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Great Britain's Avro Lancaster bomber

Photos

  • Avro Lancaster
  • Avro Lancaster
  • Avro Lancaster B Mk III
  • Avro Lancaster B Mk I (Special)
  • Avro Lancaster B Mk X
  • Avro Lancaster
  • Avro Lancaster
  • Avro Lancaster
  • Avro Lancaster
  • Avro Lancaster Mk II
  • Avro Lancaster
  • Avro Lancaster
  • Avro Lancaster
  • Avro Lancaster

Design

The Avro Lancaster was based on the Avro Manchester.1,7 The Lancaster design was to meet a September 1936 specification (B.13/369) of a bomber powered by two Rolls-Royce Vulture engines.6

Roy Chadwick was the primary designer of the Lancaster.2

Avro decided to proceed with development of the Lancaster even though there was no contract.4 This development was named the Type 683.4,9

New Naming

In 1942 the Lancaster Mk I became the Lancaster B.Mk I.7

Engines

Due to shortages of Merlin engines from factories in Britain, Packard of the United States build licensed versions of the Merlin engine.7

Defenses

Initially a ventral turret was considered but it was dropped.7 The other turrets, nose, dorsal, and rear were Frazer-Nash / Nash & Thompson9 hydraulic turrets.7

Bombs

A Lancaster could carry 14,000 lbs of bombs.9

With modifications the Lancaster could carry a 12,000 lb or a 22,000 lb bomb.9

Wings

The wings were covered with aluminum alloy.9

Prototype

A Manchester airframe was taken from the production line and equipped with longer span wings.4,7,9 Four Rolls-Royce Merlin X engines were also placed in the new wings.4,7 The Manchester's triple tail was still initially used but it was replaced by the twin fins.7 Avro wanted the prototype to be ready by May 31, 1941.4 Some of the work was delayed by a German air raid on Ringway.4

The prototype of the Lancaster first flew on January 9, 1941.2,3,4,6,7 It had the serial number BT308 and was designated the Manchester III.4,6 The name Lancaster was approved on January 27, 1941.4

BT308 was sent on January 27, 1941, to Boscombe Down where the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) was to test it.4,7 A report was issued on March 3, 1941 asking for some modifications.4

The prototype then had the twin fins and wider tail installed.4

The DG595, 2nd prototype, first flew on May 13, 1941.4,6 Avro finally received a contract for the two prototypes plus two additional prototypes to be built with Bristol Hercules engines.4 The DT810, with the Bristol engines, flew on November 26, 1941.4 The second prototype was cancelled.4

Production

The initial order for the Lancaster was for 100, 43 to be built by Avro and 57 by Metropolitan Vickers.4 This was increased to 454 on June 6, 1941.4

Some Manchesters were converted on the production line into Lancasters.3,7

The first Lancaster Mk I flew in October 1941.3,7

The first Canadian built Lancasters were delivered by air in September 1943.9

Production started in Australia in 1944.9

  • Prototypes: 33
  • Lancaster Mk I: 3,4257, 3,4343, 3,5442,6
  • Lancaster Mk I Special: 323
  • Lancaster Mk II: 3002,3,6, 3017
  • Lancaster Mk III: 2,9006, 2,9902, 3,0297, 3,0303
  • Lancaster Mk VII: 1803,6,7
  • Lancaster Mk X: 4222,6, 4303,7
    • Manufacturer: Canada6
  • Total: 7,3662,6, 7,3773,7
    • Manufacturer: A. V. Roe and Co. Ltd.3,6 (3,6737), Austin Motors3,6 (3307), Vickers-Armstrongs3,6 (5357), Armstrong Whitworth3,6 (1,3297), Metrovick3, Victory Aircraft3 (4307), Metropolitan Vickers (1,080)7
    • Production: 1941 - 19466, 1941 - February 2, 19467

Variants

  • Avro 683 Lancaster: Prototype.9
  • Lancaster Mk I, Lancaster B.Mk I : Rolls-Royce Merlin XX (1,460 HP) engines.2,9
    Had Rolls-Royce Merlin 20, 22, or 24 engines (1,280, 1,390, 1,620 HP).3
  • Lancaster Mk I Special: Adapted to carry the bomb used on the Dambuster Raid.3 Grand Slam bomb was 22,000 lb / 9,980 kg.3 To save on weight it had the bomb bay doors and dorsal turret removed.3
  • Lancaster Mk I (FE): Specially prepared for use in Asia (Far East).2
  • Lancaster Mk II: These were produced in case the Merlin production didn't keep up with demand.6
  • Lancaster Mk III: Many had Gee, H2S, and other navigational aides installed.2
  • Lancaster Mk VI: Merlin 87 engines (1,635 HP).2,6 4 blade propellars.2,6
  • Lancaster Mk VII: Built by Austin.2 Revised dorsal turret.2
  • Lancaster Mk X: Constructed in Canada.2,6,9

Usage

Over 156,000/156,1925 missions were flown by Lancasters.1,2,5,6,7 During those missions 608,612 tons of bombs were dropped.2,5,6,7 Approximately 3,836 Lancasters were lost during World War II.5 2,508 were lost in operations over Germany.5 3,349 Lancasters were lost in action.6

24 Lancaster bombers completed more than 100 missions.6 The Lancaster Mk III "Mother of Them All", register number ED 888, marked PM-M2, completed 140 missions.6 It was scrapped in 1947.6

Countries that used Lancasters were Australia, Britain, Canada, and Poland.3

A total of 565/597/61 squadrons were equipped with the Lancaster.3,5

First Squadron

In January 1942 No. 44 Squadron was the first to be completely outfitted with the Lancasters.2,4

First Mission

On March 3, 1942 the Lancaster was first used on a mine laying mission.6

First Raid

Essen was the Lancasters first target on the night of March 10 and 11, 1942.2,3,6

First Daylight Raid

Twelve Lancasters from the Nos 44 and 97 Squadrons took part in a daylight raid on a U-boat diesel engine factory in Augsburg.7 In the raid seven Lancasters were lost.7 Two Squadron Leaders, Nettleton and Sherwood, received Victoria Crosses in the raid.7

Dambusters

Used on the "Dambusters" raid by the No. 617 Squadron in May 1943/May 16-17, 19436.1,2,3,6 The Lancasters had to fly 60' / 18.3 m above the water at exactly 249 mph / 402 kph when it released the rotating bomb, which then skipped across the water to sink next to the dam and then detonate.1 The dams that were destroyed were the Möhne, Eder, and Sorpe.6

Tallboy

The first Tallboy bomb, 12,000 lb, was dropped on September 15-16, 1943.6 They were designed by Barnes Wallis.7

Tirpitz

The Lancaster was used in the sinking of the Tirpitz in Tromso Fjord in Norway on November 12, 1944.6,7 These raids were conducted by the Nos 9 and 617 Squadrons using Tallboy bombs.7

Grand Slam

The first Grand slam bomb, 20,000 lb, was dropped on March 14, 1945.6,7 The mission was conducted by the Nos 617 Squadron against the Bielefeld Viaduct.7 It was designed by Barnes Wallis.7

Specifications

  Avro Lancaster
Type Heavy bomber3,8,9
Crew 73,9
Pilot, bombardier, fighting controller, navigator, radio operator, two gunners9
Engine (Type) 4: Rolls-Royce Merlin8
HP 1,030 each8
Propeller blades 3 bladed constant speed9
Dimensions  
Span 102'3,8,9
31.09 m3, 31.1 m9
Length 68' 10"3, 69' 4"9 70'8
20.98 m3, 21.1 m9
Height 20'8,9, 20' 4"3
6.1 m9, 6.18 m3
Wing area 1,205 sq ft9
112 sq m9
Weight  
Empty 37,000 lb9, 41,000 lb3
16,750 kg9, 18,600 kg3
Loaded 60,000 lb8, 68,000 lb3,9
30,800 kg9, 30,845 kg3
Maximum overload 72,000 lb3
32,660 kg3
Performance  
Speed 275 mph9, >300 mph8
440 kph9
Range 3,000 miles8,9
4,800 km9
Armament 10: MG8
10: 0.303 Browning MG9
Nose, dorsal, tail turrets 8: 0.303" MG3
Ventral - some models 2: 0.303" MG3
Bombs 14,000 lb3,9
8 tons8
6,350 kg3
  Avro Lancaster Mk I
Type Bomber1,2,6, Heavy bomber7
Crew 72,6,7, 81
Pilot, navigator, flight engineer, bombardier, nose gunner, mid-upper gunner, radio operator, rear gunner1
Engine (Type) 4: Rolls-Royce Merlin 202,3,6,9
4: Rolls-Royce Merlin 223
4: Rolls-Royce Merlin 241,3,7
Cylinders Inverted inline1, Inline2, V 126,7
Cooling Liquid6
HP Merlin 20: 1,280 each3, 1,460 each2,6
Merlin 22: 1,390 each3
Merlin 24: 1,620 each3, 1,640 each7
Dimensions  
Span 102'1,2,6,7
31.09 m1,2,7
Length 69'1, 69' 6"2,6,7
21.18 m1,2,7
Height 20'1,2,6,7
6.1 m2,7, 6.25 m1
Wing area 1,296 ft2 1, 1,297 ft2 2,7
120.49 m2 1,2,7
Weight  
Empty 36,900 lb2,7, 36,923 lb1
16,738 kg1,2,7
Loaded 67,859 lb1, 70,000 lb6,7
30,845 kg1, 31,751 kg7
Loaded with 14,000 lb /
6,350 kg
bombs
68,000 lb2
30,845 kg2
Performance  
Speed @ 11,480' /
3,500 m
286 mph1
462 kph1
Speed @ 11,500' 287 mph6
Speed @ 11,500' /
3,500 m
Merlin 24: 287 mph3
Merlin 24: 462 kph3
Speed @ 11,500' /
3,505 m
287 mph2,7
462 kph2,7
Cruising speed Merlin 24: 210 mph7, 215 mph3
Merlin 24: 338 kph7, 347 kph3
Climb Merlin 24: 270'/minute3
Merlin 24: 82 m/minute3
Climb to 20,000' /
6,095 m
41.6 minutes2
Service ceiling 24,492'1, 24,500'2,6
Merlin 24: 24,500'3,7
7,467 m1, 7,470 m2
Merlin 24: 7,465 m3, 7,470 m7
Range 1,660 miles6
Merlin 24: 2,678 miles3
Merlin 24: 4,310 km3
Range with 7,000 lb
bomb load
2,530 miles7
4,070 km7
Range with 10,000 lb
bomb load
Merlin 24: 1,040 miles3
Merlin 24: 1,673 km3
Range with 13,970 lb /
6,350 kg
bomb load
1,674 miles1
2,700 km1
Range with 14,000 lb /
6,350 kg
bomb load
1,660 miles2
2,671 km2
Armament 10: MG6
9: 7.7 mm Browning MG1
Nose turret 2: 7.7 mm MG2
2: 7.7 mm Browning MG7
Dorsal turret 2: 7.7 mm MG2
2: 7.7 mm Browning MG7
Ventral turret 2: 7.7 mm MG2
Tail turret 4: 7.7 mm MG2
4: 7.7 mm Browning MG7
Bombs 14,000 lb1,7, 22,000 lb6
14: 1,000 lb bombs2
6,350 kg1,7
14: 454 kg bombs2
  Avro Lancaster Mk II
Type Bomber6
Crew 76
Engine (Type) 4: Bristol Hercules VI6,9
Bristol Hercules VI or XVI2,3,6
Cylinders Radial 142,3,6,9
Cooling Air6,9
HP 1,600 each9, 1,735 each6
1,650 / 1,675 HP2,3,6
Dimensions  
Span 102'6
Length 69' 6"6
Height 20' 6"6
Weight  
Loaded 62,700 lb6
Performance  
Speed @ 14,000' 265 mph6
Service ceiling 18,500'6
Range 2,250 miles6
Armament 10: MG6
Bombs 14,000 lb6
  Avro Lancaster Mk III
Engine (Type) 4: Packard Merlin 289
Packard built Merlin 28, 38, or 2242,3,9
Cylinders V-129
Cooling Liquid9
HP 1,300 or 1,620 HP2,3,9
  Avro Lancaster Mk X
Engine (Type) 4: Packard Merlin9

Sources:

  1. Aircraft of WWII, General Editor: Jim Winchester, 2004
  2. Fighting Aircraft of World War II, Editor: Karen Leverington, 1995
  3. Aircraft of WWII, Stewart Wilson, 1998
  4. Lancaster Squadrons 1942-43, Jon Lake, 2002
  5. Lancaster Squadrons 1944-45, Jon Lake, 2002
  6. World War II Airplanes Volume 1, Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi, 1976
  7. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
  8. Aeronautics Aircraft Spotters' Handbook, Ensign L. C. Guthman, 1943
  9. Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II, 1989
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