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Vickers Valiant

The Vickers Valiant was a British high-altitude jet bomber designed to carry nuclear weapons, and in the 1950s and 1960s was part of the Royal Air Force’s V bomber strategic deterrent force.

It was developed in response to Specification B.35/46 issued by the Air Ministry for a nuclear-armed jet-powered bomber.

The Valiant was the first of the V bombers to become operational and was followed by the Handley Page Victor and the Avro Vulcan.

The Valiant was the only V bomber to have dropped live nuclear weapons (for test purposes).

In 1956, Valiants operating from Malta flew conventional bombing missions over Egypt for Operation Musketeer during the Suez Crisis.

From 1956 until early 1966 the main Valiant force was used in the nuclear deterrence role in the confrontation between NATO and the Warsaw Pact powers.

Other squadrons undertook aerial refuelling, aerial reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare.

In 1962, in response to advances in Soviet Union surface-to-air missile (SAM) technology, the V-force fleet including the Valiant changed from high-level flying to flying at low-level to avoid SAM attacks that they would have received if they were flying at high altitudes.

In 1964 it was found that Valiants showed fatigue and crystalline corrosion in wing rear spar attachment forgings. 

In late 1964 a repair programme was underway, but a change of Government led to the new Minister of Defence Denis Healey deciding that the Valiant should be retired from service, and this happened in early 1965. 


Including the three prototypes, a total of 107 Valiants were built.

Valiant B.1

37 pure bomber variants, including five pre-production Type 600, Type 667 and Type 674s, which were powered by Avon RA.14 engines with the same 9,500 pounds-force (42 kN) thrust each as the earlier Avon 201 and 34 Type 706 full-production aircraft, powered by Avon RA.28, 204 or 205 engines with 10,500 pounds-force (47 kN) thrust each, longer tailpipes and water-methanol injection for take-off boost power.

Type 710 Valiant B(PR).1

Eleven bomber/photo-reconnaissance aircraft.

Edwards and his team had considered use of the Valiant for photoreconnaissance from the start, and this particular type of aircraft could accommodate a removable crate in the bomb-bay, carrying up to eight narrow-view/high resolution cameras and four survey cameras.

Type 733 Valiant B(PR)K.1

14 bomber/photoreconnaissance/tanker aircraft.

Type 758 Valiant B(K).1

44 bomber / tanker aircraft

Both tanker variants carried a removable tanker system in the bomb bay, featuring fuel tanks and a hose-and-drogue aerial refuelling system.

A further 16 Valiant B(K).1s were ordered but cancelled.

Valiant B.2

1 prototype.

Vickers also considered an air transport version of the Valiant, with a low-mounted wing, wingspan increased from 114 feet 4 inches (34.85 m) to 140 feet (43 m), fuselage lengthened to 146 feet (45 m), and up-rated engines.

Work on a prototype, designated the Type 1000, began in early 1953.

The prototype was to lead to a military transport version, the Type 1002, and a civilian transport version, the Type 1004 or VC.7.

The Type 1000 prototype was almost complete when it, too, was cancelled.

Valiant production ended in August 1957.

An order for 17 B.2 models was cancelled.





108 ft 3 in (32.99 m)


114 ft 4 in (34.85 m)


32 ft 2 in (9.80 m)

Wing area

2,362 sq ft (219.4 m2)

Empty weight

75,881 lb (34,419 kg)

Max take-off weight

140,000 lb (63,503 kg)


4 × Rolls-Royce Avon RA28 Mk 204 turbojets,

10,000 lbf (44 kN) thrust each


Maximum speed

567 mph (912 km/h, 493 kn) at 30,000 ft (9,100 m)


4,500 mi (7,200 km, 3,900 nmi) with under wing tanks

Service ceiling

54,000 ft (16,000 m)

Rate of climb

4,000 ft/min (20 m/s)



1× 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) Blue Danube nuclear bomb


1× B28 nuclear bomb


21× 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs.



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