Given the engines available, best FAA strike and fighters 1939-1940?

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I was thinking more about the Eagle and the Hermes.
Argus was pretty much a training ship if she was in commission at all in the 1930s.
The Eagle and Hermes were 5-6 kts slower and had shorter decks. I don't know if at some point they just wrote them off (even if just in their own minds) when they figuring out the landing speeds and flight deck requirements for the new aircraft.
Argus was in Reserve 1932-36. At that point she was given an extensive refit as a Queen Bee (remote controlled aircraft used for fleet gunnery practice usually a Tiger Moth) Carrier which completed in Aug 1938. By Aug 1939 she was back in Reserve to be brought forward in Oct as a training carrier to release Furious, which had been filling the role based out of Rosyth since May 1939, for an operational role. At that point she went to the Med to work with various deck landing training units based in the South of France.

During the 1930s Eagle and Hermes had more or less rotated on tours on the China Station, and time in refit and/or Reserve. Aug 1939 found Eagle in the Far East and Hermes at home as a training ship about to be reactivated as an operational carrier.

In mid-1939, RN plans looking forward to 1942, make no mention of either Argus or Eagle, so I presume that the intention was to scrap them. Furious was to be the training carrier. Hermes, C&G would, in the event of war, be acting as trade protection carriers. The locations would vary depending on whether it was war with Germany / Italy or Japan (note war with both simultaneously was not part of pre-war RN planning). Had peace continued they would have been in Reserve. By then of course it was anticipated that there would be 7 modern fleet carriers available.
I fully understand why the decision to do this uniformly across carrier aircraft, and that to a degree makes sense when dealing with biplanes that you simply couldn't put into a 60 plus degree dive carrying 1,000 lb or more load. In hindsight, and purely in hindsight, the decision to combine roles was not a practicable one, even if it might have appeared sensible at the time. It might have stayed that way too, if it weren't for the necessities of the coming war, which, granted, back in the early 1930s the Air Ministry certainly couldn't foresee.

The problem was that the inadequacies of this decision became all too apparent because of this war and even beforehand. As mentioned (lots of times!) before, the admiralty questioned the wisdom of not having a modern single-seat fighter specification before the fighter/dive bomber Skua entered service in 1937, which presages the fact that once war became a reality, the shortfall in capability was plainly evident. We also know the efforts the admiralty went to, to get a decent single-seat fighter before and after it took control of the FAA in 1939. Also, the trouble with the Barracuda was clear evidence that it was too big and too complicated for its own good. Marcel Lobelle could design good, useful aeroplanes, but the combination of requirements made it a bit of a mess and it's not surprising it was not his best work.

Overall, the decision to combine disparate roles in one aircraft, regardless of the practicalities of doing so, was the single most important factor that led to the lack of capability within the FAA in the early years of the war.
Isn't the Abyssinia Crisis very fundament in defining FAA fighter / strike aircraft: GB pulled their fleet out of Eastern Mediterranean after Italian Air Force overflew RN ships on way from Italy to Ethiopia. And didn't Italian Navy light forces penetrate RN screen about same time?

From that point until '41 (although E EwenS makes good argument for late '42/early '43), the only way to defend the fleet from air attack is either a. long endurance fighter already in air or b. good AAA/armour. As a result, RN wants armoured carriers, with resultant size limitation (There is also delay due to redesign). If RN had built Ark Royal as peer to USS Ranger (CV-4) in '30-34 and had pair of replacements for Argus/Hermes/Eagle started at time of historic Ark, then the armoured carrier limitation would have been less severe and small/slow carrier issue wouldn't be there.

The single seat fighters of '34 with sub 900hp engines don't have the endurance, radios of the day don't have range, there isn't any RADAR. Even the single seat fighters of '38 (Hurricane and Spitfire) can't operate off any RN carrier (Ark Royal isn't commissioned until '39 effectively) So, I see all the "Admiralty as really wanting single seat fighter" as after the fact @$$ covering. From '40 to '42, Fulmar is an very good carrier fighter for FAA operating outside North/Norwegian Seas.

Given delays, you need to order what you think you need ahead of time. And seeing what Hawker/Supermarine were turning out in '38, Admiralty of course wants some of those toys.

I also don't see need for RN/FAA to fight the war the same way USN/IJN did. We aren't fighting for water in ocean, we're fighting for land on continent. Let the IJN come to RAF, it might have been slower, but the end result is the same.
The RN needed carriers that were able to operate closer to land based opposition than USN carriers. The USN carriers had to operate in the middle of Nowhere and needed as many planes as possible to find the other guy who was also in the middle of Nowhere. They had to be different. Ice breaker hulls have a different hull form than bulk carrier hulls.
So, I see all the "Admiralty as really wanting single seat fighter" as after the fact @$$ covering.

Actually, it's not and all that does is demonstrate your lack of grasp of the situation. There is ample evidence out there that the admirals wanted single-seat fighters, but again, until the navy gains control of the FAA, there's little the admirals can do. I don't know if you are aware that the FAA was a branch of the RAF at the time, not under control of the navy, so the Air Ministry, not the navy made decisions surrounding the choices and capabilities of the aircraft the navy would have on their carriers. The FAA went onboard ships with RAF crews and technicians, not navy personnel. That situation changed in 1939.
During the 1930s Eagle and Hermes had more or less rotated on tours on the China Station, and time in refit and/or Reserve.
Had funding, labour, resources and a yard been available could the RN have replaced both Hermes and Eagle with two new builds or one larger build in the 1930s under the naval treaties? Something capable of 30 knots with thirty-six aircraft, perhaps a fast HMS Unicorn, Ark Royal-light or British equal to USS Wasp (CV-7)?
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Had funding, labour, resources and a yard been available could the RN have replaced both Hermes and Eagle with two new builds or one larger build in the 1930s under the naval treaties? Something capable of 30 knots with thirty-six aircraft, perhaps a fast HMS Unicorn, Ark Royal-light or British equal to USS Wasp (CV-7)?
Argus, Eagle, Furious, Hermes, Langley and Hōshō were designated experimental carriers under WNT and could be replaced at any time. That's more/less 70k tons of tonnage, plus the 20k still available unused under WNT. Its much more political will - the yards, the labour were available and funding could have been.

You won't exactly get an HMS Unicorn as the light fleet carriers hulls were built to merchant standards. USS Wasp sacrificed heavily on TDS, and I doubt RN would be will that. But an Ark Royal light with only single hanger deck is certainly possible although Argus, Eagle and Hermes provide enough for 2 additional Ark Royals with unused tonnage being used for Ark as per historic.
Argus, Eagle and Hermes provide enough for 2 additional Ark Royals with unused tonnage being used for Ark as per historic.
Three Ark Royals in the works 1936-39 may be the impetus needed to get to better aircraft. How does the treaty system work, can Argus, Eagles and Hermes stay in service until the new builds enter service?
Three Ark Royals in the works 1936-39 may be the impetus needed to get to better aircraft. How does the treaty system work, can Argus, Eagles and Hermes stay in service until the new builds enter service?
Three Ark Royal in the works 1936-39 1934-36, before the KGVs get laid down, provides the bigger decks for higher performance (and larger) aircraft.

The rules for replacement allowed for the laying down of the hull 3 years before the date of replacement, so I take that to mean the existing ships may remain in service until their replace is ready to enter service - 3 years being lots long enough to build and outfit a ship e.g. USS Tennessee took 3 years 2 weeks from keel laid to commissioned which would be a reference during treaty negotiations. Argus was already in Reserve as noted by E EwenS .
The declared tonnages under the terms of the Washington Treaty for the British carriers were (data from Jordan's "Warships after Washington". NB tonnages vary by a few hundred tons according to source but the following provides a reasonable guide):-

Argus - 14,450
Hermes - 10,850
Eagle - 22,600
Furious - 22,450
Courageous - 22,500
Glorious - 22,500.
Total - 115,350
Treaty limit - 135,000
Balance available - 19,650.

In July 1920 the Admiralty decided to convert Furious and either C OR G to a full carrier. Work on stripping Furious to main deck level occurred before the start of the Washington Conference. Work to rebuild her began in June 1922, after the Conference ended, and so the RN also considered her an "experimental" ship alongside the first 3 listed (but there were some reservations as to whether that in fact held true, see Friedman. Subsequent events meant this was never put to the test).

The Admiralty went to Washington considering its future carrier needs to be based around 5 x 25,000 ton ships and came away with a 27,000 ton limit on individual ships. So 5x27,000 gets the Washington allowance of 135,000 tons.

Later in 1922 the Admiralty, influenced by the outcome of the Conference, decided to convert BOTH C&G. The design wasn't finalised until April 1924 and work on them began immediately but did not complete until 1928 and 1930 respectively.

The discussion makes it sound as though the RN then did nothing until the early 1930s.

Post Washington, the RN worked on plans for new carrier designs based around ships of 10,000 tons (27 knots), 16,500 tons (34.5 knots) and 25,000 tons (34.5 knots). In Nov 1923 the Admiralty endorsed a plan to replace Argus, Hermes & Eagle and use the excess allowance with 4 ships each of 16,500 tons with a speed of 34.5 knots and carrying 32 aircraft. By Oct 1924 increasing aircraft size drove the ship size to 20,300 tons. The first of these was included in the 1926 Programme, then deferred to 1929 then, with the financial crisis, to the 1931 Programme. The late 1920s were also a period when there were hopes for additional disarmament. For the RN carriers, this potentially meant a reduction in the allowable tonnage available. So with a need for 5 carriers, the RN stood a chance of being caught out if it started building new ships too early.

Given the developments in aircraft, arrester gear (new transverse gear first tested on C in Jan 1931 with a full fit from late 1932), crash barriers (first fit in Ark Royal in 1939) and catapult technology (first fitted to C in 1933/34) in the late 1920s / early 1930s the earlier design clearly required to be revisited by the early 1930s.

1931-34 was also a period of change in RN naval aviation. Rear Admiral Reginald Henderson was appointed the very first Rear-Admiral Aircraft Carriers in Sept 1931, a post he held until Sept 1933. He was to prove tremendously influential in RN carrier design through the 1930s. Under his guidance the RN saw the benefits of using larger numbers of aircraft. He used multiple carriers to achieve this during exercises in the Med. This desire for more aircraft is reflected in carrier design in this period.

So 1931-34 sees a lot of work carried out in carrier design, trading ship tonnage and dimensions with speed, armament and aircraft capacity (60+ were envisaged at a time when Courageous was rated at 52). The outcome was Ark Royal ordered as part of the 1934 Programme, laid down in Sept 1935 and then commissioned in Dec 1938. But her sketch design was not signed off by the Admiralty until 21 June 1934. That left a lot of detailed design work to be done through the remainder of 1934, before the normal peacetime tendering process could begin in early 1935.

Rules for replacement were dictated by Treaty and in particular the 1930 London Treaty. Basically the latest an old ship could be retained was 6 months after its replacement entered service, by which time it had to be rendered incapable of warlike service. The RN was not keen on disposing of any of its carriers before it had to. But the 1936 London Treaty removed the carrier tonnage cap (although it reduced the limit on individual ships being constructed) allowing retention of the older vessels.

It took about 3-4 years to build a carrier in the 1930s (the USN was the same). Start too early and you lose out on the benefits of advancing technology requiring refits and their associated costs later. Maybe some tonnage can be saved from the 1920s design by reducing the speed requirement. But it is only a 32 aircraft ship.

Ark Royal was a radically different ship from that contemplated in the late 1920s. Larger, slower with greater aircraft capacity. Could her development have been speeded up? Or would starting to build a new carrier earlier have produced a less capable ship?

As for repeat ships, the problem is again one of timing. Having taken so long to design and order Ark Royal, you then come into the period of the run up to the Second London Naval Conference (held 9 Dec 1935-25 March 1936). There is much prior negotiation going on. Even as early as autumn 1934 the US position was expressed as seeking more disarmament. That even influenced the Ark Royal design because the British position was to seek a 22,000 ton limit for each new carrier and Ark was built to that. The Conference eventually agreed 23,000 tons. Do you order another ship in 1935 so close to the Conference when you don't know what the rules will be when she completes? Perhaps you have a better idea of the direction of travel. Perhaps not. How different would Ark have been with another 1,000 tons in her design?

Late 1935 sees a number of changes. The Director of Plans reassessed the required number of carriers increasing it from 5 fleet to 8 fleet (48 aircraft) plus 5 trade protection and a single training carrier. Couple that with the Oct 1935 Italian invasion of Ethiopia. At that point the design and procurement process is changed and accelerated. The first Armoured carrier designs are called for in Jan 1936 and the final design for the Illustrious class was approved in Dec that year.

The long term plan for the RN produced in 1936 but never formally adopted, although it was adhered to in most respects up to the outbreak of war, called for 1 fleet carrier per year 1936-42 plus 1 trade protection carrier per year 1936-40. Add in Ark and you get the modern front line carrier fleet envisaged by the Dof P, allowing all the old ships to be scrapped.

The historical carrier programme was:-
1934 Programme - Ark Royal (laid down Sept 1935)
1936 Programme - Illustrious & Victorious (designed 1936, ordered and laid down 1937)
1937 Programme - Formidable & Indomitable (repeat Illustrious class and laid down 1937. Indomitable redesigned during 1938 when armour delays become clear, to incorporate as much of the Implacable design as possible)
1938 Programme - Implacable (design begun in early 1938 as a modified Illustrious class, ordered Oct 1938, & laid down Feb 1939)
1939 Programme - Indefatigable (repeat Implacable. ordered June 1939 and laid down Nov)
1940 Supplementary Programme - 1 repeat Implacable planned (Irresistible. Finally ordered 1942. Eventually built as Ark Royal IV)

No trade protection ships were ordered.
Hi outside the box here but in the time period would the Westland Whirlwind have been a contender? Seems to fit the time period .
The Fulmar reached its first front line squadron, 806, in June 1940 when it replaced the Blackburn Rocs used by part of the squadron. After a short spell on Illustrious in the Caribbean working up, it returned to Britain and replaced its remaining Skuas with Fulmars before rejoining Illustrious to head to the Med.

Fulmars then joined 808 squadron in July, 807 in Sept and 803 in Oct.

The Regia Aeronautica formed its first torpedo bomber unit on 20 July 1940. Between 23 July and 5 Aug it received 7 SM79 torpedo bombers. It flew its first operational sortie against ships of the British Med Fleet anchored at Alexandria on the night of 15 Aug. It proved unsuccessful as did the second sortie on 23 Aug.

Their first successful sortie was a moonlight attack on the cruiser Kent on 17 Sept.

So it is true that when the Fulmar entered service the RA had no torpedo bombers. But service entry of the two types was only weeks apart.
The USN had one for trials, #P6994.
One wonders what they did with it.

An F8F-2 stalled around 70-74kts depending on power off or on and weight, This is clean, carrying stuff will push the stall up.

The Whirlwind was supposed to stall at 95mph (not knots) from Wiki, I haven't looked in a book yet or manual.

If the Whirlwind stalls about 10mph faster than an F8F or about 20-25mph faster than a Spitfire the Rn may not have wanted to deal with it it.
I don't know what the single engine control speed is,

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