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Royal Air Force strike aircraft squadrons in the late 60s: plans versus reality

JFC Fuller

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A much better idea is you contributing something to an excellent author by purchasing his book. All three reasons I mentioned came from it.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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Get a room, you two. ::) Better yet, have your argument via Facebook or something.


Must every topic end up in a running battle between you and get locked?


I will be considering next actions.
 

J.A.W.

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Fair enough comment Paul, I will do my bit to not repeat the 'Brer Rabbit - Tar baby' routine..
 

uk 75

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Abraham

Sorry not to thank you for your points on the RN budget and capabilities point way back.

I was assuming that the CVA 01 would have been like the DeGaulle in France or the current CVF-shoehorned into the existing budget as planned until 1966. I stand by my point that in that case the RN would have emerged like the French Navy or the current RN.

I agree I overstated the case for SSNs somewhat. But I recall speaking to some senior ex RN Hunter Killer captains in the late 80s at a drinks do and they were in no doubt about what their vessels could do to a carrier given the chance. As I understand it in the South Atlantic CVA 01 would have found it quite difficult to fly off and land Phantoms and Bucs. She would also have been a large target.
 

Abraham Gubler

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uk 75 said:
But I recall speaking to some senior ex RN Hunter Killer captains in the late 80s at a drinks do and they were in no doubt about what their vessels could do to a carrier given the chance.
Remember OUR submarines don’t go after OUR carriers. Well at least in theory.

Also the idea that submarines can wipe out carriers based on the frequent publishing of periscope photos and lots of boasts from the submariners does not necessarily make it so. There are two key factors that are usually not in play during peacetime exercises. Live warshots and freedom of manoeuvre.

That is in war time the ASW force will drop lots of live torpedoes into the water on any possible hint of a target. This can’t be replicated in peacetime training: all those live torpedoes zinging around underwater. From memory the RN dropped over a hundred LWTs during the Falklands Campaign. Killed a lot of whales and kelp blooms but would have made it very, very hard for any Argentine submarine if one had tried to make an approach on the task force.

The second element is the freedom of manoeuvre. A carrier task force can easily disarm the threat of conventional submarine attack by deciding where it can sail and staying out in deep water. Requiring a conventional submarine to make a long and difficult approach to try and get in an attack position.

uk 75 said:
As I understand it in the South Atlantic CVA 01 would have found it quite difficult to fly off and land Phantoms and Bucs.
I very much doubt it. The Argentineans had trouble launching their carrier strike because they had a large WOD requirement. The RN did not put aircraft to sea on carriers that could not be launched with more than the WOD the ship could generate itself. The CVA-01’s slightly angled flight deck was also excellent for recovery in pitching deck situations because the arrestor gear was very close to the CG of the ship meaning there was little vertical movement when pitching. Which is what leads to large numbers of bolters during pitching deck recovery.

uk 75 said:
She would also have been a large target.
Mike Tyson is a large target but it’s pretty hard to get close enough to hit him and still stay conscious.
 

JFC Fuller

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NATO was able to frequently put SSN's directly underneath major Soviet surface units without detection. It does not mean that actually sinking such units in a conflict would be easy, but it was possible and certainly in the RN the SSNs were key anti-surface assets.

CVA-01 was an East of Suez vessel, she was a product of Mountbatten's rest of world role constructed to prevent Sandys from killing the carrier fleet in 1956-9. Of course Sandys was absolutely right, British carriers absorbed an enormous amount of resources yet generated little actual force and they did so (as came to be accepted as economic reality forced greater realism in the 60s) mostly in parts of the world that were a distraction from Britain's primary security concern which was the USSR in Europe and the North Atlantic.

As I pointed out in another thread, CVA-01 would have required the same manpower as the entire Invincible class- that gives you some rough indication of the gigantic resource black hole the ship would have been had it actually been built. And recall that even without it the RN was forced into some rather budget solutions for other surface ships such as the T42s. The gas turbine powered STOVL CVS (Invincible class as built) was a far more appropriate solution.
 

pathology_doc

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However, IF you believe a fixed-wing capability at sea is necessary (and for the Royal Navy's Cold War mission in the Atlantic I believe it was), then unless you have Sea Harrier or its functional equivalent, an Invincible-class carrier simply won't cut it. You certainly cannot operate Phantoms off an Invincible. You might operate the Skyhawk or some sort of navalised and upgraded Folland Gnat from something the size of Hermes, but would that have done the job against the USSR?


A sea-capable Harrier (and let's face it; the RAF's Harriers adapted well) and the Invincibles were a natural match to each other, especially when the fighter finally got radar-guided BVR missiles. Without it, flat-tops of that size would've been just what the cover story said they were - guided-missile air-defence cruisers with a very large capacity for operating ASW helicopters, much like the Terrier ships the Italians built except with a straight through deck and not bristling with gun armament alongside the missiles. Hence the need - THEN - to build CVA-01.

If you accept an absolute dependence on US carrier assets, having nothing more than ASW air assets is fine... but I suspect that in a shooting war against the USSR, the US carriers would have been such high-value targets that their entire capability might very quickly have been diverted to their own protection. And that might have left the British in a very bad position, with the one saving grace that the Invincibles at least had an area air defence capability of their own and could supplement the Sheffields and the Bristol.
 

JFC Fuller

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For their entire Cold War careers the Invincible air wing was 5-9 Sea Harrier FRS.1s and a similar number of ASW Sea Kings plus 3 in AEW format. The F/A-2 did not enter service until 1993. The FRS.1s were primarily tasked with relatively close air defence and anti-shipping operations.

I used CVS for a reason, thats what they were- closer to how the Australians used Melbourne and the USN the Essex class after they were transitioned into the ASW role.
 
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