Canberra
Photographic Reconnaissance Aircraft


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Canberra PR3

The RAF was in a need for a replacement for the Mosquito PR34 which had served steadfastly for periods during WW2 and for six years after. The photographic reconnaissance version of the Canberra was developed. Developed from the B(2) light bomber, the Photographic Reconnaissance Mk3 (PR3) had an extra 14inch section added into the forward fuselage, this was to house the seven cameras, used for both day and night photography, in the forward area was also a flare bay and an area for other equipment. In the rear of the aircraft, extra fuel tanks were added. The aircraft had a crew of 2, pilot and navigator.

The prototype had it's maiden light in March 1950 and the first PR3 enter service with 541 Squadron at RAF Benson in 1953.

Numbers 58, 82 and 542 Squadrons were equipped during 1953-54, along with 231 OCU at RAF Bassingbourne and both 31 and 69 Squadrons of the 2nd Tactical Air Force in Germany.
First Canberra PR3
Canberra PR3

I would like to thank Ray Deacon of radfanhunter.co.uk for supplying the images of the PR.3's below
All images are (c) Ray Deacon

click on thumbnails for enlargements

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PR.3 WE138 at Ksar 1962 (c) Ray Deacon www.radfanhunters.co.uk
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PR.3 WE139 at Ksar 1963 (c) Ray Deacon www.radfanhunters.co.uk
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PR.3 WE169 at Ksar 1963 (c) Ray Deacon www.radfanhunters.co.uk
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PR.3 WF924 at Ksar 1962 (c) Ray Deacon www.radfanhunters.co.uk

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Canberra PR7

Canberra PR7 The Canberra PR7 had the same fuselage as the PR3 and was base on the Canberra B.6. However, it was equipped with up-rated engines giving 7,000lbs of thrust per engine.

This version was also exported to the Indian Air Force (IAF) and renamed the PR57 and PR67. As of 2006 the IAF are still flying this version, they are due to be retired in 2007/8.

The standard camera fit for the mark was, one vertical 6inch camera plus either four 20inch or six 36inch cameras.

A total of 74 were built, with some of the PR7's being converted to T.22's

Royal Air Force Squadrons that operated the PR7 were:

13, 17, 31, 39, 58, 80, 81, 82,527, 540 & 542.



 PR7 Diagrams
Canberra PR7

I would like to thank Ray Deacon of radfanhunter.co.uk for supplying the images of the PR.7's below
All images are (c) Ray Deacon

click on thumbnails for enlargements

Highslide JS
PR.7 WH775 in 1961 (c) Ray Deacon www.radfanhunters.co.uk
Highslide JS
PR.7 WH802 at Ksar 1963 (c) Ray Deacon www.radfanhunters.co.uk
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PR.7 WH803 at Ksar 1963 (c) Ray Deacon www.radfanhunters.co.uk
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PR.7 WJ815 at Ksar 1963 (c) Ray Deacon www.radfanhunters.co.uk
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PR.7 WT534 at Embakasi 1963 (c) Ray Deacon www.radfanhunters.co.uk
Highslide JS
PR.7 WT535 at Ksar 1963 (c) Ray Deacon www.radfanhunters.co.uk

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Canberra PR9

It was during the early 1960s, that the final Canberra reconnaissance version, the PR9 was rolled out and became operational with 58 Sqn. The PR9 featured up-rated Avon engines and a larger wing span, which allowed the aircraft to fly at heights of 60,000 feet.

The cameras carried by the PR9 were developed through a number of stages over its life. A wide range of daytime film cameras were carried for medium and higher level vertical and oblique photography. Survey cameras could also be fitted. An digital sensor, recording onto magnetic tape was another of the systems that could be carried.

Squadrons equipment with the PR9 were.

13, 39 and 58 Sqn

Throughout the 1960s, the Canberra's 13 Sqn were involved in many operational flights over the Middle East. Conflicts between Iraq and Kuwait (1962-64) and Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi (1970) saw 13 Sqn flying over disputed areas, photographing various troop movements.

13 Sqn moved to Malta in 1965 and also manned a permanent detachment at Muharraq, Bahrain. Working along side
39 Sqn in Malta, the two units undertook different reconnaissance roles and then in 1978 13 Sqn moved to RAF Wyton in the UK before disbanding in 1981. In 1970 39 Sqn disbanded and then was reformed immediately at RAF Wyton.

Canberra PR9 on Operations in the Gulf

June 1982 saw No.1 PRU being  formed with the remaining PR9's again based at RAF Wyton. However, in the early 1992 saw another name change to No. 39 (1 PRU) Squadron and it is with this squadron that the Canberra PR9 remained in service flying operation missions right up until the 28th July 2006 when the squadron was disbanded and the last 4 remaining PR9's in RAF service were retired.  




click on thumbnails for enlargements

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Below are two profiles of Canberra PR9's both from 39(1 PRU) Squadron then based at RAF Marham
These excellent profiles were produced by and the copyright of Santo Russo
Canberra PR9 in Hemp colours

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Reconnaissance Canberras in Overseas Service


Venezuela
This was to be the first overseas export of the Canberra. In January 1953 the Venezuelan Government ordered six B2s (bomber variant) of the Canberra. It was not until 1966 did they receive their first photo-reconnaissance aircraft, these were ordered as part of the third re-order  of Canberra's. Two ex-RAF PR.3s were refurbished, WE171 and WE172. They were re-titled PR.53s. Later these aircraft were to have been upgraded, however, WE171 was written-off after a crash in March 1976 leaving just one aircraft to undergo refurbishment, once completed, this aircraft was re-titled as a PR.83
 

India
This country became the third largest operator of the Canberra. In May 1957 the Indian Air Force's initial order was for three upgraded PR.7's. Further to this order, another was placed for five newly built aircraft reconnaissance aircraft. Before delivery, these aircraft had modifications to their electrical systems, an autopilot installed and additional navigation equipment. Later a further two PR.57's were added to the fleet as replacements In the mid 1960's a further order was placed for another two reconnaissance Canberras, these were to be two Ex-RAF PR.7's, again upgraded as requested by the Indian Government, these aircraft became know as PR.67's. In 1976 one PR.57 was transferred to the National Remote Sensing Agency and given the civilian code VT-EEM.


Indian Air Force PR.67 - Copyright English Electric

Information on USAF/NASA reconnaissance Canberra's (RB-57) can be found on the Post WW2 USAF page.
 
Chile
On the 15th October 1982, only months after the end of the Falklands War, 3 Canberra PR.9s, XH166, XH167 & XH173, were flown from RAF Wyton in Cambridgeshire by Chilean aircrews and in the company of other Chilean aircraft. They were believe to be heading for Grupo 2 Escuadrilla de Reconocimento, Fuerza Aérea de Chile. It was reported that XH167 was lost in a crash in May 1983, at this time, the reason is unknown. The remaining PR.9s are reported to be at the Museo Nacional Aeronautico Y del Espacio.

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