This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, a brief but important air operation against Japanese shipping that has historically received comparatively little coverage, but which was vital in turning the tide of the war in the Pacific. In March 1943 Japan’s vital supply base at Rabaul on New Britain was neutralised by an outstanding combination of Allied airpower, American and Australian aerial forces demonstrating imagination and determination to thwart Japan’s movement of troops and materiel to New Guinea by sea. The Battle was not without controversy, the uncompromising brutality of “total war” rising to the surface on both sides – an aspect Australian historian Jarryd Cripps does not shy away from in the opening feature in this issue.
Guy Ellis takes a look at the air operations undertaken by the Commonwealth Monitoring Force during the ceasefire and elections that saw the end of Rhodesia’s Bush War and the establishment of the new Republic of Zimbabwe in 1980, in which the British Army’s helicopters played a major role.
The British Army also takes centre stage in Professor Keith Hayward’s examination of Operation Convertible, a series of trials in the 1990s exploring the idea of using airships as surveillance platforms in the troubled areas of Northern Ireland. The economics were sound and the hardware was up to the job (despite offering a sizeable target for the paramilitaries), but – happily – a political solution was found instead, obviating the need for a low-speed hover-capable platform.
Meanwhile the advantages – and challenges – of standing still while airborne (“an unnatural act”) became very clear to USAF pilot Col John W. Zink when he changed his day-job from flying high and fast in the mighty F-4 Phantom to operating from a hole in the woods in the much smaller Harrier GR.3 during his officer exchange posting to the RAF’s No 1 (F) Sqn. His first-hand recollections form TAH45’s cover story.
British military aviation of an earlier age owed much to the Vickers Mk I 0.303in machine-gun, which equipped the RAF’s fighters from the First World War through to the beginning of the Second. In theseries on significant UK aerial weapons, technical illustrator Ian Bott and armaments historian Mark Russell turn their attention to the details and development of this ubiquitous firearm.
Elsewhere in the current issue, is the curious apparent suicide in 1930 of a German widow who fell from an airborne Dornier airliner; an unbuilt design by the Cunliffe-Owen company for a multi-engined transatlantic airliner; a series of mid-1950s North American advanced military jet interceptor projects; flying the Gulfstream I turboprop; a plan for the Argentinian Navy to buy Supermarine Seafires from Britain; and dive-bombing exercises in the Hawker Sea Hawk.
All this – and much more