RN Flying started, with airships, back in 1909, with the first fixed wing RN pilot qualifying in 1911. By the outbreak of WWI the RN had the Royal Naval Air Service, as its, specialised, version of the British Army's Royal Flying Corps. By 1918 the RNAS had helped pioneer the first Aircraft Carriers in the world and had a strength of over 3,000 aircraft and about 67,000 men. Then the Royal Air Force was formed, with the Royal Naval Air Service merged with, and subjugated to, the RAF. The inter-war period 1918-1939 were years in which British Naval aviation suffered in terms of both funding and innovation, it is no coincidence that these were the years when the RAF controlled British Naval aviation. From the start the primary mission of the RAF was independent, long range, offensive bombing. This remained true during WWII and after and indeed, if we look at the retention of Tornado, after the SDSR, one could be forgiven for thinking it still remains true today. (and yes I know the RAF has a whole 10 Tornado's in Afghanistan). From the start just about the lowest -indeed hardly there at all- item on the RAF agenda was British Naval Aviation. So, in an era when the Royal Navy remained, just, the largest in the world, and while the USN and Imperial Japanese Navy were developing higher performance Carrier Aircraft and Carrier operation doctrine, largely through neglect, British Naval Aviation was stagnating. Some of this was due to RN 'Battleship Admirals' certainly, but the USN and IJN had their own 'Battleship Admirals', but overcame the problems, the RN did not, and that was largely caused by the lack of control of their own Naval Air Arm, which, during the whole inter-war period rested with the RAF. Only in 1939 was the RN given back control of its own Naval aviation, and the RAF legacy to the Fleet Air Arm was only 232 aircraft, in total all of them obsolete or, at best, obsolescent. We have all seen the iconic images of gallant FAA air crew in their 'Stringbag' biplane Swordfish Torpedo Bombers in WWII. Why were British Carrier aircraft so out of date for much of WWII? Mostly due to RAF control right up until the start of WWII, only by 1945 were good British designs for Carrier aircraft starting to come through. Despite this, under RN control, the FAA was once again an innovative force, pioneering the attack on an enemy battle fleet at anchor (Taranto) before the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor and the use of Torpedo Aircraft at night (although, in part, that was to counter the British Torpedo aircraft's woeful lack of performance). With the honourable exception of RAF Coastal Command, in general the RN's experience of land based air cover for the Fleet during WWII was much the same as every other Navy: Non-existent to dire. The period after WWII saw the FAA equipped with excellent aircraft like the Sea Fury, that proved capable of shooting down Mig 15 jets in Korea, while providing vital CAS to UN Forces, from RN (and RAN) Aircraft Carriers. The FAA moved on to jets and, as in the period before RAF control, was again an innovative Naval Air Arm, as the RN and FAA came up with Steam catapults, angled Flight Decks and the Mirror landing sight for Aircraft Carriers, all features rapidly adopted by the worlds leading Carrier operator, the USN. By the early 1960's the RN was, easily, the second Navy in the world in terms of Aircraft Carriers, with seven in Commission (although two were shortly converted to Helicopter Carriers). The RN knew they would have to eventually replace these ships and came up with the CVA design to do so. Finance, politics, and the RAF, soon took a hand. With the British economy in trouble (some things never seem to change) and the Labour party anxious to save money, the RAF was quick to say that the UK did not need expensive Aircraft Carriers, since land based, RAF aircraft, could cover everything for less money (does this argument sound recently familiar to anyone else)? To do so they drew maps for UK political types, one of which -allegedly- had Australia moved by 200 miles to 'improve' RAF aircraft range. The then Government fell for this line of nonsense; end of the new RN Carriers (and then proceeded to ditch the RAF's aircraft too, as they rapidly retired from 'East of Suez'). 'Aircraft Carrier' became dirty words in British Defence and the RN was reduced to designing relatively small 'Through Deck Cruisers' that eventually became the Invincible class ships we are rapidly scrapping today. In those days the RN was designed primarily as an anti-Submarine force to fight the Soviets. The Invincible's were to head anti-Submarine Task Groups with ASW Helicopters. Meanwhile the RAF knew their airfields in Germany would not last long in the face of a Soviet attack and the result was the STOVL Harrier that could be based away from major airfields. The RN was quick to see that these aircraft could operate from Invincible class ships against Soviet maritime recce aircraft, etc. The fixed wing FAA was, by the skin of its teeth, saved. Again the RN and FAA was innovative with the simple, yet effective 'Ski Jump'. The story of the Falklands War is too well known to be retold here, but it should be noted the operation was only possible, at all, because the RN had fixed wing FAA and two Carriers, the new HMS Invincible and, more importantly, the last of the larger old RN Carriers HMS Hermes. Against the odds, the FAA performed as well as they invariably have and overcame the, much larger, Argentine Air Force. But it was a close run thing: Simple lack of numbers of aircraft and, above all, lack of any Airborne Early Warning aircraft, led to sunken RN ships and many dead Servicemen. The RN took these lessons to heart.