June 10, 2015
Here’s an interesting little piece I picked up off eBay a few years ago…
Its a weapons selector, supposedly from a Blackburn Buccaneer strike jet aircraft of the Royal Navy. What caught my eye and interest was the word “NUCLEAR”.
“The Blackburn Buccaneer originated in the early 1950s as a design for a carrier-borne attack aircraft able to carry a nuclear bomb below radar coverage. It was a British low-level subsonic strike aircraft that served with the Royal Navy (RN) and later the Royal Air Force (RAF), retiring from service in 1994.”
Though nuclear bombs were never dropped in anger or practice by any Buccaneer, I am pleased to have a piece of aircraft that had this capability, in my little militaria collection.
As you can see, there are several other “options” on the dial. I believe A/S stands for Anti-Shipping missile, A/A is for Anti-Aircraft missile, R/PS is for Rocket ProjectileS.
Under the Bombs section, we have B, A and OFF, then Nuclear. I guess the designers needed to put the OFF option in between the other bombs, just in case the pilot selected Nuclear by mistake!
The central knob is spring-loaded. I believe the pilot would use his thumb to press the knob and this index and middle fingers to give the counter-support and pull up the selector and rotate the dial to the desired weapon and release.
The above are my guesses. If you have better information on the correct references and selection procedure, I would be happy to be corrected.
Nuclear bomb payloads
My research showed that the Buccaneer carried two types of nuclear bombs during its service life:
Red Beard nuclear bomb
1. Red Beard was an unguided 2,000 lb (907 kg) fission bomb which had been developed for the English Electric Canberra jet bomber. Red Beard had an explosive yield in the 10 to 20 kiloton range; and was mounted on a special bomb bay door into which it nested neatly to reduce aerodynamic buffet on the launch aircraft.
WE.177 nuclear bomb
2. WE.177 was the designation of a range of tactical and strategic nuclear bombs used by the British Armed Forces. The Buccaneer carried all three variants of the WE.177 bomb – WE.177A was a boosted fission weapon, while WE.177B and WE.177C were thermonuclear weapons.