Battle Flight  [9781902109268]

Battle Flight
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Date Added: Friday 31. May, 2013
The advent of the jet engine during World War Two meant that it would be necessary to detect and intercept aircraft of much higher performance than ever before. The threat had also changed to emanate from the Soviet Union, and to include both high- and low-level attacks. Using recently released material, Chris Gibson describes the many British projects developed to meet this threat, skilfully weaving his way through the Ministry of Supply “Rainbow” system of codenames, including such gems as Green Mace (anti-aircraft gun), Orange Poodle (radar) and the aptly-named Blue Joker, a long-range radar system hauled aloft by two barrage balloons to improve the radar horizon, but which could not be deployed in high winds.

There are details of many projects, including interceptors, radar systems, “force multipliers”, “flying battleships”, tankers and missiles. The “dead years” of 1946–51 and the “muddle years” post-1957, along with the need after both periods to catch up with developments, especially those in the USA, are covered in detail and accompanied by a number of trenchant observations, such as the comment made by an RAF officer on his return from a research trip to the other side of “the Pond” that an antiballistic-missile system being developed in Britain belonged “to the piston era”. Upon the system being duly cancelled on the grounds of cost, the Ministry of Supply and the Air Ministry are then depicted as “looking in the parts bin for a cheaper solution”.

The author’s in-depth approach includes details of various reports and changes of policy, such as the Air Ministry’s working party report of 1954 which recommended a switch to surfaceto- air missiles, thus paving the way for the infamous 1957 Sandys White Paper. However, this was followed in 1964 by another much less well-known working party led by the redoubtable R.V. Jones, and which, uncluttered by outstanding projects, was able to start with a clean sheet. This would go on to define air defence policy for the next 40 years and foresee the advent of the multi-role combat aircraft. The procurement history of the Panavia Tornado F.3 is chronicled, and of particular interest is the tension between those serving officers who wanted the American Grumman F-14 or McDonnell Douglas F-15 and the arguably more pragmatic politicians anxious to preserve design and manufacturing capacity at home.

This book is a tour de force, containing a plethora of information, as well as being eminently readable and well illustrated. No self-respecting aviation historian interested in the post-World War Two period should be without it.

Fred Crosskey
The Aviation Historian: Issue No 3
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars! [5 of 5 Stars!]
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