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22 September 2020 Military Aviation » Royal Air Force Luqa » Major Exercises » Sunspot  
 


Sunspot

Sunspot detachments can be considered as the successors to the Sun Bronze detachments in the post-WW II era, utilising Lancaster and Lincoln aircraft. They were designed to give crews experience in operating in the hotter climates of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries.

Initially, Sunspot exercises were with Canberra aircraft.

The following is a list of some of the Vulcan squadrons which came to Luqa.

The list is in numerical order according to squadron.

        
 


35 Squadron

19 Feb. – 11 March 1968

Originally meant to have eight aircraft from 35 squadron participate, this number was reduced to six Vulcans.

Due to a combination of bad weather at RAF Cottesmore, and aircraft technical problems, the Vulcans’ arrival at RAF Luqa was staggered over a five-day period. A seventh aircraft joined the group towards the end of the deployment.

Other hindrances to the exercise were two crews falling sick towards the end of February, and sand storms over the Libyan bombing range preventing sorties from being flown.

Technical support was provided by 3 Argosies and two Hercules for the inbound flight to Malta, with 2 Argosies and 2 Britannia’s being used for the return flight to Cottesmore. Due to technical difficulties, the Britannia’s were late in delivering their assigned cargo/personnel.

The list below shows the arrival of the Vulcans in order of serial number, as given in the squadron’s Operational Records Book (ORB).


SERIAL ARRIVED DEPARTED HISTORY NOTES
XJ780 21.02.68 11.03.68 Completed 10.1.61. Olympus 201 engines. 83 Squadron 16.1.61, 12 Squadron 26.11.62, 230 OCU 16.8.63, Waddington Wing 10.10.67, Cottesmore Wing 6.12.68, Waddington Wing 18.4.69, Akrotiri Wing 12.1.70, Waddington Wing 17.1.75. Modification to B.2(MRR) standard 31.3.76. 27 Squadron 23.11.76. Allocated for spares recovery 31.3.82. Sold to Bird Group as scrap 11.82. Delayed by weather at Cottesmore.
XJ825 21.02.68   Completed 27.7.61. Olympus 201 engines. 27 Squadron 28.7.61, 35 Squadron 4.2.63, 230 OCU 30.4.64, Cottesmore Wing 3.9.65, Waddington Wing 11.4.67 Cottesmore Wing 19.2.68, Akrotiri Wing 26.2.69, 35 Squadron 16.1.75. Modification to B.2(MRR) standard 13.1.76. 27 Squadron 15.12.76, 35 Squadron 6.4.81, 101 Squadron 1.3.82. Conversion to K.2 11.5.82. 50 Squadron 25.6.82. Allocated 8810M 22.3.84, battle damage repair duties. Struck off charge 5.4.84. Scrapped 1992. Delayed by weather at Cottesmore.
XM569 23.02.68 11.03.68 Completed 4.1.63, Olympus 201 engines. Blue Steel modifications. 27 Squadron 1.2.63, Scampton Wing, Waddington Wing 17.11.66, Cottesmore Wing 19.1.68, Akrotiri Wing 26.2.69, 27 Squadron 4.7.74, 9 Squadron 23.11.76, 50 Squadron 6.79, 101 Squadron 9.81, 44 Squadron 8.82. Sold to Wales Aircraft Museum 21.1.83. Delivered to Cardiff 2.2.83. Delayed by unserviceabilities.
XM570 *   09.03.68 Completed 26.2.63. Olympus 201 engines. Blue Steel modifications. 27 Squadron 27.2.63, Scampton Wing, Waddington Wing 2.1.67, Cottesmore Wing 26.1.68, Akrotiri Wing 26.2.69, 27 Squadron 8.3.74, 35 Squadron 8.12.76, 230 OCU 28.2.77, 35 Squadron 2.3.77, 617 Squadron 4.9.78, 35 Squadron 31.10.78. Delivered to St. Athan 11.3.81. Sold to Harold John & Co as scrap 29.1.82. * The serial number as written on RAF Form 541 was XJ570. However, as Vulcan serial numbers in the XJ series start from XJ870, it is assumed this is a typo.
XM600 19.02.68 11.03.68 Completed 30.9.63. Olympus 301 engines. 35 Squadron 3.10.63, Coningsby Wing, Waddington Wing 3.5.68, 101 Squadron 8.73. Crashed near Spilsby following engine bay fire 17.1.77.  
XM602 21.02.68   Completed 11.11.63. Olympus 301 engines. 12 Squadron 13.11.63, Coningsby Wing, Cottesmore Wing, Waddington Wing 24.4.68, 9 Squadron 12.75, 230 OCU 19.10.76, 35 Squadron 29.10.76, Waddington Wing 1.11.76, 101 Squadron 5.80. To St. Athan 7.1.82. Transferred to St. Athan Historic Aircraft Museum 16.3.83 (8771 M). Delayed by weather at Cottesmore.
XM611 07.03.68 11.03.68 Completed 12.2.64. Olympus 301 engines. 9 Squadron 14.2.64, Coningsby Wing, Cottesmore Wing, Waddington Wing 28.5.68, 101 Squadron 5.72. To St. Athan 27.1.82. Sold to T. Bradbury as scrap 2.6.83. Trial 554A, used to test a low-level pilots' sight.
XM646 21.02.68 11.03.68 Completed 7.4.64. Olympus 301 engines. 12 Squadron 8.4.64, Coningsby Wing, Cottesmore Wing, Akrotiri Wing 5.2.69, 9 Squadron 17.1.75, 101 Squadron 6.81. To St. Athan 26.1.82. Sold to T. Bradbury as scrap 29.6.83. Delayed by weather at Cottesmore.

        


44 (Rhodesia) Squadron

24 May – 08 June 1962

One Vulcan was provided by 101 squadron, three crews had to be temporarily reconstituted, and two complete crews had to be borrowed from 50 squadron. As the exercise dates coincided with dates for promotion examinations, no crew changing was permitted.

The Squadron Wing Commander flew out on the 23rd, to make preparations for the squadrons’ arrival. Due to a lack of transport, one third of the ground support crew and two reserve crews arrived on the 25th.

A high level of sickness was also reported during this detachment, and it was deemed more prudent to have an additional crew for future detachments.

Both the squadron and RAF Luqa coped well with the pressures of conducting all aspects of the exercises over the two week period. But the whole process could easily have been derailed by unforeseen circumstance – such as the sicknesses reported above, or aircraft technical problems – which could cause cancellations or delays to the exercise. For this reason, it was felt that the exercise should be spread over 21 days.

The list below shows the arrival of the Vulcans in order of serial number, as given in the squadron’s Operational Records Book (ORB).


SERIAL ARRIVED DEPARTED HISTORY NOTES
XA907 24.05.62 08.06.62 Delivered 29.8.57. Converted to B.IA standard 1961. Olympus 104 engines. 83 Squadron, 44 Squadron, Waddington Wing, BCDU. Withdrawn from use 3.11.66. Sold as scrap 20.5.68.
XH476 24.05.62 08.06.62 Delivered 4.2.58. Converted to B.IA 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 101 Squadron, 44 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Withdrawn from use 4.5.67, sold as scrap 21.1.69.
XH477 24.05.62 08.06.62 Delivered 17.2.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1960. Olympus 104 engines. 83 Squadron, 44 Squadron, 50 Squadron. Crashed in Scotland 12.6.63.
XH479 24.05.62 08.06.62 Delivered 28.3.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1961. Olympus 104 engines. Waddington Wing. Delivered to Halton as instructional airframe (7974M), scrapped 1973.
XH480 24.05.62 08.06.62 Delivered 22.4.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 83 Squadron, 44 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Delivered to St. Athan 10.11.66, sold as scrap 30.9.68.
XH501 23.05.62 08.06.62 Delivered 3.9.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1961. Olympus 104 engines. 617 Squadron, 44 Squadron, 44/50 Squadron. Delivered St. Athan 3.11.66. Sold as scrap 8.11.68. Wing Commander’s aircraft.
XH503 24.05.62 08.06.62 Delivered 30.12.58. Converted to B.1A 1963. Olympus 104 engines. 83 Squadron, 44 Squadron, Waddington Wing. To St. Athan 6.12.66, sold as scrap 8.11.68.
XH505 24.05.62 08.06.62 Delivered 13.3.59. Converted to B.IA standard 1960. Olympus 104 engines. 230 OCU, 617 Squadron, 50 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Delivered to Finningley fire dump 9.1.68, later scrapped.

        


10 - 25 June 1963

44 squadron may have been required to reinforce the Near East Air Force in the conventional role in an emergency, thus giving air and ground crews the opportunity of operating in such a theatre. The squadron was also tasked with participation in Cypex IV, a defence of Cyprus exercise.

The air crews were prohibited from using the (then much shorter) 14/32 runway, unless in case of a dire emergency. Pilots were also warned to expect turbulence when landing on r/w 24 in strong wind conditions, caused by the hangars close to the runway threshold.

One aircraft arrived on the 9th, the remaining seven Vulcans and all the transport aircraft landing on the 10th.

On the 12th, XH478 burst twelve tyres at El Adem. Tyres were flown to the Libyan airfield, the aircraft returning to Luqa the following day.

On 23 June, a Vulcan participated at the Aviano airshow in Italy.


SERIAL ARRIVED DEPARTED HISTORY NOTES
XA913 10.06.63 25.06.63 Delivered 19.12.57. Converted to B.IA standard 1961. Olympus 104 engines. 101 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Stored St. Athan 21.12.66, sold as scrap 20.5.68.
XH476 10.06.63 25.06.63 Delivered 4.2.58. Converted to B.IA 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 101 Squadron, 44 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Withdrawn from use 4.5.67, sold as scrap 21.1.69.
XH478 10.06.63 25.06.63 Delivered 31.3.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1962. Olympus 104 engines. Ministry of Aviation (in-flight refuelling trials), Waddington Wing. Delivered to Akrotiri as instructional airframe (MC8047M) 3.69. Later scrapped.
XH482 10.06.63 25.06.63 Delivered 5.5.58. Converted to B.1A 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 617 Squadron, 50 Squadron, 101 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Delivered to St. Athan 13.10.66, scrapped 19.9.68.
XH483 10.06.63 25.06.63 Delivered 20.5.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1961. Olympus 104 engines. 617 Squadron, 50 Squadron, Waddington Wing. To Manston fire dump 3.8.67, scrapped 1977.
XH501 09.06.63 25.06.63 Delivered 3.9.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1961. Olympus 104 engines. 617 Squadron, 44 Squadron, 44/50 Squadron. Delivered St. Athan 3.11.66. Sold as scrap 8.11.68. Wing Commander’s aircraft.
XH505 10.06.63 25.06.63 Delivered 13.3.59. Converted to B.IA standard 1960. Olympus 104 engines. 230 OCU, 617 Squadron, 50 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Delivered to Finningley fire dump 9.1.68, later scrapped.
XH506 10.06.63 25.06.63 Delivered 17.4.59. Converted to B.IA standard 1960. Olympus 104 engines. 101 Squadron, 617 Squadron, 50 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Withdrawn from use 10.1.68, sold as scrap 8.11.68.

        


06 – 20 October 1964

One Vulcan arrived on the 3rd. whilst the remaining seven Vulcans landed on the 6th, five of them making practice diversions to Catania and Sigonella prior to landing at Luqa.

Support aircraft, consisting of 3 Britannias, arrived on the 5th. On the squadrons’ departure day, the transport aircraft were 2 Britannias and 3 Hastings.

Between the 15-16th, the squadron participated in a Malta ADEX (Air Defence Exercise).

On the 17th, the 8 aircraft departed for Akrotiri at five minute intervals starting at 13:50 Z, returning the same evening. This exercise was scheduled for the 16th, but had been cancelled due to bad weather at Cyprus.

Only details of 4 aircraft are available.


SERIAL ARRIVED DEPARTED HISTORY NOTES
XA913 06.10.64 20.10.64 Delivered 19.12.57. Converted to B.IA standard 1961. Olympus 104 engines. 101 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Stored St. Athan 21.12.66, sold as scrap 20.5.68.
XH478 06.10.64 20.10.64 Delivered 31.3.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1962. Olympus 104 engines. Ministry of Aviation (in-flight refuelling trials), Waddington Wing. Delivered to Akrotiri as instructional airframe (MC8047M) 3.69. Later scrapped.
XH501 06.10.64 20.10.64 Delivered 3.9.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1961. Olympus 104 engines. 617 Squadron, 44 Squadron, 44/50 Squadron. Delivered St. Athan 3.11.66. Sold as scrap 8.11.68. Wing Commander’s aircraft.
XH503 06.10.64 20.10.64 Delivered 30.12.58. Converted to B.1A 1963. Olympus 104 engines. 83 Squadron, 44 Squadron, Waddington Wing. To St. Athan 6.12.66, sold as scrap 8.11.68.

        


50 Squadron

15-29 October 1962

Advance party arrived on the 13th. 6 aircraft arrived on the 15th, with the 7th Vulcan landing on the 16th. Original departure date of 30th October had to be brought forward by a day due to events in Cuba.

Personnel were brought over by Britannia aircraft, but freight was flown in by civilian aircraft, which had to be handled by Maltese Customs, resulting in delays until the evening of the 16th, much to the frustration of AHQ Malta and RAF Luqa.

During it’s stay, the squadron participated in Exercise Cypex III. The squadron was instructed not to use the shorter 14/32 runway, unless in a dire emergency.

The squadron’s activities were also covered by the The Times of Malta and Television Malta.


SERIAL ARRIVED DEPARTED HISTORY NOTES
XA909 15.10.62 29.11.62 Delivered 1.10.57. Converted to B.IA standard 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 101 Squadron, 50 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Crashed in Anglesey 16.7.64, following engine explosion
XA910 15.10.62 29.11.62 Delivered 31.10.57. Converted to B.IA standard 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 101 Squadron, 230 OCU, 50 Squadron, 44 Squadron. Became instructional airframe (7995M) and later scrapped.
XH482 15.10.62 29.11.62 Delivered 5.5.58. Converted to B.1A 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 617 Squadron, 50 Squadron, 101 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Delivered to St. Athan 13.10.66, scrapped 19.9.68.
XH483 15.10.62 01.11.62 Delivered 20.5.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1961. Olympus 104 engines. 617 Squadron, 50 Squadron, Waddington Wing. To Manston fire dump 3.8.67, scrapped 1977. Suffered Cat 3 damage after it was struck by a tractor-towed trolley, hitting the starboard undercarriage on 25.10.62. Repairs were undertaken at Safi MU. A further 24-hour delay was experienced when high winds prevented jacking up the aircraft for wheel retraction tests.
XH497 15.10.62 29.11.62 Delivered 29.5.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 617 Squadron, 50 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Withdrawn from use 17.5.66, scrapped 1969.
XH498 16.10.62 29.11.62 Delivered 30.6.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 617 Squadron, 50 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Became instructional airframe (7993M), later scrapped. Aircraft’s arrival at Luqa delayed by technical problems at Waddington.
XH500 13.10.62 29.10.62 Delivered 15.8.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1959. Olympus 104 engines. 617 Squadron, BCDU, 50 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Became instructional airframe (7994M), to Waddington fire dump, scrapped 1977. Advance party flew to Akrotiri on 12.10.62, then Luqa
XH506 15.10.62 29.10.62 Delivered 17.4.59. Converted to B.IA standard 1960. Olympus 104 engines. 101 Squadron, 617 Squadron, 50 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Withdrawn from use 10.1.68, sold as scrap 8.11.68.

        


101 Squadron

15 October – 02 November 1963

SERIAL ARRIVED DEPARTED HISTORY NOTES
XA906 15.10.63 01.11.63 Delivered 12.8.57. Converted to B.IA standard 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 83 Squadron, 44 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Stored at St. Athan 10.3.67. Sold as scrap to Bradbury & Co. 6.11.68.
XA907 15.10.63 31.11.63 Delivered 29.8.57. Converted to B.IA standard 1961. Olympus 104 engines. 83 Squadron, 44 Squadron, Waddington Wing, BCDU. Withdrawn from use 3.11.66. Sold as scrap 20.5.68. Crew flew to Akrotiri on 31.10.63, returning direct to Waddington on 01.11.63.
XA910 15.10.63 01.11.63 Delivered 31.10.57. Converted to B.IA standard 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 101 Squadron, 230 OCU, 50 Squadron, 44 Squadron. Became instructional airframe (7995M) and later scrapped.
XH475 15.10.63 01.11.63 Delivered 11.2.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 101 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Became instructional airframe (7996M) 20.11.67. Scrapped 7.6.69.
XH483 15.10.63 01.11.63 Delivered 20.5.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1961. Olympus 104 engines. 617 Squadron, 50 Squadron, Waddington Wing. To Manston fire dump 3.8.67, scrapped 1977.
XH498 15.10.63 01.11.63 Delivered 30.6.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 617 Squadron, 50 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Became instructional airframe (7993M), later scrapped.
XH500 15.10.63 01.11.63 Delivered 15.8.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1959. Olympus 104 engines. 617 Squadron, BCDU, 50 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Became instructional airframe (7994M), to Waddington fire dump, scrapped 1977.
XH502 15.10.63 01.11.63 Delivered 10.11.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 617 Squadron, 50 Squadron, Waddington Wing. To Scampton fire dump 1.68, nose section to Waddington for instructional duties. Diversion for unknown reasons to Hal-Far between 17/18th
        
 


31 May – 16 June 1965

On 1st June, the seven Vulcans (the Wing Commander having arrived on 31st May) departed from RAF Waddington at 10-minute intervals, making practice attacks on a London RBS target, and the towns of Beauvais and Lyon in France, practice diversion to Sigonella, and landing at Luqa.

Between the 1st-5th June a British freelance photographer accompanied the squadron to prepare an article on high speed flight for the Sunday Telegraph.

During their stay, the crews flew bombing sorties against the El Adem range in Libya.

On the 10th, the squadron participated in “Cypex 6”, a Defence of Cyprus exercise.

The 8 aircraft departed from Luqa at 5 minute intervals, carrying out a simulated attack on the El Adam bombing range. The aircraft then headed for Cyprus, splitting into two, four-aircraft formations, one at 500 feet above sea level, the other at high level. The Vulcans “attacked” Cyprus, being intercepted by Lightnings and Javelins based there.

Landing at RAF Akrotiri, the aircraft were turned around, the crew remaining in the aircraft. The aircraft were on the ground for an average of 35 minutes, the aircraft heading direct to Luqa.


SERIAL ARRIVED DEPARTED HISTORY NOTES
XA910 01.06.65 16.05.65 Delivered 31.10.57. Converted to B.IA standard 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 101 Squadron, 230 OCU, 50 Squadron, 44 Squadron. Became instructional airframe (7995M) and later scrapped.
XA911 01.06.65 16.05.65 Delivered 1.11.57. Converted to B.IA standard 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 83 Squadron, 230 OCU, Waddington Wing. Delivered to St. Athan 2.2.67, sold as scrap 8.11.68.
XA913 01.06.65 16.05.65 Delivered 19.12.57. Converted to B.IA standard 1961. Olympus 104 engines. 101 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Stored St. Athan 21.12.66, sold as scrap 20.5.68.
XH480 01.06.65 16.05.65 Delivered 22.4.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 83 Squadron, 44 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Delivered to St. Athan 10.11.66, sold as scrap 30.9.68. The crew of this aircraft were on loan from 50 sqd for the period of the detachment.
XH482 01.06.65 16.05.65 Delivered 5.5.58. Converted to B.1A 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 617 Squadron, 50 Squadron, 101 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Delivered to St. Athan 13.10.66, scrapped 19.9.68.
XH497 01.06.65 16.05.65 Delivered 29.5.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 617 Squadron, 50 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Withdrawn from use 17.5.66, scrapped 1969.
XH498 01.06.65 16.05.65 Delivered 30.6.58. Converted to B.IA standard 1962. Olympus 104 engines. 617 Squadron, 50 Squadron, Waddington Wing. Became instructional airframe (7993M), later scrapped.
XH503 01.06.65 16.05.65 Delivered 30.12.58. Converted to B.1A 1963. Olympus 104 engines. 83 Squadron, 44 Squadron, Waddington Wing. To St. Athan 6.12.66, sold as scrap 8.11.68.

        
 
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