Weekly Photo Challenge: Close

One of the neat things about my job is that I get to travel regularly and often that travel takes me to places with great aviation-themed museums…as a result I can get up close and personal with some aircraft that here, I could only ever enjoy vicariously from afar…Image

This is the ‘Great White Hope’ of the British aircraft industry in the mid-60s…in never got a name other than the TSR.2…only one ever flew and only two survive in the world after the Communist British Government decided that manned aircraft had little future in modern combat…whether all the new technologies incorporated into the TSR.2 would have come to fruition and it would have been the much-lamented Mosquito of the Cold War is debatable (and that debate still rages!) but it is very cool that museums such as the RAF Museum at Cosford let you get as close as this to such an icon.

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Still on a Cold War kick, the Vulcan bomber was one of the three ‘V’ bombers developed in the wake of WW2 and the early days of the (then) not-so Cold War that were technological and conceptual leaps ahead from the Lancasters and Lincolns that they replaced. The Vulcan was a massive delta wing that soldiered on until retirement in the 1980s – it was only in the twilight of its RAF service that it was ever employed in anger, being the mainstay of the Black Buck missions flown against the Argetine-occupied Falkland Islands in 1982. Very cool being able to get so close to the one in the Imperial War Musuem at Hendon that I could stand up in the bomb bay…even cooler that one last Vulcan, privately-operated, still flies in the UK air show circuit

I was really happy to be able to get this close to a Vulcan here and at Cosford as I (VERY) slowly wrestle with the pig that is the Heritage Aviation Vulcan in 1/32

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And finally…close up and personal with an oddity like the C-125 Raider…designed as a short take-off and landing utility aircraft after WW2 in case that whole ricketty shakey helicopter thing didn’t pan out…this one is parked outside at the USAF Museum near Dayton, Ohio – hopefully it will be moved inside once the new annex in built…

So there’s my non-schmaltzy (possibly unless you’re a fellow plane-spotter) take on ‘close‘…hit the link to see some more…

A ‘poor western to arab death ratio!’

Curzon @ Coming Anarchy recounts his adventures flying on local airlines around the Gulf…sounds like feigning sleep is the best option…and while on the topic of Curzon, I have yet to finish reading his biography. The reason that it is taking so long is not that it is hard work and difficult to read – if anything, exactly the opposite: although some of the content is quite dry, it is so well written that I find myself savouring it like a fine dessert…comparing it to more contemporary writing, I think that we have lost a lot in the fifty years since this book was published…

Also on Coming Anarchy, Younghusband reviews David Kilcullen’s The Accidental Guerrilla. He summarises:

For close readers of COIN and CT theory, I do not think this book will offer any new insight. Kilcullen’s contribution though is an excellent overview of the “social work with guns” theory of COIN, as well as a succinct presentation of the realist arguments for non-intervention and conservation of military power…The last few pages, where he presents his policy ideas, is really where practitioners can sink their teeth in. Lots of debating points there. For example:

    • develop a new lexicon to better describe the threat (rather than UW, COIN, irregular warfare etc)
    • discuss a new grand strategy (have an ARCADIA conference on terrorism)
    • balance capability (Why is DOD 210 times bigger than USAID and State?)
    • identify new “strategic services” (ie. a new OSS)
    • develop a capacity for strategic information warfare.

As readers will now from the work published here, these insights are nothing new although it is refreshing to see them in a mainstream publication. It’s unfortunate that the conceptual COIN effort in the US especially (most others are simply followers) is still largely fragmented and lies predominately in the domain of the information militia. The focus on the Iraqi insurgency in 2005-6 has caused the term COIN to be used interchangeably across the contemporary environment and that has caused many to apply inappropriate concepts, policies and doctrine to the issues they face. Our findings in 2007 were initially that the Marines had a better grip on the issue in developing the Countering the Irregular Threat (CIT) concept; and then that the UK encapsulated it even better with Countering Irregular Activity (CIA) which covers the broad spectrum of irregular (potentially destabilising) activities from all sources and causes, natural and man-made. The flip side of both CIT and CIA is the need for a comprehensive approach harnessing the appropriate and relevant instruments of national power including those on NGOs and commercial/corporate interests which usually fall outside the accepted definitions of NGO. These are all themes that we have been exploring in the series The New War.

Bears in the Air

Well…Blackjacks actually…in a timely reminder that there are more bad things out there than just some nutjob hiding in a cave inciting the masses with poor quality video…the Russian Bear is alive and well and still has aspirations of Empire, certainly under its current keeper…perhaps we ought not be so quick in cancelling programmes like F-22 and planning total reliance on a committee-designed one-size fits all hybrid like the F-35…wasn’t the last time we tried – and failed – at a ‘joint’ aircraft the infamous F-111 project that skewered the TSR.2, set back the Aussie strike programme by over a decade and saw a less-than-stellar combat debut in Vietnam…thank the maker for the F-4 Phantom that carried the resulting load for the better part of a decade.

And on the topic of potential threats, STRATFOR carries an item on Chinese speed wobbles as the US ramps up a comprehensive (or unified, if you went to that school) approach to a potential threat…like Japan, China has built an economy on a foundation of sand and hope and its starting to get wobbly…all the more reason to keep the F-22 fires stoked and warm up that A-10 production line (and do a naval variant this time round!)…on yes, and you might need some decent SPGs to replace the M109s that grandpappy used in Vietnam…and don’t be counting on your data links staying up all the time so have a think about leaving the seats in any new airfames you invest in for combat… Neptunus Lex also carries some comment on this article…

The top ten manly movies

John Birmingham has been busy…The Geek discusses what are the top ten manly movies…JB votes for these with my comments in red:

1. True Grit. (Yes, you must fill your hands with this sonofabitch). Absolutely!

2. Saving Pvt. Ryan. (Because war is hell good lookin’ on blu-ray wide screen). Nah!! too much gratuitous violence int he beginning that adds nothing to the story and the meandering journey across France is just boring. Blackhawk Down delivers all the same messages better and it is based on a true story.

3. Master and Commander. (Tips out Gladiator because nobody wears skirts). Agree re Master and Commander not Gladiator which I slot in below.

4. Casino Royale (the remake, and the manliest Bond flick EVAARRR!). Yep!

5. Treasure of the Sierra Madre. (Or any Bogart flick, except the ones with a love interest). Ummm…no…Bogey never quite did it for me…from this era I’d opt for The 39 Steps.

6. The Magnificent Seven. (Well duh. It is magnificent, you know). Yep!

7. The Dirty Dozen. (Or Kelly’s Heroes, if you prefer your war movies with a psychedelic twist). Or both…

8. Cool Hand Luke. (Because I say no man can eat fifty eggs). Hmmmm…whatever…ditch in favour of 633 Squadron, the best flying movie every made.

9. Raging Bull. (Or any movie about boxers or wrestlers. They’re all good.) Replace with Kelly’s Heroes.

10. 300. (Because this is Sparta). How come these guys get to wear skirts, JB? Replace with Gladiator.

Cheeseburger Gothic also hosts a nice piece of fan fiction from The Wave section of the Birmoverse.

Get it off!

Dean @ Travels with Shiloh has developed a new counter to female suicide bombers…I wonder if the cure might not be worse than the problem…?

In more serious news, he summarises a recent workshop at Princeton on Afghanistan – in terms of being out of AFG in 2011, I hope that someone is working on the chopper pad on top of the Embassy…I think we all must have slept through the lesson on COIN re the long haul – or maybe that lesson took place during the five year summer holidays in Iraq?

Where it all began

Peter has released a prologue to The Doomsday Machine…great to see a local lad doing so well at this authoring thingie…

I also like his comments re President Obama’s snub at Israel…but disagree on the credibility of commenting on a book one has not read…I used to be prone to making similar judgements especially on movies so missed Gladiator on the big screen and gave the first series of Dr Who a miss as well…that learned me!!

Who am I?

Portable Learner discusses ways and means of promoting oneself on LinkedIn, something that I have been wresting with recently as well. The options available are quite prescriptive and I don’t think that will change regardless of what’s on the list. Lists, I think, are an industrial age tools that we have yet to evolve away from and, like so much industrial age legacy material, they hold us back. I agree with Shanta that ‘internet’ is probably more descriptive of how one might think than its clinical definition might imply.

I also agree totally with her points re e-learning which is sliding back into industrial age slime instead of being the shining beckon of knowledge it once appeared to be. In order to “…design effective learn ing environments in a networked world…” we must sever the ties with industrial tools and focus on the information and it s nurturing and growth…This is one reason that I think that the US Navy may have ever so slightly lost it in merging its 2 (intel) and 6 (comms) branches into the Information Dominance Corps (IDC) – yes, for real!! I see a very real risk that the information under this structure will be overshadowed by the fears and rules of the technicians and we will lose that timely dissemination that we so desperately need…it maybe that the victims of this merger will see their op critical information become a commodity that is delivered IDC…In…Due…Course – a phrase straight from the repertoire of petty bureaucrats and mindless chair polishers…


Stupid?

Should I be concerned when WordPress tells me that people are using the search term ‘stupid‘ to find this blog? It is often quite interesting to see what terms that people are using that bring them here…

There is a steady trickle of searches for Interbella which is good as it shows that a few people out there are starting to get the message that we need a new way of thinking to truly grasp complexity and uncertainty.

There is a lot of interest in the UK’s training simulation JCOVE that I mentioned in Microcosms – I never did get around to reviewing this, or even playing it that much – I simply don’t have time at the moment between job-hunting, blogging and doing the work I do have. I am hard-pressed to consider spending too much recreational time in front of the PC. Hopefully I will get over this, possibly when the weather packs up for winter, and I do enjoy sims and have done since my first Sega system in 1988. Sims and training still have a long road to ride together.

At least one person has been feverishly beavering away looking for a paper model of the mighty TSR.2. I can help there as there are four that I know of: the first three are fairly simplistic and should be easy enough to find online. The fourth is a magnificent creation in 1/33 by Waltair at Kartonbau.de – unfortunately there seem to have been some issues with the design and he has put it back on to the back burner til maybe this year…

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Note: Waltair’s TSR.2 released a year or so later…it’s a beauty!!!

Papermodeling.com is still down. It’s been four days now and I think that this is the longest that I have ever known a website to be down for technical reasons. Apparently the problem is that the back-up is very large (very graphics-heavy at a guess) and won’t upload properly. Best laid plans of mouse and men etc but I wonder what liability forum and blog hosts actually have when something like this happens. If this site can not be recovered, an incredible amount of knowledge (on a narrow topic) will be lost. We used to laugh when the Army went to an online personal records system in the early 90s and all the clerks had to maintain paper records of all transactions: there was actually more paper produced and stored than under the old paper-based system! Looking back, maybe they weren’t so dumb after all…?

I have done something to my back that kicks in whenever I sit at my desk in the study, especially in the evenings – any more than an hour or so at the keyboard and it becomes quite uncomfortable. The upside is that it goes away if I keep moving about so in the day I guess it is a good motivator to do some work outside…so today’s rehab has seen part of the vege garden dug up and replanted with beans, the goats and sheep set to work cleaning up the edge of the front lawns, and a start made on a Colditz fence so they can level all the crap that has grown at the top of the back garden without breaking out and obliterating the garden.

I have a few less options after dark but stretching out on a couch seems to help so I’m off to finish watching The Wild Geese, a favourite from wayback – should I feel old when I remember seeing this when it was first released in 1978…?

wild geese

Visiting Museums

It’s taken me a while but I have now uploaded all my museums pics from my UK trip into Photobucket – too ages to get them all done: not sure whether the problem was Photobucket or just a dodgy broadband connection.

Defence Capability Centre in Shrivenham – I’m not sure what they actually do here but it is the coolest place to work: just chockful of tanks, big guns and other cool kit.

Imperial War Museum at Duxford. My first impression of the museum at Duxford was ‘oh, is that it?‘ before I realised that I had only completed one of six hangars. But even then I was in aviation geek heaven, having been up close and personal with a Vulcan, Victor and TSR.2. If you visit Duxford, it is easy to get to via the motorway system but give yourself a full day to look at everything. I can recommend the sausages, beans and chips as well…

RAF Museum at Cosford. If I had thought that Duxford was aviation geek heaven, Cosford just blew me away!! The very first plane I saw inside was the mighty HP 188 – almost even cooler than the TSR.2 if it had warpaint instead of its natural metal finish…and another Vulcan, another Victor, a Valiant too plus another TSR.2 – the displays at Cosford let you get even closer to the aircraft than at Duxford, so it’s a great place to go for details shots for any projects at home…

If I get time I will try to go back and add captions to some of the more obscure images. To follow is still Udvar-Hazy and the Pima Air Museum….

I’m out of town for a couple of nights and this is my first attempt at a remote scheduled blog post…hope it goes well…

One day the records will be unclassified…

…and we might know the real story behind the cancellation of the second Great White Hope, abbreviated as TSR2…

I never thought that I might be lucky enough to ever seen a TSR2 in the flesh, let alone two in two days – it really is one of the most beautiful aircraft and it is tragic that it was scrapped so ignominiously, heralding the death knell of the British aviation industry that brought us such names as Spitfire, Lancaster, Hunter and Vulcan…

In my travels over the last two days I have been very impressed by the British motorway system (less the Oxford Ring Road which I still spit upon); visited the Imperial War Museum at Duxford and the RAF Museum at Cosford; and grown to really despise the stupid German hire car. I can heartily recommend that anyone with an interest in aviation and/or 20th Century history visit both these great facilities which I would rate as being up there with the Udvar-Hazy part of the Smithsonian in DC. Having said that and while applauding the resources being applied to preserve Britain’s aviation heritage, it’s also rather sad to see some of the gaps in the collections…some of the lesser known of the Few who took the war to Germany in those early days; Wellington, Hampden, Blenhiem, Beaufort, Whirlwind, Defiant, Whitley, Manchester, Stirling…these museums are great places for kids and not because of the range of big boys toys but also to sow the seeds of awareness of our history and those who sacrificed to preserve a way or life – it was really good to see so many children and family groups of all ages at both venues.