The Royal Air Force’s Bomber-Killing Bomber Was Just a Dream
Britain sought to turn the Avro Vulcan into a really big … fighter
by DAVID AXE
In 1976, the British Royal Air Force had a problem. In the event of war, Soviet Backfire bombers flying from Europe could have devastated resupply convoys sailing from the United States to Europe.
The RAF needed a warplane with enough range to patrol the vast Atlantic — and enough payload to haul long-range, bomber-killing missiles.
Plane-maker Hawker Siddeley suggested adding 12 U.S.-made Phoenix missiles to the Avro Vulcan bomber. The addition would have required extensive modifications to the Vulcan’s radar.
In any event, the RAF dropped the idea. To defeat the Backfires, the U.S. Navy deployed carrier-based F-14 fighters armed with Phoenixes.
The Vulcan “fighter” wasn’t the only air-to-air version of a heavy bomber. In 2004, Boeing proposed to build a new model of the B-1 bomber that would have been compatible with AIM-120 air-to-air missiles.