Comments: comment link icon [0]


English Electric Canberra PR3 Aircraft Data

Photo ID 98775 by Chris Albutt. UK Air Force English Electric Canberra PR3, WF922
The Canberra PR.3 was the first photographic reconnaissance variant of the highly successful Canberra B.2 light bomber. Specification 31/46 led to Operational Requirement.233 for the design and construction of a long-range, high-altitude aircraft for day and night photographic reconnaissance as well as day survey photography.

The PR.3 retained the engines, wings and tail assembly of the B.2, but the fuselage was extended by 14 inches (36 cm) to allow the installation of a camera bay and fuel cell. The forward part of the bomb bay also carried extra fuel cells and leaving room in the aft part for use as a flare bay.

Canberra PR.3 production
Of the PR.3 a total of 36 machines were produced by the English Electric Ltd works at Preston. This number included one prototype aircraft: VX181. A planned second PR.3 prototype, VX185, was converted before completion into the prototype B.5, the version intended for the target marking role. This aircraft later made fame in the double Atlantic crossing in one day when it flew from Aldergrove to Gander and back in just over 10 hours. The forward fuselage section of this aircraft is preserved in the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune, Scotland.

VX181 EA.2/PR.3 prototype first flew on 19 May 1951. A year later, on 31 July 1952, the first production aircraft, WE135, made her first flight.

Royal Air Force Canberra PR.3 serials and construction numbers:
WE135-151 (c/n EEP 71050 to 71171).
WE166-175 (c/n EEP 71175 to 71221, with the numbers for WE174 and WE175 not known).
WF922-928 (c/n EEP 71227 to 71259).
WH772 (c/n EEP 71189).

Notes on Canberra construction numbers:
Almost all 'construction numbers' of English Electric Preston-built machines are known and confirmed. Strictly speaking, the company used no construction numbers, but allocated a number to the forward fuselage. Other companies involved in Canberra production issued a construction number. In the Air Fighters data base, we will continue the use of the term construction number. All Canberra PR.3 construction numbers are prefixed 'EEP' followed by a 5-digit number in the 71... range. The PR machines were produced along the B.2 at the production line and had their construction number allocated in order as the aircraft appeared on the line. This was also the case at the time the PR.7 came into production. As the final PR version, the Canberra PR.9, was solely produced by Short Bros & Harland, the construction numbers of these were allocated in sequence, prefixed 'SH'.
  • Country of Origin: United Kingdom
  • First Flight: 19 May 1951
  • Initial Service Date: December 1952
  • No. Built: 36
  • No. In Service: 0
  • No. of Hardpoints: 0
  • Crew: 2


Two Rolls Royce RA.3 Avon Mk.101 at 6,500 lbf


The Canberra PR.3 carried no weaponry but was armed with a battery of cameras. Mission requirement dictated the camera configuration.
For day photographic missions, the Canberra usually carried 6 F52s in the front bay and one F49 in the rear camera bay.
The F52 was a medium to high level camera producing 8½x7 inch negatives and could be fitted with 20 or 36 inch lenses when two were carried in the front camera bay or a single F52 with a 48 inch lens at an oblique angle across the front bay. An F52 with a 36 inch weighed 75 lbs. Many of these cameras came from Williamson Manufacturing Company Ltd., Willesden Green, London.

The heavy F49 survey camera, weighing some 87 lbs, had a 6 inch lens, and in the Mk.I and II versions operated with shutter speeds between 1/150th and 1/250th of a second. The F49 produced 9x9 inch negatives.
An alternative combination for day use was: 4 F52s and one F49.

For pure survey work at medium and high altitudes only an F49 was carried.

For night operations the PR.3 carried two F89 cameras. These were specially designed for night photography to work with photoflash cartridges. The about 150 1.75inch flares were housed in the flare bay. The negative size of the F89 was 7½x8½ inch. Alternatively a 20 inch or 36 inch could be fitted.


Length: 66 ft 8 in.
Wing Span: 63 ft 11 in.
Wing Area: 960 sq.ft
Height: 15 ft 7 in.
Empty Weight: 22,780 lbs
Max. Weight: 46,000 lbs


Max. Speed: 570 mph
Service Ceiling: 48,000 ft.
Max. Range: 3,117 nm


United Kingdom
Royal Air Force
First RAF unit to receive the Canberra PR.3 was No.540 Squadron at RAF Benson. The first aircraft, WE136, arrived in the beginning of December 1952. On 26 March 1953 the squadron transferred to RAF Wyton.

No.58 Squadron, RAF Wyton (from December 1953).
No.69 Squadron, RAF Gütersloh (from May 1954), but relocated to RAF Laarbruch in December 1954. With their tasking of photo reconnaissance over the Mediterranean Sea, this detached frequently to RAF Luqa, Malta. From 1 April 1958 this became their permanent base. On 1 July 1958 this unit was re-numbered as No.39 Squadron. It operated the PR.3 until November 1962.
No.82 Squadron, RAF Wyton (from November 1953 to October 1954).
No.542 Squadron, RAF Wyton (from May 1954 to October 1955).
No.231 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), RAF Bassingbourn from February 1952, albeit with only one PR.3 at that time. No.237 (Photographic Reconnaissane) OCU had been merged with No.231 OCU in December 1951. The PR element of the 231 OCU, 'C' Squadron, relocated to Merryfield in July 1955, to be followed by a short stay at Wyton, before returning to Bassingbourn with their six PR.3s in January 1958. The PR.3s were retired in May 1969.

Random great photos of the English Electric Canberra PR3:

Photo ID 98775 by Chris Albutt. UK Air Force English Electric Canberra PR3, WF922
Photo ID  by ?.  ,
Photo ID  by ?.  ,
Photo ID  by ?.  ,
Photo ID  by ?.  ,
Photo ID  by ?.  ,