31 December 2010

"J-20": A Chinese "Backfire"?

The aviation forums recently have been buzzing with discussion on the new Chinese "stealth fighter" recently spotted doing fast taxi runs.

In one of the discussions, the writer warned about the danger of "mirror-imaging", citing the incorrect evaluations of the Tu-22M "Backfire".

Now follows some slightly-educated guesses that may well be completely wrong.

I do not think, as Air Power Australia does, that J-20 is an F-35 rival. For five reasons:

1. It looks too large and too blocky for effective manoeuvrability in a situation where air-to-air combat is looking like going back into within-visual-range fights.

2. We still have no indication of the super-cruise capabilities of this thing, if it even has any.

3. Chinese missiles still aren't up to US standards. No-one is talking about any PLAAF missiles rivalling the AIM-9X/ASRAAM/IRIS-T weapons used by "Western" forces.

4. It doesn't really fit into believed and stated Chinese strategy. This talks about the defence of two "island chains", the second going out as far as Guam and the Northern Marianas.

5. There are plenty of capable Chinese SAM capabilities on the mainland and in their ships that will at least force F-35s to carry internal ordinance only. That's before we get to J-11 and J-15.


The classic scenario for a war involving China involves Taiwan. In this scenario, the defence of the Republic of China would be assisted by US carrier groups and air strikes from as far away as Guam, but more often from Japan or the Philippines.

It would be very useful for the PLA to attack land bases and the carriers directly. The propaganda potential of sinking a US carrier would be simply huge - and right now the Chinese lack the effective assets to do it.

DF-21D, which the US now evaluates as having achieved "Initial Operational Capability", lacks key elements in the "kill chain", such as the capability to locate a CVBG without being counter-detected and attacked. The US is rapidly improving AEGIS to cope with it as well.

The Chinese need an alternative strategy. Their other attack aircraft either have limited range (FB-7) and/or are vulnerable to AAM (Su-30/H-6).

Their planned carrier force will run into similar problems, particularly from the new US SSNs, as there is currently no "Chinese AEGIS" (or Russian one for that matter)

This is where the Chinese could do with a "stealth Backfire".

The Tu-22M "Backfire" turned out to be an aircraft designed for medium-range strikes with stand-off missiles against US carrier groups and land-based targets (e.g. Keflavik, which would play host to NATO maritime reconnaissance aircraft). Any "Backfire" raid against a US carrier group, though, would have had to get through the gauntlet of a rather capable CAP (Combat Air Patrol) made up of F-14s and F/A-18s. Even F-4s would have caused it severe problems. You either need luck a lot of "Backfires"; i.e. one hundred plus, or a fighter escort. It's a lot of resources involved.

However, with a stealth aircraft, you get a decent chance of avoiding said CAP and getting into sufficient range (say 20 kilometres) to launch a missile attack that is going to be difficult to defend against.

This also applies to strikes against land targets.


In conclusion, if this becomes operational, it will be a new and potent Chinese capability, but not because it can beat the F-35.

28 December 2010

Screenshot 1: Bots messing about in boats

Il-2 Sturmovik: Where taking off is difficult

I got Il-2 Sturmovik (the 1946 version) for Christmas and have had a go at it over the last couple of days.

I've completed one mission so far, as I've got a bit of a problem taking off. In what I discovered was actually the game simulating torque and not a problem with my joystick; I have a strong tendency to go left or right when taking off. Off the runway and in one case, taking off and hitting the control tower with my right wing.

I'll try and get some screenshots; plus some older ones from my earlier gaming time.

24 December 2010

Advent 5: The Holy Spirit

The final gift that God has given us, so far, is the Holy Spirit. This gift "overshadowed" Mary result in the Immaculate Conception, but later appeared after Jesus had gone up to heaven.

In Acts, tongues of fire descended on the apostles, who had been in hiding after the resurrection, waiting to see how the land lay and fearing persecution. The tongues of fire were the Holy Spirit, which not only gave them renewed confidence, but the ability to speak all the languages of a diverse crowd.

Since that day of Pentecost, the Church never looked back. Jesus' followers would take the good news all over the Roman Empire. Many would die for it and did so gladly. After all, it was only death - they would soon be with Jesus.

From a small sect to a global religion; that's what the Holy Spirit caused to happen to Christianity. It still acts in mysterious ways today; including, I would say, in my own life.

There is still one more gift to come; a new Heaven and a New Earth.
With that, I wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

22 December 2010

Advent 4: Jesus

Probably God's greatest gift is his Son, Jesus Christ.

I'm currently watching The Nativity on BBC1. While it may be a bit twee, it's very biblical. Jesus' "father" was a humble carpenter. Mary was an ordinary young woman (the concept of "teenager" not quite existing back then). God chose them to provide the route where he could spread the Good News. He became a vulnerable baby, then a refugee. I wouldn't be surprised if he had problems making ends meet. He was viewed as mad by many and ultimately put to death for a non-existent crime by the Romans who were worried about his impact on their authority. I've mentioned a lot more about that last bit in my Holy Week series.

This is one of the best poems about it. Short, but worth reading.

Through all this, Jesus took the punishment for every sin that was ever committed or will be committed on himself. No need for animal sacrifices any more - we could now talk with God directly.

Jesus did not achieve a tremendous amount in his lifetime on Earth, but he set the stone rolling (literally on Easter Sunday). Three centuries later, even the Roman Empire, which had done so much to persecute Christians, became Christian. Even in our increasingly "Godless" society, people still have their children baptised and go for church weddings.

For all the problems that some in the Church has cause - Christianity has done a tremendous amount of good. From Jan Hus to William Booth to Mother Theresa, Jesus was God's ultimate present.

20 December 2010

North Korea apparently has some sense

I see that we haven't got a war in Korea.

Stuff like this over a disputed border is always prone to get out of hand. The side doing the exercise feels it has to show that has to freely operate in all of its "territory", the other side feels that it can't let the other get away with it. It's really a case of ego writ large - and sadly often writ in blood.

I still feel the Rubicon has been crossed here. Any further DPRK attack on South Korea is going to trigger something very large indeed. Probably best to not give the regime an "excuse" for a few months.
That is my 400th post. I'll do something bigger when I hit the big D.

16 December 2010

Advent 3: The Law

This is the third post in my series on the Gifts of God.
We move onto the third gift; the Law. By which I'm referring to the regulations in Leviticus.

Everybody focuses on the grain offerings and the stuff about being unclean, as well as the food rules. These rules certainly had a reason at the time; often to do with hygiene and health. I must admit I'm not entirely sure about all of them; I'm sure some Bible scholars could explain better.

The purpose of the law was more serious though; to give people rules and regulations to live in a just society. It was not to enslave them, but to ensure that all could live in decent conditions, free from violence and oppression.

Of course, we completely broke it either in letter or in spirit. The Pharisees at the time of Jesus were following the letter, but not the spirit; ensuring their own power and not protecting the interests of the poor.

Thus we needed Jesus, the next gift.

We are no longer subject to the Law, but are now free in Christ, the ultimate sacrifice. That is not a licence to sin freely, but to live to our fullest for God.

We can also eat pork.

Bob Ainsworth and drugs

Former minister calls for legislation of hard drugs.

I think this is a bad idea. Not only would those who had been deterred from doing drugs because of the illegality take it up; the prescription system would be prone to abuse, because addicts want more and more. They may well go through alternative means when refused. We already have tobacco smuggling problems in this country, where people will risk their health even more for cheaper cigarettes.

Narcotics kill people here and aboard; opium sales fund the Taliban and other terrorist groups. Addiction wrecks families. That wouldn't change.

We may not be winning the war on drugs, but that does not mean we should give up.

10 December 2010

Don't mind me, I'm just here for the tram crash

Northern-set soap opera Coronation Street celebrated its 50th anniversary yesterday with a live episode in a week that "started" with a rather over-the-top scene where an explosion brought down a viaduct and a tram then went down through the gap.

I don't usually watch soap operas; but I tuned in for this. I might start watching this a bit more often.

I'm the sort of guy who treats his television watching like he's Joel from Mystery Science Theatre 3000, only without the robots. I like to snark.

Corrie's got a lot to snark about: [spoiler]'s death yesterday, along with [spoiler]'s birth scene and [spoiler] and [spoiler]'s [spoiler] wedding. All were ultimately clichéd and corny.

My TV watching can't all be stuff like Mad Men and Downton Abbey; we all should have a bit of fast food every so often.

Advent 2: The Promised Land

A tad later than planned, this is my second of five Advent posts.

The story of the book of Exodus is probably fairly well known to most "Western" adults; it's even been the subject of a Disney film (Prince of Egypt).

In it, Moses leads his people out of pretty harsh slavery in Egypt with the help of a considerable amount of divine intervention from God. There's comedy and deep tragedy; when the first-born Egyptians all die.

After 40 years in the desert (a delay caused by their own disobedience to God's instructions), they arrive in Canaan, the Promised Land. It's the start of a long story involving Temples, exiles and a lot of idol worshipping (even Solomon ends up doing it).

Giving a dedicated area of the world to his "own" people is one of God's most noticeable gifts. The fact he didn't renege on it despite the number of times the Israelites annoyed him is a true testament to his mercy.

We will soon have a new Promised Land; the Kingdom of Heaven - and it will be open to anyone who believes.

09 December 2010

Bird-Brained and Pig-Headed

Maybe the Angry Birds Should Rethink Their Strategy.

I have Angry Birds on my phone; it's rather addictive.

Wikileaks, Anonymous and DDOS

I haven't actually made a comment on the Wikileaks affair here (I've limited my discussions elsewhere to the legal aspects around the rape allegations).

There's a place for whistle-blowing in journalism; I'm not sure that what Wikileaks is doing entirely qualifies. There's a fine line between exposing abuses and causing embarrassment. I know full well that I wouldn't like some of my private comments about people published over the Internet. Is the US government that different? I'll allow people to differ on that.

I make no comments on Mr. Assange's guilt or evidence; I just want a fair trial for him like anyone should have.

My ire today turns onto Anonymous. I'd seen some of them in Chicago two years ago protesting against Scientology; I wasn't fully aware of their hacking activities then.

To quote a member of this group: "As an organisation we have always taken a strong stance on censorship and freedom of expression on the internet and come out against those who seek to destroy it by any means".

Apparently, they don't want people to be able to exercise their freedom of expression in choosing to pay via Visa or Mastercard - many have no real choice to change at this time. Or tweet; Twitter being a great (if at times inane) tool for freedom of expression.

Anonymous may not like the Swedish prosecutors, but they have freedom of expression too.

04 December 2010

At last, something to make putting out the washing fun!

I found these mentioned on the SFX website.

They're hand-painted, which explains the price-tag and really rather adorable.

01 December 2010

Advent 1: The World

This is the first of five posts I'll be doing on the subject of Advent, as we approach Christmas 2010.

I won't be going on the traditional Advent Candle meanings, but focussing on five "presents" that the LORD has given to his people:
1. The World
2. The Promised Land
3. The Law
4. Jesus
5. The Holy Spirit

These may be a bit rambling; I'm just letting it flow.

I look out of my window at the latest batch of frozen water that has landed on my street and caused travel disruption. While it's easy to get annoyed, it does actually look rather nice.

Travelling around my home area, you can't go too far without running into a "rural area", even in central London, which has some wonderful parks. While these rural areas may at times be muddy and hard to navigate, they definitely look far more varied than the umpteen high streets round here with their samey cheap shops and pawnbrokers.

I don't know very much about trees and flowers, but I know what I like.

This green and blue world is one of God's greatest gifts - and his first. We were given it to look after (as talked about in Genesis). Shame we've rather failed on that over the years.

World AIDS Day

It's World AIDS Day today; focussing on the worst disease to hit this planet in the last half century.

I hope one day soon there's a vaccine for this. No-one deserves a disease like that, regardless of what they do - and many children in Africa didn't do anything.

28 November 2010

Thoughts on the Irish bailout

If we're having to bail so many people out, we need some new boats.

There's got to be a new world financial system that stops people from getting into these situations.

25 November 2010

Day of Defeat GunGame

It's been a while since I've had a good deathmatch and today I had one.

Or rather "GunGame". I only got up to level 8 in this, but it was still seriously enjoyable.

I should have noted the name of the server; it was a good time.

24 November 2010

Wow. Just wow.

A trailer for a fan-made short movie set in the Half-Life universe. Seriously, this is pretty impressive.

(Contains strong violence)

23 November 2010

47 Years of Doctor Who

23 November always holds a large significance for science fiction fans; it's the anniversary of the airing of the first episode of Doctor Who.

I'm still amazed today at how big the show still is; especially as I became a fan during the hiatus years. The stars of the show are among the most recognisable people in the UK and a show that was once only remembered for wobbly sets is now loved by millions.

The five years since the revival have seen the show grow from strength to strength.

Long may it continue.

The shelling in South Korea

I woke up at 8am this morning to hear the news of the North Korean shelling of a South Korean island.

Kim Jong-Il and his cabal are acting completely beyond the norms of international behaviour; you don't shell someone for a regular military exercise, even if you don't like it.

I hope and pray this doesn't escalate. I may be thousands of miles away, but others aren't...

21 November 2010

Mr. Cable, that's about as transparent as a document wallet

Vince Cable claims Lib Dems did not make promise on transparent fees.

No-one ever thought the Lib Dems were going to win the election outright (even in the Cleggmania days); they'd best be part of a coalition government.

His waltz scores low with this judge.

19 November 2010

Friday Update

I've just played a few rounds of Day of Defeat: Source and as usual been killed far more than killed myself (to give you an idea; my kill/death ratio in Battlefield 2 is 1 to 5 and this was considerably higher.

Perhaps it's lag, perhaps it's my not hugely fast reaction times. Oh, well, I don't do it for the money.

I've got another new RP up at Phoenix; a medieval sim called A Kingdom for A Stage. I'll be kicking this off around the beginning of December.

Schism report is on a hold due to ongoing matters linked to it.

16 November 2010


Signed up for this today.

I'm hoping this doesn't turn into a boring level-up game like O-Game. It looks pretty interesting and dynamic, but if my time contracts, this will be first to go.

How I would solve the US deficit

Interesting thing from the New York Times.

I've got a nice balance between tax increases and spending cuts, IMHO. I tried to eliminate "unnecessary spending".

13 November 2010

Rememberance: Where they fell

A very interesting BBC article on the wars Britain has fought since 1945.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi's release from house arrest is a great moment for all democrats.

I hope that further change will come to Burma. However, following the rigged elections of last week, I'm worried about how fast that change will come.

Still, a good day. Power is starting slip away from this junta.

11 November 2010

A worthy article on the deficit

From Channel 4 FactCheck.

Like my header says - concentrate on what cannot lie.

Question of the day

Stacey Solomon appearing on I'm A Celebrity: a step up or a step down?

RAF Bomber Command

Jams made an excellent choice of picture on his blog today and while having a look for information on casualties that Bomber Command suffered, I found this website.

Very interesting and a reminder of the multiple roles that Bomber Command played; not just the attacks on Germany, but air support and the U-Boat War.

Armistice Day

Today marks the 92nd anniversary of the end of fighting in the First World War.

While all the veterans from that time have passed on, the legacy of that war still impacts our society and our world.

Today, British soldiers continue to fight for freedom in a foreign land.

We will remember them.

09 November 2010

Harpoon: Ultimate Edition

I got this on Friday from Matrix Games and am currently playing through all the versions, doing a scenario in each.

Here's the in-progress AAR.

03 November 2010

Tea. Republican. Black. There is a deficit on after all - Ten things we've learnt from the mid-terms

  1. Pulchritude is not in itself an election winner. Especially if you dabbled in witchcraft.
  2. Do not race-bait in Nevada.
  3. Harry Reid is a political Time Lord.
  4. Sarah Palin is not very good at getting people elected.
  5. Just because you can make fake wrestling does not mean you can make real votes.
  6. Even robo-polls can go wrong.
  7. Sometimes it's even worse than you expect.
  8. I'm no prediction master (but that doesn't mean I'll stop trying).
  9. Personal votes are tricky things.
  10. Californians aren't hippies.

01 November 2010

28 October 2010

US mid-terms prediction

Here we go:

6 GOP gains, including Nevada. Murkowski wins narrowly in Alaska. Democrats retain control narrowly.

45 Republican pick-ups; enough for narrow control of the lower chamber.

27 October 2010

25 October 2010

Too many mavericks

I've just finished watching thorne: sleepyhead (complete with trendy no-caps title!).

It's another tale of a maverick police officer who is fully willing to disobey orders and in some cases the law in his investigations. In this one, he's party to an assisted suicide.

One colleague beats up a suspect.

I'm getting a bit tired of these sorts of coppers. For once, I'd like a copper who sticks to the rules. They're tempted to cross the line, but they never do. Perhaps they put their principles over their friends.

Please, I just want a change.

19 October 2010

The Strategic Defence and Security Review

As a card-carrying member of the opposition party, I'm naturally bound to say that I don't like this review. It's cutting too much at a time when we're at war. Especially Ark Royal.

However, there is one good thing. We may have to wait a decade for it, but come 2020, we're back in the CATOBAR business.

Now, if you excuse me, I've got an RP to create... :)

14 October 2010

Chile Mine Rescue

It could so easily have been another mine disaster that got a few lines in the paper.

The fact that it instead was a global media story and a true tale of triumph in difficult circumstances speaks volumes of the miners and the rescuers.

Congratulations to all of them - you deserve every peso you're going to get.

08 October 2010

The Central Line

I had to travel on the Central Line of London Underground today. That place is an oven at the best of times; and excessively noisy too.

It's a reason for Crossrail in itself.

03 October 2010

Unity Day

I'd like to wish the reunified Germany a Happy 20th Birthday.

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!

25 September 2010

AJJE Report update

I've had a large amount on; I won't be able to get it done this month. My current target is November.

Ed and Ken

I didn't vote for the two winners of the Labour leadership and mayoral candidacy. I have strong concerns over both of them.

That said, they are infinitely better than David Cameron and Boris Johnson. I wish them every success. I will judge them on results.

Hopefully the infighting will end; but the result in the leadership contest was too close for that.

We need to focus on the more important issue now. Getting the Coalition out of office.

The War in 2012

This mail-based wargame that I'm involved in is looking for more players.

It's a bit slow, but still enjoyable.

14 September 2010

Quote of the day 1

From Lucy McGough on Gallifrey Base, discussing Merlin:

But someone should tell Morgause (from a safe distance) that eyeliner looks daft with chainmail.

31 August 2010

A question on carriers

Could someone please explain to me why we're building two 65000 ton carriers instead of three or four Harrier Carriers at 20000 ton each?

27 August 2010

Marie Revolver - Part Two: Bike failure

The revolver was stored in a plastic bag in the cistern. This was generally considered a good place to hide things; although law enforcement had long got wise to that. Marie did not plan on having the police visit her anytime soon.

She pulled it of the cistern and threw the empty bag into the bin; she'd get another one later. She checked the revolver was loaded and then stuck the weapon into her waistband.

She headed out of her flat and locked the door. Walking over to the central area, she pressed the button to call the lift. It actually was working, but this wasn't a surprise to Marie. Even graffiti artists didn't like using the stairs.

Six floors down to the ground. She opened the door out into the warm night and walked towards her Suzuki motorbike. It had its advantages if you wanted to escape, but it was an absolute nightmare when it rained.

She kicked the starter a couple of times. The engine stuttered and failed to start. Three more times all yielded the same result.

Marie swore silently. This was not helpful. She'd have to take public transport. She might well get there too late.

The tube station was a bus ride away; the buses were running, but not too frequently.

She had to wait twenty minutes for the bus to arrive. Were assassins supposed to use buses? She got on board and used her Oyster card; cash would have looked suspicious. She took a seat and reached for an MP3 player in her jacket.

The automated announcer told her the number of the bus and its destination, a Tube station.

She would be there in twenty minutes. She was still an hour away from Simon.

21 August 2010

Australian elections

Well, this is a bit of a situation; both parties need the support of independents to be able to form a government; independents who might not all go the same way on any issue.

This makes May's election here look simple...

20 August 2010

Labour leadership contest

Think I'll be voting for Ed Balls; not too keen on the others.

It seems that all the candidates want to move us to the left. Considering the reasons why we lost, that's not the world's best idea...

08 August 2010

The sound of war (Farnborough: Part Four)

As a person who has never experienced actual battle in any way, shape or form, particularly an air raid, I don’t have a real appreciation of the sensory environment of modern (or for that matter ancient) warfare, particularly the noise.

The next aircraft adequately demonstrated that. The F-16. This was the third loudest aircraft of the day. I was standing near a hot dog vendor when this thing swooped over at high speed – and managed to set a car alarm off just by the sheer level of vibration.

It then proceeded to do the usual acrobatics. It’s worth pointing out that this aircraft is still in production for non-US customers and still operating in American service. While I don’t like single-engine fighters and the range isn’t brilliant, I can appreciate that it provides value for money. I wonder if the RAF ever seriously considered purchasing any (the idea gets mentioned in The Third World War).


Following this were the Army Historics. Three old Army Air Corp helicopters and a prop aircraft I can’t really identify. Helicopter construction has really come on apace since the Korean War; you can’t imagine any new military chopper with what is essentially scaffolding for a tail.

My camera battery was starting to run a bit low at this time, so I didn’t take any more photos for a while.

The “Red Devils” were next, an Army parachuting team that did a rather impressive display – I’ve never seen a real life parachute jump before and this was a bit of an experience for me. Probably something I wouldn’t want to do myself – the landing always looks a bit heavy and I don’t like unsupported heights.

Next up was the Great War collection, a collection of First World War era fighters from both sides that engaged in mock dogfights complete with trailing smoke and an interesting commentary over the top. With the number of surviving veterans from this period very close to zero, it’s a timely reminder of this very early period of air warfare.

The big rotary wing presence was the Chinook. I’ve seen these fly a few times in London; they have a distinctive sound due to their counter-rotating twin rotors. This demonstrated fast-roping insertion and casualty evacuation; both practices that it has to employ on a regular basis in the dusty environs of Afghanistan.  I didn’t get a brilliant view of this (I was heading somewhere else, mainly somewhere where I wouldn’t need ear plugs for the F/A-18); but impressive nonetheless.

Then came the Super Hornet. The flight deck of a carrier must be a very noisy environment; I felt actual vibrations in my chest when this thing took off. I was right up next to the flight line, but this was half-way down the runway and it was still cover the ears loud.

Then we took a step back in time to the Battle of Britain, 70 years ago this year. A Hurricane was first up; these aircraft primarily went after the bombers in the Battle while the Spits took care of the escorting fighters. It probably brought memories for the oldest people there; who saw these aircraft fighting in this area in 1940 – remember that Farnborough was a long-standing testing base as well.

Then we had a Spitfire and an Me-109 doing formation flying. The Me-109 wasn’t a Second World War veteran, but rather a Spanish example that was used in the Battle of Britain movie. They made interesting companions; two of the key opposing aircraft of the war flying side by side.

Then came the Battle of Britain Memorial flight, including a Lancaster, a Spitfire and a Hurricane. I was in the Diamond Paddock for this; the aircraft flew all around the arena and did level flights over the crowd; the only aircraft that did any crowd over flight at all. There was some turning and climbing, but not a huge amount – the programme pointed out that this are planes you don’t take risks with.


Then we had something nice and modern; the Eurofighter Typhoon. Now this was another loud one, but not too loud. I’m a Typhoon fan; the aircraft is unfairly maligned as a Cold War relic when it’s better than the F-35 in some missions.

This thing, a BAE test plane, was apparently fully loaded for a combat mission – it does a short (400 metre or so) take off and goes pretty much to 70 degrees climb straight off the runway! Then the pilot hurls around like it’s a much lighter aircraft, with burner on throughout and making a fair amount of noise. Seriously, that is an agile aircraft.

Following the Typhoon’s short display, I had fish and chips for dinner – it was early, but I wanted to keep an eye on the display at 4.30pm and I couldn’t do that while eating. Good fish and chips by the way; even if a bit hard to eat (you can’t really eat cod with a chip fork).

Yep, the Red Arrows; the RAF’s display team. They did a full half-hour display in their Hawk trainer jets, including all the classic moves, with a useful commentary and cockpit radio provided as well. Red, white and blue smoke was prominent; the display ended with a staggered peel-off for the final approach and landing to ensure a safe separation. Very impressive.

I started to make my way towards the exit; I suspected it was going to a long time to get out of this place. As I made my way through, an RAF King Air did a display to the tune of “Mister Blue Sky”. Not too impressed with that personally.

I was halfway to the exit when the Vulcan was ready. My binoculars certainly got a lot of use here.


The four Olympus engines that powered this made a very loud noise on take-off, nearly F/A-18 loud and I was further away! If you lived near one of the Strike Command bases and you heard a lot of those take-off, you’d know that the Third World War had started.

The display was graceful and elegant, showing the agility of what was a strategic bomber design. Winters didn’t barrel roll it (that has been done on a Vulcan), but he certainly flew it like a fighter.

It landed and that point I made the long journey to the exit; having to queue for a bus back to North Camp and my journey home.

The sunburn may have gone, but the memories won’t – it was a great day out.

01 August 2010

The big guys come out to play (Farnborough: Part Three)

Part One

Part Two

Once The Blades were done, the bigger aircraft were coming out to play.


Like this particular bad boy. Providing the core of US strategic air power for almost 50 years now, this is a B-52H Stratofortress, one of the world's most capable bombers. This was only doing a straight West to East fly-past and not a full display, but was spectacular nonetheless. I'm glad I brought my binoculars for this.

I headed off to look at some of the other areas, as a Catalina flying boat, without its floatation tanks (they needed repairs) flew about. These played a key role in the anti U-Boat campaign, protecting Allied shipping from the German submarines - one of them spotted Bismarck as well.


A Sea Hawk (a 1950s carrier jet fighter) and a Seafire (a naval version of the Spitfire; which I didn't know that they'd actually done) did their display, but I wasn't too interested in this- I'd never heard of the Seafire and I'd have probably paid more attention if I had.

I headed into the BAE Systems area after looking at a Typhoon mock-up. The area was dedicated to the controversial company's products and included models (not to scale with each other) of their new warship designs, including their Khareef class corvettes for Oman, a patrol vessel for Trinidad & Tobago and the two new British carriers (if they're not cancelled).


I talked a bit of shop with the guy there and asked him about the Type 26 frigate proposal model they had there. He said ('Pooners may want to take note) they were looking at 5-6,000 tons displacement and CAAMS armament, but not PAAMS - so an FF, not an FFG.

Then I saw something that was also making its debut here; it may well feature in some Harpoon scenarios. Two of them in fact. I wondered what it was (some kind of Mirage, perhaps?) until I recognised the Pakistani flags on the pilots' uniforms.


The JF-17 Thunder, the new Chinese-Pakistani fighter, making its Western debut here. It didn't fly on that day.

I saw the C-27J Spartan do its display; an good light air lifter that has yet to get many sales and then went to look at a Battle of Britain display, rushing out when I heard the M346 light attack aircraft/trainer arrive.

The C-130J Super Hercules then did its display. Both this and the Spartan did steep ascents from take-off; a key element in hostile areas where someone might be waiting in the bushes with an Igla hand-held SAM launcher.

Then, the noise was brought.

(Part Four)

28 July 2010

Walking around a funfair (Farnborough: Part Two)

 Part One

Once the Airbus A380 had done its thing, it was followed by the Blades, a display of ex-RAF pilots flying four small Extra 300 LP piston aircraft.

Acrobatics in tiny aircraft is something I find a little boring after a while (IMHO), but this one was particularly notable for aircraft changing roll positions at blinking speed. Apparently, 10g was being pulled at times.

That one, a kind of mini-Red Arrows (I'll get to them later), was pretty impressive. During the display; which I kept an eye on, I started to look around the rest of the very large site.

This air show was simply huge. It would take a good fifteen minutes to walk from one end to the other. There were multiple food stalls, several dedicated huts for some of the larger companies and a small funfair for the children.

The US military had its own collection of static aircraft, including an UH-1Y, a MH-60R Seahawk, a F-15E Strike Eagle, a F/A-18E Super Hornet and an F-16C Fighting Falcon Viper.

The biggest thing in the airshow business at the moment is XH558 Spirit of Great Britain. A restored Avro Vulcan nuclear bomber (although it ended its RAF service as a maritime reconnaissance aircraft), it has been wowing air show crowds for the last couple of years, mainly because it looks like a stealth fighter, flies like a stealth fighter and does both of these things despite being built in 1960. It is flown by Martin Winters DFC, who flew XM607 in the first "Black Buck" mission against Port Stanley in May 1982 (read Vulcan 607 for a brilliant account of that)

I've seen a Vulcan before at the RAF Museum in Hendon, but it was pretty impressive to see a flying one, even out on static display. It was due to fly on both public days and had flown earlier in the week, but the plane was found to have a faulty brake on landing that evening and couldn't fly on Sunday.

I looked around the shop, but didn't find anything to buy. Found it a bit odd that it had a 3M logo in the bomb bay.

Seriously though, it's extremely agile for its size.

Part Three

27 July 2010

Marie Revolver - Part One: Calls at nine

This is going to be a new irregular series of fiction set in the present day about a woman named "Marie". Warehouse worker by day, assassin by night.

This will either be very good or very poor. We shall see.

Tuesday 27 July

She opened the door to her flat in a tower block somewhere in the heaving, cloud-covered metropolis that called itself London.

Removing her denim jacket and hanging it on the coat rail, she looked at her answerphone. Two messages.

It had been a horrible shift. Mike was making utterly crude remarks and insisted on reading the Daily Sport in her presence. Flat on the table, so she could see everything in there. What a... Philistine.

Marie - not her real name - was amazed that she remembered that word. Mike was a large brute of a man who would appreciate a stone in his head.

She played the messages. One was a call reminding her about her pedicure tomorrow afternoon.

The other was more urgent.

"Marie, it's Simon", the male voice said, sounding very desperate, "I'm in some serious trouble. Come quickly".

Not again, Marie thought as she headed for the bathroom to get her revolver.

26 July 2010

Season 31 of Doctor Who: Box of Delight

A rather late review of this; see earlier posts for an explanation for the delay.

OK, some elements to discuss.

The Eleventh Doctor

I was sold on Matt Smith right from the last scene of "The End of Time", as he burst into life (and the TARDIS burst into flames). It's a brilliant opening scene that takes you completely away from the sad end of the Tenth Doctor.

The fact that he's the youngest actor to play the Doctor ever didn't throw me; he has proved more than up to the task.

This Doctor's persona of an old man in a young man's body, more alien than some other Doctors, is just different enough from David Tennant to keep the character fresh, while true to its roots.

I like Eleven. He's witty, but brave too. He doesn't bluster, but has a quiet confidence about him. It occasionally turns into arrogance, but that's a fault of the Doctor in general.

Amy Pond

Alright, I'll just say it here; Amelia "Amy" Pond is the first out-and-out sexy female companion we've had since Peri. Her legs will be particularly well remembered. It isn't all her character, that's for sure.

Amy's got a clear sassy (there's that word again) vibe to her and really is very forthright. She's best in the Moffat stories; the Moff has a far firmer handle on her as she's his creation- other writers will be able to write her better next season.

Not my favourite of the post-2005 companions, but not a bad companion.

Rory Williams

Somebody's got to be the Shaggy to Amy's Daphne (wow, that's the first time I've made that connection and it's a good one) and Arthur Darvill handles it with aplomb.

Rory is definitely the junior partner in the TARDIS, but has some awesome moments, especially as an Auton.

I like three in a TARDIS; it allows for a character to be captured and still have witty repartee with the other two. Glad he's sticking around.

The new TARDIS

I like the new set; it's got some great features, including multiple levels and a typewriter (typewriters are cool).

Episodes in general

Nearly everything written by The Moff is brilliant; "The Eleventh Hour" started the series with style and the Weeping Angels two-parter was truly superb.

I didn't like Gatiss' Dalek episode; the Daleks are overused in the current show.

Richard Curtis did a wonderfully emotional job with "Vincent and the Doctor" and "Amy's Choice" wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

Overall thoughts

I think the best word to sum up this season is "confident". The show knows what works and delivers it. It's not afraid to experiment, but not for the sake of it.

I'm looking forward to a very interesting sounding Christmas special - and Season 32.

25 July 2010

I didn't know that A380s could dispense chaff... (Farnborough: Part One)

Yesterday, I went to the Farnborough Air Show, one of the big air shows, where big deals are done and new aircraft displayed. Five of the days are dedicated to trade stuff, but the Saturday and the Sunday are open to the public.

As a subscriber to AIR International, I took advantage of an offer they were running to get a ticket to the airshow, including access to the Diamond Paddock, with deckchairs, a position right next to the flightline and toilets that you didn't have to queue for.

Getting there

I made my way from my home in Havering to London Waterloo station; having to go via Bank and the once-BR-run Waterloo and City Line as TfL have shut the Jubilee Line this weekend for engineering works (part of it's like the Tube's version of Charles de Gaulle; barely a decade in service before needing a major refit).

London Waterloo used to be the boarding point for the Eurostar services to the Continent; until a new high-speed route was completed and the services diverted to London St. Pancras, a station that frankly needed some love (refit is seriously impressive). The Eurostar platforms are now being used for performances of the classic children's story The Railway Children.

Boarding a Class 450 EMU (that's Electric Multiple Unit to the non rail fans out there) just as it was about to leave, I travelled in a fairly empty train through the suburbs of South West London and past the headquarters of a certain intelligence agency, before reaching Guildford.

Guildford isn't a particularly well signposted station; I had to ask where the platform was for North Camp.

I started to get an idea of the size of the crowd I would be encountering when boarding the DMU at Guildford; it was standing room only on board.

The organisers were laying on shuttle buses and it took us half an hour to get there due to sheer volume of traffic; a one-way system was in place. Then there was the queue to get in; and this was for the people with pre-paid tickets!

I finally got in around 11.30 am. With an hour until the flying was due to begin, I headed into the exhibition halls to have a look round; the trade stuff was done, but the stalls were still there. I'm pretty sure that most of the attendees weren't exactly in a position to buy fighter-bombers or UAVs, but having the stalls there generates good PR for defence and aviation companies.

First cab off the rank turned out to the Russian section of the hall:


The Russian presence at Farnborough was very limited; there was only one flying aircraft there, a Sukhoi Superjet and it wasn't flying on the Saturday. They made up for this somewhat with their trade stuff; United Aircraft Corporation had models of most of their for-sale aircraft except the T-50.


Not that I'm intending to buy Russian anti-shipping missiles or any others for that matter.

I skipped over most of the rest of the halls; with the exhibition of the Flight Gear-using Tornado simulator provided by Panavia. I took off from Farnborough and headed for Central London before crashing past the end of 27R at Heathrow.

I headed outside at 12.15pm and got pretty close to the flight line on the eastern end - it runs west to east - for the A380 display. The A380 is a very large aircraft, but surprisingly quiet (which they're aiming for) especially to some of the other stuff.

The aircraft powers up and I think a fly has gone in my mouth...

Turns out the engines were blowing dried grass into part of the crowd. It did the same on landing. Didn't get in my food though...

The aircraft takes off and does a graceful impressive display. It'll certainly be popular; orders were announced there.

You wouldn't be moving it around like that in the sky on passenger service though...

Part Two

19 July 2010

AJJE: A fuller summary

But not complete. That will have to wait until the report, which will be about 20 pages long.

Basically, LOTW's Parliament Leader decided to ban a player from the club after he defamed another player in a bunch of emails; both were operational leaders and the former was trying to persuade the latter to resign.

The entire team bar the player agreed to the ban, after gaining legal advice from three separate solicitors.

AJJE's President announced a review of the ban. The Parliament Leader submitted a 28-page legal defence of it. Most of the review panel chose not to read it; the President (who took the decision solely by herself without a wider vote) overturned the ban and the review panel actually considered blacklisting the defamed player.

We decided to launch a peaceful protest as we felt the overturning of the ban was unfair; not RPing in LOTW from 30 days and the CO's replacing or adding strike messages to their pages. The President and the Board of Founders accepted our right to protest.

Four days into the protest, the President posted messages of her position on the sims without permission from the COs and in violation of written policy, as well as common practice. The defamee announced his resignation from AJJE. Other players started to resign as well.

Shortly after that, LOTW went down for "maintenance". I resigned Sunday lunchtime when it became clear that the head Webmaster had lied to me. He told players to either end the strike, return to AJJE and accept the decision, or leave. So we left, our accounts being scrambled as we left; the Parliament Leader had to get his wife (a fellow AJJE player) to post his resignation as his account was scrambled before he could do it himself.

Basically, I left AJJE because, in my opinion, the leadership violated its own rules and ignored the facts, then tried to suppress the issue.

12 July 2010

Absence from the blog

Apologies for the rather large gap in blogging; something truly nasty went down in AJJE Games that required a lot of my attention.

In simple terms, I and a lot of others walked from the site after the leadership took a totally unjustified decision regarding a ban, telling people to either accept it or leave.

A fuller explanation will follow in due course. It'll be fascinating reading, but in the meantime, I refer you to this blog, which goes up to my resignation yesterday.

25 June 2010

60 Years of War in the Korean Peninsula

Today is the 60th anniversary of the North Korean invasion of South Korea. The war has yet to formally end and could flare up again.

I hope that one day soon Kim Jong-Il and his ilk will face justice for their crimes against the people of North Korea.

01 June 2010

Perfect Storm of Stupidity

So, an unarmed vessel decides to try and run a blockade by a highly capable navy to get news coverages. Said navy then decides to use commandos for riot control.

As a result, several people are dead.

I despair at times.

22 May 2010


Tomorrow is the day Christians mark the coming of the Holy Spirit to a bunch of scared guys in a room- and the Church's birthday.

Jesus had gone to heaven, but they were still worried about the Jewish authorities. Then the room turns distinctly flamy and tongues of fire land on all of their heads.

They're transformed after this, speaking in dozens of languages to a large crowd- the disciples don't do public speaking before that, I believe.

They were transformed by one element of the Trinity, that still transforms people today.

Happy Pentecost!

17 May 2010

BA Strike Injunction

Just my two cents:

If you want a deal, it's not a good idea to keep taking legal action against the people you are in dispute with.

11 May 2010

Change of Government

Well, 13 years of Labour rule are over. It's made a big impact on British politics, much of it good, some of it bad.

We're back in opposition now and it's probably a good thing. We ran out of steam in the last two years and the recession really finished us off.

Congratulations to Mr. Cameron.

08 May 2010

VE Day

65 years ago today, the Second World War ended in Europe.

The biggest historical event ever, one man's megalomania resulted in millions of deaths.

May it never happen again.

07 May 2010

A coalition from the jaws of a landslide: an early analysis of the 2010 election

Before we start, I want to say that I feel that David Cameron has, by gaining the most votes and the most seats by a fairly clear margin, earned the right to try and form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. He will probably be our next PM and should be congratulated for that.

However, he managed to throw away a commanding lead and now has a very hard task ahead of him.

Basically, everyone lost this election. I'll try and give three possible reasons for each of the parties doing badly in.

1. Europe, specifically Lisbon: Cameron's change of policy on the issue of the Lisbon Treaty and strange position with the European People's Party block was a fudge that pleased now. The result was a rise in BNP and UKIP support, which in at least three seats including Gedling and Eltham was greater than the Labour majority. Worth a serious study that.
2. Scotland: Still has bad memories of the Thatcher years. Cameron needed to win seats up there and didn't. Probably didn't focus enough on it.
3. Too slick: Cameron came across as too slick and smooth. For an electorate who'd spent ten years with Tony Blair, it wasn't the best idea.

1. 13 years in office: Only one government since the war has exceeded that period and that was the Thatcher-Major one. Most administrations have been far shorter. After that time and a third term that frankly wasn't brilliant, many people had enough of Labour. A hung parliament in 2005 might have been better for Labour.
2. The economy: You do not preside over a major recession and expect to remain in office. Full stop.
3. Gordon Brown: While the soon-to-be former Labour leader and PM has some strong qualities, charisma isn't one of them. Brown could have worked better in a radio age, but politics has changed. He also was too associated with the previous 13 years.

Liberal Democrats
1. The electoral system: What gain in the Liberal Democrat vote was spread too thinly across the country to swing seats.
2. Immigration and Europe: The Liberal Democrat views on them are not in tune with the rest of the electorate and the third debate's discussion on the subject was
3. Lack of publicity apart from the debate: I didn't see one publicly displayed Lib Dem billboard and never received a leaflet from them.

Despite the support of Ashcroft's millions and most of the British press against a tired government in a weak economy, David Cameron failed to gain an overall majority due to policy problems and a poor campaign.

It's going to be a fun next couple of years.

06 May 2010

Election Day

Vote for a secure recovery. Vote for experience. Vote for a future fair for all.

Vote Labour!

03 May 2010

The General Election Result

For the first time that I can remember, it's not entirely clear who will be PM come Monday.

That's a rather unusual feeling.

02 May 2010

More repression in Iran

Critical director arrested

I think that time is running out for the regime one way or another. However, every day that regime attacks its own people and destabilises the Middle East is one day too many.

29 April 2010

The Third Debate

If you've not decided how to vote yet, please make your decision on the issues, not who looks best in a debate.

Good government is more than style.

28 April 2010

A quick thought on immigration

There's more than one reason that people from Africa want to come to Britain.

Man insults woman when he thinks no-one is listening

It's fair to say that Gordon Brown's off-mic comment today was a gaffe of the first order.

It's worth pointing out, though, that few people haven't done that sort of thing at some point. They're not just politicians.

17 April 2010

Well, there goes my prediction model...

I've been doing a spreadsheet predicting the results of every seat in the upcoming election. The basic model assumed a swing from Labour to the Tories of about 6%, bigger in the marginals.

Looks like I might have to rip up my prediction if the polls held.

Clegg won that debate on Thursday. Cameron came second and Brown third, but neither did too badly. The thing is, ten million people at least have now had an exposure to Clegg they wouldn't otherwise have had.

The large boost to the Lib Dems in the polls is going to put a lot of attention on them now- especially from the more right-wing tabloids who want a Tory government.

However, I think at least some of this increase in support, possibly half, will hold.

It's going to be a very interesting May.

13 April 2010

"Big Society"

Or "compassionate conservatism" under another name. Just ask the Americans how eight years of that felt.

Electing police chiefs isn't a good idea.

11 April 2010

Reason to Vote Labour #2

Party Political Broadcast

Do you really think that cutting public sector jobs now will help the recovery? If we're going to make people unemployed, they ought to have jobs they can go to.

Otherwise, they'll just end up on the dole, not helping us recover.

10 April 2010

Comment moderation is back on

I don't appreciate being insulted- the offending comment has been deleted.

If you're going to criticise my world view (which said post completely distorted), please be civil about it.

04 April 2010

Happy Easter!

So on the third day, Jesus rose again. The apostles didn't believe it initially. Thomas needed to see proof.

A man triumphing over death is something awesome in itself. However, through this act, Jesus opened the way for us to follow. On the last day, we will be all be raised and those of us who follow Jesus will get our eternal reward. It will be frightening for those alive beforehand, but it will be worth it.

Happy Easter!

03 April 2010

Holy Week 6: Dead and Buried

So, Jesus was dead. In fact, they stabbed him with a sword just to make sure. A Jewish leader kindly let Jesus be buried in his family tomb- I don't know where he would have been buried otherwise, but I doubt it would be pleasant.

The tomb was sealed and two soldiers were placed on guard. A fully healthy man would have had difficulty getting out, let alone a dead one.

But the stone would be removed. Clearly you're not dealing with any ordinary man.

Jesus: fully human and fully divine. Omnipotent, omniscient and now, in the Holy Spirit, omnipresent.

There's more awesome to come.

02 April 2010

Holy Week 5: Good Friday

Good Friday's name seems like a bit of a misnomer. How can Jesus' death be good?

He was convicted of stirring up rebellion in a show trial. In fact, it wasn't even that- it was done "in camera" at night and with a bunch of bribed witnesses.

Then he was subjected to the most agonising form of execution imaginable, a humiliating barbaric punishment that often took days to kill its victims. The Roman Empire did not allow it be used on Roman citizens (a status held by a minority of Roman people, although Paul held it).

Jesus died in three hours, but those hours would be agonising to watch (especially for his mother), let alone actually experience.

However, it wasn't the action, but the result. Jesus opened the way to heaven for us sinners. Only the shedding of blood could ensure forgiveness in Jewish tradition- and God's son was the ultimate blood price.

That's why we call this Friday "Good".

01 April 2010

Holy Week 4: A Final Meal and a Final Night

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day when we remember the Last Supper.

Jesus and his disciples were having the traditional Passover meal, remembering another awesome moment of God, the rescuing of the Israelites from Egypt long previously. Then Jesus said "Take eat, this is my body".

Jesus was symbolising the fact that he was about to become a human and divine sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. This was very much his last meal before the horror of the following day.

Now, I was a Doctor Who fan before it was cool. Russell T Davies may be an atheist, but he's worked a fair number of religious metaphors into his scripts.

One scene you may well remember (in fact, you almost certainly do if you watch the show) is that scene from "The End of Time". The Time Lords have vanished and Wilf is stuck in the radiation booth. The Doctor realises that the only way he is going to stop Wilf getting a lethal dose of radiation is to go in there and take it himself.

Now, the Tenth Doctor rather likes being the Tenth Doctor and doesn't want to die. He gives an anguished, angry speech, then he sacrifices himself.

The Garden of Gethsemane is basically what was recreated (it's happened more than once in this show). Jesus, a man who makes the Guardians and the Time Lords look like Paul Daniels, wasn't happy about what he was about to go through.

But he did it. For all us poor Wilfs.

31 March 2010

Holy Week 3: The Treachery of Judas

30 pieces of silver for telling someone where someone was and identifying them in an age without photographs.

Judas got a fairly large sum for his treachery and his name became a synonym for treason.

It was all part of God's plan, although I can imagine that Jesus still wouldn't have been happy. He knew that he was going to be betrayed, but it still would have been a cruel moment.

Let's go back to the Pharisees. They wanted Jesus dead for one reason: to protect their position. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, as our Lord said.

May we never love material things more than God and may we never allow our greed to make us do terrible things.

I say that, of course, but we have all been Judases at some point or another.

29 March 2010

Holy Week 2: Driving Out The Thieves

A short one today and some food for thought:

There are still thieves in the House of God. They just con people in different ways and for different goals.

28 March 2010

The Ultimate Crowning Moment of Awesome: Holy Week

I'm a member of a site called TV Tropes (see my link bar), where we have a section of great, punch-the-air moments called "Crowning Moment of Awesome".

As a Christian, there is one moment that outshines them all as it involves the King of Kings, Jesus himself. Namely his death upon the cross and resurrection, allowing the forgiveness of our sins and admittance into the Kingdom of Heaven, which will put even the finest palaces to shame.

I'm starting this series, which I hope to do daily up to Easter Sunday, to reflect on this period and share the awesomeness of Jesus.

Firstly, there's the donkey-riding bit. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, the crowd throwing palm leaves in his path. I guess that's to protect the feet of the donkey, who is really the ultimate donkey. Donkeys are a bit of maligned species, compared to horses and ponies. It's a sign of our Lord's humility that he chose a donkey rather than the traditional horse of a conqueror.

Since we're on the subject of conquest, the crowd thought that Jesus would come to liberate them from the tyranny of the Romans. He wasn't, but he will one day (we don't know when) come to liberate all of us from sin, evil and the works of the ultimate Big Bad, Satan.

That final battle will be ultimate form of Nightmare Fuel, but what we get afterwards will be worth it for those who follow Jesus.

20 February 2010

Reason to Vote Labour #1

In November 2009, we had an unemployment rate lower than France, Italy, the USA and Spain.

(Source: Eurostat)

11 February 2010

Iranian protests

Just a thought: have you ever seen a pro-government rally in a democracy?

27 January 2010

Holocaust Memorial Day

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

May we never forget.

20 January 2010

Happy Anniversary, Mr. President. Here's a Republican Senator!

Barack Obama's first year in office has been a lot of construction work and little actual results. I'm struggling to think of an actual thing he's achieved.

The goodwill that he's initially had is evaporating fast, in many ways he's more hawkish than Bush and people are getting impatient. As demonstrated in Massachusetts (yes, spelt it right first time!), although other factors really came into play, where it was more Democrats staying at home that led to Brown's victory.

Healthcare is in serious trouble and if Obama loses that, he's in serious trouble.

I refer you to my post last year.

17 January 2010


The devastation in Haiti is simply mind-boggling. It's going to be years before the infrastructure will be rebuilt to even pre-quake standard.

Aid is starting to arrive and hopefully, with the grace of God, it will save lives.

God didn't cause this quake- why would he? - but he is helping through the hands of many people giving their money and time.

My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by a disaster still unfolding.

12 January 2010

Miep Gies dies

Jams says it all.

One of the many who risked their lives to protect Jews from the Nazis.

Rest in Peace.