Avro Lancaster

british-flagBritish heavy Lancaster Mk I bomber and Mk II and Special, the heaviest bombers in the European theatre of war, in action during WW2.
History, development, service, specifications, pictures and 3D model.

Splendid picture taken from beside the pilot of a Lancaster

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.

Avro Lancaster
Type: British heavy bomber.


Unquestionably one of the leading significance aircrafts of WW2, as well as one of the finest planes of aviation history, the Avro Lancaster came to exist as a result of fiasco of its forerunner.
In September 1936 the Air Staff released requirements P13/36 for a twin-engined bomber of outstanding dimensions as well as capability to be run by a pair of the very strong power plants at this time under construction: the Rolls-Royce Vulture 24-cylinder X powerplant had been favored.

Handley Page swapped to 4 Merlin engines for the Halifax bomber, nevertheless Avro followed the big-twin blueprint and the initial Type 679 Avro Manchester flew on July 25, 1939. Totally 209 Manchesters were produced by November 1941, however the aircraft had been suffering from the unreliability and inadequate performance of the powerplants. Although it was supplied to 8 Bomber Command squadrons, as well as elements of 2 others along with a flight in Coastal Command, the Manchester had been removed from operation in June 1942 and survivors had been scrapped.
However the general Manchester had been definitely remarkably great, and in 1940 the choice had been taken up to develop a longer-span model with 4 Merlin power plants.

The initial Lancaster (BT 308) flew as the Manchester III at the start of 1941. So excellent was its capabilities that it entered instant large-scale manufacturing, and Manchesters currently on the line from L7527 onwards had been finished as Lancasters (recognized from afterwards planes by their row of rectangular windows inside rear fuselage).

Operations started at the beginning of 1942 by 44 Sqn at Waddington, and on 17 April 1942 a combined force of 44 and 97 Squadrons launched a somewhat foolhardy daylight raid against the MAN plant at Augsburg, whereupon the fresh bomber’s presence had been discovered.
From this day until the end of WW2 Lancasters fly 156,000 sorties in Europe as well as dropped 608,612 long tons of bombs.
Overall manufacturing, together with 430 built in Canada by Victory Aircraft, had been 7,377 Lancasters. Of these 3.425 had been Mk I and 3,039 the Mk III using US Packard-built power plants.

Performance of the Lancaster

Bomber Harris himself summarised about the Avro Lancaster: ‘One Lancaster is to be preferred to four Halifaxes. The Hailfax suffers about four times the casualties for a given bomb tonnage. Low ceiling and short range make it an embarrassment when planning attacks with Lancasters.’

In fact, the Lancaster actually suffered a higher loss rate than the Halifax during the daylight raids which predominated at the end of WW2, and its crews were more likely to die if their aircraft was shot down. Many also suspect that the Lancaster crews, bombing from higher altitude in greater discomfort, may have been less accurate in delivering their bombs. Finally, although it carried a heavier bomb load, the Lancaster was a less useful multi-role aeroplane than the capacious Halifax, and was less well-suited for tropical operations.

But in Arthur Harris strategic bombing campaign live aircrew in enemy PoW camps were no more useful than the dead, and getting bombs ‘bang-on’ a pinpoint target was of less concern than saturating what were usually ‘area targets’.

The fact that the average Lancaster delivered 154 tons of bombs in its 27.2 sortie life, and could reach beyond Berlin, made it more useful than a shorter-range Halifax averaging only 100 tons.

With these advantages being enjoyed by an aircraft which was also cheaper to produce, it was inevitable that the Lancaster would be built in larger numbers than any other bomber, and would bear the brunt of the bombing campaign. They were despatched on 156,192 operational sorties during WW2, and some 3,836 were lost. These sorties included 107,085 on raids against Germany (23,204 of them by day) during which 2,508 Lancasters were lost (179 by day), representing nearly half of the Bomber Command total.

The Lancaster’s narrow focus and suitability for the pure bomber role was largely the result of its wartime genesis. The Halifax and Stirling had been designed in peacetime for the anticipated needs of war, whereas the Lancaster was designed in the light of real operational experience. Multi-role capability was not needed, whereas ease and economy of production was more important than crew comfort and survival.

The Lancaster Mk I (FE) had been outfitted for Far East missions with Tiger Force.
The Mk VI had high-altitude Merlin power plants and four-blade propellers along with turrets eliminated operated with 635 Squadron and 100 Group being a radar spoof carrier for countermeasures.
Additional models operated as maritime reconnaissance, air/sea rescue or photo-reconnaissance aircrafts.

Lancasters were involved in virtually every significant night strike on German cities. They quickly confirmed their efficiency by dropping 132 long tons of bombs for each plane lost in comparison with 56 (later 86) for the Handley Page Halifax and 41 for the Short Stirling.
Near Caen in Normandy, Lancasters were operated en mass in the battlefield close-support role, and they ended WW2 dropping supplies to starving People and transporting back ex- PoWs.
The final Lancaster MR7 abandoning RAF front-line operation in February 1954.

Animated 3D model of Avro Lancaster Mk I

Lancaster Bomber Special and Mk II

bomb-up a Lancaster with a 12,000 lb Tallboy bomb

Ground crew bomb-up a Lancaster with a 12,000 lb Tallboy bomb. The bombs on the side of the aircraft indicate missions flown.

An order of only 300 Lancaster bomber had been made as Mk IIs using the stronger Bristol Hercules radial power plants along with bulged bomb bays as well as a ventral turret.

The Avro Lancaster Mk II and Mk I Special had been outfitted to transport the 12,000 lb light-case bomb as well as the 12,000 lb or the 22,000 llb Earthquake bombs, the H2S radar blister beneath the rear fuselage being eliminated.

The planes of 617 (Dambusters) Squadron had been outfitted to spin and launch the Wallis skipping drum bomb.

These aircrafts transported a heavier load of larger bombs compared to every other plane in the European theatre. The 12,000 lb AP bomb was required to destroy the battleship Tirpitz, and the 22,000 lb bomb ultimately shook down the persistent viaduct at Bielefeld in March 1945.

Users: RAF (British, Canadian and Polish squadrons), Canada, New Zealand (for all variants)

3D Model Lancaster Bomber Mk II

Specifications for Avro 683 Lancaster Mk I and Mk II

Specification Mk I Mk II
Type heavy strategic night bomber
Power plantfour Rolls-Royce Merlin 20 engines, each with 1,460 hpfour Bristol Hercules VI 14-cylinder two-row, sleeve-valve radials engines, each with 1,650 hp
Accommodation 7 8
Wing span102 ft 0 in (31.10 m)
Length overall64 ft 9 in (21.10 m)
Height overall19 ft 7 in (5.97 m)
Weight empty36,900 lb (16.705 kg)
Weight loaded68,000 lb (30.800 kg)
Maximum speed287 mph at 11,500 ft
Cruising speed210 mph at 11,500 ft(462 km/hr at 3,500 m)
Climb time41 minutes (with maximum weight) to 20,000 ft (6,095 m)
Service ceiling24,500 ft (7,467 m)
Range1,660 miles with 14,000 lb bombs (2,675 km with 6,350 kg bombs); maximum 2,685 miles (4,320 km)
Specification Mk I Mk II
Power turrets2 with each 2 x 0.303in Browning (nose, mid-upper)3 with each 2 x 0.303in Browning (nose, mid-upper, vertal)
Tail turret1 with 4 x 0.303in Browning
MGs total8 10
Bomb loadbomb bay for normal load of 14,000 lb (6,350 kg) bombsmaximum bomb load of 22,000 lb (9,979 kg) bombs
Service statistics
Avro 683 Lancaster data
First flight 9 January 1941
Service delivery September 1941 (Mk II not later than October 1942)
First combat mission 17 April 1942
Final delivery 2 February 1946
Withdrawal from service February 1954
Total production figureTotal: 7,366 (of these 300 Mk II, 3,425 Mk I and 3,039 Mk III)
Price per unit£ 40,000 = c.$ 190,000
Operations in WW2156,192 (148,403 as bomber)
Losses3,832 (40.76 ops per loss)
Bomb tonnage on targets608,612 t (4.1 tons per bomber op)

Bomber Commands Order of Battle, April 1945

By April 1945, Bomber Command’s frontline strength was almost entirely dominated by the Avro Lancaster, with three groups fully equipped and another converting.

Bomber Command Order of Battle April 1945
Group Base Squadron Type
No 1 Group (HQ Bawtry) Binbrook No 460 Sqn Lancaster
Elsham Wolds No 100 Sqn Lancaster
Elsham Wolds No 103 Sqn Lancaster
Elsham Wolds No 576 Sqn Lancaster
Faldingworth No 300 Sqn Lancaster
Hemswell No 170 Sqn Lancaster
Kelstern No 625 Sqn Lancaster
Kirmington No 166 Sqn Lancaster
Ludford Magna No 101 Sqn Lancaster
North Killingholme No 550 Sqn Lancaster
Scampton No 153 Sqn Lancaster
Wickenby No 12 Sqn Lancaster
Wickenby No 626 Sqn Lancaster
No 2 Group (HQ Huntingdon (transferred to 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force)
No 3 Group (HQ Exning) Chedburgh No 218 Sqn Lancaster
East Wretham No 115 Sqn Lancaster
Mepal No 75 (NZ) Sqn Lancaster
Methwold No 149 Sqn Lancaster
Midenhall No XV Sqn Lancaster
Middenhall No 622 Sqn Lancaster
Stradishall No 186 Sqn Lancaster
Tuddenham No 90 Sqn Lancaster
Tuddenham No 138 Sqn Lancaster
Waterbeach No 514 Sqn Lancaster
Witchford No 115 Sqn Lancaster
Wratting Common No 195 Sqn Lancaster
No 4 Group (HQ York) (total 11 squadrons) still fully Halifax equipped
No 5 Group (HQ Grantham) Balderton No 277 Sqn Lancaster
Bardney No IX Sqn Lancaster
Coningsby No 83 Sqn Lancaster
Coningsby No 97 Sqn Lancaster
East Kirkby No 57 Sqn Lancaster
East Kirkby No 630 Sqn Lancaster
Fulbeck No 189 Sqn Lancaster
Metheringham No 106 Sqn Lancaster
Scampton No 57 Sqn Lancaster
Skellingthorpe No 50 Sqn Lancaster
Skellingthorpe No 61 Sqn Lancaster
Spilsby No 44 Sqn Lancaster
Spilsby No 207 Sqn Lancaster
Syerston No 49 Sqn Lancaster
Waddington No 463 Sqn Lancaster
Waddington No 467 Sqn Lancaster
Woodhall Spa No 617 Sqn Lancaster
No 6 (RCAF) Group (HQ Alierton Park, Knaresborough) Croft No 431 Sqn Lancaster
Croft No 434 Sqn Lancaster
East Moor No 432 Sqn Halifax
Leeming No 427 Sqn Lancaster
Leeming No 429 Sqn Lancaster
Linton-on-Ouse No 408 Sqn Lancaster
Linton-on-Ouse No 426 Sqn Halifax
Middleton St George No 419 Sqn Lancaster
Middleton St George No 428 Sqn Lancaster
Skipton-on-Swale No 424 Sqn Lancaster
Skipton-on-Swale No 433 Sqn Lancaster
Tholthorpe No 420 Sqn (converting to Lancaster)
Tholthorpe No 425 Sqn (converting to Lancaster)
No 8 (Pathfinder) Group (HQ Eyton) (partially equipped with DH Mosquitos)
Downham Market No 635 Sqn Lancaster
Gransden Lodge No 405 Sqn Lancaster
Graveley No 35 Sqn Lancaster
Little Staughton No 582 Sqn Lancaster
Oakington No 7 Sqn Lancaster
Upwood No 156 Sqn Lancaster

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