Global Instability and Strategic Crisis

By Neville Brown | Go to book overview

8

Ballistic encounter

A chequered progression1

As early as the 1920s, design work had begun in Germany on the pulse-jet: a simple form of jet propulsion destined to power the V-1 'flying bombs'. In 1944-5 some 6,000 of these rudimentary cruise missiles were to be launched from land or air against Britain or, in due course, the Low Countries. In 1943, the Luftwaffe had sunk several ships at sea, an Italian battleship among them, using a short-range air-launched cruise missile.

The first waves of V-1s dispatched against England, in June 1944, were subjected by the British defences to an attrition rate of only 2 per cent. Within a week, however, the reckoning exceeded a third; and 43 per cent was to be the average for the nine-month campaign. Towards the end, anti-aircraft batteries on England's North Downs were shooting down up to 80 per cent of those V-1s that crossed their sights. 2

Yet invaluable though the interceptions were for the Allied cause, they cannot be said to have negated the threat the V-1s posed. Whitehall was always quick to dismiss them as mere 'terror' weapons. But they could have been much more had Hitler followed military advice early on and, instead of directing them so overwhelmingly against London, paid some attention to the congested ports being used to sustain Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy. The Supreme Allied Commander, Dwight Eisenhower, later wrote that had Hitler made the 'Portsmouth-Southampton area' a principal V-1 target over a six-month period, 'Overlord might have been written off.' 3 The vulnerability of ports and harbours may likewise be a big issue in the future, should the ascent of the missile spiral out of control.

How the rates of successful interception of the V-1s varied over short spans of time well relates to experience with manned aircraft. Towards the end of World War II, the representative loss rates for warplanes engaged in offensive operations ranged between minima of under one per cent and maxima of 35 per cent or more. Placings within those limits were determined by geography, force strengths and densities, electronic technology gaps, tactics, weather, the element of surprise and other variables. Much the same has applied in the more recent past. So will it in the future, this for cruise missiles as well as for manned warplanes. Just two caveats may be

-133-

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Global Instability and Strategic Crisis
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • The Author ix
  • Preface xi
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Part I - The Strategic Revolution 1
  • 1 - Through 11 September 3
  • 2 - The Poverty of Strategy 32
  • 3 - A War on Terror? 45
  • 4 - Saddam, Slow Decline and Rapid Fall 59
  • Part II - Limited World War? 71
  • 5 - Social Instability 73
  • 6 - Macabre Lethality 100
  • 7 - The Ascent of the Missile 122
  • Part III - Defence Against Missiles 131
  • 8 - Ballistic Encounter 133
  • 9 - Terrestrial Coverage 156
  • 10 - The Heavens Subverted? 163
  • Part IV - The Quest for Strategy 181
  • 11 - Pax Atlantica? 183
  • 12 - Arms in Moderation 197
  • 13 - Planetary Internationalism 217
  • 14 - Strategy Transcended 243
  • Appendix A 265
  • Appendix B 272
  • Further Reading 279
  • Notes 281
  • Index 303
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