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London’s new runway

There are again indications that we are close to being informed of the final decision on the new runway for one of London’s airports, Heathrow or Gatwick, both of which choices have nothing to commend them.  This Blog’s belief that the only practical solution to the congestion problem is to be found in the combination of “Boris Island” in the Thames Estuary and Manston a few miles to the south-east is unchanged, but Whitehall’s OODA principle (Obscurantism-Obfuscation-Delusion-Apathy) ensures that it will not even be considered.

Perhaps there is among our readers one who can help the Prime Minister, who may just possibly be still ruling the country in 2026, find an answer to this question:

What do we do, ten years from now, when we have to begin planning for an extra runway, “London’s fifth”?

Heathrow then will be impossible to enlarge, Gatwick will remain extremely inconvenient for road and rail access (M25 and M23 then being as clogged as carparks, and the rail service still stuck in the 20th century), the airspace above both still dangerously crowded, and the Boris-Manston integrated Freeport operation the only practical alternative.

As that is the solution for the future, why cannot it be adopted now?

Think about how much money would be saved, how much investment the London Freeport would attract, how much quieter West London would be, how much faster access to and departure from this Hub would be, and how much safer our crowded skies would be.

Think freely, not on tramlines.

How did we vote?

Many of our voters assumed we favoured Brexit.  Certainly FLIP, whose members are among those the Blog represents, did lean that way, but the ARAG members, influenced more by Defence considerations, held to the view that while Brexit would certainly be better for the UK, Remain would be better for the EU and thus, arguably, for Europe.

The preparation for the vote, especially the campaigns, was saddening, removing any residual faith in the honesty and intellectual maturity of our governors.  David Cameron and George Osborne had long been dismissed as lightweights, but nevertheless their Project Fear was astounding, as also was Alan Johnson’s accusation that the Brexit voters were “walking away from Europe!” — a geographical, historical, economic and religious impossibility.

The choice has been made; the die is cast.  The Prime Minister’s task now is to ensure that the EU understands the UK’s friendship is steadfast, that the UK will remain an economic helpmeet even as it secures what is best for the UK’s future, and that in the resistance to Islamist invasion we recognise Western Europe is indivisible.

The Golden Turkey

The MoD’s persistent attempts to persuade the taxpayers of the value the purchase of F-35B ‘Strike Aircraft’ will bring to the defence of British interests bring regular questions about what we might do to educate the public about the project’s futility.  We did cover the subject fairly in the White Elephants and Golden Turkeys article a few months ago, but our correspondents are correct: we ought to repeat the basic content with greater detail added.

In his interview today on the Andrew Marr show (BBC One), the Defence Secretary spoke of the increase in his budget, his success in meeting the NATO minimum of 2.0 per cent of GDP (no, he did not explain that this was achieved by redefining what was included), and that it was his responsibility to spend the budget wisely.  The F-35B decisions are now his.

In the absence of an update on the F-35B problems from America, here is a dispatch from our correspondent in 15th century Samarkand that may help understanding of the origins of the F-35 designers’ insoluble torment.

Nasruddin and the Samarkand JSF

Alacrity was not a quality readily associated with Nasruddin, the famous Philosopher-Fool, who liked to think long about the answers demanded of him, praying always that his interrogators while waiting would forget their questions, so when the Grand Vizier summoned him to Samarkand he moved slowly, taking a week.  

It was cool in the council chamber.  “We are advised,” the Grand Vizier began with a nod to the smirking youth beside him, “that instead of our warriors using Arabian camels for speed and Bactrian camels for support, it would be less expensive and more cost-effective to have a new camel with the speed of the Arabian and the strength of the Bactrian.  You are to arrange this.  You are to breed a Special Fighter, an SF.  This is Ahmed’s recommendation, and he promises me there will be a large market for our SF.”  He nodded towards his companion.  “You are a holy man, Mullah, and this simple task will be easy for a Sufi of your accomplishments.”  

“But I know nothing of war, Excellency,” began a horrified Nasruddin, who knows well the fate of those who fail to fulfil the Grand Vizier’s dreams.

“Such knowledge is unnecessary.  This is a project under your command, and all you need to know is how to manage it.  Management is the task of the commanders.  War is for the warriors. Managerial skills are yours, so Command is for you.  Details are for them.  A bag of gold awaits you at the stables.”

“But, Excellency, why not Ahmed?” asked Nazruddin.  “If it is his idea, surely he will be best suited to command the project.  He is obviously a very experienced warrior to be able to decide exactly what is wanted.”

The Grand Vizier waved his hand.  The audience was ended.  Ahmed left the chamber with him, still smirking, obviously the current favourite and thus invulnerable.

As Nasruddin made his way slowly to the stables of the Grand Vizier’s Guard, he wondered why the Grand Vizier had not chosen the obvious and far cheaper solution of combining speed with utility by buying a regiment of golden horses from Ashgabat, already proven in war to be supreme, both fast and versatile.  It must be the deplored influence of Ahmed, he thought, preying on a weak man’s thirst for glory.  So he asked for a stallion and a mare from both the Arabian and the Bactrian yards, and ordered that the appropriate couplings be arranged when the mares were next ready to be covered.  There was no hurry, he said, for the mares would not be in season until the sun headed north.  Then, as he collected the gold and turned to leave, he found the degenerate Ahmed grinning at him like a deranged hyena.

“There’s been a change,” Ahmed said, “a minor modification, but it must be incorporated without extra cost.  We have decided that the new SF will have more than teeth and hooves: they must have an extra weapon, a long spike jutting forward from the forehead.” 

“Well,” said Nasruddin, “that will be a task for the armourers and saddlers, not for me.”

“No, Mullah,” said Ahmed, “you do not understand.  You must bring a unicorn into the bloodline.  The spike must come from the skull.”  He laughed, prompting Nasruddin to realise that for Ahmed the project was just a way of becoming rich, that the result of Nasruddin’s dedicated work would never be of any use in battle.  (And the basic idea of marrying the speed of an Arabian to the endurance of the twin-humped Bactrian would give a compromise too slow to fight, too cumbersome to turn quickly, too stupid to use its teeth effectively, too weak to travel far without water, and in battle against elephants too terrified to respond to the reins.)

Why a unicorn?” asked Nasruddin.  “A detachable spike and harness can be quickly changed if damaged in battle and thus must surely be preferred.”

“Oh, Mullah,” laughed Armed, “again you have failed to understand. We are not breeding the SFs for battle, we are breeding them to bring gold to the treasury.  We have learned that the Sultan intends to convert his Constantinople Janissaries into cavalry, invisible cavalry, warriors impossible to fight when they are mounted on invisible unicorns, and he will pay well for them.

But where, wondered a mystified Nasruddin, could an invisible unicorn be found today, and he returned to Tashkent none the wiser and uncharacteristically pessimistic until he remembered the old magus who lived in solitude in a cave below the citadel.  He would know — and he did.

“I can tell you where to find them,” he said. “They’re high in the Hindu Kush, but they are fierce animals.  You will never see a mare, of course, because they are invisible, and the stallions, as you may know, can be pacified only by virgins on the night of a new moon.  So first find your virgin, but don’t go near a unicorn unless she is present, whispering to him.  Without her whispers he will kill you.  He will stomp and trample and bite, and then violate, and the pain of that magical horn is exquisite and lethal.  You never hear of anyone surviving a unicorn rape, do you?”

Five months later, when Nasruddin returned to the Guards’ stables accompanied by a virgin riding a unicorn, he learned that both his camel mares were in foal, but even if one of the foals was a mare it would still take some time before it could be covered safely by the unicorn (for unicorns are large and heavy).  This programme would need several years, sufficient, he hoped, for the Grand Vizier to tire of Ahmed and his fantasies, a breach now undoubtedly necessary for Nasruddin’s health, for every warrior he had consulted had predicted failure — on the basis that in battle they needed a mount that would perform excellently at the job it was bred to do, not a mount that, while capable of two different jobs, would have him killed because it was not quite as good as it ought to be at the critical moment.

Ahmed then appeared.  “I’m pleased you’re back, at last, for we have agreed another small modification that will increase the value of the invisible SF and, when we sell them to other warriors the rewards will be very substantial.  Unfortunately, you will need more gold, we know that, and so we have taken gold from the warriors who want to buy.  For them it is an investment, a joint enterprise, and so the SF will now be known as a Joint Stealthy Fighter, a JSF.”

“Well, what is this new modification that will cost so much gold?” asked Nasruddin.

“We want the JSF to fly.”

“What?  You’re serious?  You mean fly like a gryphon?  Don’t tell me you want a gryphon in the bloodline.  It can’t be done.  You are mad.  Have you never seen a male gryphon?  Huge, they’re huge, and covered in spikes.  Our mares will die of fright if presented to gryphons.”  Nasruddin had lost his fear of the Grand Vizier and was now determined to oust Ahmed from the court.

“You’re inventing problems,” said Ahmed.  “I’ll report you to His Excellency.  Female gryphons can be covered by the Arabian and Bactrian stallions and then the program will continue from there, but you can work in parallel by offering a gryphon to the unicorn.  It’s called concurrency.  I shall inform His Excellency.”

Nasruddin was thinking deeply.  Looking over Ahmed’s shoulder he could see that the virgin, having stabled the unicorn, was now being led away to their quarters, leaving her charge tethered but already fretting at her absence.

“You really have problems understanding this programme,“ he said.  “The last female gryphon known was in Scotland, an infidel realm on the edge of Europe, and she was seen to seize four oxen yoked to the plough and to carry them off, with the plough, which it dropped as uneatable.  That would have probably been just her breakfast.  They’re twice the size of the males.  It’s a matter of scale, and you have no experience of scale, have you?  But, I’ll help you.  The unicorn there, as you see, is a little bigger than a horse.  Go into his stall and brush his hide, stroke his horn, talk to him but remember he’s deaf, so shout at him, tell him that instead of the young girl you will now be looking after him.  He’ll like that.”

And that is how Nasruddin, the Philosopher-Fool, killed the JSF project.

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