The Peter Middlebrook Collection Volume 1 — Vulcan B1As in the UK & Exercise Micky Finn
As the V-bombers came into service in the late 1950s, the increasing threat of Soviet fighters and missiles had to be addressed. The concept that a high-flying bomber could penetrate an enemy's airspace without opposition was no longer valid. Some consideration had been given to rebuilding Vulcan B1s as B2s as the latter was certainly a more-capable aircraft. However, the cost was far too expensive. Avros suggested a scheme where the B1 fleet could be armed with Blue Steel with ECM equipment fitted into the bomb-bay. Eventually a compromise was reached to fit the B1s with the ECM equipment being developed for the B2. The flying testbed for the ECM equipment was the RAF's oldest B1 XA895 which is often quoted as being converted to the B1A standard. Apart from the lack of an in-flight refuelling probe, 895 with its bulged tail cone looked like a B1A but it retained Olympus 101 engines - the B1As had 104s as standard - and other modifications were not incorporated.
The 16th B1 XA904 was the first destined for an RAF Squadron and was fitted from new with Olympus 102 engines. With modification, the 102 was redesignated the 104 and the aircraft from 904 onwards, apart from 908 that had crashed in the USA, were modified to the B1A standard.
The Vulcan B1A reentered service with the Vulcan B1 squadrons (83 at Waddington, 101 at Finningley & 617 at Scampton) from 1959 to 1963. By 1962, all B1/B1A squadrons had been located at Waddington (now numbered 44[Rhodesia], 50 and 101). When returned to service, the B1As were finished in anti-flash white with pale national markings. In 1963 the aircraft were pooled for centralised servicing and shortly after were camouflaged for the new low-level role. They were phased out of service between 1966 and 1968 and replaced by B2s.
Peter Middlebrook remembers:
"Exercise Micky Finn was the annual Bomber Command V-Force dispersal exercise. ORPs (Operational Readiness Platforms), had been built at the end of runways all over the UK. Many were on military bases, but some were civilian airfields owned by the Ministry of Aviation.
"The theory was that if you spread the fleet in small numbers on ORPs across the nation, if we ever went to World War 3, the whole force could be off the ground in a very short time. It also made targeting more difficult for the enemy. It was a very good idea, which worked well in practice.
"The first thing I knew about a Micky Finn being called, was my front door being hammered on by Jim Butchard our AEO, usually at 3 am. I think we all kept a bag packed, and a motley selection of aircrew soon assembled on the squadrons.
"The aircraft were then put through a set routine to ensure they were operational, and as they became available, crews were allocated, checked out their aircraft and then flew them directly to their dispersal.
"The poor menders, had to put back together any aircraft they had carefully taken to pieces the week before, and stations and squadrons were scored on the number of crews and aircraft they could get away, and the time involved.
"The next two days were spent reacting to all manner of alerts. Usually, on the forth day, the whole force was scrambled. If you were unlucky, the hooter went just as you were carrying your breakfast to the table in the makeshift mess close to the aircraft."