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

Having mentioned those two books I can possibly try to answer questions that you can think of, such as:

Who was responsible for carrier aviation development between the wars?

What limitations were placed on carrier aircraft design pre war?

What roles were planned for carriers and their aircraft?

What factors influenced carrier design?

How did things like the U boat campaign and the fall of France effect carrier employment?

How were aircraft like the Hurricane and Spitfire modified for carrier operations?

Why were American aircraft sought as soon as they became available?

How did the Swordfish remain operational until after VE Day?

How did the RN innovate in wartime?

A lot of these are things I know - but others I can look up in references. So feel free to give me some research questions.


Some joker in the Admiralty who pushEd through the 1/04/24 decision knowing that new budget would result in Fairey being the main supplier for the next 18 years
 

PhotEx

On ROPS
On ROPs
Who was responsible for carrier aviation development between the wars?

The RAF, who’s first task after Armistice Day was to systematically destroy and bankrupt Sopwith Aviation, the only designer and manufacturer of naval aircraft, and the RNs go to guys for aircraft.
It then handed all future contracts to their own pet manufacturers, none of which had designed either a competent, let alone outstanding aircraft, or had any experience with naval aviation.

as I pointed out before, the entire Sopwith design team were head hunted by the Japanese to set up Mitsubishi, where they designed a naval fighter, torpedo bomber and reconnaissance plane.
And the naval air service wing of the RAF got given such travesties as the Blackburn Blackburn.

while we were designing this... yes, that’s a triple decker fuselage, and those are portholes

D4895456-A4A3-484A-A39B-E4F3F4E9339D.jpeg


Herbert Smith was designing this for the Japanese Navy....

33B23DFA-61CE-41DB-BE79-E9C2BBBF8EE5.jpeg
 
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Yokel

LE
Some joker in the Admiralty who pushEd through the 1/04/24 decision knowing that new budget would result in Fairey being the main supplier for the next 18 years

Was it the Admiralty, or the Air Ministry as it was the RAF running the aircraft until the eve of war in the late thirties? From Guy Robbins' book and the section on Royal Navy Aircraft, 1919-1939:

With the creation of the Air Ministry during the First World War, all control of the design and procurement of aircraft was passed to the RAF. With adoption of dual control of the FAA in the mid 1920s, the Admiralty was to stipulate its requirements which the Air Ministry would fulfil. In 1927 an Advisory Committee on aircraft for the FAA was set up by the two departments. This worked well if slowly. A Technical Sub-Committee of the FAA Advisory Committee was also formed in 1932 under an Air Commodore and included scientists and engineers. This became very active from 1936 with re-armament.

In 1925 the two departments also reached an agreement on the design and development of weapons for naval aircraft. Again the Admiralty specified the weapons needed, including bombs, and the Air Ministry designed and developed them. Torpedoes, however, were developed by the Admiralty. Every July an inter-departmental apportioned costs and the Air Ministry reported progress periodically. Under this system responsibility was divided and the impetus for new weapons development for naval aircraft was lacking. As a result air depth-charges were very slow in development and the anti submarine bombs proved to be very poor during the early war years.

Because of the dual control of the FAA and the Air Ministry preoccupation with Strategic Bombing and Home Defence, the FAA basically relied on modifications of RAF aircraft, especially fighters, or the products of two small firms who specialised in naval aircraft: Fairey and Blackburn (originally a subcontractor of Sopwith). Short, the mainstay pre 1919, concentrated on producing flying boats for the the RAF until about 1943. Sopwith, renamed Hawker, also concentrated on supplying the RAF.

This was a much smaller design base than that enjoyed by the US Navy or even the Japanese Navy, but the Air Ministry and the Treasury ensured there were not enough FAA orders to encourage other firms. By the time the RN regained control in 1936 it was too late to foster a larger production base before the war and it was still reliant on Air Ministry procurement. Moreover, the expansion of the RAF to meet the threat of the Luftwaffe in the late 1930s meant there was little left over for the FAA.


My bold.

The RAF, who’s first task after Armistice Day was to systematically destroy and bankrupt Sopwith Aviation, the only designer and manufacturer of naval aircraft, and the RNs go to guys for aircraft.
It then handed all future contracts to their own pet manufacturers, none of which had designed either a competent, let alone outstanding aircraft, or had any experience with naval aviation.

as I pointed out before, the entire Sopwith design team were head hunted by the Japanese to set up Mitsubishi, where they designed a naval fighter, torpedo bomber and reconnaissance plane.
And the naval air service wing of the RAF got given such travesties as the Blackburn Blackburn.

while we were designing this... yes, that’s a triple decker fuselage, and those are portholes

View attachment 553208

Herbert Smith was designing this for the Japanese Navy....

View attachment 553209

See above, Stop blaming the Royal Navy who did their best, or the Admirals who fought to bring the Fleet Air Arm fully under naval control.

To quote someone - "History might not repeat itself, but it does rhyme".
 
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Mölders 1

Old-Salt
and then they went off after 20mm cannons while everyone else went after 30mm.
and 70 years on, the ROF vs destructive round argument still rages on.

The Luftwaffe made some use of 30mm Cannon in the Air To Air role in WW-ll and neither weapon was the right answer.

The Mk 103 was extremely powerful but was long, heavy, had a violent recoil and was fairly slow firing and was not suitable for use in single-seat/engined fighters.

The Mk 108 was more compact, faster firing and had great explosive power in each of it's shells, but in turn was somewhat heavier than the Luftwaffe's standard 20mm Cannon and only had an effective range of about 200 metres, also both weapons had a very limited supply of ammunition.
 

PhotEx

On ROPS
On ROPs
The Luftwaffe made some use of 30mm Cannon in the Air To Air role in WW-ll and neither weapon was the right answer.

The Mk 103 was extremely powerful but was long, heavy, had a violent recoil and was fairly slow firing and was not suitable for use in single-seat/engined fighters.

The Mk 108 was more compact, faster firing and had great explosive power in each of it's shells, but in turn was somewhat heavier than the Luftwaffe's standard 20mm Cannon and only had an effective range of about 200 metres, also both weapons had a very limited supply of ammunition.

I suspect the US disdain for cannon in fighters dates from their rather poor experience with the 37mm cannon they toyed with early in the 40’s.
 

Yokel

LE
This is from Chapter Four of Wings On My Sleeve by Eric 'Winkle' Brown:

I was posted to 768 Deck Landing Training Squadron at Arbroath to carry out the first attempt at getting a Hurricane aboard an escort carrier. Hurricanes had been operating successfully from the of fleet carriers. I had to find out if the same thing could be done with a deck half the length, with six arrestor wires instead of ten. My first reaction was to be hopping made at having to leave my old Audacity pals when we seemed on the verge of another spell of action together.

The Martlets from America were in limited supply and there were no specially designed deck landing fighters in Britain, so necessity demanded that the high performance RAF Hurricanes and Spitfires be adapted for the deck. Their design, their performance at low speeds, and their strength all left much to be desired for deck landing. Their long noses gave the pilot a very poor view of the deck, and their undercarriages were brittle things lacking the shock absorbing characteristics of the Martlet's. But we had to have them. They were fast, with terrific fire power. The Navy simply stuck and arrestor hook on them and played it by ear.

The Hurricane's hook was halfway up the fuselage, whereas the Martlet had hers right in the tail, where it had the best opportunity of engaging a wire. You had to make a perfect three point landing in a Hurricane, or you missed the wires, or the hook bounced clear of them.

I did the trials from the first of the 'Woolworth Carriers', the adapted merchantmen which we were able to get from America, the
Avenger. To my delight I found that with reasonable care the Hurricane could be operated from these little flat tops quite successfully. They were not ideal, but they were better than the slow and stately Skuas and Fulmars. Pilots would be able to catch Focke-Wulfs with them and on the Russian convoys do battle confidently with the nippy Junkers 88s.

My bold. My late Grandfather was involved in Arctic Convoys, and the escort carrier was key - fighters to keep the Luftwaffe at bay, and Swordfish (or Albacore) to fight U boats at arm's length.
 

PhotEx

On ROPS
On ROPs
See above, Stop blaming the Royal Navy who did their best, or the Admirals who fought to bring the Fleet Air Arm fully under naval control.

To quote someone - "History might not repeat itself, but it does rhyme".


oh I do blame the Navy, in spades.

the Big gun Admirals held sway, and religiously stifled any intellectual thinking on the proper application of air power in the 20’s and 30’s.
The same Admirals who when the Home Fleet spent a morning banging away at a Queen Bee target drone with no effect before the war, declared the exercise a great success, and the Fleets AA gunnery fully up to the job of defending it from air attack.
 
Wasn't the US Hispano just a licensed copy of the British one?
Why did the US struggle to make them reliable?
When the US compared the British M II, which was reliable, to the US version, they discovered that the British version had a slightly shorter chamber.

The British also had issues with freezing at altitude and feed jams that also took awhile to fix. How the gun was installed could affect reliability just as much as the design of the gun itself - ammunition feed systems in particular could be tricky.
 
When the US compared the British M II, which was reliable, to the US version, they discovered that the British version had a slightly shorter chamber.

The British also had issues with freezing at altitude and feed jams that also took awhile to fix. How the gun was installed could affect reliability just as much as the design of the gun itself - ammunition feed systems in particular could be tricky.

Thanks, I thought the US version was a carbon copy of the British one. Presumably the US simply shortened the chamber to match?
 

Daz

LE
I suspect the US disdain for cannon in fighters dates from their rather poor experience with the 37mm cannon they toyed with early in the 40’s.
No, it was because they kept ******* up the 20mm build


The UK went from .303 to 20mm as upping from .303 to .50 was judged not be worth the effort for the gains offered by the .50
 
Was it the Admiralty, or the Air Ministry as it was the RAF running the aircraft until the eve of war in the late thirties? From Guy Robbins' book and the section on Royal Navy Aircraft, 1919-1939:

With the creation of the Air Ministry during the First World War, all control of the design and procurement of aircraft was passed to the RAF. With adoption of dual control of the FAA in the mid 1920s, the Admiralty was to stipulate its requirements which the Air Ministry would fulfil. In 1927 an Advisory Committee on aircraft for the FAA was set up by the two departments. This worked well if slowly. A Technical Sub-Committee of the FAA Advisory Committee was also formed in 1932 under an Air Commodore and included scientists and engineers. This became very active from 1936 with re-armament.

In 1925 the two departments also reached an agreement on the design and development of weapons for naval aircraft. Again the Admiralty specified the weapons needed, including bombs, and the Air Ministry designed and developed them. Torpedoes, however, were developed by the Admiralty. Every July an inter-departmental apportioned costs and the Air Ministry reported progress periodically. Under this system responsibility was divided and the impetus for new weapons development for naval aircraft was lacking. As a result air depth-charges were very slow in development and the anti submarine bombs proved to be very poor during the early war years.

Because of the dual control of the FAA and the Air Ministry preoccupation with Strategic Bombing and Home Defence, the FAA basically relied on modifications of RAF aircraft, especially fighters, or the products of two small firms who specialised in naval aircraft: Fairey and Blackburn (originally a subcontractor of Sopwith). Short, the mainstay pre 1919, concentrated on producing flying boats for the the RAF until about 1943. Sopwith, renamed Hawker, also concentrated on supplying the RAF.

This was a much smaller design base than that enjoyed by the US Navy or even the Japanese Navy, but the Air Ministry and the Treasury ensured there were not enough FAA orders to encourage other firms. By the time the RN regained control in 1936 it was too late to foster a larger production base before the war and it was still reliant on Air Ministry procurement. Moreover, the expansion of the RAF to meet the threat of the Luftwaffe in the late 1930s meant there was little left over for the FAA.


My bold.



See above, Stop blaming the Royal Navy who did their best, or the Admirals who fought to bring the Fleet Air Arm fully under naval control.

To quote someone - "History might not repeat itself, but it does rhyme".
I’m sure that I am not alone in finding it amusing that you’ve kicked off another FAA hero worship thread at the same time as this one:

 
Thanks, I thought the US version was a carbon copy of the British one. Presumably the US simply shortened the chamber to match?
Surprisingly they didn’t, but they did make other modifications.
 
No, it was because they kept ******* up the 20mm build


The UK went from .303 to 20mm as upping from .303 to .50 was judged not be worth the effort for the gains offered by the .50
The Spitfire E wing could mount two 20mm and two .50 MG. The RAF seemed to prefer mixed armament, perhaps due to the problems they had with the early all cannon Spits.
 

Yokel

LE
oh I do blame the Navy, in spades.

the Big gun Admirals held sway, and religiously stifled any intellectual thinking on the proper application of air power in the 20’s and 30’s.
The same Admirals who when the Home Fleet spent a morning banging away at a Queen Bee target drone with no effect before the war, declared the exercise a great success, and the Fleets AA gunnery fully up to the job of defending it from air attack.

With respect to anti aircraft gunnery, how did land based anti aircraft artillery of the same period compare? In the days before radar and the proximity fuze?

No, it was because they kept ******* up the 20mm build


The UK went from .303 to 20mm as upping from .303 to .50 was judged not be worth the effort for the gains offered by the .50

As I recall later marks of Spitfire were cannon armed. If the same was true for the Seafire then it might explain their anti Kamikaze role?

I’m sure that I am not alone in finding it amusing that you’ve kicked off another FAA hero worship thread at the same time as this one:


No conspiracy theories here. The fact is the RAF had to be given priority when it came to aircraft design and production. I once read something on ARRSE from a dark blue type, @alfred_the_great I think, that at BRNC he had been taught nothing of the wartime role of the FAA save Taranto.

This thread started simply as a tribute to the Swordfish crews who died during the Channel Dash. Unfortunately it got hijacked by those who seek to demean their efforts as their aircraft was not US made, and others blaming the failure of Operation Fuller on the RAF, and ignoring the fog of war.

The dark blue lobby always runs the risk of not identifying or learning lessons by automatically blaming the RAF, or old school Admirals.
 

Daz

LE
The Spitfire E wing could mount two 20mm and two .50 MG. The RAF seemed to prefer mixed armament, perhaps due to the problems they had with the early all cannon Spits.
It could also mount 4 x 20mm's, the point I was making was in general, they could have gone down the .50 route, but in the main chose the 20mm when upgrading from the .303 - that was an option for the US ......apart from cockup they made in the production of the 20mm
 

Mölders 1

Old-Salt
It could also mount 4 x 20mm's, the point I was making was in general, they could have gone down the .50 route, but in the main chose the 20mm when upgrading from the .303 - that was an option for the US ......apart from cockup they made in the production of the 20mm

ABNRedleg was correct.

The C Wing of the Spitfire could mount 4 X 20mm Cannon. He was correct with his description of the E Wing Armament.

The R.A.F. belatedly realised that the .303 Machine Gun was proving useless in both Air To Air and Air To Ground work.
 
ABNRedleg was correct.

The C Wing of the Spitfire could mount 4 X 20mm Cannon. He was correct with his description of the E Wing Armament.

The R.A.F. belatedly realised that the .303 Machine Gun was proving useless in both Air To Air and Air To Ground work.
The RAF also installed the Rose turret, with dual .5O Brownings, on 400 Lancasters in 44-45.
 

Mölders 1

Old-Salt
The RAF also installed the Rose turret, with dual .5O Brownings, on 400 Lancasters in 44-45.
Not quite.

Only around 220 Rose-Rice Tail Turrets were built by the Rose Brothers company as the turrets were hand made and the company itself was only small and unable to mass produce them.

1 Group Bomber Command Lancaster's received most of the Rose-Rice Tail Turrets built.
 
ABNRedleg was correct.

The C Wing of the Spitfire could mount 4 X 20mm Cannon. He was correct with his description of the E Wing Armament.

The R.A.F. belatedly realised that the .303 Machine Gun was proving useless in both Air To Air and Air To Ground work.


Not entirely a fair comment really, the .303 as a pack of 8 was good enough in 1939 and won the Battle of Britain.
The RAF was aware of it's shortcomings but didn't consider .50 the right answer.

It's a bit like the 2lb'r v 6lb'r argument isn't it, you run with what you've got and improve it as quick as is practical.
 
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