Reblog of a comment by King’s College London’s Defence Studies Department on the first significant discussion of space in a British government policy review.
Dr Mark Hilborne and Dr Mark Presley, Defence Studies Department
The government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, along with its accompanying Defence Command Paper, has made the first significant inclusion of space in such a UK policy document. This is a welcome development, indicating the growing importance of space in reaching a number of key policy objectives, such as prosperity, diplomacy and security, and putting it alongside land, air, maritime and cyber as a key domain of operations.
The government’s vision for space is given some scope in the section entitled “An Integrated space policy: making the UK a meaningful player in space”. “Integrated” here refers both to the cross-governmental approach, incorporating the civil, commercial and military sectors, but also with regards to the UK’s allies and partners. The recognition that a cross-government strategy is required is an important step, and it will be critical…
View original post 752 more words
Opinion piece from Roger Boyes of The Times of London about President Biden’s options if China threatens Taiwan.
This is a bigger problem now than it has been in the past because of China’s growing military power. Taiwan’s strategy in the event of a Chinese invasion is to fight a long, guerilla war.
The Indian aircraft carier INS Viraat, previously HMS Hermes, made her last journey to the breakers yard at Alang, India in September 2020 and is now being scrapped: see this video report from the British ITV network.
She was laid down during World War II as HMS Elephant and was a Centaur class light fleet carrier. Only four of the intended eight ships of this class had been laid down by the end of the war and the other four, one of which was to be named Hermes, were cancelled.
The Royal Navy had more carriers than it needed, or could afford, at the end of World War II, so Hermes and her three remaining sisters were not completed for some time. She was launched in 1953 in order to clear the slipway, but was not completed until 1959. This was to a modified design that included an angled flight deck and steam catapults, enabling her to operate the latest jet aircraft.
By the late 60s, she carried an air group of 12 Sea Vixen jets (interceptor), seven Buccaneer jets (strike), five turboprop Gannets (four Airborne Early Warning [AEW] and one Carrier on board Delivery) and six Wessex helicopters (five anti-submarine [ASW] and one air-sea rescue and utility). The Sea Vixens and Buccaneers were subsonic and the RN hoped to equip Hermes with its first supersonic aircraft, the F4 Phantom. However, trials proved that she was too small to effectively operates F4s.
in 1966, it was decided that the RN should no longer operate fixed wing aircraft. A proposal to sell Hermes to Australia fell through and she was converted from 1971-73 into a Commando Carrier. Her catapults were removed and she was modified to carry landing craft and 800 troops. Her airwing was now about 20 Sea King helicopters. In 1976, the threat from Soviet submarines led to her becoming an anti-submarine helicopter carrier.
In 1980-81, she was refitted with a ski jump in order to operate Sea Harrier V-STOL fighters after it was decided plan that the RN should operate fixed wing aircraft. The ski jump enables a V-STOL aircraft to take off with a greater payload than if it made a vertical take off.
Her normal air group was then five Sea Harriers and 12 Sea King ASW helicopters. However, during the Falklands War, she carried 16 Sea Harrier interceptors, 10 RAF ground attack Harriers, five ASW Sea Kings and five commando assault Sea Kings.
It is difficult to see how the British could have retaken the Falklands without the fighter cover provided by the Harriers on board Hermes and HMS Invincible. The RN has now returned to the operation of large carriers, with HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales now in service.
HMS Hermes remained in service with the RN until 1986, when she was sold to India. She was commissioned into the Indian navy as INS Viraat in 1987 and served until 2016, 57 years after she was completed and 63 since she was laid down. Plans to convert into a museum and hotel proved to be uneconomic.
Analysis from the Department of Defence Studies at King’s College, London of the likely impact on the Royal Navy of the recently announced increase in UK defence spending
Professor Greg Kennedy, Director, Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies
The announcement of the biggest investment in the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces in almost forty years by Prime Minister Boris Johnson has prompted much speculation about what the Royal Navy will be able to do with this new-found largesse. While many knowledgeable observers of the Royal Navy’s financial woes over the years would assume that much of this money will be spent to make more shallow the Navy’s spending black hole, particularly on nuclear propulsion and weapons systems, it appears that such may not be the case.
There is a stated commitment to improving the diminished surface warfare capability of the Fleet. The orders for 8 Type 26 and 5 Type 31 frigates appear to be confirmed, and a substantial commitment to the desperately needed Future Solid Support ships to enable the Carrier Strike Group to do what a Carrier…
View original post 557 more words
The Times has reported that the Pentagon is concerned by the growing size of China’s navy and missile arsenal. The USN currently has 293 ships and planned to have 355 manned ones by 2030, when China is expected to have 425.
According to internal documents seen by Defense News, the USN intends to build more lighter warships, unmanned vessels and submarines, giving it at least 500 and up to 534 vessels by 2030.
The plan would reduce the USN’s number of nuclear powered aircraft carriers from 11 to 9. The first of the latest class, the USS Gerald Ford, is not now due into service until 2023, 5 years late.
The attached article does not discuss the relative combat values of US and Chinese warships, but the numbers are clearly concerning the Pentagon as this looks like an officially approved leak aimed at building public support for an expansion in the number of US warship
Magawa, an African giant pouched rat, has become the first rat to be awarded the Dickins Medal, institutes in 1943 by Maria Dickins to reward bravery by animals in wartime.
Rats have an exceptionally acute sense of smell and Magawa uses his to sniff out some of the five million landmines laid in Cambodia between 1975 and 1998. He is one of nearly 1,000 rats trained by Apopo, a Belgian charity based in Tanzania, to detect either TB in people or land mines.
See the linked article from The Times for more.
THE British Army must embrace the fact that its Challenger tanks are woefully out of date and lead the way in Nato with a transformative new land warfare strategy, a former Joint Forces Commander said last night. Gen Sir Richard Barrons, who retired in 2016, said that, while armour will continue to play a key […]Axing Challenger will free British Army to re-think land warfare strategy, general says
This detailed analysis of why President Truman decided to drop the atom bomb on Hiroshima 75 years ago was sent to me by Allen Gray, author of the excellent blog Wayne’s Journal, about his uncle’s experiences as a USAAF B-25 gunner/armorer in the South Pacific in World War II. The author prefers to remain anonymous but the copyright is his, not mine.
I agree with the analysis of Truman’s decision to drop the A-bomb and think that he was correct to use it. However, I admit that I am biased for the reasons given in the next two paragraphs.
My father was part of a beach clearance unit in the first wave of Operation Zipper, the British amphibious landing in Malaya that was planned for 9 September and is mentioned below. It went ahead without opposition after the Japanese surrender as it was the quickest way to get British Commonwealth troops into Malaya.
Like many veterans, he said little about his service but he did say that he saw only one Japanese sentry, who was ‘as frightened as’ he was. He also said that the colonel told the unit afterwards that that the War Office estimate of their casualty rate if the operation had gone ahead was 90%. We once on holiday met a former Royal Marine whose unit had been in the second wave and had an estimated casualty rate of 50%.
Everything from here onwards was written by Allen’s correspondent.
The Days of August, 1945
The following, The Days of August, 1945”, was written by a Seattle attorney. He is a dedicated, if amateur, student of the history of the Atomic Bombings and the life of Harry Truman, and who a few years ago appeared as Truman in a play about the subject, “The Realm of Whispering Ghosts: If Truman Met Einstein.”
The Days of August, 1945
Seventy-five years ago later this morning, August 6 Japan time, the center of the city of Hiroshima was obliterated by the first nuclear bomb. Two days later the Soviet Union entered the war against Japan. The day after that, much of Nagasaki suffered the same fate as Hiroshima. Six days after that, the Japanese people heard the unfamiliar “Voice of the Crane” announce Japan’s surrender. World War Two had come to a sudden end. The formal surrender to the allied powers would occur early the following month, on the deck of the battleship Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay.
As a matter of cause-and-effect, it seems clear that, at the very least, this combination of events in early August precipitated a crisis within the Japanese government that produced a capitulation that was not imminent at the beginning of that month.
A Soviet attack in isolation would have been viewed as a diplomatic setback – some within the Japanese government had been hoping the Soviets would serve as an intermediary to negotiate a peace allowing Japan to retain a portion of its Empire and military might. But the Soviets months before had already served notice that the Soviets were formally withdrawing from the Japanese-Soviet Friendship Treaty of 1941, and the Japanese military recognized that this action had begun the countdown for a Soviet entry into the war. The attacks on Japanese holdings in Manchuria and Korea did not come as a surprise to them. Standing alone, the Soviet entry into the war on August 8 would not have triggered Japan’s surrender seven days later. It took the shock of America’s employment of the “most cruel bomb” – as the Emperor would describe it in his August 15 broadcast – to move Hirohito to end a Cabinet deadlock and direct his ministers to make peace.
And that came just in time. For unknown to either the Japanese or us, Stalin was just weeks away from taking a fateful step that would have radically altered the course of history. Soviet forces were gathering for an invasion of the Japanese Home Island of Hokkaido. The landings were set to take place on August 24, 1945. Within a few days two Soviet divisions would have seized the northern half of Hokkaido – months before American forces were scheduled to storm ashore on the southernmost Home island of Kyushu.
As history actually unfolded, the Japanese surrender on August 15 (August 14 in America) pulled Stalin up short. The Soviets were in the process of taking the southern half of Sakhalin Island (lost to Japan under the terms of the Treaty of Portsmouth that ended the disastrous Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905), and also grabbing the Kurile Island chain. But Stalin wanted more – he wanted to share in control of the Japanese Home islands themselves, a position from which he hoped to bring about a Soviet Japan, and at the least block any American attempt to transform Japan into an anti-Communist bulwark. Indeed, Stalin was so loathe to let go of these goals that he pressed Truman to accept a post-surrender Soviet occupation of northern Hokkaido (the same territory scheduled for invasion), and only reluctantly accepted Truman’s refusal to permit such a dilution of American plans to be the sole occupying power of the four Home Islands.
Without the Atomic Bombings in early August, the war would still have been raging when August 24 arrived. There can be no doubt that the Soviet invasion would have been launched. If we assume just a one month a delay in the development and successful test of the Plutonium Bomb, or an outright failure of the “Trinity” test on July 26, the news of the Soviet invasion of Japan – for that is exactly how it would have been viewed, just as much an invasion of Japan proper as our planned landings on Kyushu on November 1 would have been seen as an invasion – would have triggered a crisis in Washington, DC. Without the atomic bombings, Truman would have returned from Potsdam to be confronted by a veritable mutiny by the Navy against the American invasion plans. Intelligence in late July showed that the Japanese had somehow moved 750,000 troops to Kyushu, not the 250,000 predicted earlier that Summer. The new numbers meant the Japanese could be expected to meet our invading forces with at least equal numbers on the beaches – a formula for disaster, based on the experience accumulated from the many amphibious landings conducted in Europe and the Pacific. The Navy would have been demanding a cancellation of the planned Kyushu landings, and adoption of their preferred strategy of blockade. The news that the Soviets had beaten us to the Japanese Home Islands by several months would have knocked the Navy’s and the Army’s arguments all into the proverbial cocked hat, forcing the American leadership to consider whether to scrape together a force that could be rushed ashore on northern Honshu, and block a Soviet move south towards Tokyo. The Cold War was already unfolding in Europe, and the pressure on Truman to prevent the Red Army from marching into Tokyo and imposing a Japanese puppet Communist government would have been excruciating.
And what of the Japanese? The Home islands of Japan had never been invaded. Never. The Mongols had tried twice, and each time the kamikaze, the “Divine Winds” of the typhoon season had wrecked the Khan’s mighty invasion fleets. The Japanese military, which had been preparing to beat back an invasion coming from the south – hence the shift of those 750,000 troops to Kyushu – would now have confronted the Russians coming through a northern backdoor unavoidably left unguarded. The military would have unleashed its plans to rally the entire nation against an invasion, while scrambling to move forces from the south to the north. The Japanese hated the Russians, and the Japanese elite loathed and feared Communism. The political dynamic of an evenly divided War Cabinet, with three military members adamantly opposed to surrender on any terms before Japan had the chance to bloody its enemies in a “decisive battle” for the Home Islands, squaring off against three civilian members who urged seeking peace with the Americans (if not on the “unacceptable” terms of the Potsdam Declaration), would have been swept away. There was no more time for the luxury of such debate. The Decisive Battle was at hand, the evil Russian Bear was ashore, and all Japan must be mustered to resist.
How would this world have unfolded? What we can say with confidence is that the moment for peace, which was latent at the beginning of August 1945, would have been swept away after an August 24 that saw Soviet forces storming ashore on the beaches of Hokkaido. The war would have continued. Extended now on the ground to the Japanese Home Islands, it would have continued to rage throughout East Asia and the Pacific. The British on September 9 would have launched “Operation Zipper,” a massive amphibious assault against the Japanese position in Malaya, an operation that would have dwarfed the D-Day landings. In response, the Japanese Commander of the Southwest Asian theater would have issued his promised order for the massacre of hundreds of thousands of allied military and civilian prisoners.
The war would have continued until, somehow, the Japanese leadership could be brought to its sense, and made to realize that continued fighting would only end in the obliteration of Japan itself. In our history, as events actually unfolded, that realization meant the Emperor taking the step that only he could take, by commanding a decision for peace. But he took that step in the comparative calm of a Japan not yet invaded, within the protective confines of the Imperial Palace. And even then, when word leaked out within military circles of his decision, and the impending surrender, it triggered a mutiny on the night of August 14/15 by captains and majors that saw murderous bands of soldiers invade the palace grounds, seeking to take the Emperor into “protective custody” and prevent the surrender broadcast scheduled for the next day. And while these fanatic junior officer “patriots” sought to prevent the planned surrender, the War Minster killed himself rather than be a party to the “shame” of capitulation. If Japan’s decision to surrender then was nearly undone, imagine the challenge for the emperor to try and bring about a surrender in the face of a united military plunging into the final “decisive” battle they had been itching to fight.
When Harry Truman made the decision to order the atomic bombing of Japan, he did so for one reason. Not to make an impression on Joe Stalin. He did so because he knew that the war with Japan had to be brought to an end, and soon. He recognized that continued war would mean the deaths of millions, including hundreds of thousands of Americans. He knew that continued war in the Pacific and East Asia would make it impossible to achieve a just peace for the wounded peoples of Europe, at the opposite end of the Eurasian landmass. Truman could not know that, had he hesitated to use the atomic bomb against Japan right when it became available, events were about to unfold that would have undone the moment for peace. But 75 years later we do. Or at least we ought to.
In 1934, there was a debate within the RAF about whether its next generation of fighters, the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire, should have four or eight 0.303 inch Colt Browning machine guns. These guns had the same calibre of ammunition as the British Army’s Lee Enfield rifles.
This is well known but the role of Hazel Hill, a 13 year old schoolgirl, in the decision to adopt eight guns has only recently come to light thank to a BBC News Channel documentary called The Schoolgirl Who Helped to Win a War. It is based on research carried out by her grand-daughter Felicity Baker, a journalist. It is available to UK viewers on the iPlayer at the link below.
There were two alternative guns that might have armed the new fighters. The 20mm Hispano cannon, used by the French, was ‘new and temperamental’
Stephen Bungay, author of The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain (London: Aurum Press, 2009), stated on the BBC documentary that the 20mm cannon and the 0.5 inch machine gun were rejected on the grounds of weight.
In 1934, RAF fighter squadrons were equipped with Bristol Bulldogs and Hawker Furies and were soon to receive Gloster Gauntlets, fabric covered biplanes with open cockpits, fixed undercarriages and an armament of two 0.303 inch machine guns. The next British fighter, the Gloster Gladiator, had an enclosed cockpit and four 0.303 inch machine guns, but was still a fixed undercarriage biplane. Most air forces in the world were then equipped with similar fighters. The best fighter in the world was probably the Polish PZL P.11, an all metal gull winged monoplane, but it still had an open cockpit, a fixed undercarriage and only two machine guns, although later models carried four.
The world’s leading air forces were about to introduce monoplanes with retractable undercarriages, enclosed cockpits, greater speed, higher altitude ceilings and heavier armament. The question for the British was how many guns their new fighters carry.
Squadron Leader Ralph Sorley, head of the Air Ministry’s Operational Requirements Section, thought that eight guns were required to to inflict enough damage to shoot down an enemy aircraft in the two seconds that a fighter pilot was expected to be able to keep it in his sights. Air Marshall Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt, the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff, agreed.
Others, however, were not convinced, including Air Marshall Robert Brooke-Popham, Commander-in-Chief of the Air Defence of Great Britain and thus the commander of the fighter squadrons that would receive the new aircraft. He thought that eight guns were too many and that four were enough, arguing that eight would create ‘a lot of leading edge resistance.’
Captain Frederick Hill, the Air Ministry’s Senior Technical Officer of Ballistics, was given the job of calculating the number of guns needed by a modern fighter. He came from a working class background but received a BSc in Chemistry from London University in 1909 and subsequently worked as a teacher. He served in the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Air Force during the First World War, working on the technical aspects of aerial guns and gunsights. He continued with this work after the war as a civilian employee of the Air Ministry, although he almost lost his job during defence cuts in 1922.
Hill was given the task of working out how many guns the new fighters needed. As he was working to a tight timetable, he took the relevant documents and a calculating machine home and worked on his kitchen table, helped by his 13 year old daughter Hazel, a maths prodigy. Their calculations showed that that with machines guns that fired 1,000 rounds per minute, a fighter would need eight guns to cause enough damage to destroy an enemy aircraft in the two seconds that it was likely to have the enemy in its sights.
The next day Hill presented his conclusions to an Air Ministry committee, which accepted that his recommendation that the new fighters needed to have eight machine guns. According to the Times article linked below, he told only his immediate superior that Hazel had helped him with the calculations. The BBC documentary said that his superior mentioned this in his memoirs. Neither source names him but he was presumably C. H. Keith, whose book I Hold My Aim is referred to in the Wikipedia entry on Hill.
The BBC documentary interviewed Squadron Leader Allan Scott, a 98 year old who flew both Hurricanes and Spitfires in the Second World War. In his opinion, they could not have shot down enough enemy aircraft to win the Battle of Britain had they been armed with only four machine guns.
Even eight 0.303 machine guns was soon regarded as being too weak an armament. During the Battle of Britain, Spitfires and Hurricanes fought against German Messerschmitt Me109E fighters that carried two 20mm cannon and two 7.92mm machine guns. In 1941, the Spitfire VB, armed with two 20mm cannon and four 0.303 inch machine guns, and the Hurricane IIC with four 20mm can non entered service.
Captain Hill died in 1959. Hazel followed a career in medicine rather than Maths, serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the Second World War. She died 10 years ago. Her four sons appeared in the BBC documentary and her family still owns the table on which the calculations were made.
 E. B. Morgan, E. Shacklady, Spitfire: The History, Rev. ed. ed. (Stamford: Key Books, 1987), p. 18.
 A. Price, The Spitfire Story (London: Arms and Armour, 1982), p. 21.
 Quoted in Morgan, Shacklady, Spitfire: The History, p. 15.