A tribute to my ride in the bucket seat of one of these birds out of RAF Wyton, Circa 1979, as an Air Cadet.
The English Electric Canberra is a British first-generation jet-powered medium bomber that was manufactured during the 1950's. It was developed by English Electric during the mid-to-late 1940's in response to a 1944 Air Ministry requirement for a successor to the wartime de Havilland Mosquito fast-bomber; amongst the performance requirements for the type was the demand for an outstanding high altitude bombing capability in addition to flying at high speeds, these were partly accomplished by making use of newly-developed jet propulsion technology. When the Canberra was introduced to service with the Royal Air Force (RAF), the type's first operator, in May 1951, it became the service's first jet-powered bomber aircraft.
Throughout the majority of the 1950's, the Canberra could fly at a higher altitude than any other bomber or even any other aircraft in the world. In 1957, one Canberra established a world altitude record of 70,310 ft (21,430 m). In February 1951, another Canberra set another world record when it became the first jet aircraft to make a non-stop transatlantic flight.
Due to its ability to evade the early jet interceptor aircraft and its significant performance advancement over contemporary piston-engine bombers, the Canberra became a popular aircraft on the export market, being procured for service in the air forces of many nations both inside and outside of the Commonwealth of Nations. The type was also produced in Australia, under licence, and the United States of America, the latter building it as the Martin B-57 Canberra.
In addition to being a tactical nuclear strike aircraft, the Canberra proved to be highly adaptable, serving in varied roles such as tactical bombing and photographic and electronic reconnaissance. Canberra's served in the Suez Crisis, the Vietnam War, the Falklands War, the Indo-Pakistani wars, and numerous African conflicts. In several wars, each of the opposing sides had Canberra's in their air forces. The Canberra had a lengthy service life, serving for more than 50 years with some operators. In June 2006, the RAF retired the last of its Canberra's, 57 years after its first flight. Three of the Martin B-57 variant remain in service, performing meteorological work for NASA, as well as providing electronic communication (Battlefield Airborne Communications Node or BACN) testing for deployment to Afghanistan.