• Hi Guest! Forum rules have been updated. All users please read here.

What if UK postponed the decomissioning of the Ark Royal class, would it change the outcome of the Falklands?

uk 75

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2006
Messages
3,222
Reaction score
2,013
This thread is containing some very useful reference material.
Two problems plague the RN during the period 1945-90 aside from the political and budgetary ones we all know too well.
Unlike the USN with its Essex and Midway class ships, only the 2 Audacious ships are large enough to cope with 60s jets.
Postwar emphasis on trade protection and ASW as main carrier roles suit the available Light Fleets. There is little incentive to build anything bigger.
After 1958 carriers are seen as only being necessary for "East of Suez" as war with the Soviet Union is assumed to be all out nuclear ending in weeks even days.
By the time NATO moves to "Flexible Response" the RN is faced with a choice between assets for a war in the North Atlantic against Soviet subs at which its ASW frigates and SSNs excel or carriers
The Naval Staff fail to persuade every Defence Secretary until Lord Carrington in 1970 of the need for carriers. Having taken on the nuclear deterrent role doesnt help.
So we have in 1966 the following:
a line up of ageing carriers unable to operate reasonable numbers of F4s and Bucs
a replacement design CVA01 which even its designer regards as flawed.
A different design for the new carrier has been suggested here. Such a design could have been built either in 1966 or 1970.
Snag is no such design was ever drawn up at the time. It is far from clear that Bath or Industry could have thought it up without knowing what we know now.
The Through Deck Command Cruiser of 1966 was intended purely to carry ASW Seakings and support the new T22 frigates in the North Atlantic.
Rather than Ark Royal being still around in 1982 (possible but fraught with risk) a greater miracle happened. The incompetent cash strapped 1970s UK in 1982 had two carriers with Sea Harriers and Sidewinders with a third nearly ready. That story from 1966 to 1982 involves some strange twists and is stranger than any what-if here.
 

NOMISYRRUC

ACCESS: Confidential
Joined
Sep 28, 2008
Messages
115
Reaction score
171
From what I've read and comprehend, the fixed wing assets of Ark Royal or Eagle would have equated to more bombs and rockets to be brought on target by Buccaneers and Phantom II's...but saying this, I've also heard that Buccaneers/Phantom II's wouldn't have been able to operate safely in the atrocious weather of the South Atlantic, where as the Sea Harrier could and did.
Probably most importantly would have been the Fairey Gannet AEW.3, providing critical AEW to the Task Force.

Regards
Pioneer
But if you can't operate Buccs and Phantoms due to the weather, are you going to be able to safely operate Gannets?
That's the make or break question.

My guess is that Gannets could be operated given that they had slower take-off and landing speeds than the jets and were designed when the requirement to be able to take-off without catapult assistance was still in force.

Whether they could be operated safely depends upon the definition of safely. It would have been unacceptably dangerous under peacetime conditions, but this was war and the safety requirements would probably be put after operational needs.

However, I the greater range of the Buccaneer & Phantom might allow Ark Royal & Eagle to choose their ground. That is operate in areas further away from the Falklands where the weather conditions were more favourable.

Does the larger size of the Audacious & CVA.01 classes make them better sea boats than Hermes & Invincible and enables them to operate fixed wing CTOL aircraft in conditions that Hermes couldn't when she was a "proper" aircraft carrier?
 

zen

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2007
Messages
2,373
Reaction score
1,091
Does the larger size of the Audacious & CVA.01 classes make them better sea boats than Hermes & Invincible and enables them to operate fixed wing CTOL aircraft in conditions that Hermes couldn't when she was a "proper" aircraft carrier?
Short version, yes.
Longer version, studies I'm dimly reccaling showed improvement above 50,000tons compared with carriers of 20,000tons.
 

Archibald

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
5,787
Reaction score
4,009
However, the Admiralty planners drafting the 1944-45 building programme should not be blamed for not doing so because it's unreasonable to expect them to be able to see that far into the future.

That's an understatement...
Consider the following list of naval fighters...
Curtiss F4C
Boeing F4B
Grumman F4F
Vought F4U
Douglas F4D
McDonnell F4H
Better not to pick the wrong letter for your F4 to fight the RNVAF over Vietnam...
 

aprc54

ACCESS: Restricted
Joined
Dec 5, 2020
Messages
2
Reaction score
6
This is believed to be the final RN Spey Engined P1154 proposed layout in February 1964.
Where did you find that?

I noticed that it had different dimensions to the other versions of the Spey powered P.1154 RN that I've found in books and on the internet. (e.g. https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/threads/hawker-siddeley-p-1154.5875/)

The dimensions of this version are:
60ft 6in (52ft 0in folded) Length​
33ft 0in (22ft 0in folded) Span​
300sqft Wing Area​
42.0 Degrees Sweepback​
17ft 2in Tread​
The dimensions of this version I was thinking of (on Pages 20 & 111 of Modern Combat Aircraft 13: Harrier by Bill Gunston) are:
58ft 6in (50ft 11in folded) Length​
36ft 0in (22ft 0in folded) Span​
350sqft Wing Area​
42.8 Degree Sweepback (the drawing isn't clear, it could be 42.6 degrees)​
16ft 2in Tread (the drawing didn't show the number of feet clearly)​
It's peculiar that the undercarriage tread is 1ft narrower in spite of the folded wingspan being the same.

These are the dimensions of the F-4B Phantom II from the Standard Aircraft Characteristics of 1st July 1967
58.2ft Length - It's nose didn't fold, but the F-4Ks did so it could fit the 54ft long lifts of British aircraft carriers.​
38.4ft (27.6ft folded) Span​
530sqft Wing Area​
45.0 Degrees Sweepback (25% chord)​
18.2ft Tread​
I thought a CTOL version of the P.1154 (without the thrust vectoring nozzles and a straight-through jet pipe) would have the wing roots at the bottom of the fuselage instead of the top which would allow a narrower undercarriage tread, which in turn would allow for a narrower folded wingspan. That's important because the hangars of contemporary British aircraft carriers were 62 to 65 feet wide. If it can be reduced to less than 20 feet (like the Buccaneer and Gannet) it would allow three-abreast stowage. I've measured your drawing and it looks like the tail plane is 14 feet wide which is half-a-foot short of the 13ft 6in which was the maximum allowed for four-abreast stowage on an Illustrious class aircraft carrier.
It was an eBay find about ten years ago from someone doing a clearance. There wasn't much interest in it and not many other aviation or naval items listed. Glad to be able to share the drawing and thankful for the context and additional information you have provided. Thank you.
 

Hood

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2006
Messages
2,257
Reaction score
2,118
I couldn't let that one go. It was a lot more than slightly bigger.

The Audacious class had a standard displacement of 36,800 tons which was double the 18,310 tons of the Centaur class. Both figures are the ships when they were laid down and are from Conway's 1922-46.

The installed horsepower 152,000shp driving 4 shafts is double 76,000ship driving 2 shafts. The aircraft capacity, fixed armament and crew of an Audacious were also about double what a Centaur had.

In terms of space and magazine depth yes, the Audacious wins. But the flight deck is only around 45ft longer and 24ft wider.
At the end, Eagle was carrying 30 fixed-wing aircraft (39 including helicopters in 1970), Hermes operated off the Falklands with 26 Harriers, she was capable of operating 37 fixed & rotary-wing at max capacity in CVS role, as she did off the Falklands. I grant the additional space would have been useful and Ark might have shoehorned a few more aircraft aboard but lets not kid ourselves that the Audacious-class were going to give Woodward a Nimitz to play around with.

If, as was planned, Sea Harrier had taken on the strike role from Buccaneer, there would have been little advantage in having Ark, in fact the lack of a ski jump would probably have reduced range further.

Actually, rummaging through my Kew files, it looks like Eagle may never have received the ability to carry Martel as Martel delays meant the work would be incomplete before her final Far East tour so to save refit costs it was omitted. Ark Royal was to have 78 Martels allocated.

By 1970 there was thought to adding the ability to carry three Harrier GR.1 as part of the Command Cruiser airgroup alongside nine Sea Kings. The Harriers were purely there for "light surface strike" and would have been allocated in the magazine space for: 40x 68mm SNEB pods, 1527 30mm ADEN rounds and 18x 1,000lb bombs. NSR.7097, the requirement for the Command Cruiser, then went on to say that 12x Martel (replacing 1,000lb bombs) and 16x Sidewinder/Taildog would be needed only if a Harrier Successor was carried. This must have been the start of thoughts of a V/STOL naval aircraft equipped with radar and missiles which became the Sea Harrier but its interesting to see even as the Harrier entered service a replacement was being looked at.
 

uk 75

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2006
Messages
3,222
Reaction score
2,013
Two distinct roles during the Falklands for the Air Group

Combat Air Patrols Phantoms with Gannet AEW ought in theory to give the ability to shoot down Argentine strike jets before they are over the landing sites (not sure if they could have caught the Etendards before they released their Exocets).
Airstrikes Not sure what difference having Bucs would have made. Could they have closed down Port Stanley airfield?
 

_Del_

I really should change my personal text... Or not.
Joined
Jan 4, 2012
Messages
648
Reaction score
435
It's all about money. While there were a few headscratching decisions, I'm not sure that they got it wrong in the main.
Two Centaurs might equal one Audacious, but the reality is the political will and subsequent funding, did not exist for large carriers as a strike fleet, particularly as the East of Suez requirements slowly faded.
Two Centaurs can also be two places at once, which the single carrier has yet to master the art of.
What did still exist was the Soviet sub threat, and to slightly lesser degree the AV-MF, and the reality that keeping sea lanes open was going to be a chore. The Tiger conversions, likewise, make more sense in this context.

Even the seemingly inexhaustible American ship building during WWII, didn't go all in on fleet carriers. They churned out over a hundred escort carriers, for exactly the "sea control" mission the RN found itself facing.

When the purse-strings tighten, the first things to go are the "nice to haves" to shore up the "needs". Force projection with Phantoms and Buccs was seen as a nice to have, while the GIUK Gap was potentially an existential threat. When the US has several super carriers with Phantoms, and later Tomcats, committed to Atlantic, and the RAF is promising long range strike (V-bombers, TSR-2, F-111's, etc) it's easy to see why the bean counters and politicians started considering trimming the carrier fleet.

While I find the idea of a CVA-01/02 fleet attractive, I think it's clear why RAF promises for force projection were more attractive in the competitive budgetary environment (though these later proved nearly as unfruitful!)
 

_Del_

I really should change my personal text... Or not.
Joined
Jan 4, 2012
Messages
648
Reaction score
435
Airstrikes Not sure what difference having Bucs would have made. Could they have closed down Port Stanley airfield?
Buccs give the option of more iron, more often. I don't know that it'd be easy for anyone to completely shut down a field without feet on the ground.
Also adds the potential to strike Tierra del Feugo and the mainland. Even pinprick strikes would complicate the Argentine defense problems, and the more Argentinean assets deployed to that effect are fewer available for offensive operations at/near the Falklands themselves.
 

EwenS

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Feb 20, 2010
Messages
209
Reaction score
335
Two distinct roles during the Falklands for the Air Group

Combat Air Patrols Phantoms with Gannet AEW ought in theory to give the ability to shoot down Argentine strike jets before they are over the landing sites (not sure if they could have caught the Etendards before they released their Exocets).
Airstrikes Not sure what difference having Bucs would have made. Could they have closed down Port Stanley airfield?
The Exocets were launched from 25-40 miles out from the target after a low level run in based on tracking information provided by Neptunes and Trackers, followed by a short pop up to acquire the targets on their own radars for final targeting.

In the case of the Sheffield strike the Neptune had to run in to 60 miles to give that steer to the Etendards.

With AEW in place and Phantoms on CAP it should have been possible to down the Neptunes/Trackers so making the Etendards job of target acquisition much harder in the first place.
 

NOMISYRRUC

ACCESS: Confidential
Joined
Sep 28, 2008
Messages
115
Reaction score
171
The UK does come up with an alternative to the 1154 in the form of the AFVG which is developed from the BAC P45.
Designed to operate from Hermes and Foch/Clemenceau this plane is also designed to replace Lightnings in the RAF.
Although a UK/French programme would have been easier without an F4 buy, a UK aircraft of this type was perfectly feasible.
It is essentially the Vickers 583 without lift jets.
I called it the Cutlass and in my alt 75 lineup it replaced Sea Vixens and Buccaneers in 1975. A version for the RAF would replace the Lightnings too. Of course my alt had RAF 1154s working (though more STOL than VSTOL, operating from motorways desert strips etc)
A fixed wing Cutlass would be similar to Jaguar/1154.
Is it called the Cutlass because the Type 583 was designed by what was Supermarine (hence it's numbering in the 500-599 block of design numbers) and Supermarine build the Scimitar?
 

Hood

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2006
Messages
2,257
Reaction score
2,118
Two distinct roles during the Falklands for the Air Group

Combat Air Patrols Phantoms with Gannet AEW ought in theory to give the ability to shoot down Argentine strike jets before they are over the landing sites (not sure if they could have caught the Etendards before they released their Exocets).
Airstrikes Not sure what difference having Bucs would have made. Could they have closed down Port Stanley airfield?
The Port Stanley airfield attracted 50% of all the air-dropped ordnance dropped during the entire campaign. Added to that was naval bombardment and ground artillery too. In contrast, only 28% of the weapons dropped were for counter-land operations.

An interesting thesis on the use of airpower during the Falklands War by John Shields can be found here:https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/en...ct(87ce55eb-38bf-4aa9-b2be-4821a518737b).html

Shields argues, not unreasonably, that the British became obsessed about knocking out Port Stanley airfield, just as the Argentines became obsessed by sinking the carriers.

Gannet should have been able to do the job, the APS-20 wasn't the greatest AEW asset in the world in 1982, but then the Neptunes on the other side were hardly cutting-edge technology either. I suspect had Ark Royal been present, there might have been a temptation to move her slightly further back out of harm's way than Hermes and Invincible were, which would have made the Etendards' job even harder.
 

zen

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2007
Messages
2,373
Reaction score
1,091
It's possible a Buccaneer raid with JP233 pods might have been attempted.
Considering what happened later in Iraq, this might have been a disaster. But if successful, this allows a shift to other targets.
 

Grey Havoc

The path not taken.
Senior Member
Joined
Oct 9, 2009
Messages
15,099
Reaction score
4,833
Considering what happened later in Iraq, this might have been a disaster.
Though if I remember correctly, that was down to the frankly insane insistence of the Coalition air planning staff that the RAF Tornadoes make their attack runs at medium rather than low altitude.
 

EwenS

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Feb 20, 2010
Messages
209
Reaction score
335
It's possible a Buccaneer raid with JP233 pods might have been attempted.
Considering what happened later in Iraq, this might have been a disaster. But if successful, this allows a shift to other targets.

How?

Problem 1. Although development started in 1977, the very first flight test was only at the end of Feb 1982. It wasn’t finally released to the RAF until 1985. While some remarkable things happened during the Falklands war to get new kit to the front line, I think that is several steps too far.

Problem 2. How are you going to manage to hang a 21ft long 5000+lb JP233 pod off a Buccaneer wing pylon designed for 1000lb?
 

Archibald

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
5,787
Reaction score
4,009
Considering what happened later in Iraq, this might have been a disaster.
Though if I remember correctly, that was down to the frankly insane insistence of the Coalition air planning staff that the RAF Tornadoes make their attack runs at medium rather than low altitude.

The French Jaguars didn't do any better. One pilot came back with a bullet in its helmet (!) and another one with a smoldering, burned engine, courtesy of a SA-7.

The Arabs in general were reputed for plentiful and ferocious Soviet build AAA: 23 mm guns, radar guided and infrared missiles aplenty.
Not sure the Argies had that much AAA firepower, I mean in volume.
How about mounting the JP233 in a Vulcan bomb bay ? can't be worse than what black Buck achieved... the more bomblets peppering the place, the best chance of damging the runway. One single bomb and one single crater wasn't enough, although PSYOPS wise, it worked quite well: drawing parts of the Mirage away, to air defense of the homeland...
 

PMN1

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 4, 2006
Messages
822
Reaction score
321
Considering what happened later in Iraq, this might have been a disaster.
Though if I remember correctly, that was down to the frankly insane insistence of the Coalition air planning staff that the RAF Tornadoes make their attack runs at medium rather than low altitude.

The French Jaguars didn't do any better. One pilot came back with a bullet in its helmet (!) and another one with a smoldering, burned engine, courtesy of a SA-7.

The Arabs in general were reputed for plentiful and ferocious Soviet build AAA: 23 mm guns, radar guided and infrared missiles aplenty.
Not sure the Argies had that much AAA firepower, I mean in volume.
How about mounting the JP233 in a Vulcan bomb bay ? can't be worse than what black Buck achieved... the more bomblets peppering the place, the best chance of damging the runway. One single bomb and one single crater wasn't enough, although PSYOPS wise, it worked quite well: drawing parts of the Mirage away, to air defense of the homeland...

Not sure about taking an aircraft the size of the Vulcan at low level across the runway with the amount of close in AA that was present.......
 

EwenS

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Feb 20, 2010
Messages
209
Reaction score
335
Considering what happened later in Iraq, this might have been a disaster.
Though if I remember correctly, that was down to the frankly insane insistence of the Coalition air planning staff that the RAF Tornadoes make their attack runs at medium rather than low altitude.
JP233 could only be deployed at low level, 160 ft was the target height. After the move to medium altitude the main weapon was the 1000lb bomb with or without the Paveway kit. Article here about JP233 in Gulf War 1.
 

EwenS

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Feb 20, 2010
Messages
209
Reaction score
335
Considering what happened later in Iraq, this might have been a disaster.
Though if I remember correctly, that was down to the frankly insane insistence of the Coalition air planning staff that the RAF Tornadoes make their attack runs at medium rather than low altitude.

The French Jaguars didn't do any better. One pilot came back with a bullet in its helmet (!) and another one with a smoldering, burned engine, courtesy of a SA-7.

The Arabs in general were reputed for plentiful and ferocious Soviet build AAA: 23 mm guns, radar guided and infrared missiles aplenty.
Not sure the Argies had that much AAA firepower, I mean in volume.
How about mounting the JP233 in a Vulcan bomb bay ? can't be worse than what black Buck achieved... the more bomblets peppering the place, the best chance of damging the runway. One single bomb and one single crater wasn't enough, although PSYOPS wise, it worked quite well: drawing parts of the Mirage away, to air defense of the homeland...

Not sure about taking an aircraft the size of the Vulcan at low level across the runway with the amount of close in AA that was present.......
The Vulcans bombed from 10,000ft.
 

Archibald

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
5,787
Reaction score
4,009
He was discussing JP233... which needs tree-top level flight for delivery. I suppose, no chance in hell JP233 could work correctfully or usefully from 10 000 feet ? would the bomblets crash or just scatter all over the Falklands ?
 

PMN1

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 4, 2006
Messages
822
Reaction score
321
He was discussing JP233... which needs tree-top level flight for delivery. I suppose, no chance in hell JP233 could work correctfully or usefully from 10 000 feet ? would the bomblets crash or just scatter all over the Falklands ?

Be interesting if they found a forgotten Tallboy or two hanging around........:)
 

zen

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2007
Messages
2,373
Reaction score
1,091
However another thought is that the Tornado SkyShadow Jammer pod did have it's innards crammed into a Harrier gun pod as Blue Eric.
But had thete been F4's and Buccaneers, then it'll it's likely the pod would be wired up on a pylon and used along with Shrike.
 

NOMISYRRUC

ACCESS: Confidential
Joined
Sep 28, 2008
Messages
115
Reaction score
171
If, as was planned, Sea Harrier had taken on the strike role from Buccaneer, there would have been little advantage in having Ark, in fact the lack of a ski jump would probably have reduced range further.
Have I interpreted this properly? Or am I having a blonde moment?

I think you're saying that had Ark Royal been kept in service beyond the end of 1978 her Buccaneer squadron would have been replaced with a squadron of Sea Harriers.

Is that correct?
 

Archibald

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
5,787
Reaction score
4,009
Now that's a whatif... Phantoms interceptors, Sea Harriers for strike ? Make some sense from a "supersonic" point of view: SHAR and Bucc were subsonic, but strike don't care, while interceptors needs to be supersonic (that was the dogma at least).
Of course range- and payload- wise, a SHAR is largely inferior to a Buccaneer, no miracle.
And of course the RN ended with a subsonic interceptor in the end...

I really like the idea of Centaur or Audacious air groups with Sea Harriers mixed with either Phantoms or Buccaneers...
 

NOMISYRRUC

ACCESS: Confidential
Joined
Sep 28, 2008
Messages
115
Reaction score
171
I really like the idea of Centaur or Audacious air groups with Sea Harriers mixed with either Phantoms or Buccaneers...
I don't.

The flight deck & hangar space a Sea Harrier consumes is not much less than a Buccaneer or a Phantom and it is a lot less capable. So why have Sea Harriers when you can have more Phantoms and/or Buccaneers?
  • A Sea Harrier FRS Mk 1 with its nose folded was 42ft 3in x 25ft 3in.
  • The folded dimensions of a Buccaneer were 51ft 10in x 19ft 11in.
  • The folded dimensions of a Phantom were 52ft 3in x 27ft 7in. (I've estimated the length by measuring the line drawing in Putnam's British Naval Aircraft since 1912).
 
Last edited:

Hood

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2006
Messages
2,257
Reaction score
2,118
If, as was planned, Sea Harrier had taken on the strike role from Buccaneer, there would have been little advantage in having Ark, in fact the lack of a ski jump would probably have reduced range further.
Have I interpreted this properly? Or am I having a blonde moment?

I think you're saying that had Ark Royal been kept in service beyond the end of 1978 her Buccaneer squadron would have been replaced with a squadron of Sea Harriers.

Is that correct?

Summary of a recent article here (Aeroplane Monthly, August 2020) based on research from official files.
https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/threads/rn-post-war-carrier-conundrums.10464/page-5#post-404750

The Phantoms and Buccaneers were scheduled for transfer to the RAF as far back as 1976, Gannet was rapidly running out of life and long-term support was not there for the airframe and possibly not the engines either.
The whole plan under the 1975 Defence Review was to shift naval strike and AEW to shore-based operation by the RAF. There was a serious shortage of aircrews, which is why 809 NAS was disbanded.

Operating Sea Harrier alongside the Phantom was considered as the best compromise choice, strike here being an FRS.1 lugging a WE.177 around or using Matra rockets to sieve some smaller ships. The only fear the Admiralty had was that the Treasury or MoD might look at using two fighters side-by-side as wasteful and axe the Sea Harrier, thereby killing any chance of fixed-wing aboard the Invincibles and therefore dooming any future RN fixed-wing when Ark Royal had to go to the scrapman - which was inevitable and not that far off.

In January 1978 it was clear the manpower and support effects on the rest of the fleet made continuing Ark Royal even to 1980 nonsensical. Running Ark Royal until 1984 would mean she would only be operational for 7 months between November 1978 and the end of a refit in early 1981. The refit would consume 50,000 man/weeks of effort, enough to refit two Counties and six frigates!

Everyone thinks the Nott Report came out of thin air, it did not, there were serious manpower and materiel problems within the RN from the mid-1970s onwards. Had Invincible been completed on schedule then there is no question Ark Royal would have been retired without any of the subsequent planning and hand-wringing whether to save her for a few more years.

This is why I feel these kind of 'Ark at Falklands' scenarios are unrealistic even for AH, you need to change a lot of historical decisions, probably as far back as 1964-66 when the Phantom and Bucc orders were cut (and when RAF strike was crippled and hobbled by TSR/AFVG/F111K debacle). Having Ark Royal without Buccaneer and Gannet makes her no more valuable at all, the fact is that the Carrier Force was not designed to operate beyond UK/NATO spheres of operation beyond shore-based air support. It was a stupid decision but one that once made was irreversible until the Falklands showed the fallacy of that.
 

JFC Fuller

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2012
Messages
2,543
Reaction score
1,044
Summary of a recent article here (Aeroplane Monthly, August 2020) based on research from official files.
https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/threads/rn-post-war-carrier-conundrums.10464/page-5#post-404750

The Phantoms and Buccaneers were scheduled for transfer to the RAF as far back as 1976, Gannet was rapidly running out of life and long-term support was not there for the airframe and possibly not the engines either.
The whole plan under the 1975 Defence Review was to shift naval strike and AEW to shore-based operation by the RAF.

It was the 1968 review that outlined an RAF force of six Buccaneer squadrons (as implemented this included an OCU shadow squadron) with three assigned to SACLANT and three to SACEUR, this was captured under Plan R. The original plan, predicated on the retirement of Ark Royal in 1972, was for this force to be in place by 1973. The retention of Ark Royal following the Conservative victory in the 1970 election postponed the formation of the sixth squadron until she was decommissioned. That squadron, No.216, famously lasting barely a year before being merged with No.12 as a result of the well documented Buccaneer fatigue problems.

The role the SACLANT assigned squadrons undertook was called Tactical Air Support of Maritime Operations (TASMO) and relied on Maritime Radar Reconnaissance (MRR) for target location ahead of a surface strike, initially Victor B.2(SR) followed by Vulcan B.2MRR with the capability intended to be rolled into the Nimrod AEW.3. The Air Defence component, ultimately consisting of two Phantom squadrons (the second arriving once Ark Royal had been decommissioned), was called AD-TASMO. The whole thing relied on tanker support and various forward operating bases to deliver the required range/endurance. TASMO in operation is described in two articles in the Royal Air Force Historical Society Journal, Vol.33, strike starting on pg.103 and air defence on pg.116.

In order to replace the capability provided to SACLANT by the RN's big carriers it was apparently deemed necessary for the RAF to provide no less than five fighter and strike squadrons with a dedicated Maritime Radar Reconnaissance capability, tanker support and AEW. That reinforces the point that the big carriers had, contrary to most of the political debate from the late 1950s through to the late 1960s and subsequent written history, a very significant role in countering the Soviet Union West of Suez up into the Norwegian Sea and were anything but an East of Suez only capability.
 
Last edited:

zen

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2007
Messages
2,373
Reaction score
1,091
Summary of a recent article here (Aeroplane Monthly, August 2020) based on research from official files.
https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/threads/rn-post-war-carrier-conundrums.10464/page-5#post-404750

The Phantoms and Buccaneers were scheduled for transfer to the RAF as far back as 1976, Gannet was rapidly running out of life and long-term support was not there for the airframe and possibly not the engines either.
The whole plan under the 1975 Defence Review was to shift naval strike and AEW to shore-based operation by the RAF. There was a serious shortage of aircrews, which is why 809 NAS was disbanded.

It was the 1968 review that outlined an RAF force of six Buccaneer squadrons (as implemented this included an OCU shadow squadron) with three assigned to SACLANT and three to SACEUR, this was captured under Plan R. The original plan, predicated on the retirement of Ark Royal in 1972, was for this force to be in place by 1973, the retention of Ark Royal following the Conservative victory in the 1970 election postponed the formation of the sixth squadron until she was decommissioned. That squadron, No.216, famously lasting barely a year before being merged with No.12 as a result of the well documented Buccaneer fatigue problems.

The role the SACLANT assigned squadrons undertook was called Tactical Air Support of Maritime Operations (TASMO) and relied on Maritime Radar Reconnaissance for target location, initially Victor B.2(SR) followed by Vulcan B.2MRR with the capability intended to be rolled into the Nimrod AEW.3. The Air Defence component, ultimately consisting of two Phantom Squadrons (the second arriving once Ark Royal had been retired), was called AD-TASMO. The whole thing relied on tanker support and various forward operating bases to deliver the required range/endurance. TASMO in operation is described in two articles in the Royal Air Force Historical Society Journal, Vol.33, strike starting on pg.103 and air defence on pg.116.

In order to replace the capability provided by the RN's big carriers to SACLANT it was apparently deemed necessary for the RAF to provide no less than five fighter and strike squadrons with a dedicated Maritime Radar Reconnaissance capability, tanker support and AEW. That reinforces the point that the big carriers had, contrary to most of the political debate from the late 1950s through to the late 1960s and subsequent written history, a very significant role in countering the Soviet Union West of Suez and were anything but an East of Suez only capability.
It's intriguing to note how much this RAF force must have cost. All fixed in basing.....
But it does put a different light on the alternative option of keeping a carrier force.
 
Top