Tailwheel Meet 2016

© Thomas Thielemans
© Thomas Thielemans
OO-SVT © Thomas Thielemans
OO-SVT © Thomas Thielemans
© Thomas Thielemans
© Thomas Thielemans
© Thomas Thielemans
OO-SVT © Thomas Thielemans
© Thomas Thielemans
© Thomas Thielemans

°The Battle of Britain Memorial

The National Memorial to the Few at Capel-le-Ferne, on the famous white cliffs between Dover and Folkestone in Kent, occupies a special place in the hearts and minds of all those who have visited this moving site.

© Thomas Thielemans
© Thomas Thielemans

Maintained by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, the site at Capel-le-Ferne is dedicated to Churchill’s famous “Few” who fought in the skies overhead to keep this country free from invasion.

The Memorial itself inspires quiet reflection on the bravery and sacrifice shown by the aircrew – fewer than 3,000 men – who flew, fought and sometimes died in probably the most crucial battle fought by this country in the whole of the 20th century.

© Thomas Thielemans

The Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall lists the names of all those who took part in the Battle of Britain, while a replica Spitfire and Hurricane stand nearby as a reminder of the iconic machines they flew to victory.

© Thomas Thielemans
© Thomas Thielemans

The Hawker Hurricane Mk l replica US-X has been donated to the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust by the Tory Family Foundation. It represents as precisely as possible the 56 Squadron aircraft in which 20-year-old Pilot Officer Geoffrey Page was shot down and terribly burned on 12 August 1940.

The Supermarine Spitfire Mk1 replica represents as precisely as possible the aircraft YT-J, serial number R6675, flown most by Flying Officer Jeffery Quill OBE AFC during his short operational attachment to 65 Squadron from 6 August to 24 August 1940.

More information: http://www.battleofbritainmemorial.org/the-memorial/

°BRIC countries: Naval military power


Offshore from the Syrian coast, the Russian navy (Военно-морской Флот Российской Федерации) is conducting probably its largest naval deployment outside its own territorial waters since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Chinese navy (People’s Liberation Army Navy) is in another potential confrontation today with Japan in the East China Sea. But the BRIC countries as a whole—a force in the global economic conversation since the acronym in 2001 was mentioned by Goldman Sachs to refer to the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China—are becoming an increasing naval presence on the high seas. These countries, due to the potential of their maritime territories, can be considered to be emerging maritime powers capable of displacing some of the historical maritime powers. One reason is simple nature: when nations become wealthier, they tend to build up their fighting capabilities. Another is natural resources—all four states either want to buy or sell oil and natural gas, and they are venturing further and further to do so…

With the emergence of new powers in the form of the BRIC states, a new phenomenon has taken place: for the first time in modern history Asian states are spending more money on military defense than their European counterparts. The four powers are modernizing and expanding their naval capacities at a rapid pace. In the Asia-Pacific region, China’s military spending has led a strong rise in total military spending for some time. In recent years this has been accompanied by increasing tensions due to territorial disputes in the South and East China seas. At the same time, the US ‘pivot’ to Asia has drawn attention to the region’s strategic importance, while China’s rise continues to reshape the security environment. Although concerns over China’s rise are a key driver of military spending for some countries with which China has maritime territorial disputes, maritime issues remain a key factor for other countries that enjoy better relations with China (SIPRI, 2014).


In September 2012, for example, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. Two months later, the first landing was successfully conducted. According to Michael McDevitt, China is now the world’s largest shipbuilder (Martin Sieff, 20.11.2014). Also India is building its own vessels. The lead vessel of the class, the INS Vikrant, was launched on 12 August 2013. 

© Jeff Head
© Jeff Head

As these emerging economies are all coastal states, the constants of geography endow them with enormous economic muscle. The Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) provide them with enormous quantities of living and non-living resources and the long coastlines are dotted with major ports. They have invested enormous capital to build maritime infrastructure and some of them are keen to support global projects such as the Maritime Silk Route mooted by China and the development of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) through the Arctic by Russia. In essence, the BRICS countries are highly dependent on the seas and are connected with each other through the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and the Arctic Oceans over which more than 90 per cent of global trade by volume is transported (Sakhuja, 2014).

Among the countries in the region of the Indo-Pacific a sense of vulnerability had started to rise. The region faces challenges like climate change and extremist policies. Indo-Pacific is the most militarized area in the world with seven of the world’s ten largest standing armies, the world’s largest and most sophisticated navy and five of the world’s declared nuclear nations (Yoshihara 2013: 91). This rat race can be illustrated by the struggle for power between China and India.  Both countries look seaward and are likely to jostle for influence and advantage across the entire Indo Pacific maritime theatre. As mentioned earlier, China plans to develop its first island chain and green water navy for 2010-2020 by focusing on surface navy ships, nuclear submarines and fighter aircraft. Between 2020 and 2050 Beijing will finalize its fighter jet program and enhance the enlargement of the blue water navy, which will give the country the capacity to operate in second island chains that contains Japanese-held Bonin Islands and the US-held Northern Marianas, Guam, Palau and the Carolines (Bakrie 2013). The Australian Defence White Paper of 2013 has even officially termed ‘Indo-Pacific’ as a new region: a strategic arc connecting the Indian and the Pacific Oceans through Southeast Asia.

Throughout history, a nation’s global power has been measured in part by the size of its navy. The ability to project power across the oceans is considered critical for economic viability, national defence, and as a expression of national culture. Particularly aircraft carrier battle groups project substantial proportions of power and influence whenever and wherever they are needed. These naval forces can also be used to influence regional conflicts. For example, in the summer of 2014, the U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier, the USS George HW Bush and two guided missile ships into the Persian Gulf, a day after President Barack Obama indicated he would launch air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis). This 103,000-tonne warship and its air wing had been patrolling the North Arabian Sea and earlier in 2014 was navigating in the Mediterranean following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Ackerman, 14.06.2014).

As such, a developed aircraft carrier can constitute a statement of how a state could see itself, and how it wishes to be dealt with in the realm of international politics. This factor can be combined with an increasing interest in maritime affairs. These naval power ambitions of the BRIC countries will be the main focus of this analytical paper.

Chapter I: Theoretical framework

Several theories have been developed to offer an answer to the evolution of emerging powers. This article will deal mainly with offensive/defensive realism and the theory of securitization.

Realists see world politics as balance of power politics, a place of polarity change. The latter has been discussed by Kenneth (1993), who argues that at the moment a multipolar international world is in order (Waltz, 1993). Within the current of post-neorealism Jørgensen (2010) makes the difference between defensive and offensive realism. Both sides stress the importance of state security. Offensive realists such as Mearsheimer argue that states seek to maximize their power relative to other states as they are bound to be insecure. Offensive realism also holds that anarchy – the absence of a worldwide government or universal sovereign – provides strong incentives for expansion. These states pursue expansionist policies when and where the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs. Defensive realists such as Mastanduno, however, believe that states are looking to minimize power losses relative to their adversaries (Jørgensen, 2010, p. 86). Situations occur in which measures meant to create security, including aggression, increase the insecurity of other states, thereby creating a more dangerous situation that encourages other states to balance against one and to contemplate first strikes. To gain security in many instances, states are best served by signaling restraint rather than aggression, though aggression may be necessary in some instances.

Power transition theory

Power transition theory predicts that future shifts in global power configurations might produce systemic instability. Bussmann and Oneal (2007: 90) formulate power transition theory as ‘constructed on three fundamental claims: the international growth of nations influences international politics, world politics is characterized by hierarchy rather than anarchy, and relative power and evaluations of the international status quo are important determinants of interstate wars’. Bussmann and Oneal argue that stability is secured if the satisfied great powers align themselves with the dominant power. On the contrary, instability occurs if a dissatisfied challenger great power reaches rough parity with the dominant power ( Bussmann & Oneal, 2007, 88-111).

The International Socitety Tradition

In recent years, Barry Buzan, among others, has done a lot of research on regions. Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security (2003) deals with this matter. This 2003 book develops the idea that since decolonisation, regional patterns of security have become more prominent in international politics. The authors combine an operational theory of regional security with an empirical application across the whole of the international system. Barry Buzan is a man with many faces as he can be situated in the English School and in the Copenhagen School. With the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, theorists had problems, according to Buzan, how to define the post-Cold War polarity. On the one hand clearly the U.S. was still a superpower. On the other hand there were substantial numbers of regional powers such as India, Brazil, and Pakistan. In between were significant global players, which clearly surpassed the status of regional or middle power status. These included China, Japan and Russia. Superpowers and great powers define the global level of polarity, and the line between them and regional powers is the one that defines the difference between global and regional security dynamics.

Buzan proposes in Regions and Powers a definitional criterion for a three-tiered scheme: superpowers and great powers at the system level, and regional powers at the regional level.

  •  Superpowers

Superpowers must possess first-class military-political capabilities, and the economies to support such capabilities. Superpowers must be active players in processes of securitisation and desecuritisation in all, or nearly all, of the regions in the system. Their legitimacy as superpowers will depend substantially on their success in establishing the legitimacy of values. After the Second World War the title of superpower was held by the USA and the Soviet Union. After the Cold War it was only held by the USA.

  • Great powers

 Great powers can be distinguished from regional powers is that they are responded by others on the basis of system level calculations about the present and near-future distribution of power. They generally think of themselves as more than regional powers, and even as future superpowers. Another perspective is the form of countries declining from acquired superpower status. During the Cold War it was held by China, Germany and Japan. After the Cold War Britain, France, Germany-EU, Japan, China and Russia had great power rank. India, however, lacked the capability to acquire the rank. It is questionable whether China already achieved the status of a superpower. But its challenge is troubled by internal problems and by the fact that a rise in its power could trigger a counter coalition in the Asian continent (Buzan  & Wæver, 2003).

As for claims that China and India are great powers, John McCormick (2011) argues that these states face several troubling facts: neither state has the ability to commit its military forces all over the globe. Secondly, their political influence is mainly regional rather than global. Another argument is the fact that both countries don’t possess a world-class currency. For McCormick, its human rights records and the lack of economic transparency hinder the global influence of China. Whereas India, it must deal with massive poverty and pressing domestic social and religious divisions (McCormick, 2011, p. 411).

  • Regional powers

High-levels powers respond to regional powers as if their influence and capability were mainly relevant to the securitisation processes of a particular region

On this subject José Miguel Alonso Trabanco (Global Research, 2009) states that Brazil is committed to solidify its role as a regional power, which would be a decisive step toward great power status. Thus, Brasil will put a lot of economic, military, diplomatic and geopolitical resources into such efforts. So far, Brazil does not seek to challenge any other major power but it has made it clear that South America is its ‘Near Abroad’ so its main goal is to consolidate its primacy in the region (Trabanco, (5.02.2009).
In an interview for Theory Talks, an interactive forum for discussion of debates in International Relations, Buzan (Theory Talks, 2009) describes how a map of the world in international political terms in his vision would look like. This map is given with an English School framing. “International society, on this map, would be more decentred, with a variety of distinctive regional societies emerging in different colours. These regional societies would not be competing with each other as a Cold War map might show you, in terms of regional blocs trying to take over the whole system. They would rather be more defensive than universalist in their aspirations.” (Theory Talks, 2009).

Chapter II: Aircraft carriers

This section will provide a brief description of the use and the activities of aircraft carrier battle groups. In the case of the U.S., aircraft carriers have been essential to the exercise of their naval power since 1942. With the largest navy in the world, the United States is the dominant maritime nation. Whenever the U.S. has been involved in hostile operations, these vessels have been asked upon as the initial policy instrument. From the Second World War to today’s Global War on Terrorism—playing key roles in four major wars, in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in numerous other hostile and non hostile missions far and wide—aircraft carriers have been used to make a show of force, deter adversaries, engage friends and allies, provide humanitarian assistance (Boraz, S., Birkler, J., Gordon IV, J., Lee, G.,T. & Wilson, P. A., 2006).

100,000 tons of diplomacy

Modern aircraft carriers such as the USS George Washington are about 330 meters long and can accommodate approximately 80 jet fighters. During combat and non-combat missions similar super carriers displace more than 100,000 tons and can accommodate 6,250 crew members. 18,000 meals are served per day. The military advantages of aircraft carriers are obvious: these vessels can quickly move tactical fighter jets and their support to distant theaters of war; respond rapidly with tremendous firepower to changing tactical situations; support several missions at once, with a great number of flights per day; deploy in international waters without having to engage in negotiations with other nations; and remain on assignment for months (US Navy, 2014).

USS George HW Bush  (CVN 77) © U.S. Navy
USS George HW Bush (CVN 77) © U.S. Navy

Vital Humanitarian Platforms

Iskander Rehman, Visiting International Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), has written about the humanitarian aspect of aircraft carriers. These vessels can prove to be extremely valuable assets when responding to humanitarian emergencies or engaging in NEOs (non-combatant evacuation operations). “An aircraft carrier can provide self-generating supply of fresh water, medical support or engineering expertise to populations in dire need, and have revealed themselves time and time again to be vital humanitarian platforms.”

The participation of the Indian carrier INS Viraat in the 2004 tsunami relief effort comes to mind. A second example is the recent action of the USS Carl Vinson after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, providing medical assistance and water to Haiti’s population (Rehman, 2010). Another recent example in 2013 (New York Times, 2013) is the USS George Washington that headed to the Philippines on an emergency mission to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan as the situation on the islands became increasingly desperate, with food and water supplies running low and bodies lying uncollected in the streets of at least one devastated city. Much can be done, according to Rehman, to further bolster a carrier’s humanitarian response skills. Secondly he argues, medical modular facilities can be installed on board in order to enhance the carrier’s medical responsiveness. Finally, a command centre can be set up so that key government personnel and civil response teams can coordinate their efforts via the carrier’s communication systems. This could be extremely useful, for example, in the event of disruption of landlines or the destruction of government offices.

Chapter 3: Emergence of the BRIC countries

In this chapter the theory of Barry Buzan will be tested and analyzed on the BRIC countries, i.e.: Brazil, Russia, India and China. The first section provides a brief introduction to the term BRIC in order to understand the magnitude of these countries. The second section provides an overview of how each country approaches maritime power.


After the break-up of the Soviet Union, analysts argued that the world welcomed a new unipolar era in which the United States was the only superpower, unchallenged on the military front but also perhaps even on economic and political fronts. So there was talk of the emergence of new global powers in the form of the BRIC states. McCormick (2011) mentions the fact that some authors were replacing the unipolar system by a multipolar system: the U.S. would remain pre-eminent but would face new competition from China and India. McCormick considers a multipolar system, “an arrangement in international relations in which power is divided, shared and controlled by more than two dominant actors.

BRIC, what’s in a name?

More than a decade ago, Jim O’Neil, chief economist for Goldman Sachs, decided to group, Brazil, Russia, India and China by giving the four countries the acronym BRIC. South Africa became part of the BRIC nations in 2010, turning BRIC into BRICS. In his 2001 paper entitled, “Building Better Global Economic BRICs”, he argued that since the four BRIC countries were developing rapidly, by 2050 their combined economies could eclipse all the economies of the richest countries in the world (O’Neill, 2001). In 2011, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the total population of all BRIC states amounted to an estimated 2.9 billion inhabitants. The IMF estimated in 2012 that the GDP of all BRIC states amounted to approximately 14,521.7 billion U.S. dollars. The World Trade Organization (WTO) estimates that in 2011, the BRIC countries exported goods worth approximately three trillion U.S. dollars and imported goods worth approximately 2.8 trillion U.S. dollars.


To understand China’s maritime strategy, it is best to look back at its history. In the period of the Song Dynasty and Ming Dynasty several successful maritime expeditions to Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean gave China the opportunity to become the strongest sea power in Asia. In the 19th and 20th centuries, China was frequently attacked from the sea. The neglect of sea power resulted in China losing its territory and sovereignty to Western powers. As Sun Yat-sen noted: “since the great changes in world forces, national might often depends on the navy, not the army”. After the Chinese revolution in 1949, maritime infrastructure was developed with Soviet aid, though limited in outlook due to the continental mindset of the Chinese leaders in that period. Later on, Chinese academics advocated that China must develop a capable navy to defend her maritime interest (Sakhuja, 2011, pp. 14-15).

By 2020 the PLAN wants a flotilla of four carriers. It’s still a long way from approaching the size of the U.S. Navy, which has ten Nimitz-class carriers and is building two new Ford-class vessels. China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, entered into service in September 2012. Although it is considered to be largely a training carrier, it is a significant pointer as to the direction China’s sea-power is heading. China bought the vessel from Ukraine in 1998 and has spent 10 years refitting it.

Tunsjø sums up several drivers behind China’s naval developments. In the mid-1980’s China shifted its grand strategy from a continental to a maritime orientation and began its development of a near-seas active defense. This included protection of Chinese sovereignty in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and defending Chinese interests in disputed maritime areas (Tunsjø, 2012).

  • Taiwan issue

One of the main driving factors in China’s naval modernization is the Taiwan issue. As Tunsjø notes, the core objective of the anti-access strategy has been to develop the capabilities to keep US Forces from getting close enough to attack the Chinese mainland, or to intervene in a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) attack on Taiwan. Secondly, authors have argued that the insecurity of seaborne petroleum imports have influenced China’s naval nationalists to justify a carrier-based blue water navy. A final aspect of his conclusion is the more recent build-up of a modern surface fleet. “China’s re-emergence as a great power with global interests and responsibilities has fuelled the development of this naval ambition.” According to Tunsjø China will have difficulties with developing a first class modern navy, and conducting worldwide peacetime missions to safeguard its global interests.

Toshi Yoshihara writes in The Diplomat,China is at least a decade away from amassing the type of preponderant sea power that can keep the United States out of the South China Sea while running roughshod over Southeast Asian states” (Yoshihara, 2012).

In this regard, Bonnie S. Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia for the CSIS, can affirm that China is decades away from having such a capability. According to her, “It sounds more like a bad movie script…”


The history of Russia reflects the importance and relevance to Russian sea power. The Russian Navy tradition has to be linked with the historical figure of Peter the Great (or in Russian Пётр I) (Mikhail Tsypkin, 2012). To improve his nation’s position on the seas, Peter sought to gain more maritime outlets. Peter attempted to acquire control of the Black Sea; to do so he would have to expel the Tartars from the surrounding areas. In 1695 Peter began building a large navy. He launched about thirty ships against the Ottomans in 1696, capturing Azov in July of that year. On 12 September 1698, Peter officially founded the first Russian Navy base, Taganrog.

Peter I (The Great) with shipbuilders in Holland, 1697.  From an engraving by J. B. Michel after an original by G. Vapper
Peter I (The Great) with shipbuilders in Holland, 1697.
From an engraving by J. B. Michel after an original by G. Vapper

Yet Russia is also known for its dilemma between the political image of a great sea power and the reality of Russia as a great land power. The victory during the Northern Wars (1700-21) provided Russia the access to the Baltic Sea resulting in direct relationships with European countries. In 1904, however, the Russian Fleet was obliterated by the emerging Japanese maritime power. As Vijay Sakhuja (2011) points out: “For the Soviet Union, the main goal was to build communism, and sea power was one of the important factors in strengthening its economy and consolidating links with countries friendly to it.” During the Cold War, Admiral Sergei Gorshkov understood the importance of a strong navy as its force was considered as the guarantor of security. His definition of sea power was: ‘the ability of a state to study (explore) the oceans and harness its wealth; (…) and their ability to meet the needs of the state and a navy matching the interest of the state.” 

  • Putin’s Navy

When Vladimir Putin came into power in 2000, the Russian Navy saw a new, though contradictory era. There was an increase of political attention as the new president signed several major documents such as the Maritime Doctrine of the Russian Federation until the Year 2020. However, at the same time, the Russian Navy suffered disasters such as the sinking of the Kursk nuclear attack submarine.


These documents, such as the Maritime Doctrine, would be in the Soviet era a good instrument to predict maritime developments as the Soviets had a well-established worldview. The Russian Federation, however, seems to struggle to find its position in the world politics.

Additional aspects to understand the Russian Navy is the difficulty to analyse the Russian industry whether it is capable of replacing the aging ships. Until 2005, the idea of building new aircraft carriers was not mentioned. That same year, Russian enthusiasts of aircraft carriers argued that these vessels were needed in case of a missile attack (by the U.S. Navy). One year later Admiral Masorin said that until 2015 the main task would be to maintain the existing vessels. Yet in that same period the Russian economy witnessed a rapid growth, which influenced Russian policy-makers. One has to keep in mind that in the end no such plan had ever been approved by the authorities.

In 2008 there were rumours of Russia negotiating with a French company concerning the purchase of an aircraft carrier, thus showing that Russia is no longer an autarkic defence industrial power (Mikhail Tsypkin, 2012). According to Wein present-day Russia is a much-diminished force. In diplomatic terms, he argues, Moscow retains a UN Security Council veto, and control over much of Europe’s gas. On paper, this reduced global influence is only partially reflected in Russia’s military power. The Russian armed forces reportedly have a little over a million active duty personnel, and a budget of $56 billion, making them the fifth largest power by both expenditure and troop numbers. The Russian navy is thought to have around 200 active combat ships, and to be the world’s second largest by tonnage (Wein, 2011).

Tsypkin suggests that “the Russian Navy will be an instrument for gaining influence vis-à-vis Russia’s smaller and weaker neighbours and for defending the maritime approaches to Russia proper.” Furthermore he argues that the Russian Navy will pay greater attention to the Far East as this region is of great importance with its energy reserves (Tsypkin, 2012). This can be illustrated by the fact that Russia has flexed its military muscle recently, with NATO reporting more incursions by Russian fighters and long-range bombers. The Russian maneuvers followed months of tension over Ukraine, where Moscow has annexed the Crimean Peninsula and has supported armed separatists opposed to the Kiev government.

At the beginning of 2015, the Russian Navy deploys only one aircraft carrier, the Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov. The only other ship in the class, Varyag, had not yet been commissioned when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991. Ukraine sold the unfinished hull to China, where it was completed and commissioned as the Liaoning.


The Russians have the world’s second most powerful nuclear arsenal, with an estimated 1,900 warheads. Assorted military upgrade programmes are in the pipeline. At present, Russia is certainly a global power, if not quite a superpower. Yet it differs from the other BRICs in that it is moving in the other direction. Where China, India and Brazil are all rising powers, Russia has embarked on a downward spiral. High gas prices, sturdy equipment and residual power will allow it to play a global role for several decades to come. Sheer size and willingness to use its power mean it will always be a regional giant capable of affecting the destinies of its smaller neighbours. But without a major change in Russia’s governance, demography and economy, it will not be a superpower again anytime soon.

By the end of 2014 the rouble lost almost forty per cent of its value over three weeks, making it the biggest crisis of Mr Putin’s reign. Critics argue that Putin has failed to reform Russia’s economy, leaving it dependent on the energy industry. Russia still has reserves of $370 billion, but it also has foreign-currency debts of more than $600 billion. It seems that Moscow is reeling from the effects of the tumbling oil price and Western-imposed sanctions. An example of a Western-imposed sanction was the announcement of the French government halting the delivery of the first of two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships planned for delivery to the Russian Navy, as IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reported in September 2014.


Brazil, as Wein (2011) points out, is currently, of all the BRIC countries, the smallest. IMF figures show that China, India and Russia all have larger gross domestic products, calculated by purchasing power parity. Also China and India have far larger populations, as well as markedly higher GDP growth rates. Furthermore Mein argues that Brazil is also the only one of the four to lack nuclear weapons, and both Russia and China wield a UN Security Council veto. This relatively lesser power is reflected in Brazil’s armed forces.

When Brazil became independent from Portugal in 1822, many of the Portuguese Navy’s ships stationed in the country transferred their allegiance to the newly independent state, forming the Brazilian (in Portuguese Marinha do Brasil – MdB). Currently it operates one aircraft carrier, the São Paulo, formerly the Foch of the French Navy, which entered service in 2003. In December 2014 it was announced that the São Paulo will be expected to continue active service until 2039, at which time the vessel will be nearly 80 years old! Also worth mentioning is the choice of fighter jets: the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, a.k.a. the “Scooter”; the “Kiddiecar”; the “Bantam Bomber”; the “Tinker Toy Bomber”; and, on account of its nimble performance, the “Heinemann’s Hot-Rod”. As of 2014, Brazil was the latest Skyhawk customer.

Brazil AF-1 Falcão (A-4KU Skyhawk) onbord of aircraft carrier São Paulo.
Brazil AF-1 Falcão (A-4KU Skyhawk) on bord of aircraft carrier São Paulo.

The Brazilian Navy is the largest navy in South America, and the second largest navy in the Americas, after the United States Navy. Currently it has almost 60, 000 personnel in service. At $28 billion, military expenditure is not so very much less than India, but trails well behind Russia and China although additional funds are available for upgrade programmes. And while Embraer and other Brazilian defence firms are economic successes, none are in the top 100 global defence manufacturers. Brazil argues that it is looking to expand its military power. In 2008, a National Defence Strategy was published, with an emphasis on technology transfer to lift Brazil’s power. A number of modernisation programmes are under way. Under the PEAMB programme, naval modernisation will eventually encompass two aircraft carriers, four helicopter carriers, 30 escort ships, 15 submarines, five nuclear submarines and 62 patrol ships.

On 12 December 2014 Brazilian Navy commander Admiral Julio Soares de Moura Neto reaffirmed long-term plans to boost the country’s naval power to eventually include 15 conventional and six nuclear-powered submarines. “Our aim is to propel Brazil forward into the 21st century with a more well-equipped navy supported by a stronger defence industry,” Adm de Moura Neto told IHS Jane’s. “PROSUB is the most ambitious contemporary development of the Brazilian Navy, representing a substantial investment in the country through technology transfer, professional training, and regional growth through the generation of income,” he said. President Dilma Rousseff, who presided over the inauguration, stressed the importance of modernising the MdB to ensure the country’s sovereignty (Janet Tappin Coelho, 2014).

The Brazilian navy sees its mission as driven by blue-water operations – not brown. Yet this is not reflected in actions, or budgets. In February 2011, $2.4 billion of cuts to the defence budget were announced. The left-of-centre Worker’s Party, in power since 2002, has prioritised domestic poverty relief over expansive military expenditure. Though the previous president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, had global ambitions, Brazil’s forays onto the global stage were mostly as diplomatic mediator. Two prime examples were his intervention with Turkey to head off Iranian nuclear ambitions, and leading the global South in arguments over food subsidies at the Doha round of global trade negotiations. In terms of hard power, it remains to be seen whether the enormous proposed naval upgrade programme survives intact.


For centuries India and the Indian Ocean emerged as the centres of maritime activity. However, during the colonial era, the British strategy for India resulted in a total lack of indigenous maritime thought. For India, the geospatial location in the Southern Asian-Indian Ocean regions confers its ‘maritimeness’. Sea power in Indian writings is described as “the ability of a state to use the sea”, also, “as that part of the maritime strategy with which a nation attempts to achieve predetermined economic and political goals.” (Sakhuja, 2011).

Currently the Indian Navy is generally far behind China’s in overall size and capability, but it is actually ahead when it comes to operating carriers. Its ambition to be a serious blue-water force still burns brightly. The launch of the country’s first domestically built aircraft carrier, the Vikrant is expected to enter service in 2018.

However, in 2013 the INS Vikramaditya, a modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier, entered into service with the Indian Navy. The vessel has been renamed in honour of Vikramaditya, a legendary 1st century BC emperor of Ujjain, India. In May 2014, the carrier was declared operationally deployed along with its embarked air group comprising MiG-29Ks and had taken part in a war game conducted by the Western Naval Command. On 14 June 2014, Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi dedicated the carrier to the country.

The Indian Navy has encountered struggles and travails pursuing the goal of a three carrier fleet comprised of one carrier battle group stationed on each seaboard, and a third carrier held in reserve. Iskander Rehman expected in 2010 that the Indian Navy would boast three operational carrier groups by 2020 at the latest. This can be seen as a quantum leap in India’s naval capabilities. In the past, a mixture of political indecisiveness and inappropriate threat assessments has frequently stunted Indian aircraft carriers’ tactical flexibility in times of conflict. According to Rehman, the most recent existential threat to India’s carrier force takes the form of China’s newly inducted anti-ship ballistic missile, the DF-21, which can reportedly hit a moving target while travelling at a speed of Mach 10.

In May 2007, India spelt out its maritime strategy in the document Freedom to Use the Seas: India’s Maritime Military Strategy. In times of war the role of the Indian Navy is expected to perform operations ranging from “distant credible sea denial over large areas of the Indian Ocean” to “distant sea control in selected areas of the Indian Ocean to protect economic interests and mercantile traffic,” to conducting “phased operations”.

In The Diplomat, James Hardy (2013) points out the numbers of the navy’s annual spending. In 1988 the navy’s annual spend was INR10 billion ($181 million), in 2012 it was INR373.14 billion ($6.78 billion). Hardy sums up a number of possible reasons why New Delhi’s naval manoeuvres are not raising alarm bells. First of all, the U.S. has decided India is a friend, a country it wants to partner with in the Pacific, with then Defence Secretary Leon Panetta describing Delhi in 2012 as an “anchor” around which a stable Indian Ocean Region could be constructed. Also, the United States likes to sell materiel to India. U.S. defence sales to India since 2001 are worth about USD13 billion and rising.

Secondly, Hardy sees India’s naval forces as underperforming. Its current carrier, INS Viraat (the former HMS Hermes), is drifting towards obsolescence. So while India is spending big money, its recapitalization is as much about maintaining existing levels as it is about building new capabilities. Meanwhile, many of these expensive projects are running behind schedule and over budget. This leads to the third argument, which Hardy mentions: the naval modernization and procurement is chaotic, late and over budget.

Hardy’s last argument is the fact that India’s maritime forces are expanding into a (relative) vacuum. “Although India has used its navy in contingencies involving Pakistan, the Indian Ocean is big enough – and empty enough – for it to expand its role without generating too much friction with its neighbours.“ The above quotation emphasises that unlike Beijing, Delhi is not planning to use its navy or coast guard to enforce nine-dashed line-shaped claims that undercut its neighbours’ mineral, fishing or territorial interests. It can be more seen as a valid and much-needed response to terrorist – and territorial – threats such as the 2008 Mumbai attacks. For Hardy it is clear that India is thinking big – and thinking long term.

Saira Basit (2012), research fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies (IFS), describes in the study of Emerging naval powers in Asia. China’s and India’s quest for sea power, the main drivers behind India’s modernisation of its navy. These are a genuine need to protect the nation against non-traditional threats but also a desire to take grater responsibility as an emerging power. Secondly Basit questions India’s future relationship with Pakistan and China and how much potential future conflicts take out of the defence budget. Furthermore it also depends on India’s future rate of economic growth and budgetary military limitations. Another factor is national pride. India is on a quest for a more assertive role in the Indian Ocean. Basit concludes that “with a long coastline and both real and perceived large-scale maritime threats, India will most likely keep on upgrading its navy. A strong Indian navy could greatly contribute to enhancing security at sea.”

Chapter 4: Naval power


The assessment of power can be a complex empirical problem as former Indian Navy officer Vijay Sakhuja (2011) suggests in his second book: ‘Asian Maritime Power in the 21st Century: Strategic Transactions -China, India and Southeast Asia’ . He argues that maritime power is a mix of the geographical, economic, political and technological strengths and weaknesses of a state. Another factor is the military component.

Empirical evaluation of maritime power

In an attempt to determine an empirical evaluation of maritime power Sakhuja adapts Ray S. Cline’s calculus to undertake an analysis of sea power. For this paper only the BRIC countries will be analysed. The formula Sakhuja uses reads as follows:

            Pmp   =         Perceived maritime power

G         =         Geographical factors

E         =         Economic capability

M         =         Military capability

T         =         Technological capability

P         =         Stategic purpose of maritime power (S) and a will to pursue maritime strategy (W)

The first factor, geography, is based on the length of the coastline, island territories, number of harbours, etc. The first approximation, as Sakhuja points out, is:

Pmp = G

With this formula we could describe China, Brazil, India and Russia as major maritime powers. Yet, this seems for Sakhuja as an oversimplification of a complex issue. Therefor Sakhuja adds a second factor, namely economic capability:

Pmp = G + E

To quantify the economic strength of a state, one can measure the availability of natural resources, production of goods, services, GDP, maritime trade. So if the perception of maritime power were based on geographical and economic factors, then Russia would hold one of the top ranks. India, China and Brazil can be counted as well as maritime powers due to their good geographic location and impressive economic indicators.

At this stage Sakhuja expands the equation with the military factor:

Pmp = (G + E + M)

The perceived maritime power of a nation is enhanced if it possesses nuclear weapon-capable naval forces that can act as a deterrent. With this idea in mind, Russia and China can be assigned a higher maritime power weight than India and Brazil.

 Another aspect in maritime affairs is technology: computers, satnav, and digital warfare. This mean the formula has to be changed into:

Pmp = (G + E + M + T)

Here we can say that the four countries are behind the top ranked United States. As noted in the previous chapter, Russia has fallen behind in computer technology. China for example has to depend on Russian technology as the Americans have terminated military technology transfers with the Chinese in 1989. In India submarines are under construction under a transfer of technology agreement with the French. However, the Indian Navy can also be seen as a technologically advanced force. An example is the bilateral agreement between India and Mozambique, including the transfer of knowhow and technology (see Ross and Sakhuja, 2012).

Finally Sakhuja adds two other, critical factors in the assessment of sea power: national maritime strategy and maritimeness. These are the political factors in the equation. Maritimeness is the foundation on which national strategy is formulated. The final equation is:

Pmp = (G + E + M + T) (S + W).

The ‘S’ factor is based on a clear-cut strategy, whereas the ‘W’ stands for national leadership.

In the case of China there is a new awareness of the importance of maritime power among the national leaders. This maritimeness has turned China into a major maritime power. This vision is also shared by the national leaders of Russia and India. Brazilian leaders, on the contrary, lack a certain amount of political will.

One has to keep in mind, as Sakhuja warns, that many factors in the equitation are subjective and have to be dealt with using numerical coefficients based on the viewpoint of decision-makers.

Naval conflicts in the future

The likelihood of a conflict seems uncertain. As Saira Basit and Øystein Tunsjø (2012) argues, a naval confrontation between India and China is in the short term unlikely and will remain so in the long term. Although both countries are increasingly active in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, the expansion of their respective navies is unlikely to shift the balance of power to an alarming degree.

Murray Scot Tanner, Asia analyst in CNA’s China Strategic Issues Group imagines that however the appearance of Chinese naval vessels near the Indian coastline would certainly upset New Delhi, China and India are coordinating, nonetheless, their patrols against piracy with other maritime partners such as the United States. In his opinion it is not a major source of concern, though it is interesting to follow the developments of these countries.[1]


The Russians have the ambition to be a super power – and while presently it possesses these capabilities, these capabilities are degrading. Russia is no longer an autarkic defence industrial power. Brazil, meanwhile, does not have the capabilities – not for lack of financial means, but because its political leaders lack the ‘maritimeness’. Brazil does not seek to challenge any other major power but it has made it clear that South America is its ‘Near Abroad’ so its main goal is to consolidate its primacy in the region. China and India, on the contrary, are the most ambitious of the BRIC countries. Beijing has all the necessary resources to compete with the Americans, by building up their naval forces and they are intending to do so. India, is threatened by an ambitious Pakistan and by an emerging China. The more the BRIC states seek to influence first their immediate regions, and then the world, the more their defence investment will begin to mirror the hi-tech industries of the US defence complex.


[1] The opinions expressed are solely those to M. S. Tanner and do not necessarily reflect the views of CNA.


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°The Flying Lesson – A short film

THE FLYING LESSON | A Short Film from Phil Hawkins – Director on Vimeo.

The Flying Lesson is a good short film involving air-to-air stunt sequences with a vintage WWII Tiger Moth bi-plane: G-AHUF nicknamed “Huffy”. The film has been selected for the Short Film Corner at Cannes Film Festival 2013. Five different digital film cameras were used to shoot The Flying Lesson: the Canon C300 in Cinema Mode, the Sony EX1, Red ONE, Canon 7D and Canon 5D mark2.

Storyline: After the recent death of her grandfather, Phoebe Sanderson (Jessica Blake) takes a flying lesson in the exact plane her grandfather flew in WWII, a recently restored Tiger Moth. With a sense of trepidation, she takes flight with a promise to keep. Only a chauvinistic flying instructor (Richard J. Fletcher) with a secret stands in her way..

Runtime: 17 mins
Score: Richard Bodgers
Country: UK

°Tailwheel Meet 2012

From 4 until 5 August 2012, the TWM team organized the 7th edition of the Tailwheel Meet at the airfield of Overboelare/Geraardsbergen (EBGG) in Belgium.

T-6H Harvard H-210 © TT
T-6H Harvard H-210 above the airfield of Overboelare © TT
SA Bulldog G-KDOG © TT
Stampe SV4 B OO-GWA © TT
Stinson AT-19 Reliant © TT
Former Belgian Air Force Stampe Vertongen SV-4B V-42 (c/n 1184) © TT
Stinson AT-19 Reliant © TT
OGMA DHC-1 Chipmunk 22, F-AZJV in Portuguese Air Force colours © TT
OGMA DHC-1 Chipmunk 22, F-AZJV in Portuguese Air Force colours © TT

Between take-offs and landings of dozens of Piper Cubs, Pitts Specials, Stampe&Vertongen SV4’s, glider demonstrations were given by the enthusiastic pilots of VZP (Vlaams Zweefvliegcentrum Phoenix), using the breathtaking winch launches. This is a stationary ground-based winch mounted on a heavy vehicle, a technique used in many European glider clubs. A Bellanca 8GCBC Scout is being used for glider towing.

OO-RTP, Bellanca 8GCBC Scout © TT
OO-RTP, Bellanca 8GCBC Scout © TT
Barbecue © TT

The aircraft of the 369 SQN – Belgian Vintage Aircraft Association are frequently seen at the Tailwheel Meet. Operating from Brasschaat Airfield 369 SQN contains mostly Piper Cubs and several Stampe&Vertongen SV4’s.

Visitors of 369 SQN – Belgian Vintage Aircraft Association at the Tailwheel Meet © TT
The L18C Piper Cub OL-L56 in flight © TT
In formation with Piper L-4J Grasshopper OO-YOL and Piper PA-18-95 Super Cub OO-ACK © TT
Piper L-4J Grasshopper OO-YOL © TT
Piper PA-18-95 Super Cub OO-ACK © TT

During the event several American military vehicles such as the M8 Light Armored Car and the M3 half-track performed a parade near the taxiway.

© TT
M3 half-track © TT
M3 half-track © TT
© TT

°The International Oldtimer Fly-in/Drive-in at Schaffen

From 11 until 12 August 2012, Diest Aero Club organized the 29th edition of the International Oldtimer Fly-in at the airfield of Schaffen-Diest (ICAO:EBDT) in Belgium. Again hundreds of oldtimer airplanes from all over Europe visited the fly-in. Also during the event hundreds of enthousiasts from different clubs in Belgium showed their their precious oldtimer cars. A record number of participants turned up for the weekend. More than 250 aircraft visited the event. A complete succes.

Some impressions:

© TT
The De Havilland DH-84 Dragon EI-ABI © TT
The rare Cessna C-165 Airmaster G-BTDE © TT
A Stampe SV4 C OO-LED © TT
Bolkow BO-207 G-EFTE © TT


°Aberdeen Airport: gateway for North East Scotland

With flights to over forty destinations by more than twenty airlines Aberdeen Airport serves just under three million passengers a year. It is also one of the world’s busiest commercial heliports, transporting around 500,000 helicopter passengers in support of the North Sea oil and gas industry.

The airport has one main passenger terminal, serving scheduled and charter holiday flights. In addition, there are three terminals for North Sea helicopter operations, used by Bristow Helicopters, CHC-Scotia, and Bond Offshore Helicopters.

Bristow Helicopters © TT

One can see that BAA have put in a lot of time and money expanding and re-shaping their departures area resulting in a nicer experience for passengers departing Aberdeen Airport. However, one international arrivals area is insufficient if Aberdeen Airport wants to attract more passengers from abroad.

© TT
© TT

Once landed, the baggages of all the international flights are been transported to one soul carousel, which can sometimes have two or three planeloads of passengers round it.

BAA Aberdeen © TT

Runway Extension

In October of 2011, almost eight months ahead of schedule, Aberdeen Airport officially opened their 124 metre runway extension, allowing the potential for new services in 2012 using larger aircraft such as the Airbus A330-200 Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The extension costed £10 million and it has to underline the strength of the airport’s big ambitions.

Aberdeen Airport adds significantly to the Scottish economy – generating around £114 million of gross value added (GVA) annually for Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire alone.