I’m not sure that ‘Happy Veterans Day’ is the right greeting but special greetings on Veterans Day to all veterans of America’s wonderful Armed Forces and their families. Britain and America have stood shoulder to shoulder in eight major wars now, World War 1, World War 11, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq. The ties between our two countries have been forged in blood. The sacrifice of those who came to our shores in World War II and did not make it home is remembered in particular. American war graves in this country are well looked after and will continue to be until the end of time.
The reference to Vietnam is not a mistake. As I argue in Spyhunter for Britain not to have declared war on North Vietnam after the Tonkin Gulf Incident was a major strategic error. British ground and naval forces were however committed during the Vietnam War, albeit covertly. The ground forces were mostly SAS, disguised as Australians (surely you noticed the strange Aussie accents!).
The only naval forces committed were the excellent Oberon class submarines. Drawing a shallower draft than the US Navy’s SSNs, they were able to get close inshore and monitor North Vietnamese communications and radar frequencies. There was a famous incident when one of our subs had a minor altercation with a North Vietnamese patrol boat and came home with a slight dent! I can’t remember how the Navy passed that off – ‘collision with a pier’, I expect, or a fishing boat – fishing boats are always popular.
We should have done more of course, a lot more. Avro Vulcan and Handley Page Victor bombers should have attacked Hanoi from RAF Butterworth and our fleet carriers Ark Royal, Eagle and Victorious should have been rotated on Charlie Station. We should also have committed an armored division and at least two infantry divisions. Our vital interests may not have been affected, but those of our friends and allies were.
Having grown up in Queensland during the war, I have, maybe, a different perspective to most Brits about Vietnam. US warships used to visit Brisbane regularly on R & R visits, indeed the DDs USS Collett and USS Blue were the first American warships I went aboard.
It’s difficult to know where to start. One Labour candidate compared Tony Blair to Adolf Hitler, which may have been a bit harsh on our community partner, who never confused tactical and strategic weapons. Hitler was also more charming, at least in private.
A Tory candidate managed to suggest that being raped was usually the woman’s fault. That wasn’t what he intended to say and wasn’t exactly what he said, but that’s how it was portrayed by the MSM.
The non-eponymous Tory Chairman James Cleverly decided not to turn up for an interview with Sky News, who promptly left an open chair. When he was finally interviewed it was a car crash.
A Labour candidate was then accused of singing anti-Semitic songs on a bus and was a bit slow in denying it. When the denial eventually came out it was too late to be credible.
Not to be outdone, Labour’s economically illiterate Shadow Chancellor announced a huge spending plan which he said would be funded by higher taxes, overlooking the negative impact of those higher taxes on GDP. Put shortly Labour plan to reduce tax income by hiking tax rates. They would then have to abandon their spending pledges or raise borrowing, which in turn raises spending, as the borrowing has to be paid for.
The biggest gaffe at all, according to the MSM, was by that nice man Jacob Rees-Mogg, who observed that common sense might have suggested to the residents of Grenfell Tower that they leave the burning tower block. Sadly, as we know, many followed Fire Brigade advice to stay put and were burned to death.
The first problem with the MSM narrative, however, is that it wasn’t a gaffe, but a perfectly sensible comment. Leaving a burning building makes sense. Staying put doesn’t.
The second problem is that none of the Grenfell survivors has been willing to tell the truth of what happened that night. They won’t all know the truth, of course, but some of them must. That fridge didn’t just blow up of its own accord. It was being used by an ISIS bomb-making cell to store TATP.
Please don’t try this at home, but storing TATP in a domestic refrigerator is not a good idea. TATP is unstable and a heat source. Domestic refrigerators are for milk, cheese, OJ, chocolate biscuits, squirty cream and other diabetes-beating foodstuffs. They are not designed to cope with heat sources.
How many times as a child were you warned ‘don’t get too close to the fridge, honey, it could blow at any moment’? How many close shaves have you had in your kitchen as the fridge door disappeared through the window?
Domestic fridges don’t normally blow up, yet the MSM have swallowed the exploding fridge theory hook, line and sinker. I bet journalists are now tip-toeing around their fridges in the morning. The sad truth, too much for the MSM to handle, is that Grenfell Tower burnt down because Islamic terrorists inappropriately stored unstable high explosives. The fire took hold because the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea had fallen for that hooky old global warning nonsense and were using energy-efficient cladding. They’re not the Cabinet Office – they weren’t deliberately trying to burn ratepayers to death.
Lots of people know this, thanks to the Internet and email chains. I doubt that Jacob’s ‘gaffe’ will cost the Tories many votes.
Boris started out his campaign with a Cabinet resignation, somewhat unusually. The man who went overboard was Alun Cairns, the Welsh Secretary. He went because he was accused, perhaps unfairly, of not knowing that an aide had been accused of throwing a rape trial by truthfully answering the questions put to him. No, I don’t get it either. Unless the witness had been warned about a no-go area he was entitled to go there. Counsel were warned, but it’s far from clear that the warning reached the witness, who was not in court when the warning was given.
Fortunately for Boris hardly anyone has heard of Alun Cairns. Everybody’s heard of the thuggish Tom Watson, however, the bruiser, no offense intended, who was Jeremy Corbyn’s deputy. That’s right. Labour’s deputy leader has also resigned. Boomps-a-daisy.
My latest prediction
This election is as volatile as Io’s surface – lots of eruptions and lava flows everywhere. The Brexit Party have today announced that they will not be contesting any of the 317 seats won by the Tories in 2017. That’s sensible. It allows them to concentrate their resources on Labour-held seats in Leave voting areas.
The other pundits (I think I’ve got it right often enough to be classed as a pundit) are saying that the Brexit Party won’t won a single seat. I’m not so sure.
Take Scotland. The Scottish Nats are polling about 4% nationally, but are predicted to win around 48 seats. If the Brexit Party’s 12% or so is regionally concentrated they could get a whole bunch of seats in the North and the Midlands.
I stand by my prediction last week that Boris won’t get a majority, but that the Tories will be the largest party.
Fires and Floods
How many more lives have to be thrown away, and how many more homes burnt to the ground, before we get a serious investigation into the causes of a bushfire? It’s been over eight years since the bin Laden compound was raided, yielding valuable intelligence about al-Qaeda’s tactic of having local adherents start bushfires.
Have the tragic bushfires in Australia been enough to get intel bureaucrats off their bottoms and start issuing warnings? No. The policy continues to be to sacrifice lives and property. It’s time we got up off our knees.
In England we have an opposite problem – floods. We’ve had a lot of rain, but guess what, it rains in England! Our climate has always been damp. The River Don in Yorkshire (as in Doncaster) has always flooded. The answer is to dredge it and increase its capacity to handle run-off flows from the Pennines.
The Cabinet Office however is opposed to flood prevention. It wants homes flooded and it gets what it wants, because it controls the bureaucracy. Local politicians have no idea what is going on and couldn’t change things even if they did. Some national politicians are in the loop, but are so heavily compromised they daren’t take action. If you live in the Don valley buy a boat.
The murder of Hakim Sillah
I’m all in favor of practical demonstrations as a teaching method. However I do wonder if it was wise to ask attendees at that Knife Awareness Course in Uxbridge last week to bring their knives along. If they weren’t asked to bring their knives why weren’t they searched as they went in?
The upshot of course was that poor Hakim Sillah, aged 18, was stabbed to death. Whilst an eloquent illustration to the class of the dangers of knives, it’s unlikely to have been in the lesson plan. As I have observed before politicians and bureaucrats in the UK will try anything to prevent the murder rate spiralling further as long as it doesn’t work. They should talk to Texas.
If you study Tim McLelland’s excellent book on the F-4 (reviewed last week), or any other decent text on the aircraft, you will find details of a number of upgrade programs for the Phantom. One of the best was the IAI’s Kurnass 2000 program for the Israeli Air Force. That technology however found its way to Turkey, courtesy of a $600 million contract awarded to IAI in August 1994.
No doubt it made commercial and strategic sense at the time, but Turkey is about as stable as Scotland. It’s now run by an Islamo-fascist nutter, no offense intended, who’s invaded Syria. What’s the betting that the Kurnass 2000 technology found its way to Iran?
And if the Turks haven’t told the Iranians how to upgrade their F-4s you can bet your bottom dollar that the Jerries have. There were several upgrade programs for the Luftwaffe’s F-4Fs.
The various upgrade programs haven’t just included missiles and avionics. They have embraced rewiring, renewing the hydraulic system and replacing corroded parts of the airframe. The Iranians still have some F-4Ds in service, for heaven’s sake. The Imperial Iranian Air Force, as it then was, ordered their first batch of F-4Ds in 1967.
I have no doubt that a small number of Iranian F-4s, probably upgraded Es, have been kept back for the nuclear strike mission, with up to date avionics and a nuclear bombing system, probably Chinese. My guess is that the engines are still the original General Electric J-79s, but they might have been replaced.
Staying with the Phantom for the moment, McLelland’s book explains why the RAF and Fleet Air Arm’s Phantoms were slower at altitude than the USAF’s and USN’s, even though their Rolls-Royce Spey 200 series turbofans were rather more powerful. The answer lies in the greater diameter of the intakes.
The Phantom fuselage mid-section had to be redesigned to accommodate the Spey, spoiling its area rule variable diameter, thus increasing induced drag. The Spey Phantom performed better at lower altitudes and took off like a rocket, so much so that when tested on the USS Saratoga, of fond memory, they pretty much blew a hole in the deck. At altitude however a J-79 powered Phantom could show a Spey Phantom a clean pair of heels.
I never flew in a Phantom, but I’ve taken off behind one, at RAF St Athan, in my University of Wales Air Squadron days (St Athan was the main Phantom maintenance base). Seeing a Spey Phantom roar down the runway ahead of you was an impressive sight and sound, I can tell you! You had to wait at the runway hold point for several minutes before ATC would allow you to turn on the runway itself. Otherwise your poor little Bulldog might have ended up on her canopy, or ‘tits-up’ in RAF-speak (‘balls-up’ in ATC-speak).
NASA’s Voyager 2 left the heliosphere this week, in other words is now in interstellar space. Bon voyage! The little spacecraft has performed impeccably since her launch on top of a Titan III in 1977. I predict that she’ll be overtaken long before she reaches another solar system however.
This all rather makes a nonsense of the plot of Starman, the charming and otherwise thoughtful 1984 movie starring Jeff Bridges. The eponymous alien was supposedly responding to the visiting call from Kurt Waldheim, presumably chosen because it was thought that most aliens thought like Waffen-SS officers. At the time the movie was set (they were still using payphones and you got nice attendants at gas stations filling up your tank for you, at $1.20 a gallon, and that’s inflation adjusted) Voyager 2 was still 35 years away from leaving the solar system.
Speaking of the solar system, the Sun (for the benefit of global warming nutters it’s that big yellow thing in the sky)(in Starman it’s that “little star over there”) has a diameter of just over 864,000 miles. It’s hot (no rude expression Sherlock) and is by far the biggest influence on our climate. At what point, do you think, will the Green Party notice it?
Warm congratulations to Lewis Hamilton on winning his sixth World Championship. Provided that the Jerries don’t do a Jim Clarke on him he should overhaul the late Michael Schumacher’s record of seven.
Incidentally, we heard this week that Michael Schumacher’s carers are having trouble communicating with him. That’s because he’s dead. (Maybe they should be holding séances.) The poor chap snuffed it when he went off-piste, even more off-piste than James Cleverly, no offense intended.
The media are swallowing the ‘Michael Schumacher is still alive and expected to wake up any day now’ line like guppies swallowing lunch. Like the ‘al-Baghdadi isn’t really dead’ argument it lacks one thing – the person in question. When Michael holds a press conference I’ll take it all back.
This week’s movie review – Midway (2019, dir. Roland Emmerich)
Released to theaters in the UK, and also I gather in the States, on Friday, this is a great war movie. The cast is nowhere near as talented as that of the mid-70s blockbuster (how can you beat Henry Fonda, Charlton Heston and Robert Mitchum?), but still turns in some powerful performances.
In Britain the opening credits warn you that the movie contains violence, scenes of confrontation and bad language. Yup, World War II was like that – there was a lot of noise as well. Why would you go to see a movie about a great naval battle and not expect scenes of confrontation?
Roland Emmerich strives mightily for accuracy. Unlike the makers of the 1976 version he had access to modern computer-generated special effects, and they are brilliantly done. Also unlike the 1976 movie, the Douglas TBD Devastator gets a look in, as well as the more famous SBD Dauntless. The AA guns on the carriers are true to period, not the later 40 mil Bofors.
For once we get proper-looking Yorktown class carriers, not Essex class carriers, which didn’t enter service until the following year. I have only a few quibbles, mostly about the air groups. It’s not 100% accurate, and still attributes the famous “sleeping giant” quote to Admiral Yamamoto, although there’s no proof that he actually said it. However the movie attains a higher standard of accuracy than any war movie since the Battle of Britain.
It’s a blockbuster, well worth seeing. It’s fair and balanced and gives credit where it’s due to the ONI intelligence team at Pearl, whose advice allowed Nimitz to set his trap, and Admiral Spruance, who avoided Yamamoto’s trap. It doesn’t tell the whole story, but there are clues that Nimitz knew that Washington was penetrated, as indeed it was. There’s humor, drama and some superb air combat scenes. This one’s still going to be shown on Sunday afternoons on TV in the late 2060s.