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Cold Warriors: The Essex Class in the Cold War

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February 12, 1959
London, United Kingdom


The reports from the Southwest Pacific were not good. A Dutch maritime patrol plane had been shot down and a destroyer had been sunk. Despite the reassurances from Indonesia that they had no intention of attacking any Commonwealth territory, taking them at their word would be worse than foolish. It was only twenty years past that a different British government had been given similar assurances from another country. That had ended with German tanks rolling into Paris, London in ruins, and a years long struggle to win through to ultimate victory.

The British and Commonwealth position in the region was better than the Netherlands, but not by much. While they had the Far East Strategic Reserve in place in Singapore centered on HMS Albion and the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade Group in Terendak, Malaya, it was not a force capable of prosecuting a war on their own. Should Indonesia decide "in for a penny, in for a pound" and launch attacks on British territory, they would need immediate and rapid reinforcement if they were to have any chance at victory.

If a few corners were cut, it might be possible to get HMS Victorious to Singapore within two months, though her Air Group would almost certainly need to work up along the way. Eagle was about to enter Devonport Dockyard for an extensive modernization and was thus unavailable. Ark Royal was working up to deploy to the Far East later in the year and had more modern aircraft embarked than Albion. With proper care, she could be in Singapore within a month. With a little luck, the Royal Navy, backed by the Royal Australian Navy, would be in good shape should the balloon go up.

The Royal Air Force, while nowhere near as ill-equipped as their Dutch counterparts, was still not what anyone would call lavishly equipped. Currently, the RAF had Nos 45 and 60 Squadrons flying de Haviland Venom FB.4s alongside No 81 Squadron flying a combination of Gloster Meteor PR.10s and English Electric Canberra PR.7s in Singapore and Malaya. No 28 Squadron was also in the Far East, though it was based at RAF Kai Tak in Hong Kong while the other Far East squadrons were at RAF Tengah. But if it was needed, the squadron could be redeployed to the area, though the thought of leaving Hong Kong underdefended in the face of Communist Chinese aggression made more than a few backsides pucker. There were also several transport squadrons in the theater, and although they would be worth their weight in gold should the Army have to go back into the jungle to root out Indonesian infiltrators, they could provide little combat capability against Indonesia's rapidly modernizing Air Force.

In reviewing the available options to reinforce the Far East, the decision is made to put No 6 Squadron flying Canberra B.2 bombers on alert for possible deployment from RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus to RAAF Butterworth in Malaya. No 43 Squadron at RAF Khormaksar in Aden, equipped with Hawker Hunter F.6s, was also put on alert for possible movement to the Far East. Some thought was also given to deploying a Gloster Meteor equipped night fighter squadron, but in the end, it was ruled out on the grounds that the Meteor was thoroughly obsolete and would be very unlikely to successfully engage any targets flying at night.

Unfortunately, there was not as much that could be done to reinforce the 28th. It would take months to ship all the men and equipment needed for anything more than a flag showing exercise. The United Kingdom would have to rely on the Australians and New Zealanders to pick up the slack there.
 
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February 13, 1959
Washington, DC, USA


In a daylong meeting between Secretaries Neil McElroy and John Dulles with President Eisenhower, the naked aggression of Indonesia and the American response to it is discussed. It is a contentious meeting, particularly when CIA Director Allen Dulles is called in. President Eisenhower, backed by both Mr McElroy and Mr Dulles, places the blame for the current mess in the Far East squarely on Dulles' door and his botched operation to overthrow President Sukarno. Only a last minute near-groveling apology by Dulles keeps the President from demanding his resignation. After getting the CIA's official assessment of Indonesia's current capabilities and the likelihood of succeeding in taking West New Guinea from the Netherlands, which the CIA regards as high, he is dismissed from the meeting. The CIA will play little role in the crises going forward.

In particular, the Dutch request for the deployment of the Nineteenth Air Force is heavily debated. While it would certainly show the United States' commitment to the region, it would also almost certainly drag the United States into yet another war in Asia, their third in less than twenty years. That was not a situation that would be looked at favorably domestically. Particularly since this would be seen, rightly, as nothing more than fighting to preserve a European colony. By the close of the meeting, and after calling in the various Service Secretaries and Uniformed Heads of the services, a compromise is reached.

The Nineteenth Air Force would deploy to the Far East. But not to Mokmer Airfield as requested by the Dutch. It would be sent to Clark Field in the Philippines instead. Within three hours of the decision being made, B-57 Canberra bombers were on their way to the Philippines from the 345th Bombardment Wing at Langley Air Force Base. They would be followed by KB-50J air refueling tankers whose mission would be to get the F-100 Super Sabres from the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing across the Pacific. Following the fighters would be the RF-101s of the 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing. Thirty-six hours after issuing the alert, F-100s were positioned on the alert ramp at Clark, ready to respond to any Indonesian aggression.

Two carrier task forces centered on USS Yorktown (CVS-10) and USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) were also given orders to divert from their planned Far East cruise into the region, with port visits to Sydney and Darwin being added. It was hoped that the presence of two American carriers and an entire fighter wing in the region would cool tensions and allow diplomacy to resume.

As a final show of American interest in the theater, discussions are opened with the Philippines about conducting a joint jungle warfare exercise featuring the Fifth Marine Regiment from Camp Pendleton in California. Though being called an exercise, all involved knew it was merely a cover to get an entire regiment of Marines into the theater should everything go to hell.

Though the United States was sending the most combat power into the theater by a large margin, they conversely had the lowest appetite to actually commit those forces to combat. After multiple calls are made to the Governments of Australia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and New Zealand, it is made very clear to everyone involved that, baring Indonesia escalating the war and attack British, Australian or American interests in the region, the United States would not actually commit their forces to combat. In short, the American presence in the region was one gigantic bluff.
 

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February 13, 1959
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In short, the American presence in the region was one gigantic bluff.

Lets hope Indonesia falls for that as well.
Well, it's part bluff, part threat, part warning. The US is making it very clear to Indonesia that there are limits to what they'll put up with. And hoping that Indonesia will buy the bluff and back down.
 

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Lol, I always forget about those damn rocket pods.
More on those damn rocket pods:

JB_N13_154906.sized.jpg
Skyhawk_885.sized.jpg
 

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Gotta love em. Of course that was also about the only Air to Ground ordinance that the Australian Skyhawks could carry while launching from Melbourne
 

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True...though if the option and the need was there I'm sure a stripped down bucket of sunshine option could have been launched.
 

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True...though if the option and the need was there I'm sure a stripped down bucket of sunshine option could have been launched.
I'm not so sure about that. Even the AIR-2 Genie was over 800 pounds. The B-43, which entered production in 1959 was over 2,000 pounds and the latter B-61 is still over 700 pounds.
 

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If they were able to operate with buddy pods (and they apparently were), that 's well over 2000 lb (assuming 300 gallons, and negligible pod weight).

Those tanks in the actual photos above look like standard 150 gallon tanks they usually carried, which make for similar math (and more drag). Now without those, range is going to fall off by a substantial margin. Internal capacity is under 1,000 lbs, so figure about a third.

You might be underestimating the Scooters ability to lug ordinance off the small deck in a pinch.

The bad news is in the 50's you're getting engines with 1,000 lbs less thrust than the initial Australian Skyhawks from the 60's, and almost 3,000 less than the engines the left service with, so your margin is going to be smaller. Still, both the buddy pod and dual tank+ordinance were used from the get go off the Melbourne. Range would be less than ideal without buddy refueling or the drop tanks. So there's obviously going to be a trade of payload/range to factor. The fact the F-111's were already on order by the time the shorter -legged Skyhawks got purchased probably had as much or more to do with the fact the RAN wasn't looking at the A-4 as a real strike platform in practice, settling into a Sea Control role, than absolute ability to lug ordinance off the deck.

There aren't a lot of great options for the small deck in 1959, but the Skyhawks are probably on the top of the pile. Certainly better than the Venoms and Banshees being operated off the class at this time.
 

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Or the Corsairs and... Fouga Magisters (navalized: Zephyr) in the French case... The French Venoms - rebranded Aquilon - couldn't use Arromanches (at least not safely or efficiently) so Corsairs soldiered on until 1964 and the Crusaders. I often think, it must have been one hell of a shock for the pilots, even more since no 2-seat Crusaders existed (or just one, actually).
 

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Oh they could launch with more weight, but it eats into airframe life....and the pilots back!
The one shot load was much higher, but effectively that flight would right off the airframe and militaries tend not to want to treat aircraft as a use once and dispose of system.
 

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Oh they could launch with more weight, but it eats into airframe life....and the pilots back!
The one shot load was much higher, but effectively that flight would right off the airframe and militaries tend not to want to treat aircraft as a use once and dispose of system.

RAN were regularly using buddy pods -- which is over 2000 lbs on the centerline, and the dual tanks with ordinance configuration. 3000lbs or so was obviously was not beating the hell out of the airframes in a meaningful way for an Melbourne air wing -- even in a far more penny-pinching era than this "alternative" one is shaping out to be.
More to the point, the USN was daily launching with far, far higher gross weights off Vietnam without airframe fatigue ever getting a mention as a source of real attrition or concern.

G-forces on cat launch are around 3. Sometimes as high as 4. Skyhawks stores are rated to 6-G. The airframe rating was substantially higher.

The real limit here is the push of the cats on the Melbourne.


Launch two with the buddy pod for mission tanking. Launch two with 3,000 lbs of ordinance (say twin Bullpups and a drop tank on centerline). Later send two more (or the same two as first) for recovery tanking.

Now that's far from ideal for every day sustained operations such as Skyhawks attempting to provide daily CAS from a distance, but as the opportunistic hit and run against a specific target, that's very feasible. The Melbourne does not have the capacity in space and stores to sustain a large-scale air offensive anyway.

And as someone else noted, by the time one is considering "special" weapons, things like "airframe fatigue" -- and even the return trip -- are way, way down the list of concerns.
 
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Launch two with the buddy pod for mission tanking. Launch two with 3,000 lbs of ordinance (say twin Bullpups and a drop tank on centerline). Later send two
So, just an interesting little tidbit I leaned while researching the TL: The A-4G as purchased by the RAN did not have the equipment needed to employ munitions like the Bullpup. It was deliberately omitted as a weight saving measure.
 

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Well, you're buying brand new ones in this story -- you can get whatever you want ;)

I just picked the Bullpup because it gives you a precision weapon and is available and operational at this time. Choose your own adventure!
 

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Once a bucket of sunshine is on the cards, writing off aircraft is relatively trivial.
Launch two with the buddy pod for mission tanking. Launch two with 3,000 lbs of ordinance (say twin Bullpups and a drop tank on centerline). Later send two
So, just an interesting little tidbit I leaned while researching the TL: The A-4G as purchased by the RAN did not have the equipment needed to employ munitions like the Bullpup. It was deliberately omitted as a weight saving measure.
Interesting. Source?
 

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Once a bucket of sunshine is on the cards, writing off aircraft is relatively trivial.
Launch two with the buddy pod for mission tanking. Launch two with 3,000 lbs of ordinance (say twin Bullpups and a drop tank on centerline). Later send two
So, just an interesting little tidbit I leaned while researching the TL: The A-4G as purchased by the RAN did not have the equipment needed to employ munitions like the Bullpup. It was deliberately omitted as a weight saving measure.
Interesting. Source?
Jim Winchester's A-4 Skyhawk: 'Heinemann's Hot Rod'

The "G" model was a modified "F" with the avionics for guided air to ground weapons replaced with the avionics to launch AIM-9B Sidewinders
 

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Getting back to the HNLMS Karel Doorman, I wonder how well the Sea Hawks might have performed against the likes of at least the MiG-17s given they were equipped with AIM-9s around the time this scenario takes place.

42ac6bacbc6b12b7f987e5a113afea7a.jpg
If they can get into firing position, it'll give them a edge. But the original version of the Sidewinder wasn't exactly what anyone would call deadly against fighters. The big edge that the Dutch have, is the quality of their pilots.
 

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Yeah basically AIM-9B was nothing like AIM-9L - it was more like a piece of junk with an abysmal seeker. I mean - no chance for the Seahawks to pull a Falklands SHAR against their faster ennemies... not with AIM-9B.
Of course if Dr. Who can bring them AIM-9L, then the MiGs are toast...

The Sea Hawk was really a cute little jet. Never realized the Dutch ones got Sidewinders.
 

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Yeah basically AIM-9B was nothing like AIM-9L - it was more like a piece of junk with an abysmal seeker. I mean - no chance for the Seahawks to pull a Falklands SHAR against their faster ennemies... not with AIM-9B.
Of course if Dr. Who can bring them AIM-9L, then the MiGs are toast...
Pretty much. If you weren't dead astern of your target, the AIM-9B couldn't see the target. And if your target managed to get pointed at the sun, then broke away, your missile would just go stupid and start to track on the sun.
 

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Yeah basically AIM-9B was nothing like AIM-9L - it was more like a piece of junk with an abysmal seeker. I mean - no chance for the Seahawks to pull a Falklands SHAR against their faster ennemies... not with AIM-9B.
Of course if Dr. Who can bring them AIM-9L, then the MiGs are toast...
Pretty much. If you weren't dead astern of your target, the AIM-9B couldn't see the target. And if your target managed to get pointed at the sun, then broke away, your missile would just go stupid and start to track on the sun.
Early SA-7s MANPADs were similar. I red a ghastly statistic a while back, that the Arabs fired something like 4000+ of them before and during the Yom Kippur war - and got less than 40 hits: a 1% success rate, or even less since the Israelis had a knack to repair badly damaged aircraft.
(facepalm)

I also heard the Israeli pilots AIM-9Bs had an unabated (and quite unnerving, too) affection for the Middle-East deserts dunes, heated by the Sun... they glowed like crazy in the IR spectrum, and the Sidewinders as a result killed dunes and sand (facepalm again) That's why the Israelis got 90% + of their Mirage A2A kills with the DEFA guns.
 

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I think it (AIM-9) had under 20% PK against MiG's in Vietnam before the upgraded versions became available. Having said that, there aren't any other better options in this time frame, which is why they made so many. And it might be just the thing for that annoying Beagle loaded with bombs or torpedoes.

I also wouldn't discount the fact that a single Sidewinder launched into a gaggle of MiGs might not kill anyone, but is going to make mess of any formation, leaving them on the defensive, disorganized, and having spent precious energy maneuvering. Which is a much better way to start any fight than a simple merge with cannons (or alternatively gives you a chance to disengage and come back another day when the odds and numbers are better matched).

Against a bomber formation, too, any missile launch is going to result in some disruption, perhaps bombers dropping their loads and trying to beat feet, creating stragglers or pairs which makes engaging with guns a more profitable and less dangerous endeavor-- and every bomber that jettisons a load or just turns for home is one less bomber heading toward their target.

It's not just about the not quite awe-inspiring PK%.
 
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The LW pilots noted that, too, in WWII - sometimes scaring the shit out of B-17 pilots with unguided rockets broke the defensive boxes, wrecked bombing sights, and helped killing some isolated bombers...
 

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Oh they could launch with more weight, but it eats into airframe life....and the pilots back!
The one shot load was much higher, but effectively that flight would right off the airframe and militaries tend not to want to treat aircraft as a use once and dispose of system.

RAN were regularly using buddy pods -- which is over 2000 lbs on the centerline, and the dual tanks with ordinance configuration. 3000lbs or so was obviously was not beating the hell out of the airframes in a meaningful way for an Melbourne air wing -- even in a far more penny-pinching era than this "alternative" one is shaping out to be.
More to the point, the USN was daily launching with far, far higher gross weights off Vietnam without airframe fatigue ever getting a mention as a source of real attrition or concern.

G-forces on cat launch are around 3. Sometimes as high as 4. Skyhawks stores are rated to 6-G. The airframe rating was substantially higher.

The real limit here is the push of the cats on the Melbourne.


Launch two with the buddy pod for mission tanking. Launch two with 3,000 lbs of ordinance (say twin Bullpups and a drop tank on centerline). Later send two more (or the same two as first) for recovery tanking.

Now that's far from ideal for every day sustained operations such as Skyhawks attempting to provide daily CAS from a distance, but as the opportunistic hit and run against a specific target, that's very feasible. The Melbourne does not have the capacity in space and stores to sustain a large-scale air offensive anyway.

And as someone else noted, by the time one is considering "special" weapons, things like "airframe fatigue" -- and even the return trip -- are way, way down the list of concerns.
My understanding from yonks ago is a post by NewGalconda over on Warships1 I think. Which went into the issue of extreme loads that could be used from some manual of operation for the A4.
Which is not to detract from the load carrying capability of the A4 as operated from HMAS Melbourne in any way.
But it is to point out that there was a extreme option and that even with the BS mk4 as used. It was theoretically possible to produce such acceleration.
But not advisable obviously. Nor easily something to train for.
Let alone the effect that might have on the ships speed for instance.
You are right it's not a supportable option for any duration.
Frankly it's more a desperate act.
But it was intriguing to read about it of interest to make a note of it here.
 

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Yeah, the early Sidewinders were very not good. The early Sparrows had a higher PK rate
 

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February, 12, 1959
Wellington, New Zealand


The discussions within the Ministry of Defence mirrored those being held in Canberra, London and Washington. Phil Connolly, the Minister of Defence, was sitting at the head of a long table with his service heads, aids and intelligence officials arranged down both sides. He did not like what he was hearing. New Zealand did not have a large military. They simply could not afford to maintain a large standing military, particularly given the ever increasing costs of modern equipment. But what he was hearing now was painting an even bleaker picture than normal.

Currently, New Zealand had the 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Regiment deployed to Malaya with the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade Group alongside No 75 Squadron at RAF Tengah flying loaned English Electric Canberra bombers. But 1st Battalion was preparing to be withdrawn from Malaya and replaced with 2nd Battalion. Those orders would have to be rescinded and the preparations already carried out would need to be undone. Not an insurmountable obstacle, but an obstacle none the less. He had already floated the idea of deploying 2nd Battalion to Malaya anyway to reinforce the 28th, and while it had support from the Army, he wasn't so sure the rest of the government would agree. Maintaining two battalions deployed simultaneously was expensive. At least he could give the battalion warning orders so they wouldn't be completely unprepared to deploy should the decision be made to send them to Malaya.

The idea of sending No 14 Squadron from Ohakea back to RAF Tengah or RAAF Butterworth had also been brought up, but the squadron was in the middle of converting from de Haviland Vampires to Canberras. To be useful, the conversion would either have to be sped up or postponed. Neither option was particularly appealing, but he had ordered Air Vice Marshal Malcolm Calder to find out which option was the more feasible of the two based on where the squadron was in their conversion.

More alarming to Minister Connolly was that, outside of the de Haviland Vampire, New Zealand could not provide any fighter cover to their squadrons or ground forces in Malaya. All their combat aircraft were either transports, maritime patrol aircraft or bombers. Indonesia was acquiring front line fighters from the Soviets while Australia had also recently begun final negotiations for new fighters from the United States. He had even heard rumors that the Philippines was beginning to investigate the possibility of buying modern fighter aircraft. With the situation heating up in Indonesia, he would need to broach the subject of thoroughly modernizing the military at the next Cabinet meeting.

From the Navy, several suggestions had flowed. Among them was the possibility of reactivating the Dido class light cruiser Black Prince to pair with her sister, Royalist. While that particular idea was fairly rapidly shot down as unfeasible in the short term given the material state of the ship and the lack of manpower to crew her, the Navy was authorized to begin drawing up plans to bring her back into service in short order should the need arise. In the meantime, Rear Admiral Michael Villiers, the Head of the Navy, was ordered to place Royalist along with the two Loch class frigates Kaniere and Pukaki on alert for possible deployment to Singapore to reinforce the Far East Strategic Reserve. Additionally, pending approval from Australia, the Bathurst class corvettes Echuca and Inverell would be pulled from reserve and training duties and deployed to HMAS Tarangau in Papua New Guinea.

If this war between Indonesia and the Netherlands escalated, New Zealand would need every ounce of combat power she had. Giving his orders to his service heads, New Zealand's military moved to higher state of readiness. That was the easy part. The hard part was convincing the government that these moves were necessary and worth the cost.
 

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February, 12, 1959
Wellington, New Zealand


The discussions within the Ministry of Defence mirrored those being held in Canberra, London and Washington. Phil Connolly, the Minister of Defence, was sitting at the head of a long table with his service heads, aids and intelligence officials arranged down both sides. He did not like what he was hearing. New Zealand did not have a large military. They simply could not afford to maintain a large standing military, particularly given the ever increasing costs of modern equipment. But what he was hearing now was painting an even bleaker picture than normal.

Currently, New Zealand had the 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Regiment deployed to Malaya with the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade Group alongside No 75 Squadron at RAF Tengah flying loaned English Electric Canberra bombers. But 1st Battalion was preparing to be withdrawn from Malaya and replaced with 2nd Battalion. Those orders would have to be rescinded and the preparations already carried out would need to be undone. Not an insurmountable obstacle, but an obstacle none the less. He had already floated the idea of deploying 2nd Battalion to Malaya anyway to reinforce the 28th, and while it had support from the Army, he wasn't so sure the rest of the government would agree. Maintaining two battalions deployed simultaneously was expensive. At least he could give the battalion warning orders so they wouldn't be completely unprepared to deploy should the decision be made to send them to Malaya.

The idea of sending No 14 Squadron from Ohakea back to RAF Tengah or RAAF Butterworth had also been brought up, but the squadron was in the middle of converting from de Haviland Vampires to Canberras. To be useful, the conversion would either have to be sped up or postponed. Neither option was particularly appealing, but he had ordered Air Vice Marshal Malcolm Calder to find out which option was the more feasible of the two based on where the squadron was in their conversion.

More alarming to Minister Connolly was that, outside of the de Haviland Vampire, New Zealand could not provide any fighter cover to their squadrons or ground forces in Malaya. All their combat aircraft were either transports, maritime patrol aircraft or bombers. Indonesia was acquiring front line fighters from the Soviets while Australia had also recently begun final negotiations for new fighters from the United States. He had even heard rumors that the Philippines was beginning to investigate the possibility of buying modern fighter aircraft. With the situation heating up in Indonesia, he would need to broach the subject of thoroughly modernizing the military at the next Cabinet meeting.

From the Navy, several suggestions had flowed. Among them was the possibility of reactivating the Dido class light cruiser Black Prince to pair with her sister, Royalist. While that particular idea was fairly rapidly shot down as unfeasible in the short term given the material state of the ship and the lack of manpower to crew her, the Navy was authorized to begin drawing up plans to bring her back into service in short order should the need arise. In the meantime, Rear Admiral Michael Villiers, the Head of the Navy, was ordered to place Royalist along with the two Loch class frigates Kaniere and Pukaki on alert for possible deployment to Singapore to reinforce the Far East Strategic Reserve. Additionally, pending approval from Australia, the Bathurst class corvettes Echuca and Inverell would be pulled from reserve and training duties and deployed to HMAS Tarangau in Papua New Guinea.

If this war between Indonesia and the Netherlands escalated, New Zealand would need every ounce of combat power she had. Giving his orders to his service heads, New Zealand's military moved to higher state of readiness. That was the easy part. The hard part was convincing the government that these moves were necessary and worth the cost.

So New Zeeland going to stick with British aircraft for a while.
 

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So New Zeeland going to stick with British aircraft for a while
They haven't even begun to discuss what options they may have. British aircraft tend to be cheaper, and they do operate alongside the British a lot possibly offering some operational advantages. But they may also prefer buying the same aircraft as Australia since they would probably lower their maintenance and acquisition costs.
 

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I wonder if we are seeing yet another potential customer for the Mk. IV Bloodhound?
 

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In the RW New Zealand did briefly consider the F-4 in 1965. Models were even created:

1996-172.1_p1_web.jpg


Maybe a earlier buy combining both fighter and bomber needs could be on the table?

post-59028-0-03919400-1440545804.jpg
The F-4 is quite expensive though. Even Australia has said decided its just a little too much money ITTL.
 

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So New Zeeland going to stick with British aircraft for a while
They haven't even begun to discuss what options they may have. British aircraft tend to be cheaper, and they do operate alongside the British a lot possibly offering some operational advantages. But they may also prefer buying the same aircraft as Australia since they would probably lower their maintenance and acquisition costs.

But the Americans can always go cheaper than the British if they want to.
 

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