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Photograph by Craig Bulman
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Avro Vulcan B2s XL392 and XM574 of No 617 Squadron on a dispersal exercise to RAF Leeming in October 1979. Though the aircraft may seem outwardly identical, there are differences of note. Although the camouflage schemes are very similar, no two aircraft are actually the same and given a big enough database of images and mofification states, it is usally possible to identify individual aircraft even if a serial number is not visible. What is obvious when pointed out is the difference between the engine exhausts. 392's are longer and narrower which identify it as having 200-series engines - in this case 202s. 574's exhausts are shorter and wider and indentify it as having Olympus 301 engines. 574 was the first B2 Blue Steel to be delivered with 301 engines and followed the last 200-series aircraft, XM573, also built for Blue Steel, off the Woodford line. It had been originally proposed to re-engine all 200-series aircraft but the first 10 B2s were swiftly excluded because their narrower intakes made the task too expensive. Two aircraft had been re-engined for flight trails followed by seven during retrofit but the change to low-level operations, disappointing fuel consuption figures for the 301 (its FSC was 1.5% greater), cancelled the re-engining programme.

© Craig Bulman.

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