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Buccaneer Blackburn
Tactical Attack Bomber

Though originally criticized and unappreciated by its users, the Buccaneer eventually emerged as one of the best designed and most capable low-level attack aircraft of the Cold War. While most aircraft of the period stressed supersonic, high altitude flight, the Buccaneer was designed to a Royal Navy requirement for a bomber to fly subsonic, under-the-radar missions to penetrate enemy airspace without detection. In meeting these needs, the design team produced an aircraft with an advanced boundary layer control system for improved maximum lift, an area-rule shaped fuselage for reduced drag, and a large internal fuel capacity coupled with fuel efficient engines for superb range. The Buccaneer was also fitted with an internal bomb bay for up to four 1,000 lb bombs, thereby maintaining a clean exterior and allowing the aircraft to cruise at higher speeds and with lower fuel consumption than the Mirage III or F-4. Other advanced features incorporated in the design included splitting the rear fuselage in half to act as airbrakes, a rotating bomb bay door to reduce drag when dropping ordnance, powered controls, and very compact dimensions when wings and tailcone were folded. These features made the Buccaneer exceptionally well-suited to its primary roll as a carrier-based bomber on Britain's large aircraft carriers of the day.

Early examples proved to be underpowered, but this problem was corrected in the definitive Buccaneer S.2, fitted with powerful Rolls Royce Spey engines. Once the Royal Navy's large carriers began to be retired during the 1970s, these S.2 examples were progressively transferred to shore bases or to the Royal Air Force. Upgrades continued throughout the 1980s, most notably the ability to carry advanced missiles and laser-guided bombs. These improvements allowed the Buccaneer become one of the most popular aircraft in British service. Time eventually caught up with the Buccaneer, however, and all were retired from British service by 1994 and replaced by the Tornado IDS.

Several other countries also considered purchasing the Buccaneer, including the US and West Germany, but South Africa became the only export customer. The S.50 variant delivered to South Africa served from 1965 until 1991 and saw extensive action in regional conflicts against Angola, Namibia, and SWAPO guerrilla camps.

Data below for Buccaneer S.2B
Last modified 17 March 2012

First Flight (S.1) 30 April 1958 [prototype]
(S.1) 23 January 1962 [production]
(S.2) 5 June 1964
(S.2B) 8 January 1970
Service Entry

17 July 1962

CREW: two: pilot, weapons officer



Wing Root unknown
Wing Tip


Length 63.42 ft (19.33 m)
Wingspan 44.00 ft (13.41 m)
Height 16.25 ft (4.95 m)
Wing Area 514.7 ft (47.83 m)
Canard Area

not applicable

Empty 30,000 lb (13,610 kg)
Normal Takeoff 46,000 lb (20,865 kg)
Max Takeoff 62,000 lb (28,125 kg)
Fuel Capacity internal: 3,020 gal (13,730 L)
external: unknown
Max Payload

16,000 lb (7,260 kg)

Powerplant two Rolls Royce RB.168 Spey Mk 101 turbofans
Thrust 22,510 lb (100.1 kN)

Max Level Speed at altitude: unknown
at sea level: 645 mph (1,040 km/h), Mach 0.85
Initial Climb Rate unknown
Service Ceiling 40,000 ft (12,190 m)
Range typical: 2,000 nm (3,700 km)
ferry: unknown
g-Limits unknown

Gun none
Stations one internal bomb bay and four external hardpoints
Air-to-Air Missile AIM-9 Sidewinder
Air-to-Surface Missile AGM-12 Bullpup, AJ.168 Martel, AS.30, Sea Eagle
Bomb GBU-8/GBU-16 1,000 lb LGB, BL.755 cluster
Other 50.8 mm Matra rocket pods, 155 mm Matra rockets, reconnaissance pack

S.1 Original production version powered by de Havilland Gyron Junior DGJ-101 turbojets; 40 built
S.2 New model equipped with more fuel-efficient Rolls Royce engines and in-flight refueling capabilty for much improved range; 84 built
S.50 South African model similar to S.2 but also fitted with 8,000 lb (3,630 kg) thrust Bristol Siddeley BS.605 rocket motor in the aft fuselage for operations from hot and high altitude airfields; 16 built
S.2A S.2 airframes transferred to Royal Air Force and modified with new avionics; 70 converted
S.2B New build and modified S.2A airframes equipped with bulged bomb bay for an extra fuel tank and able to carry Martel TV-guided anti-radar missiles; 43 built and 70 converted
S.2C Remaining Royal Navy S.2 aircraft updated to S.2B standard but without ability to carry Martel missiles
S.2D Royal Navy S.2 aircraft updated to full S.2B standard


Angola border disputes (South Africa, 1978-1988)
Namibia border disputes (South Africa, 1980s)
Iraq - Operation Desert Storm (UK, 1991)


South Africa, Suid-Afrikaanse Lugmag (South African Air Force)
United Kingdom (Royal Air Force)
United Kingdom (Royal Navy)



  • Bishop, Chris, ed. The Encyclopedia of Modern Military Weapons: The Comprehensive Guide to Over 1,000 Weapon Systems from 1945 to the Present Day. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1999, p. 266, Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer.
  • Donald, David, ed. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1997, p. 132-133, Blackburn B-103 Buccaneer.
  • Buccaneer FAQ
  • Gunston, Bill and Spick, Mike. Modern Air Combat: The Aircraft, Tactics and Weapons Employed in Aerial Combat Today. NY: Crescent Books, 1983, p. 82-83, British Aerospace Buccaneer.
  • Paul Nann's Military Aviation Photo Gallery
  • Winchester, Jim. Military Aircraft of the Cold War. San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay Press, 2006, p. 30-31, Blackburn Buccaneer.

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