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Nimrod Down.

Well, I guess you’ve heard of the four missing British yachtsmen. Now the big searchers for them (or their remains) is the US Coastguard. Fine. No issues with the fifth service of the US military. They know what they are doing and they appear to have deployed significant resources to the task for it is a hell of a lot of ocean to search.

So, what have us Brits done… We have sent an RAF C-130 to Canada. Now the BBC News was giving mixed messages on this. They showed USCG C-130s and said the RAF plane was the same which is not exactly true. You see the USCG C-130s aren’t transports – they are specialized recon platforms. The RAF plane is the standard transport and they had an RAF Air Marshall saying basically that it was going to have folks looking out the windows and using the MkI eyeball. Magic.

The 2010 UK defence review resulted in the scrapping of our Nimrod maritime recon planes. Now these were designed to hunt Soviet subs. They had been re-jigged at enormous expense and were scrapped when almost ready. Now, I don’t think they should have been re-jiggled because my absolute fave company BAE systems had no idea how to do it so it cost a fortune hence they were scrapped. A better idea would have been to take the recon kit and stick it on an A320 or 737 – i.e. not an airframe from the dawn of the jet age. But… regardless we need a maritime recon platform. Do you want me to draw a map to explain why?

Obviously Nimrods never sank a Sov sub – it never came to that thank Gods! But they were very useful for SAR missions. Quite simply they can’t do it all with choppers.

This video makes me ashamed to be British…

What an utter fuck-up beyond belief. That C-130 we dispatched is literally (litorally?) the best we can do to protect our shores and hunt for the missing. It is beyond pathetic.


  1. Paul Marks says:

    Nick the decline of the British armed forces is a long grim story.

    Erick “”Winkle” Brown argues (in his book “Wings On My Sleeve”) that the Fleet Air Arm (the Royal Navy) was in some ways more advanced than the Americans – then came the Labour government in 1964……. (with ex Communist Defence Secretary Denis Healey).

    The Labour government also undermined the RAF.

    However, Conservative party governments (including that of Mr Cameron) have certainly not done anything to reverse the decline of the British armed forces.

  2. Mr Ed says:

    I wholly agree. On Sunday, I came to the UK by air over the Western Approaches at dawn, I could not help think of the Short Sunderlands and Catalinas of WW2 who criss-crossed that sky searching for U boats, and those who perished in Coastal Command and the Battle of the Atlantic (over 70,000). Now what have we?

    During WW2, the Boulton Paul Defiant ended up in an air-sea rescue role, this aircraft was basically a cross between a Hurricane and a Dalek, albeit no one knew what Daleks were at the time. It could spot and drop a liferaft. That was probably the nadir of mismatch of what could be done and was, until now.

    The problem with the Nimrod family is, as you say, that it was a reworked Comet (a glowing ball of dust streaking across the sky, visible in daylight, and not in the Halley sense). It seemed to me to make no sense to keep that airframe going into the second decade of the 21st Century, but once you have a sunken cost, keep going. I agree that the scrapping of it was criminal, but so was spending billions on it. If ever there is a scam that calls for a Bill of Attainder, BAE Systems would get my vote and the Board the gallows, after due process naturally.

    I hope to see a ground-running Nimrod at Bruntingthorpe Cold War Jets day this Sunday, a very noisy festival of noise, headlined by a Victor and Lightnings, seeing and hearing one of them chocked with engines on reheat 100 feet away with shock diamonds in the exhaust is unforgettable.

    However, one RAF Sentinel just ‘broke down’ (as the media put it) on the way to Nigeria to look for some schoolgirls (in an honourable way) and it has stopped in Senegal for repairs.

    What a joke, and I thought Nigeria was independent, (for longer than I have been alive) don’t they understand what ‘independence’ means?

    Anyway at least UKIP have said that the MoD needs to be dismantled, I agree, but with Tallboys.

    As a tribute to the brave men of Coastal Command, in which the Nimrod started its life before being subsumed into Strike Command (which at least sounded as if it meant business and it did), here is a WW2 film about a mission. Flt Lt Beatty is obviously the most charismatic RAF officer of all time, in this film at 3′ 24″ where he enters.

  3. John Galt says:

    Before I became a shill for the oil companies, I used to be a merchant of death…actually a software sub-sub-sub-contractor to GEC-Marconi (as it was then) and one of my colleagues was part of the team that wrote the computer software for the Nimrod AEW3.

    It was actually pretty sophisticated, but when he worked on it in the late 1970′s it had difficulty differentiating Russian sub-launched cruise missiles and vehicles (especially articulated lorries) on coastal roads, so during tests would often flash “Missile Warning” when approaching coastlines with road traffic – something of an annoyance that, especially to the MoD boys.

    But Nick’s quite right, the Nimrod was just too small for the amount of electronics and computer hardware necessary to do the job, although the Boeing 707 would have been satisfactory it couldn’t be used due to “Not invented here syndrome”.

  4. NickM says:

    Well, I doubt that Paul. The USN always out-gunned the FAA. We bought much lower quantities (which increased costs and therefore reduced quality) and went supersonic later. But… we were a player until the ’70s and the scrapping of the last cats and traps carriers. The Phantom/Bucc force was potent as was having Gannet AEWC. P1154 BTW was a complete red herring. If we’d kept cats and traps (and not bollocked the economy and procurement policy) we’d have a great (if relatively small) carrier fleet rather than the debacle evolving around the QE class which is like something from Fawlty Towers only not funny.

    Ask you a question. What will provide AEW for them. Do we need AEW? Well ask a few Falklands vets and expect a strong response. My gen is making the same mistakes as my father’s. It is dismal. And you are right Paul. Labour and the Tories are as bad as each other here. They are both as Keynsian about job creation rather than concentrating on product (which of course in the long-run) creates and sustains jobs because it is about things beyond make-work. Try explaining that to iDave, the Cleggster or the Ed Miller Band*…

    *Available for birthdays, weddings, bar mitvahs…

  5. NickM says:

    JG, that is why I suggested A320 or B737. Late models of both, obviously.

  6. Mr Ed says:

    Nick, I fear that you are being too harsh on the QE class carriers, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Queen Elizabeth. Given the amount of money spent on them in a government procurement exercise, from the heirs of the people who cut down the wings on the Short Stirling bomber so that it would fit in the RAF’s hangars but then found that it couldn’t fly over the Alps, there must be some things that aren’t in the public domain, and rumour has it that the QE class carriers don’t actually need AEW fixed wing aircraft, they use helicopters:

    But don’t worry as the carriers are in fact submersibles.

    The idea is that between launching and landing its aircraft a QE class aircraft carrier submerges so that mast top is at a depth of 1 fathom, so Exocets and hostile aircraft skim harmlessly overhead, baffled, and enemy subs mess about looking for them through periscopes when in fact they risk getting rammed by these behemoths.

    The cover story so far to the departing pilots is that a freak wave has gone over the deck when they return to the ship to land.

    So this interview from 2008 with Admiral Sir George Parr was conducted without the knowledge of the full capabilities of the QE class.

  7. Nick I did not say that the Royal Navy “outgunned” the U.S. Navy – I said that Eric “Winkle” Brown argues that as a late 1964 the Fleet Air Arm tended to do things better (even though it was smaller).

    Although Eric Brown may have a slight grunge against the U.S, Navy for being “dry”.

    A proper navy has booze you see.

    I trust we agree on the terrible harm that the “moderate” Denis Healey (the same man who pushed the top rates of income tax to insanity in the 1970s) did to the Royal Navy and the RAF in the late 1960s?

    The technological edge that Britain still had in 1964 was thrown down the toilet.

  8. microdave says:

    As I understand it, the Comet/Nimrod was built like a brick shithouse, and could cope with the considerable turbulence & buffeting involved in low level flying much better than modern jets. The inboard mounted engines could also be shut down in pairs to further extend its operating range.

  9. John Galt says:

    Yes, but given that the electronic computing requirements were limited by the size of the Nimrod and it was the electronics which defined their primary function (Early Warning of Nuclear Launch), such material strength was irrelevant.

    These machines sole purpose related to the minutes prior to a nuclear attack, once they got the warning out they were expendable.

  10. Mr Ed says:

    I saw a Nimrod today, I kid not, taxying at Bruntingthorpe aerodrome in Leicestershire, England, along with a Lightning, a Victor (co-piloted by Sqn Ldr Tuxford AFC), a Buccaneer etc. on Cold War Jets Day, a fest of noise and fumes. The Nimrod’s role (there were several variants) was basically what Coastal Command did in WW2, keep track of enemy ships and subs, and to help destroy Soviet SSBNs before they could launch their missiles.

    Nimrods also played a role in the Falklands War, the extent of which remains opaque.

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