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"Flee from the wrath to come."

Matthew Ch3 v7

Operation Black Buck

It came in low, a distinctive shadow surfing over the dark sea. It came in low, undetected under enemy radar. The mission was vital. The destination – the world’s most southerly capital.


The six-man crew were 8,000 miles from home; the first stage of the journey put them down on a tiny volcanic island, one of the most isolated airfields in the world. Now they flew south on the longest bombing raid in history, the most epic since the Dambuster raid of World War 2.


An awesome distance lay behind them, since they roared into the sky, bellowing black smoke from four 301 series Rolls Royce Olympus engines, delivering 80,000lbs of thrust. The crew approached their target, focused on their mission, despite fuel reserves running desperately short.





The issue of distance was formidable, necessitating air-to-air refuelling on a grand scale. The operation involved a “refuelling pyramid” of sixteen aircraft, each refuelling the other and turning back home, until the final aircraft, the bomber, made its solitary pass over the target.


The refuelling procedure needed precision flying. Nudging the two aircraft together, they put the refuelling probe into the trailing drogue basket of the front aircraft and flew in tandem as fuel flowed. One of the support aircraft broke off its probe in the delicate manoeuvre. The mission was almost ruined! Another refuelling bracket had been conducted in the midst of an electric storm; lightning struck all around as aviation fuel flowed between two buffeted aircraft.


After long hours over featureless seascape, it was necessary to climb into the enemy’s sweeping radar. A quick check showed that they were one mile off course. Then came the menacing throb through their headphones of an AN/TPS-43 RADAR and its signature of a ten second beat – the enemy pick-up of an unidentified contact travelling low. Then it vanished.


The airfield was guarded by Oerlikon 35mm twin–barrelled, radar-laid cannon, firing high explosive shells at 500 rounds per minute with deadly accuracy. The Roland radar-guided twin missile launcher also awaited; they were unaware of its presence!


The year was 1982. The plane - a Vulcan bomber. Its destination - Port Stanley (The Falkland Islands). Now covering a mile every 10 seconds, they were on course. The only thing between them and disaster was surprise. The Dash-10 Deflection Jammer, which confused radar–guided weapons, would help them to achieve this.


Martin Withers gave the Vulcan maximum revs as he began the climb into danger, levelling off for a smooth course onto the target; this would maximize the chance of accurately depositing their payload. The enemy radar was now striving for a lock–on, but the Vulcan could take no evasive action without compromising the bomb–run. All now depended on the Dash–10 Jammer. They had forty seconds to their target. Now at 400mph, height 10,000 feet, bomb doors open, their target was closing fast. The first of twenty-one 1,000lbs bombs was falling; the 10 ton payload took five long seconds to clear.


Withers piled on the power. The bomb doors were still open as he swept her away, agile without her extra weight. The sharp “2G” turn pushed the crew deep into their seats. The Dash-10 Jammer was doing its work. Each bomb gouged a hole sixty feet wide and thirty feet deep, blasting and ripping across the airfield. On the ground the experience was a maelstrom of terror and shrapnel. The Vulcan was gone. The occupiers of Port Stanley still blazed with every weapon, great and small, for half an hour after it left. The runway, the objective, now severely damaged at the mid point, was unsuitable for high speed fighter jets. The psychological impact on enemy morale was massive. The “Big Delta” was back in business. The Vulcan, destined for decommissioning and the scrap heap in three months, was now back. Back with a bang!


We are now climbing to a higher level. Like the Vulcan your life may be heading for destruction and ruin, but you were originally designed for higher things. You are built for eternity. The complexity of the human design is mind blowing. We are the product of intelligent design, not mere blind chance. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalm 139:14).  Some kick against this, but “all things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3). Divine origin means our lives have purpose beyond the mundane affairs of this human rat race. “Remember now thy creator ….. while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). We have freedom to live as we please, but without God life is meaningless, full of frustration, finally ending in despair. The Lord Jesus offers hope: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10).


Only two ejector seats were provided in the Vulcan. The cost was too high! God is not like this. A priceless sum was paid at Calvary. Paid in full. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8). Ponder the value of His death. He “gave Himself a ransom for all.” (I Timothy  2:6) God makes provision to rescue all.         


To be on the sharp end of twenty-one 1,000 bombs was fearful. Those who felt the power of such an onslaught may have imagined, as some say carelessly, “all hell broke loose.” (Men use this cliché thoughtlessly). But it will be reality, at the close of a Christ rejecting life! The fact is this: calm can never be restored. This is a tragedy. God is  “..not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2nd Peter 3:9). Feel the impact of sin now! Have it fully forgiven through the death of Christ. Sin can only be forgiven in this life. “The Son of Man hath power upon earth to forgive sins.” (Luke 5:24). Let the Word of God impact your conscience. “The Word of God is….powerful.” (Hebrews 4:12) Let truth penetrate deep within: “I have sinned against Heaven and before Thee.” (Luke 15:18).


The fuel-starved Vulcan headed for home. Withers never flew a Vulcan on so little fuel before. He recalled the moment when the Victor was sighted: it was “the most beautiful sight in the world”. Without the Victor the Vulcan would have been lost; it came just in the nick of time. Similarly, without Christ we have no hope. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6). The last episode of refuelling has a clear illustration – this time there was a sense of need and danger. It is only when we realize our need that we are willing to accept the Saviour’s provision. “It is the gift of God: not of works” (Ephesians 2:8,9). We must come to Christ empty of any merit of our own, with no resources to save ourselves and aware of the danger of going down under God’s judgment. Like the Vulcan we come to receive, with nothing to give. (God requires nothing from us.) “Not by works of righteousness … but according to His mercy He saved us.” (Titus 3:5.) In the spiritual realm an essential connection is made  – contact with Christ. Nothing less will satisfy our need and deep longings. “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.”(John 1:12). Believing is not mere knowledge of facts, but receiving Christ. Believing Christ can save is one thing; actually trusting Him with your own soul is vastly different; it is a transforming experience. 



Consider the distance covered by the Vulcan. The Lord Jesus came infinitely further. “I came down from Heaven.”(John 6:38). We know the reason: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1Timothy 1:15). His mission was not to punish, but to offer mercy. “For God sent not His son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17).


Many await a restored Vulcan in the sky. The Saviour is risen from the dead. We are waiting for the moment when we shall meet Him in the sky. Are you?