1939-1942 FAA: Better aircraft or more aircraft?

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Admiral Beez

Captain
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Oct 21, 2019
Toronto, Canada
Given the choice, what would have benefited the Royal Navy and the FAA, better aircraft or more of its existing aircraft (and more aircrew and fitters, naturally)? My vote is for more. Send out every carrier with a full or even over-spec CAG. Though it's still slow Fulmars trying to get to altitude and position to intercept Axis bombers over the Med.

Edit: I'd better defend the premise before we get pedantically taken off track. Often times RN carriers DID sail with full spec hangars. They weren't all like HMS Glorious on her fatal special mission with all of five Swordfish and nine Sea Gladiators, or HMS Hermes off Ceylon with no embarked aircraft whatsoever. So, my question is more about, forgoing the official specified CAG, would more aircraft (through either more crowded hangars or deck parking with outriggers and crash barriers, along with need for an expanded avgas/support fleet train) or fewer yet better aircraft be more beneficial?
 
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Over the years, from comments and discussions on several boards, I have gained the impression that the RN planned its carriers around the air group sizes that they felt they could get aircraft for, and not air group sizes planned around what the carriers were designed for.

The consensus goes like this: "the RN could have designed their carriers to carry more aircraft... and could have built the allowed replacements for Argus, Hermes, Eagle, and Furious (all of these were listed in the 1922 WNT as "experimental, can be replaced at any time") to carry more aircraft (picture more Ark Royal 91s instead of Illustrious types), but the Ministry of Supply (or the RAF) would not have allocated them any more production slots to increase their aircraft numbers, so the new carriers would only have half-strength air groups, and the government would then use that to deny more carrier capacity as being "wasteful"".

The contrary position - that aircraft numbers would not have been allowed to increase unless there was existing (or under construction) carrier capacity to use the increased numbers - has been rejected by that "discussion forum consensus" in favor of the above position.


Assuming that it really was aircraft numbers that was the pre-war constraint on the RN's carrier force, then increasing aircraft numbers starting around 1935 would be the best choice - as that would give the RN more leverage to get more carriers authorized sooner.


Personally, with the understanding of governmental (emphasize the "mental" part) processes I have gathered in my 61 years of life, my belief is that BOTH positions are correct - the MOS would not authorize more aircraft without the carrier capacity to use it, AND the MOD would not authorize more carrier capacity without the aircraft to fill them!

Only the imminent probability of active war (due to German actions in Austria and Czechoslovakia) got the government to authorize both more carrier capacity AND more aircraft at the same time.
 
Actually, I think the bigger problem lay in a lack of coherent doctrine for the use of aircraft carriers that was tied to the UK's strategic interests.

The way to justify BOTH bigger aircraft carriers AND more aircraft for the FAA was to develop use cases to demonstrate the importance and value of a larger maritime-based air capability. Unfortunately, the RN still seemed wedded to battleships as the main means of force projection, with carriers only playing a supporting role.

Now, it may be that I'm hoping for a degree of crystal ball gazing that was impossible in the early/mid 1930s However, doctrine drives capability before there's any discussion of force numbers.
 
There's also the effect of the naval treaties. Even if the RN had gazed into the crystal ball and seen that carriers were to take over the title of kingmaker of naval power projection from battleships, there was no way that 135000 tons (5 ships) would be anywhere near sufficient for an empire with global commitments.

Also, the 27000 ton limit meant they had to choose between a large air group size (like IJN and USN) and survivability (armored flight deck etc.). For various reasons they chose the latter.
 
There's also the effect of the naval treaties.
The treaties play no role in this thread. We're not looking at changing the RN's carriers, just their number or quality of aircraft.

For the Nov 1940 attack on the Italian port of Taranto, a total of twenty Fairey Swordfish were launched from HMS Illustrious, of which five were transferred from the broken down HMS Eagle. But Illustrious was designed to carry thirty-six aircraft herself, so unless some embarked Swordfish were excluded from the raid or she was fighter-heavy, Illustrious' CAG was clearly under strength. The size of the carrier is not relevant if the hangar, magazines, fuel tanks and stores are not over-utilized.

This is the question of this thread, is Britain better off with more of their existing aircraft, or historically-equal numbers of better aircraft? For example, were HMS Illustrious and Formidable crippled by Stukas in 1941 because their Fulmars were too few, or too slow?
 
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The treaties play no role in this thread. We're not looking at changing the RN's carriers, just their number or quality of aircraft.

For the Nov 1940 attack on the Italian port of Taranto, a total of twenty Fairey Swordfish were launched from HMS Illustrious, of which five were transferred from the broken down HMS Eagle. But Illustrious was designed to carry thirty-six aircraft herself, so unless some embarked Swordfish were excluded from the raid or she was fighter-heavy, Illustrious' CAG was clearly under strength. The size of the carrier is not relevant if the hangar, magazines, fuel tanks and stores are not over-utilized.

This is the question of this thread, is Britain better off with more of their existing aircraft, or historically-equal numbers of better aircraft? For example, were HMS Illustrious and Formidable crippled by Stukas in 1941 because their Fulmars were too few, or too slow?
The air group on Illustrious for Taranto was NOT understrength. She was in fact carrying a deck park for that operation.

Illustrious' air group was designed around a hangar capacity of 36 Skua / Swordfish sized aircraft. The adoption of the Fulmar as the fleet fighter, which was about 4ft longer than either type, dropped that hangar capacity to 33.

Her own air group for Taranto comprised 15 Fulmar Mk.I of 806 squadron and 18 Swordfish divided equally between 815 & 819 squadrons. As Eagle was not available, Illustrious left Alexandria for Operation Judgement carrying 4 Swordfish and 2 Sea Gladiators from Eagle's 813 squadron and another 2 Swordfish from Eagle's 824 squadron in addition to her own air group. Total air group 41 aircraft (15 Fulmar, 2 Sea Gladiators & 24 Swordfish). The Sea Gladiators could not be struck down into the hangar, being too large for the lifts, and were parked aft of the island when not airborne.

En route she lost 3 Swordfish flying anti-sub patrols due to suspected water contamination of her petrol supply. That left the 21 Swordfish that took part in the strike. All the aircraft had to have their fuel systems purged and then refilled with filtered petrol.

Due to the long round down aft, and need for the Swordfish to carry overload fuel tanks, Illustrious could only range 12 Swordfish for the first wave (6 torpedo armed, 4 with 6x250lb bombs & 2 with flares & 4x250lb bombs). The second wave of 9 aircraft was to launch about an hour later (5 torpedo armed, 2 with 6x250lb bombs & 2 with flares and 4x250lb bombs). One of the second wave pure bombers had an accident on deck and was 24 mins late taking off. The other pure bomber in the second wave had to return early after it lost its underfuselage additional fuel tank. That left 20 to actually strike Taranto.
 
The treaties play no role in this thread. We're not looking at changing the RN's carriers, just their number or quality of aircraft.
I meant the above as a comment on the previous discussion in this thread, not as an answer to the original question that started the entire thread. Sorry for the confusion.
 
Part of the problem is what 'better' aircraft could have or would have been available.

The Wildcat with folding wings was not available until mid-1941(?) at the earliest.

That leaves the SeaHurricane and/or Seafire. With folding wings both of the airframes had a smaller footprint than Swordfish, so at least 18x fighters & 18x Swordfish in the hangar. That puts us back up to the 36x aircraft originally intended for the Illustrious class. Outriggers could allow another 4-5x fighters without a USN style permanent deck park.

What the increase in air group size in the other RN carriers would be I do not know.

A significant problem with the Seafire & SeaHurricane would be the endurance for CAP operations and range for escort missions. In comparison to the Fulmar, with only internal fuel the Seafire had about 1/2 and the SeaHurricane about 2/3 the time aloft before having to land and refuel. This would greatly increase the problems with more deck operations and the carrier having to manage WOD.

When the Merlin XX and 45 powered variants became available the ability to carry DTs would allow the single-seaters to just about match the Fulmar's endurance - maybe even exceed the Fulmar's endurance for CAP ops in some situations due to the ability to carry large DTs. The Hurricane Mk II with 90 Impgal ferry tanks performed rolling take-offs from the carriers when reinforcing Malta, and the SeaHurricane Mk II was tested with 2x 90 Impgal DTs and was cleared for rolling TO from the carrier decks without any undue problems. The SeaHurricane Mk II was cleared for accelerated take-offs with 2x 45 Impgal DTs. Stowage of the numbers of DT needed for the operations might be a problem?

Ammunition load re the .303 cal Browning armed variants is also a factor to consider. The Fulmar Mk I could carry upto 750 rpg and the Mk II upto 1000 rpg. The best the Spitfire ever did(I think) was 350 rpg while the Hurricane managed 390-400 rpg in some mid-war field modifications.

The combat performance in terms of climb, speed, and maneuverability would be much better in the single-seaters, although how much the effect would be in actual situations encountered in the real timeline is open to question.

The Armoured Carriers website covers a fair amount of the issues with the early single-seat proposals.

"Armoured Aircraft Carriers in World War II" and particularly this page "Armoured Aircraft Carriers"
 
To be honest, the FAA did not have a clear solution for their fighter/attack aircraft before the war.

If anything, the IJN had a clear idea of what was a solid blend of fighter/attack types that was ahead of the curve.

The British, with their excellent design capabilities, should have followed a similar path.

Yes, there is merit to quantity, but quality types, even in a smaller quantity, will make up for that.
 
In that timeframe, i'd rather go with more aircraft, at least if they have enough aircraft they can keep the carriers filled to capacity, and have enough to quickly replace losses. Even better if they go early with later inovations like deckparks, outriggers etc. While most of the british carrier planes of this time were passable to mediocre, still better to have as many of them as possible rather than not.

Much is made of IJN's lack of aircraft for Kido Butai in this timeframe, but while IJN planes were top notch, compensating to a degree for the always insufficient numbers, RN's were not only mediocre but also lacking in numbers. At least in this TL RN gets plenty of planes, even if subpar.

Skimming through some www info, for instance the follies could carry a maximum 40 to 50, Ark as many as 70 plus, Eagle about 35, Hermes about 25, early Illustriouses about 50 plus, Implacable almost 60, this assuming deckparks etc. So that means more aircraft for CAP, ASW, and strikes. Mening likely less air and sub hits on british carriers and perhaps some other ships, more targets hit, better scouting etc.

And they can be had without significantly affecting what RAF gets, the classic Peter/Paul connundrum would have them get more Skuas instead of the useless Rocs, some Merlin airframes (Fulmars, Sea Hurricanes, even Seafires, whatever it is) rather than Henleys, whatever carrier types built instead of the equally useless Bothas and so on. And speaking of Merlins, just think of how many invaluable Merlins were used to pull around target tugs (on Battles, aforementioned Henleys, Defiants etc.), a waste only the british can "accomplish". Better have even a fraction of those Merlins actually do something useful to the war effort, be it on Fulmars, Sea Hurricanes, even Seafires.
 
And speaking of Merlins, just think of how many invaluable Merlins were used to pull around target tugs (on Battles, aforementioned Henleys, Defiants etc.), a waste only the british can "accomplish". Better have even a fraction of those Merlins actually do something useful to the war effort, be it on Fulmars, Sea Hurricanes, even Seafires.
Wait, do you insinuate that target-tug Defiants, Battles and Henleys were not the money (and resources) best spent?, You, my sir, are a heretic, and prepare to deal with consequences :)
 
..... For example, were HMS Illustrious and Formidable crippled by Stukas in 1941 because their Fulmars were too few, or too slow?
Illustrious
Illustrious air group on 10 Jan 1941 consisted of 15 Fulmars (12 servicable) and 20 Swordfish. CAP at the time of the attacks was 4 Fulmars. 9 Swordfish were also airborne.

Attack 1 - 2 RA SM79 TB detected at 6 miles drew the CAP of 4 Fulmars (One third of those servicable) down to sea level (from 14,000ft) and away from the fleet, depleting its ammunition in the process. 2 were out of ammo altogether. (Not the last time that happened in WW2 - witness the IJN at Midway). Not clear if this was co-ordinated or not with second strike by Luftwaffe aircraft.

Attack 2 - detected on radar 5 mins later distance 28 miles. At least 43xJu87, 18xHe111 & 10xBf110 at approx 12,000ft. About 30 Ju87 targeted Illustrious in 3 waves. CAP recalled. Delay of approx 10 minutes getting an additional 4 Fulmars (the next scheduled CAP rotation already on deck being prepared for launch. Others were in the hangar but only 2 seem to have been ready to bring to the flight deck.) airborne due to fleet orders then in place. Launching those also interfered with ship's own gunnery response. 13 minutes elapsed from radar detection to first bomb hitting Illustrious. After this attack her flight deck was out of action.

(By way of comparison, at Philippine Sea in June 1944 the IJN strikes were detected by radar at 100+ miles from the various TG comprising TF58. Interceptions by CAP vectored out were at 50-60 miles. CAP was reinforced by every available fighter launched immediately from the 15 CV/CVL eventually totalling c450 Hellcats).

More detail on Armoured Carriers site including Captain's report.

Formidable
As for Formidable in May 1941, her air group had been depleted by actions in preceding months. She sailed from Alexandria on 25th May with 13 Fulmars (12 servicable), 7 Albacores and 8 Swordfish. Note Formidable was the first carrier whose squadrons received Albacores. Due to lack of replacements in theatre at that time Swordfish were being issued instead. Many of the aircraft she was carrying were well worn and other serviceability issues arose in the subsequent operations.

During the course of the morning of 26th May Formidable's Fulmars had been busy intercepting snoopers and had either driven off or shot down a number of them. With multiple threats over a period of 6 hours and the need to protect a convoy as well as Force A, CAP flights never exceeded 4 aircraft.

The Luftwaffe aircraft that succeeded in bombing Formidable were on an anti-shipping sweep for supply ships when the found Force A. 17xJu87B & 11xJu88.

The Luftwaffe strike force was detected on radar at 87 miles and tracked. When the last 2 available Fulmars were launched as replacement CAP to intercept, the strike force was 30-39 miles distant and radar showed 3 other contacts at 47-61 miles. The Fulmars couldn't gain enough height before the strike aircraft began their bomb runs.

Hit by 2 bombs of a size not even her armoured flight deck was designed to withstand, it was 2 hours before she was able to launch her next CAP flight.

Summary
Experience was that intercepting snoopers was the best way of protecting the fleet by eliminating / postponing the likelihood of Axis strikes. Formidable however faced an almost 8 hour battle against them before being hit. But that was a constant drain on her ability to field a CAP at the critical time.

Fulmar performance and numbers were only two issues. Radar detection ranges and the ability of the FDOs to react were others as were fleet orders in the case of Illustrious. But against strikes of the numbers of attackers involved, could a single carrier carry enough fighters without dedicating its entire air group to fighters and doing without a strike force.

It was mid-1942 before the USN increased the size of its VF squadrons from 18 to 27 aircraft.
 
Wait, do you insinuate that target-tug Defiants, Battles and Henleys were not the money (and resources) best spent?, You, my sir, are a heretic, and prepare to deal with consequences :)
Well something had to do the task. Perhaps there could be a conversion kit to replace a Merlin with something otherwise surplus thus releasing the Merlins for the RN. Not that I can immediately think of anything. Kestrels were earmarked for trainers. A purpose built target tug as a PoD? Can old early mark Merlin's actually be updated and refurbished fit for use? Armstrong Siddely Tigers or Napier Daggers? Dialled back for longevity. Sea Spitfires, Sea Hurricanes are the obvious choices, releasing Fulmars for the endurance and strike role. Was the RN short of airframes? ie if they had more of the existing period ones could they embark these extra aeroplanes? Did they have the pilots to man them? Did they have the engineering and artificers etc. to maintain them? If not then there is a need for extra naval personnel suited to these and their training. If they cannot embark these extra aeroplanes then either it is pointless or they need extra hulls. Cue fast build/conversion escort/light carriers?

Lots of question to which I have no answer but either choice comes with a lot of inevitable baggage.
 
Wait, do you insinuate that target-tug Defiants, Battles and Henleys were not the money (and resources) best spent?, You, my sir, are a heretic, and prepare to deal with consequences :)
I wonder if the Merlins originally installed in Defiants (>1,000 built), Battles (2,000 built) and Henleys (200 built) were removed, rebuilt and continued in RAF service after these aircraft were retired. For example, according to my copy of Rootes Story, over 1,000 Merlins were refurbished by the Rootes car group and returned to service.
 
Fulmar performance and numbers were only two issues. Radar detection ranges and the ability of the FDOs to react were others as were fleet orders in the case of Illustrious. But against strikes of the numbers of attackers involved, could a single carrier carry enough fighters without dedicating its entire air group to fighters and doing without a strike force.
If we address the FDO and radar detection ranges, perhaps the Fulmars are fine. But the Fulmar is a big beast in a small hangar.

With a hypothetical smaller, single-seat Merlin-powered fighter with the Fulmar's compact wing fold and robust undercarriage, we should get a few more fighters onboard without hugely impacting the strike force. Something like a Merlin-powered mini-Firebrand.

Blackburn-Firebrand-Mk.i-2.jpg


A significant problem with the Seafire & SeaHurricane would be the endurance for CAP operations and range for escort missions. In comparison to the Fulmar, with only internal fuel the Seafire had about 1/2 and the SeaHurricane about 2/3 the time aloft before having to land and refuel. This would greatly increase the problems with more deck operations and the carrier having to manage WOD.
A better aircraft needed be one already in existence. But your point on on low range is apt. Perhaps our Mini Firebrand could have more internal fuel, akin to a P-51. Though keeping in mind the Merlin of 1938-40 is not the Merlin of 1942+.
 
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In that timeframe, i'd rather go with more aircraft, at least if they have enough aircraft they can keep the carriers filled to capacity, and have enough to quickly replace losses. Even better if they go early with later inovations like deckparks, outriggers etc. While most of the british carrier planes of this time were passable to mediocre, still better to have as many of them as possible rather than not.

Much is made of IJN's lack of aircraft for Kido Butai in this timeframe, but while IJN planes were top notch, compensating to a degree for the always insufficient numbers, RN's were not only mediocre but also lacking in numbers. At least in this TL RN gets plenty of planes, even if subpar.

Skimming through some www info, for instance the follies could carry a maximum 40 to 50, Ark as many as 70 plus, Eagle about 35, Hermes about 25, early Illustriouses about 50 plus, Implacable almost 60, this assuming deckparks etc. So that means more aircraft for CAP, ASW, and strikes. Mening likely less air and sub hits on british carriers and perhaps some other ships, more targets hit, better scouting etc.
You need to be careful about hangar capacity figures and note the dates and aircraft involved, and mix thereof, in view of growing aircraft size in the 1930s. See below for dimension data.

In 1939 Furious was rated at 36, Courageous & Glorious at 48 (Glorious 36 Swordfish & 12 Sea Gladiator). Hermes at 12. Eagle was only 18 (all Swordfish). By 1942 she was operating with ouriggers that increased her capacity to about 22, and for Op Pedestal they managed to put 20 fixed wing Sea Hurricanes aboard. When she acted as a ferry to Malta in June/Junly 1942 when she carried over 30 aircraft per trip she was not able to operate any of her own aircraft due to the number of Spitfires she had embarked.

Ark Royal was only rated at 72 aircraft at the design stage when the air group was to consist of 48 TB and 24 Hawker Osprey two seat fighters .

By 1938 the maximum for sustained operations was seen as 42 Albacore & 18 Skuas for a total of 60 (absolute max 66), but that meant permanent stowage of aircraft on the lower lift platforms so hindering operations. A realistic figure was seen as 52. On 3 Sept 1939 she was operating 42 Swordfish (4ft shorter than an Albacore) and 18 Skuas. Then we have Skuas replaced by Fulmars that were 4ft longer than a Skua, that would have eroded her hangar capacity even further.

As noted above, the hangar capacity of an Illustrious fell from 36 at the design stage to 33 in 1940 on commissioning. Indomitable was rated at 45 Albacore sized and the Implacables at 48 Albacore sized. These ships carried many more aircraft later in the war by virtue of employing smaller aircraft and using deck parks as standard as well as lengthening the flight deck aft by flattening it out. While Illustrious was 740ft long overall, her useable flight deck in 1940 was only 620ft long.

So by mid-1941 with a Swordfish/Fulmar complement a realistic figure for her hangar capacity was mid-50s.

Hawker Osprey - 29ft 4in long , folded width 15ft 7.25in
Blackburn Shark - length 35ft 2.5in, folded width 15ft
Fairey Swordfish - length 36ft 4in, folded width 17ft 3in
Fairey Albacore - length 39ft 9.5in, folded width 17ft 9in
Fairey Barracuda - length 40ft, folded width 18ft 3in
Blackburn Skua - length 35ft 7in, folded width 15ft 6in
Fairey Fulmar - length 40ft 3in, folded width 17ft 10in

So these types can only be loaded in the hangars of Ark & the Illustrious class 3 abreast. Ark is more awkward still as her lifts are internal to the hangar and relatively closely spaced longitudinally.
And they can be had without significantly affecting what RAF gets, the classic Peter/Paul connundrum would have them get more Skuas instead of the useless Rocs, some Merlin airframes (Fulmars, Sea Hurricanes, even Seafires, whatever it is) rather than Henleys, whatever carrier types built instead of the equally useless Bothas and so on. And speaking of Merlins, just think of how many invaluable Merlins were used to pull around target tugs (on Battles, aforementioned Henleys, Defiants etc.), a waste only the british can "accomplish". Better have even a fraction of those Merlins actually do something useful to the war effort, be it on Fulmars, Sea Hurricanes, even Seafires.
Given that the Defiant fulfilled a major, if unsuccessful role, as a night fighter through until 1942 when sufficient Beaufighters & Mosquitos appeared how do you intend to fill that gap? It was 1942 before aircraft released from front line duries could begin to be used for secondary tasks.

At the end of 1941 the RAF specified a development of the Mercury engined Miles Master II/III as a target tug. It flew in April 1942 and over 1,700 were built. The Master had first flown in 1939 powered by a Kestrel engine (900 built) but was switched to the Mercury in the Mk.II & III (another 2,350 built) due to a lack of Kestrels.
 
If we address the FDO and radar detection ranges, perhaps the Fulmars are fine.
But how given the state of development of the electronics & the art of fighter direction itself in the RN. Radar only went to sea in an operational way in 1939. Fighter direction started off Norway in 1940 and consisted of a guy with a Biggsworth board sitting in the corner of the bridge. It was an entirely different problem doing it at sea when compared to the RAF on land. Theoretically the Type 279 & 281 air warning sets weren't designed for fighter direction. Height finding with these relied on experienced operators interpreting echoes fading & returning as targets passed through the radar lobes.

In the RAF despite the CH chain with its many masts and huts to filter the information to aid fighter direction from 1938 onwards, GCI of night fighters only began in Jan 1941 again with equipment far larger than could be fitted in a ship. VHF radios only began to be fitted to RAF aircraft in early 1940.

Throwing more money at the problem in 1937/38 might have speeded up the radar development side with more (better?) sets at sea come 1941. But it was experience off Norway that drove much of the development in the RN. The RAF spend began a bit sooner, but it was only through the experience of operating more than one radar set in 1937 that the need for the "back room" to turn it into useable information for fighter direction was first seen in 1937. But that was much easier to do on land than in the confined spaces of a ship, let alone ships that had never been designed with radar in mind.

All the developments that happened in WW2 came from the small beginnings of 1940/41 and the hard won experience of the RN. It was Britain that trained the first USN FDOs who set up their first such school in Sept 1941.
But the Fulmar is a big beast in a small hangar.

With a hypothetical smaller, single-seat Merlin-powered fighter with the Fulmar's compact wing fold and robust undercarriage, we should get a few more fighters onboard without hugely impacting the strike force. Something like a Merlin-powered mini-Firebrand.

View attachment 784969


A better aircraft needed be one already in existence. But your point on on low range is apt. Perhaps our Mini Firebrand could have more internal fuel, akin to a P-51. Though keeping in mind the Merlin of 1938-40 is not the Merlin of 1942+.
Actually the Firebrand took up less space on a hangar deck than its 50ft wingspan might at first suggest.

Fairey Fulmar - length 40ft 3in, folded width 17ft 10in
Blackburn Firebrand I (the intended carrier fighter version) - length 38ft 2in, folded width 12ft 3in

The Firebrand had 15in added to its centre wing section when developed into the torpedo carrying TF.II (folded width 13ft 6in) and was further changed when the Bristol Centaurus replaced the Napier Sabre from the Mk.III onwards. When it entered front line service in Sept 1945 in Mk.IV guise it was length 38ft 9in & folded width 16ft 10in.

In 1939/40 the Specs being issued for new fighters were specifying a 13ft 6in folded span. So:-

Fairey Firefly - length 37ft 7.25in, folded width 13ft 3in
Seafire III - length 30ft, folded span 13ft 6in.

At 13ft 6in folded width, aircraft could be packed into an Illustrious class hangar (62ft wide) 4 abreast with 1.6ft between aircraft or the hangar walls. Ark (60ft hangar width) would have been a tighter squeeze with only 1.2ft around them.
 
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Given that the Defiant fulfilled a major, if unsuccessful role, as a night fighter through until 1942 when sufficient Beaufighters & Mosquitos appeared how do you intend to fill that gap? It was 1942 before aircraft released from front line duries could begin to be used for secondary tasks.
While flying Defiants around as night fighters may have been good for morale, as long as we don't look at the number of crashes, it's actual effectiveness was somewhere under marginal. The high point of it's career was April/May of 1941. Which is well before they stuck radar in service squadron Defiant. We have the benefit of knowing that the Luftwaffe did not come back to Britain in large numbers after they flew off to Russia in May/June of 1941. However in the fall of 1941 when the nights got longer they should have had enough time to figure out what had happened in the Spring of 1941 and total up the crashes and crew losses of Defiant operations vs damage inflicted on the Germans. British may have come out ahead in saved aircrew and fuel by parking the Defiants.

I can forgive the Henley, only 200 made, all sub contracted to Gloster, production stopped in mid 1940. Production line replaced by a Hurricane production line.
I can even forgive the Battle. It helped train the RAF. And probably at less cost than the Botha.

A lot harder to be charitable about the Defiant.
 
While flying Defiants around as night fighters may have been good for morale, as long as we don't look at the number of crashes, it's actual effectiveness was somewhere under marginal. The high point of it's career was April/May of 1941. Which is well before they stuck radar in service squadron Defiant. We have the benefit of knowing that the Luftwaffe did not come back to Britain in large numbers after they flew off to Russia in May/June of 1941. However in the fall of 1941 when the nights got longer they should have had enough time to figure out what had happened in the Spring of 1941 and total up the crashes and crew losses of Defiant operations vs damage inflicted on the Germans. British may have come out ahead in saved aircrew and fuel by parking the Defiants.

I can forgive the Henley, only 200 made, all sub contracted to Gloster, production stopped in mid 1940. Production line replaced by a Hurricane production line.
I can even forgive the Battle. It helped train the RAF. And probably at less cost than the Botha.

A lot harder to be charitable about the Defiant.
Easy to say with the benefit of hindsight and from someone whose country was not suffering nightly attacks on its towns and cities, with significant civilian casualties and several hundred thousand people forced from their destroyed and bomb damaged homes as well as the disruption to industry and the overall war effort! And the Blitz did have an effect on civilian morale in certain areas which did concern the Govt of the day greatly.

Not just London, which attracts the greatest attention, but Plymouth, Portsmouth and surrounding towns, Southampton, Liverpool and surrounding towns, Coventry, Birmingham, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Sunderland, Hull, Swansea, Clydebank (virtually all the housing stock damaged or destroyed), Greenock, Belfast. They even managed to bomb Dublin in Eire! While the last of the big raids were in May 1941 when the Luftwaffe was switched to the Eastern Front, the perceived threat of a return of the Luftwaffe and of invasion did not begin to dissipate until about Sept when it was beginning to become clear that the USSR wouldn't collapse.

So while the Defiant as a night fighter might not have achieved much in the way of success at night, its presence was something to show the population that the Govt and the RAF had not simply given up hope of being able to stop the Blitz.
 

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