Having seen several documentaries and interviews with Vulcan crew & pilots regarding their nuclear flight plans and proposed missions, there's a reticence to discuss the post-mission plan.

It's assumed the mission is one way, but there must be a plan or consensus on what's to be done amongst the crew once the bomb run is complete and the aircraft survives the blast.

I'm thinking of specifics. What really happens next?

...is it land on anything flat? ...stick it on a road? ...kiss ones backside goodbye, drive it into the nearest hill?

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    They try to get out of hostile airspace and hope there is an airfield when they get back. England isn't that big, and the USSR had lots of weapons heading that way... – Jon Custer May 1 '17 at 19:34
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    Given that Vulcan deployment was part of a MAD strategy, it's unlikely that the crews would have much of a home to return to. – Steve Bird May 1 '17 at 19:34
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    I'm sure the plan was to return just because that's the basic plan in any bombing run. Short of having a better option (and there wasn't one) I doubt anyone gave it much thought. – Gort the Robot May 1 '17 at 21:05
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    There may have been a paper doctrine, but I doubt anyone really expected it to be meaningful. The pilot is in command and might conceivably be the highest ranking officer still alive. American defensive policy was supposedly treat Russian oneway crews humanly, there may have been reciprocation. Death or surrender is something soldiers often have Views on. – user22111 May 1 '17 at 21:14
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    If you all have an answer, why not write an answer and support it? – KorvinStarmast May 2 '17 at 2:04

None of the statements above are incorrect. All V-Force routes had a recovery plan. Essentially plan to reach the overhead of a designated recovery airfield at heights up to 56,000 feet. Post 1964 a change to the oxygen system reduced this to 50,000 feet (when V-Force switched to low-level operations) although the aircraft could fly higher and crews would probably accept the risk if they thought it worthwhile. It was planned for a minimum of 4,000 lbs of fuel, half the peacetime landing minimum. Then try and contact any available airfield for instructions.

It was never planned to land in a neutral country but . . .

The biggest problem was for missions from Cyprus and there was a plan for one-way introduced in 1973. These were introduced in case of a delay between launch and positive release as communications between UK and Cyprus might be problematic. Obviously this terminated in 1974, when Turkey invaded Cyprus and the Vulcans withdrew from there.

In the event of successful abandonment pre-1967 the WW2 escape lines might have been used. Post-1967 a revised plan was devised.

For a source, consult: RAF V-Force Operations by Andrew Brookes (published by Haynes)

Then what?

In response to a comment about who is in charge ... regarding the pilot in command being the most senior was questionable. In the 70s, post-Hodgkinson, about 10% of a squadron crew were Sqadron Leader in rank, and probably half were not pilots. In the air, the pilot captain was indeed in command but not post landing. The captain might be only 23 with 50 year old rear crew.

With an all-junior-officer-crew things could be more interesting. Unless one had been specifically nominated as senior, and in the case of the V-Force that was a given as Captains were appointed by a 2*, but if he didn't survive, command amongst junior officers was by mutual agreement.

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  • There's a difference between training missions (which obviously need a recovery field) and wartime missions in a nuclear war (where all plans would assume there's nowhere to return to). – jwenting May 2 '17 at 9:23
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    All wartime missions had a planned recovery destination from Northern Norway to Pakistan. – UK V-Force May 2 '17 at 9:48
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    For those of us not that involved in UK cold-war politics, what was the significance of the years mentioned (1964, 1973, 1974) with regards to planning? Was there a specific reason why the one-way plans were introduced 1973, and then "obviously" terminated in 1974? (Not obvious to me...) – DevSolar May 2 '17 at 13:38
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    @DevSolar - From the context of the sentence, I assume that references the Cyprus Crisis. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyprus_crisis_(1955%E2%80%9364) – Kobunite May 2 '17 at 14:03
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    @UKV-Force: Unless I am mistaken, you can edit your own posts even with low reputation. Please don't post edits / comments as new answers. – DevSolar May 2 '17 at 14:11

My late father commanded a B-47 bomb squadron from 1955-1964. The B-47 was a medium range bomber that was frequently forward deployed for weeks at a time at bases in Spain, Turkey and Libya, and kept there armed and on alert. After reading that the Air Force had declassified the list of Soviet and Warsaw Pact targets developed by the Strategic Air Command, I saw my father's former navigator and asked him whether it was true that after their mission they would fly to Turkey and eject, then walk home. He said, only, that "bailing out was definitely part of the plan."

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