then until the end of World War II Lancasters made 156,000 sorties in Europe and dropped 608,612 long tons of bombs.
Total production, including 430 in Canada by Victory Aircraft, was 7,377. Of these 3.425 were Mk I and 3,039 the Mk III with US Packard-built engines.

The Mk I (FE) was equipped for Far East operations with Tiger Force.
The Mk VI had high-altitude Merlin engines and four-blade propellers and with turrets removed served 635 Sqn and 100 Grp as a countermeasure and radar spoof carrier.
Other marks served as photo-reconnaissance and maritime reconnaissance and air/sea rescue aircraft.

Lancaster on tactical duty
Lancasters were also used for tactical duties. This aircraft from No 576 Sqn was lost on 24 September 1944 during an attack on Calais.

Lancasters took part in every major night attack on Germany. They soon showed their superiority by dropping 132 long tons of bombs for each aircraft lost compared with 56 (later 86) for the Halifax and 41 for the Stirling.
Around Caen, Lancasters were used en masse in the battlefield close-support role, and they finished the war dropping supplies to starving Europeans and ferrying home former prisoners of war.
The last MR7 leaving RAF front-line service in February 1954.

Users: RAF (British, Canadian and Polish squadrons), Canada, New Zealand.

Avro Lancaster dropping bombs in daylight
Late-war Lancaster bombers in action over a cloud-covered target in daylight, after spring 1944.

Peenemunde German rocket research center reconaissance picture
Two photo-reconaissance pictures of Peenemunde, the German rocket development research center, taken before (above) and after (down) the 17/18 August 1943 attack, which was done by RAF Lancasters, clearly show how effective this raid was.

German rocket research center Peenemunde after RAF raid

Colour photography from Lancaster formation
A rare Britsh colour photography from World War II. This splendid picture was taken from beside the pilot of a Lancaster of 50 Sqn at Swinderby, August 1942.

Technical data and statistics :
Avro 683 Lancaster Mk I
heavy bomber
Power plant

four Rolls-Royce Merlin 20 engines, each with 1,460 hp

Wing span
102 ft 0 in
Length overall
64 ft 9 in
Height overall
19 ft 7 in
Weight empty
36,900 lb
Weight loaded
68,000 lb
Maximum speed
287 mph
at 11,500 ft
Cruising speed
210 mph
Climb time to 20,000 ft
41 minutes
(with maximum weight)
Service ceiling
24,500 ft
1,660 miles
(with 14,000lb bombs), 2,685 miles

eight 0.303in Browning in power turrets in nose (2), mid-upper (2) and tail (4)

bomb bay for normal load of 14,000 lb bombs
Price per unit
40,000 £
= 190,000 $
First flight
9 January 1941
Service delivery
September 1941
First combat mission
17 April 1942
Final delivery
2 February 1946
Withdrawal from service
February 1954
Total production figure

Total: 7,366
(of these 3,425 Mk I and 3,039 Mk III)

Operations in WW2
(148,403 as bomber)
(40.76 ops per loss)
Bomb tonnage on targets
608,612 t
(4.1 tons per bomber op)

3d model Avro Lancaster
3d model Avro Lancaster

Frankfurt destroyed after RAF attack from September 1944
This is the aftermath picture from a Lancaster raid on Frankfurt (railway aerial) on 12/13 September 1944. This raid was destinated to be the city's last major attack of the war.

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