British Sky Tours





***  WORLD NEWS  ***






Adrian's writing is found on the book shelves of discerning people on both sides of the Atlantic.

Both Dick Nesbitt-Dufort and Adrian Hill are published authors. Dick's father wrote a book about his experiences as a special operations pilot flying agents into Occupied France. Dick has edited and produced the memoirs of a soldier during the Napoleonic Wars. Adrian has written novels about espionage set in South Korea and Switzerland and remains the only British diplomat to have written part of the history of the US Department of State. When not organising sky tours he's working on a novel set during the height of the Vietnam War.

These books are on sale through Parapress based in Tunbridge Wells.


For those interested in the Vietnam War copies of  'Escape with Honor' written together by Ambassador Francis ' Terry ' McNamara and Adrian may be found via this link to the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training in Washington DC.


When Adrian Hill served as a diplomat one of his most rewarding jobs was Director of British Information Services across Canada. At one stage he gave Britain's messages across the United States as well. Apart from network and local television and radio broadcasts a key part of his job was to brief and often write editorials for the hundreds of newspapers across North America, concentrating on foreign news. Most newspapers in North America view the World from a continent which could get along comfortably without anyone else - and the US/Canadian border is a surprising obstacle. Henry Ginsberg of the New York Times once challenged Adrian to find any Canadian news in his own paper. At that time Henry was their correspondent in Ottawa - he returned to New York City as the Foreign Editor and the Canadians featured more often!

Adrian's editorial contributions with a British slant proved highly popular right across North America so alongside these touring and history pages we opened this editorial page. Here we try to bring some historical perspective to the latest political and military events around the World. Military experience as a paratrooper came in handy as a diplomat. Adrian knows Afghanistan, Pakistan and India from his very first overseas posting as a diplomat serving at the British Deputy High Commission in Lahore and subsequent return visits. His career took in Cyprus and the Near East, Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Switzerland, Canada, South Korea and Jamaica and most places along the flight path.

Apart from witnessing huge armoured and airmobile battles from the Near East to the Far East, Adrian studied campaigns and battlefields on four continents, has written three books and articles for the Royal United Services Institute Journal.

This news page has a complimentary purpose. Although this website is about our tours we also try to promote the heritage of the Atlantic Charter and the Special Relationship. The United Nations and NATO owe their existence to the Atlantic Charter, unique among treaties in that there were no signatures, just messages to their respective cabinets from Churchill and Roosevelt on board a battleship and a cruiser anchored off Newfoundland - plus mutual trust at a time of great danger for the democracies.

Updates will occur when the news makes one worthwhile. Articles on British defence matters are very much works in progress and frequently edited, improved, modified to reflect new conversations and fresh information. All views expressed are personal reflections based on talking to people involved in events and over thirty years military and diplomatic service in the world's hot spots including three wars.


Adrian Hill




Last year Adrian joined a new combined think-tank and fledgling lobby group for all veterans of HM Armed Forces and the Police. All ranks welcome. This is a very well run outfit called Veterans for Britain. There's no money involved. It's all done by email and through the website although they launched with a rally in Portsmouth. You'll find some very respected names on the Board of Advisers - the Chairman is Julian Thompson, retired Major-General and Royal Marine Commando of Falklands fame - with some very switched on young people running the machine and producing papers that ask the right questions so the country proceeds at best speed - steered by a compass showing true bearings.

 If you are a veteran, if you believe we need to take better care of our freedom, starting with much stronger armed forces, sign up, your country needs you!









' When you're on the phone to Downing Street this morning, Adrian, remind the lady who ordered all those ships that she's sending south.'

The late former Prime Minister Jim Callaghan ( who served in the Royal Navy) discussing the latest news on the South Atlantic crisis with Adrian over a coffee in an Ottawa hotel during spring 1982.


HMS Richmond firing a Harpoon missile. After the South Atlantic War the Royal Navy replaced its utility Type 21 Frigates with the larger and powerfully armed Type 23 Destroyer.


The Duke class - all were named after British dukes - avoided design mistakes revealed by combat in the South Atlantic. The Dukes' defence against missiles and aircraft has three layers - Seawolf vertical launch missiles and Phalanx for close quarters plus smaller mini-guns. Harpoon gives the ship a 70 mile reach and its 4.5 inch gun has a range of nearly 17 miles with a secondary role against air attack. A Merlin helicopter combined with the ship's highly efficient sonar extends its defences beyond submarine attack range.

The Dukes are one of the most silent ships afloat, designed for hunting submarines. 

Two of the Type 21s ( replaced by the Dukes ) were lost around the Falkland Islands and the remaining six now serve with the Pakistan Navy. These ships were not as large as the Type 22 and less well armed. There are dozens of photos of Type 21s from the Falklands War - ask Google for HMS Antelope. One must bear in mind that the Type 21s only partly replaced the 26 strong Leander Class themselves replacing the 21 strong Rothsay Class. The Type 22s and Type 42s partly replaced the County Class destroyers. All these older classes served with the Falklands Task Force and HMS Plymouth - a Leander class - took a bomb through her funnel while assisting a Type 21 already on fire after an air attack.

Sixteen Dukes were commissioned - three were sold to Chile after the 2004 Defence Review, one ship only eight years old. This scandalous waste of the tax payers' money combined with severe damage to our nation's defence, remains breathtaking nearly a decade afterwards. No offence to our long standing friendship with Chile - but the sales were enforced by the Treasury at least a decade, possibly longer, before they made any sense, and represent Gordon Brown as Chancellor venting his own personal hostility towards our armed forces, most of all it seems, the Royal Navy. 

Warship orders - for Gordon Brown - were for winning elections along the River Clyde.

HMS Southampton and HMS Iron Duke taking heavy seas.

HMS Somerset making a high speed turn - from the bow are the 4.5 gun, vertical launch battery for Seawolf and the quadruple launchers for Harpoon. Amidships, slightly forward, either side of the funnel are close-defence AAA positions - at the time of this photo 30mm cannon but nowadays Phalanx. Decoy and chaff launchers are fitted along the deck and super-structure. Decoys are small missiles that lure and confuse a sea-skimming missile. Chaff is a round which bursts near the ship, throwing out clouds of plastic shards to confuse the radar homing on a sea-skimming missile. Tubes for anti-submarine torpedoes are fitted aft where the flight deck and hangar for the helicopter are placed.


HMS Manchester an older Type 42 destroyer armed with the long range Sea Dart missile against aircraft though fitted with Phalanx close defence weapons against sea skimming missiles.


Two sister ships were lost during the South Atlantic War - HMS Sheffield destroyed by fires after a hit by an Exocet and HMS Coventry sunk by bombs - and Phalanx would have saved both ships. Once the task force reached southern winter obvious problems arose that the scientists and engineers had over-looked. To give only one example - Admiral Sam Salt described to me how his sailors in HMS Sheffield regularly poured kettles of boiling water over the mechanical parts of the Sea Dart missile launcher to stop them freezing up. 

These ships earned their keep. HMS Nottingham decommissioned after 700,000 miles - that's 1.3 million kilometres for those brought up as metric children. She was replaced by a new Daring Class Type 45 destroyer.

HMS Chatham a Type 22 frigate though larger than a Type 42 destroyer. Again the lessons of the South Atlantic are visible from stem to stern. The 4.5 gun added on the later and lengthier ships forward of the Seawolf battery, astride the bridge superstructure are quadruple harpoon launchers and along the deck, either side of the funnel, Goalkeeper similar to the Phalanx system. The after Seawolf battery is visible on the hangar roof.


These ships are heavily armed for general warfare. Type 22s carry the Sea Wolf close defence missile against both aircraft and missile attack. Harpoon and the 4.5 gun provide longer reach and Goal keeper last ditch protection. Their anti-submarine weapons combined with helicopter reach and long range sonar make them dangerous opponents. Human skills play a significant part in exploiting their power. The navy gradually pays off its Type 22 frigates and Type 42 destroyers. All these ships might have been transferred to an active reserve fleet as their replacements are commissioned. However, the decade long delay before designing the Type 26 destroyers and reduction in naval strength - ships and sailors - means that the older ships are pretty well worn out. The thirteen Duke class Type 23 destroyers will give several more years service, fortunately, having served mostly in less rugged climes than the North Atlantic. There is no reason why after phased replacement they could not join an active reserve fleet.

Sleek thoroughbred lines, few right angles, a specially cooled funnel all contribute to a stealthy destroyer with the radar signature of a small fishing boat - HMS Daring weighs 7,500 tons fully loaded.


 As pictured above, she's a superb streamlined hull - she reached 30 knots in 70 seconds and went past 31.5 knots on trials - with a 4.5 gun and two 30mm guns mounted either side of the funnel. HMS Daring has been fitted with Phalanx close defence systems - she's off to the Gulf and patrolling the waters around Iran. BAE are working on a 6.1 gun with assisted rounds. This would provide a reach of 70 miles against surface targets - and possibly supersede the Harpoon missile system which is reaching its retirement age. Such a large hull also has room for the eventual replacement for the Tomahawk cruise missile and this would make these destroyers capable of strategic deployments.

With its radar mounted 30 metres above the sea surface, HMS Daring can search 400 kilometres radius - 250 miles - track 1000 targets and engage 10 at the same time. Her missiles are steer-able in flight. The guided missile system works against aircraft and missiles and has been renamed Sea Viper. This passed its first trials in the Mediterranean as the photos below of HMS Dauntless - courtesy of the Royal Navy - bear witness. All six Darings are now built, two are on active service - Falklands and Gulf - while the remaining four are gradually joining the active fleet.


Three masts crammed with a great amount of electronic gadgetry.


Sea Viper burns a path through the Mediterranean sky.

Once worked up with all the radar up and running they will be the most modern ships in the world - able to defend London from aircraft and missile attack - but all six need Phalanx or Goalkeeper for point blank defence. This has been put right on Daring - looking at the photos of Dauntless as she heads south to patrol the Falkland Islands, not so far. Ideally a pair of Type 45's should patrol the Falklands with a nuclear submarine to deal with surface ships and submarine threats. 

The original pair of 30mm cannons are sufficient for dealing Somali pirates but not much help against Exocets. What is the point of saving comparative peanuts after spending hundreds of millions - unless the ships were built to safeguard jobs before a tough election rather than defend this country. Nor is a helicopter enough against submarines, torpedo tubes should be added. 

Modern submarine launched torpedoes are fast and long range. Russia's latest torpedo is designed to reach speeds of 200 knots and run for 7-8 nautical miles. Britain's modern Spearfish torpedo has a top speed of 80 knots and a range of 30 nautical miles. The torpedo runs fast to close on its target then slows for accuracy over the last stretch before impact. Helicopters allow a surface force to detect and engage hostile submarines beyond torpedo range. The British air-launched torpedo - Stingray - has a speed of 45 knots and a range of 4 nautical miles. Stingray was designed to out-run submerged nuclear submarines. Although big helicopters operate in pretty awful weather, often conditions that ground fixed wing aircraft, their mother ship also needs torpedo tubes as a fail-safe.

There is enough space on board for the ship to take on 60 Royal Marine commandos and their equipment.


HMS Daring and her Type 45 sister ships were designed as replacements for the fourteen Type 42 destroyers but that scheme predates the recent Labour government selling off new Type 23 destroyers. Twelve of the Type 45 destroyers were ordered but this programme was reduced to eight ships, then six, greatly increasing the unit cost because the development work is spread over half as many vessels. Building the whole original twelve ship order would bring down the unit price significantly while providing a strong core of powerful ships for protecting carrier and amphibious task forces, carrying out independent strategic operations, commerce protection and global police duties. A second batch of six Super-Darings with enhanced weaponry should be ordered. Building the full programme of twelve ships would also bring the navy's beleaguered destroyer and frigate force up to a comparatively safer 25 active ships plus the 13 Dukes as a reserve force and core of a new reserve fleet. This would provide 38 destroyers and frigates in a major emergency.




Type 26 impression - BAE and MOD


 At the same time a decision is long overdue for a design to replace the Type 22 and Type 23 ships and this will become the Type 26. Design work at long last has started. Any replacement vessel needs the range and general fighting power seen on the present Type 22 and Type 23 ships. The new government's defence team suggested that a cheap and cheerful escort would meet the navy's requirements. This idea although financially well intentioned, frankly would turn back the clock thirty years and take the navy straight back to the flawed Type 21 concept - discarding the lessons of the Falklands and the obvious strengths of the Type 23 Destroyers. The public - and indeed the government ministers - are too young to know about the shocks of Dunkirk and Crete when the Luftwaffe sunk and damaged half our warships; but many voters will vividly remember the same shock when a ship was lost in the South Atlantic. I don't believe the voters want to see our ships once again sent to war lacking the most basic defences and sunk with the inevitable loss of life. Give the public an honestly presented choice between 9 billions for the aid budget and 9 billions for the navy and I suspect they would chose the navy.

USS Independence and RN Type 26


 One photograph shows the US Navy's answer to dangerous coastal waters off Africa, the Persian Gulf and Far Eastern waters. The US navy is planning to build around 50 ships on these advanced lines; that's quite a commitment. The other photograph shows an impression of the future Type 26 Global Patrol Ship replacement for the Type 23 destroyer and the Type 22 with her conservative lines.

The US Navy has met the speed challenge. A three-thousand ton vessel with a top speed of 47 knots and fuel tanks for a 1500 mile sprint at around 40 knots given state 3 sea conditions. In other words, she can out run many torpedoes, sail from San Francisco to Hawaii within 24 hours and with positioned refuelling ships, cross the Atlantic in two days. Although I think the US Navy have their eyes on the Gulf of Hormuz, the Malacca Strait and the South China Sea.

USS Independence has a vast helicopter deck for a 3,000 ton ship and the potential to operate many kinds of drone. She can support amphibious operations and carry small numbers of Seals and Marines. She has missiles although the anti-air threat missiles are very short range. The original design called for a mix of long, medium and short range defensive missiles plus small calibre guns. Compared with the Type 26 concept, she seems incredibly mobile though rather lightly armed. Critics maintain that for $ 700 million she ought to pack more punch. That said, the US Navy appears realistic, accepts that they may have to fight for sea supremacy, and have begun developing all sorts of missiles to replace their existing armoury, many of which are twenty years old.

Type 26 represents a much more careful advance towards the future. She looks very similar to the Type 22 but has stealth built into her design through shape and materials. She weighs 5,400 tons which gives plenty of space for a variety of missiles and electronic suites. She will carry the new Sea-Ceptor missile system against aircraft and sea skimming missiles. Another missile will be carried for long range targets. The hangar is large enough for both helicopters and drones. There is enough space for carrying Royal Marine Commandos and other special forces and the stern is designed for launching small landing craft. The plan is that she will carry the new Oto-Melara 5 inch automatic gun - 30 rounds a minute, various warheads, plus extended range rounds that can reach 120 kilometres for surface targets and shore support. This gun has a dual role as an anti-aircraft weapon. Phalanx will be fitted fore and aft. She's not fast - 30 knots with a chasing sea - but she's designed to cruise for six weeks without refuelling.

So far the MOD are talking only of 13 ships. Moreover, even this number depends on price, thus the Royal Navy may find itself under pressure to reduce the fighting power of the ships to save money and make the bean counters happy. The reality is that a second batch of frigates/destroyers needs ordering, designed with the staying power of the Type 26 plus mobility and speed nearer those of the USS Independence. Anyone who visited Portsmouth Harbour over the last twenty years has seen Vosper's Triton - a tri-marine experimental ship sold to save money - don't tell me that data no longer exists. Of course it does, and a high speed fleet is perfectly possible, as it was when the Dreadnought was conceived.

We will keep watch on developments and forecast that a national moment of grave danger will restore the Royal Navy's fighting strength.




Back to the Future - DDG 1000 named after the distinguished Admiral Elmo Zumwalt - showing an artist's impression of the ship in action, the classic alternative layouts for her gun turrets, the real ship after floating from the build dock and taking her first swim in the Kennebec River at Bath, Maine.

The town is all about building ships and systems for the US Navy. Compare the busy future of Bath, Maine with the sacking of highly qualified naval architects in Bath, England by a government who do not understand the value of a strong navy to an island nation. Moreover, the US Defence Department seems to manage their new construction programme so that the oldest yards do not close but win enough work to keep going. This appears to remain beyond British politicians and BAE's management.

The big mistake of the British Government over the last fifty years has been to find money savings by cutting the Royal Navy. Eventually the Royal Navy was bound to reach a point where a steady ship building programme became no longer possible. The root cause of the closure of Portsmouth's BAE ship building yard is that only six Type 45 destroyers have been built instead of the original twelve ordered, the new aircraft carriers were delayed for serving as an election bribe by Labour under Gordon Brown, and the new Type 26 frigate programme has been delayed as a political bribe to Scotland by David Cameron.

They should all be hung from the yard arm around six o'clock one fine evening - after which, we the voters, can all celebrate with a well earned drink! 



The US Navy may extend the Arleigh Burke class guided missile programme rather than order 32 of the new Zumwalt class destroyers - at 14,500 tons fully loaded more akin to heavy cruisers. Zumwalt resembles a Dreadnought with her ram bow. No doubt the admirals will fight their corner and more than three Zumwalt destroyers eventually join the fleet. With land attack as the prime mission, these new warships represent a leap forward as regards stealth technology and naval gun design. Ultimately the US Navy intend to fit the ships with rail-guns - technology invented 90 years ago but only now really practical. Rail-guns work through electric pulses propelling non-explosive rounds at several times the speed of sound over ranges beyond 200 miles. Rates of fire around ten rounds a minute are regarded as possible. Meanwhile the first destroyer is armed with the BAE advanced gun system - the gun has a 6.1 inch calibre ( 155mm ) with a range of 24 nautical miles for a conventional round and 100 nautical miles for a long range round. That's 44 and 180 kilometres for younger, metric people in the UK. Ten rounds a minutes gives the two turret ship a rate of fire greater than a medium artillery regiment. The obvious next stage is precision guided surface to surface rounds against hostile ships. The US Navy has chosen Rolls-Royce gas turbines to power these new destroyers at 30 knots best speed. Questions remain about their sea worthiness in heavy weather but the US Navy and the contractors remain calm!


Although half the Zumwalt's displacement, when fully armed with her SAM missiles, new 6.1 gun, Phalanx, next generation versions of Harpoon and Tomahawk missiles, plus anti-submarine torpedo tubes, HMS Daring will provide the Royal Navy with a smaller version of the Zumwalt concept at a quarter of the unit cost. As described above, the original plan for twelve Daring class destroyers provides the Royal Navy with a powerful core force able to switch from task force protection to independent strategic missions - right across the spectrum from diplomacy and disaster relief to cruise missile bombardment. Twelve ships met the common sense need for a one for one replacement of the fleet - at that time - of eight Type 42 destroyers and four Type 22 frigates. Thereby the Royal Navy maintained its core anti-aircraft surface force though with much improved general fighting power. With only six new Daring class ships launched, the best way to maintain twelve is by ordering another six, Super-Darings - faster, better armed, longer range.


FGS Niedersachsen arriving in New York and the FGS Bayern.



To do this requires the creation of an active reserve fleet - including the manpower. Present plans allow that some Type 23 destroyers will remain in service until 2036 and as there is no final decision over the replacement design, this date will slip. In other words, should some Type 23s become replaced earlier, these warships as part of a reserve fleet would contribute to our defence into the middle of this century. An alternative is to build a number of smaller corvettes as a reserve fleet. British designs already exist - for export.

Despite government, schools and media, there is great enthusiasm for all things maritime in these islands. Look at our splendid Olympic Team sailors who regularly win gold. Every summer 22,000 yachts sail through Spithead on the Round the Island Race. Finding enough qualified and enthusiastic younger people to join such a reserve fleet would not take very long. Moreover, plenty of excellent younger officers who have left the navy through frustration, I feel confident, would happily volunteer for the reserve fleet, thereby safeguarding the taxpayers' original investment in their very expensive training. Because many of these young people, now lost to the navy, went to university at our expense to obtain qualifications in mechanical and nuclear engineering.            

Gas turbines made possible instant starts rather than 24 hour delays while building up steam pressure. Nuclear power provides unlimited range. However, naval forces still move at the same speed as the Grand Fleet in 1914. Designs ought to reflect the ambition that naval operations should move into a new zone for cruising and best speeds. That would broaden the options for intervention.

The US Navy is leading the way - even the United States has limits on its military airlift. The US 82 Airborne Division keeps a company group at 2 hours readiness but to send off a battalion group requires 24 hours and a brigade group 48 hours - these are times for launching an opposed parachute assault with no integral helicopter assets. In other words, jumping into somebody's backyard, armed with whatever you can strap onto your body and shove in a kit bag.

A naval task force cruising at 30 knots covers 700 miles a day. A week would find them almost 5,000 miles from home base. Now the US Navy has a nuclear powered fleet for this very reason and their super carriers travel at 35 knots - over 950 miles a day and over 6,650 miles a week. Anyone who has planned a long range airborne operation will recognise that given calm weather the US Navy could leave San Diego early on Monday with whole Marine Corps' divisions embarked and hit the viper wine bars of Pyongyang on Saturday night. Unlike an airborne force on the same mission, dependent on the US 8th Army smashing its way through the DMZ to link, the Marines would have no such worries - their supporting task force would cruise over the horizon and provide air strikes and logistic support around the 24 hours.

More about intervention operations and aircraft carriers at WORLD NEWS THREE.

Articles to be continued soon.......




             FUTURE BRITISH STRATEGY                                                          NAVAL AIR POWER            


Approaching Pegasus Bridge captured by glider attack on D Day. We fly along all the British, Canadian and American Assault beaches and over the Pointe du Hoc before landing in France. Our ground tour is by comfortable car and easy walking through Saint Mere Eglise and the American drop zones to Omaha Beach, Utah Beach and the Pointe du Hoc. We fly back the same evening unless you wish to enjoy our popular overnight in Normandy.

Click the photo above to.....


Anyone taking our Normandy sky tour finds it helpful to have an idea of the scale of Operation Overlord. Their Finest Hour, Map Table and The Special Relationship are worth a glance to understand some of the events before America's entry into the Second World War. Many visitors to our website probably know much of what is explained on these pages. Please grant us your forbearance. We try to ensure that those less familiar with the background to D Day, particularly the young, start their tour with a sound conception of what was at stake thereby making their time with us all the more worthwhile and enjoyable.









The soaring Swiss franc makes tours of Britain an absolute bargain at the moment. Yet friends from Bern return disappointed with their hotels and tours where obvious places are left out by the tour organiser. Rather like visiting Paris and seeing the Eiffel Tower but leaving out Notre Dame.

Adrian has been married to Swiss for 35 years and both his children are British and Swiss. Not only does he speak Schweizerdeutsch and French but understands what Swiss expect when on holiday. There is no need to pay high rates for the so-called best hotels when you can be much more comfortable and eat better food at those smaller family hotels that thrive because of reputations passed around by word of mouth. Why not benefit from our years of experience and knowledge from taking overseas visitors on private road tours all over the British Isles.

If you are Swiss and would like us to organise a tour of the UK by road, just email through the link on our home page.