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Cold War Wind Ups

I've just been reading this gem and thought I'd share it with you:


The National Interest
Russia vs. Britain: In 1988, a Royal Navy Frigate Played Pranks on Soviet Ships

The Soviets realized a NATO warship was off their coast. They sent aircraft and helicopters to buzz London. Meanwhile, a Matka-class, missile-armed hydrofoil sailed to intercept the frigate. “Littlejohns decided to have some ‘fun and games’ with the Matka,” Ballantyne wrote.

by David Axe Follow @daxe on TwitterL
In the late 1980s, tensions between NATO and the Soviet Union began to ease. American president Ronald Reagan and Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, or INF, which banned in Europe land-based, nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and rockets with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles.

As a gesture toward the thaw, the Royal Navy made more visible some of its most strategic intelligence-gathering missions. Instead of sending hard-to-detect, nuclear-powered attack submarines into Soviet waters, the U.K. fleet instead sent highly-visible surface warships.

Among them was the new Type 22 frigate HMS London. In command of the 490-feet-long, missile-armed frigate was a former submarine commander, Capt. Doug Littlejohns. He brought to his frigate command all the daring and roguishness that was typical of sub-commanders. Littlejohns’ exploits are the subject of several chapters in naval historian Iain Ballantyne’s new book Undersea Warriors.

Littlejohns took command of London in December 1987 as her second captain. The frigate boasted the latest hardware for electronic intelligence-gathering.

“The American-origin Outboard Electronic Intelligence system was extremely capable,” Ballantyne wrote. “Combined with other sensors and communications equipment, it all fed into a computer in the operations room, where it was stitched together to form one combat picture. The Computer-Assisted Command System could simultaneously track up to 500 contacts.”

The Royal Navy declared HMS London to be fully operational in January 1988. She deployed to the Baltic Sea, “a backwater,” according to Ballantyne. “Even so, for a captain with the aggression and daring of Littlejohns it was a challenge to be embraced.”

“The main purpose was to test [London] against real potential targets,” Littlejohns said. “At that time the Russians considered the Baltic to be their own private lake and we set out to prove them wrong.”

In the dead of night London made the passage between Denmark and Sweden. “For further cover, London’s lights were arranged to impersonate a merchant vessel and by dawn she was off the coast of the USSR,” Ballantyne wrote.

The main objective, Littlejohns said, was “hanging around sucking in useful intelligence on our sensors, making sure they all operated to specification.”

The Soviets realized a NATO warship was off their coast. They sent aircraft and helicopters to buzz London. Meanwhile, a Matka-class, missile-armed hydrofoil sailed to intercept the frigate.

“Littlejohns decided to have some ‘fun and games’ with the Matka,” Ballantyne wrote.

The hydrofoil “was fitted with high-speed diesel engines, so if we went fast then he was okay, but if we went slowly he would coke them up after an hour or so,” Littlejohns recalled. “He would then have to do a high-speed run to burn off the coke.”

Littlejohns doubled down on the harassment of the poor hydrofoil crew. The former sub captain dressed up as a priest, had his ship’s workshop produce a coffin then organized a mock funeral on the deck in full view of the Soviets. The frigate’s crew slid the coffin into the sea.

“It was deliberately designed to float,” Ballantyne wrote. London sailed away from the bobbing coffin. Littlejohns grabbed a pair of binoculars and watched as the Soviets scooped up what they apparently hoped would be an intelligence prize.

But instead of containing the body of a U.K. sailor, the coffin yielded surprises for the Soviets. “A bottle of whiskey, pornographic magazines and copy of Littlejohns’ favorite novel, The Hunt for Red October. There also was a note from Littlejohns that read, “Haven’t you go anything better to do?”

The coffin full of treats actually warmed the Soviets to the NATO interlopers. “I’m sure [the hydrofoil captain] enjoyed our decadent capitalistic gifts,” Littlejohns quipped. “He was certainly less unfriendly thereafter, stopped playing silly rules-of-the-road games and waved cheerily when he made close passes. He even spoke to us a couple of times on the VHF [radio].”

Littlejohns wasn’t done. For his final prank on the hydrofoil, Littlejohns held a shipwide contest to see which group of sailors could produce the most outrageous fake weapon system.

“The winners turned out to be a bunch of ratings who used various dustbins and their lids to create a convincing ‘monster torpedo,’” Ballantyne wrote.

“It had the biggest fin ever seen on a NATO naval weapon. Mounted amidships, next to the real torpedoes, this striking thing attracted lots of attention from the shadowing Soviet vessels. They would swing in past the ship, zoom lenses of their spy camera zeroing in on the new, so-called super-weapon.”


I love this sort of thing. Are there any other stories like this from the other services?
 
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Probably only a war story, but when the Fighter version of the Tornado went into service the air to air radar was still in development, so the aircraft was flown with concrete ballast in the place the radar would be. This concrete ballast was nicknamed "Blue Circle", which fitted in a subtle homage to the Blue Circle cement works. This bit is definitely true.

The possible war story bit is that the "Blue Circle" name also follows a naming convention that military kit has been using for years, so any mention of this top secret new radar system would have attracted the attention of various people from easter European countries. What would have been quite frightening for them was the fact that none of their current systems could detect this new radar, so a stealth or new technology radar system could have been suspected. The bit I heard was that there was a big push in the spy networks to work out how this radar worked, and any tale of "it's just a lump of concrete" was taken as misinformation or a smoke screen...
 
Probably only a war story, but when the Fighter version of the Tornado went into service the air to air radar was still in development, so the aircraft was flown with concrete ballast in the place the radar would be. This concrete ballast was nicknamed "Blue Circle", which fitted in a subtle homage to the Blue Circle cement works. This bit is definitely true.

Not quite - it only went into the first few pre-production Tornado F.2 (I think eighteen of them) that were used to start training aircrew on the shiny new two-seater that was replacing the Lightning and Phantom. So the OCU could start teaching Biggles to use the shiny new switch that wobbled the wings forwards and backwards, while the Lightning pilots got used to having some talking baggage; the radar wasn't critical to the "learn to fly and maintain" part of the job.

All of the actual service Tornado F.3 had an allegedly-working radar from the start (becoming sort-of-working just in time for Op GRANBY). As ever, @Archimedes and @Magic_Mushroom will be able to describe the situation with far greater accuracy...

The possible war story bit is that the "Blue Circle" name also follows a naming convention that military kit has been using for years

Absolutely true - the Rainbow Codes gave us some wonderful codenames. Our department head had worked on Indigo Corkscrew, my first job was on Blue Vixen, and we've mentioned Green Mace on the site before now...

The bit I heard was that there was a big push in the spy networks to work out how this radar worked, and any tale of "it's just a lump of concrete" was taken as misinformation or a smoke screen...

Nope, because the problems that GEC-Marconi was having with AI.24 Foxhunter were well-known and the source of much annoyance. The fact that GEC-Marconi was also busy making a complete arrse of the Nimrod AEW project at the same time was cause for Questions in The House... and the fact that Marconi were blaming Ferranti for the delays was extremely annoying (not least because it wasn't true [1])

There would have been a decent push to study it, because AI.24 was the first digital signal processing radar to fly in Europe (the Americans had done it, but no-one else). Very first-generation stuff, and quite similar to the thing in the front of the F-14 Tomcat; both were HPRF/LPRF-only radars, limited in their subtlety, but pretty damn powerful.

[1] Story goes that the RAF wanted to upgrade the Tornado to have a less limited dogfighting ability; the original radar specification was for something unambitious, intended to cruise out over the North Sea, fire off some Skyflash BVR against BEAR and BACKFIRE bombers, then home for tea and medals. They phone up GEC-Ferranti Radar Systems[2] who have inherited the design authority, and ask how much it will cost to upgrade the antenna platform to cope with X-g, instead of Y-g, manoeuvres (because sweeping the sky at a constant speed, regardless of whether your antenna just got X times heavier, isn't that easy). They apparently delved into the original antenna platform design, and came back with "nah, she'll be good, we always thought it was a crap spec so we left some overhead" in true Ferranti tradition...

[2] Ferranti went bust because we'd bought a US defence firm that turned out to have a $400million hole in its books, and a CEO called James Guerin who went away to get a stripey suntan. GEC bought us because we'd just won the Typhoon radar contract, then put their old Marconi radar team under our control (bit of a vote of confidence there)[3]. A particular irritation was Marconi engineers saying "but we did it this way on Foxhunter", while Ferranti engineers muttered "yes, but Foxhunter was sh!t" under their breath...

[3] The Marconi radar division was based around Milton Keynes; this as the Cold War was ending and London salaries were going through the roof. They just couldn't retain full-time engineers on the wages they were willing to pay, so there were large numbers of contractors doing the actual design work on the Marconi part of the Typhoon radar. After a couple of years working against this, we binned the contractors (and the Milton Keynes site) and moved all the work, and some willing engineers, to Edinburgh.
 
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Brotherton Lad

LE
Kit Reviewer
I've just been reading this gem and thought I'd share it with you:


The National Interest
Russia vs. Britain: In 1988, a Royal Navy Frigate Played Pranks on Soviet Ships

The Soviets realized a NATO warship was off their coast. They sent aircraft and helicopters to buzz London. Meanwhile, a Matka-class, missile-armed hydrofoil sailed to intercept the frigate. “Littlejohns decided to have some ‘fun and games’ with the Matka,” Ballantyne wrote.

by David Axe Follow @daxe on TwitterL
In the late 1980s, tensions between NATO and the Soviet Union began to ease. American president Ronald Reagan and Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, or INF, which banned in Europe land-based, nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and rockets with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles.

As a gesture toward the thaw, the Royal Navy made more visible some of its most strategic intelligence-gathering missions. Instead of sending hard-to-detect, nuclear-powered attack submarines into Soviet waters, the U.K. fleet instead sent highly-visible surface warships.

Among them was the new Type 22 frigate HMS London. In command of the 490-feet-long, missile-armed frigate was a former submarine commander, Capt. Doug Littlejohns. He brought to his frigate command all the daring and roguishness that was typical of sub-commanders. Littlejohns’ exploits are the subject of several chapters in naval historian Iain Ballantyne’s new book Undersea Warriors.

Littlejohns took command of London in December 1987 as her second captain. The frigate boasted the latest hardware for electronic intelligence-gathering.

“The American-origin Outboard Electronic Intelligence system was extremely capable,” Ballantyne wrote. “Combined with other sensors and communications equipment, it all fed into a computer in the operations room, where it was stitched together to form one combat picture. The Computer-Assisted Command System could simultaneously track up to 500 contacts.”

The Royal Navy declared HMS London to be fully operational in January 1988. She deployed to the Baltic Sea, “a backwater,” according to Ballantyne. “Even so, for a captain with the aggression and daring of Littlejohns it was a challenge to be embraced.”

“The main purpose was to test [London] against real potential targets,” Littlejohns said. “At that time the Russians considered the Baltic to be their own private lake and we set out to prove them wrong.”

In the dead of night London made the passage between Denmark and Sweden. “For further cover, London’s lights were arranged to impersonate a merchant vessel and by dawn she was off the coast of the USSR,” Ballantyne wrote.

The main objective, Littlejohns said, was “hanging around sucking in useful intelligence on our sensors, making sure they all operated to specification.”

The Soviets realized a NATO warship was off their coast. They sent aircraft and helicopters to buzz London. Meanwhile, a Matka-class, missile-armed hydrofoil sailed to intercept the frigate.

“Littlejohns decided to have some ‘fun and games’ with the Matka,” Ballantyne wrote.

The hydrofoil “was fitted with high-speed diesel engines, so if we went fast then he was okay, but if we went slowly he would coke them up after an hour or so,” Littlejohns recalled. “He would then have to do a high-speed run to burn off the coke.”

Littlejohns doubled down on the harassment of the poor hydrofoil crew. The former sub captain dressed up as a priest, had his ship’s workshop produce a coffin then organized a mock funeral on the deck in full view of the Soviets. The frigate’s crew slid the coffin into the sea.

“It was deliberately designed to float,” Ballantyne wrote. London sailed away from the bobbing coffin. Littlejohns grabbed a pair of binoculars and watched as the Soviets scooped up what they apparently hoped would be an intelligence prize.

But instead of containing the body of a U.K. sailor, the coffin yielded surprises for the Soviets. “A bottle of whiskey, pornographic magazines and copy of Littlejohns’ favorite novel, The Hunt for Red October. There also was a note from Littlejohns that read, “Haven’t you go anything better to do?”

The coffin full of treats actually warmed the Soviets to the NATO interlopers. “I’m sure [the hydrofoil captain] enjoyed our decadent capitalistic gifts,” Littlejohns quipped. “He was certainly less unfriendly thereafter, stopped playing silly rules-of-the-road games and waved cheerily when he made close passes. He even spoke to us a couple of times on the VHF [radio].”

Littlejohns wasn’t done. For his final prank on the hydrofoil, Littlejohns held a shipwide contest to see which group of sailors could produce the most outrageous fake weapon system.

“The winners turned out to be a bunch of ratings who used various dustbins and their lids to create a convincing ‘monster torpedo,’” Ballantyne wrote.

“It had the biggest fin ever seen on a NATO naval weapon. Mounted amidships, next to the real torpedoes, this striking thing attracted lots of attention from the shadowing Soviet vessels. They would swing in past the ship, zoom lenses of their spy camera zeroing in on the new, so-called super-weapon.”


I love this sort of thing. Are there any other stories like this from the other services?

Oh, yes. Pages of porn and cigarettes were all the rage in East Germany in the mid-1980s.

On the British Military Train between West Berlin and Helmstedt such gifts helped make the passage easier. One Soviet officer especially liked Western motorcycle magazines, though.

I used to leave miniature bottles of whisky in the East German barns we used to park up for the night to sleep in during the winter.
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
One Cold War joke that had quite a bit of knock-on effect was a Soviet submarine, running on the surface to its usual "submerge and vanish here" location and being observed by a Norwegian P-3 Orion in 1984 or so.

They had, up on the fin, a "surface to air missile launcher" that was clearly a Blue Peter-style mockup, there as a bit of a giggle to amuse themselves and the aircraft they knew would be there.

(Coincidentally, at least one class did have a SAM capability - after Falklands experience with the Santa Fe in 1982, the Soviets gave their Kilo-class boats a pressure-tight storage for a MANPADS gripstock and a couple of missiles: if you were damaged and forced to surface, you'd at least have something to keep helicopters or MPA at a respectful distance)

These two data points converged into Soviet submarines being able to launch SAMs submerged (as we'd tried and tested in the 1970s with HMS Aeneas, deciding it was too much risk for too little reward) as a capability in assorted technothrillers of the time (certainly featured in Larry Bond's "Red Phoenix", for instance) and even leading to conspiracy theories about how the US Navy shot down an airliner off Long Island in 1996 with a top-secret sub-launched SAM "just like the Russians"..
 

Bubbles_Barker

LE
Book Reviewer

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