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Avro Vulcan B1 XA903 Blue Steel development testbed. Blue Steel was designed by Avros and used by Mark 2 Victors and Vulcans. What is less well known is that there was an Avro proposal to fit Mark 1 Vulcans with the missile (inset). As well as an in-flight refuelling capability, the proposal included additional fuel and ECM equipment carried in the bomb-bay. Because of a troublesome spar, the missile would have to have been less-recessed than on the Mark 2 Vulcan. Though this proposal was not taken up, the basic arrangement was used by Vulcan B1 XA903 for early Blue Steel aerodynamic trials in 1959-60 at both Aberporth in Wales and Woomera in Australia. Though a production B1, first flying in 1957, 903 never entered RAF service. After the Blue Steel trials, 903 was used as a flying testbed for Olympus 593 and RB199 engines and achieved the distinction of being the last B1 to fly.

Paul O'Gorman collection. © BAE Systems. Thanks to Ian Lowe, Woodford.

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