Category Archives: Vulcan Bomber

The inaugural Portsmouth Airshow launched

 

A Royal Air Force Avro Vulcan Display Team Vul...

Vulcan - coming to Portsmouth? (Image via Wikipedia)

Next year over the weekend of 18 and 19 August, the skies above Portsmouth will play host to up to seven hours of air displays. Sandwiched between the London Olympics and the Paralympics, it’s shaping up to be a fantastic occasion. It should be a huge draw, and great for Portsmouth. And best of all, it will be completely free to the general public!

 

The organisers are in the process of assembling an impressive array of participants. Already confirmed are a De Havilland Sea Vixen and the Breitling Wing Walkers. The organisers are also in talks with the Vulcan Bomber, various Spitfires and a Hawker Hunter. From the RAF the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Eurofighter Typhoon, Tornado, Tucano and a Jet Provost have been invited. The Red Arrows have also been applied for, although given recent events they are grounded and their 2012 schedule will not be confirmed until February. The Royal Navyhave also been asked to provide displays, and in terms of foreign assets the French Air Force display team and the Swiss aerobatic team are also in discussion, and these kind of rarities are the icing on the cake of the airshow circuit. Two parachute display teams have also been invited, from the RAF and the Royal Navy. In many cases the organisers have actually been approached by teams wanting to display.

 

But it’s not just about what is going on in the skies. Southsea Common will be alive with events, including a Family village, retail and merchandise areas, a food village, craft village, business and enterprise areas and corporate hospitality. Of course Southsea Seafront, with its panoramic views, historic setting and naval heritage, is perfect for such an event. And in a real treat, there will be a pop concert on the Saturday evening – including a Queen tribute act! – and a firework display finale. A field gun competition between the Royal Navy and Royal Marines is also a possibility.

 

The idea is that this will become an annual event, and the organisers Maurice and Steve are very keen to make sure that it is a sustainable event, on a firm business footing. In the words of Steve, it should have a real ‘Goodwood’ atmosphere. There are plenty of opportunities for sponsorship and corporate hospitality. The organisers are also on top of the game thinking about transport – park and ride will be an option in getting to and from the seafront for the festival.

 

Whats more, the event is not-for-profit, and will be to benefit some very appropriate charities – the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charities, The Army Benevolent Fund and the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. The event will also support the Exercise Tiger Trust, raising awareness of a tragic event at Slapton Sands in Devon prior to D-Day in 1944.

 

I absolutely applaud Maurice, Steve and everyone involved. It has taken a massive amount of work to get this far, and they are to be congratulated. I wish them all the best. Lets all get behind it and give ourselves yet another reason to be proud of Portsmouth.

 

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Filed under airshow, event, Navy, Royal Air Force, Vulcan Bomber

Shoreham Airshow 2011

After giving it a miss last year, three generations of Daly’s made a return to Shoreham Airshow yesterday. There was so much to see, I do apologise if I forget anything. We missed the first couple of displays stuck in traffic on the A27 – I believe it was a glider display.

The Consolidated Catalina is a real special aircraft that I was very pleased to see. A flying boat not dis-similar to the Short Sunderland, the Catalina played a vital role during the Second World War in reconnaisance, transport, and in all manner of maritime roles. It’s not an aircraft that you see too often.

There was a very minimal representation from the RAF this year – only training aircraft in the Hawk, the Tutor and the Tucano. I’m actually quite a fan of the Hawk, a nippy little jet. The RAF also provided one of their distinctive yellow Search and Rescue Sea Kings, which marked the 70th anniversary of RAF Search and Rescue by giving a demonstration of winching, from an RNLI RIB on a trailer on the runway.

I might be biased, but the Parachute Regiment Red Devils Parachute Display team are easily the best around. In fact, I’m not sure why other Regiments are allowed to waste time and money having parachute display teams. They always land on a sixpence.

The Great War display is always very interesting, evocative of the magnificent men in their flying machines. It’s incredible that these such basic airframes fly like they do. Something that occured to me is how similar the Sopwith Camel is to the Fairey Swordfish, which was present this year. The little ‘Stringbag’ was obsolete at the start of the war in 1939, but still managed to cripple the Bismarck in 1941.

My Grandad and myself were pondering which has a more evocative sound and sight – the B17 Flying Fortress or the Avro Lancaster, both of which displayed at Shoreham this year. We came to the conclusion that the Lancaster is like a solid, dependable truck, while the B17 is like a Humvee – big and bold, but with some bling too.

Some of the most interesting aircraft are some of the lesser known jets – the Hawker Hunter and the De Havilland Vampire are fantastic aircraft, and look and sound beautiful.

The centrepiece of every Shoreham airshow is the Battle of Britain style airfield scramble. We are quite fortunate to see this, where every year a couple of Messerschmitt’s blitz the aerodrome, before the Spitfires and Hurricanes get up and chase them off. It is great to see, with the pyrotechnics, and Dads Army firing on the sidelines, but when you go every year, I can’t help wonder if I’m the only person who knows exactly what is going to happen and when. But then again, if they didn’t do it, you would feel let down!

Shoreham always has plenty of aerobatic teams. The Yakovlevs, flying Russian WW2 vintage aircraft, the SWIP team, the Blades, and the Breitling wingwalkers (young ladies who have to be seen to be believed!).

After the Vulcan had to pull out at the last minute with fuel tank problems, the organisers obviously had to find something unique to close the show. Step forward Christian Moullec. This frenchman’s act really is unique. A conservationist, Moullec raises birds (Geese or Cranes) from hatching, and trains them to fly along with him, in his microlight. It is a fantastic spectacle.

It did feel like there wasn’t quite as much at this years show as there has been in the past. The Red Arrows have never been allowed to make a ful display at Shoreham, apparently due to aviation rules and the proximity of air routes out of Gatwick. It is sad that the British Armed Forces could not provide more display aircraft, but then again they are probably all busy in Afghanistan or Libya. It is a shame, because seeing a Typhoon or an Apache at an airshow could be the thing that recruits a pilot of the future.

It is wonderful that the Shoreham Airshow takes place every year, and raises money for the RAF Associations appeal. Remember, unlike many free airshows, Shoreham is a charity event raising for a good cause. It would be nice to see something different sometimes – about 75% of the prgramme is the same most years, which obviously if you go each year, is a bit repetitive. But then again, I’ve never organised an airshow, and it can’t be an easy thing to do, so hats off to the guys at Shoreham!

(whisper it quietly, but lets just say I believe there might be an airshow a lot closer to Portsmouth sometime soon… I can’t reveal my sources, but fingers crossed eh!)

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Filed under airshow, event, Royal Air Force, Vulcan Bomber, World War One, World War Two

Vulcan needs £580k repairs to stay airworthy

Vulcan XH558 at Shoreham 2009

Vulcan XH558 at Shoreham 2009

The worlds only flying Vulcan Bomber is in desparate need of £580,000 worth of repairs, reports the Mail on Sunday.

In what is becoming an annual event, the Vulcan to the Sky Trust have launched an urgent appeal for the funds needed to keep Vulcan XH558 airworthy in time for this years airshow circuit. Reportedly it took a battering performing in poor weather conditions last year. Weak points on the wings on the wings require replacement steel and aluminium reinforcing plates, all onboard fire extinguishers have to be replaced as do the braking parachutes.

There are amibitious plans for the 2010 flying season, in what will be XH558’s 50th anniversary. The Trust also hopes to feature in a flypast over Buckingham Palace to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Having been lucky enough to see a Vulcan flying twice at airshows – Lee-on-Solent in the early 90’s and 2009 at Shoreham – this really is a special aircraft. Apart from its role delivering the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent for many years, and the famous Black Buck bombing raids in the Falklands War, there is something enigmatic about the delta winged airframe appearing over the horizon.

It really is quite sad that in a world where the country can find £50million for a Titian painting – just how many paintings does this country own anyway? – and millions for the Royal Opera House, we’re struggling to keep historic aircraft in the air. This news comes shortly after rumours that the RAF will offer up the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and Red Arrows for the axe in the next Defence Review. Such historically important aircraft should be protected.

To Donate to keep Vulcan XH558 flying, visit the Vulcan to the Sky Trust’s website here

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Filed under airshow, cold war, Falklands War, Royal Air Force, Vulcan Bomber

Falklands then and now: The Reckoning

After looking at the military aspects of any future war between Britain and Argentina over the Falklands, it’s now time to try and pull together and form some kind of conclusion.

I have enjoyed the discussions I have had here and elsewhere immensely, and in most cases the contributions that people have made have helped shape my own thoughts on the subject. Apart from the odd snobby comment the series has been very well received. I’m glad to have been able to make my own small contribution to debate over defence issues.

I selected the Falklands War for a case study not only because it has become tedious every time someone says ‘we could not fight another Falklands’, but as a historical example of a challenging tri-service operation it provides us with a relatively sound basis for comparing then and now. If we want to know where we are going, we need to be aware of where we are and where we have come from.

Key points

With a weaker Aircraft Carrier fleet and the retirement of the Sea Harrier any task force would struggle for air defence, in terms of numbers and effectiveness. Light Carriers proved their worth in 1982. A dedicated Naval Fighter is crucial. Without it we are lacking a layer of air defence.

The Royal Navy now has a stronger and more flexible Amphibious Warfare flotilla, and is geared up towards expeditionary warfare. However with inadequate air defence would it be possible to win sufficient air superiority to safely deploy it?

The number of Destroyers and Frigates has been cut dramatically. It is very unlikely that the Royal Navy could put together a big enough fleet to escort a task force as in 1982. There are also fewer classes of ship. The Type 45 Destroyers promise much, but there are too few of them and they are as yet unproven.

The cutting of the RFA to minimal levels means that the Royal Navy could almost certainly not operate a large task force at distance from the UK and without friendly bases – the scenario that was faced in 1982.

The Merchant Navy has also shrunk dramatically, to the point where it could not offer anything like the support that it did in 1982. Given also the pitiful state of the RFA, this makes the logistical support of any task group virtually impossible.

Whilst submarines proved to be crucial in keeping the Argentine Navy at bay in 1982, in 2009 the Royal Navy has a lot less boats available, and no diesel-electrics. However they do possess a useful strategic weapon in Tomahawk.

British Land Forces as a whole are leaner but meaner than in 1982, and also better equipped. Virtually all British units have seen service in Iraq or Afghanistan. Overstretch and deployments would limit what troops would be available.

The RAF no longer possesses a long range Bomber like the Vulcan. This however would be negated by Tomahawk. Helicopter support for the Land Forces would be crucial. Apaches also offer a useful new capability.

Command systems are much more flexible than in 1982, and much more geared up to ‘out-of-area’ operations.

Final Thoughts

So although there are some pretty depressing negatives, there are some positives to take from this analysis: some new and improved capabilities such as Tomahawk, more experienced and better equipped troops, and a better command system and culture.

However compared to these positives, the negatives are overpowering. With weaker air defence a task force would be much more vulnerable, particularly in the amphibious phase. The critical lack of Destroyers and Frigates would leave gaps in our anti-air, anti-surface and gunfire support roles. But the state of the RFA and the Merchant Navy might make the launching of any task force a non-starter simply due to an ability to maintain it logistically. It is hard to see the point of having such a strong Amphibious group if we are unable to protect it or to maintain it.

Against this background, the next natural step is to question what exactly the Government intends for British Defence policy. Effectively British Forces rely on friendly sea based air cover, and allied Destroyers and Frigates to assist in escorting and air defence. The Royal Navy is also reliant on friendly logistical support. While the Government espouses a Global Defence policy, the Royal Navy is effectively unable to operate Globally due to a lack of resources.

It could be said that another Falklands – or indeed any scenario like it – is unlikely. That is probably accurate, for all I know. But who saw the first Falklands War coming? Who could have predicted 9/11? Whilst we cannot plan for every eventuality, we can look back at history and see what can go wrong if we leave ourselves inflexible to changing world situations. It would be hard to argue that British defence policy is not facing a very serious phase in the next couple of years.

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Filed under Army, Falklands War, Navy, rfa, Royal Air Force, Royal Marines, Vulcan Bomber

Shoreham Airshow – the pictures!

I’ve finally managed to upload the hundreds of pictures I took at the Shoreham Airshow last weekend. I’ve sorted through them, and here are the best bits – enjoy!

Me in a Dakota

Me in a Dakota

Me stood in the door - note the red and green jump lights

Me stood in the door - note the red and green jump lights

Always knew those Marines were big lads...

Always knew those Marines were big lads...

Dads Army!

Dads Army!

A WW2 Jeep in RAF Liaison Officer markings

A WW2 Jeep in RAF Liaison Officer markings

Team Guinot wing-walkers

Team Guinot wing-walkers

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress 'Sally B'

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress 'Sally B'

Fleet Air Arm Lynx

Fleet Air Arm Lynx

RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Avro Lancaster

RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Avro Lancaster

Avro Vulcan XH558

Avro Vulcan XH558

RAF Falcons Parachute display team

RAF Falcons Parachute display team

RAF Chinook

RAF Chinook

The Red Arrows... all 10 seconds of them

The Red Arrows... all 10 seconds of them

is it one of ours?

is it one of ours?

(l-r) great-uncle Terry, Me, Grandad

(l-r) great-uncle Terry, Me, Grandad

This guy was having fun... that Parrot isnt photoshopped!

This guy was having fun... that Parrot isnt photoshopped!

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Filed under airshow, event, Navy, out and about, Royal Air Force, Vulcan Bomber, World War One, World War Two

Shoreham Airshow

I went to Shoreham Airshow yesterday. Unlike Last year it was a cracking day, blazing sunshine and no cancellations. As well as a stellar programme of flying displays as always they had a full and varied bunch of static displays. Dad’s Army seem to be an annual fixture, as are Haurel and Lardy. With such an impressive cast its almost impossible to pick out highlights, but I’ll try and do my best!

The first display was a real rarity, a Strikemaster in the markings of the Kuwaiti Air Force, flown by an Englishman! Its an American built plane, sold to second and third world countries as a counter insurgency attack craft. Next up were the Team Guinot wingwalkers, who have to be seen to be believed – young girls wingwalking and performing gymnastics on biplanes, all sponsored by a make up company! The Gnat display team is made up of ex-red arrows pilots, and it shows.  A real treat was the Great War Team, flying a collection of replica Sopwiths, Fokkers and Messerschmitt’s… those magnificent men in their flying machines indeed, very evocative.

The afternoon saw the noisy and aggressive entrance of the RAF’s new Eurofighter Typhoon, an aircraft that seems to be able to do whatever its pilot asks of it, while making a hell of a lot of noise at the same time. Staggering to think that we’ve ordered almost 200 of them! We were treated to a flypast by the Red Arrows – literally, just a flypast. This was rather disappointing, considering that they performed all 3 days at the Bournemouth Airshow, which is a freebie, whereas the Shoreham airshow is to raise money for the RAF Association.

Another rarity was Sally B, the Boeing B17 Flying Fortress. Happily, the RAF did manage to get something right, and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight gave a great display consisting of their Avro Lancaster bomber, complete with distinctive engine tone, and a lone Hurricane. An annual fixture of Shoreham is the Battle of Britain airfield scramble, where the airfield is ‘attacked’ by the Luftwaffe, complete with pyrotechnics, before the Spitfires and Hurricanes scramble and defeat the Hun. Its the same every year, and a little contrived, but I guess its fun for the kids.

The highlight for a lot of people was the first appearance at Shoreham of XH558, the legenday Avro Vulcan Bomber. Flown by Martin Withers DFC, who piloted her sister plane XM607 on its epic raid on Port Stanley in the Falklands War.  XH558 is limited as to what maneouvres it can make, due to the astronomical cost of keeping her flying and the potential for stress on the airframe.  It was still an impressive moment, however, and the classic delta wing shape and camoflaugued paint finish is recognisable anywhere. Truly a flying legend, how sad that it comes down to a group of dedicated volunteers to keep her flying. Meanwhile, the Govt pays millions to buy a Titian painting.

After that, the Fleet Air Arm Black Cats display team arrived in their Lynx helicopters, an aircraft we see fairly frequently over Portsmouth! Finally, we were treated to a display by the RAF Falcons parachute display team, jumping out of an RAF CH47 Chinook at 10,000 feet. Maybe not as good as the Red Devils, but then I am biased!

The highlight for me, however, was the unexpected opportunity to climb on board a C-47 Dakota, a static exhibit at the show. My Grandfather, Private Henry Miller, was an Arnhem Veteran and would have jumped out of an idential plane in 1944. It was very emotional to be able to sit in the metal bucket seats, stand up and see the static line hook, and the red and green lights near the door.

It only remains for me to summon up the courage and find the means of parachuting out of one…. some day I hope!

But back to Shoreham… sunshine, spitfires, hurricanes, Lancaster, Vulcan, and we won the Ashes… would more could you hope for on a summers day?

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Filed under airshow, event, Falklands War, Navy, out and about, Royal Air Force, Vulcan Bomber, World War One, World War Two

Book of the week #4 – Vulcan 607 by Rowland White

Vulcan 607 - Rowland White

Vulcan 607 - Rowland White

1982. The Falklands are invaded by Argentina. 8,000 miles away from Britain, and at least 4,000 miles away from the nearest friendly base, and in the middle of massive defence cuts, the Armed Forces struggle to find a way to quickly hit back at the invaders.

Enter the iconic Vulcan Bomber. Designed in the 1950’s with a radical and futuristic Delta wing design, the huge jet carried the UK’s nuclear deterrent for decades. So important was this role, that the crews never even practised conventional bombing. Their air-to-air refuelling fittings had been disabled years before and the filler was hurriedly chipped away. When the ground crew couldn’t find a vital fitting, it was later found in the Squadron base being used as an ashtray.

Within a month, four crews had trained and prepared to launch the most remarkable British air operation since WW2, and until 2003 the longest bombing raid in History. And not only was it a story of bombing: 14 huge Victor tankers were required to carry enough fuel for ONE Vulcan bomber to reach the Falklands from Ascension Island. And succesfully drop a stick of 1,000lb bombs on Stanley Airport, cratering the runway and preventing the Argentinans from launching fast, high performance jets from the Islands. Not only that, but the Argentinians feared a raid upon mainland Argentina itself, keeping many jets back to defend their homeland.

Rowland White’s epic story weaves together the key strands of the operation, Black Buck, and the people. Far too often the operation overshadows the people, or we only get to hear about the crew themselves. But as White shows here, when it comes to ingenuity and backs-against-the-wall heroism and true grit, the RAF has got it in spades. And behind the one bomber reaching the Falklands, there was a veritable army of tanker crews, ground crew, families and senior officers.

White’s excellent book does this heroic feat more than justice, in a writing style very reminiscent of Cornelius Ryan. This book deserves to become an aviation classic alongside Reach for the Sky and Memphis Belle.

Click here to buy Vulcan 607 – highly reccommended!

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Filed under Book of the Week, Falklands War, Royal Air Force, Vulcan Bomber