Avro 683 “Lancaster” B.Mk.III
United Kingdom — World War II four-engined heavy bomber

Archive Photos Airplane Trading Cards and Photos [1]

[Avro 683 Lancaster B.Mk.III (ED865) (Trade Card, A History of British Military Aircraft, 1963, Kellogg, UK, 7 of 16). (The Skytamer Archive, copyright © 2014 Skytamer Images) [1]]

[Avro 683 Lancaster Mk.III (ED470, AM-P), Airplane card: 1993 “World War II War Machines, the Flight Series”, The Rogers Group, USA (The Skytamer Archive)]

Overview 2

  • Avro 683 Lancaster
  • Role: Heavy bomber
  • Manufacturer: Avro
  • Designed by: Roy Chadwick
  • First flight: 8 January 1941
  • Introduced: 1942
  • Retired: 1963 (Canada)
  • Primary users: Royal Air Force Royal, Canadian Air Force
  • Number built: 7,377
  • Unit cost: £s;45-50,000 when introduced (£s;1.3-1.5 million in 2005 currency)
  • Developed from: Avro Manchester
  • Variants: Avro Lancastrian, Avro Lincoln, Avro York

The Lancaster owes its origin to Air Ministry specification B.13/36 for a twin-engined medium bomber to be fitted with Rolls-Royce Vulture engines. The first aircraft built to this specification was the Manchester, the prototype of which first flew in July, 1939. About 18 months later the Manchester began to go into squadron service in the RAF.

Owing to delays in the development of the Vulture engine the decision was taken in mid-1940 to design a new version of the Manchester to be fitted with four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. The first conversion made use of about 75% of parts and assemblies of the Manchester, the principal change being the provision of a new center-section with mountings for four Merlin × engines. This aeroplane became the first prototype of the Lancaster.

A second prototype fitted with four Merlin XX engines and considerably modified in detail was designed, built and flown in some eight months.

The first production Lancasters began to come off the production lines early in 1942 and in the same year the decision was made to produce the Lancaster in Canada. The first Canadian-built Lancaster was delivered by air across the Atlantic in September, 1943. In 1944 Lancaster production was begun in Australia.

The Lancaster is the most versatile of British heavy bombers. It can carry a maximum internal load of 18,000 lbs without modification to the standard bomb-bay. On a range of 1,000 miles its normal load is 14,000 lbs. With modifications to the bomb-bay it carries both the 12,000 lb and 22,000 lb bombs, the only bomber in the World to carry bombs of these sizes.

There have been four basic versions of the Lancaster. These are as follow:

  1. Lancaster I: Four Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engines.
  2. Lancaster II: Four Bristol Hercules VI air-cooled radial engines.
  3. Lancaster III: Same as the Mk.I but fitted with Packard-built Merlin engines.
  4. Lancaster X: The Canadian-built version of the Mk.III fitted with Packard-built Merlin engines.

The Avro Lancaster first saw active service in 1942, and together with the Handley Page Halifax it was one of the main heavy bombers of the RAF, the RCAF and squadrons from other Commonwealth and European countries serving within RAF Bomber Command. The “Lanc” or “Lankie,” as it was affectionately known, became the most famous and most successful of the Second World War night bombers, “delivering 608,612 tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties.” Although the Lancaster was primarily a night bomber, it excelled in many other roles including daylight precision bombing, and gained worldwide renown as the “Dam Buster ” used in the 1943 “Operation Chastise” raids on Germany's Ruhr Valley dams.

Design and Development 2

The origins of the Lancaster stem from a twin-engined bomber design submitted to meet Specification P.13/36, which was for a new generation of twin-engined medium bombers for “worldwide use ”, the engine specified as the Rolls-Royce Vulture. The resulting aircraft was the Manchester, which, although a capable aircraft, was troubled by the unreliability of the Vulture. Only 200 Manchesters were built and they were withdrawn from service in 1942.

Avro's chief designer, Roy Chadwick, was already working on an improved Manchester design using four of the more reliable but less powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engines on a larger wing. The aircraft was initially designated Avro Type 683 Manchester III, and later re-named the Lancaster. The prototype aircraft (BT308) was assembled by Avro's experimental flight department at Manchester's Ringway Airport from where test pilot H.A. “Bill ” Thorn took the controls for its first flight on Thursday, 9 January 1941. The aircraft proved to be a great improvement on its predecessor, being “one of the few warplanes in history to be ‘right’ from the start.” Its initial three-finned tail layout, a result of the design being adapted from the Manchester I, was quickly changed on the second prototype (DG595) and subsequent production aircraft to the familiar twin-finned specification also used on the later Manchesters.

Some of the later orders for Manchesters were changed in favor of Lancasters, the designs were very similar and both featured the same distinctive greenhouse cockpit, turret nose and twin tail. The Lancaster discarded the stubby central third tail fin of the early Manchesters and used the wider span tailplane and larger elliptical twin fins from the later Manchester Mk.IA.

The Lancaster is a mid-wing cantilever monoplane with an oval all-metal fuselage. The wing was constructed in five main sections, the fuselage in five sections. All wing and fuselage sections were built separately and fitted with all the required equipment before final assembly. The tail unit had twin oval fins and rudders. The Lancaster was initially powered by four wing-mounted Rolls-Royce Merlin piston engines with three-bladed airscrews. It had retractable main landing gear and fixed tail-wheel, with the hydraulically operated main landing gear raised into the inner engine nacelles.

The majority of Lancasters built during the war years were manufactured by Avro at their factory at Chadderton near Oldham, Lancashire and test flown from Woodford Aerodrome in Cheshire. Other Lancasters were built by Metropolitan-Vickers (1080, also tested at Woodford) and Armstrong Whitworth. The aircraft was also produced at the Austin Motor Company works in Longbridge, Birmingham later in the Second World War and postwar by Vickers-Armstrongs at Chester. Only 300 of the Lancaster B II fitted with Bristol Hercules engines were constructed; this was a stopgap modification caused by a shortage of Merlin engines as fighter production was of higher priority. Many B.IIs were lost after running out of fuel. The Lancaster B.III had Packard Merlin engines but was otherwise identical to contemporary B.Is, with 3,030 B.III's built, almost all at A.V. Roe's Newton Heath factory. The B I and B III were built concurrently, and minor modifications were made to both marks as new batches were ordered. Examples of these modifications were the relocation of the pitot head from the nose to the side of the cockpit, and the change from de Havilland "needle blade" propellers to Hamilton Standard or Nash Kelvinator made “paddle blade” propellers.

Of later variants, only the Canadian-built Lancaster B.Mk.X, manufactured by Victory Aircraft in Malton, Ontario, was produced in significant numbers. A total of 430 of this type were built, earlier examples differing little from their British-built predecessors, except for using Packard-built Merlin engines and American-style instrumentation and electrics. Late-series models replaced the Frazer Nash mid-upper turret with a differently configured Martin turret, mounted slightly further forward for weight balance. A total of 7,377 Lancasters of all marks were built throughout the duration of the war, each at a 1943 cost of £s;45-50,000 (approximately equivalent to £s;1.3-1.5 million in 2005 currency).

Crew Accommodation 2

Starting at the nose, the bomb aimer had two positions to man. His primary location was lying prone on the floor of the nose of the aircraft, with access to the controls for the bombsight head in front, with the bombsight computer on his left and bomb release selectors on the right. He would also use his view out of the large transparent perspex nose cupola to assist the navigator with map reading. To man the Frazer Nash FN5 nose turret, he simply had to stand up and he would be in position behind the triggers of his twin .303 in (7.7 mm) guns. The bomb aimer's position contained the nose parachute exit in the floor.

Moving backwards, on the roof of the bomb bay the pilot and flight engineer sat side-by-side under the expansive canopy, with the pilot sitting on the left on a raised portion of the floor. The flight engineer sat on a collapsible seat (known as a “second dicky seat”) to the pilot's right, with the fuel selectors and gauges on a panel behind him and to his right.

Behind these crew members, and behind a curtain fitted to allow him to use light to work, sat the navigator. His position faced to port with a large chart table in front of him. An instrument panel showing the airspeed, altitude and other details required for navigation was mounted on the side of the fuselage above the chart table.

The radios for the wireless operator were mounted on the left-hand end of the chart table, facing towards the rear of the aircraft. Behind these radios, facing forwards, on a seat at the front of the main spar sat the wireless operator. To his left was a window, and above him was the astrodome, used for visual signalling and also by the navigator for celestial navigation.

Behind the wireless operator were the two spars for the wing, which created a major obstacle for crew members moving down the fuselage even on the ground. On reaching the end of the bomb bay the floor dropped down to the bottom of the fuselage, and the mid upper gunner's Frazer Nash FN50 or FN150 turret was reached. His position allowed a 360° view over the top of the aircraft, with two .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns to protect the aircraft from above and to the side. The mid-upper gunner had perhaps the most uncomfortable ride of all the crew, as he was seated on a rectangle of canvas that was slung beneath the turret once the gunner had occupied his position. He could be required to occupy this seat for up to eight hours at a time.

To the rear of the turret was the side crew door, on the starboard side of the fuselage. This was the main entrance to the aircraft, and also could be used as a parachute exit. At the extreme rear of the aircraft, over the spars for the tailplane, the rear gunner sat in his exposed position in the FN20, FN120 or “Rose Rice” turret, entered through a small hatch in the rear of the fuselage, and depending on the size of the rear gunner, the area was so cramped that the gunner would often hang their parachute on a hook inside the fuselage, near the turret doors. In the FN20 and FN120 turrets, he had four .303 in (7.7 mm) Brownings, and in the Rose Rice turret he had two .50 in (12.7 mm) Brownings. Neither the mid upper or rear gunner's positions were heated, and the gunners had to wear electrically heated suits to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Many rear gunners insisted on having the center section of perspex removed from the turret to give a completely unobstructed view.

Armament 2


While eight .303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns were the most common Lancaster armament, twin .50 in (12.7 mm) turrets were later available in both the tail and dorsal positions. A Preston-Green mount was available for a .50 in (12.7 mm) mounted in a ventral blister, but this was mostly used in RCAF service. This blister was later the location for the H2S radar. A Nash & Thomson FN-64 periscope-sighted twin .303 in (7.7 mm) ventral turret was also available but rarely fitted as it was hard to sight. (Similar problems afflicted the ventral turret in the North American B-25C Mitchell and other bombers). Some unofficial mounts for .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns or even 20 mm cannon were made, firing through ventral holes of various designs.


An important feature of the Lancaster was its extensive bomb bay, at 33 ft (10.05 m) long. Initially, the heaviest bombs carried were 4,000 lb (1,820 kg) “Cookies ”. Bulged doors were added to allow the aircraft to carry 8,000 lb (3,600 kg) and later 12,000 lb (5,450 kg) “Cookies”. Towards the end of the war, attacking special and hardened targets, the B.I Specials could carry the 21 ft (6.4 m) long 12,000 lb (5,450 kg) “Tallboy” or 25.5 ft (7.77 m) long 22,000 lb (9,980 kg) “Grand Slam” “earthquake” bombs, the Lancaster was able to deliver the heaviest bombs made. To carry the “Grand Slam” extensive modifications to the aircraft were required which led to them being redesignated as B.I (Specials). The modifications included removal of the mid-upper turret, two guns from the rear turret, removal of all of the cockpit armor plating and installation of Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk.24 Engines which had better take-off performance. The bomb-bay doors were removed and the rear end of the bomb bay cut away to clear the tail of the bomb. Later the nose turret was also removed to further improve performance.

Bombsights used on Lancasters included:

  • Mark IX Course-Setting Bombsight (CSBS): This was an early preset vector bombsight that involved squinting through wires that had to be manually set based on aircraft speed, altitude and bombload. This sight lacked tactical flexibility as it had to be manually adjusted if any of the parameters changed and was soon phased out in favor of the bombsights below.
  • Mark XIV bombsight: A vector bombsight where the bomb aimer input various details of the bombload, target altitude and wind direction, and the analogue computer then continuously calculated the trajectory of the bombs and projected an inverted sword shape onto a sighting glass on the sighting head. Assuming the sight was set correctly, when the target was in the cross hairs of the sword shape, the bomb aimer would be able to accurately release the bombs.
  • T1 bombsight: A Mark XIV bombsight modified for mass production and produced in the USA. Some of the pneumatic gyro drives on the Mk.XIV sight were replaced with electronic gyros and other minor modifications were made.
  • Stabilizing Automatic Bomb Sight: Also known as "SABS", this was an advanced bombsight mainly used by 617 Squadron for precision raids. Like the American Norden bombsight it was a tachometric sight.

Radio, Radar and Countermeasures Equipment 2

The Lancaster had a very advanced communications system for its time. Most British-built Lancasters were fitted with the R1155 receiver and T1154 transmitter, whereas the Canadian built aircraft and those built for service in the Far East had American radios. These provided radio direction-finding, as well as voice and Morse capabilities.

  • H2S: Ground-looking navigation radar system - eventually, it could be homed in on by the German night fighters' NAXOS receiver and had to be used with discretion.
  • Fishpond: An add-on to H2S that provided additional (aerial) coverage of the underside of the aircraft to display attacking fighters on an auxiliary screen in the radio operator's position.
  • Monica: A rearward-looking radar to warn of night fighter approaches. However, it could not distinguish between attacking enemy fighters and nearby friendly bombers and served as a homing beacon for suitably-equipped German night fighters. Once this was realized, it was removed altogether.
  • GEE: A receiver for a navigation system of synchronized pulses transmitted from the UK - aircraft calculated their position from the time delay between pulses. The range of GEE was 3-400 mi (483-644 km).
  • Boozer (radar detector): A system of lights mounted on the aircraft's instrument panel that lit up when the aircraft was being tracked by Würzburg ground radar and Lichtenstein airborne radar. In practice it was found to be more disconcerting than useful, as the lights were often triggered by false alerts in the radar-signal-infested skies over Germany.
  • Oboe: A very accurate navigation system consisting of a receiver/transponder for two radar stations transmitting from widely separated locations in Southern England which together determined the range and the bearing on the range. The system could only handle one aircraft at a time, and was fitted to a Pathfinder aircraft, usually a fast and maneuverable Mosquito rather than a heavy Lancaster, which marked the target for the main force.
  • GEE-H: Similar to Oboe but with the transponder on the ground allowing more aircraft to use the system simultaneously. GEE-H aircraft were usually marked with two horizontal yellow stripes on the fins.
  • Village Inn: A radar-aimed gun turret fitted to some Lancasters in 1944.
  • Airborne Cigar (ABC): This was only fitted to the Lancasters of 101 Squadron. It was three aerials, two sticking out of the top of the fuselage and one under the bomb aimer's position. These aircraft carried a German speaking crew member on board and were used to jam radio to German night fighters and feed false information on allied bomber positions to them. Due to the nature of the equipment, the enemy was able to track the aircraft and due to this 101 suffered the highest casualty rate of any squadron. Fitted from about mid-1943, they remained until the end of the war.

Operational History 2

Lancasters flew 156,000 sorties and dropped 608,612 long tons (618,378 tonnes) of bombs between 1942 and 1945. Lancs took part in the devastating round-the-clock raids on Hamburg during Air Marshall Harris' “Operation Gomorrah” in July 1943. Just 35 Lancasters completed more than 100 successful operations each, and 3,249 were lost in action. The most successful survivor completed 139 operations, and was scrapped in 1947.

A famous Lancaster bombing raid was the 1943 mission, codenamed “Operation Chastise”, to destroy the dams of the Ruhr Valley. The mission was carried out by 617 Squadron in modified Mk.IIIs carrying special drum shaped bouncing bombs designed by Barnes Wallis. The story of the mission was later made into a film, “The Dam Busters.” Also famous was a series of Lancaster attacks using “Tallboy” bombs against the German battleship Tirpitz, which first disabled and later sank the ship.

Lancasters from Bomber Command were to have formed the main strength of Tiger Force, the Commonwealth bomber contingent scheduled to take part in Operation Downfall, the codename for the planned invasion of Japan in late 1945, from bases on Okinawa.

RAF Lancasters dropped food into the Holland region of the occupied Netherlands, with the acquiescence of the occupying German forces, to feed people who were in danger of starvation. Named after the food Manna which miraculously appeared for the Israelites in the Book of Exodus, the aircraft involved were from 1, 3 and 8 Groups, and consisted of 145 Mosquitoes and 3,156 Lancasters, flying between them a total of 3,298 sorties. The first of the two RAF Lancasters chosen for the test flight was nicknamed “Bad Penny” from the old expression: “a bad penny always turns up.” This bomber, with a crew of seven men (five Canadians including pilot Robert Upcott of Windsor, Ontario), took off in bad weather on the morning of 29 April 1945 without a cease fire agreement from the German forces, and successfully dropped her cargo.

A development of the Lancaster was the Avro Lincoln bomber, initially known as the Lancaster IV and Lancaster V. These two marks became the Lincoln B1 and B2 respectively. There was also a civilian airliner based on the Lancaster, the Lancastrian. Other developments were the York, a square-bodied transport and, via the Lincoln, the Shackleton which continued in airborne early warning service up to 1992.

In 1946, four Lancasters were converted by Avro at Bracebridge Heath, Lincolnshire as freighters for use by British South American Airways, but proved to be uneconomical and were withdrawn after a year in service.

Four Lancaster Mk.III's were converted by Flight Refuelling Limited as two pairs of tanker and receiver aircraft for development of in-flight refueling. In 1947, one aircraft was flown non-stop 3,459 mi (5,567 km) from London to Bermuda. Later the two tanker aircraft were joined by another converted Lancaster and were used in the Berlin Airlift, achieving 757 tanker sorties.

Fifty-nine Lancaster B.Is and B.VIIs were overhauled by Avro at Woodford and Langar and delivered to the Aeronavale (France) during 1952/53. These were flown until the mid-1960s by four squadrons in France and New Caledonia in the maritime reconnaissance and search-and-rescue roles. During its Argentinian service, Lancasters saw limited use in military coups, owing to the small number there.

Variants 2

Avro Lancaster B.I — The original Lancasters were produced with Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engines and SU carburetors. Minor details were changed throughout the production series - for example the pitot head design was changed from being on a long mast at the front of the nose to a short fairing mounted on the side of the fuselage under the cockpit. Later production Lancasters had Merlin 22 and 24 engines. No designation change was made to denote these alterations.

Avro Lancaster B.I Special — Adapted to take first the super-heavy “Tallboy” and then “Grand Slam” bombs. Upgraded engines with paddle-bladed propellers gave more power, and the removal of gun turrets reduced weight and gave smoother lines. For the Tallboy, the bomb-bay doors were bulged; for the Grand Slam, they were removed completely and the area faired over. For some Tallboy raids, the mid upper turret was removed. This modification was retained for the Grand Slam aircraft, and in addition the nose turret was later removed. Two airframes (HK541 and SW244) were modified to carry a dorsal “saddle tank” with 1,200 gal (5,455 L) mounted aft of a modified canopy for increasing range. No. 1577 SD Flight tested the aircraft in India and Australia in 1945 for possible use in the Pacific, but the tank adversely affected handling characteristics when full and flight refueling was later used instead.

Avro Lancaster PR.I — B.1 modified for photographic reconnaissance, operated by RAF No. 82 and No. 541 Squadrons, wartime. All armament and turrets were removed with a reconfigured nose and a camera carried in the bomb bay. The type was also operated by 683 Squadron from circa 1950 for photographic reconnaissance based at Aden and subsequently Habbaniya in Iraq until disbanded 30 November 1953.

Avro Lancaster B.I (FE) — In anticipation of the needs of the Tiger Force operations against the Japanese in the Far East (FE), a tropicalized variant was based on late production aircraft. The B I (FE) had modified radio, radar, navaids and a 400 gal (1,818 L) tank installed in the bomb bay. The mid-upper turret was also removed.

Avro Lancaster B.II — Bristol Hercules (Hercules VI or XVI engines) powered variant, of which 300 were produced by Armstrong Whitworth. One difference between the two engine versions was that the VI had manual mixture control, requiring an extra lever on the throttle pedestal. These aircraft were almost always fitted with an FN.64 ventral turret and pronounced step in the bulged bomb bay.

Avro Lancaster B.Mk.III — These aircraft were fitted with Packard-built Merlin engines and produced at the same time as the B.I, the two marks being indistinguishable externally. The minor differences between the two variants were related to the engine installation, and included the addition of slow-running cut-off switches in the cockpit, a requirement due to the Bendix Stromberg pressure-injection carburetors fitted to the Packard Merlin engines.

Avro Lancaster B.III Special — Known at the time of modification as the “Type 464 Provisioning” Lancaster, this variant was built to carry the "Upkeep" bouncing bomb for the dam busting raids. The bomb-bay doors were removed and Vickers-built struts to carry the bomb were fitted in their place. A hydraulic motor, driven by the pump previously used for the mid upper turret was fitted to spin the bomb. Lamps were fitted in the bomb bay and nose for the simple height measurement system which enabled the accurate control of low-flying altitude at night. The mid-upper turret was removed to save weight, and the gunner moved to the front turret to relieve the bomb aimer from having to man the front guns so that he could assist with map reading.

Avro Lancaster ASR.III/ASR.3 — B.III modified for air-sea rescue, with three dipole ventral antennas fitted aft of the radome and carrying an airborne lifeboat in the re-configured bomb bay. The armament was often removed and the mid-upper turret faired-over, especially in postwar use. Observation windows were added to both sides of the rear fuselage, a port window just forward of the tailplane, and a starboard window into the rear access door. A number of ASR.3 conversions were fitted with Lincoln-style rudders.

Avro Lancaster GR.3/MR.3 — B.III modified for maritime reconnaissance.

Avro Lancaster B.IV — The B.IV featured an increased wingspan and lengthened fuselage and new Boulton Paul F turret (two × 0.5 in) with re-configured framed “bay window” nose glazing. The prototypes (PW925, PW929 and PW932) were powered by two-stage Merlin 85s inboard and later, Merlin 68s on the outboard mounts. Because of the major re-design, the aircraft was quickly renamed Lincoln B.1.

Avro Lancaster B.V — Increased wingspan and lengthened fuselage, two-stage Merlin 85s. Renamed Lincoln B.2.

Avro Lancaster B.VI — Nine aircraft converted from B.IIIs. Fitted with Merlin 85/87 which had two-stage superchargers, giving much improved high altitude performance. The Merlin 85/87 series engines were fitted with annular cowlings similar to the post war Avro Lincoln and four bladed paddle-type propellers were fitted. These aircraft were only used by Pathfinder units; by No. 7 Squadron RAF, No. 83 Squadron RAF, No. 405 Squadron RCAF and by No. 635 Squadron RAF. Often used as a "Master Bomber" the B.VIs allocated to RAF Bomber Command (2 being retained by Rolls Royce for installation and flight testing) had their dorsal and nose turrets removed and faired-over. The more powerful engines proved troublesome in service and were disliked by ground maintenance staff for their rough running and propensity to 'surge and hunt', making synchronization impossible. The B.VI was withdrawn from service in November 1944 and the surviving aircraft were used by Rolls Royce, the Royal Aircraft Establishment and the Bomb Ballistics Unit (BBU) for various testing and experimental duties.

Avro Lancaster B.VII — The B.VII was the final production version of the Lancaster. The Martin 250CE mid-upper turret was re-positioned slightly further forward than on previous Marks, and the Nash & Thomson FN-82 tail turret with twin 0.50 in (12.7 mm) Browning machine guns replaced the FN.20 turret with four 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns.

Avro Lancaster B.X — The B.X was a Canadian-built B.III with Canadian- and US-made instrumentation and electrics. On later batches the heavier Martin 250CE was substituted for the Nash & Thomson FN-50 mid-upper turret, mounted further forward to maintain center of gravity balance. Canada was a long term operator of the Lancaster, utilizing modified aircraft in postwar maritime patrol, search and rescue and photo-reconnaissance roles until 1964. The last flight by the RCAF was flown by F/L Lynn Garrison in KB-976, on 4 July 1964 at the Calgary International Air Show.

Operators 2

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • France
  • New Zealand
  • Poland
  • Soviet Union
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom

Surviving Aircraft 2

  • There are 17 known largely complete Avro Lancasters remaining in the world with two airworthy, one of which can be found at Ontario's Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.

Avro 683 Lancaster B.Mk.III Specifications 3,4 (as noted)

Type 3

  • Four-engined Heavy Bomber

Manufactures: 4

  • A. V. Roe and Co Ltd
  • Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Ltd
  • Metropolitan-Vickers Ltd

Wings 3

  • Mid-wing cantilever monoplane.
  • Wing in five main sections, comprising a center-section of parallel chord and thickness which is integral with the fuselage center-section, two tapering outer sections and two semi-circular wing-tips.
  • Subsidiary wing units consist of detachable leading and trailing-edge sections of outer wings and center-section, flaps and ailerons.
  • All units are built up individually with all fittings and equipment before assembly.
  • Two-spar wing structure, each spar consisting of a top and bottom extruded boom bolted on to a single thick gauge web-plate.
  • Ribs are aluminum-alloy pressings suitably flanged and swaged for stiffness.
  • The entire wing is covered with a smooth aluminum-alloy skin.
  • Ailerons on outer wing sections have metal noses and are fabric-covered aft of the hinges.
  • Trimming-tabs in ailerons. Split trailing-edge flaps between ailerons and fuselage.

Fuselage 3

  • Oval all-metal structure in five separately-assembled main sections.
  • The fuselage backbone is formed by pairs of extruded longerons located halfway down the cross-section of the three middle sections.
  • Cross beams between these longerons support the floor and form the roof of the bomb compartment.
  • "U"-frames and formers bolted to the longerons carry the smooth skin plating.
  • The remaining sections are built up of oval frames and formers and longitudinal stringers, covered with flush-riveted metal skin.
  • All equipment and fittings are installed before final assembly of the separate units.

Tail Unit 3

  • Cantilever monoplane type with twin oval fins and rudders.
  • Tail-plane in two sections built up in similar manner to the wings, the tail-plane spars being joined together within the fuselage on the center-line.
  • Tailplane, fins and rudder, are metal-covered, elevators covered with fabric.
  • Trimming-tabs in elevators and rudders.

Landing Gear 3

  • Retractable main wheels and fixed tail-wheel.
  • Main wheels are hydraulically retracted into the inboard engine nacelles and hinged doors connected to the retracting gear close the apertures when the wheels are raised.
  • Track: 23 ft 9 in (7.24 m).

Power Plant 3,4

  • Four 1,300-hp Packard Merlin 28; 1,480-hp Merlin 38; or 1,640-hp Merlin 224 radial air-cooled engines in welded steel-tube nacelles cantilevered from the front spar of the wings.
  • Three-bladed constant-speed full-feathering airscrews.
  • Six protected fuel tanks in wings.
  • Separate oil tank in each nacelle.

Accommodation 3

  • Provision for a crew of seven.
  • Bomb aimer in the nose below the front gun-turret.
  • Above and behind and to port is the Pilot's position in a raised canopy with good all-round vision.
  • Inside the canopy immediately aft of the pilot's seat is the Fighting Controller's position.
  • Slightly aft of this position is the Navigator's station, with table, chart stowage and astral dome in the roof.
  • At the rear end of the navigator's table and just forward of the front spar is the Radio Operator's station.
  • Within the center-section is a rest room with bed.
  • Aft of the rear spar are the mid upper and mid lower turrets, together with various equipment stowage for flares, emergency rations, etc.
  • In the extreme tail is the rear turret.
  • A walkway is provided along the entire length of the fuselage and the main entrance door is situated on the starboard side just forward of the tail-plane.

Armament, Bombs, Armor and Equipment 3

  • Ten Browning .303 machine-guns in four hydraulically-operated Nash & Thompson turrets, one in the nose, two amidships and one in the extreme tail.
  • The tail-turret carries four guns, the remainder two each.
  • The tail-turret is fed by ammunition tracks from boxes in the rear fuselage.
  • The bomb compartment is 33 ft long and has normal accommodation for a maximum weight of approximately 8 tons in various combinations of bombs.
  • The largest size which can be carried under special conditions is the 22,000 lb bomb.
  • An armored bulkhead is fitted across the center-section portion of the fuselage and is so arranged that it will open up for passage through the fuselage on either side of the center-line.
  • The back of the pilot's seat is armor-plated and there is armor protection behind his head.
  • Certain other vulnerable parts of the structure and the turrets are armored.
  • Special bullet-proof glass is provided for the fighting controller's position.
  • Full night-flying equipment, radio, flares, oxygen, de-icing equipment, etc.
  • A dinghy is carried in the center-section trailing-edge portion of the wing and is automatically released and inflated in a crash alighting in the sea.
  • It can also be operated by hand.

Dimensions 3,4

  • Span: 102 ft 0 in
  • Length: 69 ft 4 in
  • Height: 20 ft 6 in
  • Net wing area: 1,205 ft²
  • Gross wing area: 1,297 ft²

Weights 4

  • Tare weight: 36,475 lbs
  • All-up weight: 50,000 lbs
  • Take-off weight with 22,000 lb bomb load: 72,000 lbs

Performance with normal bomb load 5

  • Maximum speed at 11,500 ft: 287 mph
  • Cruising speed at 12,000 ft: 210 mph
  • Climb to 20,000 ft: 41 min 40 sec
  • Service ceiling without bomb load: 24,500 ft
  • Range with 14,000 lb bomb load: 1,660 miles
  • Range with 22,000 lb bomb load: 1,040 miles


  1. Shupek, John. The Skytamer Archive. “A History of British Military Aircraft” Kellogg Company of Great Britain Ltd., 1963, UK, Card 7 of 16”
  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Avro Lancaster
  3. Bridgman, Leonard, “Avro: The Avro 683 Lancaster.” Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1945/1946. Sampson Low Marston & Company Limited, London, 1946. pp. 15c-17c
  4. Jackson, A. J. “Avro 683 Lancaster” Avro Aircraft Since 1908, Second Edition. Putnam Aeronautical Books, London, 1990. ISBN 0-85177-797-X, pgs. 358-369.
  5. Mason, Francis K. “Avro Type 683 Lancaster” The British Bomber since 1914, Second Edition. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, USA. 1994. ISBN 1-555750-085-1, pp. 343-349.

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