1924, Royal Navy given control over aviation, with coastal strike focus.

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Admiral Beez

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Oct 21, 2019
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The Fleet Air Arm was formed in 1924, but its aircraft procurement was controlled by the RAF. Here's my two What Ifs:

First. The Royal Navy maintains control over its aviation, including aircraft design, procurement (and funding), plus recruitment and training of aircrew and maintenance/handling personnel.
Second. The Admiralty is impressed with the Tondern Raid and Billy" Mitchell's sinking of the Ostfriesland in 1921, and instructs the RN and FAA to keep land-based fighter opposed coastal strikes top of mind when planning CV and aircraft design and strategy.

Of course the RN carrier fleet must still prepare for blue ocean TSR ops, but it's no longer seen solely as an escort for the battlefleet. But throughout the 1920s and early 30s the FAA has been focused on fighters and strike aircraft that can mix with the best land based fighters in Europe. By 1936 it is clear that both the German and Italy fleets are expanding. The Admiralty calls in its aviation leadership and asks, after twelve years of planning and preparation, can we send a fighter-escorted strike to sink the Germany or Italian fleets in their ports?

My hope is that by Sept 1939 the FAA is equipped with a fighter both sufficiently ranged and competitive to the Bf 109 and Macchi C.200, plus DB and TB strike aircraft capable of expeditiously reaching the enemy's ports.

The FAA and its suppliers are still limited by the aero engines of the day, and in the give and take nature of government finance, resources and attention, something is going to have to give at the RAF if the FAA wants a sizeable training scheme and aircraft pipeline throughout the 1930s.
 
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I think two things would have to give --

1) Parliament -- would have to give money specifically earmarked for expanding FAA.

2) Admiralty -- would have to give further importance to air action in their doctrine.
 
I think two things would have to give --

1) Parliament -- would have to give money specifically earmarked for expanding FAA.

2) Admiralty -- would have to give further importance to air action in their doctrine.
Considering that the RN was requesting moneys for carriers, I don't think the second was a problem. The first would be the real problem, especially if Parliament was convinced that "unity of air power" was actually going to save money without loss of effectiveness, instead of being a quasi-religious belief.

I think a couple of hardware limitations would help this scenario: the RN keeps embarked catapult floatplanes and carrier aircraft only; it doesn't get land-based aircraft.
 
I think a couple of hardware limitations would help this scenario: the RN keeps embarked catapult floatplanes and carrier aircraft only; it doesn't get land-based aircraft.
In other words the eventual 1937 Inskip solution finally implemented in May 1939.
 
the two to have minimal possible overlap in operations.
That's where I'm hoping we get to. By 1937 the Royal Navy had six active carriers plus five others under construction and more planned. A fleet that size needs more than a thousand aircrew, mechanics and handlers in training and rotation, plus hundreds of aircraft in active service, maintenance, design/development and production. It's a big operation deserving of dedicated assets.

Presumably HMS Argus and perhaps Hermes and Eagle were intended to move into training or storage once HMS Ark Royal and the four Illustrious class enter service. But by 1936 it will be clear that all the carriers are needed.

Given the mission of coastal strike, we're unlikely to see the triumvirate of Swordfish, Skua and Fulmar. Nor, if there's a hard separation from the RAF do we see the Seafire or Sea Hurricane. Instead, I'd expect by Sept. 1939 the fleet has a bespoke single seat, retractable undercarriage monoplane fighter, likely cannon armed, along with monoplane strike aircraft akin to the TBD, SBD, Val and Kate.

Something like Fairey's proposal below for a Fairey Felix powered fighter to meet F.20/27 may work. Though the best carrier fighters are piston powered.

40507-5f5edeab21519d5b754637f7c1154286.jpg
 
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There's a hard separation between the USAF and USN flight ops, but both branches shared several models of aircraft.
If the FAA's single seat, retractable undercarriage, monoplane fighter garners some RAF interest I'm sure Messrs. Fairey would sell them some.

Douglas and Curtiss were happy enough to flog their SBD and SB2C as the A-24 and A-25 to the USAAF, the precursor of the USAF. And of course the USAF should be forever grateful for the USN's MD Phantom II. But unlike in the RAF to FAA examples (Seafire, Sea Hurricane, Sea Fury, Sea Hawk, SHAR, etc.), I don't think there are many examples of the USN taking USAAF designs.
 
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[...] I don't think there are many examples of the USN taking USAAF designs.

That only makes sense, given that beefing the planes up for carrier ops would have a definite negative impact on the airplane's performance. The AAC/AAF designs the Navy did use were generally shore-based patrol (PBJ, PB4Y-1, probably a couple others I'm missing) and not carrier planes.
 
If the FAA's single seat, retractable undercarriage, monoplane fighter garners some RAF interest I'm sure Messrs. Fairey would sell them some.

Douglas and Curtiss were happy enough to flog their SBD and SB2C as the A-24 and A-25 to the USAAF, the precursor of the USAF. And of course the USAF should be forever grateful for the USN's MD Phantom II. But unlike in the RAF to FAA examples (Seafire, Sea Hurricane, Sea Fury, Sea Hawk, SHAR, etc.), I don't think there are many examples of the USN taking USAAF designs.
But that was wartime when the USAAF wanted every aircraft it could get for roles it thought it should get involved in, like dive bombing. And they had a big fight about who should be responsible for anti-submarine warfare that took some time to resolve to everyone's satisfaction. Even acceptance of the F4 was virtually forced on the USAF by McNamarra wanting standardisation across both services and the impact of the Vietnam War.

Pre-war the USN confined itself to carrier aircraft, spotter aircraft for battleships and cruisers and flying boats for patrol and bombing missions against enemy ships. These were all roles the USAAF had no of aircraft for.
 
USAAF ferry flights of P-40 and 47's aside, it's not that someone didn't think it was worth trying..... likely someone in the dept of accounting and standardization at the Pentagon.

View attachment 673777 View attachment 673778

Right, it was looked at. Folding wings and beefier structure, especially for the fighters, was probably the kibosh for that.
 
Looking at something in 1944/45 was a lot different than looking at something 1937-39.

A fighter that landed like a P-51 would never have been accepted pre-war. They wanted the TBF to land back aboard the carrier with the torpedo still onboard at 70kts.

In 1944/45 they would accept a higher number of landing accidents than they would pre-war. Production of aircraft was higher and would cover some of the attrition rate.
In peace time a high attrition rate meant you sometimes operated short of aircraft (or restricted operations) until you could get new aircraft ordered and delivered.

This account of the B-25H in the photo says it was in support of ferry operations.

#3 November 15, 1944 - CV-38 U.S.S. Shangri La: Late in the war, it had become common to load aircraft aboard carriers to transport to combat areas. At their destination, the aircraft were unloaded by crane. This cannot be accomplished in all situations due to limitations with cranes as well as suitable runways close to ports. Catapult launching seemed the solution to the problem. Many aircraft were tested for both carrier landings and catapult launching. The B-25 was no exception. B-25H-5-NA SN 43-4700 BuNo 35277 was modified for carrier landing and catapult launching trials at sea. The aircraft was structurally modified at the Kansas City modification center and the gear was installed at the Naval Air Material Center in Philadelphia. The tailhook was modified from a Douglas SBD. On November 15, 1944, Lieutenant Commander Bottomley made the first carrier landing in a B-25 bomber. The aircraft was inspected, taxied to the catapult position and launched. The B-25 again landed, was inspected, and launched again for the flight back to Norfolk. Although successful, American gains in the Pacific negated the necessity for a carrier based variant of the B-25.

from B-25 History Project
 
If we follow the OP timeline, possibly the Griffon (or some other engine of appropriate power) would have received higher priority and/or not have been put on the back burner as it was historically. Maybe?

That could have significantly effects re the decisions on aircraft design and procurement for the FAA.
 
If we follow the OP timeline, possibly the Griffon would have received higher priority
That's right, it was a FAA project initially. The idea of an all-metal, wide track undercarriage, folding wing, long range single seat fighter entering service in 1939 with the Griffon's power does sound exciting. Something like an early Seafang with a Mustang's fuel load.

I'd love to see what WE Petter could have done if given the spec. Whirlwind, Canberra, Lightning and Gnat. He made some great aircraft. Though his sole project of a single seat carrier fighter, the Wyvern did lack the Whirlwind's pretty lines.

What about an earlier introduction of jet fighters to the fleet?
 
What about an earlier introduction of jet fighters to the fleet?

we are really pushing the operational envelop here.
I am assuming you want RN jets in WWII and not at the tail end of the Korean war?

A few notes from Wiki on the Hawker Sea Hawk and trials from 1949.

"On 31 August 1948, a naval prototype, VP413, equipped with folding wings, catapult spools and armament, conducted its first flight. VP413 was quickly subjected to a series of deck assessment trials using a mock-up deck at Boscombe Down.[9] In April 1949, VP413 was transferred to the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious to conduct general deck and handling trials at sea. These trials revealed the need for the wing span to be increased by 30 inches, the low-speed handling of the prototype having been found to be lacking.[9] In November 1949, VP413 returned to Illustrious, performing around 25 deck landings without issue"

Now the last part may be subject to question as the next passage mentions some earlier troubles.

"On 17 October 1949, the third prototype, VP422, made its maiden flight.[9] Being representative of the production aircraft, VP422 incorporated a number of modifications as a result of experience gained from trials with the second prototype, these alterations included the fitting of a longer arrester hook when a number of "bolters" were experienced during the early dummy deck trials.[9] After the longer hook was incorporated, this modification was carried though the remaining production runs.[12] Other changes included the addition of fixtures for rocket-assisted take-off gear (RATOG) and hard points plumbed for external drop tanks. On 22 November 1949, Hawker received an initial production contract for 151 aircraft named Sea Hawk"

Now perhaps the increased span of VP413 lowered the landing speed and reduced the the chances of a "bolter" compared to the earlier dummy deck trials or perhaps the speed over the flight deck compared to a shore landing strip helped. Or perhaps was more practice?
In any case the longer arresting hook was used on production machines and they were fitted with RATOG

for benchmarks we have

The Sea Hawk used a 5200lb thrust engine and had a 278sq ft wing and had a wing loading of 48lb/sq/ft at about 13,220lbs gross (clean)

The Sea Vampire first flown on 15 October 1948, although a trials machine had taken off and landed on a carrier in 1945. Take off of the Sea Vampire 20 was "unpleasantly sluggish" with a 3000lb thrust engine when a catapult was not used.

Nobody says you have to use four 20mm cannon in an early jet (1939-42?) which lighten things up considerably. But you do need an airplane that could take-off and land on a carrier using even a some what speeded up jet engine (development wise) or what is the point? You can't go too light and depend on low wing loading or you wind up with a plane that while it has a jet engine isn't any faster than a piston plane. The British (or anybody else) don't have a working (flyable) 2000lb thrust jet engine in 1943. Chances of getting one in 1940 are?????

so sketch out the jet.

8 .303 guns or two 20mm cannon?
Enough fuel to stay in the air for over an hour? Which for an early 2000lb thrust jet could mean over 2000lbs of fuel.
Landing speed of??????????
ability to go around again if the arresting hook doesn't snag a wire or is the plane going on the drink?
Ability to take-off without catapult?

Some of this stuff is interdependent. Bigger wing means lower landing speed and may allow the "bolter" to mush around waiting for the engine to spool up. Less need for the catapult.
But the plane is slower in speed and slower in climb.

Weight of armament and fuel ?
 
In order to get a jet powered aircraft in service earlier, the Air Ministry (or FAA in our scenario) would have to invest money and personnel in Whittle's design when he first approached them in the 1936. I do not think the conditions in the OP would allow any earlier timeline diversion. What was the development period for the first operational jet based on the Whittle design? This is the general development timeline for the British:

1936 Power Jets Ltd is formed.

mid-1938 Air Ministry takes serious notice.

1940 Air Ministry begins pushing for development.

May 1941 Gloster E.28/39 files for the first time.

mid-1941 Air Ministry issues first contracts to Rover for long lead items needed for production of Whittle's engine.

November 1941 Air Ministry/British Government forms the Gas Turbine Collaboration Committee.

mid-1942 High temp alloys become available, allowing the Whittle engine to produce enough thrust to be useful.

early-1943 Jet engine development given "highest priority" by Air Ministry.

March 1943 Meteor flies for the first time, powered by the De Havilland Goblin jet engine (developed from the Whittle design supplied to them in September 1941)

June 1943 Meteor flies powered by theRover-built Welland (a development of the Whittle).

May 1944 First production Welland engines are delivered.

July 1944 First operations flown by Meteor equipped squadrons.

In real life the Air Ministry did not take any interest in development until mid-1938, so I would suggest the independent FAA would not be able to shorten the development time more than ~2 years, by having the Air Ministry jump on board in 1936. I doubt that you could shorten the rest of the development timeline more than another ~1 year. So maybe an operational airframe could begin entering service in mid-1941?

Of course this all begs the question of what a jet powered carried based aircraft would look like. :-k hmmm . .

For more detail on the early development of jet engines by the UK, US, and Germany see
 

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Going back to the 1920s, it wasn't too hard for an airforce and carrier aviation to use essentially the same aircraft. One example is the Boeing F4B/P-12. Obviously, this changed in the 1930s.
 
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Going back to the 1920s, it wasn't too hard for an airforce and carrier aviation to use essentially the same aircraft.
Interestingly, the 1920s was one of the few times the Royal Navy had a bespoke single seat fighter not based on a RAF design, in the Fairey Flycatcher.

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After that it's not until the postwar Firebrand that we see another single seat fighter designed from the start for the FAA.

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By Aug 1945 Britain had sixty-five aircraft carriers in service (not including ten carriers sunk), mostly CVEs of course, fielding hundreds of aircraft, but with every single seat fighter being either a RAF type or borrowed from the USA. I want to change this on single seat fighters, plus get better strike aircraft.
 
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