Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's The Final Countdown!

Anyone remembers the movie The Final Countdown? The one where USS Nimitz travelled back through time to 1941, just hours before the attack on Pearl Harbor? That movie was one of my favourites (and also brought the then VF-84 Jolly Rogers to fame). The main theme of the film is concerned with whether to use the Nimitz's awesome striking power to stop the attack (hence altering history) or just to stand by allow history to proceed 'normally'. Towards the end the Captain decided to attack the Japanese strike force only for the time storm to return and bring the Nimitz's task force and their aircraft back to the present (hence restoring the timeline)

As a kid I was mightily impressed, well mainly with the striking skull-and-crossbones insignia of VF-84 and the F-14 Tomcat...haha. As I get older I keep thinking about the basic story of time travelling. And I wonder what would happen should any of the modern armies managed to be transported back in time. And recently in Mymil forums, a member asked what could happen if our armed forces (TD, RMAF and RMN) on exercise are caught in a similar time vortex and were transported to 1941 on the eve of the Japanese invasion. The scenario envisaged the best of our equipments including Su-30s, Hornets, Astros MRL, PT-91 Pendekar MBTs, Perdana Menteri-class SSKs, Lekiu-class FFGs and Laksamana-class FSGs were transported back. A number of members expected that the modern armed forces would surely trounce their World War 2 equivalents. While I (as do a number of others) agree, there is the possibility that time-travelling Malaysian army may not beat their WW2 counterparts. Here's why (we are under the assumption that the scenario -units on maneuver/regular patrol- in The Final Countdown is at work):

In The Final Countdown, the Nimitz Battle Group is basically self-contained not to mention that these CVBGs do not sail for the fun of it that is they have to be ever ready for possible hostile actions. So once transported to 1941, they can take out the Japanese Kido Butai as they already have their 'live' weapons with them. In the TUDM-on-exercise scenario, unless the airbases of Gong Kedak, Butterworth and Kuantan were also transported back in time, the Hornets, Flankers and Fulcrums would have to face the Japanese with whatever ordnance they have on board and once they went 'bingo' everybody have to eject out of their planes for the existing airfields were unable to support modern jets. Perhaps the Flankers and Fulcrums can land (because of their rough airfield capability) but then they would interned by the Brits with the jets becoming sitting ducks as the only supplies of jet fuel were at Britain and Germany (for their jet fighter prototype program). And that is just about the fuel situation. How about maintenance? Ordnance? That's why unless the bases were also transported to 1941, there's nothing the RMAF can do stop the invasion.
As for the Army, logistics also play a large role. Unless they were caught during live-fire exercise, the Astros, Pendekar et al would be simply useless. As for the infantrymen, as far as I know live bullets were not used universally during exercises and the men's Steyrs and Minimis would be simply become that medieval (or for that matter, cavemen) weapon: the club as 5.56mm rounds were not invented until around the late 1950s. It could get worse should we train using MILES gear).

Should the Navy got caught in the time-storm, like in the movie, they could be the best equipped to meet the invasion force. Admittedly I am not sure myself the status of our ships' weapons loads on exercises but I am pretty sure the navy have live ammo aboard whenever they are on patrol. Although pics sometimes show they have less weapons on board (eg four instead of six Otomat canisters on board the Laksamanas), modern weapons could probably wreak havoc on the Japanese fleet. There is a problem however - modern  naval guns are puny. The biggest guns in the fleet are 76mm OTOs aboard the Laksamanas and Kedahs as compared to the monster 356mm (14 inch) on board the two Kongo-class battleships assigned to protect the invasion fleet (not to mention the 140mm (5.5-in) guns on the light cruisers and the 203mm (8-in) on the heavy cruisers. Sure, the main weapon are the Exocets and Otomats but there are more ships in the Japanese fleet and the combat vessels are more heavily armoured which may lessen the impact of modern missiles.

So interesting it may be, the time travellers could be doomed by reason of being out of time, especially for the Air Force, whose modern planes are highly maintenace-dependant. Should they be successful anyway, it raises the question of 'grandfather paradox'. (i.e If you travel back in time and you kill your grandfather, will you be snuffed out of existence?)