The Blackburn & General Aircraft Ltd was one of the companies submitting a design to Requirement NA.39 issued by the British Admiralty in June 1952. This called for a for a sub-sonic, strike/attack aircraft capable of delivering conventional and nuclear payloads at ultra-low level from both aircraft carriers and land bases. NA.39 specified a two-seat aircraft being able to fly at Mach 0.85 at 200 ft and was to have a range exceeding 400 nautical miles (740 km). Based on the Royal Navy requirement, the Ministry of Aviation issued Specification M.148T to cover the design in August 1952.
Blackburn’s first model tests in 1954 looked promising and by 1955, the project, now being referred to as B.103, was approaching its definitive shape. Apart from the relatively small wing, the adoption of area rule technology resulted in an effective reduction of drag and significantly reduced the amount of thrust needed for the specified speed requirement. It also made a crucial contribution to the required powerplant for the B103. One other crucial factor in the choice of engine was the use of boundary-layer control as the the operation of this system, aimed to reduce the landing speed of the aircraft, needed a substantial amount of air bled from the engine. In the early stages of the B.103, the aircraft was to be powered by two Armstrong Siddeley Sa.7 Sapphires. Meanwhile the De Havilland Engine Company was working on the 7,100 lb (31,6 kN) thrust Gyron Junior and it was this engine that was selected for B.103, even as it was realised at the time, that the amount of thrust this engine produced was marginal. On the other hand, the Gyron Junior (from 1 August 1962 the Bristol Siddeley Gyron Junior) provided the B.103 with a 35% increase in range.
In July 1955 the Blackburn B.103 was selected by the Admiralty, resulting in an order for 20 development aircraft (with serials XK486 to 491 and XK523 to 536), placed by the Ministry of Supply.
By April 1958, the first aircraft (XK486) had emerged from the Brough works and transported by road to the RAE airfield at Bedford. There, on 30th April, the NA.39 made her first flight in the hands of Blackburn’s Chief Test Pilot Derek Whitehead and with Bernard J. Watson, the head of flight test, in the backseat. XK486 continued test flights in the NA.39 programme until 5 October 1960. Due to instrument malfunction, the aircraft crashed at Little Weighton near Brough. The flight test crew, G.R.I ‘Sailor’ Parker and observer C.R.C. Copeman succesfully ejected and landed safely. Sadly both men were to lose their lives in Buccaneer S.1 XN952 at Holme on 19 February 1963.
From 9th July 1958, all other (routine) flight trials were conducted from the former RAF Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, some 18 miles to the north of Brough, as the runway at the works airfield was inadequate for the new aircraft. All NA.39 development aircraft, as in fact nearly all other S.1, S.2 and S.50 aircraft were transported by road to Holme for their first flights and subsequent test work. The first aircraft to do so was XK487 made her maiden flight from Holme on 26th August 1958. From October 1967 until March 1968 the S.2B production batch, consisting of XV352 to XV360, made their first flights from Driffield, whilst the runways at Holme were being resurfaced.
On the 26th of August 1960 the NA.39 officially became the Buccaneer S.1.
Buccaneer S.1 production and serials
All Buccaneer S.1 aircraft were built at the Blackburn factory at Brough on the north shore of the River Humber near Kingston-upon-Hull. After completion, the aircraft were towed to Holme-Spalding-Moor for testflying and subsequent delivery to the Fleet Air Arm. Total S.1 production reached 60 aircraft:
XK486 to XK491 and XK523 to XK536: 20 aircraft of which the first three (XK486, 487 and 488) can be considered as true prototypes whereas the remainder were pre-production NA.39/S.1s, incorporating an increasing amount of new operational equipment. XK526 was converted later to become the S.2 prototype and XK527 to serve as the S.2D prototype prototype for the Martel ASM programme, the aircraft eventually became a long-serving weapons development aircraft, not only for the Martel, but also for the BAe Systems Sea Eagle ASM as well as the Pave Spike laser designation pod.
XN922 to XN935: 14 aircraft.
XN948 to XN973: 26 aircraft.
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30 April 1958
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