Imperial Doctrine – Economies of Effort

Why does the Empire embark on obscenely expensive programs to create Weapons of Mass Destruction? Because the alternatives are even more terrifyingly expensive.


Right-side up (Lucasfilm)

An oft-stated criticism of the Galactic Empire in the Star Wars series is its dependence on building a resource-consuming superweapon, intended to wipe out the Rebel Alliance in one swift stroke. The Death Star, The Death Star II, and the Starkiller Base are all intergalactic-equivalents of our own Weapons of Mass Destruction, each possessing the power to destroy an entire planet.

The reliance on this kind of weapon could be chalked up to lazy story-telling on behalf of the filmmakers. What’s more, naysayers criticise these superweapons on account of resource intensive they are, not to mention the relative ease with which they are destroyed.


Were it not for this orbital white elephant, the Empire might still be here with us today (Lucasfilm)

The trouble with these arguments is that they ignore the benefits to the Empire of building such a weapon, to say nothing of the cost of governing the Galaxy without it. The Death Star was central to the Imperial’s long-term security strategy. The best metaphor for our world would be the cost for a military to maintain a nuclear deterrence, versus accomplishing the same strategic effect through solely conventional means. Galactic tyranny doesn’t just fund itself, and when you consider the fiscal costs of maintaining the peace, the prospect of a superweapon that threatens total destruction with little warning makes sudden strategic sense. 


This guy was right to be arrogant (Lucasfilm)

To argue the Death Star’s benefits, we should hark back to the time of the Old Republic. It’s safe to assume that a lot of the Empire’s warfighting doctrine was informed by individual experiences of the Clone Wars. The Empire’s predecessor – the Old Republic – faced off against a mass of separatist systems in a Confederate-instigated Civil War, with their opposing forces largely made up of a massive Droid Army. Ignoring the fact that Chancellor Palpatine was secretly pulling the strings of the Confederacy, we can assume a host of non-Clone Colonels and Fleet Captains were the ones prosecuting the Clone Wars for the Republic. On the formation of the Galactic Empire, these same men went on to form chief decision-makers within the Imperial Army and Navy, and would craft the strategic policy of the Empire – everything from its governance style, warfighting doctrine, and acquisition requirements. 


Did you really think Emperor Palpatine was the one signing off on Block Upgrade programs for the Imperial-Class Star Destroyer fleet? (Lucasfilm)

The Empire’s roots in the Clone War are evident within the Original Star Wars Trilogy. Take TIE Fighters for example. If you were a three-star Imperial Admiral leading the starfighter procurement project office on Coruscant, you’d probably recall your experiences in the Old Republic with operating slow and heavy ARC170s and Y-Wings, and demand something small, cheap, and simple to operate, especially considering the only other major military threat has just been eradicated. The result was the TIE Fighter, which could be produced en masse cheaply, and provide capital ships with a basic fighter screen. The relative simplicity of construction in a TIE Fighter might have made it vulnerable to attack from the emergent Rebellion, but for Logisticians and Engineers, it must have been a delight to maintain.

Imperial Walkers are another good example. They demonstrate some brutal effectiveness during the Battles of Hoth and Endor, but during both engagements, it becomes apparent that they’re vulnerable to unconventional attacks from indigenous groups and Rebel squadrons. Substituting the Rebel Alliance for, say, a Droid Army, then it’s safe to say that these Imperial Walker assaults would have been successful. Nobody would expect Battle Droids to have the imagination to conceive of log traps, much less wrap a tow-cable around the legs of an Imperial Walker.


I don’t think Battle Droids had a plan for this, either… (

Much of how the Empire fights its wars makes sense when you consider that it was founded as an organisation to combat the Confederacy, and not the Rebel Alliance. The Confederacy sought to overcome the Republic with a sheer weight of resource supremacy, to which the Republic responded with its own sheer greater number of troops and equipment, coupled with a core of Jedi Knights. The mass-produced nature of the Empire is evidence of that. By the time we reach A New Hope, however, the Empire is confronted with two problems. Firstly, the Rebel Alliance doesn’t fight like the Confederacy – knowing it can’t defeat the Empire numerically, they seek to undermine it through more creative and innovative techniques, capitalising on their diverse racial support base.

The second problem is the task of governing an Empire. No matter how cheap and mass-produced you make it, it’s still resource intensive.

Consider the task of crewing a Star Destroyer. The crew complement for each ship is 37,000 (not counting each ship’s embarked Stormtrooper complement – that’s another 9000). The Empire had an estimated 26,000 of these ships – that’s 962,000,000 operational crew. And it doesn’t account for reservists, off-duty crews, training and development personnel, logisics support, or depot servicing technicians. Even with astromechs and mouse droids pulling their weight, the conservative estimate has the Empire’s entire Star Destroyer workforce coming in between two to three billion souls.


That’s one hell of an annual reunion (Lucasfilm)

And Star Destroyers are only a piece of the Empire’s total workforce. You had everything else it needed to run the Galaxy, from all the other capital ships it operated, the entire Imperial Army, Garrisons, Engineers, Fuel Transport, Security and Intelligence, Human Resources and Finance, Public Affairs, Bands, and the Air Show Demonstration Team.


You know they had one. (Fantasy Flight Games)

The colossal construction expense of building two Death Stars, followed by a Starkiller Base, is a massive resource drain to have on top of this. Critics are right to say that the Empire was in over its head for embarking on the construction of such a space station. Estimates put its construction at eight quadrillion dollars (anyone who can give me an exchange rate for Republic Credits to US Dollars?), but the resources available to the Empire would have made it more achievable (obviously, considering they built two).  The reality however is that the over the life-of-type for a Death Star, it would have saved the Empire a lot of troubles with its governance expenses, not to mention sustaining its military.

For a start, a Death Star makes the job of governing significantly easier. Pax Imperia could be achieved through a single space station that threatens of violence without needing to be physically present in the same way that thousands of garrisons and Star Destroyers would need to be. Grand Moff Tarkin says so himself: “Fear will keep the local systems in line – fear of this battle station”. It’s not a new argument, either – Grand Blog Tarkin covers this ground very well. Whilst a Death Star can’t be in two places at once, its mere existence would stun countless systems into compliance.

Despite its construction costs, the predictive modelling for how much money the Death Star could save the Empire must have been terribly attractive to Imperial Comptrollers. Here was a silver bullet which could potentially negate the requirement for additional capital ships and ground forces. At some point in the Death Star’s construction, however, the Empire would still have needed to fund conventional forces. That would have caused tremendous confrontation within the ranks of the Imperial procurement programs competing for funds. In one corner, the program offices for the tried and proven Star Destroyers and pre-fabricated garrison; and in the other, the new Death Star project team.


Sound familiar? (United States Air Force)

That’s a caustic environment to have within a military organisation, whereby conventional warfighting experience is challenged by ‘Young Turks’ who see the potential of the Death Star as a governance tool. It also comes with numerous second- and third-order effects, right down to the boots of  Stormtrooper on the frontline. Budgets for supporting conventional warfighting training and development take a hit, or worse, can’t be guaranteed for the next fiscal periods, because the money is being reallocated towards a new planet-destroying battle station.

The impact of nuclear weapons and guided missiles had a similar effect on conventional forces during the 1950s and 60s, with many of the misconceptions about their employment only addressed in the wake of the Vietnam War. A similar scenario would have affected the Empire, with the Death Star figuring on its horizon, and an armada of Imperial Walkers and TIE Fighters left to equip its conventional forces. Conventional forces would have been given only marginal increases in technology and training, proving a dangerous gamble in the face of a bold Rebellion. Following the Death Star’s destruction, the Rebel Alliance still isn’t facing the Empire on anything close to equal terms. But the internal conflict between the old ways and the new within the Empire might have just helped its odds.

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Imperial Doctrine – What’s in a Name

Why Did the Chicken Walker cross the road? (Hint: It wasn’t to transport something)


Why the long face? (Star Wars Wikia)

There’s something odd about the AT-ST. Its name, ‘All Terrain – Scout Transport’, is a misnomer. The vehicle is comprised of two legs, a chassis, and a ‘head’ inside which the crew are positioned, along with the vehicle’s armament and power source. Indeed, the head has space only for two crew members (or; two Ewoks and a Wookiee). Whereas the larger AT-AT (All Terrain Assault Transport) has a ‘torso’ with seating for 40 assault troops, the AT-ST would appear to have no capacity for transport at all.


Zilch. (Lucasfilm)

When is a transport actually not a transport?

Calling the AT-ST a ‘Transport’ could be argued as a movie error, but might also be an insight into the (admittedly fictional) Imperial doctrine during the Galactic Civil War, which mirrors our own real world in many respects. Star Wars isn’t so much a direct metaphor for earthly conflicts, but a reflection of how real world prosecutes conflict in an imperfect fashion. The Empire and the Rebel Alliance adhere by doctrine (in some cases to a fault), and are erroneous in their decision-making, much as we are. For a Space Fantasy, Star Wars is littered with details that are grounded in reality, from the weathering and battle scars on the Rebel X-Wings starfighters, right up to the approach t warfighting of the Empire.


Not pictured: Years of training and exercises for woodland tactics techniques and procedures for the AT-ST. (Lucasfilm)

The AT-ST is a good example of this. In spite of its name, its primary role doesn’t appear to be scouting, but rather, light-armoured fire support. During its two cinematic appearances, it’s seen providing infantry support in the Battle of Endor, and protecting the flanks of larger armoured formations in the Battle of Hoth. In a scouting role, an AT-ST is arguably less effective at forward reconnaissance than the Empire’s smaller and faster speeder bikes or probe droids. As a Transport however, it simply can’t pull its weight. Unless there’s some kind of tow-bar attachment for the AT-ST to be connected with a trailer or caravan; or racks on which smaller vehicles and troops can be mounted; then it’s not a transport at all.


These guy would probably appreciate going on a good walk (Lucasfilm)

Naming inconsistency is a reality of our world, too, and often says a lot about the doctrine and thought of the beholder. Take NATO for example. When the Sukhoi Su-24 and Su-25 ground attack aircraft were revealed, NATO designated them as the ‘Fencer’ and ‘Frogfoot’ respectively, using an ‘F’ name to indicate their status as fighters. Whilst both aircraft are ‘fighter-sized’, the reality was that they held only a limited self-defence capacity, but were in effect a Strike and Close Air Support aircraft, meaning they should have had ‘B’ names.


Bencer and Brogboot just don’t have the same ring (Wiki)


The United States Air Force falls under the same judgment. During the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the Tactical Air Command (TAC) received a string of fighters whose primary role was precision strike. The nature of TAC’s role and establishment as a ‘fighter’ organisation led to the designation of the F-105, F-111, and F-117 as ‘fighters’. The first two aircraft were capable again of carrying a self-defence armament; the F-117 ‘Stealth Fighter’ meanwhile carried no air defence weapons during the operations it served on. All three should probably have been given ‘B-‘ designations to reflect their Bomber roles.

The justification for Fighter and Bomber designations within the United States Air Force links back to the respective function of TAC and the Strategic Air Command during the Cold War. Bomber designations were largely destined for aircraft serving with SAC, and indeed, when SAC purchased its own F-111s, its aircraft were redesignated ‘FB-111’. Names and designations are often not indicative of the aircraft’s immediate role, but rather, who the aircraft is working for, and what that organisation sees its role as.

So, how does this link back to the Empire in Star Wars? Quite simply, the Imperial Army views its Walkers as Transports, irrespective of whether they’re utilised in a battlefield to transport personnel or cargo. That suggests any number of things about its armoured vehicle doctrine – ranged assault vehicles like Walkers are viewed primarily as an infantry transport/support, thus earning them a broad title of ‘Transport’. Armoured vehicles that didn’t need to range out or provide direct assault -such as those use for policing or garrison support – probably had little requirement to transport infantry or cargo, and thus probably viewed as a separate breed. The AT-ST falls into the former range, having some capacity for scouting ahead of a larger formation, chart clear lines of attack for AT-ATs and probing defences. But it is not a true transport, in spite of its name.

This inconsistency in detail is one of the enjoyable things about Star Wars. For every bit of military hardware, civil planning, and cultural touchstone within these films (and their selected spin-offs), the implication is that there’s an entire world behind the scenes. Every AT-ST used on the Sanctuary Moon of Endor probably linked back to a cubicle in the Scout Transport Systems Project Office on Coruscant where their logistics support, engineering, and spare parts were coordinated. Movie goofs and Cinema Sins in A Galaxy Far Far Away might be caused by the film-makers’ artistic licence, but the imperfections and errors are often a meta-commentary on how our own world works.


Also, why do they have such dead eyes? (Lucasfilm)

In a future post, I’ll look at why the Empire emphasised such a Walker-centric ground assault formation, especially in light of what the alternatives might have consisted of. No doubt many have watched The Empire Strikes Back and scoffed at the idea of AT-ATs mounting a forward assault with little capacity for defence against a counterattack or specialised defences. The explanation is that the Empire, much like our own Defence Forces today, inform their procurement based on years of experience against past foes. The AT-AT and the tactics employed by the Empire aren’t just good cinema – they’re a response to the Clone Wars and a Generation of warfighting.


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Hercules for Germany: What markets are left to conquer?

Another market falls to the Hercules. Who else is left?


Still selling after 60 years (USAF)

Germany today confirmed its purchase of 4-6 C-130J Hercules that it will use to operate into short airstrips and fulfill other missions deemed unsuitable for the A400M. It’s a bit of a blow for Airbus Defence & Space, which had seen its order of A400Ms for Germany reduced in past (don’t feel too bad – as I kind of covered before, the A400M still exists in a league of its own, and has significant scope for development).


Cheer up, Atlas – the global military airlift market wasn’t conquered in a day. (Airbus Defence & Space)

Germany’s C-130J fleet will be operated jointly with an existing four-aircraft order for France, easing the logistics and training footprint for the type. Berlin’s purchase represents a fairly big tectonic adjustment in the field of military airlift. For 60 years, Germany has been the one market that Lockheed Martin hasn’t been able to crack for the C-130.

So, who does that leave Lockheed Martin left to sell C-130s to for the first time? As the Wiki page for C-130 Operators suggests, there’s precious few countries that haven’t flown the Hercules before – either in its military guise, or even as a civil contracted freighter.


All Lockheed Martin would be doing at this stage is to colour in the remaining grey on the map. (Wiki Commons)

China operated a handful of civilian L-100 Hercules freighters. After the fall of Saigon, it’s likely even the Soviet Union poured over a couple of South Vietnamese C-130As and may have taken one back to Russia (though it’s yet to appear on Google Maps if they did make off with one).


We can only dream. (EON Productions)

Who are some of the contenders?

North Korea

The idea of Kim Jong-Un shaking hands with Secretary of State John Kerry over the successful order of C-130s for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is pretty unlikely. Indeed, the idea of any Western aircraft operating north of the 53rd parallel is hard to imagine outside of a shooting war.

Except, North Korea already does. A New Zealand-made P-750 STOL transport was recently spotted during North Korea’s first Air Show. In the 1980s, North Korea managed to receive at least 60 MD500 helicopters through a broker before the United States stopped the order.

Likelihood: 0.01/10 (and that’s being optimistic). Pyongyang would need a particularly nefarious reason to acquire a Herc for its Air Force, otherwise it would likely seek out a Chinese Y-8 (itself a descendant of the Antonov An-12). The best case scenario is a mirror of how it came to have a P-750 from New Zealand – a Chinese intermediate company purchased the aircraft, and leased/sold it to North Korea. Until then, Li’l Kim will have to content himself with this god awful North Korean CGI Hercules in Olympus Has Fallen. 


“Look out! We’re under attack from the lowest bidder for this movie’s visual effects.” (Millennium Films)


I wont try to recap the past 15 years of Ukraine’s political and security history, and it’s difficult to imagine where it will be in the future. Suffice to say, it’s possible the country’s worst years might still be ahead of it.

Imagining a best case scenario – a Ukraine that is able to assert itself more independently within Eastern Europe, stand on its own economically, and begin replacing its dated Soviet-era military  – then it’s conceivable that it will seek closer ties with the West, and re-equip itself with new platforms. Like, say, the Hercules.

The only problem is that the prospect of Ukraine flying Hercules is like driving a BMW in Detroit. It’s just not right.


They got 99 platforms and a Herc aint one (Antonov)

For the last 75 years, Ukraine has been home to Antonov, the aerospace manufacturer that produced the bulk of the Soviet Union/Russia’s large cargo aircraft (with the exception of the Ilyushin Il-76). They even produced the An-12, the Eastern Bloc’s equivalent to the C-130 Hercules.

Today, Antonov as a company is in dire straits, largely owing to its dependence on systems and parts supplied by Russia (not to mention a lack of aircraft orders). Antonov recently sold the design of the An-225 – the world’s largest aircraft – to China , but at best there will be a joint production of new airframes between the two countries. The An-70, produced as an An-12 replacement (and analogous to the A400M in some respects), is another contender for Ukraine’s future airlift. But it would need a miracle to become economically viable.

So, whilst the prospect of Ukraine purchasing C-130s isn’t unlikely, it’s liable to bring tears to the eyes of a few aerospace engineers in Kiev…

Likelihood: 6/10. Afghanistan flies C-130s. Iraq flies C-130s. Poland flies C-130s. No matter how bad things are in Ukraine, it’s not inconceivable that in 10 to 20 years time, it could find itself equipped with the Hercules. Given Ukraine’s current economic state and prospects, it pains me to say that Antonov’s best work lies in its past (pending any more lifelines from, say, China). Assuming all goes well for Ukraine’s future, in a couple of years they’ll need to replace An-12s and Il-76s with an existing platform produced by the West. There’ll be contenders for these replacements, but should a future White House Administration extend a lifeline to Kiev, it might be delivered via ex-USAF C-130Hs…


There’s a surprising number of Western European countries that don’t operate the Hercules already. Switzerland, for one. Finland, too. Smaller nations like Luxembourg, Malta and Leichtenstein. Even smaller are your Monacos, Vaticans, and San Marinos.

Also, there’s Ireland.

Founded in 1924, there’s nothing in the Irish Air Corps’ 92-year history to suggest a requirement for a dedicated medium tactical airlifter. The function of the Irish Air Corps and its 750-strong workforce is to provide airborne support to the wider Army, which includes some helicopter airlift and other maritime surveillance. Some of their work includes aero-medical evacuation and airlift of its citizens.

The largest aircraft it has operated are a pair of Airbus CN235s used for maritime patrol, that also have capacity for light transport missions.


Its third role is to wear this attractive colour scheme. Damn. (Wiki Commons)

Beyond this, larger military transport tasks for Ireland have been undertaken by friendly air forces or contracted airlift, such as when Irish peacekeeping forces or relief aid have been deployed abroad.

Ireland sits within the European Union, meaning it has an obligation to conduct fishery patrols of 340,000 square kilometres of ocean on the EU’s behalf. But Ireland is not a member of NATO, meaning it does not provide personnel and equipment to NATO missions, nor does it receive running military assistance (such as the Baltic Air Policing flight). Thus, the strategic requirements for Ireland to possess an aircraft like the Hercules are limited.

Likelihood: 4/10. The most recent Defence White Paper for Ireland stated the two CN235s are due for retirement in 2019, and Dublin is reportedly seeking a replacement that is larger and more capable – both in the maritime surveillance and transport role. A betting man would say the most likely contender is the Airbus C295 Persuader, which provides some marginal increase in range and payload, but with only a fractional increase in purchase/operating cost. But if Ireland wants to expand its pool of replacment options, don’t be surprised if Lockheed Martin dresses a model of the SC-130J ‘Sea Hercules’ in an attractive blue colour scheme at the next Paris Air Show…


It’ll never happen, just like Germany buying Hercules. (Lockheed Martin)



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Boeing’s KC-135 – Born to Die, Destined to Kick Ass

There’s a long-standing nickname associated with the United States Air Force (USAF) fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers. The ubiquitous air-to-air refueller celebrates its 60th anniversary of service with the USAF this year, with its crews describing themselves for much of that time as ‘Tanker Toads’.


Pictured here, not looking especially toad-like (USAF)

A cursory search on Google yields a couple of explanations for that nickname. One suggestion is the fact that the aircraft’s refuelling boom operator lies on his or her belly, prone, whilst looking through a window cut into the bottom of the KC-135 as they control the aircraft’s refuelling boom. Lying down prone is said to look similar to the posture of a toad lying on the ground.


The KC-135 Boomer, one of the world’s most stressfully comfortable jobs (Wiki Commons)

Another theory is that toad is an acronym, standing for ‘Temporarily on Active Duty’ – referencing the number of KC-135 pilots who return to the USAF for a brief stint in between their main job of flying with civilian airlines. My own theory was theory was that Toad is a homonym for ‘towed’. As the KC-135 refuelled other aircraft to extend their range over long distances, the receiver was being effectively ‘towed’ to it destination.

The true explanation for ‘Tanker Toad’ however was given to me last weekend by a young KC-135 pilot, who explained that ‘Toad’ is indeed an acronym, dating back to the debut of the Stratotanker’s service with the USAF’s Strategic Air Command in the late 1950s. TOAD stands for ‘Take Off and Die’.


It’s not ‘death by jet exhaust’, but probably should be (Wiki Commons)

Whilst some KC-135s have been lost over 60 years, the aircraft has maintained a pretty good safety record. So why did this tanker pilot give his aircraft and crew such a bleak moniker? The answer lies in the KC-135 being built during the 1950s as an force projector for the USAF’s Strategic Air Command, providing global range to its nuclear bomber fleet. The KC-135’s job was to refuel B-52s on their one-way mission to deliver nuclear weapons to targets in the Soviet Union. Taking off with 200,000lbs of fuel (up to 90 tonnes), the KC-135A would meet with B-52s on their journey, and deliver close to their entire fuel load to the bomber. Once the refuelling was completed, the tanker’s crew would have enough fuel to peel away from the B-52 and ditch their aircraft into the water (or on land). The alternative was to bail out and await an individual recovery. Few KC-135 crews believed they’d survive the crash, much less be rescued if they did. Thus was born the Tanker Toad mission – if World War Three began, and the KC-135 crews received the order to scramble their jet, their job would be to Take Off and Die.


Basically, the aviation equivalent of Praying Mantis’ mating (USAF)

At the height of its power during the Eisenhower Administration, Strategic Air Command was not an organisation to do anything by halves, which permitted the construction of 803 KC-135s between 1955 and 1965. It will easily be the world’s most-produced dedicated refuelling aircraft, with a handful finding service with France, Singapore, Chile, and Turkey. Others have found themselves relinquishing their tanking role for reconnaissance duties. Over its history, the aircraft has received updated engines that have improved their fuel burn, and in turn allowed the KC-135 to reserve more fuel for their receivers. Avionics upgrades have been largely minor, although additional navigation systems have eliminated the requirement for the aircraft to carry a navigator. But by and large, the KC-135 still refuels aircraft today in much the same fashion that it did 60 years ago, with an Air Refuelling Operator – known as the ‘boomer’ – lying prone in the tail of the aircraft and looking through a window to oversee the refuelling.

Today, providing force projection of USAF’s nuclear bomber fleet (a job now maintained by the USAF’s Global Strike Command) is only a small part of the KC-135’s overall mission. The Stratotanker is a common sight above Iraq and Syria, providing fuel to American and Coalition strike aircraft maintaining overwatch and delivering precision strikes against Daesh targets. Airborne surveillance assets like the E-8 JSTARS and E-3 Sentry AWACS are also kept in the air by KC-135s. The USAF’s Air Mobility Command fleet has a reach that extends across the globe, often in spite of whether there are friendly airfields along the way – again, thanks to air-to-air refuelling from a KC-135.


Seen here with USAF, RAAF, and RAF customers (USAF)

Arguably, the KC-135 has shaped the United States foreign military projection over the past 60 years, much like the aircraft carrier has done so since the end of the Second World War. Its original intent was largely to allow Strategic Air Command’s nuclear strike fleet to have a global reach, and it 800-strong fleet is indicative of the Strategic Air Command excesses of the 1950s and 60s.  The value of the KC-135 – both in its air-to-air refuelling role, and the sheer quantity of airframes in the USAF – has become evident with the more conventional campaigns fought by the USAF over six decades. Whilst the KC-135 has continued to refuel nuclear-armed bombers, its crews found themselves supporting more ‘traditional’ air power roles, so much so that a new acronym for KC-135 crews was crafted – NKAWTG. That is, ‘Nobody Kicks Ass Without Tanker Gas’.

The KC-135’s timing into service couldn’t have been better for organisations such as the USAF’s Tactical Air Command and Military Airlift Command. When the KC-135’s construction run finished in 1965, the United States Military was on the uptick of the Vietnam War, where the tanker arguably found its calling. Launching out of bases in Thailand, the KC-135s flew ‘tanker tracks’ over South Vietnam, enabling aircraft like the F-4 Phantom and F-105 Thunderchief to strike targets in North Vietnam and provide Close Air Support to troops in contact with the Viet Cong. A hose-and-drogue fitting for the KC-135’s refuelling boom allowed it to also refuel United States Navy aircraft operating from aircraft carriers off the Vietnamese coast. Not only could the KC-135 allow aircraft to remain on-station and extend their range, but it also helped battle-damaged aircraft that were leaking fuel to make it back to friendly bases.

That massive fleet of more than 800 aircraft would prove useful time and again. During Operation Nickel Glass in 1973, KC-135s refuelled C-5A Galaxy transports that were loaded with tanks and ammunition to resupply the Israelis during the Yom Kippur War. It also helped ferry F-4 Phantoms and A-4 Skyhawks that were transferred to the Israelis from US stocks). The KC-135 was critical to this ‘air bridge’ – the only country between the United States and Israel that permitted the resupply aircraft to land was Portugal, and while that made for a convenient ‘half-way’ point for landing aircraft, the distances and payloads still necessitated tankers to refuel aircraft making the journey across the Atlantic and Mediterranean.


In case you had any trouble appreciating the size difference between a KC-135 and a C-5 (USAF)

One of the outcomes of the USAF’s experience during Vietnam and Operation Nickel Glass was the requirement for a bigger tanker than the KC-135, and in 1977, the USAF chose the DC-10 airliner as the basis of its new KC-10 Extender refueller, with 60 aircraft introduced between 1980 and 1988. Since then, both the KC-10 and the KC-135 have provided fuel for operations in the Middle East and consistently since 1990, as well as during Coalition efforts in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Libya. Regional basing is critical to the USAF conducting global operations, but the exercise would be for nought without refuelling tankers.

Serious attempts to replace the USAF’s KC-135s have been protracted over the past 15 years, with sufficient drama to warrant its own Netflix series. A decision was made in 2011 to acquire a derivative of the Boeing 767 called the KC-46A, with 179 airframes being acquired initially. That will only replace part of the approximately 400-strong fleet of KC-135s which remains in USAF service. Whilst one-for-one replacement for the KC-135 with the KC-46A is unlikely, the USAF will still need to conduct additional tanker acquisition programs (or extend its KC-46A fleet) until all KC-135s can be retired. In the meantime, the KC-135 is expected to keep flying until at least 2040. The last KC-135 crew has yet to be born.


On the left, refuelling F-100 Super Sabres; on the right, the F-35A. God knows what will be on the end of the boom in 20 years. (USAF)

Last week, after the KC-135 pilot told me about the explanation for the ‘Tanker Toad’, I asked him what it was like flying something that had been a consistent part of American air power for over sixty years. He explained that the KC-135 was a generational aircraft – a grandfather, father, son or daughter could each all have flown the aircraft, and their kids probably will too.

Whilst I was Googling for ‘Tanker Toad’, I stumbled on one such example of the Brink family, for whom two generations had flown on the KC-135, with a third generation applying to follow.  The Grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Brink, joked “around our house, passing gas is a family tradition”.


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Now a Motion Picture – Entebbe on the Screen

Hijacking, Crisis, Rescue – the conventional reading of Flight 139 and the events at Entebbe follow a classic three act story structure that’s been adapted to the screen on numerous occasions.


When the Israelis executed Operation Thunderbolt to rescue hostages from Entebbe Airport in July 1976, Western audiences were ripe for a news story with a happy ending. The memory of Vietnam and Watergate were still fresh. Cinema audiences were treated to The Omen and Taxi Driver in June 1976, with Carrie and  A Star Is Born still to come. Joyous summer blockbusters like Star Wars were still a year away. About the only major Western film of 1976 that carried any real sense of optimism was Rocky, and even then, Apollo Creed beats him at the end.

Naturally, when Israel rescued its hostages from Entebbe, there was cause for these events to be adapted into a movie. Western audiences now had a story set against the backdrop `of Middle Eastern conflict, and through the Israelis feel like they too had won a battle against terrorism – even if it was just that once. Within six months of the Raid on Entebbe, the story was retold through three separate movie productions – including one directed by Irvin Kirshner.

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Kirshner, pictured here riding a Tauntaun.

That’s right. The guy who directed The Empire Strikes Back made a direct-to-television movie adaptation of the raid titled Raid on Entebbe, although it was screened theatrically in some countries. And he wasn’t alone in this endeavour – at the same time, director Martin Chomsky was at the helm of Victory at Entebbe, also being produced for the smallscreen.

All the while, an Israeli-backed adaptation of the story – Mivtsa Yonatan (Operation Jonathan) – was also being produced.

Victory at Entebbe screened first, airring on ABC television in the United States on 13 December 1976 – just 162 days after the events on which it was based. Raid on Entebbe followed on 9 January 1977, (although it had a theatrical release in Denmark on 26 December 1976), and Mivtsa Yonatan on 27 January 1977.

For a handful of reasons that I’ll explore, these three films have not aged well over the past 40 years. You can watch Kirshner’s Raid on Entebbe and the Israeli Miytsa Yonatan are both available to watch on YouTube. Victory at Entebbe is more elusive, but can be purchased from Amazon. Sadly, I did not have a chance to view it.

Raid on Entebbe

If there’s one thing to take away from Raid on Entebbe, it’s Yaphet Kotto as Idi Amin. It’s worthwhile watching on YouTube just to see his perfomance.


Don’t let the Bronson-heavy poster fool you

The movie follows a fairly linear profile of a hijacking movie, going through the motions of re-telling the story until it reaches Entebbe, when we meet Kotto’s Amin. He’s bizarre, bewildering, and terrifying – everything that you’d expect from reading about Amin in real life, and true to his action during the hostage crisis. Kotto’s Amin wanders through the terminal with a jovial candour, addressing the passengers as though they’re merely waiting on a delayed flight.

His tyrannical edge comes out occaisionally whilst speaking to the hostages, and in the negotiations between Israel and Amin (told with brief albeit accurate detail). Kotto’s role in this movie clearly has the most meat for an actor, as the remainder of the cast in Raid on Entebbe – including James Woods, Peter Finch, Charles Bronson, and Robert Loggia – are locked into playing their roles straight-faced and down the line.


Kotto’s Amin addressing the hostages. Yes, Amin really did address the hostages at Entebbe whilst wearing a cowboy at.

Watching Raid on Entebbe, you can appreciate that Irvin Kirshner was definitely under the pump to get this movie out, as there’s very little done to dress this movie up outside of Amin and the raid at the end. Surprisingly, this hastiness in movie-making has its advantages, with a script that feels like it was taken from newspaper articles and memoirs released in the raid’s immediate aftermath, making it feel reasonably true to the events. The hastiness also means the movie looks like it was shot in spare offices available to the production, and is otherwise lacklustre in presentation – the studio lighting is absent, the editing at a minimum, and the cinematography dull. A lot of scenes feel like they were done in only one take. Add in the video-transfer, and it’s not held up well since its release.

Raid on Entebbe is a broadly accurate summary of what happened over the first two-thirds of the film up until the raid itself. Shot with the assistance of the United States miltiary, planespotters will easily spot out what aircraft do and don’t belong during the finale. Not only that, the hasty film-making means there’s no depth in the detail and staging of how the raid was executed. The audio track is a mix of screaming, gunfire and overly dramatic score that sounds like a soundtrack for exacting a confession from a detained prisoner. The audience is left with a loud, dark, and incomprehensible mess of a raid.

Worth Watching? For Yaphet Kotto, definitely. For a dramatisation of the hijacking and hostage crisis, yes. For the raid itself, watch a documentary or Mivtsa Yonatan.

Victory at Entebbe

This is the harder movie to review, considering I haven’t seen it.

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What I can say from looking at excepts of the movie online is:

As much as I want to feel like a completist in these reviews, I don’t know if I could bring myself to pay the $30 to get a copy of this on DVD.

Worth Watching? If I had $30 to spend at Amazon, I could still probably find other things I’d rather spend my money on – it just doesn’t look that good. If it was in a $10 bin, I’d consider it.

Mivtsa Yonatan

With Israeli Government backing, there’s not many places you can go wrong with accurately recreating the raid. To its credit, Mivtsa Yonatan is probably the strongest of the three Entebbe films. The movie’s poster alone is perhaps the most literal in its metaphors.


There’s good use of real locations (except for Entebbe itself, of course), and all of the military hardware is true to what was used during the raid. I don’t know if the Mercedes Limousine featured in this film is the same one used during the raid, but several of the C-130 Hercules transports featured in Mivtsa Yonatan are.


Accuracy doesn’t get much more…accurate.

Mivtsa Yonatan also looks much better than the other two films, shot on film instead of video, even going to the effort of lighting the night-time scenes properly so the viewer can understand what’s going on (as opposed to the ‘filmed in a cupboard’ appearance of Raid on Entebbe). The cast lacks any big-name actors, meaning they can get down to the task of re-telling the story in the Hebrew, English, Arabic and German. All of this means that when Mivtsa Yonatan reaches the rescue mission, everything is pretty coherent and accurate.

So, what’s not to like?

Well, the cast doesn’t really give much by way of stand out performances, and the Israeli backing does give you a very one-sided view of events. A handful of scenes depicting Arab military units are hilariously politically incorrect in a funny way. Apparently, they all get around in the same pattern of shemagh, and wear their sunglasses indoors.

And it does have some errors in accuracy – that’s definitely the interior of a single-aisle Boeing 707 substituting for a widebody Airbus A300. Why does that matter? Imagine a single-deck bus playing the role of a double-decker.

And the disco-era soundtrack in Mivtsa Yonatan has aged terribly. It’s bad enough when it’s playing over scenes of passengers boarding their Air France Flight. But when the Israeli Special Forces team rescue the hostages, you’ll be on your seat – not from suspense, but because the music is so jive.

Worth Watching? Actually yeah, for the combination of accuracy and to see 1970s Israeli film-making than anything else. Just don’t expect a terribly balanced view.

The Others

Entebbe has found its way onto the screen a number of times as part of a broader story.  In 1981’s The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin, the Raid is featured as part of a montage where Amin is in bed with his mistresses (NSFW). I am legitimately not kidding.

Less salacious is 2006’s Last King of Scotland, which recounts a relationship between Amin and a fictional Scottish doctor (played by Forrest Whitakker and James McAvoy respectively), where the doctor uses the release of non-Israeli hostages at Entebbe as his means of escaping Uganda.


Not for the faint-hearted.

There’s a host of documentaries about Entebbe, too, ranging from segments on hijacking and air safety serials through to feature-length stories that speak to the survivors of Entebbe and their relatives. After 40 years, there’s a fairly wide depth in our understanding of what happened during that week in 1976.



Cohen on the Bridge – a documentary told with 2D and 3D animated recreations – is on my to-find/to-watch list. 

The Untold Story

Adapting the Entebbe story is a natural fit for the screen, as these stories have shown. At the risk of trivialising the events of Entebbe as entertainment, there’s still dimensions to this story that we haven’t seen. The background of the hijackers – not to mention the insight into Amin’s motivations – are all lacking from most adaptations and documentaries. I don’t believe they should be lionised, however I do think there’s an interesting story to be told.

The week in Entebbe illustrated some nuanced motivations and complicated relationships that would do well in a film. The German hijackers were desperate not to be seen as Nazis, and several hostages had survived the Holocaust. Most adaptations conclude with a ‘happily ever after’ as the raid returns to Israel, but there was still more tragedy and death to come in the days following the raid, with further reprisals in Uganda and Kenya in the months and years to follow. The story of the Entebbe Raid did not end with hostages walking off of C-130s at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.

The best compromise for a movie adaptation might be to mash-up the best elements of the existing films and documentaries, combining the Israeli military hardware used in Miytsa Yonatan with some of the performances from Raid on Entebbe, with documentary interview asides. Audiences can expect yet another film about Entebbe in the near future.


Saul David’s written recount ohas been optioned by Working Title/Canal Studio for film adaptation, and has reportedly cast several roles. If the book is anything to go by – and I’ll review it in the next Entebbe Post – then it’s likely the film will tell much the same story of the existing movie adaptations, albeit with some fresh information. The benefit of making such a film 40 years after the fact is that the source material for has become considerably better. There’s still a risk in achieving accuracy, given this is now a period film, not to mention the artistic licencing being for the 21st Century audience – for example, a number of Israeli Special Forces in the assault wore blackface so as to confuse the Ugandans.

We’ve also got a different take on the issue of the Israeli/Palestinian relationship and Middle Eastern conflict, much less airline safety, power projection, and the sovereign rights of territory. Western cinema tends to treat terrorism with little-to-no nuance or depth, although there are noted exceptions (2005’s Syriana, for a start; 2008’s The Baader Meinhof Complex too, dealing with West German left-wing factions). As an audience, are we ready to see the Entebbe story told again?

We’ll find out in around 2018.

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The Entebbe Raid at 40

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Raid on Entebbe, when Israel mounted a rescue mission to Uganda with four C-130 Hercules transports, helping to free more than 100 hostages.


The audacity and success of this rescue was unmatched in its time, and since then has been imitated but never surpassed. Over the course of this week, I’ll be writing about these events including how the Israelis came to be able to execute the raid, and coverage of the raid on paper and on the screen.

The events that led to the raid began on 27 June 1976, when Air France Flight 139 – an Airbus A300 carrying 248 passengers and 12 crew – was travelling from Tel Aviv to Paris via a stopover in Athens. Shortly after its departure from Athens, two German and two Palestinian hijackers took over the aircraft, re-directing the crew to fly to Libya.


An Air France A300 airliner as it would have appeared in 1976.

When the hijacking of Flight 139 occurred, there was seemingly little to differentiate it from those that preceded it (or indeed, several that followed after). The hijackers demanded the release of prisoners from Israel and a number of European countries. Having landed in Libya, the aircraft was refueled, a hostage was released (she had feigned a miscarriage), and the aircraft took off – this time, heading for Entebbe Airport, located on the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda.

Entebbe is where the hijacking of Flight 139 begins to differentiate itself. Several previous hijackings led the aircraft to be flown to Middle East or Mediterranean states, resulting in extended and successful negotiations, or rescue raids against the aircraft. During a hijacking of a Sabena airliner in May 1972 by the Black September terrorist organization, the aircraft was flown to Tel Aviv, allowing Israel was able to mount a successful rescue of the hostages. Four years later, the hijackers of Flight 139 transported their hostages well outside of the West’s sphere of influence – much less the reach of Israel – in a well-calculated move.

Late on June 27, the Airbus touched down at Entebbe Airport, and the hostages were herded into the Airport’s Old Terminal building, where four more Palestinians joined the hijackers. Soon after, a new partner in the crisis arrived. To use his full title His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular’ toured the hostages at the Entebbe with his entourage and cameras. Initially, Idi Amin presented himself as just as much the victim of the hijacking’s circumstance as the passengers, pleading for the West (and Israel in particular) to meet the demands for their release, and bring the crisis to a peaceful conclusion.


Idi Amin, ruler of Uganda 1971-79.

Amin had once been close to Israel, trained with their military and embracing them when he came to power in a military coup in 1971. The following year however, the Israelis were expelled from Uganda. When the Air France A300 arrived in his country in 1976, Amin had seemingly embraced the hijacker’s cause, with his ego providing the motive. Through the crisis, Amin could present himself as a regional and global negotiator, and embarrass the West through its inability to act without him. In all conversations with the Israelis, Amin said he was helpless to act against the hijackers, despite it being clear that the crisis could not have without Amin being in some way complicit in the plan. He argued the only recourse for Israel would have to be to negotiate with him, making him a hero if all hostages were exchanged for prisoners peacefully. Much like the hijackers, Amin couldn’t conceivably think Israel would mount a rescue mission.

As the crisis played out, 148 hostages would be released to the West, leaving 107 – predominantly Jewish and Israeli passengers, along with the Air France crew – in the Entebbe Old Terminal building. There is a question that had the entire complement of hostages been retained, how Israel and the West would managed negotiations, let alone a rescue. A security perimeter of Ugandan troops had been established around the Old Terminal, also in a nearby Air Traffic Control tower. All the while, civilian airliners continued their scheduled flights through Entebbe around the clock.

Israel’s negotiations centred on Amin, rather than meeting the demands of the hijackers. This would ultimately feed information into their operational planning for a rescue mission. The initial Israeli response called for an Air Force Boeing 707 to be disguised as an Air France airliner, and seemingly conduct a handover of prisoners for hostages at Entebbe. The prisoners however would be a force of Sayeret Matkal (Israeli Special Forces) troops who would mount a rescue raid. Other plans involved the delivery of Sayeret Matkal troops into Lake Victoria, leaving them to swim ashore and mount a raid; and airdropping a force of about 1,000 paratroops into Entebbe, and taking over the airport.

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Entebbe Airport today. The Old Terminal is marked.

The rescue options were refined as the intelligence picture was grown, built on interviews with freed hostages, information from Israeli military leaders who knew Amin intimately (including through their negotiations with him by phone), pictures from spy flights by light aircraft flown out of Kenya, and the architectural designs of the airport. Construction of the Entebbe Old Terminal had been managed by Israeli firms who still owned the blueprints. Whilst the hijackers had believed flying the hostages to Idi Amin’s Uganda would make a rescue mission insurmountable, what they had really did was provide just the thinnest of threads for Israel to consider launching a raid.

By 2 July 1976, the Israelis had settled on a plan, and conducted mission rehearsals. At its heart would be four C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, whose availability to launch the mission came thanks in large part to the Arab-initiated 1973 Yom Kippur War. In 1970, Israel had identified a need to acquire the C-130 for its Air Force, but a leisurely acquisition pace meant only two were in service in 1973. The Yom Kippur War illustrated just how essential the C-130 was to Israel as a logistical link to the frontline, and soon more than two dozen were acquired. By 1976, the size of the fleet and their combat experience meant the Israeli Air Force – in particular, its C-130 squadrons – had the confidence and maturity to launch a rescue raid.


The crew of the lead C-130 used in the raid.

On 3 July 1976, the Israeli Government gave the go-ahead for a rescue raid, using four C-130s, joined by pair of Boeing 707s – one acting as a Command-and-Control (C2) aircraft, the other as an Aero-Medical Evacuation (AME) transport. The first Hercules landed at Entebbe shortly before midnight on July 3, and the assault was all over in 30 minutes. I’ll cover the detail of the raid in a following Post, but the four Hercules landed at Entebbe to deliver a force of Sayeret Matkal and Israeli Paratroopers. The hijackers were eliminated, a number of Ugandan troops killed, and a squadron of MiG fighters at Entebbe were destroyed. In return, four of hostages were killed during the assault and its wake, which also claimed the life of Lieutenant Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu, leading the raid on the ground.

The C-130s and the C2 Boeing 707 headed for Nairobi in Kenya, where they rendevouzed with the AME team on the Boeing 707 and also refueled their aircraft. As the rescue force returned to Israel at daybreak on July 4, a number of things had become apparent.

The way in which Israel had demonstrated the integration of Special Forces with air mobility platforms – coupled with airborne C2 and AME assets – wasn’t so much as ‘ahead of its time’ as it was pioneering. I’ll explore this theme in the next Post, but there’s little coincidence that both the United States and United Kingdom planned similar raids in the six years following Entebbe. For the German left-wing factions and Palestinians, they would use airline hijacking as a tool for negotiating the release of prisoners again in 1978.  Lufthansa Flight 181, bound from West Germany for Spain, was taken on an odyssey by the hijackers through Europe and the Middle East before it settled on Mogadishu, Somalia. While the hijackers seemingly hoped that they were beyond the reach of a German rescue effort, the Somali government permitted a German rescue team to launch a rescue mission that eliminated the hijackers.

For Amin, the events at Entebbe were an embarrassment, albeit one that saw him attempt to present the Israelis as the belligerents. In the weeks following the raid, several thousand Kenyans – living within Uganda or along the border – are believed to have been killed as a reprisal against Kenya’s complicit support to Israel. Whether you can place any guilt for their deaths at the feet of Israel is a good debate topic, however it is clear that Amin held little regard of the value of the lives of his own people, a fact that would see him deposed in 1979.


The Ugandan response to the raid.

After four decades, the Raid on Entebbe still retains some valued lessons in how governments can respond to emerging crises, what the considerations are, and what their consequences may be.

*Edits to this post will be made as required, and any corrections of fact are welcomed.

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Is there a seat at this table?


A letter from Australia to the European Union.

G’day Brussels,

We read in the news this week that you might soon find yourselves one country short. It sounds like a nasty business, Brexit, especially after all you’ve been through together. But from all accounts, Britain’s heart is not really in it any more, and they’re not even listening to common sense. Perhaps it’s best to let them call it quits.

In the meantime, we hope we’re not being too forward asking that if a spare seat at the EU table happens to become available, could Australia have a crack at it?

Yeah, we know what you’re thinking – what’s to gain from letting the Land Down Under join your club. You probably haven’t even heard that much from us since we had you over for the Olympics in 2000 (remember how great that was? Anyway). If any of you have been out our way, you’ll appreciate that we’re on the literal opposite side of the globe from you, which hardly makes us neighbours.

We’ll stick to the Southern Hemisphere, thanks. (SatireWire)

Well first of all, we’d like to remind you of our runner-up status in this year’s Eurovision. Remember when you rocked up there and thought “what the bloody hell is Australia doing in Eurovision”? And that was the second year we competed. And we nearly won it. Europe is ready to accept us. No one else appreciates your annual festival of power ballads and key changes quite like us. Even if you knock this request for EU membership on the head, we guarantee you’ll be seeing us in Kiev next year.


In a couple of years, it’ll be like we were always there. (Wikipedia)

It’s more than just Eurovision though. You should see us during the Tour de France – a month whereby Australian workplace productivity takes a significant dive, thanks to nights of sleep deprivation. Did you know too, Melbourne’s Greek population is the largest outside of Athens (I think I read that somewhere). Thanks to our Italian immigrants, we know what constitutes a good espresso (amongst many other things). You see what we’re saying? We’re not just a former Brit colony – have a look and you’ll see no shortage of Dutch, Irish, and Maltese kicking around. With Britain leaving the EU, what better way to replace an English-speaking nation with one that feels a little more familiar? You’ll find that when it comes to Nonnas, we speak the same language as you.


How do you say “No, thank you, I’m full”. (Pinterest)

There’s mutual benefits to having us on board the EU, mind you. There’s our mutual exchange program for backpackers, which means you’ll find grassroots-level support for an EU membership if it leads to an easier transit through borders. Nobody likes waiting to have their passport scanned after spending more than a day inside an Airbus (which, by the way, did you know we fly?). The line at Sydney Airport goes out the door sometimes. We reckon an Aussie membership to the EU will sort this out for us both.

What about our Asia-Pacific neighbours, we hear you ask? Well, ASEAN has missed its chance with us, and the Pacific Island Forum doesn’t mind us throwing our hat in your ring – hell, New Caledonia has a foot in both camps already. And, just quietly, we reckon the wider Asian region will be OK with it. For one thing, our island continent is staying right here, so all our shared trade and security interests remain as they were. We’re also the beneficiaries of decades of Asia-Pacific immigration, and that doesn’t look like it’ll be slowing anytime soon. It’s pretty bloody fantastic they’re here, because they’ll tie us to the region for generations to come. Australia becoming an EU state just makes us a gateway for the respective Asian and European markets. All win-win, mate.

The Commonwealth? Yeah, we know what you’re thinking, and we’re all over it. Our British ex-pats either moved here for the weather, or to escape so-called EU tyranny, so a Brexit should lead to a couple of them returning home grateful. For the rest of us, we figured out we don’t even have to give up our Governor General or Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend, either. Did you know one of our own is married to the future King of Denmark? Swap in his portrait at the RSL Halls, and replace the Union Jack with a Danish red-and-white cross on our flag, and I doubt most Aussies will notice the difference.


They scrub up alright. (Denmark Government)

Whilst we’re talking, would it be worth our while adopting the Euro down the track? Don’t get us wrong, we love our Aussie Dollar, but it’s a pain in the arse to get a decent exchange on it at the Travelex, and it doesn’t stand up to much punishment. Chinese markets go down, the Aussie Dollar drops. The US Dollar rallies, the Aussie dollar drops. The same goes for the Aussie markets in general, really – a bit of economic insulation with the EU might even do us good. Yeah, yeah – we heard about the state of affairs with Greece, but if anyone’s going to have hard words with them, leave Germany out and send us in – we’ve got Greek relatives, after all. I don’t think too many Aussies will be bothered about the change in notes and coins, so long as you let us put our native animals on some of them. It’ll all be sweet.


We’re about 90% sure the Platypus was a practical joke left here by the Dutch. (Australian Mint)

Don’t get to thinking this is all going to be one-way traffic from our end, mind. We’re not coming to the EU to just free load. Our relative isolation from Europe makes us your neutral go-to for arbitration between member states. Latvia and Estonia are having a tiff? We’ll sort them out – to be honest, we’re not really sure which is which, so you can’t accuse us of playing favourites. The EU is all about standardising things across Europe, and who better to do it than us?

A bit of regulation would do us some good, too. Your organisation cops a bit of criticism for micro-management, but truth be told, we could benefit from standardising some things between our own states. Four different major football codes, for starters. We can’t even keep north and south Tasmania on the same track some times. And do you think a country of 24 million has a common system of beer glasses between each state? It’s a joke, is what it is.

In closing, it’d be a bloody exciting opportunity for you to let us in, and transition the EU from strictly continental boundaries to become a more global power. We’re pretty enthusiastic about the potential of Australia if it had a chair at the EU. We could do with a little more publicity in the world. We don’t get much thoroughfare traffic out our way, you see.

Just whatever you do, don’t give that spare seat away to New Zealand, yeah? They might try and seduce you with their landscape finery and earthy good looks, but forget about them – you’ve already got a Norway.


And don’t even give this bloke a look-in (CBC)



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