Cold War, Hot Jets

Fri Nov 15, 9-10pm, BBC2

Episode two
As with the opener, there is an awful lot of aeronautic geekery to wade through in as John Holland’s series concludes tonight. But he also has a fascinating tale to tell about Britain’s postwar decline as a global player. No number of jets with cocksure names – the Victor, the Vulcan – could disguise it. In spite of ample investment and the occasional technological leap (especially where bombers were concerned), the real story was taking place elsewhere – America, The Soviet Union, Cuba.

But failure can be as compelling as triumph, and Holland does a fine job of evoking the increasing desperation of politicians as they struggled to stay in the nuclear arms race. Nor is the human angle forgotten, from the emergence of CND to the pilots themselves, on call to drop the ultimate payload. As one muses today, ‘if you’re doing it for real, you’ve got nowhere to come back to.’