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Aiden Martinez
Aiden Martinez

Fleet Air Arm Carrier War : The History Of Brit...

Royal Navy Cmdr. Nathan Gray and Royal Air Force Sq. Ldr. Andy Edgell, both test pilots at the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., were the first pilots to land the stealth F-35 Lightning fighter jets on board the carrier, demonstrating the formidable force HMS Queen Elizabeth and her fleet of jets will be.

Fleet Air Arm carrier war : the history of Brit...


Powerful strike carrier operations had continued in the BPF until the last hours of the war but the Home Fleet had already run down considerably before the Japanese surrender and the Mediterranean Fleet had effectively become a training force, providing operational sea training facilities in good weather for newly commissioned ships. The end of hostilities and the urgent need for the UK Government to recover an economy that was on the verge of bankruptcy after rearmament and six years of global war meant that the Admiralty had to carry out a programme of demobilisation and force reduction on a massive scale. In 1945 there was already a manpower crisis, with new ships including sixteen of the new light fleet carriers coming into service and older ships including the carriers Furious and Argus and several battleships having to be reduced to reserve to find the experienced men needed to man them. The Admiralty had expected the war in the Pacific to last into 1946 but, under pressure from the Government to make manpower available for the restoration of British industry, had already begun to release men in certain categories back into civilian life. The Japanese surrender in August 1945 meant that large numbers of men would have to be demobilised while maintaining operational capability where it was still needed urgently. The RN in general, and its Fleet Air Arm in particular faced a number of problems once the imperative to mount major combat operations at long range ceased and the Service had to revert to a peacetime size and structure.

Although they were relatively young, these six ships suffered from the fact that they had been designed before the 1942 Joint Technical Committee decision that aircraft must be embarked in greater numbers with larger dimensions than had previously been allowed and maximum launch weights up to 30,000lbs. None of the existing fleet carriers were capable of operating such aircraft without major reconstruction and their accommodation, designed in the late 1930s was totally inadequate for the increased number of sailors required for their enlarged air groups, radar and other technical advances including the big increases in the size of their close-range armament. In mid-1945 the Admiralty had authority from the Government to build seven new fleet carriers, three of the Audacious class and four of the later and bigger Malta class. The latter could never have been completed during the war and were designed with the post-war fleet in mind but with the nation on the verge of bankruptcy, the Admiralty was unable to persuade the new Labour Government that it needed at least two Malta class and they were all cancelled by December before construction had begun. One of the Audacious class was scrapped on the slipway when 27 per cent complete. The two others were eventually completed as Eagle and Ark Royal, both modified to operate new generations of aircraft and both had a major role to play in the RN strike fleet for two decades.

In August 1945 a contract had been placed for thirty Sturgeon S1 aircraft and, rather than cancel them, the Admiralty tasked Shorts to modify them into highspeed target-towing aircraft to meet specification Q.1/46 and two further prototypes were built, VR 363 and VR 371. These retained the ability to operate from a carrier with tail hooks and power-folding wings but had a lengthened nose with extensive glazing to house cameras. It is a measure of the importance placed on realistic weapons training required after 1945 that twenty-three aircraft from the original production order were completed as target-tugs to this modified TT 2 standard for service with RN fleet requirements units in the UK and Malta. Of these, nineteen aircraft were further modified in the mid-1950s to TT 3 standard with the deck landing and photographic equipment removed together with a reversion to the original nose design. They remained in service until replaced by Meteor TT 20 jets in 1958.

The Firefly was one of several legacy types that the RN retained in service after 1945. Eventually 1702 were built with the last examples being used as pilotless target aircraft by 728 NAS at RNAS Hal Far in Malta. The last production Firefly was delivered to this unit in March 1956, nearly fifteen years after the prototype first flew in December 1941. Wartime Fireflies had a single Rolls-Royce Griffon XII engine of 1990hp. Post-war development led to the improved FR 4 and FR 5 versions with the more powerful Rolls-Royce Griffon 74 engine developing 2250hp. With a maximum all-up weight of 13,480lbs and a wingspan of 41ft 2in the Firefly could operate from any contemporary British aircraft carrier and made an ideal companion to the Sea Fury in the strike-fighter wings embarked in the light fleet carriers. It had four 20mm cannon in the wings with 160 rounds per gun and could carry single 1000lb or 500lb bombs or depth charges on hardpoints under each wing. Up to four 3in rockets with 60lb heads could be mounted on rails under each wing. Fireflies equipped sixteen front-line RN squadrons at various times after 1945, seven RNVR air squadrons and no less than twenty-one second-line squadrons. It operated in the fighter, fighter-reconnaissance, night fighter and anti-submarine roles with different equipment fits and was also operated by the RAN, RCN and Dutch Navy besides being exported to operate ashore in Thailand, Sweden, Ethiopia and Denmark. A further mark, the AS 7, intended for use purely as a three-seater anti-submarine aircraft, was not a success and only operated ashore with training squadrons.

By October of 1942, the U.S. Navy had only one operational fleet carrier remaining: Ranger (CV-4). It was the last surviving aircraft carrier built before the war and its design was a compromise driven by the tonnage limitations of the 1920 Washington Naval Treaty. At 17,600 tons, Ranger was slower more lightly armed and armoured than the carriers bearing the brunt of the Pacific War.

Hall 3 is a recreation of the HMS Ark Royal, an aircraft carrier with a long history. The floor is done up like the flight deck, the end walls show the carrier launches and recoveries. One long wall has a view like you're at sea, while the other is a the "island" of the ship. Or at least, a recreation of such. Inside rooms represent key parts of the Ark Royal, with video screens offering information and a glimpse of what it was like to live and serve on board.

Despite their early European venture, the British Corsairs spent most of the war in the Indian and Pacific oceans. They entered British service just as the fleet returned to the Indian ocean in strength, and took part in strikes against Japanese targets in Burma and Sumatra, including the oil refineries at Palembang. In 1945 the British fleet carriers moved to the Pacific, to take part in the final attack on Japan. British Corsairs saw action against Kamikaze attacks as the British Pacific Fleet attacked the Sakishima Islands, at the southern tip of Japan, before finishing the war making attacks on the Tokyo area.

The 224-meter long vessel still could only carry a smaller air group of forty-eight aircraft compared to larger U.S. fleet carriers. In 1940, these included Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers, Gloster Sea Gladiator fighters, as well monoplane Blackburn Skua monoplane bomber/fighters.

American and Japanese fleets met again when a Japanese fleet of four fleet carriers and over 200 aircraft attacked the American garrison at Midway in the Central Pacific, June 4-7, 1942. After three days of intense aerial combat, the Japanese Navy lost four fleet carriers, 248 aircraft, and over 3,000 experienced pilots and aircraft maintainers. The American fleet lost one aircraft carrier, one destroyer, 150 aircraft, and 307 were killed. (Courtesy photo)

As with any edited monograph, the strength of this one is based on the reputations of the contributors and, in this case, they include some of the leading academic and military authorities on Royal Navy and maritime history. Authors include Philip Pugh, a specialist on matters of cost and operational analysis for the defense industry and British government. His essay examines Operational Research (OR), which is the integration of existing systems by training and equates to effective technology. Richard Harding, professor at the University of Westminster and a specialist in organizational development and maritime history, examines the financial and technological aspects of amphibious warfare from 1930 through 1939. Commander David Hobbs, Curator and Principal Historian of the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, examines peacetime naval aviation and its developments during wartime. He argues that the rush to build warships and ignore technological developments left gaps in operational capability during the war and in maintaining modern fleet carriers in the postwar years.

Anthony Gorst, Lecturer at the University of Westminster, examines the controversies surrounding the failures of the Admiralty to successfully complete CVA-01 (a postwar aircraft carrier) and how the Royal Navy tried and failed to jump a generation of technological developments between 1957 and 1966, which Gorst attributes to problems in financing and changing operational requirements. Dr. Eric Grove, Director of the Center for Security Studies at the University of Hull and leading scholar in modern British strategy and tactics, examines the history of guided missile technology in the Royal Navy and how diplomatic relations with the U.S. proved to be indispensable to the cash strapped Admiralty. Dr. Ian Speller, a specialist in post-1945 British foreign policy, defense and maritime strategy, and lecturer at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth examines British amphibious operations during World War II and how they initially succeeded with interservice collaboration and subsequently failed in the postwar years as the competing services fought over scarce resources and political standing. Professor... 041b061a72




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