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Weapons of World War Two

Avro Lancaster

Avro Lancaster

The Avro Lancaster was, without doubt, the most important and well done strategic bomber that took part in the war operations of the Second World War fighting in the ranks of the Royal Air Force. To confirm this statement it is enough to look at some data: the almost 7000 exemplars of the Lancaster produced between 1941 and 1945 effectuated, from the 3rd March 1942, more than 156000 war missions, dropping over Europe more than 600 millions of kilograms of bombs. With regard to bombs, the Lancaster was certainly the best adapted aircraft to carry special bombs, from the mine-bombs Wallis (large explosive cylinders which, dropped over the surface of a hydroelectric reservoir at certain altitude and speed, bounced at water level until impacting against the dam) to the high-penetration bombs.

These were monstrous contraptions (from the one of 3625 kilograms, followed by the bomb "Tallboy" of 5450 kilograms and finally by the "Grand Slam" of up to 10000 kilograms) which, besides containing huge amounts of explosive, were fitted with a very heavy ogive and inclined fins in such a way that they would rotate on itself during the fall. This way the bomb was like a huge drill able to penetrate in the terrain (after having crossed through possible buildings) up to 10, 15 or 20 meters. Then a timed fuze would make it explode, with terrorific consequences. But let us return to the Lancaster.

After having seen the bombs that it was able to carry, let us mention as well some of its most famous missions: from the bombing of the dams of the Ruhr to the destruction of Hamburg, from the sinking of the Tirpitz to the "saturation" of the area of Peenemunde, and also the most anonymous but not less important bombings of the German and Italian cities (industrial or not). It has to be highlighted as well that during these operations up to 3349 aircraft were lost, while 487 were so severely damaged that they were deemed as lost. In total, 3836 aircraft, more than half of the total production.

Structurally, the Lancaster was a large four-engined aircraft (31 meters in wingspan) of entirely metallic construction, with middle wing and landing gear of tricycle type with rear wheel. During the war seven versions were built, and here we will see the most widespread one, the Mk 1 (more than 3000 exemplars), illustrated in the picture. The fuselage, of ovoid section and semishell structure, was made of five parts: the nose, with the fore twin turret and the aiming sight for the bombs; the fore part, with the cockpit; the central part, with the attachment of the wings; the rear part, with the bomb bay (which started on the cockpit) and the dorsal and ventral twin turrets; and the stern part, with the transversal tail axis and the quadruple tail turret.

The engines were four Rolls-Royce Merlin XX with twelve cylinders in V cooled by liquid, and able to achieve a maximum power of 1303 horsepower. The electronic installation of the Lancaster, which had among others an oxygen breathing system and another of heating for high-altitude flights, was very sophisticated. Many exemplars were fitted, instead of the ventral turret, with an auxiliary device for "blind" bombing type H2 S (as in the case depicted in the illustration), and other versions mounted perturbation systems to deceive the German radar localization network. The armament provided from eight to ten machine guns (depending on carrying or not the H2 S) model Browning and caliber 7.7 millimeters, in three or four hydraulically actuated turrets.

Avro Lancaster
Specifications for Mark I

First flight: 9 January 1941

Wingspan: 31.09 meters

Wing area: 119.49 square meters

Length: 21.18 meters

Height: 6.25 meters

Full load/Empty weight: 29484/16783 kilograms

Payload/Crew: 12701 kilograms/7

Engines: Four Rolls-Royce Merlin XX of 1303 horsepower each

Cruising speed: 322 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed: 443 kilometers/hour

Service ceiling: 5791 meters

Defensive armament: Ten 7.7-millimeter machine guns

Drop armament: 3175 kilograms of bombs

Operational range: 4072 kilometers

Also in Weapons of World War Two:

BM-13 KatyushaISU-152 tank destroyerIllustrious aircraft carrier

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