The Victor's little-known nuclear sampling role

Tony Buttler sheds light on a little-known aspect of the Victor's service life - sampling fallout from nuclear tests

Victor B(SR).2 XL161 in September 1971 showing a filter basket fitted to the nose of the underwing tanks.

Collecting air samples after a nuclear test was an important task – not just for the nation causing the explosion but also for allies or rivals trying to gain intelligence. During the 1950s and through to the 1970s, atmospheric sampling by specially configured aircraft to monitor levels of radiation was standard procedure.

Such sorties required flying through the ‘debris’ or fallout from the detonation. This was a hazardous task for the crew, not least because of potential exposure to radiation and its possible effects in later years. For the British trials held in the Pacific in the mid-1950s, English Electric Canberra PR.7s were fitted with special filters to collect post explosion radioactive samples.

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