RAF History 1960 - 1985

By the early spring of 1959, the dust was settling after the Rotodyne Affair had finally run its course. Fairey Aviation was involved in absorbing the assets of Sud Aviation while the RAF and French Air Force were taking delivery of their first Super Mystere B2 aircraft. For the RAF, the fact that the aircraft were French, making the service a user of imported aircraft rather than its indigenous products, was secondary to them having a truly modern fighter at last. With a speed of 745 miles per hour and a ceiling of 55,000 feet, the Super Mystere was comparable to the American F-102, it was slower but had a higher operational ceiling. It lacked the Delta Daggers powerful missile armament but had two effective 30mm cannon and could carry a 2,000 pound bombload, giving it a multirole capability the American fighter lacked. Unlike the F-102, the Super Mystere had only very limited night flying capability and was effectively restricted to daylight operations. Nevertheless, RAF Fighter Command was very pleased with their new mount and their CF-100s could continue to cover the night/bad weather requirement.

The basic problem remained one that had plagued Britain, and indeed France, since the end of the war. Having an air force was all very well, but what was it supposed to do? The answer came from Russia,. In 1959, the Russian Army started its assault on the last of the German warlord states left on its territory. New Schwabia was run by Model who had established political relationships with both Chipan and several countries in the Middle East. As his army collapsed under the hammer blows of the Russian tanks and artillery, Model fled south, leaving behind him a wealth of intelligence material and a disturbing number of prisoners. Interrogation of these exposed a dark and ugly development that was to completely change the face of European defense problems.

It had long been known that the Moslem countries of the Middle East were becoming more closely integrated. Indeed, the fact that they referred to themselves as The Caliphate was also known. What the Russians discovered was that the process of integration was far more advanced than anybody dreamed possible. A ruling council had been set up and was already well-advanced in the process of setting up a fundamentalist Islamic state. A state that combined the most radical features of Nazi Germany and radical Islam, whose military equipment was supplied by Chipan in exchange for the regions vast oil supply and whose soldiers had been trained by Models experts. The Russians put their findings into a report that was circulated around the world. While it was taken seriously in the Triple Alliance and America, it was largely dismissed as a product of Russian Paranoia in Europe. Surely, European experts argued, Sunni and Shiite Moslems could not cooperate in any real sense; they hated eachother.

So they did, but it became quickly apparent that they hated everybody else more.

In early 1961, The Caliphate dropped its disguise and became an open political entity whose aggressive intent was quite undisguised. From its original core of Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq, The Caliphate started to spread across the Middle East. It was quite apparent the new group had no regard for the diplomatic niceties of the rest of the world nor did it have any desire to observe the standards of international behavior. Countries that stood in The Caliphates way could expect to be - and were - subjected to attacks that made no discrimination between military and civilian forces. For the first time in 15 years, Britain and France faced a brutal, aggressive and expansionary power dangerously close to their borders.

The Caliphate, for all its rejection of godless western science had procured the best equipment Chipan could offer. Chipanese aircraft were much inferior to that of America no doubt, but they were equal to or better than anything in Europe. Was it possible for The Caliphate to co-exist with non-Moslem powers? In 1961 and 1962 the French and British made diplomatic approaches to The Caliphate, trying to establish a basis for such mutual co-existence. These approaches were rebuffed; the Caliphate offered non-Moslem countries only two options, conversion or extermination. The latter was no joke; extermination camps modeled on those built by Nazi Germany were springing up all over The Caliphate and were being used to eliminate any non-Moslems in Caliphate territory. As the full horror of what The Caliphate stood for became apparent, rearmament suddenly became the watchword in both France and the UK.

The most immediate impact was in the UK. The emergence of The Caliphate not only provided the RAF with a reason for its existence but it also resulted in a series of performance specifications for their missiles. Previously, rocket development had been driven by technology; each successive rocket design was further reaching than its predecessors but each step was driven by advancing technology. The performance target was do the best you can. Now, there was a very real operational requirement to be met. The production generation of missiles had to be capable of reaching from their bases in the UK to the heart of The Caliphate. This set a minimum range target of 4,500 kilometers that had to be met if the weapons were considered fully effective. The concept of designing a missile to a specification that demanded range and accuracy was a new one to the rocket teams and not all of them liked it. However, the new missile came together quickly and was first test-fired in 1963. The new designs were distinguished by their names; all being referred to as the blue series

The first to enter service was Blue Streak, a cryogenically-fuelled rocket that was stored in an underground silo and raised on an elevator for firing. Blue Streak had a range of 3,700 kilometers, short of optimum but still adequate - for a first attempt. A total of 36 were built before production switched to a new missile, one that used hypergolic fuels. This missile, Blue Knight, showed no improvement in range or accuracy over Blue Streak but was easier to handle and its fuels were less problematical. Only 18 were built though, equipping a single Bomber command squadron. Blue Knight was followed by Blue Arrow, a much improved version that could be fired from inside its silos and had a range of just over 4,000 kilometers. 54 Blue Arrow missiles were built from 1967 onwards, bringing Bomber Command to its final strength of 108 missiles in six squadrons of 18 weapons. Finally, in 1971, the new Blue Baron missile. This was solid fueled and could be maintained at instant readiness. It had a range of 6,000 kilometers. Implicit in the development of these weapons, of course, was that the UK had developed a nuclear warhead for its missiles. This they had and the first test shots were carried out in 1962. Blue Streak and Blue Knight were armed with 80 kiloton weapons but Blue Arrow had a 225 kiloton boosted fission weapon while Blue Baron had a 450 kiloton thermonuclear device. By 1975, all RAF Bomber Command strategic squadrons had been equipped with Blue Baron. Production, however, did not end there and a further 72 missiles were sold to the French, being installed appropriately enough in silos on the Plateau dAlbion.

The development of the Blue Series had another side-effect. The UK did not have the long-range reconnaissance capability of the US nor did it have SACs ability to fly where it wanted, when it wanted. Satellites appeared to offer a substitute for that capability and, as earlier missiles were phased out, they were used in the development of boosters for putting communications and reconnaissance satellites into orbit. The civilian equivalents of the Blue Series were designated the Black Series and went through Black Streak, Black Knight, Black Arrow and Black Baron before the ultimate multi-stage Black Brave booster gave the UK its ability to put long-life satellites into Earth Orbit. Black Brave was, in launch vehicle terms, a mass production item and became the standard European launch vehicle.

As the growing Caliphate started its march along the North African Littoral, each successive conquest brought it closer to French and British territory. This brought the two countries under increasing threat of air attack. Two aircraft in particular were of great concern. One was the Kawasaki Ki-220, a delta-winged fighter whose twin engines gave it marginally supersonic speed. However, buried between the two engines was a third, a rocket motor than could boost the aircraft to over Mach 2.1 for short periods. Called Brandi by the Americans and Russians, the Ki-220 was heavily armed with four Ho-155 30mm cannon and four heavy radar-homing missiles. The other was the Kawasaki J12K, originally designed as a land-based point defense interceptor for the Chipanese Navy. It was also twin-engined but with an odd arrangement in which the two engines were vertically paired rather than horizontally. Named Trixie under the American designation system, it was capable of Mach 2.2 and was armed with two Ho-155 cannon and two heat-seeking missiles. Both aircraft were very much superior to the Super-Mystere.

Fortunately, a solution was in the offing. Dassault had developed its own Mach 2 aircraft, the Mirage. The Mirage 1 had used two low-powered engines and been unsuccessful as had the later Mirage II. However, the availability of a new jet engine that drew on Rolls Royce technology resulted in the Mirage III, a much more successful product. The Mirage III was built in three versions. The Mirage IIIC (C for Commercial) was aimed at the export market and was a cheap day fighter for countries that wanted to enter the Mach 2 arena at low cost. It was only marginally successful since the Hindustan Aviation Gnat was already sweeping the available customers due to its rock bottom price. Although subsonic, the Gnat was so cheap to procure and operate that it just made so much more sense. The Mirage IIIC was equipped with a cheap ranging-only radar and was equipped with two 30mm cannon plus hard points for up to 4,000 pounds of bombs. The second version was the Mirage IIIE (E for England). This was an all-weather fighter that carried a powerful search radar to designate targets for the two radar homing missiles, one under each wing. A large 800 gallon drop tank could be carried under the belly, extending the aircrafts range. The third variant was the Mirage IIIF (F for Francais), a dedicated interceptor that sacrificed the two 30mm cannon for a rocket boost engine. The Mirage IIIF was armed with a single radar homing missile under its belly and two heat-seeking missiles, one under each wing.

The RAF received its Mirage IIIE aircraft starting in late 1965. The type did not replace the Super-Mystere, instead it equipped new squadrons that were formed specifically to operate the Mirage. The Super-Mysteres were relegated to ground attack and battlefield support and continued to operate in that role for almost another decade. This made the Royal Air Force a quite potent force; operating six squadrons of Mirage IIIEs, six of Super-Mysteres, two of CF-100s and six of land-based Buccaneers. In addition there was the growing strategic missile force and Coastal Commands Shackletons. The days of scratching around and making do were gone at last.

And it was not before time. Despite the terrible blow inflicted on The Caliphate in 1965 with the destruction of Yaffo, the fundamentalist theocracy had continued to expand along the North African Littoral, reaching the Atlantic coast with the fall of the Spanish colonies in 1968. Only French Algeria was holding out, having repelled the first wave of Caliphate attacks and stoutly resisting the later waves. Yet, despite this brave - indeed heroic - resistance, there was little doubt that Southern Europe was in grave danger and military aircraft development picked up quickly.

The first development was a new long-range bomber intended to provide a nuclear strike capability over intermediate ranges. Ironically, the TSR-2 would have been ideally suited to this role but that option was long closed. Instead, an enlarged and twin-engined development of the Mirage III, the Mirage IV was developed, entering service in 1968. A total of 62 aircraft were built for the French Air Force but, although the type was offered to the RAF, it was declined. This aircraft was designed as a high-altitude bomber much along the lines of the B-58A and the RAF was committed to low altitude penetration. At low altitude, the Mirage IV was restricted to 622 miles per hour, slower than the Buccaneer already in RAF service.

The relative commercial failure of the Mirage IIIC lead Dassault to develop an even more simplified version of the basic Mirage III, the Mirage V. This shed all the remaining electronics and missile capability of the earlier aircraft in return for greater internal fuel and a 6,600 pound bomb load. The Mirage VE was purchased by the RAF as a replacement for its Super Mysteres, the type entering RAF service in 1971. The Mirage V was also sold to Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Greece making it the commercial success that had been denied the Mirage IIIC. The introduction of the Mirage VE caused the RAF to reorganize itself. Fighter Command stood down and was replaced by Tactical Command, operating a mix of Mirage IIIE, Mirage VE and CF-100 aircraft. Bomber Command became Strategic Command, operating the Blue Baron missiles and land based Buccaneers. Coastal Command became Maritime Command, operating the Shackletons and the new Sea King RM.1, a based coastal patrol and anti-submarine Rotodyne. Transport and training aircraft were concentrated into a new RAF Support Command.

Another significant development took place in 1972. In that year, The Caliphate made its second determined effort to overrun Algeria, still defiantly holding out after almost four years of constant terrorist attacks and infiltration along its borders with The Caliphate. In late 1972, The Caliphate massively escalated the situation by launching a series of biological warfare attacks on the border defenses and population centers. Despite grievous losses and great suffering the French and Algerian forces held on and repelled the renewed Caliphate offensive. The French stripped their metropolitan air force in order to deploy more fighter units to Algeria. These immediately started to engage the Caliphate aircraft. The RAF played its part, deploying some of its own fighter units to the South of France in order to replace the French squadrons. Eventually, Caliphate threats to spread the biological attacks to other countries that defied their religious commands lead to an American air assault that destroyed as much of the Caliphate biological warfare facilities as their bombers could find.

By the early 1970s, the carrier strike fleets of both France and the UK were deploying air groups that were shoring their age. Their strike wings were perfectly adequate; the Buccaneer was still state of the art and its airframe appeared to be everlasting. The type went through a major upgrade in the early-middle 1970s which saw it receiving a new radar and defensive electronics suite and that would carry it through until the Privateer, itself basically a modernized and developed version of the Buccaneer, joined the fleet in the early 2000s.

The problem was fighters. The Royal Navy Tigers were obsolescent, short-ranged and underarmed while the French Navy Etendards were even less effective. Dassault designed yet another variant of its prolific Mirage family, the Mirage F (F standing for Flotte). This had a high-mounted swept wing and conventional tail in place of the tailless delta sported by earlier Mirages. Two versions were built, the Mirage F1, a single engined version armed with two radar homing and two heat-seeking missiles and two 30mm cannon. It had a speed of Mach 2.2 and a service ceiling of 65,600 feet. It had a maximum range of over 2,000 miles. The Mirage F2 was a significantly larger, twin-engined version that was armed with four radar homing and four heat seeking missiles plus the two 30mm cannon. It had a speed of Mach 2.6 and a service ceiling of 69,500 feet. It had a range of over 2,500 miles. The most important difference wasnt easily visible. The Mirage F1 had a Cyrano IV that allowed it to engage only a single target at any time while the Mirage F2 had the Cyrano V that allowed the aircraft to engage four targets simultaneously. Needless to say, the Mirage F2 was much more expensive than the Mirage F1. This factor proved decisive for the French, loaded with the costs of the war in Algeria, the Mirage F2 was beyond their means and they settled for the Mirage F1. The Royal Navy made the opposite decision and decided to adopt the Mirage F2, a decision eased by the earlier sizing of their carriers to accept aircraft significantly larger than those then in service. The Mirage F2 was also adopted by the Royal Air Force, replacing the old CF-100s as all-weather fighters.

In 1977, French Algeria finally collapsed. The bioattacks and the long war of attrition had finally made it impossible for the country to hold out any longer. However, The Caliphate may have won the war but they had lost everything else. They inherited a deserted, wasted country, one where the inhabitants had methodically destroyed everything of value before evacuating. Apart from a few diehard Caliphate cadres, the entire population had left, evacuated by the French and Royal Navies in an epic naval achievement. In a gesture reminiscent of Roman times, the Algerians had poisoned their wells, salted their fields and killed what livestock they couldnt evacuate. They had left nothing for The Caliphate except the grim message that free people, Moslem or not, would never consent to live under Caliphate rule. The blow to The Caliphate was crippling and deadly. No longer could they claim to be the true voice of Islam for, given the choice, the Algerian Moslems had voted with their feet to live anywhere else. In a very real sense, the heroic defense of Algeria had done more to halt the Caliphate advance than the American nuclear strikes. After Algeria, no country would ever again fall to the Caliphate.

Five years later, the Royal Navy was to face a test of its own. In April 1982, the Argentine armed forces decided to re-assert their claim to the Falkland Islands. They invaded the islands, confident in the knowledge that the UK was in no position to contest the assault. The decision was one that resulted purely from internal Argentine politics; the economy was in a sad state, unemployment was rising and there was significant public unrest. A short victorious war, the Argentines reasoned, would put many of these problems to rest. In the event, they got one out of three, it was a short war but it wasnt victorious and it didnt quell their internal problems.

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The Battle of the Falklands was a major British victory. Together, the fighting in Algeria and the Falklands Campaign changed American policy towards Europe. Up to this point, the American political attitude to Northern Europe was that they were of no consequence and not something worthy of being considered when policy decisions were being made. To the American public Northern Europe was something they flew over when going to see their Russian friends. Algeria and the Falklands changed that. It would be too much to say that the American now regarded Britain and France as countries of significance, however, they did now take them into account when evaluating situations. A big step forward.

There were two other changes as well, one good, one not so. In the Falklands, the new European fighters had confronted American built aircraft and fought them on equal terms. For the first time in almost 40 years, the superiority of American aircraft wasnt quite so clear-cut. The other was that France had sat the Falklands out, refusing to aid the UK. This marked the end of the process by which France and the UK had been growing closer. In retrospect, the period 1977-82 had represented the height of the French-British alliance; from there it would be slowly, but surely, downhill. (To be concluded).

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