Now Hear This: US Navy Officers Confess the British are Better

My late father was a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and he spent most of his flying career in the CP-107 Argus and CP-140 Aurora aircraft, both of which were world class in their day, and the Aurora continued to win international competitions tracking submarines against rivals from the USN, Australia, Japan, Korea, and India back-to-back in 2021 and 2022. They specialized in hunting Soviet submarines, and their crews were highly respected in NATO, but to be completely candid, the RAF and their Nimrods were truly the best during the Cold War, and everybody knew it, including the USN. In 2019, Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Roberts, RAF, wrote “As a maritime patrol aircraft (MPA), the Nimrod gave over forty years of excellent service with the Royal Air Force. Indeed, in its time, many regarded it as the finest MPA in the world. Nevertheless, however good the aircraft and its equipment, the effectiveness of an MPA is only as good as its crew… The key to the Nimrod fleet’s success in operations, competitions and international exercises was undoubtedly the quality of its crews. Indeed, when visiting RAF aircrew serving with VX-1, the US Navy (USN) squadron developing the new P-8 Poseidon MPA at NAS Patuxent River in 2015, it was made quite clear to the chief of the air staff that the USN chain of command regarded the RAF’s maritime operators as ‘the finest in the world’.” (pp. 10-11)

Indeed, when a group of former Nimrod aircrew went to the USN in 2013 and formed their own crew, the results were astonishing. AVM Roberts describes what happened in the language of a proud airman. “it was not surprising that the US Navy welcomed such ‘Seedcorn’ aircrew into its MPA fleet – especially into VP-30, the P-8 training squadron – with open arms. The value of these ex-Nimrod aircrew was illustrated in 2013 when the RAF instructors on VP-30 got together as a crew and won the annual US Navy anti-submarine warfare (ASW) competition competed for by all USN MPA squadrons – a unique event and not without some embarrassment to our American friends! It can be claimed, without exaggeration, that the Nimrod boys played a key part in bringing the P-8 into service with the USN.” (p, 12) The difference between the RAF and the USN or the USAF for that matter is easy to summarize, said Roberts: “The Royal Air Force has always placed a higher value on the expertise and experience of the operator, rather than relying wholly on automation, than have other air forces such as the USAF.” (p. 13)

This all just goes to show that the USN is not the best at everything, quite contrary to what the militarists in the US would have us believe. Over the years I have come to believe that most American militarists, like Tom Clancy, never actually served in the military, and the people most likely to admit the American military has serious problems are those who have served, usually junior officers who know their days in the Navy are numbered, or decided to leave of their own volition, who are the most honest. This may have something to do with the large number of junior officers in the USN who are not pleased with the institution. This is definitely the case with Thibaut Delloue, a former Surface Warfare Officer on the USS Carney who opined in 2022: “In my deployments in Europe, I spent a great deal of time with the Royal Navy, both during FOST [Flag Officer Sea Training] and the many NATO exercises the Carney participated in. In my interactions with the Brits, I became convinced of their superior training model, one in which officers spend months in school and at sea learning the mariner’s craft before worrying about leading divisions. More than that, the Royal Navy fosters fosters a completely different attitude about their surface officer corps when compared to their Yankee counterpart.” (p. 184)

Let’s hope enough USN senior officers, even flag officers, will realize that all is not well and take decisive action to make the USN a truly first rate fighting organization, so dominant that nobody needs to read books by Tom Clancy or his clones to feel good about the way things are.


Tony Blackman; Joe Kennedy. Nimrod Boys: True Tales from the Operators of the RAF’s Cold War Trailblazer. Grub Street Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Thibaut Delloue. The Wardroom: An Officer’s Tour at Sea and the Crisis of the U.S. Navy. Micro Publishing Media. Kindle Edition.


Roger Thompson is a research fellow at Dalhousie University’s Centre for the Study of Security and Development, the author of Lessons Not Learned: The US Navy’s Status Quo Culture, a former researcher at Canada’s National Defence Headquarters and Korea’s first Star Trek professor.