Friday, 24 June 2011

new from corgi

Operation Grapple was the code name given to the British Hydrogen bomb tests carried out over the Pacific Ocean during 1957.  Christmas Island was chosen as the operational base with the island of Malden, 400 miles south-east, designated as the target area.  No. 49 Sqn, RAF Wittering was selected for the tests and a specially modified Vickers Valiant, XD818, arrived in November 1956.
The aircraft had strengthened control surfaces, additional cameras and sensors and metal anti-flash window screens. Piloted by Wg Cdr Kenneth Hubbard, at 09:00 hours on May 15th 1957, Valiant XD818 took off carrying Britain’s first thermo-nuclear ‘H’ bomb, code named ‘Grapple 1’.  Released at 10:36 hours from an altitude of 45000ft and detonated at 8000ft, the shock wave from the 0.3 megaton device was felt by the crew some 2.5 minutes after the blast.  Wg Cdr Hubbard observed the mushroom cloud before landing back on Christmas Island at 11:20 hours.
In recognition of their skill and professionalism, the crew of Valiant XD818 each received the Air Force Cross.

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