QRA - Quick Reaction Alert - was the posture adopted by the RAF and Nato during the Cold War to ensure that a retaliatory strike could be mounted with the minimum of time delay. The aim was to be able to launch at least two Vulcans from each base within four minutes of an attack warning being received. The procedure, up to engine start point, was practised regularly and occasionally an unarmed aircraft would be launched to ensure crews were familiar with the process. Although never actually released in anger it got pretty close to it during the Cuban Crisis and the complementary Canberra force in Germany (also on QRA) came very close to launch when the Berlin Wall went up. Maintained for some 20yrs QRA was a significant factor in the NATO deterrent policy in the Cold War years.
The image shows a practice launch with the first aircraft off well into a combat turn ensuring that the aircraft are not ‘bunched’ just after take-off. Happy days!!
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