A new project: Buccaneer -- Obsessively long backstory!

Started by rallymodeller, April 11, 2009, 10:05:06 PM

Previous topic - Next topic


So I picked up an Airfix Bucc in 48th.

And decided to do this with it:

Build pics (fuselage is together but no filler yet) and backstory to come.

Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part...

More into Flight Sim reskinning these days, but still what-iffing... Leading Edge 3D


Looking forward to it!


All hail the God of Frustration!!!


It looks rather tasty in those colours   :thumbsup:
If I'm not building models, I'm out riding my dirtbike


A Pirate's Life: Canadian Buccaneers

In the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, it was realized by the Canadian government that increased striking power was needed in the Western North Atlantic. The ships carrying the missiles in question passed straight through the Canadian area of operations but there was little that Canada could do – in fact, Canada had virtually nothing in the way of rapid-response anti-surface strike capability. Something needed to be done, and an emergency inquiry was set up by the government.

Contrary to usual practice, the inquiry board was quick to come to a conclusion. Despite objections from the Air Force, it was decided that responsibility for the new strike mission would be given to the Navy, and the search began for equipment to give the Navy that capability.

A certain set of requirements were laid out in November, 1962: the aircraft was to be an off-the-shelf design with a crew of two, needed to have a minimum combat range of 2000 nautical miles, needed to be able to carry 12,000lbs of weaponry and, most importantly, needed to be able to operate from the HMCS Bonaventure, Canada's sole aircraft carrier.

The requirements laid out by Canada reduced the available choices to two aircraft: the Grumman A-6 Intruder and the Hawker-Siddelely (nee-Blackburn) Buccaneer. Both aircraft were new designs that seemed to fit the Canadian bill, the Blackburn Buccaneer having entered service with the Royal Navy that summer and the Intruder slated to enter service with the US Navy in February, 1963.

However, it was the Buccaneer that would take the day. It was not a matter of performance; instead, it was a matter of size. The Intruder, designed as it was for the larger US Navy carriers, simply wouldn't fit on the Bonaventure. The Buccaneer, on the other hand, was designed with the smaller Royal Navy flight decks in mind and it was on this basis, and on limited testing, that the Bucc was chosen in July of 1963.

The Royal Navy had already realized that the Gyron Junior-engined S.1 was underpowered, and the design of the definitive Spey-engined S.2 was already well advanced. It was a derivative of the S.2, called the S.40 by Hawker-Siddeley, which was ordered by the RCN. Specific differences between the S.2 and S.40 centered on equipment changes. Because the S.40 had a longer range requirement than the S.2, the Canadian Buccs could be equipped with the larger, oversized slipper fuel tanks shared with the South-African S.50s, as well as the smaller tanks fitted to the S.1 and S.2. Countering the center-of-gravity shift associated with the larger tanks was the addition of an auxiliary power unit in the tail of the S.40. Canadian aircraft were also fitted with an additional set of pylons rated at 500lbs each outboard of the existing pylons. It was thought that since the slipper tanks would be a semi-permanent fitment to the RCN Buccs that an additional set of pylons would be beneficial.

In order to bring Canadian pilots and crews up to speed on the new aircraft, and pending the arrival of the S.40, the Royal Navy lent 10 Buccaneer S.1s to the RCN for familiarization. These S.1s were delivered to Shearwater by the HMS Ark Royal in late July, 1963 and flight training for the initial crews began immediately. The initial crews formed the core of the Buccaneer Operational Training Squadron, or BOTS. The first carrier landings on the Bonaventure occurred on August 20, and all BOTS crews were qualified by the end of the month.

One of the S.1s loaned to the RCN by the RN, XN964 was damaged on landing in 1964 and returned to Great Britain later that year

Operations with the S.1 continued throughout 1963 and 1964, when an additional 10 were sent to the RCN as they were replaced in RN service by newly-arrived S.2s. In the spring of 1964, with the arrival of the additional S.1s, VF 870 was reactivated (having been stood down with the retirement of the Banshees in 1962) and renamed VA 870. VF 871 was also provisionally reactivated at the same time with five of the S.1s.

The first definitive Buccaneer S.40 delivered to the Royal Canadian Navy, 183401 was flown from Brough to Shearwater by Commander John McAndrews, CO of VA 870

1965 saw the first 15 S.40s delivered to the RCN, and VA 870 was completely equipped by July of that year. As the S.40s were delivered, the S.1s were returned to Britain. Air operations from the Bonaventure commenced at once. The second batch of 15 aircraft were accepted by the RCN at Hawker-Siddeley's Brough facility in November of 1965 and VA 871 was declared operational on November 10.

Unification and the Buccaneer's fate

However well-intentioned the purchase was, the Canadian Buccaneer fleet's life at sea was short. By late 1966 the Bonaventure was showing its age and was overdue for a refit and overhaul, which would take 18 months at a cost of $11 million. At the end of the refit it was decided by the newly-named Maritime Command that the carrier would be too expensive to operate and the Bonaventure was decommissioned in 1968.

Canada's 32 Buccaneers were still new, however, and a place still existed for them in the revised force structure. Unlike most other Navy units, VA 870 and VA 871 were to retain their naval identities in the Canadian Forces. The squadrons would remain part of Maritime Command and the squadrons, now renamed 870 MA and 871 MA (for Maritime Attack) would answer to Maritime Command headquarters in Halifax instead of Air Command HQ in Winnipeg. Reorganization was to touch the only Navy fixed-wing assets, however. Each squadron was reduced in size from 15 aircraft to ten and a third squadron, 872 MA, was formed for West Coast operations – the two remaining Buccaneers were assigned to AETE at Cold Lake for evaluation purposes. Unification also gave a new designation to the Buccaneer S.40 – from 1968 it was to be known as the CF-111 Buccaneer (using the designation originally intended for the CF-104).

Canadian Forces Base Shearwater, just outside Halifax, was to remain the hub of Buccaneer activity. New programs would be added to the Buccaneer's palette as the ability of the attacker was fully explored. Initial armament of the Bucc was the American AGM-12 Bullpup missile, in both AGM-12B and the heavier AGM-12C versions. Rocket pods were also common, as were air-delivered anti-shipping mines and guided bombs (the US AGM-62A HOBOS was trialled in 1969 and adopted in 1970). One capability of the British Buccaneer that remained unused, however, was conventional bombing, deemed unnecessary by Maritime Command (one squadron commander commented on conventional bombing of maritime targets being "suicidal"). The outer pylons of the S.40, not shared with any other Buccaneer variant, were wired for ECM, chaff and flare dispensers, and the Sidewinder missile.

111424 showing the hybrid paint scheme worn by all Buccaneers (with the exception of the two operated by AETE), a combination of the pre-unification Navy colours and Canadian Armed Forces markings. 424 was severely damaged during the 1976 Wright-Patterson AFB airshow when the surface-blowing system to the port wing failed on landing. The lift imbalance caused the port wing to stall and the resulting landing damaged the port main gear.

Buddy-pack refueling was practiced by all four forces that used the Buccaneer, but the Canadian system remained unique. Taking advantage of the unused weapons bay, a replaceable pack was developed by Fleet Aviation of Fort Erie that consisted of a self-contained hose reel system that fully retracted into the bay. In this way, buddy-tanker Buccaneers retained complete combat capability and would prove to be a benefit not only to other Buccaneers but to Canada's fleet of CF-5s (and eventually CF-18s) as well. Any Buccaneer could be fitted with the pack, and at any time three of each squadron's ten aircraft were so equipped.

Through the remainder of the 1960s and into the 1970s the Buccaneer performed sterling service. At low level in any weather, the Buccaneers could hit any target in Canada's vast ocean areas. It became a very popular assignment for Canada's pilot corps, not only because Buccaneer pilots were considered part of the Navy (and therefore something of an "elite" but because of the nature of the mission the Buccaneer spent most of it's time racing at 500 mph across the wavetops. The Buccaneer earned many nicknames in Canadian service, among them "Fatboy", "Low Rider", and "Pirate". Loss levels, considering the extreme nature of the Buccaneer's mission, was surprisingly low with only one being lost (111410, originally 186410 of 871 Squadron) between 1965 and 1975 along with two in airfield accidents and, amazingly, none at all due to carrier operations. Eight more aircraft (all S.2Cs) were obtained as the Royal Navy drew down its fixed-wing fleet, becoming spares aircraft.

The picture changed in 1980. That year, a Royal Air Force Buccaneer S.2B broke up in flight over Nellis Air Force Base during a Red Flag exercise. All Buccaneers were grounded when it was found that a broken wing spar caused the crash. The Canadian aircraft were inspected and returned to the air when no similar fatigue cracks were found. Wing spar strengthening, done at the time of manufacture due to the extra pair of pylons fitted, seemed to make the S.40 immune to the fatigue issues that plagued the rest of the Buccaneers. The three-month stand-down in Canadian operations was not wasted, however. Operational analyses were conducted to see if improvements could be made. Recommendations came in from Maritime Command, the pilots, operations officers from the three squadrons, and Hawker Siddeley Canada. It was determined that significant improvements could be made in the aging fighters, and the BUMP program – Buccaneer Upgrade and Modernization Program – was initiated in 1981.

BUMPing Up the Fleet

The BUMP program was to consist mainly of avionics and electronics upgrades, reflecting 15 years of advances. At the same time, it was decided that the Spey 108 engines them powering the Buccs could stand to be improved.

Over the next three years, as the Buccaneers came in for overhaul, an inertial navigation platform similar to that fitted to the A-7D was added; the cockpit was cleaned up and new instrumentation fitted (greatly reducing the clutter that had plagued the Buccaneer's front office) and improved ECM gear, including ALE-40 chaff dispensers, was added. The standard bomb bay door was modified to carry two additional pylons fitted for ECM or Pave Spike laser-designator pods. The greatest improvement to the Buccaneer in the BUMP program came in the form of an engine change. The Spey 108, although an excellent engine, was becoming underpowered due to increasing weight. At the time, the highest-thrust Spey variant was the TF-41-A-102 fitted to the US Navy's A-7E with almost 1500lbs more thrust out of the same sized engine housing. These were fitted to the CF-111 and the results were immediately apparent. With 3000lbs additional thrust available, the Buccaneer was now actually supersonic in level flight (in a clean configuration) – barely. Lastly, a new weapon, the AGM-65 Maverick, was added to the Buccaneer's arsenal. Modifications to the fleet were completed in 1983, modified aircraft becoming CF-111Bs.

BUMPed again, and off to war

The fleet saw some changes in the 1980s. Three more aircraft were lost at sea, two more were written off in other Category A accidents, and  ten more airframes surplus to RAF needs were acquired with six being brought to partial BUMP status. A second BUMP program was initiated in 1989 to add GPS and a Ferranti Laser Ranger and Marked Target Seeker (similar to that fitted to the Tornado); these LRMTS-modified Buccs became known as "C" models. But before the aircraft could all be modified, world events were to intervene.
Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in August of 1990 interrupted the BUMP II program. The eight existing BUMP II Buccaneers, all from 870 MA Squadron, were deployed to Qatar (along with two squadrons of CF-18s deployed from CFB Baden Soellingen) as part of Operation FRICTION, Canada's commitment to Desert Shield. 

When Desert Shield changed to Desert Storm on January 17, 1991, 870 MA's Buccaneers were charged with Maritime Interdiction in the Persian Gulf. Patrolling in the northern Gulf, the Buccaneers were credited with almost single-handedly destroying the major surface vessels of Iraqi Navy.  870 MA's Buccs were also credited with assisting in the capture of the Kharg Island oil facility by repelling or destroying many of the Iraqi vessels that tried to retake the oil terminal from the US Navy SEALS that had captured it.

111419, the second BUMP II-modified airframe, was credited with sinking three Iraqi gunboats (two on the same mission), and participated in the defense of Kharg Island. It was later involved in a gear-up landing and, after being stripped of most of it's upgrade electronics, was placed on display at the Canadian Aviation Heritage museum in 2000.

With the conclusion of hostilities in the Gulf, the eight BUMP II CF-111s returned to Halifax. In the interim it was decided that not all Buccaneers were to receive the full BUMP II update; most would remain as BUMP I-status airframes but all would receive the GPS equipment (referred to as BUMP I ½).

In 1999, the Bucc was once again off to war in support of NATO forces in Operation Allied Force. Although Canadian aircrews were not primarily trained in overland attack, the upgraded radars installed in BUMP I allowed for terrain-following, and 871 MA Squadron's Mavericks and Super Bullpups (AGM-12Es) proved effective against emplacements and, especially, bridges (in fact, 871 MA earned the nickname "Bridgebreakers" because of the number of bridges dropped by the squadron). 

In recent years the Buccaneer fleet has seen another change in mission. They now routinely patrol the Canadian North and are routinely deployed to Iqaluit on Baffin Island for northern sovereignty patrols, as well as continuing to defend the Canadian coastline from any possible threat. There is no plan to replace the venerable Buccs, and they will continue to provide sterling service for the foreseeable future.


Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part...

More into Flight Sim reskinning these days, but still what-iffing... Leading Edge 3D


Fulcrums Forever!!!
Master Assembler


Magic stuff Jeremy, just the sort of back story I like.  :cheers: :bow:
Kit's Rule 1 ) Any aircraft can be improved by fitting longer wings, and/or a longer fuselage
Kit's Rule 2) The backstory can always be changed to suit the model

...and I'm not a closeted 'Take That' fan, I'm a REAL fan! :)



As a fellow backstory obsessive let me just say I  :wub: your story.

Were the S.1s still around by the time of the 1st BUMP? If they noticed the difference between Spey & TF-41, I wonder what they thought of the difference between the TF-41 & Gyron Junior?

Love the LRMTS mod  :thumbsup:

Bill TGH

well done... Bill Burns may get another order out of this one...

Bill TGH
Bill TGH

{..its all about completion... not perfection }

Wanted - 1 Kidney,
call Sue Melvin, Living Donor Coordinator, Saint John Regional Hospital


Thanks, guys! I'm really enjoying this one.

To answer your question, SSB, the S.1's were already gone by the time the S.40s arrived. They were only on loan from the RN, and were returned as the S.40s were picked up from Brough.

I also have a 72nd project in the planning stages -- a BUMP II Bucc. The camo colours are actually correct for a Canadian service aircraft, it's just that they're correct for a Hercules. I figured the dark grey was appropriate for an aircraft whose primary area of operations was the North Atlantic.

The LRMTS was a natural. It just looks so right...

Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part...

More into Flight Sim reskinning these days, but still what-iffing... Leading Edge 3D


The dark grey BUMP II Bucc does look pretty sweet. Can't wait to see either of your Leafy-roundeled Buccs in plastic  :thumbsup: