Sunday, March 11, 2007


Charlie Stross is apparently thinking of using the huge GEC Marconi/BAE cost overruns as a plot device for one of his books - the idea being that some sort of really cool (and evil) skunkworks project was being funded off the books through the vast sums of money wasted on NimWACS, Astute, Eurofighter, Nimrod MRA4, Bowman and the rest.

As a fan of British tech nostalgia, I think it's a cracking idea. I mean, who wouldn't want to imagine that at least some of all that money was actually used for something. After all, the Alan Clark diaries show that he was musing about how to get a satellite-launch capability back, and he got to be Minister for Defence Procurement. No wonder it was a disaster area.

Actually, the Clark diaries show he wasn't all that thick - at one point in the mid-80s, he quotes himself suggesting that the criteria for procuring a new weapon should be "how good it is at defending the Bahrain causeway, and how quickly it can get there". Now, diaries are notoriously better than Hansard at cleaning up one's own thought processes, but that's genuinely nonstupid. Not quite as good as the Rupert Smith criteria ("all equipment should be in one of the three standard sizes - a standard door frame whilst on a soldier's back, the back of a Land Rover, and a 40ft container in a C-130"), but close.

Now, the late 80s was the period when BAe and Rolls were pushing the HOTOL project, which as everyone knows, was scuppered when Thatcher killed the funding. (Enter alternate history here.) Remember, too, that the Challenger accident kiboshed a plan to use the shuttle, with several RAF personnel aboard, to loft a couple of MOD Skynet comsats. (Enter conspiracy theory here.)

Speaking of Skynet, Hawker-Siddeley BAe Space EADS -Astrium Stevenage's finest is waiting on the pad today at Kourou for the French rocket scientists to sort out their Ariane 5-ECA, which is having one of its bad days...

Too funny that the MOD's supersecure satellite network is a PFI job.

OK, then, Charlie - just substitute in the rest between the tags provided, with something like this. Why is it I find code easier to read if it's described in German, anyway?

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