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The Anniversary of The Channel Dash - 1942 - and the wider RN Fleet Air Arm during the Second World War

Could be but the concept of using torpedo bombers for level bombing was new and their bombs were devastating,as they penetrated deep into the hulls of the ships before exploding. I think it was a back up idea in case the torpedos failed to function in the shallow waters.
 
The 1st wave at Pearl Harbor was 49 aircraft armed with 1,800lb AP bombs and 40 aircraft armed with torpedoes.

The 2nd wave was all armed with 250lb & 500 lb HE bombs to attack infrastructure.
 

Yokel

LE
Prior to 1944, the FAA was a flawed weapon...

Flawed perhaps, but able to be decisive at Taranto, Matapan, and against the Bismarck (all with Swordfish dropping torpedos), splashed the first German aircraft of the war, sank the first heavy warship from the air, and sank the first U boat by aircraft (all during the Norwegian campaign), contributed Pilots to the Battle of Britain, flew from escort carriers and MAC ships to defend convoys in the Atlantic and Arctic, helped fight convoys through to Malta, provided air cover for the Sicily landings...

All prior to 1944. Defeating the U boat Wolfpacks and long range aircraft in the Atlantic, and maintaining freedom of movement in the Mediterranean, were naval achievements that carriers (large and small) and the FAA contributed to in a significant way.
 
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Flawed perhaps, but able to be decisive at Taranto, Matapan, and against the Bismarck (all with Swordfish dropping torpedos), splashed the fight German aircraft of the war, sank the first heavy warship from the air, and sank the first U boat by aircraft (all during the Norwegian campaign), contributed Pilots to the Battle of Britain, flew from escort carriers and MAC ships to defend convoys in the Atlantic and Arctic, helped fight convoys through to Malta, provided air cover for the Sicilly landings...

Taranto - torpedoing fish in a barrel.
Matapan/Bismarck - not decisive, they were doing their thing of slowing down, not sinking the enemy Battleships so their own Battleships could bring them into a gunnery duel. A totally outdated vision of the use of naval aviation.

The dozen Swordfish thrown at Bismarck scored a lucky hit that slowed her down, their primary weapon wasn’t powerful enough to kill her, you don’t win wars relying on lucky hits.
If it had been Bismarck being hunted by a US carrier, her 36 SBD’s would have gone after her with Battleship killing AP bombs.

A decisive carrier weapon would have rendered the seas a deadly place for any Kreigesmarine unit, and would have systematically targetted the units in harbour.

The early wartime FAA, reliant on outdated planes and while undoubtedly brave, often 3rd rate pilots, (the interwar RAF selection process took any pilots with talent itself), was a poor thing.
it wasn’t until it started receiving proper high end naval fighters like the Wildcat, decent bombers, and its own selection of pilots, many trained in USN flight schools, that the interwar damage began to be undone.

it took a long time to undo two decades of neglect, but once it had, the FAA was able to do what it was meant to do, render the seas a deadly place for anything Kreigesmarine, with constant carrier strikes directed at anything of interest along the occupied coasts becoming the FAAs day job from 1944.

No ifs, buts or maybes, the FAA’s achievements in the early years where inspite of itself, not because it was great. The FAA was acutely aware how desperately poorly prepared it was for war.
But it had the good sense once it became once more master of it’s own destiny to grip the problem by going to the experts, the USN, in 1939 for advice and guidance - the first achievement was an agreement to train FAA fighter pilots in USN flight schools from early 1940.

When WWI ended, the Royal Navy possessed the finest air arm in the world, with the best trained pilots flying purpose designed aircraft that where truly world class.
20 years of deliberate neglect saw it turned into a poorly trained, desperately badly equipped scouting service, utterly unfit for war.

And was a deliberate act of spite by the RAF. The block cancelling of all orders from Sopwith, the RNAS designer of choice was as vindictive as it was catastrophic. At a stroke, the Naval Air service lost acess to the worlds leading designers of naval aircraft and would have to make do with desperately poor designs from companies who quite frankly couldn’t design a blank sheet of paper - I give you the Blackburn Blackburn, a plane so bad they named it twice.

And what happened to unemployed Herbert Smith and his design team from the now bankrupted Sopwith?
in 1921, he accepted an offer from the Japanese to set up an aircraft company and design a fighter, bomber and torpedo plane for their new Naval Air Service, equipping their new aircraft carrier Hōshō with the best naval aircraft in the world.
The aircraft company he founded would come back to haunt us in 1941 - Mitsubishi.
 
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Yokel

LE
We all know about the problems caused by the neglect after the First World War, but I think you are being very dismissive of the Taranto raid. As for Matapan and the Bismarck action - was it not decisive to stop the enemy from getting away?

What of the escort carriers in the Atlantic and Arctic? As 1941 drew to a close, Grand Admiral Karl Donitz wrote that the advent of the escort carrier changed things in the Atlantic - with the ability to hit U boats far from the convoy and the means to deal with the Kondors that flew from occupied France to look for convoys and report their positions to the Wolfpacks - or attack ships themselves.

Until the end of May 1943, defeating the U boats and securing the Atlantic so that forces could be built up in preparation for a European landing, was the priority.
 

Fang_Farrier

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
We all know about the problems caused by the neglect after the First World War, but I think you are being very dismissive of the Taranto raid. As for Matapan and the Bismarck action - was it not decisive to stop the enemy from getting away?

What of the escort carriers in the Atlantic and Arctic? As 1941 drew to a close, Grand Admiral Karl Donitz wrote that the advent of the escort carrier changed things in the Atlantic - with the ability to hit U boats far from the convoy and the means to deal with the Kondors that flew from occupied France to look for convoys and report their positions to the Wolfpacks - or attack ships themselves.

Until the end of May 1943, defeating the U boats and securing the Atlantic so that forces could be built up in preparation for a European landing, was the priority.

I would also add in the use of carriers in the Med, Operation Pedastal and Husky for instan

An interesting resource here
 
We all know about the problems caused by the neglect after the First World War, but I think you are being very dismissive of the Taranto raid. As for Matapan and the Bismarck action - was it not decisive to stop the enemy from getting away?

What of the escort carriers in the Atlantic and Arctic? As 1941 drew to a close, Grand Admiral Karl Donitz wrote that the advent of the escort carrier changed things in the Atlantic - with the ability to hit U boats far from the convoy and the means to deal with the Kondors that flew from occupied France to look for convoys and report their positions to the Wolfpacks - or attack ships themselves.

Until the end of May 1943, defeating the U boats and securing the Atlantic so that forces could be built up in preparation for a European landing, was the priority.

So which topic are arguing about?

The inability of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Carriers to conduct offensive naval operations and dominate the seas, or ASW warfare?

Winging enemy units is not the job of carrier air power, it should be seeking them out and sinking them. Until the advent of the flawed but adequate Barracuda in late 1943, the Fleet Air Arm had no effective big ship killer. See Tirpitz turning from a threat in being to a just a target in 1944.
 

Yokel

LE
I would also add in the use of carriers in the Med, Operation Pedastal and Husky for instan

An interesting resource here

I did mention Malta convoys and the Sicily landings earlier.

So which topic are arguing about?

The inability of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Carriers to conduct offensive naval operations and dominate the seas, or ASW warfare?

Winging enemy units is not the job of carrier air power, it should be seeking them out and sinking them. Until the advent of the flawed but adequate Barracuda in late 1943, the Fleet Air Arm had no effective big ship killer. See Tirpitz turning from a threat in being to a just a target in 1944.

The job of the carriers is to defeat the enemy. Until mid 1943 the main enemy was the U boat Wolfpacks and their supporting long range aircraft, which is why escort carriers were so crucial. Are you saying that the Allies could have dominated the Atlantic with U boats operating in Wolfpacks, and Kondors operating at will?

68.1% of allied and neutral merchant ship losses from 1913 to 1945 were caused by U boat. Aircraft attack accounted for another 13.4%. Surface raiders only accounted for 6.2%. I assume that the fleet carriers also fought U boats and they certainly did fight off enemy aircraft.

The Japanese had the same obsession with offensive action at the expense of other objectives that you have. This is one of the reason their merchant ships were easy prey.
 

Yokel

LE
Back to the Swordfish and the Channel Dash, how did the weather conditions compare with those during the Bismarck action? Was there a possibility of a torpedo hit slowing the German ships - and other units taking over?

If I remember rightly, the rough sea caused problems with the torpedoes launched against the Bismarck. Yet the hit that was scored was decisive in that it prevented her from escaping.

I would also point out the Royal Navy and US Navy did things differently for all sorts of reasons. To dismiss the role of the Fleet Air Arm in winning the Battle of the Atlantic or in the Mediterranean because it was different to the US Navy in the Pacific seems mean spirited.
 

Mölders 1

Old-Salt
Back to the Swordfish and the Channel Dash, how did the weather conditions compare with those during the Bismarck action? Was there a possibility of a torpedo hit slowing the German ships - and other units taking over?

If I remember rightly, the rough sea caused problems with the torpedoes launched against the Bismarck. Yet the hit that was scored was decisive in that it prevented her from escaping.

I would also point out the Royal Navy and US Navy did things differently for all sorts of reasons. To dismiss the role of the Fleet Air Arm in winning the Battle of the Atlantic or in the Mediterranean because it was different to the US Navy in the Pacific seems mean spirited.

The bottom line is that the Fleet Air Arm had to manage with what Aircraft they had at that particular time......so they had to use Swordfish Torpedo Bombers against the Bismarck, Gneisenau etc. Lucky or otherwise the Swordfish crews scored a decisive hit on Bismarck steering to seal her fate.

It must be remembered that the Axis Airforces held Air Superiority over the Mediterranean in 1941-42 which made the R.N.s task extremely difficult.

Despite the complete disparity in resources l absolutely believe the the F.A.A. Aircrews were man for man every bit as good as their U.S. Navy counterparts in WW-ll.

I agree it is wrong to compare the doctrines of the U.S. and Royal Navies.
 
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Back to the Swordfish and the Channel Dash, how did the weather conditions compare with those during the Bismarck action? Was there a possibility of a torpedo hit slowing the German ships - and other units taking over?

If I remember rightly, the rough sea caused problems with the torpedoes launched against the Bismarck. Yet the hit that was scored was decisive in that it prevented her from escaping.

I would also point out the Royal Navy and US Navy did things differently for all sorts of reasons. To dismiss the role of the Fleet Air Arm in winning the Battle of the Atlantic or in the Mediterranean because it was different to the US Navy in the Pacific seems mean spirited.

The performance of the Swordfish in all respects, lack of speed, lack of armour and lack of defensive armament, rendered it utterly incapable of operating against ANY aircraft threat, and desperately vulnerable to Flak. It had performance that would have been barely adequate in 1918, but was a desperate joke in 1938, and was a truly shameful indictment of the terminal neglect of naval aviation since 1918.

yes, the USN did do things differently, because unlike the RN, it had be practicing and refining doctrine, and acquiring the equipment needed, since 1922, to use its carriers as the primary striking arm of its Fleet. The RN Carriers going to the Far East in 1944 and attacking the Dutch East Indies on the way weren't teaching the USS Saratoga how to fight a war, they were the students learning from the masters.
The disasterous performance of early 1942 were a huge wake up call to the RN, it realised it simply wasn't in the naval aviation game. Tactics, doctrine, equipment, everything was wrong. A realisation further reinforced with the loaning of HMS Victorious to the USN in early 1943, and first hand experience of operating with a modern carrier air group using the best doctrine and tactics.
The Fleet Air Arm entered WWII with doctrine and equipment barely better than it had in 1918 when it was put into suspended animation by the RAF.

And even if a Swordfish had by some miracle got a hit on one of the German heavy units.....and then what? ask the Germans to wait a day while the Home Fleet sailed south into the German minefields to engage them in a gunnery gotterdamnerung with the Germans having air superiority?

and in Your fixation with 6 obsolete Swordfish, you seem to have missed the attack by MTBs and multiple attacks by much more effective RAF Beaufort torpedo bombers that were also null points. Torpedoes, unless the much heavier and faster ones launched by submarines, really weren't terribly effective against warships.
 
The bottom line is that the Fleet Air Arm had to manage with what Aircraft they had at that particular time......so they had to use Swordfish Torpedo Bombers against the Bismarck, Gneisenau etc. Lucky or otherwise the Swordfish crews scored a decisive hit on Bismarck steering to seal her fate.

It must be remembered that the Axis Airforces held Air Superiority over the Mediterranean in 1941-42 which made the R.N.s task extremely difficult.

Despite the complete disparity in resources l absolutely believe the the F.A.A. Aircrews were man for man every bit as good as their U.S. Navy counterparts in WW-ll.

I agree it is wrong to compare the doctrines of the U.S. and Royal Navies.

the Axis only held Air superiority because the RN didn’t have any fighters worthy of the name in its carriers. Look at the lamentable Fairy Fulmar. It was half brother of the utterly dire Fairy Battle light bomber. A ‘fighter’ that was slower and had a lower rate of climb than many of the bombers it was expected to destroy.
It was a gross failure of doctrine, a deranged doctrine that said all aircraft should be struck down into a heavily armoured hanger in the event of an attack, rather than launched to fight off the attack. Leaving the RN the only carrier navy to enter the war with no effective fighter.
both the USN and IJN had reached the same conclusion in the early 30’s, a carrier could use its mobility to achieve local air superiority using mass over an enemy coast. The RN never made that leap as fighter doctrine was driven by the RAF’s land centric thinking,


‘man for man every bit as good as their U.S. Navy counterparts’?
bravery and dedication? Unarguably, but tactics and training were very poor until remedial steps were taken, steps that took years to bear fruit.
You can be the bravest pilot in the world, but if you are sent into battle in an obsolete death trap with outdated tactics, its hard to prevail.
the arrival of the Wildcat was a revelation to FAA pilots, being sent to USN flight training schools were an eye opener, and when the Hellcat and Corsair rocked up, they thought they’d died and gone to heaven. Finally, the Fleet Air Arm had a world class fighter.

if you want to see how far off the pace we were in 1939, compare the vast body of internal and externally published papers and discussions of of doctrine, both theoretical, and applied on carrier aviation from Japanese and US sources from 1918-1939.
Then compare that with the tumbleweeds from U.K. sources.

Its nor as if were weren’t aware the world was changing seismically. As well as being interested observers to the US Fleet Problems, we had first hand eyes on knowledge of the breathtaking advancements in carrier aviation the Japanese were actually deploying in the field against China in the 30’s.
 
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It was half brother of the utterly dire Fairy Battle light bomber.

That would be the Fairey Battle that scored the first Air to air kill for the RAF in WWII... right?

Imagine having that conversation.
"What did you do in the War Grandfarter?"
"Well I was engaged in an epic dogfight with a British plane, shot down and captured."
"what was the enemy plane?"
"A Fairey Battle"
"You mong."

But anyway, onto your claims about the Swordfish. I'm no expert on Naval aviation, but it seems that the Swordfish did bloody well. In most cases it seems to have done very very well at its job of putting Torpedoes, rockets and bombs right where they'd cause the most upset to the Axis types. equally, if it was such a failure, then why was it in service right up until the War against Germany was won?
It might be exactly as you say, it's crap in a hostile air environment, indeed the retirement date of May 1945 would seem to back it up. But against the Germans they didn't have any aircraft to do that.

I wonder, what were our carriers in the pacific using for Torpedo bombing?
 
There was nothing really wrong with the fairy Battle, It gets maligned because it took heavy losses

But consider

1) It was tasked to drop a couple of bridges guarded by every flak panzer and bugger with MG42 that could be mustered - What aircraft would have faired better given the target - mission parameters and defences

2) It wasnt really capable of defending itself against fighters - how ironic that its slated for this yet the vaunted Stuka had all the survivability of an ice cube in a volcano if you so much mentioned enemy air.
Unlike the Stuka though the Battle never was under friendly skies

Thus from heavy casualties in the face of enemy air superiority and massive AA defences we conclude the Battle was a dog, wheras it was no worse than its contempories with good reputations

Its another maginot line really
 

Yokel

LE
Between 1918 and 1937 the Fleet Air Arm was run by the RAF, who attached little importance to things like fleet defence. There were no former carrier pilots in ship command, staff, or Flag posts. Policy had limited aircraft speed to below 200mph.

Despite these issues, the Navy only having full control from 1937 onwards, and the RAF being prioritised when it came to aircraft design and production, the FAA was able to pull if significant successes.

In many ways the contribution of the escort carrier was more significant that that of the fleet carrier - Swordfish or similar to detect and attack U boats, and fighters to deal with enemy aircraft. It was vital in the critical theatre of the Atlantic and in the Arctic.
 

Mölders 1

Old-Salt
There was nothing really wrong with the fairy Battle, It gets maligned because it took heavy losses

But consider

1) It was tasked to drop a couple of bridges guarded by every flak panzer and bugger with MG42 that could be mustered - What aircraft would have faired better given the target - mission parameters and defences

2) It wasnt really capable of defending itself against fighters - how ironic that its slated for this yet the vaunted Stuka had all the survivability of an ice cube in a volcano if you so much mentioned enemy air.
Unlike the Stuka though the Battle never was under friendly skies

Thus from heavy casualties in the face of enemy air superiority and massive AA defences we conclude the Battle was a dog, wheras it was no worse than its contempories with good reputations

Its another maginot line really

There were no MG 42's in France in 1940.......;)
 

Mölders 1

Old-Salt
the Axis only held Air superiority because the RN didn’t have any fighters worthy of the name in its carriers. Look at the lamentable Fairy Fulmar. It was half brother of the utterly dire Fairy Battle light bomber. A ‘fighter’ that was slower and had a lower rate of climb than many of the bombers it was expected to destroy.
It was a gross failure of doctrine, a deranged doctrine that said all aircraft should be struck down into a heavily armoured hanger in the event of an attack, rather than launched to fight off the attack. Leaving the RN the only carrier navy to enter the war with no effective fighter.
both the USN and IJN had reached the same conclusion in the early 30’s, a carrier could use its mobility to achieve local air superiority using mass over an enemy coast. The RN never made that leap as fighter doctrine was driven by the RAF’s land centric thinking,


‘man for man every bit as good as their U.S. Navy counterparts’?
bravery and dedication? Unarguably, but tactics and training were very poor until remedial steps were taken, steps that took years to bear fruit.
You can be the bravest pilot in the world, but if you are sent into battle in an obsolete death trap with outdated tactics, its hard to prevail.
the arrival of the Wildcat was a revelation to FAA pilots, being sent to USN flight training schools were an eye opener, and when the Hellcat and Corsair rocked up, they thought they’d died and gone to heaven. Finally, the Fleet Air Arm had a world class fighter.

if you want to see how far off the pace we were in 1939, compare the vast body of internal and externally published papers and discussions of of doctrine, both theoretical, and applied on carrier aviation from Japanese and US sources from 1918-1939.
Then compare that with the tumbleweeds from U.K. sources.

Its nor as if were weren’t aware the world was changing seismically. As well as being interested observers to the US Fleet Problems, we had first hand eyes on knowledge of the breathtaking advancements in carrier aviation the Japanese were actually deploying in the field against China in the 30’s.

You argue many good points, however l still feel it is wrong to compare the Royal Navy to the U.S. Navy, if for no other reason the sheer Industrial and Manpower resources the U.S. Navy could draw on.
 

Daz

LE
That would be the Fairey Battle that scored the first Air to air kill for the RAF in WWII... right?

Imagine having that conversation.
"What did you do in the War Grandfarter?"
"Well I was engaged in an epic dogfight with a British plane, shot down and captured."
"what was the enemy plane?"
"A Fairey Battle"
"You mong."

But anyway, onto your claims about the Swordfish. I'm no expert on Naval aviation, but it seems that the Swordfish did bloody well. In most cases it seems to have done very very well at its job of putting Torpedoes, rockets and bombs right where they'd cause the most upset to the Axis types. equally, if it was such a failure, then why was it in service right up until the War against Germany was won?
It might be exactly as you say, it's crap in a hostile air environment, indeed the retirement date of May 1945 would seem to back it up. But against the Germans they didn't have any aircraft to do that.

I wonder, what were our carriers in the pacific using for Torpedo bombing?
The Swordfish was kept on for the same reason the yanks kept the F4F Wildcat in service despite it being replaced by the F6F and F4U, it was suitable for smaller carriers and second-line duties.

As for the Fairey Fulmar, in terms of aircraft shot down by the FAA and lost in combat, it was the most successful aircraft they operated, 112 enemy aircraft downed against the loss of 40 Fulmars - 2.8 to 1 in the Fulmar's favour


Edit for the correct airframes
 
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Mölders 1

Old-Salt
The Swordfish was kept on for the same reason the yanks kept the F3F Wildcat in service despite it being replaced by the F4F and F4U, it was suitable for smaller carriers and second-line duties.

As for the Fairey Fulmar, in terms of aircraft shot down by the FAA and lost in combat, it was the most successful aircraft they operated, 112 enemy aircraft downed against the loss of 40 Fulmars - 2.8 to 1 in the Fulmar's favour
A slight correction.....F6F is the Hellcat which replaced the F4F Wildcat in U.S. Navy service.
The F3F was a pre-war U.S. Navy Biplane Fighter.

The success of the Fulmar as a Carrier Fighter had more to do with the skilful young men that flew them rather than anything to do with the design.
 
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There were no MG 42's in France in 1940.......;)

Fair and irrefutable point although i suspect if id written MG34 someone would have pointed out that only infantry had those and so at the bridges would have been MG1908s or something
 
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