Vickers-Armstrongs Valiant BK1 XD818. Photo by Ian Haskell
The Valiant was the first of the three V Bombers, having flown for the first time on 8th May 1951. The first unit to operate the Valiant was 232 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) at RAF Gaydon in Warwickshire. The first operational squadron to operate the Valiant was 138 Squadron, also at RAF Gaydon.
107 Valiants were built including the three prototypes. The Valiant was originally assigned to the strategic nuclear bombing role, but also served as an air-to-air tanker and as a reconnaissance aircraft with 543 Squadron at RAF Wyton.
The last known Valiant tanker sortie was on 9th December 1964, this particular aircraft was XD812 and the sortie was carried out over the North Sea refueling Lightnings. The aircraft captain was Wing Commander Ken Smith (DFC) Officer Commanding 214 Squadron.
The last Valiant bomber sortie was also on 9th December, and this aircraft XD818 is believed to have landed after XD812, which makes it the last ever Valiant flight. This particular aircraft is exhibited at Cosford Museum and is the only complete Valiant in existence.
Due to metal fatigue all of the Valiant fleet were permanently grounded as of 20th January 1965.