Newark Air Museum Completes Yellow Sun Project

Volunteer Phillip Wardell has completed the construction of a replica tail cone for the Yellow Sun nuclear bomb displayed at Newark Air Museum.

This particular Yellow Sun has been on long-term loan from the RAF Museum Reserve Collection, but has long been missing its tail cone. Work to fabricate a replacement began in October 2019, when Phil took on the task of constructing a replica.

Phil produced a set of concentric wooden formers in the Notts-based museum’s on-site workshop, and since then the tail cone project has progressed steadily its shape and increasing size often attracting ribald comments from other museum volunteers!

The replica Yellow Sun tail cone under construction.

The replica was test-fitted to the existing casing over winter, using the original fitting points. From there, Phil could attach the metal coverings and fins.

Once complete, the cone was installed and painted. This was completed prior before Newark Air Museum closed for its Covid-19 lockdown, but the refurbished Yellow Sun – displayed on an original Yellow Sun weapon trolley that was already part of the museum’s collection – now awaits inspection by visitors when the museum is allowed to reopen.

Unusual Design

Yellow Sun was Britain’s first operational high-yield strategic nuclear weapon. It was designed to fit a number of different warheads, measured 21ft (6.4m) by 4ft (1.2m) and entered service in 1959. The Yellow Sun name only refers to this casing, which had an unusual, large, flat nose to create more drag, slowing its fall so the releasing aircraft had more time to reach a safe distance.

Early Yellow Suns were filled with Green Grass warheads (with 37 produced as an ’emergency’ weapon) and from 1961 Mk.II versions used 1.1mt Red Snow warheads, which were more suited for operational use. The bombs were used by V-Force until the WE.177 nuclear bomb was introduced in 1966.

The completed Yellow Sun and Vulcan XM594. (Images courtesy of Howard Heeley/Down To Earth Promotions)

Phil was successful in his aim to complete the tail cone for Cold War Call Up, scheduled for mid-May, although this event is sadly cancelled. He is considering taking on a similar winter project a replica tail cone for the museum’s V-1 Flying Bomb.

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