Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wedding Bells for Ed the Red

I read today that Ed Miliband is to marry partner Justine Thornton on May 27th but brother David won't be best man. Not really a surprise, Ed getting married at last that is or perhaps more of a case of being dragged kicking and screaming to the altar to avoid any more media intrusion into his personal life. I assume the vows will be heavily scripted, much like Prime Minister's Question Time, so good luck to him and her of course and to any future little Milibands yet to come.

Give that the ceremony will be taking place outside the comfortable security of London, this is a one time opportunity for any well-wisher, Trades Unionist, anarchist or fellow politician of any persuasion to place an aircraft banner message above Langar Hall hotel near Nottingham. Perhaps a personal message of congratulations from Thanet's Labour Group or even 'The' Cllr Nottingham himself? I have sent a text message giving the RMT's Bob Crow first refusal but anyway you know where to find me!

I've had some emails and a call from the local paper in regard to Margate Football Club and might assume that some confusion may have been prompted by Cllr Iris Johnston's letter in last week's Thanet Gazette. This did cause me some surprise and perhaps a little amusement, given that the club is not in her ward and there being an election just around the corner.

Just to be clear and as I understand matters, nothing has changed. There has been a constructive debate with the club who are now seeking approval for an 'amended' planning application  to build a Travelodge hotel and that is going through a proper process with council officers,with another meeting between everyone involved in two weeks. The matter of public consultation on any lease involving Hartsdown Park remains unchanged and quite why disinformation, which suggests the council has arbitrarily changed its mind on the subject is being spread about I don't know.

Anyway, that enough for now and I'm off to the AGM for Thanet College.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Talking of Twitter

Staying with Twitter,  I noticed earlier footage on Sky News, a clip of USAF A10 Thunderbolt ground attack aircraft at Aviano Airbase in Italy. It's not unusual for Sky to miss the 'Bleeding obvious' in their coverage and at the start of the Libya fighting, I had to ring-in to the newsroom - I used to work there in 2000 - 2003 - and tell them they were repeating footage of a man kicking an artillery shell and subsequently blowing himself into small pieces, just off camera.

This time I couldn't help remarking that the apparent arrival of A10's marked an interesting escalation from "No Fly" to 'Ground attack' in its deadliest form and 'Tweeted' it out. I rather hope that Sky hasn't used archive footage from somewhere without thinking about what's in the picture, as this now appears to be encouraging observers all the way to Libya! However more reports/Tweets seem to confirm that A10's have arrived from somewhere and I wonder if they have come in from Lakenheath?

Quite old now as a reformed Cold War tank-buster and as  ugly as sin, the A10 remains one of my favourite aircraft. Should the NATO coalition intends to deploy it against Gaddafi's forces, then the best advice one could possibly give the mad Colonel's men, is to step well away from any armoured vehicles, dig a very deep hold and hide in it!




Saturday, March 26, 2011

All About Twitter in Town

Sitting here and watching the Twitter-stream from London on keywords, such as #March and #Oxford Street, I wonder if the part of the nation has taken leave of its senses.

Using the Internet and live software such as Monitter, you can watch the anarchist groups planning their moves and also what innocent passers-by, caught-up in the mayhem think.

"HSBC in Cambridge Circus attacked. Topshop in Oxford St attacked. At least the anarchists have picked a 'Boat Race' theme."

Interesting to note that the Taxpayers Alliance comment that the Government should stay firm on its economic programme. They mention that some 8% of the population have no real understanding of what's at stake here and the burden of debt left by the last Government. With interest reportedly running at £140 million a day, it's much like a credit card debt. The country needs to rapidly achieve a position where it can start paying off the debt proper and not simply chip away at growing interest payments. Ironically, The TUC's Brendan Barber remarked that even Labour's alternative of 'phased' cuts over four years weren't good enough for him and he retreated into platitudes surrounding putting people back to work, whatever that means in Union speak.

What has of course happened, is that over a decade or more, a large proportion of us have happily bought into a fantasy economy, fuelled by the promise of unrestrained borrowing and now, with the money gone, the Treasury empty and a level of public debt unseen in British history, are resistant to the harsh financial truth. This is that our ageing society can't afford gold-plated pensions and an inflated, generous, European-style, public sector which rather than producing wealth, happily absorbs all tax revenues many times over, with little to show in return but expanding bureaucracy and waste.

Let's remember that the banking bail-out cost around £70 billion and over time, we'll see this back in taxes and shares to the point of a healthy profit. What really hurts the people demonstrating against he cuts, is the unsustainable burden of £150 billion or so of public sector debt and the £Trillion or so of collective debt.

To conclude and on the Twitter stream, AJDehaney tweets:

"To Oxford St via Mayfair and the kind of cars you just wanna drag your keys across."

One of thousands of tweets coming out by the second as the protesters or should I say, anarchists, leave a trail of destruction and chaos across Central London

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Two Suspicious Incidents

I've been asked to share details by Kent Police of two suspicious incidents in the Thanet area.

As you will see from their press statement below, they refer to the fact that there is currently a great deal of speculation online. These are the facts from the police, so if you hear anything else from anyone about these incidents, please feel free share this information to set the record straight.

In the first incident, on Saturday, 19 March, in Chichester Road, Ramsgate, a man is reported to have encouraged a five-year-old girl to sit in his car. The girl, who had been playing with a friend, said 'No' and alerted her mother to the incident.

In the second incident on Wednesday, 23 March in Millmead Road, Margate, it is reported that a man opened a garden gate and spoke to a three-year-old boy in his back garden.

Police say they are not ruling out a link between the two incidents.

DS John Cooper said:

‘Clearly these incidents are concerning and we are keen to hear from anyone who has any information that will help us with our investigations.

There has been a great deal of speculation and misinformation via the internet about these cases, and although I appreciate these messages are being circulated with the best of intentions, what we need is factual information that will allow us to run an effective investigation.

‘Our advice to parents and guardians, who undoubtedly be worried about these events, is to remain vigilant, ensure your children are supervised and well versed in the potential risks associated in talking to strangers.’


If you have information that will help police, please contact 01622 690690. Alternatively contact Kent CrimeStoppers on 0800 555111.

For more news, advice and information from Kent Police, visit www.kent.police.uk, follow 'kent_police' on Twitter or search 'Kent Police' on Facebook.

Politics Aside

I suspect we've now entered the phony war period before the local elections and I'm already starting to see some quite ridiculous financial statistics being thrown around as facts, as the political hyperbole 'spins-up' in time for May 5th.

I was quite amused this morning, by an SNP politician claiming that England was stealing Scotland's oil, ignoring the inconvenient fact that Scotland is still part of the Union and that 61% of the workforce is employed by the public sector. Remove all the Westminster subsidies and the Scottish economy would sink, with or without the oil fields.

In Thanet of course, we haven't any oil but we do have lots of wind and a great deal of this appears to be blowing around the opening of The Turner Contemporary in a few weeks. One risible allegation I've seen is that local people are subsidising it to the tune of a £1 million a year; once again ignoring the fact that the presence of Turner is a generous regeneration gift to Margate, an opportunity for the town, funded from elsewhere.

In fact, Margate appears to be undergoing a powerful renaissance at the moment and the remarkable spring weather is showing-off all the improvements and new shops around the Old Town to its best, with very positive national and international newspaper coverage besides. Politics aside, I would encourage everyone to 'talk-up' the town's progress because this represents a visible catalyst for change and a better future for everyone living on an island which depends on a strong and attractive tourist economy.

Ten years ago, I visited the Guggenheim in Bilbao and in retrospect, I was struck by how artistic and attractive the once depressed port  had become in the shadow of the museum. With this in mind we can only be optimistic over the prospects for Margate in the months and years ahead.

Lastly for the history enthusiasts among you, today is he anniversary of the Battle of Margate, March 24 1387, of great significance in British history and where a French fleet was soundly defeated in sight of Marine Sands and medieval tourists!

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Few Minutes to Spare

If there was any doubt about the arrival of spring, then today puts the memory of a harsh winter behind us. Mind you, this being Thanet, with it's own distinctive micro climate, it could yet  be snowing again in time for Easter! I notice that the two seagulls who normally raise their chicks between the chimney pots opposite, appear to be settling-in for the months ahead.

All the paperwork is now through for the coming local elections and so I guess the race starts now. Council candidates will now that everything has to be completed in minute and accurate detail or risk being thrown out by the Democratic Services officers. In any event, I'm sure we'll be in for an interesting time ahead as people decide whether they want to join two other countries on the planet and change their voting to AV or not and perhaps more importantly from a local perspective, which Party or Group is best placed to direct the future of the island for the next four years.

When I read comments encouraging people to vote 'Independent', I say that's all well and fine but in a place like Thanet, I would argue that it simply weakens one party or another, much like the pattern of voting that delivered the coalition Government we have today. We are all facing a difficult few years ahead as central Government seeks to manage the massive debt left by Gordon Brown and his colleagues. Who the public believe is best placed to make the decisions that will determine our local future will be decided in May and I hope that the turnout will be better than presently expected. Anyone wishing to help me here in Westgate, do please get in touch as all volunteers are welcome.

Elsewhere on our local blogs, I see the very acrimonious cloud of  dust is slow in settling at the 'Comrades Club' as the Thanet Labour Group, with Cllr Clive Hart remaining as opposition Leader and Cllr Mark Nottingham reportedly suspended from the Party for two months. This, I assume, removes him  from the political board as a piece in the forthcoming local elections, unless of course he plans to run as an independent 'Local Labour' candidate. I'm sure that someone will correct me either way!

The new player in the local 'Blogosphere' the Thanet Reaper, appears to be causing some waves of his own and the conspiracy theorists are trying to connect him with Clive Hart in some way. I'm not so sure about that myself and I think he's just got a bizarre sense of humour, loosely following the style of the suddenly deceased Eastcliff Richard. This week in particular, he reveals Big News Margate's, Tony Flaig, as an eccentric member of the aristocracy and so Heaven knows what he's going to come-up with next.

Time to fix my bicycle I think!

Friday, March 18, 2011

It's Purdah Time

I've been away this week, back in time for the cabinet meeting last night and to read the dozen pages of allegations that Cllr Mark Nottingham is making about his colleagues in Thanet's Labour Group which may or may not include the kidnapping of his cat, 'Molotov.'

It strikes me there's an online battle going on for public opinion on the left of the island's politics. On the one side, we have Cllr Nottingham's supporters and even his brother-in-law, slugging it out for public opinion via the pages of BigNews Margate and on the other side of the fence, the 'Thanet Reaper' appears rather closer to the Clive Hart loyalists. Me, I'm quite happy to be a Conservative and simply watch this Punch and Judy spectacle playing itself out from the sidelines.

We are in to the so-called political 'Purdah' period, so I've embedded a link for anyone who isn't sure what it all means, me included. In the age of the internet, it all gets a little nebulous but I have to keep an eye on what I write about to avoid having my wrists slapped. Others, I'm sure, will take absolutely no notice at all!

I've responded to a letter in this week's soar-away Thanet Gazette, which alleges the council will be spending "£1 million a year to run the Turner Centre, will be spending "£1.5 million to build a deeply unpopular building in Pierremont Park and cannot provide £200,000 to re-open the Margate Caves."

The extent of Thanet District Council's financial commitment to the Pierremont Park community centre project is actually £43,500. There is no secret million pound annual council budget to run the Turner Contemporary, as both its operation and presence is funded by grant funding from elsewhere. The Margate Caves I've explained in some detail in earlier posts.

Repeating imagined  figures often enough, does not make them in anyway true but I'm confident I will be seeing them reproduced again elsewhere in the run-up to the 5th May elections.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

High Tide

Watching what's happening over in Japan and the aftermath of the earthquake and the Tsunami that followed, other local worries seem extravagant by comparison.

It's only a few years since the public at large witnessed the devastation caused by the aftermath of the Indonesian Tsunami and on this occasion, I turned-on the TV at breakfast on Friday to watch the waves rolling in on the Japanese coastline. I remarked to my wife that in the length of recorded history, we are the first people to watch the catastrophe unfolding without being counted among its thousands of victims.

Ten thousand years ago after the last Ice Age, something similar happened along our coastline and you may have seen the Tony Robinson documentary on 'Dogger Land' on Television but thankfully its not something we need to worry about today.

Before the Indonesian Tsunami, people who didn't know better would see the tide receding suddenly and walk out to have a look at what was happening,only to be overwhelmed by the giant wave that followed. Thanks to television and the pictures we saw from the Boxing Day Tsunami in Sri Lanka, I very much doubt that anyone would ever do that again.

Watching the footage of the moment the wave hit one of the towns, I'm sure that everyone's sympathies and prayers are with the people  and communities of North-east Japan.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Beach Races 2011

I walked into Margate to watch the beach races this afternoon, which was entertaining and with a good turn-out to watch the competition.

More interesting perhaps, from my point of view, was how the Old Town was using it rather like an informal 'dry-run' for the opening of the Turner Contemporary next month. Lots of people wandering around taking in the new shops, eateries and galleries, several of which will be opening soon. I noticed that 'The Greedy Cow' which opened last week had a family enjoying their lunch in the sunshine.

The Harbour Arm looked quiet with the action on the beach  but I'm sure that will change as the day passes and the tide comes in.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Curled-up at the Edges

I recall some time ago, the proposal being raised that Thanet District Council meeting be held during the day in order to save money, on power, security, sandwiches and more. There was, if my memory serves me properly, one opposition councillor, very much opposed to the idea and now he's conducting a personal crusade against the idea of free drinks and three  plates of sandwiches for all Councillors at the end of a long evening's meeting.

Regardless of whether you happen to be opposed to the principle of your Councillors, who may come directly from work, having a dry sandwich, a single glass of wine or beer or orange juice, a bowl of peanuts and a slice of melon, at the end of a three hour or more meeting, isn't really the issue here. Instead, it's the allegation that this is somehow an example of wild profligacy with the public purse, given the lurid picture painted of plates piled high with expensive food, which simply  isn't the case. To suggest that 'alcohol is lubricating the political process' is quite risible and would be a 'Loaves & Fishes' miracle worth seeing on the small Chairman's refreshments budget involved.

Instead perhaps it illustrates only too well that the Thanet Labour Group are quite unable to make any pragmatic suggestions on next year's council budget, which involves saving over £1.6 million without raising council tax. Even one original suggestion would be good! The only answer so far is to attack the closure of the lift at Walpole Bay and the cost of a providing a cheese or Tuna sandwich to tired and hungry Councillors at the end of a long evening meeting.

Now, to be honest, I would be quite happy to pay for decent M&S sandwich out of my own pocket after three hours or more of listening to the opposition but there must be a broader principle of governance at stake here which deserves some debate. Yes, local government should not be profligate with public money but in the past, when I used to own a medium size business and I asked my employees to work anti-social hours, I always made sure that we had a Dominos Pizza delivery to ensure they didn't go hungry. Should Councillors be treated any differently or is there an argument to support the tradition of a bite to eat after a long day?

What's your view?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

That's Curious

I think I may have just worked out who is behind this 'private' weblog in the image. In fact I fell across the one below almost accidentally while scanning another 'Blog' just now. It seems that a second weblog in Thanet shares the same Wordpress host domain. Call it coincidence if you like and I don't want to get sucked into someone else's petty political battle or private conspiracy to remove  Clive Hart as the Leader of the opposition but I think I now have a pretty good picture of who the disaffected group of people that may lie behind it could be.


Postscript: I wasn't going to volunteer the contents of the Google cache but as Michael Child has mentioned it in the comments section, you can see what was on the website before it was closed to the public, here.

A Lost Toy

Sitting in a forgotten corner of the MOD Central Fire Training School at Manston, is what I'm told is the last Phantom F4J in RAF colours in existence. Apparently, the other sole surviving RAF 4J is at Duxford museum in United States Navy colours .

I remember watching these aircraft both RAF and USAF flying from Manston when I was a boy and the Phantom occupies a special place in my memory as the aircraft I first wanted to fly more than anything else and perhaps I still do! What this one needs is a team of loving and dedicated restorers and a new indoor home, before it rusts away, out of sight from the public as a piece of forgotten Cold War history.

You can compare the two aircraft and what the Manston airframe might look like restored to its former glory with its partner at the Imperial War Museum





Turner Contemporary Gallery From the Air

Lovely day for flying and if you were in Margate a little earlier, then you might have noticed me sitting over the Turner Contemporary Gallery, taking photographs. Here's a couple of these for your interest (copyright of course and more if you follow the link) and I will be posting a complete panorama of the town as an online link to Flickr, at some point in the near future.

One other interesting point this afternoon was the airspace map for the Olympics in 2012. Basically, all airspace from a north south line from the Isle of Sheppey all the way to Farnborough in the West and almost to Brighton, will be restricted airspace and may very likely be a death blow to General Aviation, flying schools et al, in this country at the height of the busy summer season. Manston is outside this restricted zone and in a very favourable spot indeed to take advantage of the Games.




Westgate Pancake Races 2011

Over to the village this morning on a fantastic day for the annual pancake races, supported and organised by the Rotary club and of course the indomitable Angelo; the delicattesen serving delicious pancakes to the public queuing for them.

I have dropped in a few photos and I'm now playing with the idea of taking to the air today and photographing some aerial views of Margate for a Flickr album I'm creating of the town from above, which with the opening of the Turner Contemporary now approaching, will soon be online here.






Sunday, March 06, 2011

No Fishy Stories

Quite a productive past week, with what I thought were positive meetings with both Margate Football Club and the 'Friends of Margate Caves'. I'm reminded of the BT slogan, 'It's good to talk', and illustrates what I've written in many entries here before, that the best way to explore a challenge, however difficult, is to sit down and discuss it with a clear understanding of what the problems or objections actually are, as opposed to what lots of often partisan observers might think they are.

The local blogosphere has been lighting-up this weekend, not so much with talk of beached whales but a new entry on the scene, the 'Thanet Reaper.' The anonymous author has a clear political bent and in style is somewhat reminiscent of Eastcliff Richard. However, with only a couple of entries, I remain to be convinced that this may be ECR's resurrection from the barrel of cement, he allegedly now occupies, courtesy of an offended local businessman.

With an election only weeks away, I suspect it won't be long until I find myself back in the political firing line but from past experience that goes with the territory!

Not only have Premier League footballers been sighted viewing properties in Ramsgate, like two Olympian gods come to earth, but in my earlier entry, I mentioned the 'Margate revival' and the buzz around the Old Town and the opening of the Turner Contemporary continues. The good feeling and sense of optimism that suddenly surrounds the area between the High Street and the new gallery is almost palpable and that can only be good for Thanet, in a year which forecast that a third of the UK population be holidaying at home; Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, the Island of Jerba (where I once worked)  and other destinations be among those out of the picture. Let's all hope for a hot summer then!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Hartsdown Park, Webcasting and a New Nottingham

For readers who might be interested in watching, the video of last week's council meeting is now online and can be found here. The part of the meeting that concerns the Football Club and consultation on Hartsdown Park can be found at 4:56 here.

Please note council leader Bob Bayford's supporting remarks on the consultation process and Cllr Clive Hart's comments on Dalby Square which attempt to introduce a planning 'Red Herring' into the debate, the size of the beached Whale now in Pegwell Bay. However nobody took the bait on the Conservative side of the floor.

Cllr Bayford's, warm endorsement of Cllr Hart's decision to remain as Leader of the Labour Group can be found at 13:50.

Unfortunately the camera cuts when the opposition play the role of unruly schoolchildren and so all viewers ever see is the Conservative side sitting down until the Labour front bench have finished their barracking.

At minute 110 Cllr Mike Harrison ('I'm a Dinosaur')  starts a small debate about the value of the Internet, new technology and further development of the council website and at 112.35, I attempt to explain what the council is trying to do to leverage this technology to reach out to the people who need it most. I'm sure Michael Child will be interested.

Minute 134.38 and Cllr Poole's big moment and his speech on the state of the economy and the great international banking conspiracy that caused the crisis is possibly the funniest part of the evening and is recommended viewing.

Whatever your political slant or opinions of councillors of all sides, it does show how local democracy works and will perhaps shape your opinions on who you consider the best party to lead Thanet into the future beyond May.

Finally, I see that Councillor Nottingham has a spangly new website and is taking personal credit for the webcasting of council meetings. Funny that, given that as arguably if not demonstrably, the most isolated member of the Labour opposition, I can't say I recall ever seeing him present at any of the meetings which involved setting-up the pilot, which of course lies in my portfolio. It's important to note that as a council, we couldn't justify the cost of 'Live' webcasting and so I opted for the recording of meetings we now have. I will confess however, that I did say once in council, I was grateful  for his support and remain so.

One would have to be politically naive indeed not to remark at the timing of this new web presence, given what appears to be an internecine struggle in the Labour Group. Clearly Mark is making a highly visible statement here and it will be interesting to see how it plays out with his colleagues with only two weeks to go before we Councillors have to suspend all political comment (Purdah) in the run-up to the election.

Those readers who may recall seeing the photo on his new website before may wish to guess at which former Labour leader is now missing from the left-hand side of his photograph. I couldn't possibly comment but it's not Clive Hart or Leon Trotsky either

Margate's Looking Up

Margate's 'Old Town' is looking particularly vibrant this morning. Although very quiet as you might expect on a cold March day, there's an almost palpable buzz of optimism present, with new shops and galleries appearing in anticipation of the Turner Contemporary opening in April.

More recently, if I monitor 'Twitter' trends for #Margate, people appear to be seeing and saying the same and that's very encouraging for the town as optimism, investment and a good word are among those things we very much need to help shape the future of the town.

While the painting of the lighthouse on the Harbour Arm remains a contentious issue, I really did think today that it would look rather better in the early sunlight with a bright coat of paint instead of its dull uniform concrete which does nothing for the view. Mind you, that's just my opinion and others would prefer to spend the money elsewhere.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Freedom to Debate

I have, for readers interest, forty-two comments that have never made it on to this weblog. Thirty-eight of these are personal observations, from the same person, with a distinct style of his own, that people will recognise from other local weblogs. Having lost his ability to post unrestricted, on ECR and elsewhere, these days, you will normally find him straddling Tony Flaig's weblog, commenting in his self-appointed role as Mark Nottingham's 'new best friend.'

It's not in my interest to censor anything on ThanetLife but I do have an acceptable use policy and like it or not, a  blogging protocol which I follow. So, no personal abuse, which the usual suspect, suffering as he does from chronic insomnia, will invariably leave overnight and nothing that might be considered libellous, as three other prominent local bloggers have discovered to their considerable cost in the last year or so.

At the same time, it is also sensible and not in any way 'pompous' or 'arrogant' to consider that not only is this my personal weblog but that coincidentally, I happen to occupy a modest political position of responsibility with an element of perceived influence over local issues. As a result, what appears here can and may be viewed as a tacit endorsement and potentially used against me or even the council.

So it doesn't take a genius to work out, that this week, for example, I'm not prepared to publish a serious of  'hearsay' allegations against Pfizer in the comments section or indeed, be drawn into an 'off-topic' public discussion of any on-going matter that involves some element of commercial confidence.

On that last item, it's not what readers think about their freedom to debate that counts, it's what I think that matters, because I'm the one directly responsible for any content that appears here and have to exercise a level of caution and restraint that on occasions I might not like but that readers should properly expect from me as a politician.

So, forty-two comments sitting unpublished in the comments section showing since the beginning of 2009 after eight years of writing this weblog, doesn't strike me as too bad in the circumstances and I would ask you to remember that in this country, rather than the United States, those who have most to lose should be the ones who are most careful of being intoxicated by what is generally misunderstood as the right to free speech.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Pigeon Power

Watching the news today, I see that the Eurofighter Typhoon, the RAF's new front-line fighter, won't be capable of attacking ground targets until 2018; it's also a reported 75% over budget, which doesn't say much for the procurement controls over defense spending under the last government.

Don't mistake me, it's a great aircraft and ideal for its original design role of a Cold War interceptor aircraft to take on the best the Russians could offer. However, with our ground-attack and carrier-based Harriers now 'binned' and the venerable Tornado fleet as old or even older than my own two aircraft, one might understand why Col Gaddafi had his own aircraft up attacking 'rebels' over Libya today, knowing full well that he has a good seven-year window of opportunity before we offer a serious risk to his airspace!

I jest of course and if Gaddafi continues with his day long speeches he might find that 2018 comes sooner than he thinks. Not that he's got a world class airforce in the first place. He's lost two Mirage fighters to defectors who flew them to Malta and a Sukhoi SU22 which crashed near Benghazi, where his ageing MIG 23s appear to be grounded too.

Today's grainy attack footage appeared to show either a French Mirage or a Russian Sukhoi 24 but either way, if the European countries decided to deny him his airspace, then the Libyan airforce aren't any match for anything in our NATO inventory. Mind you, if oil prices rise much further we won't be able to afford to fly!

While I recognise the cuts across the public sector are a necessity, given the appalling state of the nation's finances, I do worry that reducing our armed forces back to the level of the Middle Ages may leave us unhappily exposed in an uncertain world where the norm appears to be many small wars, globally distributed instead of one large one at a time. I take comfort from the fact that the Chinese People's Army are reportedly training 20,000 carrier pigeons in anticipation of a conflict where the internet and telecommunications are knocked out and where feathered friends, much like the original news of Wellington's victory at Waterloo, will carry the day when they finally feel strong enough and confident enough to challenge the United States as the dominant global superpower.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

30 Years On

For anyone too young to remember the last time anyone tangled with the Libyan airforce, two of their Soviet fighters were 'Splashed', almost exactly thirty years ago, by a pair of United States Navy F14 Tomcats operating from an aircraft carrier in the 'Gulf of Sidra Incident.'

On the morning of August 19, 1981, two VF-41 "Black Aces" F-14As, "Fast Eagle 102" and "Fast Eagle 107" were flying combat air patrol to cover aircraft engaged in a missile exercise. An E-2C Hawkeye made radar contact with two Sukhoi Su-22 Fitters which had left Okba Ben Nafi Air Base near Tripoli.

The two F-14s were ordered to intercept. Only a few seconds before the crossing, at an estimated distance of 300 m, one of the Libyans fired an AA-2 "Atoll" at one of the F-14s, which missed. Then the two Sukhois flew past the Americans and tried to escape. The Tomcats evaded and were cleared to return fire by their rules of engagement, which mandated self defense on the initiation of hostile action. The Tomcats then turned hard port and came behind the Libyan jets. The Americans fired AIM-9L Sidewinders; the first kill is credited to Fast Eagle 102, the second to Fast Eagle 107. Both Libyan pilots ejected.



The official United States Navy report states that both Libyan pilots ejected and were safely recovered, but in the official audio recording of the incident taken from USS Biddle, one of the F-14 pilots states that he saw a Libyan pilot eject, but his parachute failed to open.

Less than an hour later, while the Libyans were conducting a search and rescue operation of their downed pilots, two fully-armed MiG-25s entered the airspace over the Gulf and headed towards the US carriers at Mach 1.5 and conducted a mock attack in the direction of USS Nimitz. Two VF-41 Tomcats and one VF-84 Tomcat headed towards the Libyans, who then turned around. The Tomcats turned home, but had to turn around again when the Libyans headed towards the US carriers once more. After being tracked by the F-14s' radars, the MiGs finally headed home. One more Libyan formation ventured out into the Gulf towards the US forces later that day.

If you've seen the movie. Top Gun' then it's loosely based on the action around that time.

In terms of any exclusion zone around Libya today, it's a different world, with a great deal of hot air being blown by the European nations who badly need the Americans to help make such a thing effective. Libya has a very good selection of modern fighter aircraft but as demonstrated in numerous incidents, since 1981, the Americans reign supreme in the air, if only because they spend so much time and money training their fighter pilots with an almost unlimited fuel budget and training regimes like Red Flag and 'Top Gun' the nation's Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program.

The French of course, do things a little differently as the video below illustrates only too well. Enjoy!