View Full Version : B.A.B.S. Mk.4
Richard E Flagg
I came across this in some of my airfield plans, it is for a B.A.B.S. Mk.4 at West Malling.
What is it?
Was it fitted anywhere else?
BABS was part of a blind approach system (Blind Approach Beam System?). It was used together with the airborne Rebecca system. BABS was the ground station. It was used to provide guidance for approaches in poor weather. I guess a forerunner of the current ILS. These links provide some more info.
Can't help with which other fields had them, but quite a few I should think.
Strictly BABS was BEAM Approach Beacon System, first developed in the early 1940s. The term BLIND Approach was unfashionable as the technology had proved to be not up to scratch (for the period). A blind landing needed vast amounts of confidence, skill and luck, with a measure of suicidal tendencies thrown in.
BABS differed from earlier, and subsequent systems in that it was a radar approach, or transponder system. The ground beacon didn't do anything until triggered by the aircraft's radar. AFAIK all Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) send out their homing signals continuously, the aircraft equipment is purely passive.
The transponder system proved valuable in WWII. as the earlier SBA system sent out its continuous homing signal which could be interrogated by most Luftwaffe aircraft fitted with their Lorenz Beam Approach. Not a very secure system, as it told an enemy aircraft exactly where the main runway was.
BABS Mk.4 came in c.1956.
It was the ground beacon for Rebecca Mk 8 which was the standard and only "radar" on most of the lightweight fighter/trainers in the mid 1950s onwards. I know it was standard on Hunters/Swifts/Venoms/Vampires/Jet Provosts.
According to the station operational record book, the BABS Mk.4 equipment arrived at West Malling on 14th March 1957 for installation.
I was going to say that did West Malling really get this system in 56 and surely ILS had started to come online by then. But then being ex RAF ATC branch I realised that the RAF has never really been that keen on ILS, I know of only one RAF airfield that has ILS on all its runways and no PAR, thats Brize.
Many BABS was completely stripped and rebuilt at RAF Henlow in the mid 1950s to brand new standard including striping down and replating cadmium and a new professional paint job and engraving, plus new Chrome. When the units came into Henlow the vans had been parked at the end of various runways around England and virtually forgotten. It was a long walk across some airfields and so they became forgotten. The delay lines had birds nest (sic "real birds nests") in them because it was warm in the winter; thick cobwebs prevailed, and perished flat tyres were the norm.
When I saw the pictures of the vans it brought back memories of late nights out on the booze and sleeping them off in the back of one of the several vans that were parked in the ol WWI wooden Hanger occupied by RES (Radar Engineering Squadron), the workbenches just the other side of the brick columns. By selecting a differnt van each day the probabilit of being discovered was reduced. Time for lunch and somebody would usually wake me up to join the parade to march down to the cook house at the other side of the Railway lines.
Slightly off topic but did you really have to march to and from work at Henlow?
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