Close this search box.

Blackburn Buccaneer

The Blackburn Buccaneer is a British carrier-capable attack aircraft designed in the 1950s for the Royal Navy (RN).

Designed and initially produced by Blackburn Aircraft at Brough, it was later officially known as the Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer when Blackburn became a part of the Hawker Siddeley Group, but this name is rarely used.

The Buccaneer was originally designed in response to the Soviet Union’s Sverdlov-class cruiser construction program.

Instead of building a new fleet of its own, the Royal Navy could use the Buccaneer to attack these ships by approaching at low altitudes below the ship’s radar horizon.

The Buccaneer could attack using a nuclear bomb, or conventional weapons.

It was later intended to carry short-range anti-shipping missiles to improve its survivability against more modern ship-based anti-aircraft weapons.

The Buccaneer entered Royal Navy service in 1962.

The initial production aircraft suffered a series of accidents due to insufficient engine power, which was quickly addressed in the Buccaneer S.2, equipped with more powerful Rolls-Royce Spey jet engines.

The Buccaneer was also offered as a possible solution for the Royal Air Force (RAF) requirement for a supersonic interdictor carrying nuclear weapons.

It was rejected as not meeting the specification in favour of the much more advanced supersonic BAC TSR-2, but the cost of the TSR-2 program led to its cancellation, only to be followed by the cancellation of its selected replacement, the General Dynamics F-111K.

The RAF purchased Buccaneers and American Phantom IIs as TSR-2 substitutes, the Buccaneer entering service in 1969.

The Royal Navy retired the last of its large aircraft carriers in 1978, moving their strike role to the British Aerospace Sea Harrier, and passing their Buccaneers to the RAF.

After a crash in 1980 revealed metal fatigue problems, the RAF fleet was reduced to 60 aircraft, while the rest were scrapped.

The ending of the Cold War led to a reduction in strength of the RAF, and the accelerated retirement of the remaining fleet, with the last Buccaneers in RAF service being retired in 1994 in favour of the Panavia Tornado.

The South African Air Force (SAAF) also procured the type. Buccaneers saw combat action in the first Gulf War of 1991, and the South African Border War.


Blackburn NA.39

Pre-production build of nine prototype NA.39 aircraft, and a development batch of fourteen S.1s ordered 2 June 1955.

Buccaneer S.1

First production model, powered by de Havilland Gyron Junior 101 turbojet engines.

Forty built, ordered on 25 September 1959, built at Brough and towed to Holme-on-Spalding Moor for first flight and testing.

First aircraft flown on 23 January 1962.

A further ten S.1 aircraft ordered in September 1959 were completed as S.2s.

Buccaneer S.2

Development of the S.1 with various improvements and powered by the more powerful Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines.

From 1962, ten were built by Blackburn Aircraft Limited, and seventy-four by Hawker Siddeley Aviation Limited.

Buccaneer S.2A

Ex-Royal Navy S.2 aircraft reworked for Royal Air Force.

Buccaneer S.2B

Variant of S.2 for RAF squadrons.

Capable of carrying the Martel anti-radar or anti-shipping missile.

Forty-six built between 1973 and 1977, plus three for Ministry of Defence weapons trials work.

Buccaneer S.2C

Royal Navy aircraft upgraded to S.2A standard.

Buccaneer S.2D

Royal Navy aircraft upgraded to S.2B standard, operational with Martels from 1975.

Buccaneer S.50

Variant for South Africa.

Wings could be folded, but folding was no longer powered.

Aircraft could be equipped with two Bristol Siddeley 605 single-stage RATO rockets to assist take-off from hot-and-high airfields like that of AFB Waterkloof in Pretoria, where the type was mostly based.





63 ft 5 in (19.33 m)


44 ft (13 m)


16 ft 3 in (4.95 m)

Wing area

514 sq ft (47.8 m2)

Empty weight

30,000 lb (13,608 kg)

Gross weight

62,000 lb (28,123 kg)


2 × Rolls-Royce Spey Mk.101 turbofan engines,

11,000 lbf (49 kN) thrust each


Maximum speed

580 kn (670 mph, 1,070 km/h) at 200 ft (61 m)

Maximum speed

Mach 0.95


2,000 nmi (2,300 mi, 3,700 km)

Service ceiling

40,000 ft (12,000 m)

Wing loading

120.5 lb/sq ft (588 kg/m2)





4 × under-wing pylon stations for up to 12,000 lb (5,443 kg) of bombs, and 1 × internal rotating bomb bay with a capacity of 4,000 lb (1,814 kg), with provisions to carry combinations of:


4 × Matra rocket pods with 18 × SNEB 68-mm rockets each


Either 2 × AIM-9 Sidewinders for self-defence, 2 × AS-37 Martel missiles, or 4 × Sea Eagle missile


Various unguided bombs, laser-guided bombs, as well as either the Red Beard or WE.177 tactical nuclear bombs


AN/ALQ-101 ECM protection pod, AN/AVQ-23 Pave Spike laser designator pod, buddy refuelling pack or drop tanks for extended range/loitering time

Blue Parrot ASV search/attack radar

Share on facebook