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The Taranis Mystery

February 5, 2014

The Taranis remotely piloted air vehicle, pictured during its flight test programme conducted in the last few months of 2013, at an undisclosed location. All photos on this page courtesy of BAE Systems

The British defence industry started to peel back the veil of secrecy from one of its most intriguing projects today - but what was said was overshadowed by what wasn't. Taranis is a remotely piloted air system designed to prove that British industry is capable of developing a high-tech combat aircraft that could be flown by remote control while exhibiting the sort of reduced visibility to radar that has hitherto been the preserve of expensive and advanced American (and, latterly, Chinese) airframes. The fact that the aircraft has flown successfully, and not only met but exceeded its creators' expectations in a series of tests conducted late last year, is a great news story for the British defence industry. That the programme should remain shrouded in an excessive blanket of classification means that it's a story that is frustratingly difficult to tell. ... more »

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posted: 05/02/2014 | comments »

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Happy New Year - Now Sod Off

January 2, 2014

Freelancing often feels like this. Highway 375, Nevada, 2006

A long-standing New Year's resolution of mine is to get at least three new clients. Between those whose magazines or websites close down entirely, those who have less space to fill or budgets to pay out, and those that decide to cut out freelance contributions and/or payments completely, there's always some attrition - and even if you just do one piece for a new client, it's a big help to know that you have another outlet you can turn to if the right idea happens along at the right time. So normally, come early January, I'm thinking about how to get new work: yet no sooner has 2013, easily the worst year in my entire career, bid its unlamented adieu, than I'm reading an email from someone I've worked for before, telling me I won't be doing so again. The reason? Because I'd had the temerity to ask for the money they owed me. ... more »

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posted: 02/01/2014 | comments »

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How to Make Sense of the U.K.'s F-35 Buy: Hire Better Sub Editors

September 15, 2013

Two F-35Bs during ship-board testing on the USS Wasp, August 2013. All photos on this page (c) Lockheed Martin, taken from this Flickr set.

Anyone who's taken even a cursory interest in Britain's procurement of the Joint Strike Fighter is likely to have had their head in a spin for the past few years. But one aspect of The World's Biggest Defense Program... Ever! (TM) has been gnawing away at me above all others. Finally, during the death throes of the 2013 edition of the huge bi-annual defence equipment exhibition/arms fair DSEI, I had my epiphany: in the space of one phone conversation, the mists cleared, and it all makes sense. Well, sense of the kind that prevails in the middle of the convoluted Venn diagram connecting the defence industry to government policy, and the requirements of all concerned to stay on-message at all times. ... more »

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posted: 15/09/2013 | comments »

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"If You Don't Know the History of the Author You Don't Know What You're Reading"

June 7, 2013

Click on the flyer for more info and tickets. Flyer used by permission of The Garage

I don't get that excited about gigs any more really - probably a consequence of middle age and so forth - but any chance to see the great KRS-ONE is something to savour (for my thoughts on previous gigs by him, please see here). And when a show by The Teacha is billed as a celebration of the 40th anniversary of hip hop, the lure is all that bit stronger. Coincidentally, I was recently going through some old interview tapes and found one with Kris from 2004, where I was speaking to him about the birth of hip hop and the culture's pre-record days. Some pieces from this conversation appeared in an oral-history feature I did for Mojo on the block-party era, but most of it hasn't been published before. Here's the complete transcript. ... more »

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posted: 07/06/2013 | comments »

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A Bit More Little Barrie

August 12, 2012

Virgil Howe, Barrie Cadogan, Lewis Wharton: photo courtesy of Greengab PR

My piece on Little Barrie in today's Sunday Times Culture section had to be cut to fit a smaller space than originally planned. Here's the full-length version: ... more »

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posted: 12/08/2012 | comments »

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In Search of the Radar Pioneers of WW2

May 23, 2012

A departure from normal service hereabouts, but a very worthwhile one, I hope you'll agree. I've just received an email from the Association of Royal Air Force Fighter Control Officers, who are asking folks with websites to publish the following text. It ought to be fairly self-explanatory. I don't imagine either of my regular readers were involved in running the Dowding System during the early 1940s (and, in the process, developing the basis of the Quick Reaction Alert system still in use to defend Britain from airborne attack today), but maybe someone you know knows someone who has a relative who might have been. My success rate with getting pieces on this site to "go viral" isn't quite at TMZ levels, but every little helps. And if anyone wants to re-post this on other sites, please go right ahead - the text below is copyright-free, as are the images, and I'm perfectly happy for this bit to get copied elsewhere too. Just this once, mind. Anyway, here's the appeal:... more »

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posted: 23/05/2012 | comments »

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Snowbound

February 6, 2012

Some snow, yesterday

Apologies for the disruption. The inclement weather is to blame. Well, that and a surfeit of work which had to get done. Actually, the weather's nothing to do with it, but everyone else uses it as an excuse so I might as well. Normal service will be resumed shortly. ... more »

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posted: 06/02/2012 | comments »



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