24 OCTOBER 1958, Page 6

THERE SEEMED to be less publicity than usual this year

for reports of the annual defence exercise 'Sunbeam,' in which Fighter Command aircraft try to intercept 'enemy' bombers; but what little I saw was rich in nonsense. 'Conditions,' the Air Ministry stated, 'were reasonably representative of what might be expected in the initial stages of a global nuclear war'—as if the Russians, before launching a global nuclear war, would kindly give notice of their intention to do so; refrain from using guided missiles; and order their old bombers to fly over fairly slowly so as to give our poor old Hunters and Javelins a chance to intercept. I call understand the authorities' reluctance to admit that Fighter Command, apart from a few penl pheral duties, serves no further military purpose. But on any count it is absurd to continue 'Sun- beam' and other such expensive exercises, when they have about as much relevance to the country's air defence problems as a game of 'Dover Patrol' has to naval strategy today.