FAA aircraft

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by renrich, Mar 29, 2010.

  1. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    I believe that at the beginning of WW2, September, 1939, the RN had the largest number of aircraft carriers of any navy in the world. They also had several under construction and they had been pioneers in the development and deployment of aircraft carriers. I find it amazing that with all those carriers, which have only one mission; to bring aircraft to within striking distance of the enemy, that the aircraft on board those RN carriers were mostly obsolete and that Britain had few modern aircraft under development for use on carriers. What were the reasons for this obvious oversight? Was the primary reason because the RAF had been responsible for procurement of FAA aircraft and there was neglect of FAA needs?
     
  2. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    #2 Glider, Mar 29, 2010
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2010
    There was no good reason that I can think of. You are correct when you say that one reason because the RAF had been responsible for procurement of FAA aircraft but I don't think it was the primary reason.
    This is only a personal view but I don't think the RN knew what they wanted. They had the Skua which was a decent dive bomber similar to the Val and Dauntless which could have continued in production and service.

    The Swordfish was a leftover from the RAF days but why on earth they gave a specification for the Albacore I don't know. It’s worth remembering that the USN were designing the Avenger over a similar timescale.

    Fighters is even more exotic. The RN Policy was to rely on AA fire not fighters for defence why is anyone’s guess. Much is made of the fact that the Fulmar and was a two seat fighter because they tried to combine Fighter and recce into one aircraft but it lacked so much as a fighter. However they then replace it with the Firefly which had the same issues.
    What is often forgotten is that the RN used single seat fighters between the wars without any major problems and they had no problem ordering the Sea Gladiator. Why they didn't order a new single seat fighter when there were a number of options around such as the Bristol to use as a base is unknown.

    My guess and it is only a guess is that it was a combination of things:-
    a) They believed the RAF doctrine that the bomber will always get through
    b) This led them to rely on AA guns
    c) Which in turn led to the over protected Illustrious class
    d) Resulting in a small number of aircraft that could be embarked
    e) Ending up with compromise aircraft which couldn't excel in any task.
     
  3. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    The killer for the RN was the supply of pilots and pilot training. This remained under RAF control until 1938, but it still took some years to get the "pilot production" lines going....in 1940, for example, there were just 16 pilots that completed their carrier training for the entire year. This goes a long way to explaining why the RN never bothered to try and lift the capacities of their aircraft carriers above the modest levels that they had. The low capacities of the aircraft carriers then more or less forced the RN to adopt multi-role aircraft over single purpose aircraft. The RN was also forced to put together its design evaluation processes from scratch. The RN had no chance of using any of the high performance RAF aircraft until well into the war. They were forced to accept a depressing array of RAF surplus technologies that could be adapted quickly in time for the gathering storm.

    I think that despite the obvious limitations in FAA procurement and technology, it was perhaps the best equipped and trained force to operate in the Atlantic in 1940. TheFulmar, despite the criticisms levelled against it, managed to shoot down more aircraft than were on strength in 1940. The Swordfish undertook operations in weather conditions that I doubt could be attempted by aircraft at any other time. i have read, for example that the Swordfish were able to undertake operations with 60 feet rollers hitting the deck.....no one else could attempt thsat before or after. The Albacore despite its obvious obsolescence even before its adoption still managed to bloody the Italian fleet at matapan.

    I think it is the achievements of the RN in 1939 that are so easily dismissed or overlooked as the critical role they played in achieving final victory. In 1940, the USN could not have undertaken the missions undertaken by the RN.....they were not equipped for the torpedo strikes against the bismark or the Battleships at taranto, for example.
     
  4. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Doing some reading on the RN and the FAA reveals that the pre-war thinking was that the Carriers would be assisting the fleet by attacking naval targets and it was not envisioned that the carrier aircraft would attack land targets or have to contend with land based aircraft. At the same time the USN and IJN were training to attack targets on land and at sea. Seems the FAA was somewhat short sighted.
    The IJN carriers in 1939 were equipped with the A5M, Claude, fighter. A6M first flew in 1939 but not in service until 1940
    Val, dive bomber
    Kate, torpedo plane

    The US carriers in 1939 were equipped with the F2F fighter
    SB2U dive bomber
    TBD torpedo plane

    The British carriers in 1939 were equipped with the Sea Gladiator fighter
    The Swordfish, torpedo plane
    The Skua, dive bomber, fighter.

    It appears that the FAA had only parity in the Sea Gladiator versus the F2F and the rest of it's arsenal was outclassed by the other navy's aircraft.
     
  5. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    No Val bombers were on board in 1939.

    The gap between CV planes' nominal capabilities was negligible back in 1939, but not so in 1941-1942 (on the FAA expense).
     
  6. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    #6 renrich, Apr 1, 2010
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2010
    My source says that Val went into production in 1937. I assumed it was operational in 1939. Do you know what type was operational in 1939?

    The TBD has a Vmax of 206 mph, the Kate a Vmax of 235 mph and a range of 1237 miles, the Swordfish a Vmax of 135 mph and a range of 546 miles. Considering the importance of the torpedo plane, sounds like the Kate and even the TBD had a huge advantage over the Swordfish.
     
  7. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Wiki (ducks for cover) says about Val: 1st flight jan '38, introduced in 1940. Plus:
    The design that precedes it was Aichi D1A, (biplane that soldiered to 1942), canceling any advantage Kate could bring up vs. Swordfish in aggregate score.

    As for what plane was more important - I'd say bomber was capable of attacking any target that torpedo-bomber could, while opposite is not true.
     
  8. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    My source was "Aircraft of WW2," Kenneth Munson. Seems very authoritative. He says that the D1A2-K was a trainer and was used in limited numbers by the JNAF. Torpedos let water in, bombs let air in.
    Eric Brown stated in his book, "Duels in the Sky," that in 1939 Great Britain had seven carriers in service and six under construction. The FAA's total inventory was 30 Skuas, 18 Sea Gladiators and about 180 Swordfish. All the AC were outdated. Total embarked strength was actually 18 Skuas, 12 Gladiators and 147 Swordfish. A good thing they had to go against Italy and Germany with that force.
     
  9. Vincenzo

    Vincenzo Active Member

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    D1A2-K was a trainer sure (K it's for trainer) but delivery of Val started in december '39 (but 6 trial planes and 2 prototypes) so in '39 the D1A was the common dive bomber in JIN
     
  10. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    #10 tomo pauk, Apr 2, 2010
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2010
    Vicenco covered that :)

    2 things here:
    -(dive) bomber is at much better position to attack ground targets than torpedo plane carrying bombs.
    -the crews of IJN carriers, Russian BB Marat, many US ships at Pearl would tend to disagree with that.

    Production of Skua was under way from oct 1938 to march 1940 (190 produced) - what exact date is he talking about? And as the dive bomber it certainly was not outdated.
    As for outdated planes, IJN fielded in 2 of main 3 categories outdated types in 1939 (fighter dive bomber), so again no advantage here for IJN.

    Agreed.
    edit: not that good - Germany was fielding better planes than Japanese could've mustered
     
  11. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    TP, that was on 1 September, 1939. No question that it would be difficult to attack a ground target with a torpedo. Torpedos were much more effective than bombs against large, well protected ships. That was probably the reason that the FAA had rather large numbers of torpedo bombers like the Swordfish. The doctrine of the FAA at the beginning of the war was only to attack targets at sea and therefore they would not have to cope with the advantages that landbased interceptors would enjoy. I read that on a FAA website online. In hindsight, that was faulty doctrine, which was not apparently the same as the IJN and USN.
     
  12. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    On 1st sept '39 FAA have had only 30 Skuas operational? That is almost one year after they started production, so I'm taking it with a grain of salt. On the other hand, FAA was low on number of pilots, perhaps planes produced had nobody to fly them?

    Torpedo bombers have had one issue - in order to perform the attack, they needed to fly low slow, therefore making them easy meat. Experienced by USN planes 1st hand in Midway, and by FAA in Channel Dash. That is why FAA was training night attacks just before war, but Channel Dash was not their choice...
     
  13. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    There is easy meat and easy meat. I hope you are not saying that the Kate or even the TBD was as vulnerable as the Swordfish on a torpedo run against a carrier group with an effective CAP. In fact, the Swordfish would have been even more handicapped than the TBD in getting into position to even make a torpedo run on fleet carriers. Eric Brown would seem to me to be in a position to know how many of each type were available and he is very clear about it on page 4 of his book. I still say that it is incongruous that the RN with it's large fleet of carriers could be as poorly equipped with AC as it was. One would think that a country that could design and build Hurricanes, Spitfires, Sunderlands, Wellingtons, etc. could at least have equipped it's eight carriers with a few first class VFs, VTs and VBs and have more on the drawing board.
     
  14. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    (I've split your post in two for clarity)
    Avengers Devastators were decimated at Midway, despite the fact they were against the fighter that was faster 'only' cca 80 mph. Albacores were decimated at Channel Dash by fighters twice as fast @ SL.
    Sure enough, I'd pick Avenger any day vs. any torpedo bomber operational in WW2, but, without fighters to clear the path, and dive bombers to disrupt efforts of AAA gunners, even Skyraiders would've been dead meat in WW2, vs. competent enemy.

    Okay, I'll not going against mr. Brown (till I find a hard data, that is).
    As for FAA/RN not having world class planes, in the crucial times they weren't ones that called the shots, and their priorities were not the priorities of Air ministry many times. Their 'blame' might lay in demanding some, hm, curious designs, though.
     
  15. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    No doubt you are right TP that any VT without fighter escort against a good CAP is in big trouble. The drawback a Swordfish would have and to a lesser extent the TBD also was that they were so slow that they would have a very difficult time getting into position for a successful torpedo run against maneuvering 30 knot carriers. The Kates and Avengers were not as handicapped.

    I had heard that the RAF treated the FAA like a poor relation prior to 1937(?) when Churchill among others lobbied for the FAA to take control of their own affairs. An interesting aside is that Admiral Beatty fought hard against the decision to give the RAF control of the FAA. One can imagine what type of AC the USN would have had if the AAF controlled their AC needs. They would have had nothing but recon planes since the B17 was going to be able to sink all enemy capital ships.
     
  16. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    The Swordfish was dead meat against a CAP but when there wasnt any fighter protection it did okay they managed to find and hit the Bismark after all.

    It is amazing what the FAA did with the resources it had, Just think what they could have done with modern aircraft. The WWI Royal Naval Air Service was an incredibly forward looking outfit. I wonder what aircraft and carriers the RNAS would have had in 1939 if they had been left to themselves.
     
  17. vanir

    vanir Banned

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    Hope I don't get flamed for what is little more than a passing opinion, but the impression I've had reading the histories is that coming into the war, the British RN being the pioneers of aircraft carriers had a fairly traditional acceptance that carrier based aircraft could not compete with land based aircraft in similar roles and that it was a mistake to try to.

    The reasoning for this being that completely different design requirements were projected by the FAA which relied upon adequate combat performance with exemplerary carrier operations performance.
    For example have a look at the Fulmar and Firefly, excellent carrier aircraft but hardly competitive against land based fighters in sheer performance terms.
    In my opinion this wasn't obsolescence at all but a matter of design priorities.

    Even the USN put certain traditional design requirements ahead of outright performance under the initial assumption that land based aircraft would always have the edge.
    I think it was really the Japanese which changed this way of thinking.

    The fact ultimately high performance British carrier fighters were shifted to modifications of land based fighters I think supports the hypothesis. It's almost like a scramble following an unexpected and sudden shift in doctrine.
    I think the USN was in a better position for the change, being high performance designs which included the F4U were already being ratified when the war started.
     
  18. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Vanir, what you posted makes a lot of sense to me and it fits with what I posted about the doctrine of the FAA was to only attack targets at sea and not land targets. How they proposed to attack sea targets only and avoid land based interceptors sounds iffy but must have had something to do with night operations. Only being able to do night attacks is certainly limiting. Another point is that torpedo attacks with bi planes only capable of 100 mph or so can be made very difficult by well handled high speed surface ships even if a CAP of poor performing AC has only a slight impact.
     
  19. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Given the combat radius of most land based fighters in the early to mid thirties and projecting what was likely to be available in the late 30s early 40s it means that you just don't operate the carriers with 200 miles of shore, while limiting this does leave an awful lot of ocean to use the carriers in.
    The Royal Navy probably wasn't go to use carrier based planes to help control the English Channel, parts of the North Sea, the Straights of Gibraltar, approaches to Suez ,etc in any case.

    Of course in pre-war "planning" everbody's air forces co-operated much better with their navies than they did in real life.:lol:
     
  20. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Seems a darn good thing that the RN did not have to send it's carriers to fight in the Pacific in 41-42 or for that matter, they weren't really needed during the whole war.
     
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