back to article Here's how the missile-free Royal Navy can sink enemy ships after 2018

The solution to the Royal Navy’s post-2018 problem of having no anti-ship weapons is already in service and can even equip the UK’s new aircraft carriers. The Fairey Swordfish (pictured above) is a versatile, rugged torpedo bomber first introduced into service in the 1930s. Having outlived everything introduced to replace it …

  1. Jan 0 Silver badge

    Truly Splendid!

    Local joineries and engineering workshops could churn these out by the thousand, funded by a whip 'round at local workplaces. They could take off* from the nearest road, although hundreds of small agricultural businesses seem to have their animal sheds dotted around what look suspiciously like runways.

    *to land on our aircraft carriers.

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Truly Splendid!

      Nobody has yet taken me up on the offer of using redundant knicker-elastic as traps for HMS Queen Bess. Just let me know RN if you need it. Don't be too proud to ask.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: Truly Splendid!

        If it a choice between no anti-ship weapons and these, having these wins hands down. They might be obsolescent, but they are just as lethal as they were in 1940.

        The only problem is that the Ministry of Defence would doubtless find a way of arsing up their acquisition as usual, which is fundamentally why the RN is in this mess in the first place. Probably sign 50 year leases with some price gouging PFI contractor to hire them for £200 million per plane per year (inflation index linked), with first deliveries arriving in 2030.

  2. Jemma

    Stringbag for president...

    It's probably more lucid and definately spits out less crap (except on a really cold morning).

    And it probably does more miles to the gallon than the average US car too so it's good for the environment (the F35 doesn't count, it hasn't been able to stay up long enough for people to work it out).

    I'd stay away from ASDA petrol though..

  3. /tmp

    lack of stealth ?!

    But "with a straightforward wood-and-canvas construction" the Swordfish would be quite stealthy indeed!

    Well, there is the engine and that torpedo dangling beneath, but still - with such a small radar cross section and such a slow speed who would consider it a threat?

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: lack of stealth ?!

      Indeed - no automatic system designed after, say, the mid-1960ies would register a Swordfish as a threat (if it would register a Swordfish at all).

      You know, this could actually work.

      1. Mark 85

        Re: lack of stealth ?!

        I came here to make the same comment. It could. Then there's the possibility of reviving the Mosquito which could carry bombs.

        1. Ian 55

          Re: lack of stealth ?!

          I'd love to fly a Mosquito...

          1. Jemma

            Re: lack of stealth ?!

            I wouldn't, from all accounts they had some nasty habits, especially on take off, get it wrong or back off the throttle at the wrong time and they'd go into the nastiest strangest stall I've ever seen, one managed to kill two expert pilots and even the air crash investigation people were flummoxed until they talked to some of the ww2 pilots, I can't remember what caused it but it was REALLY obscure.

        2. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: lack of stealth ?!

          +1 for the Mosquito. I bet it could be made to work. The thing is probably even strong and solid enough to mount a few modern weapons systems. Wikipedia says there was a carrier-borne version, albeit just a small number.


          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: lack of stealth ?!

            The carrier version was called the Sea Hornet I think.

            Eric "Winkle" Brown was the first idiot to try using one off a carrier. I seem to remember that your approach speed had to be lower than the stall speed and that taking off was even more hairy. To save money (and production difficulties) we didn't equip our wartime multi engine planes with different handed engines. The downside of this is that the torque from the props rotating the same way pulls the plane off to the side on takeoff. I think he and his engineering team worked out that he'd have a couple of feet to spare before falling off the side of the carrier, so he tried it.

            Then again, this is also the guy who tested the German rocket planes - often with incomplete manuals. And also landed the Gloster Meteor version without undercarriage on a carrier. The idea being take away the undercarriage, save weight, deal with horrible fuel consumption. So the plane took off using a sled, and landed by stalling onto a giant rubber trampoline thing.

            Phew what a looney!

            1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

              Re: lack of stealth ?!

              The Mosquito and Hornet were different aircraft. Both wooden and twin engined. The Mosquito was originally a fast, unarmed bomber with a crew of two. The Hornet was a single seat fighter. Both were developed for carriers. The Hornet was developed some three or four years after the Mosquito.

              They did look very similar.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: lack of stealth ?!

                I wonder what is the return signal for timber.

                Except for the props and engine and windshields, the whole bloody Mosquito is made out of spruce and plywood.

            2. Jemma

              Re: lack of stealth ?!

              He was mates with Hannah Reich and had to interrogate her when the allies got their paws on her, he from his own account was not impressed with how she'd changed - he was most impressed with the 262 however. The he 177 grief (very apt name) not so much, controls were too light (still at least his didn't catch fire).

              As to the carrier landings he held the world record at something like 2500 in the most different aircraft, the Navy tried to have one of their men compete - the guy got to 1400 or so, and then ended up going doolally from the stress of it. I have no doubt Brown would have tried a carrier landing in a B36 if he knew he could get away with it, but he never ever took unnecessary risks, that's why he survived.

              I think I recall him saying of the 163B that it was dangerous in two ways, one the hypergolic fuels (that were explosive on their own as vapour "whatever you do... Don't bounce (Cos you wont have time to blink)" and because the aircraft out performed the pilots brain. I think from memory he's the only pilot to forget to drop the dolly, do a circuit and land, and not either be blown to smithereens or spend the next 6 months having his spine rearranged.

              I'm not sure whether this is right but depending on the radar set I would imagine the propeller of the aircraft would make for a large contact, depending on the scan rate of the radar compared to the rpm of the prop what the radar might see is a huge contiguous metal plate that's about as stealthy as Farage's agenda.. A 45 degree angled panel front fairing in front of a ducted fan prop might solve that problem partially... Oh and an electric starter would be a good idea.

              1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
              2. john_manyjars

                Re: lack of stealth ?!

                Re He177, I recall reading that it was one of few airplanes Brown flew that he did not like at all.

                The requirement by the RLM for the airplane to be capable of dive-bombing burdened it with some...'interesting' design compromises.

              3. tony2heads

                Re: lack of stealth ?!

                Hannah Reitsch

                BTW my father-in-law was Telegraphist Air Gunner in Swordfishes. They were trying to avoid a German fighter which was MUCH faster, so the pilot took them down to street level in a Norwegian town where they could turn through side streets, but their pursuer could not as he would stall at that speed.

                I have heard that the Swordfish's stall speed was about 50mph

                Would love to hear from any Norwegians to confirm the tale.

              4. RockBurner

                Re: lack of stealth ?!

                RE the Prop - I'm not radar expert, but the prop on a Stringbag is wood.... does that make a difference?

            3. Hardrada

              Re: lack of stealth ?!

              "To save money (and production difficulties) we didn't equip our wartime multi engine planes with different handed engines. The downside of this is that the torque from the props rotating the same way pulls the plane off to the side on takeoff."

              I'm a Yank, but I believe that the Mossie had canted engine nacelles (slightly up on one side, down on the other) to counteract prop torque.

              1. john_manyjars

                Re: lack of stealth ?!

                I think they would have been offset from the centerline to counteract torque, rather than elevated or depressed.

            4. Mooseman Silver badge


              The man was a nutter. His book is wonderful.

          2. Steve the Cynic

            Re: lack of stealth ?!

            "+1 for the Mosquito. I bet it could be made to work. The thing is probably even strong and solid enough to mount a few modern weapons systems."

            Well, don't forget the "Tsetse", a Mosquito built with a 57mm anti-tank gun. (Officially, and boringly, designated "Mosquito FB Mk XVIII".)

            After the war, apparently, they tried something ... larger ... , the Ordnance QF 32 pounder, a 96mm weapon equipped with a novel form of muzzle brake, firing 32-pound AP shells at 877 m/s. They built one, and flew it, and even fired live rounds from it without problems. Then they scrapped it. (I hear a familiar refrain...)

            1. Public Citizen

              Re: lack of stealth ?!

              That's "muzzle break" as in bleeds/breaks the effect of the muzzle blast by bleeding off part of the pressure just before the projectile leaves the end of the barrel.

              This improves the accuracy by lessening muzzle deflection and also increases the stability of the projectile as it is leaving the barrel.

            2. Gordon 8

              Re: lack of stealth ?!

              The problem with the Mosquito was not lining up on the center of the desk due to a long wingspan (for a carrier aircraft), putting the plane on the wrong side of the desk to deal with the torque swing on take off.

              the biography of Eric 'Winkle' Brown ;Wings on my Sleeve' is well worth the read. On my Kindle at the moment ;-)

              First man to land a Jet on a carrier, first tricycle aircraft on a carrier, first helicopter pickup from Submarine.......

              Also landed a Vampire on a Flexible Deck on HMS Warrior

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: lack of stealth ?!

          Stealth doesn't matter for most of current roles.

          They should buy and use a huge number dirt cheap Hawk variants.

          The Goshawk has even been carrier enabled

          already, and keep a small number of F35's for when the enemy uses something better than machetes.

          Red arrows to the attack !!

        4. john_manyjars

          Re: lack of stealth ?!

          I wonder if the skilled labor could be found to build Mosquitoes in quantity; I imagine such exquisite lines took some doing to fashion from plywood and glue.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: lack of stealth ?!

        It's sort of like a mega-drone isn't it? ;)

      3. Public Citizen

        Re: lack of stealth ?!

        If you applied stealth technologies to the powerplant and a radar reflective sheath/housing for the torpedo this would make this a real low cost solution. given the size of the airframe and the available lift it would also be possible to apply drone technology to remove the pilot from the cockpit, making it not just possible but practical to use "swarm" tactics against nautical targets.

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: lack of stealth ?!

      The torpedo doesn't have to be WW2 vintage -- a modern version would be smaller, lighter, more intelligent and infinitely more deadly.

      Incidentally, the problem the German gunners had with it was that their state-of-the-art predictors for calculating lead for their guns wouldn't work for planes flying slower than about 100mph. They couldn't draw a bead on the things.

  4. seven of five

    Could carry the SLAM-ER

    ironically, the Swordfish would be able to carry around a SLAM-ER, which is the air launched version of said, just abolished, Harpoon...

    Can we have the Missle controleable by a tablet? So the rear gunner might make uso of it? How hard can it be? (and what could *possibly* go wrong?)

    1. Jemma

      Re: Could carry the SLAM-ER

      If they decided on the Albacore, the Stringbag's slightly younger brother, it'd be able to carry the AGM-131, or SRAM II. A 1930s nuclear bomber, I'd love to see Winkle Brown's face at the thought..

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it just me, or...

    Or is the rear gunner in that photo (who, curiously, appears to be wearing a modern jet pilot's helmet and oxy mask) making a rude gesture at the audience?

    If the radar signature of the bombs is too large, I expect they could reach back even further to earliest WW1 practice and drop hand grenades on the enemy.

    1. Baldy50

      Re: Is it just me, or...

      Not sure about the helmet but, boy are his thumbs big!

      Not sure it'd work long term, but can imagine the enemy captain trying to find out if there's a vintage air show on just before the BOOM!

      Made me laugh, ta Gareth, guys.

    2. A. Coatsworth Silver badge

      Re: Is it just me, or...

      The huge res version of this pic in Wikipedia (2709 x 1806) clearly shows that yes, they're using modern helmets and masks, and that they wear white gloves with dark palms which make their thumbs look huge.

      Wikipedia also duly informs me that plane NF389 is being currently restored for the Historic Flight. That would suppose a 50% increase in striking power for Gareth's idea in a few months. Beat *THAT*, Lockheed!

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Martin Milan


    It is indeed a tragedy that the Fleet Air Arm, and indeed the wider navy, have gone to pieces just as we have lost Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown...

    This is what happens when you dispose of men of his calibre and replace them with a heddy mix of civil servants and lawyers.

    Winkle will be spinning in his grave...

  8. aui

    Thunderbird 6 anyone?

    (Almost) real life imitating art...

  9. John Jennings

    Actually, a mosquito

    only needed 140M for takeoff as well.... 4 canons on the front - more firepower than those figates. and did over 2 miles per gallon, with 900 miles range!

    Almost seriously though, the swordfish would make an excellent replacement - its unlikely almost any modern frigate could lock them, and with a few mods, it could be IR invisible, practically (just wet the canvas, and fit a better exhaust :) ) Modern british torps have a range of about 30nautical miles - so well out of range of small arms fire. Trouble would be that most military helicopters are faster - so you might need that rear gunner afterall.....

    1. Denarius Silver badge

      Re: Actually, a mosquito

      or a Seafire with a RATO unit ? Lets put the warbird movement on a sound financial footing. Given the number of hard headed beancounters and PHBs around western militaries, they could be used as kinetic energy penetrator weapons. Do enough damage to their own side. My coats the one with "War in a String Bag" in pocket...

      1. You aint sin me, roit

        Re: Actually, a mosquito

        Or just sling a Sting Ray torpedo under a helicopter... like the Navy already does.

        The myth that our ships have limited offensive capability is only perpetuated by people who forget that they carry helicopters.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Actually, a mosquito

      Modern British torps are nearly an order of magnitude heavier than the torps carried by the Swordfish. There is no way you can load one on anything smaller than a Mosquito.

      While all of this discussion seems somewhat in jest, a small, slow subsonic aircraft built out of composite materials is something sorely missing from most naval forces inventory. If it can make effective use of the surface effect it needs much less energy when flying too - much lower IR signature too.

      Though as it is least likely to be able to carry anything particularly big in terms of ordnance a loiter munition/kamikaze drone is probably a better option.

      1. JustNiz

        Re: Actually, a mosquito

        Given most battleships these days have hardly any armour especially when compared to those in WW2, and are all about stealth, we probably don't even need big heavy hi-tech/smart torps.

        In fact the more braindead simple it is, the far less likely an enemy would be able to jam it.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Actually, a mosquito

          Given most battleships these days have hardly any armor

          Correct. You need a very small fraction of the warhead size which was needed to knock out something like Richelieu, Bismark, Yamato or Aiowa class battleship. Those could take 3-4 600mm torpedo hits and still function. A modern navy ship - not so much. The only ones that may need more than one are Nimitz class aircraft carriers and even they will probably stop launching after a successful hit.

          In fact the more braindead simple it is, the far less likely an enemy would be able to jam it.

          Maybe. Maybe not. While modern surface ships are less armored most of them are significantly more maneuverable. They also have CIWS so a torpedo has to literally "surface from under" the ship to get through. A WW2 air-launched torpedo approaching at a couple of feet depth will be knocked out. At the very least they have to attack at higher depths - 2-3m or thereabouts. The best idea is probably not the British models, but a replica of the German ones from the end of the war (though german submariners hated them). These were electric (no trail) and had a timer. So if they did not hit the target once the timer expired they started spinning in an expanding spiral until they hit something. Throw 3 of these and no ship regardless of how maneuverable it is will be able to escape.

          1. SkippyBing

            Re: Actually, a mosquito

            'The best idea is probably not the British models, but a replica of the German ones from the end of the war (though german submariners hated them). '

            Or just a modern torpedo, they have plenty of tricks for re-attacking missed targets and wouldn't require setting up a production line for an obsolete design.

            1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

              Re: Actually, a mosquito

              Or just a modern torpedo,

              Sure, it can launch a Sting Ray or any of the other ASW lightweight torps - they can be air dropped. They do not do a lot of damage - 45kg of HE will knock out a sub. They will not be enough even for most modern lightly armored ships. It will damage them, but not knock them out. The heavy torps (which are nowdays predominantly made for submarines) are out of the question as they are in the > 1.5 ton range and not adapted for air launch.

              Compared to a Sting Ray WW2 torpedo carried by Swordfish had 250kg+ warhead. 250kg of HE (I know the WW2 was not HE, just good old TNT) will split anything short of an aircraft carrier or heavy cruiser in two with one hit.

              So if we continue the idea of torpedo aviation (lots of it is in jest), it will need proper air launched torpedoes. Not ASW weapons like the Sting Ray. In the absence of such weapons a clone of the more advanced late-WW2 anti-ship torpedoes +/- newer guidance may not be such a bad idea.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How embarrassing for this country not only do we have an aircraft carrier that we won't be able to afford to run not to mention the seconds already up for sale but this must be an early April fools joke. The Swordfish was good seventy years ago but it hasn't the range unless our carrier parks next door to it's target and it doesn't move. R.N. don't bother your a joke already.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    How embarrassing for our navy being issued seventy year old museum pieces for an aircraft carrier that we wont be able to use because we can't afford to fuel, give it up and put it on the market along with the other one.

    1. Mooseman Silver badge

      Re: Joke

      How embarrassing you don't get the joke......

  12. The Fifties Child

    The Fifties Child

    If my memory serves me correctly, the ORIGINAL project number for the 1930's Stringbag was TSR2.

    So let's rename the Swordfish to TSR2, and it will scare the pants off any potential enemy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Fifties Child

      The Swordfish was TSR II, not TSR-2.

      My late uncle flew in the back seat of Stringbags at the end of WWII. He was still fascinated by planes when I knew him in the 60s and 70s, when his house was decorated with model aircraft strung from the ceiling. One model was of his take on the TSR-2 - a Swordfish fitted with a jet engine as a cheap'n'cheerful alternative to the wonder machine then threatened with cancellation by the Wilson government. He submitted a drawing of his imaginary plane to one of the aeronautical mags which apparently published it. It sounds like he was way ahead of his time.

  13. Citizen99

    For close-in defence of the carriers ...

    I see HMS Belfast was mentioned in another recent thread - allocate to HMS Elisabeth.

    Then how about HMS Warrior for HMS Prince of Wales ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: For close-in defence of the carriers ...

      Now you are talking :-)

    2. davyclam

      Re: For close-in defence of the carriers ...

      It was rumoured that HMS Warrior was to be towed to the South Atlantic as a decoy for the Exocets in 1982, since it's composite hull (whose uneconomic scrapping allowed it to survive so long) is practically impenetrable to modern weapons. Enable a large heat/radar signature and suck up all the Exocets.

  14. Paul_Murphy

    War in a stringbag

    I can't recall the author but the title stays with me,

    I recall one story about the stringbag when they were deciding what the max safe landing load would be and ended up slamming the fully loaded swordfish onto the deck as hard as they could - they saw the undercarriage splaying apart each time but the swordfish kept going - as I recall they got bored rather than finding the limits of the planes undercarriage.

    There is also the Buccaneer but that would need catapults.

  15. MJI Silver badge


    Buccaneer, just ram them and carry on.

    Mosquito, nice.

    How about one resident of Cosford and another of Duxford?

    THE TSR2s

    However do they need the missiles if they have an Astute following them.

    1. detritus

      Re: Hmmm

      The Buccaneer was one of Britain's most beautiful planes, in my opinion.

      I know you're joking, but I've often wondered what's to stop us taking an existing successful framework and re-developing it using contemporary technology.

      Heck, why not a carrier-variant of the Typhoon?

      From the little I know, it appears that much of stealth's capability is over-sold.

      1. davyclam

        Re: Hmmm

        Given the tone of this thread I presume that you mean the 1945 Typhoon ?

  16. pharmacyst

    Why can't the anti-aircraft missiles be designed and equipped to hit surface targets ? The old Seaslug could with MICAWBER -Missile In Constant Altitude While BEam Riding.

    1. SkippyBing

      They probably can, Sea Dart certainly could, but the warhead to take out an aircraft is probably not that effective against anything other than a soft skinned surface vessel. Generally for a SAM hitting the target is an optional extra exploding near it and throwing a lot of shrapnel through it is good enough. For a ship it's best to have the explosion happen inside it, certainly in the Falklands the secondary fires etc. caused by that were what led to ships being lost.

  17. pharmacyst

    The Swordfish was the TSR1, hence the sophisticated (for it's time) 1960s jet strike plane became the TSR2.

    The reason the Swordfish were successful against the Bismarck was, according to one of it's crew, because the ship was turning hard first one way then the other and heeling over very substantially thus making aiming FLAK guns rather difficult, whilst the Swordfish were also maneuvering violently to avoid damage. Hard to believe the Kriegsmarine really thought the Swordfish was capable of more than 200kph. The Albacore - a Swordfish with a more powerful but heavier engine was not so nimble and so the Bismarck's sister ship Tirpitz managed to shoot some down.

    1. SkippyBing

      No, the Swordfish was the TSR2 - Torpedo, Spotter, Reconnaissance, having grown from the TSR1 design for an slightly earlier requirement. However these were both internal designations by Fairey rather than the Admiralty or Air Ministry.

      The later TSR2 stood for Tactical Strike and Reconnaissance, Strike meaning nuclear, the 2 was for the Mach 2 target speed. Again this wouldn't be an official designation but they never got round to giving it one although something like Eagle S1 would have been likely for the initial batch.

    2. The Fifties Child

      The original prototype (F1875) for the Swordfish was indeed designated as Torpedo-Spotter-Reconnaissance 1 (TSR1). However, when this fell out of the sky in 1933, work continued on a more advanced version, (K4190), and this became the TSR2 and flew in April 1934. The 1960's jet was a Tactical, (Nuclear) Strike and Reconnaissance bomber, scrapped by a Labour government under the guise of economy. But how much was then spent on its replacements, F111 (cancelled), Phantom F4, and Buccaneer for the RAF (many of which were ex-RN), and why were the manufacturing jigs for the TSR2 destroyed at the behest of HM Government. - Sorry I digress..........

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I believe the Canberra was the Tactical strike and reconnaissance 1 and not the Swordfish.

  18. JustNiz

    Gets my vote. Another advantage of the Swordfish is that its pretty much 100% EMP-proof.

    I mean what do we need those stupidly expensive, buggy and fault-prone F35s for? Who would want to invade the UK anyway?

  19. x 7

    couple of thoughts.......

    first, a slow fast-turning aircraft like the Swordfish would be bloody hard for a modern jet to shoot down. The jet couldn't fly slow enough, or turn sharply enough, to get a radar lock - and the IR signature would be tiny

    second, the RN Historic Flight are still looking for the torpedo which fell off one of the Swordfish around 25 years ago while en route from Dunkeswell to Yeovilton after a display. They know it fell off, but they never managed to work out where, despite repeated searches. Thats why they don't display with torpedoes attached any more. If you find it, the Navy still want it back please

  20. Martyn 1

    My Mam used to make them during the war, and Dad serviced them (in the Fleet Air Arm)

    I expect they could both be encouraged out of their sheltered housing to defend the country once again :-)

    1. recombinant

      My old geography teacher used to pilot a Fairey Swordfish during WW2 in the Far East. He said he was happier in the air than on the aircraft carrier. Dodging Mitsubishi Zeros was preferable to being a sitting duck - any sign of a threat and he'd scramble to get airborn.

      Apparently the Japanese used to sneak attack the Swordfish from underneath - this was remedied quickly by putting glass windows in the underside of the planes. Not for the squeamish - the air crew did not like looking down.

      I can't remember if he ever mentioned launching a torpedo...

      1. Mooseman Silver badge

        My old French teacher flew Beauforts alongside the Swordfish.

  21. Milton

    If you find [the torpedo] the Navy still want it back please

    Oh really? And what am I to put on the mantelpiece instead, pray?

  22. bombastic bob Silver badge

    Arthur C. Clarke's "Superiority"

    "German anti-aircraft gunners aboard the battleship Tirpitz were reportedly unable to hit attacking Swordfish because they flew so slowly the gunners, used to fast modern aircraft, kept missing in front of them."

    Like it was taken RIGHT OUT of Arthur C. Clarke's 'Superiority'.

    And the converse is also true: all of this "bleeding edge" tech and no effective way to sink an enemy ship.

    Besides, as I understand it, those old wooden biplanes can turn on a dime, and take a zillion hits before they actually crash. Just wear a flack jacket when you fly them...

    NO school like the OLD school, eh?

    1. GrumpyKiwi

      Re: Arthur C. Clarke's "Superiority"

      Err nope. It just appears that the German navy didn't do a very good job at training AA gunners.

      When the RN mounted repeated carrier attacks on the Tirpitz in 1944 with modern aircraft, the German gunners did equally poorly. It was only thanks to the smoke screen generators that the Tirpitz remained afloat at all.

      1. briesmith

        Re: Arthur C. Clarke's "Superiority"

        When we launched a Swordfish squadron of 6 aircraft against the Nazi "Channel dash" fleet in 1942, the German gunners shot them all down. Some described sending them - led by a hero of the earlier Bismark chase and sinking, Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde - as nothing less than murder. (See and other refs.)

        I know there's been a lot of tongue in cheek stuff flying around here about methods we could adopt in extremis because our navy has pretty much ceased to exist, but when I read the comments I can't help recalling how our guys tied general purpose machine guns to the rails of our ships in the Falklands in 1982 in an attempt to engage the Argentine air force and all because their navy bigwigs had decided they could once again engage aircraft with ships - only this time, unlike all the previous times, successfully - and, no, they didn't need CIWS.

        40 years earlier Cunningham had basically guaranteed defeat by the Japanese by offering up the only modern ships we then had to oppose them with, to the German air force in the Mediterranean in an early try-out of the Monty Python Black Night strategy. To see that repeated in the Falklands, and to know it will happen again whenever serious conflict returns, sort of takes the edge of the humour here.

  23. Chris Hunt

    It's Green too!

    Being made mostly from wood and canvas, the stringbag would be biodegradable and have a much smaller carbon footprint than any jet equivalent.

  24. UKExpat

    What a stupid / moronic article! Clearly there must be absolutely nothing remiss in the current navy if the only subject that can be penned is full of such, utter nonsense. Surely it couldn't be a tacky attempt at sarcasm as "The Register" would never stoop so low as to publish such despicable low life trash.

  25. Spyhunter

    Correct re TSR2 for the dear old Fairey Swordfish!

    I knew Winkle Brown, a splendid chap. He was a smart cookie and very close to Naval Intelligence. He did not drop into Cranwell by accident the night before the first British jet flight. I once asked him he if ever test-flew the Bachem Natter, a very silly German kite, to which the answer was a firm no!

    We'd get a Swordfish off the deck of a Lizzie alright, with any sort of wind over the deck. They rarely used catapults in World War II and were flown off the tiny Empire Mac escort carriers, as well as the dear old HMS Hermes (the one sunk in 1942!).

    Provided you could get an 18" torpedo past a CIWS then yes, it would sink or disable most modern ships. They had a lot more punch than an Exocet.

    Not sure what the radar signature of a Stringbag was, but there wasn't a lot of metal for radar to bounce off! They were regarded, unfairly, as old-fashioned in 1939. It was actually a fairly modern design, roughly contemporary with the Spitfire, and a better aircraft than the Blackburn Shark it replaced. They were a huge success because of their ruggedness, payload-carrying capability and ability to get off and back onto very short decks, and pitching decks when a sea was running.

    They weren't just torpedo bombers - they could fire rockets, and drop bombs or depth charges.

    What they couldn't do was survive against modern fighter opposition, hence the tragedy of Eugene Esmonde and the Channel Dash, when they were asked to do too much with too little fighter cover.

    They did wonderful work, however, and in the hands of courageous crews sank lots of community partners.

    1. briesmith

      It's Not Always Funny

      I'm glad you mentioned Esmonde (lost with his entire squadron in about 5 minutes trying to stop the sailing of the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and other German naval units past Dover in broad daylight) who was, in fact, the hero of the Fleet Air Arm attack launched from the Ark Royal which crippled the Bismark and which allowed the Royal Navy time to concentrate sufficient ships - about 30 or so were deemed enough - to give the solitary German battleship a final seeing to.

      Glad because, without being too po faced about everything, it reminds us that when politicians, knavish contractors and an incompetent military get things wrong, young men (or people these days I suppose) get killed.

      The Swordfish was an embarrassment when it was introduced into service; open cockpits, no comms to speak off and no navigation or other aids, it was obsolete before it shipped. And this reality has come to pass over and over again since with our hopeless ships, armoured fighting vehicles, and missiles as well as our aircraft.

  26. john_manyjars

    If memory serves a Cold War tactic of the Soviets would have been to land Speznatz (sp.?) behind NATO lines using slow-flying AN-2 biplanes, similarly difficult to track with modern air defenses (but I'd hate to be the guy testing THAT hypothesis!)

  27. HurdImpropriety

    Swordfish radar cross section.... may be mis-categorized as a magma displacement or a seismic anomoly.... just sayin.

  28. ShadowDragon8685

    I hate to say it...

    Despite all the pisstaking, MIGHT a biplane be an effective 'cheap' low-and-slow slugger? A ground, or in this case, sea-attack aircraft, not unlike the Super Toucano?

    Obviously you wouldn't want to make it out of canvas and carpentry nowadays; we have advanced composites like carbon fiber and whatnot. Tap the auto industry's finest nutters to mount an engine which is as lightweight, fuel-efficient and powerful as possible, fit modern avionics packages and the like.

    I hate to say it, it sounds like this kind of a project, at least a discovery-prototyping stage, would be a piss in Loch Ness compared to the cost of acquiring the Great F-35 Boondoggle. (Yank here, I can say that about the piece of garbage.) If nothing else, you'll give a bunch of avgeeks and petrolheads sommat to do for a year or so.

  29. jonnyu1

    ROFL! :-)

  30. Gordon 8

    Maybe El Reg has something in storage?

    Somewhere there is LOHAN lurking (I do hope it flies one day)

    The Shed Engineers who designed LOHAN could probably come up with a workable low cost aeroplane for the RN. (I know Lester is gone, but there must be someone else with a shed out there)

    Plans for a Stingbag are available on the internet, a 3D printer and some Duct tape and we might have a winner (and a lot of fun with the acronyms as well)

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