Author Topic: Could a Avro Lancaster bomber have carried the first Atom bomb?  (Read 752 times)

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Offline McColm

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The Manhattan Project  chose the Boeing B-29 to deliver the world's first Atomic bombs but could the British Avro Lancaster have been used instead?
The Lancaster was adapted to carry the Grand Slam and Tall Boy, altitude and range might have been an issue although the 'Tiger Force ' seemed to solve some of these problems.
 We know that the Avro Shackleton carried nuclear depth charges,  although much smaller in size and weighted less than the earlier Atomic bombs.
So this will have to be a whiff, and a bit of research into which model is best suited in 1/72 scale. I wonder if the Avro Lincoln was capable of delivering Britain's Hydrogen Bomb? :banghead:

Offline kitbasher

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Re: Could a Avro Lancaster bomber have carried the first Atom bomb?
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2020, 01:22:28 am »
Not really.  Check the August edition of Aeroplane.
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Offline sideshowbob9

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Re: Could a Avro Lancaster bomber have carried the first Atom bomb?
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2020, 01:44:55 am »
I'm going to be controversial and say yes it could, with caveats.

Usually on this subject someone will chime in that the B-29's performance could not be matched in the period in question and the Lancaster was inferior in comparison & wouldn't be used in the atomic role. That is true up to a point but there are a few counterpoints to this argument:

One: Britain was not without her aeronautical wiles & had there been need of a B-29 class aircraft, I'm confident we could have knocked something up.

Two: Britain had just a few turbojet & turboprop projects on the stove & the Lancaster/Lincoln carried the vast majority of them. I'm sure a clapper kite with a Goblin or Beryl in the rear turret's former location could have picked up her skirt enough to clear the worst of the post-detonation turbulence. Lancs could take their knocks too!

Three: This is a what if, who gives a stuff what happened in OTL!  :wacko:
« Last Edit: August 01, 2020, 01:55:39 am by sideshowbob9 »

Offline sideshowbob9

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Re: Could a Avro Lancaster bomber have carried the first Atom bomb?
« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2020, 04:21:36 am »
It had certainly been “one for the books”. The mission had gone without a hitch. The package had dropped while the Metrovik EGT or Experimental Gas Turbine had been spooled up to full power. The pilot had put the silvery Lancaster into a shallow dive that, in peacetime, would have netted the crew the British heavy class speed record. It had almost been enough.

The shockwave had hit almost end-on but even so, seriously damaged the rudders and elevators. The pilot checked his controls and found the aircraft difficult but not impossible to manoeuvrer. The EGT was shut down and the navigator gave a steer for the rendezvous.

The far more bloated looking companion to the sleek, modified Lancaster B.VI was not overly laborious to locate and after a quick signal, trailed the basket from its modified bomb bay. The pilot jousted with the tanker, trying to put the spindly, fragile-looking probe on his left wingtip into the basket. He had succeeded on many (but not all) of the practice runs but now the rudder damage reared its head and the contorted pilot looked over his shoulder in horror to see the probe snap off in a one-sided tussle with the basket.

With nothing else to be done, the tanker crew waggled their wings and reluctantly turned for home. The Lancaster's crack navigator hastily consulted his charts and gave another steer.

----------------------------

The two bored sailors almost leaped out of their curious-looking dingy as a signal sounded off in their headsets. They were on. They switched on their battery-powered transmitter and began broadcasting a signal via their tall, whip-like antenna. The signal was picked up by the nearing Lancaster as it began descending toward the pre-arranged point. Meanwhile, at the appointed hour, one of the sun-baked sailors wildly waved a red flag.

A few hundred yards away, the seasoned skipper of the T-class boat {Censored} ordered the periscope lowered and ballast blown.

The pilot was relieved to see the submarine breach the surface as he banked (gingerly) back round and ordered the crew to prepare to abandon the aircraft.

As the little dingy rowed alongside and was unceremoniously scuttled, the submarine lookouts were dismayed to see a warship appear on the horizon. This quickly resolved into the outline of a fleet, graceful American destroyer. The pre-arranged deconfliction code signal was hastily flashed as parachutes blossomed overhead. The destroyer Captain, correctly surmising a search and rescue operation was underway but not knowing the full story until many years later, acknowledged the code and replied that they would stand by and cover them.

With his crew either in the water or about to be, the pilot wrestled the increasingly recalcitrant Lancaster into the start of another turn, when he heard an almighty crack. The rudders had begun an independent descent into the Pacific! He quickly dashed to the escape hatch and jumped, his chute barely billowing out before both he and the aircraft hit the water.

The sub skipper, having watched events unfold, deftly manoeuvred his charge to ensure the quick recovery of the entire Lancaster crew, bruised but unbowed. Then, signalling his thanks to the American destroyer, he dived the boat and began the long journey back to friendlier waters.

It would take many weeks for the crew to return to their base. Upon their return to an altogether bigger island, the entire crew received VCs from a grateful sovereign and nation. The war was over!
« Last Edit: August 01, 2020, 04:29:55 am by sideshowbob9 »

Offline McColm

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Re: Could a Avro Lancaster bomber have carried the first Atom bomb?
« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2020, 05:02:11 am »
Wow  :thumbsup:

Offline NARSES2

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Re: Could a Avro Lancaster bomber have carried the first Atom bomb?
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2020, 05:45:08 am »
Neat story  :thumbsup:
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Offline zenrat

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Re: Could a Avro Lancaster bomber have carried the first Atom bomb?
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2020, 06:15:06 am »
The notes for my as yet unwritten second volume of the brief history of the People's Democratic Republic of Victoria (1939 to wherever I get to before my muse deserts me) say;

1946:  US nuke Hiroshima with "Fat Man" bomb and Soviet Union drop "Mother of the People" on Nagasaki but Japanese government vow to fight on from the safety of their secret Antarctic base.  War ended by RAF Lincoln dropping Nuclear Bomb "Tiny Tim" on Japanese Antarctic base.  Dropped from Lincoln flown off HMS Noazark (Habakkuk class carrier). 
Japanese fleet assemble off Darwin to surrender and Air Chief Marshal Harris orders RAF to drop second UK bomb "Tubby Blighter" on it "just to make sure”.
The Antarctic bomb results in climate change, melted ice cap, rising sea levels, the greening of the Red Centre and Australia becoming the food bowl of Asia.

They don't say if the Lincoln survived.
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Offline sandiego89

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Re: Could a Avro Lancaster bomber have carried the first Atom bomb?
« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2020, 12:40:17 pm »
In the real world, the Lancaster was under consideration for the US atomic roles early in the program, especially when the "Thin-Man" design was still under consideration for the gun-type device.  There were many uncertainties about the length, width and weight of devices until later in the program.  The length of the Lancaster bomb-bay was considered attractive for a long device.  It was less attractive for the larger implosion Fat-man device, where bulged bomb bay doors or no doors would have been likely required.  Internal carry was desired.  All became moot when the B-29 was proven and working- and could deliver either the Fat Man or Thin Man Internally.

Remember versions of the Neptune and Savage were nuclear-capable (and even more piston types for ASW nuclear devices including Neptune and Marlin), so the thought of midsize piston nuclear-capable aircraft is very much viable for smaller yield devices.     

I believe some rumors of a war emergency Lincoln for later UK programs.     
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Offline Mossie

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Re: Could a Avro Lancaster bomber have carried the first Atom bomb?
« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2020, 01:12:00 pm »
If I recall correctly, the B-29 ended up using the Tallboy carriage mechanism due to problems with the weight.  I also heard that one of the reasons for not adopting the Lancaster was that Hap Arnold was opposed to using anything that wasn't American to deliver the bomb.
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Offline sideshowbob9

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Re: Could a Avro Lancaster bomber have carried the first Atom bomb?
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2020, 09:35:40 am »
Good thing this Arnold fella had a more anglophile commander-in-chief to answer to then isn't it?

If only the Lancaster airframe could accept some kind of up-engining. Something like a Spiffing, Chiffon....wait.... it'll come to me.. ..oh I know....

Offline Rheged

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Re: Could a Avro Lancaster bomber have carried the first Atom bomb?
« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2020, 10:55:20 am »
Having read the "Aeroplane" article referred to earlier, the short answer to the question is:-    In theory YES, in practice, probably not.  The USAAF  wouldn't be happy with a non-US aircraft  being involved............despite  the UK's Tube Alloys being the initial impetus to the bomb
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Re: Could a Avro Lancaster bomber have carried the first Atom bomb?
« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2020, 11:25:13 am »

I believe some rumors of a war emergency Lincoln for later UK programs.   

iirc the date between the delivery of the first usable Blue Danube to RAF Wittering and the date that the first Valiant was operational differs by some months.

a good ask is what filled the gap as the RAF bomber Washingtons were withdrawn in 1954, Valiants didn't enter full service until 1955, but Blue Danube was first delivered in late 1953 even though the first Valiant flight was formed mid 1954.

strikes me as odd the RAF would taken delivery of a weapon they could not even in an emergency use.
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Offline McColm

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Re: Could a Avro Lancaster bomber have carried the first Atom bomb?
« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2020, 12:24:13 pm »

I believe some rumors of a war emergency Lincoln for later UK programs.   

iirc the date between the delivery of the first usable Blue Danube to RAF Wittering and the date that the first Valiant was operational differs by some months.

a good ask is what filled the gap as the RAF bomber Washingtons were withdrawn in 1954, Valiants didn't enter full service until 1955, but Blue Danube was first delivered in late 1953 even though the first Valiant flight was formed mid 1954.

strikes me as odd the RAF would taken delivery of a weapon they could not even in an emergency use.
Well the RAF  had the Avro Lincoln,  not all Lancasters had been retired and the Shorts Sunderland were still flying although some sort of roof rack would have been needed to carry such a bomb, maybe the Saro Princess.  Two strapped together with the bomb hanging beneath the joining/middle wing.

Offline sideshowbob9

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Re: Could a Avro Lancaster bomber have carried the first Atom bomb?
« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2020, 12:57:05 pm »
One could easily surmise FDR leveraging greater involvement in the atomic programme against a more conciliatory position at what would become Yalta. Solidarity in crossing the finish line etc. Any resistance amongst the US military is then rendered moot. The solitary bomb would remain US property until engine start-up & taxi.

Purely political on the part of the US but I could see Churchill leaping on it. The big cheque to Avro could easily be paid for by cancelling a couple of Colossi or similar.

Risky for the crew even with the modifications I posited earlier but any more risky than the Dambuster raids, Ardent & Acasta turning into the twins or the X-Craft? I think not.

Offline joncarrfarrelly

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Re: Could a Avro Lancaster bomber have carried the first Atom bomb?
« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2020, 08:03:37 pm »
Read up on what happened during both missions, the Fat Man mission in particular turning into a goat-rope that came very close to being a catastrophe, and you'll see that being able to have full access to the bomb inside the aircraft was of major importance. They wouldn't have had that luxury with the Lancaster nor could it fly as fast, as far or as high as the B-29. The B-29 was state-of-the aeronautical art for a piston-engined bomber, it would have made zero-sense to use any other available aircraft. The 'Silverplate' B-29s went straight from the production line to the mod-center, they were in effect a production sub-type, they didn't have to be flown down from Canada to go through modifications - because you know they wouldn't have done the necessary mods up North for security reasons. BTW what they used from Tallboy/Grand Slam was the single-point carriage/release system, 'the chain', it was fitted to a modified B-29 H-rack.
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