Jets at Sea Naval Aviation in Transition 1945-1955

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Finally the conclusion will seek to answer the question of the title as well as considering whether they have left any legacy. Figure 1. The single-engined low wing aircraft are Blackburn Firebrands; the high wing plane at the back is a Fairey Barracuda.

Therefore it had to learn the business of aircraft design, of procurement, and specification, during the war; unsurprisingly many of the initial projects were not good. In fact the first aircraft to be examined, the Blackburn B Firebrand, started off in with a specification for a single seat fighterxiii a major divergence from standard practice, as in s the FAA had gone towards two seater aircraft as standard to accommodate a naval Observer as navigator primarily outlined asxiv; …a si gle seate si g e gi e f o t gu fighte fo ope ati g f o a ie s as a ship pla e.

However, despite specifying an in production enginexv, and ease of mass productionxvi it was not meant to be. The Mk I would never see service; however, the Mk 4 would, with two frontline squadrons sq and sqxvii , although it would be peace time as they were never deployed to Korea, were too late for World War II and had been replaced in service by the time of Suez.

They had a maximum speed of mph at 13,ft, and flexibly well-armed apart from a torpedo they could carry two 1,lb bombs and had four 20mm Hispano Cannon , and with a large combat radius miles with torpedo and no drop tanks xviii. The did t though a d this to an extent explains why so few were builtxx, because by the time they were ready there was an aim for a peace dividend to be achieved and plenty of serviceable aircraft availablexxi. However, this happy state of affairs did not last long as it was soon felt peace was more fragile than hoped, so when the next generation became available the RN was allowed to start buying.

The first of these aircraft was the Sea Fury, an aircraft which was destined to see extensive service during its career and was the last piston-engined fighter in service with FAA first-line squadronsxxii. Although again it was an aircraft which had Second World War originsxxiii as well as post war analysis, a prototype having been flown in February The Fury was cancelled though, because the RAF had enough war legacy aircraft to see it throughxxiv.

Jets at Sea: Naval Aviation in Transition 1945-1955

The Sea Fury was one of the fastest piston engine aircraft ever produced the F. II had a top speed of mph at 18,ft and a range of miles at 30,ftxxv , it was a fighter though, not a torpedo fighter like the Firebrand, it could carry bombs; most importantly though it was rugged, reliable, a workhouse. Due to all this it became a foundation from which to build a future providing the FAA with fourxxvi frontline squadrons sqxxvii, sqxxviii, sqxxix and sqxxx , a benchmark by which other aircraft would be compared.

It did this whilst also being enough of a capability that it would justify that capabilities retention in rounds of post war budget reductions xxxi. The Sea Hornet was another generational product of the desire for a long range fighter that the RN had been wanting for many yearsxxxii. To get it the RN had to go to the traditional pre-war source of FAA fighters, RAF light bombersxxxiii — in this case it was the Mosquitoxxxiv or rather the Hornet long range fighter which had been developed from itxxxv.

With a range of 1, miles when carry auxiliary tanks, a maximum speed of mph at 22,ft, and an armament of four 20mm cannon, as well as everything from rockets to 2,lbs of bombs or mines it was certainly capable of its fighter title xxxvi: coming in at not far off the Sea Fury weaponry or speed, not as manoeuvrable but with nearly miles more range even when the Sea Fury was carrying its drop tanksxxxvii. It was because of these capabilities that the Sea Hornet F. These aircraft only served with two frontline squadrons, sq which was equipped with F.

It however was not the only fighter produced in this period with two propellers. The Westland Wyvern, had a set of contra-rotating four bladed propellers connected to its single Armstrong Siddeley Python Turboprop engine o Tu i e d i e P opelle e gi ed. This was very interesting design of engine, as unlike the then traditional piston engine, it used jet technology to power its propeller with a minimal amount of moving parts: it s atu all e fuel effi ie t e ause of this, as well as being an advantage for aircraft needing a high performance take off.

The Wyvern was a replacement for the Firebrand, it was a torpedo attack fighter; it was future proofed at practically sketching.

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In fact when first specified in whilst it was to be fitted with a Rolls-Royce Eagle engine, included in the specification wasxli: The desig of the wings and if possible, the tailplane, fin and rudder shall be such that they may be fitted to a diffe e t fuselage desig ed to take a tu i e p opelle u it This along with the requirement that the design should be produced with a photographic reconnaissance version available for later special orders; is most interesting because the RN are specifying for a future aircraft which is not the next generation, but the next, next generation.

Something which had been unheard of for the FAA in the interwar years, yet under the pressure of war, whilst still learning in many waysxlii how to run it, the RN was thinking and planning for the post war period. This, along with the going through three engines the Rolls-Royce Eagle, Rolls-Royce Clyde and eventually the Pythonxliii , goes some way to explaining how it was that the Wyvern was first specified in but did not enter service till In summation therefore, the RN had procured in the post war years a brace of torpedo attack fighter, a long range fighter and night fighter variant, and high performance fighter bomber — which turned out to be a very good all-rounder.

All of these aircraft were propeller powered, whether piston or turbine engine, all were capable of carrying bombs although none was a specific dive-bomber; a type which had been much sort prior WWIIxlviii and which had achieved a certain notoriety in that conflict.

It as deemed essential that the Navy should have aircraft faster, or at least as fast, as any enemy aircraft which might be encountered. The gun was still the only weapon for use against other aircraft and not until the air- to-air missile became a reliable weapon would the need for performance superiority give way to the concept that what was really needed was an aircraft that was a good weapons platform with both adequate radar a d payload. I deed, the o pa ati e e its of ai supe io ity e sus eapo a yi g ai aft is still a gued today.

Operational Experience From its choice of aircraft the RN, unsurprisingly in the post-war years was preparing to fight another war at seal — unfortunately since arguably due to the Cold War effect there have been no big battles at seali. However, whether on land or sea first line combat aircraft act as a sort of artillery, after all — whether air defence, deep strike or close air support; therefore the performance of the aircraft in the two wars of this period that the RN took an active engagement with, the Korean War and the Suez Crisis can still provide a good evaluation of their capabilities — although of course not as a torpedo bomber.

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In Korea the war moved fast and land bases were either in Japan too far away or were not able to support the aircraftlii; and although some RAF pilots would fight flying for the US Air Force USAF liii — the war was mainly, due to geography, dependent upon naval aviation. Which, as the list of ships qualifying for the Korean War medal testifies too, the RN, its carriers and its FAA were key component for the provision of - from the beginning of the conflictliv.

Principally therefore, despite the possibly disputedlv air to air kill by a Sea Fury of a Mig fighterlvi stealing the headlines, it was the close air support and strike missions which were of primacy to success. These operations required a tempo of operations which up till then had only been achieved with resources deployed in World War II. For example the 13,ton light carrier HMS Ocean, almost at the end of her operational tour in Korean waters, managed to launch sorties in a single daylvii; to put this feat in context, a modern ,ton Nimitz class Super Carrier of the United States Navy was capable in , under exercise conditions, of launching an average of sorties a day for six dayslviii.

Sortie rate whilst important to operators doesn t ea u h o its o though; during HMS O ea s first Korea tour 5th of May to 8th of November lix her air group of Sea Furies and Fairey Fireflieslx flew 5, sorties this included Rocket Assisted Take Off Gear launches , achieving between them a total of 10, flying hourslxi. In terms of ordnance, those aircraft dropped 1,lb bombs and 3, lb bombs; they fired a total of 17, rockets and , 20mm roundslxii.

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Korea was a long term commitment, and by passing the various support given to counter-insurgency operations in Malaya because it is that not warfighting; the next operation to be examined will be the larger by volume, smaller by time, Suez Crisis. The stand out aviation event of Suez was not carried out by fighters, but by helicopters; using Bristol Sycamorelxviii and Westland Whirlwindlxix helicopters, from the Joint Experimental Helicopter Unitlxx, and the FAA s s lxxi, 45 Commando was air lifted ashore from HMS Theseus into the battlelxxii.

During the crisis they carried out 82 sorties attacking airfields and other targets within the Canal Zone lxxv. Again as in Korea close air support was the crucial mission for which the low speed efficiency of the W e s desig made them most suitable for providing , and again the importance of naval aviation for this role was due to fact that the nearest land bases were in Cyprus too far away for RAF fighters to provide continuous air supportlxxvi.

So it was that the RAF Hawker Hunters were left conducting raid support and protecting the Valiant and Canberra Bombers that were crucial for initial strikeslxxvii. The fire support provided by aircraft from the carriers throughout the operation, was crucial to the military successes which were achieved; especially for the first waves of parachutists and Royal Marines who had no tanks or artillery at their disposal to provide organic fire support within the ground forces, so e e the efo e depe de t upo the a tille f o the sea hethe comi g ai o ship s gu lxxviii.

Conclusion The Mi iste ithout Po tfolio uestio ed the eed fo a Pa ifi Fleet of the size o te plated, ha i g regard to the fact that a friendly power, and not a potential enemy, now dominated that ocean.

Sir John Cunningham pointed out that although there might be no potential enemy battle fleet, there were plenty of potentially hostile submarines, and a vase area in which there were many very important British i te ests. There is nothing wrong with leaders seeking a peace dividend to reduce the burden placed on their people; but the seeking of it can quickly go from right, to problematic, to disastrous if not enough attention is paid to the longer term, in other words the future, when making those vitally important decisions. Defence is an area where much of what is built might not be needed tomorrow or the next day, or even the day after that: but, it will most likely be needed over the next five years, definitely over the next decade, and much of the equipment will provide decades of service to a nation.

Therefore the procurement provides decades of national security. The fact is it cannot be argued that these aircraft were not the peak of propeller aircraft to serve with FAA, apart from being the last such aircraft to do so; there is the fact they genuinely were good aircraft — yes they had kinks, which needed to be worked out by development, but their record of service excuses that by a long way; especially the Sea Fury and the Wyvern. To the charge of obsolescence though; the answer has to be more complex.

Jet aircraft did not suddenly appear and be great immediately; it took time to mature the technology. It s very easy therefor for damage to be sustained or even fatal accidents to take place; hence the carriers in Korea were so proud of their successful landings.

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So yes, there is an argument, that they were obsolete in the face of Migs; but these aircraft still did their jobs. Further to this point, the loss rate illustrates that those aircraft were not massacred; suggesting obsolescence is too strong an adjective to truly depict the situation. The final charge is unarguable, during the Cold War the pursuit of capability in an arms race meant that the contribution of these aircraft were ignored in favour of the perspective that they were out matched — as this supported the argument for newer, better, often revolutionary and very expensive aircraft.

When the lessons of this period show that what the aircraft capable of accomplishing is just as, if not more, important than what it can do or is. Pococok and MaritimeQuest. Although the Hawker Fury was first specified with F. The officer, the then Lt P. Haines , and there is no real necessity to look beyond that without causing unnecessary di isio a d uphea al.


Bibliography Books Brown, Eric. Wings of the Navy. London: Jane's Publishing Company, Wings on My Sleeve. London: Phoenix, Clapp, Michael, and Ewen Southby-Tailyour. London: Orion Books, Friedman, Norman. British Carrier Aviation. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, Aircraft Carriers. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, Gibson, Chris. Gunston, Bill. World Encyclopedia of Aero Engines; from the pioneers to the present day. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, Hastings, Max. The Korean War.

London: Pan Books, Hone, Thomas C, ed. The Battle of Midway. John, Rebecca. Caspar John. London: Collins, Note: Cover may not represent actual copy or condition available. Spine creases, wear to binding and pages from reading. May contain limited notes, underlining or highlighting that does affect the text. Accessories such as C Add to cart.

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