Aircraft on Display

WE177 A and B Free Fall Nuclear Weapons

WE177 at RAE Farnborough

WE177 at Boscombe Down

The RAF’s ‘Red Beard’ nuclear weapons were in service until 1971, but with the nuclear components becoming smaller, back in 1962 Operational Requirements 1177 (OR1177) was issued for a smaller and more flexable weapon.

RAE Farnborough was heavily involved in the development of the weapon, being the Technical Authority, with Hunting Engineering as the Coordinating Design Authority and AWRE being responsible for all nuclear aspects.

The weapon was designated WE177 and the ‘B’ variant came into service with the RAF in 1966. The smaller ‘A’ variant entered service with the Royal Navy in 1969 and finally the ‘C’ variant for the RAF in 1970.

The ‘A’ variant had a fission warhead with switchable yield from 0.5 to 10 Kilotons. The B and C variants had primary fission warheads with secondary thermonuclear fusion warheads, yielding 450 and 200 Kiltons respectively.

The naval version was retired in 1992 and the RAF version in 1998. The RAE was also responsible for the design of the trailers and storage canisters.

Aircraft specified for or cleared to carry WE177

Fixed wing aircraft
Buccaneer (RN)
Buccaneer (RAF)
Jaguar
Sea Harrier FRS
Tornado
Vulcan B2

Rotary wing aircraft
Wasp
Wessex
Lynx
Sea King (RN)

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