Thunder & Lightnings

Blackburn Buccaneer - Survivor XV344

S.2C XV344 - DERA (gate guard in Qinetiq Complex), Farnborough airfield, Hampshire

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Buccaneer S.2C XV344 at Farnborough, 11th January 2022; Paul Couper

The Buccaneer airframe which was extensively modified more than any other is XV344, which was delivered to the Royal Navy in June 1967. In 1979 she joined the MoD(PE) trials fleet which was based at Holme-on-Spalding Moor. This airframe was overalled at Cranfield before being resprayed into the Rasberry Ripple colours at Kemble in 1980. XV344 later required the name 'Nightbird' when trialing Night Vision Goggles. She had a long and productive life carrying out various trial work, and retired alongside XW987 and XW988 on September 28th 1994 at Boscombe Down, with a total of 2,894,30 hours.

XV344 was placed in temporary storage at Boscombe Down before being dismantled and transported to Farnborough in January 1998. After being reassembled, she was treated to a repaint and was placed on gate guard duties at the Defence Evaluation Research Agency, which became QinetiQ in 2001. The airframe was often cleaned by volunteers of the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust, but this seemed to have stopped some years back with her exterior starting to look a bit tatty. More recently, with help from Airbourne Colours based at Hurn Airport, the aircraft was treated to a full repaint in the summer of 2019 and is now looking much shinier! The repaint itself is actually part of a 3 year trial for QinetiQ, as one side of the airframe received a standard gloss polyurethane paint, with the other side receiving a chromate-free primer and a clear topcoat which is said to be more durable. Over the three years (2019-2022), QinetiQ will assess the gloss and colour conditions, comparing each side.

Unfortunately, XV344 remains well within the grounds of QinetiQ, making her completely unviewable to the public.

The photo above shows her on display inside the QinetiQ facility during a rather damp day in January 2022.

Information on this page current as of 12/01/2022, last updated by Jake

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