LETTER: Cold War not without casualties

The Vulcan strategic nuclear bomber’s photograph was striking (‘Air Display’, October 16). However, the under-wing colours were not ‘reflected trees’ but essential camouflage!

It was originally designed to operate at high level (55,000 feet or more) at Mach 0.86.

To avoid missiles, it converted to a very low level role, at which point it began to experience fatigue problems.

There was a human aspect too. The Vulcan had a standard crew of five, two pilots, two navigators, and an air electronics officer. But only the pilots had ejection seats; others had conventional parachutes and a single exit hatch. So a serious mechanical or hydraulic failure at low-level would condemn all but two of the crew.

The same was true of the Canberra, the Vulcan’s low-level tactical nuclear ‘little brother’, with one or two navigators.

There was significant attrition among low-level aircrew without ejection seats.

It accounted for about 20 per cent of fellow nuclear strike navigators from my 1960s intake.

Most were in their early twenties and similar losses would have been sustained by the ‘opposition’.

So while the photos may be fun, the Cold War was not without its casualties.

Dr Tony Parker,

Mill Rd, Ringmer