By lex, on March 23rd, 2009
It’s not enough that they gave us the English language, the rule of law, accountability in government and a stiff(ish) upper lip. Now the Brits are taking credit for the development of TOPGUN (one word, all caps, don’t ask):
Despite the all-American hero imagery of the film starring Tom Cruise, the US Navy’s expertise was in large part due to their instruction by aviators from the Fleet Air Arm.
When British pilots arrived at Miramar airbase in California in the early 1960s the Americans were losing a large number of dogfights in their multi-million Phantom fighters to the enemy’s relatively “cheap” MiG 21s.
The tuition from the British pilots, all graduates of the intense Air Warfare Instructors school in Lossiemouth, Scotland, led to the Americans dominating the skies, the military historian Rowland White has revealed in Phoenix Squadron.
It was then that their Naval Warfare Academy became known as Top Gun.
Well. That forms no part of the institutional memory of the institution I was a part of. In fact, the staff in my day paid a great deal more obeisance to the Israeli Air Force than the Brits, who after all, hadn’t fired an aerial shot in anger (or even petulance) since the Battle of Britain.
Not saying it’s not true – can’t know – but I will admit to a sneaking suspicion that amongst a certain class of Englishman, there is the assumption that anything useful to come out of the rebellious colonials has to do with the legacy of empire, while anything less savory owes to our own degraded nature.
I had a buddy did an exchange tour at the British Empire Test Pilot school back in 80s. Had to take a lot of looking-down-their-noses guff from Brits who were quite sure that the Yanks couldn’t tell the front end from the blunt end of a fighter. Who were equally sure that the only way to fight an air-to-ground war was to get right down in the mix with all those anonymous, conscript goobers lying flat on their backs firing AK-47s in the air. On account of the fact that they had this one runway buster that required the crew to overfly a defended airstrip at two hundred feet above ground level. Right smack in the heart of the small arms envelope.
Maybe the lessons learned from Vietnam were different for us? But our guys took away a whole other body of knowledge. That it was good to fly above SAM and AAA envelopes, if ever you could. That it made sense to avoid roads and highways. That you never flew just above or just below a cloud deck. That you didn’t re-attack, if your first pass got spoiled. That speed was life, and that more was better.
As a result of which, during Desert Storm, they got shot down a lot less than did their patronizing cousins from the BETPS.
So, yeah: Thanks for all that “learning how to take notes” on your kneeboard thing.
We’d never have figured that out on our own.