Scrapping a Vulcan: The Destruction of XL445

k2-vulcan-xl445-scrapped-lyneham (All images by Alan Allen, reproduced with permission)

Poised to send a shudder down the spine of military aviation enthusiasts, this series of photos by Alan Allen captures the final days of Avro Vulcan K2 XL445, which was torn apart for scrap at RAF Lyneham, UK, in 1987. Originally built as a bomber, designated B2, this Vulcan was later converted to a tanker aircraft to bolster the RAF’s aerial refueling capability. Withdrawn from use in 1984, XL445 was flown to the Wiltshire airbase to serve as a crash rescue trainer before the neglected airframe was broken up several years later.


It all began with the removal of the engine nozzles before the countermeasures bay was severed from the rear of the aircraft. The Vulcan’s massive tail fin was then cut from the main fuselage.


Next up came the wings – first the tips and then the main wing structures were severed at the roots. At this stage XL445 remained on its undercarriage, and continued to do so as the engines were removed from the battered hulk.


Above, one of four Rolls-Royce 201 series Olympus engines is removed from XL445.


With wings, tail fin and engines removed, the aircraft’s undercarriage is smashed out from beneath it, sending the mighty Vulcan crashing to the ground.


By this stage XL445 is little more than a pile of twisted metal, yet the Vulcan’s unique shape is still recognisable amid the chaos of torn aluminium.


But not for long. The last image in this series displays the mortal remains of the once proud Cold War bomber, awaiting removal from RAF Lyneham as the four Olympus engines are carried away by lorry in the background. Known to those who flew and worked on her as “Fireball” XL445, the Vulcan’s cockpit section was thankfully salvaged and has since undergone a superb restoration, while metal from the bomb doors has been transformed into cufflinks.

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