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Attacker From The Cockpit

Attacker From The Cockpit Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review December 2008 Title Attacker From The Cockpit
Author Graeme Rowan-Thomson Publisher Ad Hoc Publications
Published 2008 ISBN 978-0-946958-67-2
Format 116 pages, softbound MSRP (BP) £17.95


The Supermarine Attacker had the distinction of being the first jet aircraft to enter operational service with the Royal Navy as well as being the first to deploy aboard RN aircraft carriers. While the Attacker wasn't the first jet to deploy operationally on aircraft carriers, it served as the basis for the Royal Navy's pilots to transition from piston-power to pure turbine power.

Today, when you see a USN fighter coming aboard, the throttle is advanced to full afterburner as soon as the mains hit the deck so that the engine(s) have time to respond in case the aircraft misses the wire. The most notable differences between the piston-driven fighters and their jet counterparts is obviously the engine. when the pilot of a piston-powered aircraft needed to go around from a missed approach, he received near-instant power when the throttle was advanced. The early jet engines needed a calendar to measure the spool-up time to achieve enough thrust to affect a go around. In these early days of pure-turbine flight operations, it wasn't uncommon on Royal Navy flight decks to have 12 arresting cables rigged to improve the chances of a successful trap, and still keep the barricade rigged to halt those aircraft that missed.

The author has collected numerous experiences from fellow Attacker veterans who've flown the type and they share their high and low stories in the context of this the logical coverage that an aviation historian would like to have to properly put this aircraft 'in context'. The coverage of this title is broken down as follows:

  • Requirement
  • From the Cockpit
  • Trials and Testing
  • Frontline Squadrons
  • Training Squadrons
  • RNVR Squadrons
  • Miscellaneous Units
  • Attackers for Export

Indeed, the author not only frames the history and development of this aircraft, he also leads off the discussion with his own experiences flying the Attacker. These insightful stories from the author and his colleagues finally do this aircraft justice that the average historian/authors cannot appreciate. The Attacker was a stepping stone toward developing more capable fighters, but it wasn't an ineffective aircraft that was quickly discarded. The Attacker was armed with four 20mm cannons, could carry some 2000 pounds of externals, was equipped with the Navy's first ejection seat, and from Martin-Baker (of course) and the engine's 5000 pounds of thrust (once spooled up) could push the Attacker well above its piston-powered counterparts and up to about .73 Mach. It was a stepping stone in jet fighter development though as the Attacker did not have hydraulically boosted flight controls (that would come with the Sea Hawk).

I don't know about you, but even the most well-researched historical monograph can only go so far to inform you about an aircraft. You really can't get to know an aircraft unless you've actually flown it yourself or can hear first-hand experiences from those who have. These 'From the Cockpit' series of titles are definitely a must have for the modeler and aviation historian as there is no better perspective in knowing an aircraft subject than from those who flew them.

My sincere thanks to Ad Hoc Publications for this review sample!