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  • A Thumbnail History of the American Fighter Drop Tank 1923-2000

    Posted by Trent Telenko on April 7th, 2019 (All posts by )

    The flying services of the American military pioneered the use of fighter drop tanks, but there is no one place where you can go to get a historical ‘thumbnail sketch’ of their introduction and history of use.  This blog post is my attempt to answer that need.

    Drop tanks have been around over 90 years in American aviation, but their history prior to the 1942–1945 Combined Bomber Offensive is very obscure for a lot of reasons. The biggest historically American manufacturer of drop tanks Sargent Fletcher only reaches back to its 1940 founding. (It was bought by a British company in 1994.) So the recorded American aircraft drop tank history looks as follows:

    Sargent Fletcher drop tank history from 1940 to 2000

    Sargent Fletcher drop tank history from 1940 to 2000

    The problem with the history above is that the first operational use of drop tanks pre-dated the founding of Sargent Fletcher by almost 18 years.

    On March 5, 1923 the 1st Pursuit Group of the US Army Air Service flew their Boeing MB-3As Pursuit planes with 37 gallon centerline drop tanks and achieved a radius of action of 400 miles!

    Boeing built and Thomas-Morse designed MB-3 assigned to Billy Mitchell, at Selfridge Field, Michigan, Source: Wikipedia.

    Boeing built and Thomas-Morse designed MB-3 assigned to Billy Mitchell, at Selfridge Field, Michigan, Source: Wikipedia.

     

    See article link and text:

    Selfridge ANGB: Home of the Drop Tank

    https://www.127wg.ang.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/865880/selfridge-angb-home-of-the-drop-tank/

    With the MB-3As in place at Selfridge Field, Army Air Service engineers at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio, began developing an external fuel tank that would expand the range of the new fighter. The tanks were delivered to Selfridge and on March 5, 1923, several MB-3As took off with the new 37-gallon tanks. The tank was suspended from the aircraft’s bomb rack along the centerline of the bottom of the fuselage. A releasing device was available to the pilot in the cockpit. The original tanks were designed to be jettisoned once empty, rather than to be kept aboard the aircraft and only jettisoned in an emergency situation, as are today’s tanks. With the added fuel from the tank, an MB-3A had a flying radius of about 400 miles, a marked improvement over previous pursuit-type aircraft.

    .

    As it turned out, new drop tanks weren’t the only thing that made the news at Selfridge Field on March 5, 1923. On that same day, pilots decided to use the frozen Lake St. Clair as a landing field, using other MB-3As that had been equipped with skis, rather than wheels. Both the new drop tanks and the frozen lake landings were reported upon in the Air Service Newsletter, the official publication of the Army Air Service.

    .

    The development of the drop tank stalled after those early tests as Selfridge, as the primary focus of the young Air Service (later Army Air Corps and then Army Air Force) was on the development of bomber aircraft, which could carry sufficient on-board fuel for most envisioned missions.

    The fight between the “bombardment” and “pursuit” factions in the US Army Air Service lasted all through the 1930’s as mainly a Captain Claire Chennault versus the entire heavy bomber faction affair and it came to a head in 1933 when Chennault proved that “the bomber would always get through” was flat wrong.

    The photo below is then Captain Claire Chennault’s 1933 Ft. Knox Air Defense Observer Network. It was so successful in catching bombardment formations that Chennault was black balled by the “Bomber Mafia” of two Air Chiefs of Staff as a threat to the B-17 development budget.

    This institutional shunning lead to his retirement in 1937 and subsequent hiring as an air warfare consultant by the Nationalist Chinese government.

    Chennault's 1933 Ft. Knox air Defense Observer Network

    Then Captain Claire Chennault’s 1933 Ft. Knox Air Defense Observer Network. It was so successful in catching bombardment formations that Chennault was black balled by the “Bomber Mafia” of two Air Chiefs of Staff. Source: Coast Artillery Journal Mar-Apr 1934, pg. 39

    See my Chicagoboyz column here for that shunning story:

    History Friday: Claire Lee Chennault – SECRET AGENT MAN!

    Two years later, in 1939, USAAF Chief of Staff General H.H. “Hap” Arnold banned drop tanks for “Pursuit” and “Attack” aviation as a “Safety Hazard” when Curtis-Wright offered a drop tank and wet wing fittings for it’s P-36 “Mohawk” fighter.

    See this memo:

    This is the May 16, 1939 memo is where General H. H. “Hap” Arnold used a Curtis Wright proposal to equip it’s P-36 “Mohawk” fighter with drop tanks as an opportunity to stop the use of drop tanks on all USAF fighters and light bombers for “Safety Reasons.” This action should be seen as an action to promote the budget of B-17, B-24, and the proposed “Very Long Range” (VLR) heavy bombers. The “VLR” requirement became the B-29 “Superfortress.” Source:  Microfilm Reel A2069, Arnold memo found in “CASE HISTORY OF DROPPABLE FUEL TANKS,” Air Force Historical Research Association

    The only reason there was enough of a US Government drop tank market for Sargent Fletcher to be founded in 1940 was due to the US Navy’s SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber.

    Barrett Tillman’s 2011 article here:

    The Ten Most Pivotal Events in U.S. Naval Aviation

    https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2011-05/ten-most-pivotal-events-us-naval-aviation

    …makes clear that the development of biplane dive bombing followed by the 1929 fleet problem lead to the SBD requirement that required the use of drop tanks.

    The SBD requirement meant meeting a pair of performance specifications. Specification #1 involved carrying a single centerline 1000-lb AP bomb and a couple of 100-lb bombs at short ranges for striking heavily armored targets.

    Specification #2, the scout role, had the SBD carrying a centrline 500-lb bomb and a pair of drop tanks to search for the enemy fleet. In particular it was looking either for enemy scouting cruisers and carriers or the enemy battle line’s destroyer screen…for which the 500-lb bomb was just fine.

    US Navy SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber with full anti-armored ship bomb load. In the scouting role the centerline bomb would ne 500-lbs and the wings would have drop tanks for extended range.

    US Navy SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber with full anti-armored ship bomb load. In the scouting role the centerline bomb would be a 500-lb weapon and the wings would have drop tanks for extended range.

    Buying drop tanks for this sort of extended range scouting was not just limited to the SBD. US Navy patrol bombers like the PV-1 Lockheed Ventura patrol bomber used drop tanks.

    US Navy PV-1 Ventura Patrol bomber with 150-gallon Sargent Fletcher drop tank.

    The Lockheed built US Navy PV-1 Ventura Patrol Bomber with 150-gallon Sargent Fletcher made drop tank.

    The Sargent Fletcher 150-gallon and 300 gallon drop tanks used on the P-38 Lightning fighter came from the PV-1 Ventura (the B-34 in USAAF service). Below is an example of the Sargent Fletcher 150 gallon tank used on P-38’s in the Solomon Island’s campaign in 1943.

    This is a 1943 picture of a 150-gallon Sargent Fletcher Drop Tank in front of a 13th Air Force, Solomons Island based, Lockheed P-38 Lightning.

    See these articles on the PV-1 and PV-2:

    Lockheed Ventura – Wikipedia

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Ventura

    .

    Lockheed Ventura / Harpoon Patrol / Light Bomber Bomber Aircraft – United States

    https://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=735

    .

    Harpoon by Jack McKillop

    http://www.microworks.net/pacific/aviation/pv_ventura.htm

    From which pay particular attention to this passage:

    ARMAMENT

    PV-1: Initially, two 50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns in the upper decking of the nose; two 50 caliber machine guns in the Martin dorsal turret; and one 30 caliber (7.62 mm) machine gun in the ventral turret. The bomb bay accommodated one 2,000-pound (907.2 kg) or one 1,000-pound (453.6 kg) or six 500-pound (226.8 kg) bombs; or six 325-pound (147.4 kg) Mk. 17 depth charges; or one Mk. 13 torpedo. A pylon was located on each wing and this could accommodate two 150 US gallon (567.8 liter) drop tanks; or two 1,000-pound or two 500-pound bombs; or two 650-pound (294.8 kg) Mk. 29 or two 325- pound Mk. 17 depth charges. Armament later increased by the addition of three 50 caliber machine guns in a nose chin pod and the addition of launching rails for eight 5- inch (127 mm) High Velocity Attack Rockets (HVARs).

    .

    PV-2: Five 50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns in the nose, two in the upper nose decking and three in a chin pod; two 50 caliber machine guns in the Martin dorsal turret; and two 50 caliber machine guns in the ventral turret. The bomb bay accommodated four 1,000-pound (453.6 kg) bombs or a torpedo and underwing hardpoints accommodated eight 5-inch (12.7 cm) High Velocity Attack Rockets (HVAR) plus two 1,000-pound (453.6 kg) bombs, depth charges or fuel tanks.

    .

    PV-2D: As PV-2 except forward armament consisted of eight 50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns in the nose.

    It can be truly said that it was the US Navy SBD drop tank specification that saved the USAAF Combined Bomber Offensive in the winter of 1943-1944.

    William Emerson’s 1962 Harmon Memorial Lecture #4 makes clear it was the P-47D Thunderbolts using 150-gallon Sargent Fletcher drop tanks — produced at a rate of  20,000 a month starting in December 1943 — that made “Operation Pointblank” possible.

    See:

    Operation POINTBLANK: A Tale of Bombers and Fighters, by William R. Emerson, 1962 Harmon Memorial Lecture #4

    https://www.usafa.edu/app/uploads/Harmon04.pdf

    A winter 1943 ferry flight of a “Razorback” P-47D in Iceland with the early 150-Gallon version of the Lockheed drop tank. Source: Page 16 “P-47 Thunderbolt in Action” Aircraft Number 67, Squadron/signal Publications”

    It was the Razorback P-47D’s that won air superiority over Germany in the winter of 1943–1944.  While British produced paper drop tanks were of great assistance. It was primarily with the Sargent Fletcher 150-gallon drop tanks — that only the US Navy’s SBD and PV-1 made possible over the “Heavy Bomber Mafia” parochialism of USAAF Chief of Staff General H. H. “Hap” Arnold — with which those P-47D’s did the job.

    After the success of drop tanks in Operation Pointblank, the American fighter drop tank was here to stay.

    -End-

     

    32 Responses to “A Thumbnail History of the American Fighter Drop Tank 1923-2000”

    1. Mike K Says:

      There was a movie called “Fighter Squadron” that used the drop tanks as the plot device.

    2. MCS Says:

      The quality of military decision making doesn’t seem to improve. They want to scrap a carrier 20 years early to buy two more at the same time when there are still lots of problems with the new design, especially cost.

    3. judgeroybean Says:

      Old Commander tells of fellow Marine who took brand new A-4 drop tank to Puerto Rico for a rum run. Fuel transfer system disabled. Eager to manifest their patriotism Puerto Ricans filled new drop tank with rum. Young Marine hit stateside base to refuel, made sure Transit Alert knew to leave drop tank alone. Transit Alert guy assured pilot he would not service drop tank. Young Marine checked in at Base Ops. Pilot walked back to his A-4 just in time to catch Transit Alert guy topping off drop tank full of rum. Up til that moment the Marines had not devised language deemed suitable for dealing with such issues.

    4. Mike K Says:

      Especially since we need smaller carriers, not the giant $50 billion variety, At the end of WWI, we had nearly 100 carriers, only about ten fleet carriers.

      There are an awful lot of eggs in a few baskets. It reminds me a bit of the bomber mafia in 1940.

    5. MCS Says:

      The rational for the big post war carriers was supporting enough planes to provide self defense and maintain offensive capability. The cost of nuclear carriers ruled out multiple smaller carriers. This was viable when the air threat was enemy aircraft. I don’t recall any time since WWII where our carriers came under attack. Certainly not from the Taliban or Iraq.

      I doubt that a carrier group could survive within 1,000 miles of China if push comes to shove. The air defense wing won’t figure, just who runs out of missiles first. Our missile destroyers can’t reload at sea so I know how I’m betting.

      If you want carriers to provide mobile air fields against enemies that coudn’t shoot down a piper cub, I suppose the right number is as many as you can afford. If you’re going against a near peer, the answer is zero. The same argument holds for manned bombers.

      Unfortunately, this leaves nothing I can think of in terms of a viable conventional offense against a near peer.

    6. Mike K Says:

      Unfortunately, this leaves nothing I can think of in terms of a viable conventional offense against a near peer.

      Diesel Subs is one. How many can you build for one Trident nuke ?

    7. MCS Says:

      The key word was conventional, we have plenty of nuclear options, far more than the Chinese. At least until you consider what even a couple to half dozen nucs would do to as many cities.

    8. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      “… viable conventional offense against a near peer.”

      Agree wholeheartedly with MCS’s analysis of the non-viability of carriers and bombers against a near peer in a conventional war. But why would the US ever want to consider conventional offense (or defense) against a near peer? It would be stupid to attack someone who might fight back effectively — so offense is out. And on defense, that is where Mutual Assured Destruction comes into play — mess with us, and you lose your chips. I also understand that with an Obama in charge, MAD becomes meaningless since the US position would be pre-emptive surrender — which is another limitation on the offensive use of conventional forces against a near peer.

      The most likely near peer conflict scenario is China trying to take over Taiwan — which they have repeatedly said they intend to do. It is probable that China will end up simply buying Taiwan (or at least its government) and incorporating the island into the Chinese state without bloodshed. But if China did launch a military assault on Taiwan, what could the US do in any conventional military sense? Our forces would be at the end of a very long & vulnerable supply line, while the People’s Liberation Army would be well-supplied in its backyard. The response would have to be nuclear or nothing … and with Democrats probably bought & paid for, the likely response would be a Congressional proclamation congratulating China on its re-unification.

      The logical end of this line of reasoning is:
      (a) rebuild domestic manufacturing & mining capacity to reduce reliance on Chinese imports and the need for open sea lanes;
      (b) lay down the burden of being the world’s policeman — Europe, Japan, Korea … you need to look after yourselves;
      (c) reduce spending on conventional armed forces, especially nuclear carriers and bombers;
      (d) increase spending on nuclear weapons of all kinds — withdraw from the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and test those weapons regularly;
      (e) wish the rest of the world well, and make sure they understand the non-proportional response awaiting any attack on the US.

    9. Trent Telenko Says:

      MCS

      The USN is not unaware of the Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile threat.

      See:

      Navy To Supersize Its Ultra Versatile SM-6 Missile For Even Longer Range And Higher Speed
      The SM-6 is getting a way bigger rocket motor that will allow it to reach even farther than before and enemy ships may be its primary target.
      BY TYLER ROGOWAYMARCH 20, 2019
      https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/27068/navy-to-supersize-its-ultra-versatile-sm-6-missile-for-even-longer-range-and-higher-speed

      And carrier’s fighter groups may have a great deal of skin in that game very soon as the F-18E’s are finally getting conformal furl tanks for extended range and there are serious proposals floating to modify some SM-6 for air to air launch with DDG final targeting:

      The Ultimate Weapon: Navy Super Hornets Armed with SM-6 Missiles?
      Could it happen?
      by Jason Blackstone
      https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/ultimate-weapon-navy-super-hornets-armed-sm-6-missiles-34737

      This rather neatly solves the Aegis Destroyer reload problem.

    10. MCS Says:

      I’ll believe the anti-ship ballistic missile when I see it. If China had it we’d have an undeniable demonstration, not hot air. That’s for now, how many 50 billion dollar bets should we place that they can’t? If they really had it, they could take our carriers out at Pearl Harbor or San Diego as easily as off the Chinese coast, maybe easier.

      My point was that 1,000 miles will soon be in range of land based anti-ship missiles if not now. All they need to do is launch one more missile than we shoot down. How many million dollar missiles would they be willing to salvo to take out a carrier. Operating from that sort of range would greatly decease the effectiveness of our planes. If we were still fighting WWII, our carriers would be invincible.

      I expect our weapons to improve. I also discount undemonstrated Chinese claims by near 100%. As above, not now doesn’t equal never.

      Taiwan is effectively indefensible, The only thing that really protects it is the size of hole that turning it into a smoking wasteland would make in the mainland economy. And the fact that Taiwan has enough resources to make that happen and do some wasting back. The bigger problem is that Korea, Japan, The Philippines and Southeast Asia are in the same boat without the same protection. Korea and Japan have significant forces of their own but maybe not enough resolve to stand up to years of steady pressure and little tendency to support the others.

    11. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      Sun Tzu made an observation that the real Art of War is to win without fighting. If that is the Chinese objective, they are well on the way to achieving it provided they can remain sufficiently patient.

      I will stick to the prediction that Taiwan will eventually rejoin mainland China through time-honored bribery of senior Taiwanese politicians, a la Clintons. But if it did come to fighting, conflict between Taiwan and China would rock the US economy even if the US stayed out — the shelves at Walmart would be bare; digital equipment would become scarce.

      Once Taiwan is back in the fold and the US has been shown to be a sleeping tiger (if not a paper tiger), it is likely that countries from Japan to Australia will decide that “voluntarily” joining the new Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere is their least bad alternative. And maybe the US should be satisfied with that outcome, given that today’s China is a long way removed from Mao’s Communism.

      The issue for the US is whether the money we are investing in the military is being spent wisely, given the changes the future will probably bring.

    12. MCS Says:

      I think your corruption scenario is more likely than an overt attack. It’s not like corruption in Taipei would be anything new, though selling the whole country would probably be some sort of record.

      So far, they seem to be making conciliatory noises while buying F16s and Patriots. They have enough hardware to make a frontal attack expensive.

      Then there’s Siberia. China is better equipped for an overland versus a naval campaign right now. They didn’t have any better luck in Vietnam then we did. That was a while ago, the taiga might be easier than the rain forest. The Russians seems to be stretched pretty thin.

    13. Trent Telenko Says:

      MCS,

      It is relatively easy to make Taiwan “China invasion proof.”

      Sell Taiwan 3,000 or so 2,000lb Quickstrike-ER Winged Standoff Naval Mines.

      It’s a winged GBU-31 JDAM with an Australian wing kit and a USN Mk.62, Mk.63, Mk.64 Quickstrike naval mine fusing kit.

      The ability of China to conduct coup de main amphibious invasion in the face of precision guided sea mines goes right out the window with Taiwan having a stock of such weapons.

      See:

      B-52 Drops Quickstrike-ER New Mine from 50 Miles Away – YouTube
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Bfgy_cT1ac

      A B-52 bomber shows how it can lay a devastating minefield at sea from nearly 50 miles away in a warning to US rivals | Business Insider
      https://www.businessinsider.com.au/b-52-bomber-shows-off-ability-to-lay-down-an-entire-minefield-at-sea-2018-9?r=US&IR=T

      Col. Mike “Starbaby” Pietrucha | The Antiship Mine Gets New Wings | The Diplomat
      https://thediplomat.com/2017/05/the-antiship-mine-gets-new-wings/

      Expanding the Envelope – Stealth and Other Strike Roles – APA Mirror [NB USAF Original Version Currently Not Online]
      http://www.ausairpower.net/ASPC-Expand-Mirror.html

      The JDAM also has much potential as the basis for an air delivered naval mine. The extant USN Mk.36, Mk.40, Mk.41 Destructor and Mk.62, Mk.63, Mk.64 Quickstrike naval mines are all based upon the Mk.80 series bombs, fitted with fusing kits. The Mk.62 was recently cleared on the B-1B. The use of conventional aircraft for naval mine delivery introduces several problems, especially if a major harbor or entry channel is being mined. The aircraft are likely to be exposed to heavy defensive fire, and radar tracks may be used to attempt to localize the position of the mines for mine-sweeping operations. The use of the B-2A for mine delivery avoids both of these problems. An optimal mine delivery is produced by an accurate low speed, low altitude drop, conditions which are not compatible with a 40 kft penetration altitude. The impact velocity and position drift incurred with a high altitude drop are problematic. JDAM Naval Mine CONOPS

    14. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      Trent — Interesting! In any future conventional war, one of the key issues will be — Who runs out of high-tech ammunition first? Thinking about China’s manufacturing capacity, I would guess the answer is “Not China”. Another key issue will be — Who runs out of the will to fight first? Looking at the clown circus in DC, one would have to bet that the US would walk away from any conflict before China would. Sad, but that is the world we now live in.

      As for the Han people in Taiwan — How many of them would rather be Dead than Red? My view on this has been altered by a recent trip to China. It is no longer a Communist country in any meaningful sense; individuals have freedom to own their own homes, vehicles, stock portfolios; safe cities with no Western-style Underclass and a rather modest generally-unarmed police presence. Yes, the citizen in China has no influence on his government; but I have no influence at all on the destructive Far Left nonsense being perpetrated in my One Party county and One Party state here in the US. There are regular flights between Taiwan and many Chinese cities; and for those who don’t travel, accessible TV channels showing that life for most people is similar in China and Taiwan.

      As time goes by, my guess is that fewer & fewer people in Taiwan will consider it worth fighting to remain separate from a China which is competently governed and delivering improving living standards to its population.

      Which brings us back to the question — Sitting far away on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, where should the US be investing our limited military funds?

    15. MCS Says:

      Trent: Mines, properly used would increase the cost of an invasion. I wasn’t aware of these specifically, but I remembered your posts on the cost/benefit of mines in the WWII Pacific. A relatively few mined harbors would halt Chinese trade as well as disrupt an invasion.

      There are a couple of buts. First: The economic cost of the first bomb to fall on Taiwan is probably already in the 100’s of billions. I don’t know how the Government counts the value of anyone not in Beijing; not very high on past experience. I wouldn’t count on increased cost to deter an already irrational act.

      Second: Generals are probably cheaper than missiles. Weapons are only as good as the people using them. We know that China has long engaged in subverting Taiwan, there are probably some that will see it as a choice between an honorable death in a lost cause and a tidy non-performance bonus.

      The more I think about it, the more I agree with Gavin. One morning, Taiwan will wake up to find Chinese aircraft occupying their airfields and an announcement that they have rejoined the Motherland.

    16. Cousin Dave Says:

      After WWII, some of those surplus drop tanks were put to a completely different use:

      https://auto.howstuffworks.com/auto-racing/motorsports/belly-tank-racers.htm

    17. Trent Telenko Says:

      Gavin Longmuir , MCS,

      You might want to check out which Taiwanese political parties are in favor of Taiwan as an independent of China nation and what percentage they have in terms of representation in the Parliament.

      See:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_parties_in_Taiwan

      The only reason the ruling Democratic Progressive Party hasn’t declared Taiwan ans an independent of China nation is it doesn’t want to risk a war.

    18. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      Trent — Things change over time. 30 years ago, if anyone had suggested that the UK would walk away from Hong Kong, or that China would have a high speed train system better than Japan’s, or that China would become the world’s biggest automobile manufacturer and market … many people would have smiled.

      Time goes by, and a new generation comes along every 20 years. Taiwanese can look at Hong Kong or Macao as examples of parts of China which have significant autonomy. They can see China’s amazing economic progress, and the comparatively light hand of China’s government on many aspects of ordinary life. They can see the way the tide is flowing in the US, and the declining interest in our bought-and-paid-for Political Class supporting Taiwan against China.

      I could be completely wrong, but think the way to bet is that a patient China will eventually absorb Taiwan — maybe it takes a decade, maybe two, but that is the way the tide of history is running. If China’s economy goes into the toilet, or the Chinese Political Class reverts to heavy-handed Mao-ism, then I would probably change my mind.

    19. Tom Holsinger Says:

      Gavin,

      30 years ago the British had ALREADY openly announced they were going to walk away from Hong Kong. Their lease on it expired in 1997, and had made full-bore plans on the handover to Red China. Look at the Wikipedia article on Hong Kong, and the part about the return of Hong Kong to China.

    20. Mike K Says:

      Tom, I think he lost track of how fast time was passing. I was going to take my daughter to Hong Kong before the hand over but something came up. She was 17 and had traveled with me a lot.

    21. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      Tom — Good catch. So I should have said 35 years ago. Point remains — things change, and what seems impossible today may some day seem inevitable.

      To be more precise, following the Opium Wars, victorious Merrie Olde Englande had seized the island of Hong Kong as permanent UK territory. The 99 year lease was on the New Territories, additional acreage onshore the mainland. The rulers of the UK eventually decided that it would not be viable to hold on to the island of Hong Kong once the onshore lease expired. As far as I am aware, that was a controversial decision in UK circles — some said this was abandoning the people of Hong Kong to an uncertain future under a Communist regime.

      But let’s not lose sight of the main issue. What is the long-term future (over the next several decades) of Taiwan? The changes in mainland (“Communist”) China over the last several decades make it more likely (maybe even highly likely) that Taiwan will eventually agree to join the mainland in some form or another, without any military conflict. Do you disagree with that, Tom?

      The broader issue is — once Taiwan gets under the mainland China umbrella — what will be the consequences in Japan, Vietnam, Philippines, Australia? And what will it mean for the US military posture in those far-away Pacific waters? Especially considering the leftwards anti-military charge in US domestic policy, and the looming unsustainability of the current level of US government spending.

      My guess is that, unless the Chinese government screws up in some way, a future US government will retrench, cut military spending, and leave Japan, Australia, et al on their own to cut the best deal they can with China. That bring us to the “right now” issue — Does it make sense for the US to be investing in aircraft carriers today, or could that money be better invested elsewhere?

    22. Trent Telenko Says:

      Gavin,

      The Taiwanese are a very vibrant legislative democracy complete with a young democratic republic’s legislative fist fights.

      See:

      Taiwan’s brawling in parliament is a political way of life – BBC News
      https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40640043

      See also Via wikipedia —

      Taiwan

      The Legislative Yuan of the Republic of China (Taiwan) is probably the most notable modern example of legislative violence. In the history of the Legislative Yuan, numerous violent acts have occurred during parliamentary sessions. It is popularly referred to locally as “Legislator Brawling” (立委群毆). In 1995, the Legislative Yuan was presented with the Ig Nobel Prize Peace Award, for “demonstrating that politicians gain more by punching, kicking and gouging each other than by waging war against other nations”. Listed below are the most current brawlings in the Legislative Yuan of Taiwan.

      28 March 2001
      Lo Fu-chu scuffled with Diane Lee during a committee meeting.[87]

      23 March 2004
      A serious scuffle broke out between the ruling and opposition party members after an argument over vote recounts from the presidential election.[88]

      7 May 2004
      Legislators Zhu Xingyu [zh] and William Lai got into a brawl over legislative procedures. TV stations showed Zhu grabbing Lai and trying to wrestle him onto a desk. He then tried to headbutt his colleague before jabbing him in the stomach. The brawl resulted in having a traffic policeman called into the chamber to test Zhu’s alcohol level, after he was accused of being drunk. The tests showed no sign of alcohol influence.[89]

      26 October 2004
      During a debate on a military hardware purchase ordinance, the opposition and ruling party engaged in a food fight after a disagreement broke out.[90]

      30 May 2006

      DPP deputy Wang Shu-hui chewing up a proposal to halt voting on direct transport links with Mainland China.

      Amid a proposal about creating direct transport links with People’s Republic of China, DPP deputy Wang Shu-hui snatched the written proposal and shoved it into her mouth. Opposition members failed to get her to cough it up by pulling her hair. She later spat the proposal out and tore it up. This was the third time that the DPP’s actions had stopped a vote over the issue.

      During the incident another DPP member, Zhuang Hezi, spat at an opposition member.[91]

      8 May 2007
      Two dozen members overwhelmed the Speaker’s podium, which became a free-for-all between the ruling (DPP) and opposition (KMT) parties with punches and sprayed water, requiring at least one hospitalization. The fight was over an alleged delay of the annual budget.[92]

      25 June 2013
      Angry Taiwan legislators wrestled, splashed water and bit one another in a brawl over a controversial capital gains tax on share trading.[93]

      13 to 14 July 2017
      Legislators in parliament brawled on two consecutive days over a controversial $420 billion infrastructure spending plan, which the opposition (headed by the KMT) claims to benefit cities and counties faithful to the current President’s ruling party, the DPP. They also claim that the plan has been devised to secure support for the party ahead of next year’s regional elections.

      On 13 July 2017, the Premier of the Republic of China, Lin Chuan was prevented from delivering his report on the budget after a water balloon was thrown towards him. This resulted in him leaving the chamber and causing the session to come to a halt. In the following day, opposition lawmakers occupied the chamber and raised large padded office chairs above their heads, surrounded the podium and tussled with rival legislators to prevent Mr Lin from presenting the report once more as water balloons were thrown. This resulted in the early suspension of the parliamentary session.[94]

      These are not people who will give up their freedom to Communist President for Life Xi.

    23. MCS Says:

      I hope you’re right.

      I think China is no more than a few years from another major melt down. Their industries are already looking for the next place they can hire labor for $0.50 a day. There will be a reckoning when the majority outside the coastal strip realizes that the good times aren’t going last long enough for them to get rich. Xi will surely try to deflect them to either an external or internal enemy. Their military buildup argues for external.

      So much of the Taiwan economy benefits the mainland, a military attack would be killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Putin should worry more. Siberia would offer massive natural resources and even more importantly, soak up massive amounts of man power. It’s hard to see us doing much about it.

    24. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      “These [brawling legislators] are not people who will give up their freedom to Communist President for Life Xi.”

      How representative of the US people are our Congress-critters? So Taiwan’s legislators behave like rowdy teenagers instead of responsible adults — does that make the average Taiwan citizen proud of them, and determined to retain that kind of dysfunctional legislature even at the cost of fighting & dying? Or does it make the average Taiwanese appreciate the more orderly respectful society they see first-hand when visiting their relatives in mainland China?

      Have patience; we shall see.

      The big unknown is China’s future behavior. If China’s government (which is arguably less communistic than the US Democrat Party) continues to deliver economic growth and a fairly free life to its citizens in most spheres of activity, the eventual peaceful reintegration of Taiwan into China looks like a good bet. If China’s government changes course, all bets are off. All bets except one — which is that the willingness of Democrat-dominated US to go to war with China to defend Taiwan will definitely become an increasingly unreliable reed for those rowdy Taiwanese legislators to depend on.

    25. Brian Says:

      “China is preparing to invade Taiwan!!!!” was kind of a joke 15 years ago. No one talks like that anymore. It’s not the CCP plan. First, when was the last time the Chinese military was actually tested? Is there any reason to think they’re competent, and not just really big? The major amphibious attack that would be required is not something to be taken lightly. Second, something so overt would surely cause major economic blowback. Why would they risk it? Their “Belt and Road” plan is soft power, not hard. The rumors are that they are planning to roll out basically a complete internet/electronic infrastructure system that they will pressure/entice countries into adopting, that will allow them to be fully integrated into both the Chinese economic and surveillance system.
      Personally, I’m still bearish on China in the long run. Their demographics are a disaster waiting to happen, and their economy is a fraud that is extremely vulnerable to even the slightest protectionist movemements from the US (Europe could cause them major problems too, but they are doomed due to their own problems.)

    26. Trent Telenko Says:

      Gavin,

      The behavior of the Taiwanese Yuan and US Congressman of the 19th century Jacksonian era are too close to ignore.

      The Taiwanese are not Chinese. They have developed their own unique political and national culture…and they are watching Pres. For Life Xi “Kill the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg” with Hong Kong.

      Whether they will be wise enough to strengthen their defenses enough under Pres. Trump to weather the next Democratic Presidency in the USA is a different matter.

    27. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      We have drifted a bit from the topic of drop tanks – but maybe not so far. The issue of Taiwan relates to the ability (and willingness) to exert military power at a long distance.

      I completely agree with Brian – it would make no sense for China to launch a military invasion of Taiwan. That would be damaging and unnecessary. China probably has a different plan. There may be some clues about what that non-military plan is (or was).

      We know that the Chinese government has made very effective use of offering access to its potentially huge market to influence US business, and through that to influence US politics. Remember that GM makes and sells more vehicles in China than in the US. Remember that President Bill Clinton authorized the sale of missile (sorry, peaceful commercial rocket) guidance technology to China. Notice the dog that did not bark – the silence from Democrats and their media lapdogs about Chinese influence on the US, compared to their incessant din about alleged Russian influence.

      Remember one of President Trump’s first actions — which led Democrats and the media to decry his utter ignorance about international politics. He made his first call to an overseas leader to the president of … Taiwan.

      I suggest that President Trump knew exactly what he was doing. After all, he has spent most of his life in Democrat circles, and knows all the stories about Democrats which the New York Times will never publish. He was sending a very clear message to the Chinese government that the game was changing. My guess is that President Trump planned to push back against growing Chinese influence, probably enlisting Russian help. Then the Democrats sprang their Russian hoax, and his plan went into the trash can. Who funded the Democrats’ Russian hoax, by the way?

      The following is speculation on my part. My guess is that China wanted Hillary Rodham-Clinton to win the presidency. They knew she was corrupt, and they had already bought off her husband. Through Chinese influence, a President Hillary! would have addressed the US budget problem by reducing military spending. The brunt of this would have fallen on the Navy, with carrier groups being mothballed. US forces would have been brought back from Okinawa and Guam. She would have announced that the US was consequently revisiting treaties with Taiwan, Japan, Philippines, Australia. The lapdog media would have greeted this with rapturous applause. President Hillary! would have been hailed as a peacemaker. She would have matched Barry’s achievement in getting a Nobel Peace Prize from Norwegian socialists.

      Realistic Taiwanese politicians would have looked at the changed military situation; without the guarantee of US support, their least bad option would be to cut a deal with China. Other Taiwan politicians would have planned their retirements on the Caribbean islands they just bought. And Taiwan would have been the first of the dominos to fall into China’s orbit.

      If this speculation is correct, then Chinese penetration of the Democrat Party may be a much more serious issue than we may have realized.

    28. Mike K Says:

      Gavin, I agree. David Goldman’s essays on China are more optimistic than I think the case. They still have the demographic problem though much of that may be in the lesser developed west. I have been struck, perhaps excessively, by a number of young well educated Chinese women who have married Caucasians. That used to be a non-event to Han Chinese women, especially as there is a big overhang of unmarried Chinese men.

      I have also worked for years examining military recruits in Los Angeles. I am struck by how many are joining the US Army in a program that grants citizenship after a completed enlistment. These men and women are not joining intelligence units or as officers. They want citizenship. I see it as a flood of Chinese nationals who are”voting with their feet,” as Khrushchev said. Much of eastern Los Angeles are now Chinese neighborhoods. I think they see the future and are not enthusiastic about living it in China. I had a Chinese medical student a few years ago. Her mother was a professor at Beijing U. She said she came here to practice as there was no retirement mechanism in China. She wanted her parents here.

      I am reading again, the book, “Dreadnaught, Massie’s great account of the origins of WWI. I have been on a WWI study lately, reading Churchill’s “The World Crisis.” China resembles a bit Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany in the first decade of the 20th Century. Dynamic with feelings of paranoia and inadequacy. Obama and Clinton both fed that with weakness and cooperation.

    29. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      Mike K: “They still have the demographic problem though much of that may be in the lesser developed west.”

      Mike — I don’t know what to believe. I recently made my first trip to China — Western China, mostly in several of those +/- 10 million population cities that most of us have never heard of. In the countryside, it seemed to be mostly older people. In the cities, I was repeatedly struck by the large number of young women — definitely outweighing the numbers of young men. That is not what the official statistics would lead one to expect; but can we believe any official statistics?

      Thinking about Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”, maybe it is advantageous for the Chinese government to make others fear it has an overwhelming mass of teenage cannon fodder? Winning the war without fighting is the name of the game!

    30. Mike K Says:

      I think I saw your comment about China. There are no reliable statistics I know of.

      I try to stick to things I have seen or have heard from someone who knows. My daughter has been there several times and has stayed with friends. They were a young couple. The guy was teaching English and ended up living with one of his students. They came over here when he went back to grad school and got married. I know a number of young women who married Caucasians, including my medical student. Seems to be a new phenomenon.

      Most adoptions, all I think, in China are female children.

    31. Brian Says:

      This article is very, very strange:
      We Should Let China Spy on Us
      It’s one thing to argue that the US government should be more open and less secretive but it’s a strange (and new?) thing to argue that hostile espionage is a GOOD thing. The MSM is so incestuously tied to the Democrat government establishment, that old-style Kremlinology is necessary to try to parse the madness here.

      One obvious interpretation is that what’s been known to internet crazies for two years is about to become public, namely that “allied” countries like UK, Italy, and Australia were major players in the spying on the Trump campaign, and the BS justification for FISA warrants, and they want to start shaping the narrative that it’s totally OK-good even!–for foreign governments to spy on America.

      Another possible interpretation is that things like foreign corruption and compromising of the Clintons, Diane Feinstein’s Chinese driver, the Awan brothers, etc., are going to go public, and they need to try to start downplaying such hostile acts.

      And of course, we can’t rule out that the Washington Post is at this point simply an overtly anti-American rag.

    32. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      Brian: “… things like foreign corruption and compromising of the Clintons, Diane Feinstein’s Chinese driver, the Awan brothers, etc., are going to go public …”

      Interesting aspect is that a lot of that prima facie evidence of corrupt behavior by Democrats, and almost certain penetration of the Democrat Party by the Chinese government, is already in the public arena. You know about it, I know about it, anyone who pays attention knows about it. But Chinese involvement gets zero attention in the Democrat-dominated media — which may be supporting evidence for the extent of Chinese penetration into the US Political Class.

      It is hard to avoid the suspicion that the governing clique has sold out the American people for a handful of Chinese silver.

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