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English Electric A.1 Canberra

Shorts SC-4
Shorts SC-9





Early developments of the turbojet engine, with then very limited power output, restricted somewhat the size and type of aircraft able to take advantage of this new power plant. Thus, it was not until Air Ministry Specification B.3/45 was issued that the English Electric Company was able to design and build Britain's first turbojet-powered bomber - the first such aircraft to serve with the RAF.

W.E.W. ‘Teddy' Petter, former chief designer at Westland, was hired by English Electric in 1945 to give this company the ability to design its own aircraft. The resulting English Electric Canberra (the first prototype, VN799) (designed to the high altitude bomber specification B3/45) first flew on 13 May 1949 piloted by Roland Beaumont, and astonished everyone by its amazing agility, though its bombload was 2722 kg (6,000 lb). A B.2 was ready for delivery from English Electric in November 1951. It was issued to Bristol Aero Engines at Filton for development work on the Olympus - destined to power the Vulcan and much later, Concorde. Delivered to Filton in December 1951, WD952's engine bays underwent a radical re-engineering to accommodate the Olympus - the engine would project much further for-ward than the Avon that the Canberra was designed around.

Fitted with a pair of Olympus B.01.1/2BS of 8,000 lb st (35.5kN), WD952 first flew in this guise on August 5, 1952 - just 25 days before the prototype Vulcan undertook its maiden flight. As well as undertaking development flying for the engine, it was soon clear that the Canberra-Olympus combination offered significant gains in altitude and Bristol's chief test pilot, W/C Walter Gibb achieved a Class C world record of 63,668ft (19,406m) on May 4, 1953.


Olympus testbed


As Olympus development continued, WD952 was re‑engined with the Series 101 of 11,000 lb st (48.9kN) and then in 1955 with the B.01.11 (the Series 102) of 13,000 lb st (57.8kN). With the 102s in place, W/C Webb achieved another world record for altitude on August 29, 1955, this time with 65,876ft (20,079m). The aircraft performed at that year's SBAC display at Farnborough ‑ the nose placarded with details of its record flights. On March 12, 1956, WD952 came to grief in a crash near Filton.

The Canberra has unswept wings and tail surfaces, a variable incidence tailplane, split trailing edge flaps and finger type airbrakes in top and bottom wing surfaces. The tricycle undercarriage has twin nose-wheels and single wheels on each main unit. The nose wheel retracts rearward and main wheels into the centre section.

Four prototypes of the English Electric A1, later designated as B.1s, were all used for development flying. The initial order was for 130, in three variants, and the type was put in production in 1949 by the English Electric Co at Preston, Short Brothers and Harland, Avro, and Handley Page.

The original intention had been to produce a two-crew aircraft which would rely upon radar for the accurate delivery of its bomb load. But although the four prototypes were built to this configuration, the first production Canberra B.2 carried a crew of three and were configured for visual bombing. Of mid-wing monoplane configuration, all-metal, semi-monocoque construction with a cantilevered wing and a wooden vertical stabiliser, these aircraft were powered by two 28.91kN Rolls-Royce Avon 101 engines and could carry internally 2,722kg of conventional or nuclear weapons. Canberras entered RAF service with No 101 Squadron at RAF Binbrook in May 1951. These aircraft were unarmed, relying (as had the wartime de Havilland Mosquito) on speed.


Canberra TT.18

The major production variant was the B.2 bomber - the first prototype flying on April 21, 1950. B.2s were built by English Electric, Avro, and Handley Page. Conversions of the B.2 were as follows: T.4, B.8, U.10 (D.10), T.11, U.14 (D.14), T.17, TT.18 plus some to B(TT).2 target tug status and one to B.2E for special fit trials. The type did not officially adopt the name Canberra until January 1951.


Venezuelan Canberra B.2
The photo‑reconnaissance version of the B.2, including slightly lengthened fuselage was designated PR.3. Prototype first flown March 19 1951.The B.2 three seat tactical bomber which entered service with the RAF in January 1951 had 6500 lb Avon 101 engines.
Dual control trainer version of the B.2, readily identifiable by its 'solid' nose was the T.4. Prototype first flown on June 6, 1952, entering service in 1954.
A 'Pathfinder' or target marker version of the B.2 was the B.5, the prototype of which was flown for the first time on July 6, 1951. Only one, VX165, was produced ‑ this aircraft was converted to B(1).8 status and later used for PR.9 development work.
An improved B.2 with more powerful Avons and increased range was the B.6. The first production B.6 flew on January 26, 1954, introducing more powerful engines and increased fue capacity. B.6s were built by English Electric and Shorts. An interim bomber interdictor variant, with wing pylons for bombs and a ventral gun pack, the B(1).6 was also produced. The first production B(1).6, WT307, was used for a variety of trials, it finally served with RAF Germany before retirement in 1969. Some B.6 airframes were converted to B.15 and B.16 status carrying two 1000 lb bombs or packs of 37 unguided rockets under their wings in addition to a full bombload, and others were converted to take BLUE SHADOW equipment as B.6(BS), and others for radar research. A conversion of the B.6 with additional underwing hardpoints for weapons was designated B.15, and a generally similar B.16 with more radar equipment.
Canberra B.6
The B.2 and B.6 were in service with the air forces of Rhodesia, Venezuela and Ecuador.
Eighteen B.2s were converted by Shorts (company designation SC.4) to U.10 (later D.10) pilotless drone status for use on the Australian ranges at Woomera. The first aircraft was first flown in this form on June 11, 1957. One U.10 was later upgraded to U.14 status.
The PR.3 carried seven cameras for high altitude reconnaissance.



Shorts SC-4


The PR.7 was a photo-reconnaissance version of the B.6; the prototype first flying on August 16, 1953.

Seven PR.7s were converted to TT.22 status and one to interim high-altitude PR.9 guise. Deliveries of T.22 Canberras to the Royal Navy began in November 1973. They were used for radar training and are basically rebuilt PR.7s.


Canberra B(I).8

The Canberra B(l)Mk 8 of 1954 introduced a new nose with the nav/bomb-aimer in front and the pilot under a fighter canopy offset to the left; previous marks had mainly been three-seaters with two crew in ejection seats behind the pilot. The radar-equipped Canberra B.Mk 1 was not put into production, so the first variant was the Canberra B Mk 2 with a visual bomb-aiming position in the nose for a third crew member, who had to leave his ejection seat before the high-level bombing run. Normal bombload was tandem triplets of 454-kg (1,000- lb) weapons. The Canberra B.Mk 6 introduced more powerful en-gines as well as underwing pylons for two further 454-kg (1000-lb) bombs, and like some other versions added fuel in the leading edge of the outer wings. All bomber versions were equipped with a visual aiming station in the nose, though the offset-canopy Canberra B(I).Mk 8 and its many de-rived export versions normally oper-ated at low level and bombs were sometimes released by the pilot in close dive attacks. These tactical mod-els could also be fitted with a remov-able pack of four 20-mm cannon with well over 2,000 rounds of ammunition.

The Canberra 8 is distinguished from previous variants mainly by the revised cockpit, which is moved back and is offset to the port side so that the pilot now sits in a long blister canopy. It appears that the second crew member carried for this role is now housed forward of the pilot instead of behind and has no ejection seat. The Canberra 8 has Rolls-Royce Avon RA.7 engines of increased power. The B Mk. 6 and PR.7 have the same span of 63 ft. 11 in. as the B.2 and PR.3, but their length has been increased to 66 ft. 9 in.


With the arrival of the B.(1).8, the RAF at last had a dedicated interdictor, capable of night strikes. The prototype was the reworked B.5 one‑off, VXL85 which first flew in the new form On July 23, 1954. Production was carried out by both English Electric and Shorts. Most obvious change was the fighter‑like canopy, offset to port, allowing the navigator/bomb aimer to be positioned in the nose. A ventral gun pack could also be carried.
The B(1).12 was an improved version of the B(1).8 ordered by the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) in 1958 and the South African Air Force (SAAF) in the early 1960s. The RNZAF aircraft served until 1970 when the survivors went to the Indian Air Force.
The B(I).8 two-seat long-range night interdictor or high-altitude bomber was built also as the B(I).58 for India.
Two B(1).8s were converted to approximately B.6 status with the substitution of new noses.
The PR.3 followed directly from the B2. In fact its first flight on March 19, 1950 preceded that of the B2 which first flew on April 23 1950. Likewise the PR7, which followed the B6, first flew on October 28, 1953 whilst the B6 flew on January 26, 1954. The PR9 first flew on July 8 1955 follow­ing its predecessor the B(1)8 which first flew on July 23, 1954.
The Canberra PR.9 photographic reconnaissance aircraft is externally very like the Mk.8, but has a 4 ft greater span, a centre-section of increased chord, and 10,500 lb Avon 206 engines. In the United Kingdom a handful of Canberra PR.Mk 9 aircraft equiped No.1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit at Wyton but the main force of PR. Mk 9s are being completely rebuilt by Shorts (the original manufacturer) to carry CASTOR (Corps Airborne Stand-Off Radar), a giant SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) for surveillance over Germany from heights over 18.3 km (60,000 ft).


Canberra PR.9


Development of the PR9 was made by Short Bros, using the PR7 as a base but by the time they had finished, there was hardly anything of the original PR7 left. The PR9 is markedly different from the rest of the Canberra family in that it has a new wing of greater span and increased centre section chord, and a longer span tailplane. It has a fighter style cockpit similar to that of the B(1)8, but the B(1)8 is a little unfortunate that the canopy could not be opened. The navigator is similarly unfortunate on the B(1)8 in that he does not have the benefit of an ejector seat, having to make his egress in an emergency through the entrance hatch in the side of the nose. Taking into account the more powerful engines also, there is no family tie between these two aircraft other than general appearance and a common ancestry. The prototype first flew on July 8,1955. One PR.9, XH132, was rebuilt by Shorts as the SC.9 test-bed for the Red Top air-to-air missile system. Production PR.9s were all built by Shorts.

The Fleet Air Arm used six U.14 (later D.14) pilotless drone conversions of the B.2 for development work of the Seacat and Seaslug guided missiles, flying the Canberras from Hal Far, Malta. The conversion was similar to the U.10 but featured hydraulic flying controls. The first example undertook its maiden flight in August 1961. Two D.14s, as the type became designated (D for drone in place of U for unmanned which had become U for utility), were reconverted to B.2 Status.

The B-57 served in Vietnam with the USAF in the bomber and reconnaissance roles but was also in use with the USAF and Air National Guard in bomber, trainer, reconnaissance (including a high altitude and long endurance variant), ELINT, weather sampling and research, EW/ECM, and as a night interdictor. The Pakistan Air Force were the only foreign operator of the B-57, in an official capacity, having received twenty-six examples from the USAF under the then Mutual Defence Assistance Programme in the mid-1950s.

The Canberra was also built under licence in Australia, by the Government Aircraft Factory at Melbourne, for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), where forty-eight examples (s/ns A84-201-248), known as the Mk.20 (48 built), were produced between 1953 and 1958.Five were later modified to Mk.21 dual trainers.

The Mk.12 was a modified version of the RAF B(1)8 with an autopilot and extra navigation equipment.

Following development work on B.2 WJ734, 1956-1957, eight B.2s were converted to T.11 radar targets for the training of AI radar operators for aircraft such as the Gloster Javelin. The nose section was elongated to take a radar with a distinctive conical radome. All eight T.11s were later converted, by the removal of the radar, for target facilities work as T.19s.


Canberra T.11


The T13 were type conversion trainers and T.17A EW/ECM variant.

Along with the B(1).12s, the RNZAF ordered two T.13s, the equivalent of the RAF T.4. Both were handed on to India in 1970.

The B.15 and B.16 were conversions of the B.6 for use by the Near East and Far East Air Forces. The main difference between the two variants was that the B.16 was fitted with the Blue Shadow radar system - the two could he told apart by the trunking on the starboard fuselage above the nosewheel bay and the bomb bay. Provision was included for underwing air-to-ground unguided rockets and later for guided missiles to be carried. The first B.15 conversion flew for the first time on October 4, 1960. Eight B.15s were converted to E.15 target facilities aircraft. The first B.16 undertook its maiden flight during 1960.

The T.17 was a dedicated electronic countermeasures (ECM) training aircraft, equipped with a variety of 'nasties' to teach defending forces what combat in ECM conditions would be like. The first conversion flew on September 19, 1965. T.17s equipped the unique 360 Squadron, manned by both RAF and Navy personnel. From 1986 six T.17s were upgraded with further ECM equipment to T.17A status; all were retired in 1994.

On March 21, 1966, the first conversion of a B.2 to target tug status, TT.18, undertook its maiden flight. This was followed by 22 other examples, serving with the RAF and with the Fleet Air Arm. A Rusliton winch pack and towed target 'bird' could he carried under each wing.

All eight T.11s were converted for target facilities work as T.19s. This involved simply removing the radar in the nose and replacing it with a concrete weight to keep the centre of gravity.

The Canberra Mk.20 was a licence-produced version of the B.2 built by Government Aircraft Factories (GAF) at Fisherman's Bend, Melbourne, NSW for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The first aircraft, A84-201 flew on May 29,1953. A84-201, piloted by S/L P Raw, took part in the London to New Zealand air race (as No. 5) and came second, in an elapsed time of 24 hours 31 minutes.

Five RAAF Mk.20s were later converted to dual--control trainers and redesignated as Mk.21s.

Initially Mks.22 to 24 were allocated for further GAF-produced Canberras, but this did not come about. The final Canberra variant in the home and Commonwealth system was the T.22 target facilities and radar instruction aircraft for the Royal Navy. These were conversions of PR.7s, the first example flying on June 28, 1973. Unlike other radar conversions, the T.22 boasted a somewhat elegant 'nose job'.

A total of 1376 were built by the six manufacturers (including Avro, Handley Page and Short Bros) including 403 built under licence by Martin (in six variants) as the B-57. The B-57 saw combat over Vietnam beside other Canberras from Australia.

782 being supplied to the Royal Air Force. 48 were manufactured by the Government Aircraft Factory in Australia.




Engines: 2 x Rolls Royce Avon 101, 6500 lb thrust.
Max speed: 570 mph @ 40,000 ft.
Service ceiling: 48,000 ft.

Intruder variant

Two-seat long-range night interdictor or high-altitude bomber
Engines: 2 x Rolls-Royce Avon 109, 7400 lb
Wingspan: 63 ft 11.5 in
Length: 65 ft 6 in
Height: 15 ft 7 in Wing area: 960 sq.ft
Empty weight: 23,173 lb
MTOW: 56,250 lb
Fuel capacity fuselage & wings: 2765 gal
Wingtip tank fuel capacity: 2 x 244 gal
Max speed: 541 mph at 40,000 ft
Service ceiling: 48,000 ft
Max range: 3630 mi
Bomb bay capacity: 6 x 1000 lb or 3 x 1000 lb + 4 x 20mm guns

Engines: 2 x Rolls Royce Avon 109, 32.9kN / 7400 lbs thrust
Max speed: 541 mph @ 40,000 ft.
Length 65.5 ft. (19.96 m.)
Wing span 64 ft. (19.5 m.)
Height: 4.8 m / 15 ft 9 in
Wing area: 89.2 sq.m / 960.14 sq ft
Weight empty 23,170 lb. (10,510 kg.)
Max take-off weight: 24925 kg / 54951 lb
Max bomb load: 6,000 lb. (2,700 kg.)
Max. speed: 827 km/h / 514 mph
Ceiling: 48,000 ft. (14,600 m.) fully loaded.
Range w/max.fuel: 5800 km / 3604 miles
Range w/max.payload: 1300 km / 808 miles
Armament: 4 x 20mm machine-guns, bombs, missiles
Crew: 2


Wing span: 66 ft 11.5 in (19.49 m).
Length: 65 ft 6 in (19.96 m).
Height: 15 ft 7 in (4.75 m).
Engines: 2 x RR Avon 101, 6500 lb.
Max take off weight : 46712.9 lb / 21185.0 kg
Max level speed: 517 mph (827 kph).
Service ceiling : 47999 ft / 14630 m
Range : 2308 nm / 4274 km.
Crew : 3
Armament : 2722 kg Bomb.


Type: three seat light bomber.
Engines: 2 x Rolls Royce Avon Mk 109 turbojets, 3402 kg (7,500 lb) thrust.
Wing span: (excluding tiptanks): 19.51 m (64 ft 0 in).
Length: 19.96 m (65 ft 6 in).
Height: 4.75 m (15 ft 7 in).
Wing area: 89.19 sq.m (960.0 sq ft).
Empty wt: 10099 kg (22,265 lb).
MTOW: 24041 kg (53,000 lb).
Max speed sea level to 4570 m (15,000 ft): 973 km/h (605 mph)
Max speed: 541 mph at 40,000 ft
Service ceiling: 14630 m (48,000 ft).
Combat radius (high, with full bombload): 1779 km (1,105 miles).
Max range: 3790 mi

Armament: internal bombload of 2722 kg (6,000 lb) and two underwing pylons for two 454 kg (1,000 lb) stores.


Engines: 2 x RR Avon
Wingspan: 64 ft
Length: 65 ft 6 in




Type: two-seat tactical photographic reconnaissance aircraft
Engines: two Rolls-Royce Avon 206 turbojets, 4559-kg (10,050-1b) thrust
Maximum speed: 998 km/h (620 mph) / Mach 0. 94
Maximum Speed at 40,000 ft: 541 mph
Service ceiling: 18290 m (60, 000 ft)
Maximum range: 7240 km (4, 500 miles)
Max Takeoff 54,950 lb
Normal take-off weight: 22680 kg (50,000 lb)
Wingspan 20.68 m (67 ft 10 in)
Length 20,32 m (66 ft 8 in)
Height 4.75 (15 ft 7 in).
Armament: None




Engines: 2 x Rolls Royce Avon 101, 6500 lbs thrust.


Engines: Rolls-Royce RA.3 Avon Mk. 1, 6,500lb (2,948 kg)
Fuel : Aviation Turbine Fuel (Jet Fuel)
Fuselage Tank Capacity: 1,374 Imperial Gallons / 6,246 Litres / 1,650 US Gallons
Wing Tank Capacity (2): 250 Imperial Gallons / 1,136 Litres / 311 US Gallons
Wingspan: 64’ 0" / 19.50 m
Length: 65’ 6 "  / 19.96 m
Wing Area: 960.3 sq. ft / 89.2 sq. m
Height: 15’ 7" / 4.75 m
Empty weight: 25,400 lb / 11,521 kg
Maximum Takeoff weight: 47,000 lb / 21,312 kg
Armament: Four 750 lb (340 kg) M1117 general-purpose bombs in weapons bay plus 2 externally/each wingtip.
Maximum Speed: 504 knots / 580 mph / 933 km/h
Cruise Speed: 379 knots / 437 mph / 703 km/h




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