Never popular with the Army, Transport Command never really got a fair shake of the stick; years of making do with not terribly good planes, then as soon as it looked like they were getting a halfway decent aircraft, the bean counters abolished them.
Transport Command had more than sufficient equipment for task. They may have lacked the type diversity of their US counterpart (MATS/MAC), but the Transport Command fleet was pretty 'decent' - and home grown compared to other countries' reliance on US-made types. Unfortunately, the Belfast wasn't. It should also not be compared with the C130, as it was a strategic lifter - utilised in a role more akin to the C141.
It wouldn't have mattered if Transport Command had been furnished with C130s, KC135s and 141s, as the draw down matched the shrinkage of overseas commitments and a re-emphasis on tactical airlift. Whilst the withdrawal of the Belfast from service created a capability gap, the VC10s were seen as sufficient enough for strategic transport and trooping, with the Hercules fleet copping for the humping and dumping.
The Falklands aside, the bean counters got the rest of the projections pretty much right. Fleets of Beverleys, Britannias, Comets and Argosies were not needed - and were certainly tired by 1976 after extensive usage.
Buck Felize 02:15, 29 April 2008 (BST)
Hmm, can't really disagree with that; what I wrote was quick, off the cuff and a bit wanky, frankly. I've often thought that the division of tactical/strategic lift is a bit of a semantic one; if the procurement bods can do their job right, the equipment should be able to do both to a greater or lesser extent, the only variations being that of scale. However this ideal often falls down at the hurdle of cost, the C17 being a good example of a plane that can fulfill both roles very well but costs rather a lot.
Did you have operational experience of the Belfast? I haven't read anything particularly damning about it, just the usual story of inadequate development and MOD uselessness. The fact that the Aussies are still using their Belfast says something for the build quality. It looks to have enough floatation for rough field work, but I have no idea if the U/C is strengthened for it. As with the C5, putting something that big down on a dirt strip would take big balls.
Cheers DeSTABlised 03:28, 29 April 2008 (BST)
There was no rough field requirement for the Belfast, it was purely a strategic airlifter that could shift outsize loads - something it was very capable of despite being underpowered... and slow (it was often referred to as the 'Belslow').
The type was extremely well built - some would say over-engineered. But this is hardly surprising from a manufacturer of flying boats! My only 'experience' of them was their regular visits to BZN in the mid-'80s whereupon I took the opportunity to have a look around them. One or two of the old & bold in Base Hangar had worked on them ten years previous. I last saw one crawling along on short finals at Ringway sometime mid-'90s.
Buck Felize 09:30, 29 April 2008 (BST)
I note that the A400M is practically the Belfast's double, but comes with twice(!) the power. Perusing it's specs I'm confused as to why the dry weight is nearly 20% greater on a design that is after all 40 years newer; the wing loading is alarming at MTOW. It must be fitted with all manner of sexy lift augmentation devices to get the reported short field performance.
cheers DeSTABlised 18:28, 29 April 2008 (BST)