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Tom Cooper's reliability


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He used to post here as "TomC". I think the vast majority of his postings have been lost through the various purges, but my personal recollection of his reason for leaving is that he didn't like being called out by informed TN members on his Tomcat-related assertions.

 

I believe I've read speculation (more like outright accusations) on other sites that his Iranian Tomcat information came straight from what the Iranians claim regarding operations of their F-14 fleet and that he didn't do enough due diligence before publishing material based on that information. That seems to fit what I recall reading here back when he was an active member.

 

--Garth

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The problem with anyone having a view on Tom (or ACIG in general) and their accuracy, particularly with regards to Iran, the IRIAF and it's fleet, programs etc is that while Tom and ACIG do have a very pronounced tilt towards the iranian side, the fact is most of his detractors are basing their views on equally unverifiable information (much of which is horridly incorrect but often reiterated and reprinted as fact when it is nothing but mere speculation from 20+ years ago).

 

Tom's books and postings are based largely on a lot of personal research, interviews and aquaintances with sources inside Iran.

Its no different to me reiterating a discussion over dinner with an IRIAF colonel in bushehr (and former F4 pilot) who claimed they had two full squadrons of F14's plus training aircraft. Is it true? Is it boasting? Is it disinformation?

 

I have no way of verifying it. Tom has no means to verify his similar claims. And Nobody on TN has the means or evidence to disprove it.

 

And if by some stroke of chance someone here with the appropriate intel clearances did know and the mil. intel was accurate they couldn't say anyway.

 

My advice for ACIG as a whole is that there can be a lot learned from there (at least when I used to post 5+ years ago) just take everything with a grain of salt and have a sturdy pair of intellectual gumboots to wade through the bullsh*t.

Edited by Luke_Yaxley
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What's the reliability of Tom Cooper, especially his work on Iranian F-14 Tomcats? I've seen rather a range of opinion on it and while I'm leaning towards a negative opinion at the moment, I'd like the opinions of those here first.

 

The one claim one could make that would stick is that he does not employ enough 2nd source verification to back up his claims. This may be deliberate but more likely I imagine it is due to the lack of availability of such information. This doesn't make Cooper a bad person, it means he is reporting what he knows. Someone may be feeding him a line of bull but with no way to corroborate it what do you do?

 

The other legitimate complaint is the poor editing of the Iran-Iraq air war book which really isn't his fault either. A good editor should take care of that and as I understand it, English is not Mr. Cooper's first language, thus he relies heavily on translation software.

 

Beyond that I have seen him attacked using equally spurious information and innuendo as is found in his book. Keep in mind, Cooper has done the most extensive and exhaustive work to date on the Gulf air war. Nobody else has even come close and its easy to throw stones when you have nothing at stake in the matter.

Edited by FITZ
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The one claim one could make that would stick is that he does not employ enough 2nd source verification to back up his claims. This may be deliberate but more likely I imagine it is due to the lack of availability of such information. This doesn't make Cooper a bad person, it means he is reporting what he knows. Someone may be feeding him a line of bull but with no way to corroborate it what do you do?

 

The other legitimate complaint is the poor editing of the Iran-Iraq air war book which really isn't his fault either. A good editor should take care of that and as I understand it, English is not Mr. Cooper's first language, thus he relies heavily on translation software.

 

Beyond that I have seen him attacked using equally spurious information and innuendo as is found in his book. Keep in mind, Cooper has done the most extensive and exhaustive work to date on the Gulf air war. Nobody else has even come close and its easy to throw stones when you have nothing at stake in the matter.

 

Tom Cooper ought to be applauded for giving due attention to various "bush wars" and other conflicts which have been little published in the West, conflicts which many "experts" consider "irrelevant" and beneath their level, just because they did not involve any Anglo-American belligrents. It's not his fault that available sources are often scarce and one-sided.

 

That said, I sometimes got the impression that his perspective tends to be narrow; he is well familiar with various African and Middle-Eastern conflicts but didn't come across as all that knowledgeable about history of air warfare in general. I haven't actually read his books mind you, only what he has wrote in the 'net. His biggest problem is that he is not really good at accepting criticism or opposing viewpoints/sources, which obviously draws worst out of other people as well. (in fairness, lots of supposedly more academic researchers have same problem...)

 

His F-14 fanboyism is of course another thing altogether :)

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1. ...And Nobody on TN has the means or evidence to disprove it.

2. And if by some stroke of chance someone here with the appropriate intel clearances did know and the mil. intel was accurate they couldn't say anyway.

3. My advice for ACIG as a whole is that there can be a lot learned from there (at least when I used to post 5+ years ago) just take everything with a grain of salt...

1. That's not necessarily the correct burden of proof.

2. It's been stated that some of that stuff is corroborated by US intel released under the Freedom of Information Act (a US law which says the govt has to a provide a specific rationale to keep specific stuff secret or release it, the rub being asking specifically enough, the logistical obstacles they throw out [i was told I could have something but it had to be translated first for review, though I can read the original language, and that would take 13 years :lol: ] and general response time). It's valid to keep that kind of source close to the vest while discussing ongoing research on a web board, but not once you've published on paper (or maybe even 'published' as formal reference work on web), IMO. And you can't use the excuse that the publisher's format doesn't include footnotes, lots of authors have footnote websites to cover publisher's commercial reluctance to put them in articles and books.

3. I'm not sure about that. I'm talking about the reference section of that site, not any BS post from any old guy on any given thread, which happens everywhere, even here: I agree you just sift though that and take it 'FWIW'. But reference sections are a bit different. Some of that stuff has the issues discussed above, ostensibly fairly researched but no way to really tell (OK, so far, FWIW); some is summary of published sources which are cited (OK period); but some is stuff that can be seen to be distorted if you're familiar with the sources used (Korean War stuff is the example where I can see that's so). The modern internet ethic seems to be 'OK that seems slanted on purpose but that doesn't cast any doubt on anything else, and anyway if you say so you should comprehensively re-write it Wikipedia style or shut up'. I don't buy that. I take the old fashioned view that any clear example of deliberately factually slanted history casts a wide shadow on anything associated with it, and the critic has no obligation beyond showing examples with his own disclosed sources (which I've done on threads there, some years ago; now note the actual author of that stuff is *not* the main guy on that site, but still it's up there as reference material on that site, which does tend to be associated with him, an association he doesn't generally reject).

 

PS, maybe thread is inspired by a new article in "International Air Power Review" by same authors, very fine illustration as typical of authors and magazine but skimming briefly seemed nothing really new in text. One thing I wonder is why nobody seems to have any new info from Iraqi side now 5 years after Saddam. I assume archives would be in some Baghdad Green Zone ministry building, not extremely dangerous but maybe still too much for a casual private researcher, plus language issue of course, but US mil has surely looked for such records, re: ODS too, and hard to believe found nothing at all, nor any compelling reason for it to be secret, but I've seen no discussion of such new sources yet.

 

Joe

Edited by JOE BRENNAN
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His biggest problem is that he is not really good at accepting criticism or opposing viewpoints/sources, which obviously draws worst out of other people as well. (in fairness, lots of supposedly more academic researchers have same problem...)

 

He debated the subject of the F-14 radar very fairly with me once. When I provided open-source evidence that it was of a similar technology level to Foxhunter (i.e. a 1970s HPRF/LPRF only set) he hadn't backed himself into a corner, and there was no rancour or disagreement. Realistic rather than fanb0i, was my take - very much of the "when I find I'm wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?" PoV, which is a breath of fresh air.

 

I've admired his efforts; as ever, YMMV, but I found his work on Iran fascinating.

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I don't disagree with you Joe, in fact I quite agree with you re sources, and I can't vouch for the reference material on the site only the boards from when I posted there, and Tom's postings here and on other boards.

 

And while in traditional acedemic and literary circles the burden of proof is upon the author, and Tom's referencing and source reliability is light to say the least, the fact at the end of the day there isn't much research or writings on the things tom tends to stick to (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lybia et al) don't have a lot of research on them, if it is, its often small nuggets of information (unless it is from a US, Western or Israeli perspecitve) often rumour and speculation from times when it was "current events" that just gets regurgitated over, and over again.

 

It often comes back to the fact that there is very little real research of any stripe in the fields he tends to stick with, and in those, it is often his researched unverifiable facts against little, no or horridly out of date information.

 

What can you do?

 

Just as I said, take it with a grain of salt and treat it for what it is and the sources it has come from.

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A few years ago a former Iraqi Air Force General showed up on the ACIG forums and started to challenge some of Tom's claims about the 1980-1989 Gulf War. Instead of mobbing him out of his forum, Tom accepted criticism (when it was founded) and asked the Iraqi general to co-author with Farzad Bishop and him a new work on the Iran vs Iraq air war, to provide the readers a more accurate and balanced view of the operations (unfortunately the result of this effort is currently available only in French). This is hardly the modus operandi of an "Iranian Fanboi". To me this is how a bona fide researcher acts and, indeed, IMHO, Tom Cooper is an intellectually honest writer.

 

Regards,

 

Amedeo

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I seem to recall him asserting years ago that it had been verified that US planes had participated in the airstrikes against Arab airbases in the '67 war...

 

You sure it wasn't SR-71 photo-recce?

Thats a pretty big thing airstrikes and I can't say i've ever heard it in any 6DW discussion...

Edited by Luke_Yaxley
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You sure it wasn't SR-71 photo-recce?

The main such case was claiming US tactical jet pilots flew for the Israeli's in the 1973 war. That's not someting any one person made up, it's a standard 'fact' as far as the Egyptian AF is concerned: units they met later in the war that they contended used distinctly different tactics than the Israeli's. They don't make quite as specific and persistent claim as far as 1967 AFAIK, though it was mentioned. Since afterall, foreign a/c disguised as Israeli *did* participate in the 1956 war, Armee de l'Air a/c operated against Egypt from Israeli bases in Israeli markings (besides from Aeronavale carrier planes in French markings, see Wings Over Suez" by Cull for details and photo's), and of course pilots of many nationalities flew in the 1948 war. So there is some historical background to such an idea.

 

One non-sequitur weak piece of evidence for 1973 is a few, maybe only one, former USAF pilots who emigrated to Israel and were serving in their AF during the '73 war period.

 

This is relevant to the point I made above about US intel sources which *would* be footnote-able. TomC has claimed he has US intel info about American military pilots, 24 were mentioned in one case, of 'Jewish origin' sent to fly combat in the '73 war. If so that's a footnote-able fact. Which documents? If not willing to say, it shouldn't be quoted, that does no one any good, including the person over relying on other people's good will and politeness not to say they don't believe it without proof. And if it's just what somebody else said, it should be quoted as 'this guy said and so and so', not as a solid fact. It's another case that makes me cautious about the Iran stuff, along with the distorted Korea stuff on the ACIG site (which again is not by him personally, but he doesn't seem to discourage close personal identification with that site and he knows it's been pointed out the stuff is distorted). In any case of judging crediblity, you have to relate it to cases you know about.

 

Joe

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The main such case was claiming US tactical jet pilots flew for the Israeli's in the 1973 war. That's not someting any one person made up, it's a standard 'fact' as far as the Egyptian AF is concerned: units they met later in the war that they contended used distinctly different tactics than the Israeli's. They don't make quite as specific and persistent claim as far as 1967 AFAIK, though it was mentioned. Since afterall, foreign a/c disguised as Israeli *did* participate in the 1956 war, Armee de l'Air a/c operated against Egypt from Israeli bases in Israeli markings (besides from Aeronavale carrier planes in French markings, see Wings Over Suez" by Cull for details and photo's), and of course pilots of many nationalities flew in the 1948 war. So there is some historical background to such an idea.

 

One non-sequitur weak piece of evidence for 1973 is a few, maybe only one, former USAF pilots who emigrated to Israel and were serving in their AF during the '73 war period.

 

This is relevant to the point I made above about US intel sources which *would* be footnote-able. TomC has claimed he has US intel info about American military pilots, 24 were mentioned in one case, of 'Jewish origin' sent to fly combat in the '73 war. If so that's a footnote-able fact. Which documents? If not willing to say, it shouldn't be quoted, that does no one any good, including the person over relying on other people's good will and politeness not to say they don't believe it without proof. And if it's just what somebody else said, it should be quoted as 'this guy said and so and so', not as a solid fact. It's another case that makes me cautious about the Iran stuff, along with the distorted Korea stuff on the ACIG site (which again is not by him personally, but he doesn't seem to discourage close personal identification with that site and he knows it's been pointed out the stuff is distorted). In any case of judging crediblity, you have to relate it to cases you know about.

 

Joe

 

I've heard the stories about '73 with the US delivering more than just hardware with F4's etc, and wouldn't completely dismiss them off hand without proof either way, but I've never heard of US jets (I'm assuming USN F4's) hitting Egyptian targets in '67 (except by people who in the same breath talk of israelli biological testing on POW's etc etc).

 

Any specifics avaliable?

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TomC has claimed he has US intel info about American military pilots, 24 were mentioned in one case, of 'Jewish origin' sent to fly combat in the '73 war. If so that's a footnote-able fact. Which documents? If not willing to say, it shouldn't be quoted, that does no one any good, including the person over relying on other people's good will and politeness not to say they don't believe it without proof. And if it's just what somebody else said, it should be quoted as 'this guy said and so and so', not as a solid fact. It's another case that makes me cautious...

 

You might want to consider "Chatham House Rules". Not uncommon, I've certainly been at one such (military) session.

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...what's distorted about the Korea documents?

The lists and narrative papers there in general assign US losses from the Korwald database

http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/pmkor/korwald.htm

to claims in published Russian sources for which the authors got translations, limited source on both sides, but so far OK as far as it goes. The problem is they consider only the dates matching, and ignore what the database says was cause of the loss. Eg. if a plane is listed in there as lost to AAA but there was an opposing aerial claim that day of similar type, it was really in air combat, 'because the Americans tended to mis-state their losses that way' as those authors have flatly said, but with no proof except similar general statements in some of the sources they've read, 'corroborated' by their own decision to account for claims and losses that way in their lists and papers! :lol: Sometimes it's 'but maybe this plane was lost in air combat', sometimes it's a 'hard fact'.

 

If you look carefully at the actual MiG claims by date and time, and all the US unit records (from which that database comes, but not just using the database but all the records) you find almost all attributions of losses to non-MiG causes check out as such, they are almost all at different times, places, even services than the specific claims (eg. they have an F-51 mechanical loss matching claims in a combat between MiG-15's and the USS [Philippine Sea]'s air group Nov 10 1950!, same time and place in both sides' records, no USAF a/c involved in air combat that day). And it's been pointed out, at length with examples. There is no basis in evidence for their basic assumption; in good history writing you need such evidence, or at least explain your assumption. Taking the position the reader has to investigate to find the assumption and prove it wrong: junk history.

 

Also the papers and lists don't mention most MiG claims. In Chinese case they didn't have good sources and NK post 1950 nobody but the NK's do so I've no methodology complaint there, but I know they have most of the Soviet ones because they're in the Russian published source they used. But, generally they don't mention claims where they can't come up with any remotely plausible matching loss. That along with the previously discussed accumption creates the impression that most of the claims could possibly be verfied as losses, when the plain, non pro/anti-anybody fact is that most cannot, as far as actual evidence.

 

Then the narratives contain imaginative interpretations of particular incidents in published sources on each side in order to match them. For example that James Jabara had his F-86 shot up and written off the day he became the 'first jet ace', May 20 1951, based on a published description of hearing the explosions of MiG cannon fire around him; to match to a claim by Fedor Shebanov who was also credited 'first jet ace' in the same combat (interesting factual coincidence). They stuck to the story tenaciously with no real evidence of it in their possession (Jabara's original combat report makes it clear his plane wasn't hit and in another coincidence, he was flying the F-86 that later fell into Soviet hands intact when flown by another pilot, so it obviously wasn't written off).

 

Worse, there are some outright fudges of facts from the Russian published sources they claim to have used. For example mentioning corroborations of wrecks or pilots' bodies that are not claimed for those specific cases in those sources (or for those particular cases in better sources). Or, changing the types of planes particular Soviet pilots claimed particular days to match losses in that database (to other causes), or even changing the date a day or two. It's not an obvious mass of BS, more subtle BS. I'm also considering the work of one of those authors on web (and some magazines have actually published him :blink: ) as a whole, not only ACIG, and again it's not TomC personally, but Tom does seem to have an affinity for the "US (and Israel particularly) lost more in air combat than they 'admit'" thesis. Again subtle, he'll vigorously refute the most ridiculous claims (they lost 100's of extra planes they obviously couldn't have) but when it's more subtle like the above, he seems to give it less scrutiny.

 

Joe

Edited by JOE BRENNAN
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You might want to consider"Chatham House Rules"[/url].

Then one should clearly say, one *heard* it but can't say where, in which case one has to accept with equanimity not being believed in a case like that, without getting all upset and taking it personally. Anyway you don't obfuscate where you got it.

 

But, subject to a little caution about *my* source because I no longer have the specific post in hand, I clearly remember him saying or very strongly suggesting he had documentary evidence via FOIA of that claim. If you get a US doc via FOIA you don't have to follow Chatham House or Cider House or Animal House ;) . That's then public info, even if logistically it's only in your hands. If you want keep it close to the vest not to steal your own thunder in forthcoming published work, don't mention it on a web board. Once you mention it, or publish anything relying on it, you've got to specify that source to be a credible historian.

 

Joe

Edited by JOE BRENNAN
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This is relevant to the point I made above about US intel sources which *would* be footnote-able. TomC has claimed he has US intel info about American military pilots, 24 were mentioned in one case, of 'Jewish origin' sent to fly combat in the '73 war.

 

Joe

 

Joe, two points: Considering the crap performance of the USAF in air to air combat during LATE Rolling Thunder & Linebacker, I would think THEY would have been a liability not an asset---ASSUMING it's even remotely true---I mean how many Jewish guys joined the USAF & fought in combat?

Also: You say TomC is not a native English speaker; where is he from? With a name like 'Tom Cooper' he sounds 'All American'--I heard he lived in Austria but I thought it was because he was stationed there or something;

 

NM

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You say TomC is not a native English speaker; where is he from? With a name like 'Tom Cooper' he sounds 'All American'--I heard he lived in Austria but I thought it was because he was stationed there or something;

 

NM

 

His native tongue is German. I do not know where he hails from.

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I have two problems with Tom Cooper:

 

1. His unwillingness to provide evidence to support sensational claims. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

 

2. His general prickliness when asked about sources.

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Also: You say TomC is not a native English speaker; where is he from? With a name like 'Tom Cooper' he sounds 'All American'--I heard he lived in Austria but I thought it was because he was stationed there or something;

 

NM

 

Maybe he had a name change in honor of Admiral Tom Cooper of the F-14 program...?

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He debated the subject of the F-14 radar very fairly with me once. When I provided open-source evidence that it was of a similar technology level to Foxhunter (i.e. a 1970s HPRF/LPRF only set) he hadn't backed himself into a corner, and there was no rancour or disagreement. Realistic rather than fanb0i, was my take - very much of the "when I find I'm wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?" PoV, which is a breath of fresh air.

 

Well, once upon a time he was comparing strike ranges of F-14D favourably with those of Super Hornet - by using hi-hi-hi flight profile for Bombcat and hi-lo-lo-hi for F-18. Unsurprisingly, he came to conclusion that F-14 had twice the range of Super Hornet in attack missions...

 

As you may recall, he left this forum after his account was suspended (for offensive language, IIRC). I remember him from rec.aviation.military.naval and he butted heads with many people there as well - fortunately for him, those groups were unmoderated. But all that said, I agree it is a pity he does not post here anymore. I mean, it's not like he is screaming "AirCombat reform now! Bring back F-14 SuperGavin!!!!" :)

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As you may recall, he left this forum after his account was suspended (for offensive language, IIRC).

 

Oh? I didn't know that. I thought he left because his claims were subject to increasing doubt and questioning on this board. The suspension pro'ly happened when I was away studying. Honestly though, I found him quite a reasonable person; he wasn't like others who would answer in rainbow colours and arrogantly reply with "What was the question." when he is being made to answer questions, the answers to which would be against his claims, or reply "you narcissist f*cktard" in email. At least I don't recall him posting offensive language.

Edited by TomasCTT
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