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The Air Staff and AEW: Royal Air Force Airborne Early Warning

overscan (PaulMM)

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So, a belated review, with apologies to Chris for taking so long.

Back in 2003, I watched an episode of the series "7 Wonders of the Industrial World" on the development of the London sewerage system. It seemed like an unlikely "wonder", but the program was interesting, thought-provoking and made a good case for its choice.

Blue Envoy's Projecttech series has, with one exception to date, done an analogous task by taking less mainstream aviation subjects and treating them with the same care and attention he put into the more sales-friendly titles such as Vulcan's Hammer and Battle Flight.

So, to specifics. The book is professional in layout and production standards, putting some big publishers to shame. The part of me that worked on page layouts has a small quibble on the slimness of margins but the reader part is grateful for content crammed into each page.

There are numerous beautiful CGI illustrations of projects in action and the improvement in Adrian Mann's work since British Secret Projects : Hypersonics is impressive. These are beautiful pieces of commissioned artwork. Quite a lot of FASS (fore-and-aft-scanner) types, but that reflects the dominance of that layout in UK AEW thinking. Copious drawings and photos illustrate the book, and having read the manuscript in text-only form, I can say that the illustrations illuminate and clarify the narrative perfectly.

As to the narrative - very interesting. Stylewise, Chris's writing reminds me of Tony Buttler, with close attention to primary sources and minimal guesswork or speculation, with perhaps a little extra personality added. This book isn't just a list of AEW projects, and with its companion volume The Admiralty and AEW Chris has written a interesting and authoritative account of the troubled history of AEW development in the UK.

One thing I did note was something I had difficulty with in my own attempts to research radar technology was the nomenclature used to describe those radars which lie between the reasonably well understood simple pulse radar at one end and the coherent pulse-doppler radar at the other. In the middle are a range of hybrid radars such as pulse with AMTI, "quasi-coherent", "coherent-on-recieve", or the British favoured FMICW. Such hybrid designs are sometimes described in brochures as "pulse-doppler" or "coherent" when they might not fully qualify for it according to strict definitions, but this is most likely due to the manufacturer being somewhat disingenuous. FMICW seems to be an end-limit case (or specialised class) of high-PRF pulse doppler radar rather than a separate technology, but perhaps the specifics are eluding me as a layman.

I will also note that someone who worked closely with Ferranti and Marconi in the early 1980s had a very poor opinion of Marconi's ability to deliver on their promises based on his experiences, where Ferranti were by contrast reliable and made good kit. This may colour my view of how close Marconi were to really solving the AEW Nimrod's issues. Ultimately, Chris notes that the RAF really wanted the E-3, and the Nimrod was always going to be vulnerable to cancellation.

Given the long history of AEW development in the UK revealed by Chris Gibson in these two books, it is sad that so little ever came to fruition. Definitely a recommended read.
 

Hobbes

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PaulMM (Overscan) said:
One thing I did note was something I had difficulty with in my own attempts to research radar technology was the nomenclature used to describe those radars which lie between the reasonably well understood simple pulse radar at one end and the coherent pulse-doppler radar at the other. In the middle are a range of hybrid radars such as pulse with AMTI, "quasi-coherent", "coherent-on-recieve", or the British favoured FMICW. Such hybrid designs are sometimes described in brochures as "pulse-doppler" or "coherent" when they might not fully qualify for it according to strict definitions, but this is most likely due to the manufacturer being somewhat disingenuous. FMICW seems to be an end-limit case (or specialised class) of high-PRF pulse doppler radar rather than a separate technology, but perhaps the specifics are eluding me as a layman.
FMICW is related more to continuous wave radars than to pulse-doppler. Pulse-doppler uses a single transmission frequency, while FMCW radars (including FMICW) broadcast a frequency sweep.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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If you look into how high prf pulse Doppler radars work, they appear to be basically the same. Successive pulses are modulated in frequency so you can tell whether the returned signal is from the last pulse you sent or an earlier one which is vital when using a high prf as the time between pulses is very short. The modulated pulse-Doppler signal thus appears rather like an interrupted continuous wave.
 

CJGibson

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Thanks Paul, glad you like it.

Comparison with Bazelgette's masterpiece is appreciated.

I must admit to a spot of arse/elbow recognition trouble with the radars. Oddly enough, the documents on NASR.6166 from Blackburn/HSA Brough refer to the radar as FMICW throughout whereas the BAC paperwork from Weybridge always called it pulse-Doppler. Same radar different names in different places.

Ferranti/Marconi? I live nearer to Edinburgh than Borehamwood. Nuff said!

Thanks to all who have bought a copy, Feed back so far has been very positive. Amazon are being glacial in their efforts to list it as available, but Waterstones have it on their site. As ever, you'll get it and teh other Project Tech Profiles quicker direct from me.

Thanks

Chris
 

CJGibson

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Morning all,

I'll be at The National Archives at Kew all this week having a rummage in its drawers. If anyone is kicking about and fancies a brew and a blah, PM me and we can sort something out.

Thanks

Chris
 

tyles

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Chris is this book still available any where I'd love to have a copy to go with your RN AEW book I already own.


Cheers.
 

CJGibson

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Tyles,

pm me with your details and I'll sort you out.

Chris
 

Antonio

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Received my copy this week: another must have from Mr Gibson. Brilliant!
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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Note that the Aviation Bookshop have some copies of this at Telford today. Buy a copy if you don't have it!
 

CJGibson

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Drop me a line on a PM.

Chris
 
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