After several decades as the gate guardian at RAF Marham, Handley Page Victor K.2 XH673 faces a bleak future…
Officials at RAF Marham in Norfolk have made a decision to remove Victor K.2 XH673 from the entrance of the base, after nobody came forward to take on the crescent-winged bomber. The Cold War jet had been offered to anyone who wanted to take it away, since it was in need of extensive maintenance. A spokesperson for the base commented: "Unfortunately no one who has the capability to remove and restore [XH673] has come forward, so the difficult decision has been made to dispose of her."
One third of the V bombers, the Victor entered service with the RAF during the 1950s – and in nearly every category defined by the operational requirement was by far the superior design. Capable of flying higher, further, and faster than the Avro Vulcan, it could also carry a higher payload. However, the advances in Soviet missile capabilities forced the RAF to abandon its high-level strategic bomber approach and resort to low-level tactics. However, the Victor’s airframe was not strong enough to cope with such operations and soon showed signs of metal fatigue. Before long, the type was limited to just 220kts at low level compared to the Vulcan, that could sustain 240kts – with a dash at 350. While the Vulcan and the Valiant were soon reconfigured for low-level work, the Victor would become aerial tankers – a role the type succeeded hugely in.
Former RAF groundcrew Reginald Daley served on Victors with 15 Squadron at RAF Cottesmore in Rutland during 1959. Speaking to Key.Aero, he recalled: “It was the most amazing aeroplane! As soon as the last crew member was in, I detached the ladder and ran like hell before either getting run over or blasted by the four Rolls-Royce Conways. After some practice, we got that jet off the ground in four minutes flat”.
The Victor was retired in 1993, nine years after the Vulcan, following some 30 years as a tanker – a far cry from its intended role! Regular admirers of the Victor will certainly be sorry to see XH673 go.