I was invited this week to take part in a 'round table' discussion between Major Paul Moga (USAF), Professor James Arthur Mowbray (Air War College), and selected bloggers with an interest in aviation (including Scott Palmer of the Avia-Corner). I'm not sure the producers realised that I'm down under, but although the scheduled time for the chat actually was at a reasonable hour, my time, I had to decline because of a prior engagement. At least it spared everyone concerned the trouble of translating my native Strine on the fly ...

The purpose was to advertise a documentary series called Showdown: Air Combat, which starts this Sunday on the Military Channel. Which I'm happy to do in this case, because the aforementioned discussion has been made freely available online. Of course I won't be able to watch it, but it looks interesting: the basic idea being to replay, using warbirds or RC models, ten notable dogfights from the First World War on. Sadly, only one episode features a British aeroplane, that on the Red Baron's last flight.

The discussion can be played below, or listened to here. It lasts for about 45 minutes.

At one point (about 25 minutes in), Prof. Mowbray says that the aeroplane was always viewed as one of the most expensive weapon systems, and that so when Douhet started talking about fleets of thousands of bombers, everybody laughed at him because nobody could afford that many. Of course, in a discussion like this there's not the time to fully qualify one's remarks, and I'd hate for anyone to take me to task for a mistake made when speaking off the cuff, but I can't agree. Before 1914, people like Claude Grahame-White often made the argument that you could buy a thousand aeroplanes, say, for the cost of one dreadnought -- and it might only take one bomb from one aeroplane to sink that dreadnought. A bargain at twice the price, if true. And at the end of the war, the great powers did have massive fleets of aircraft -- the RAF had over 22000 aircraft on its books (though this number includes every category of aeroplane: reserves, trainers, obsolete models and probably scraps of broken wing sitting in the corner of the hangar). It probably would have had many more had the war continued into 1919. But don't let my pedantry put you off having a listen!

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