Concorde bomber derivative : the Bombord...
The Concorde bomber (or "Bombord")
In january 1973 Concorde orders were cancelled by many airlines. The program was really in danger; the orders started to shrink rapidly, and the program became a financial disaster. Only 20 were built, and 14 sold to British airways and Air France. In 1974, French and British governements also needed to replace their ageing Mirage IVA and Avro Vulcan B2. As the production line of Concorde was desesperately empty, they thought about military aircrafts. In April 1974, the British governement asked BAC if a bomber version of concorde could be made. The same question raised in Toulouse. The constructors reply that changes were necessary of course, but could be achieve for a reasonable cost. A list was made
- the main drawback of concorde was its range, 6500km in the best case.
- To solve the problem, BAC proposed to change the passenger cabin into a big fuel tank, leaving a small space for a bomb bay.
- To add big, supersonic drop tanks underwings
- And, of course, a refueling probe on the nose (avoiding of course the drop nose area
this was feasible)
- Their was no passengers cabin anymore; the space was free for a small bomb bay, and fuel tanks. Doors similar to those of the Vulcan were added between the air intakes.
French and British governements were enthusiastic about the project; at the time, the AdA and Aeronavale were involved into the F1E program : this plane was to become the ony fighter bomber in the French inventory, permitting a big money saving. At he time, first prototype of the Tornado was flying, meaning that the peak funding of the program was over; Phnix , Harriers and Hawks were on service. So, Ministry of Defence had also money to invest. More, it was decided to create a Airbus military company: the aim of this firm was to use the Concorde production line to produce the new bomber. Involving Airbus means involving others countries in the bomber program : some of them said "no" others were very interested. Western Germany agree to fund the project, and Italy too. The first concorde bomber rolled off the production line in Toulouse in July 1978. At the time, the production of the Concorde airliner was ending, so the military aircraft order was welcomed. Ada wanted 45 bombers, RAF 60, and Luftwaffe found a budget for 25 of them. But what about the name of the aircraft ? it was found by French and English pilots and this was "Bombord" (whithout the "e" to satisfied Great Britain).
So the first Bombord entered service with 617Sq "Dambusters" on July 1981, replacing Vulcans. Then, the GB 1/91 "Gascogne" change its Mirage IVA to Bombord in January 1982. Bombord quickly saw action : in may 1982, 4 of them bomb (ord) the Port Stanley runaway. Starting from 1985, the plane was able to fire ASMP. First the missiles had a nuclear warhead, but the missile quickly evolved into a conventional version, with a high explosive warhead. Great Britain also obtained this version, and Germany too. This gave Bombord fleet a stand off, non nuclear weapon. When the Gulf War started in August 1990, Bombords made long range bombings starting from their european bases. They were refueling by VC-10, Victors and C-135FR. The plane was the european counterpart of Tu-26, Tu-160 and B1 bombers, and prove so good that it was decided in 2005 to extend his life to 2040. Scalp, Apache and Taurus cruise missiles were added, along with AS-30L, LGB, and AASM precision ammuntions.