When did the FAA begin the process of preparing to fight WW2

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by oldcrowcv63, Aug 23, 2012.

  1. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #1 oldcrowcv63, Aug 23, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2012
    That includes purchase of naval aircraft to provide full complements to all its flight decks and boosting the number of pilots in its training pipelines to fill the projected required seats? Some of its efforts were apparently due to the activities of the British Purchasing commission and I would expect that pilot training might have been delayed until the FAA became its own master and so wouldn't have had sufficient numbers for at least a year after that measure was implemented.

    By (an unfair) comparison, according to Lundstrom, the USN began recruiting new pilots through its Aviation Cadet Act of 1935 intended to increase naval air arm strength by 2,000 pilots. This program was not totally successful and was subsequently reinforced by the Naval Aviation reserve act of 1939 intended to bolster the ranks of aviators by 6,000 pilots. As war loomed, this was followed in June and July of 1940 by congressional authorization to increase the number of aircraft to 10,000 and then 15,000. The end result was that in December, 1941 there were 6,500 aviators in the USN, USMC and USCG.
     
  2. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    By 1937, the FAA had five new carriers laid down, and many more projected. I thought I would take a look at aircraft deliveries from 1936 to mid 1940, to get an idea of how many were delivered in that time frame.


    According to Thetford, British Naval Aircraft since 1912, 692 Swordfish had been delivered by "early 1940" when production was subcontracted to Blackburn, so that Fairey could start production of the Albacore. 201 Swordfish were built during 1937.
    Blackburn Shark. 238 built between 1935 - 1938.
    Skua, 190 built from 1938 to March 1940
    Roc, 138 built from 1938 to Aug 1940.
    S. Gladiator 98 from 1938 to 1939

    So we have about 1350 aircraft deliveries from 1935 to mid 1940, just with the above types and I would guesstimate that about 500 other types such as the Walrus, Fairey Seal and IIIF. were delivered from about 1933 onward. I would guess about 2000 aircraft deliveries from about 1933 onward, with most from 1936 onward.
     
  3. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    That seems to fill the existing and projected flight decks with TSR aircraft including a salting of a fighters distributed among them, so given that program of aircraft build up, do you have any information regarding pilot training to fill those seats?
     
  4. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    I'll try and find something about pilot and aircrew training. It would be interesting to compare FAA aircraft deliveries to USN aircraft deliveries in the same time frame.
     
  5. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    According to Sturtivant (him again), FAA training in May 1939 (when the 'Inskip Award' officially took place, named after Minister for Co-ordination of Defence Sir Thomas Inskip who two years earlier proposed the navy regain its air arm) was ill prepared for war, as expected. Aircrew training was the job of the RAF, with personnel passing through the Elementary Flying Training Schools and Service Flying Training Schools at home and abroad with the EATS before progressing through to the FAA training schools.

    Unlike RAF practise, FAA training units were assigned squadron numbers, in the '700' numbering, representing second line units, with front line units being numbered '800' numbers. Some training units inherited from the RAF were numbered from 750 on. Even after the Inskip Award officially took place (24 May '39) RAF ground crews were present on FAA bases, some of which had been inherited from the RAF for training. These included Donibristle, which became HMS Merlin (FAA shore stations were nominally named after sea birds or previous HM ships), Ford, (HMS Peregrine), Worthy Down (HMS Kestrel), Eastleigh (HMS Raven), and Gosport with lodger facilities only with FAA headquarters located at Lee-on-Solent (HMS Daedalus). This took place from 1st July 1939.

    Sturtivant states; "By the time war broke out on 3 September 1939 the Royal Navy had in full commission the carriers Ark Royal, Eagle, Furious, Glorious and Hermes, as well as Argus and Courageous in use as training carriers; in addition, nearly fifty capital ships had by then been equipped with catapults. New stations were under construction at Arbroath, Crail and Yeovilton, to become HMS Condor, HMS Jackdaw and HMS Heron respectively. First line squadrons numbered sixteen and there were eleven catapult squadrons and a seaplane squadron, plus eleven second-line squadrons."
     
  6. Jabberwocky

    Jabberwocky Active Member

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    I'd argue that even in the RAF, pre-war training generally left pilots "ill prepared for war". Flying training was excellent, but fighting and navigation training was lacking compared to the US, Germany, Japan and, in some areas, the Soviet Union.
     
  7. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    The following is an account on trade training with the FAA by Hugh Langrishe, a former FAA air framer:

    The wartime development of technical training for officers and ratings was done virtually from scratch as nothing existed under naval control until the Admiralty won back their air arm. Even then, it was still necessary to send large numbers of trainee naval air artificers, air fitters and airmechanics to RAF schools throughout the war - indeed trainee officers as well. Partly as a result, naval type-training was hit or miss and men could be posted to units operating aircraft types they had never seen and had to be trained on the job.

    Assistance was given to some squadrons during work-up on new aircraft by parties known as Special Service Units. These were self contained, having their own MT, tools and special equipment. They moved from one air station to another as the working up programme required, providing technical help and on-the-job training by type-experienced maintenance personnel, under the command of a sub-lieutenant (A) (A/E)."
     
  8. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    The following is an extract from Roskill, and gives the strength of the FAA at various times during the war

    HyperWar: HyperWar: War at Sea 1939-1945, Vol. II: The Period of Balance (UK--History of the Second World War)

    As of 1 September 1939, there 232 a/c in the FAA: 36 Fighters, 140 TSR (including three flights of floatplane Swordfish...about 6 a/c) and 56 floatplane recce. Half the fighters were Rocs....a land based turret fighter, the remainder were Skuas and a couple of Sea Gladiators. There were (according to another source) 135 Swordfish carrier capable, organized into 13 squadrons.

    There were no reserves, though the RAF did second some of its surplus Gladiators 1939-40 for conversion to Sea Gladiators. There were no US a/c on strength, which according to Roskill remaned the case until April 1941 (suggesting all those references to martlets in 1940 were really never accepted for front line service by the RN, plus the tablle is divided into quarters, therefore the figure may well represent the situation at the beginning of the quarter).
     
  9. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    This is where things get murky. Total aircraft production is far higher than the numbers listed, which suggests that there were reserves. 692 Swordfish were produced by early 1940 yet there were only 149 Swordfish in frontline squadrons by April 1940...this just doesn't add up. BTW, 60 of the 98 GSGs were new production, along with 38 ex RAF conversions.
     
  10. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    #10 parsifal, Aug 24, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2012
    Roskill says there were no reserves. Ive got it at home. ill try and find it.

    The average service life of any aircraft at this time was about 10 months. Squadron formation and delivery was as follows

    Formally Introduced into the Royal Navy for operations in July 1936 the first Fleet Air Arm
    Squadron converted was 825 Squadron. As aircraft production increased the following additional
    operational Squadrons were equipped:
    Squadrons 812, and 823 Nov/Dec. 1936
    Squadrons 813 Jan 1937
    Squadrons 810, 820 and 821 mid 1938
    Squadrons 822, 824 and 814 mid/end 1937
    Squadrons 815(part), 816 and 818 mid 1939
    Squadrons 815(part), 819 and 829 early 1940.


    That means that by 1936 there was 1 squadron, but maintaining the squadron, + allowing for normal wastage, 825 squadron could very likley have required 47 a/c. The squadrons formed after that (early 1937) therre were three squadrons (30 aircraft), but with 34 months to wars outbreak, that would mean 132 written off + complement just for those three squadrons. For the next squadron (813), the expected wastage +complment is 42 a/c to wars outbreak. For 810, 820 and 821, the wastage + complement is 72 a/c. For 822/824/814, the wastage +complment is 102 a/c. For 815/816/818 the wastage + complement would be about 57 a/c. Adding those up, we arrive at 452 a/c to maintain the force structure. It also does not appear to take into account the a/c needed for R&D, weapons testing OTUs and the like. Whilst I dont have a number for you., I can readily see why there no reserves...
     
  11. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    The issue of reserves is often not understood very well. Italy claimed to have gone to war with 3000 a/c. In reality 1300 of those were not airworthy, being airframes kept on strength to maintain the numbers. By early 1942, perhaps 600 of the RA were frontline, many others were on strength but not airworthy. There were few reserves. in comparison the RAF in the med began with a low number of front line a/c, and built only slowly, but there was far more depth to the RAF formations, because very sizable reserves were put in place so as to help maintain the front line numbers during front line operations.

    During the war, moere than 70% of losses had nothing to do with enemy action. Roughly 1/3 of the remainder were lost to AA, 1/3 to enemy air action, and 1/3 to unknown causes such as navigational error and the like. Its why I have harped on so long about the relative unimportance of fighters to outcome of air battles...at best they might account for 15-20% of total losses. The rest just fall out of the sky, or are otherwise scrapped of their own volition.
     
  12. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    #12 RCAFson, Aug 24, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2012
    The USN built 129 TBDs from 1937 to 1939. about 30 were lost to flying accidents prior to Dec 1941. There were 4 TBD torpedo squadrons in service in April 1940 with about 70 aircraft. Peak strength during WW2 was about 7 squadrons and about 90 aircraft. I find it hard to understand why the FAA had so many aircraft deliveries, yet had such a small number of frontline aircraft, with no reserves.

    The USNfrom 1936-39 took delivery of only:
    207 SBC Helldivers
    129 TBDs
    202 F2F/F3F
    200 vindicators

    Yet, they had twice the frontline strength of the FAA plus reserves? It just doesn't make sense.
     
  13. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    That I will grant you, but we can at least hypothesize and then see if the hypothesis holds true.

    Possible reasons for the different attrition rate

    1) Pilots better trained on joining an OTU.....ther was an absolute crisis in aircrew numbers.

    2) More realistic training, more rough weather flying
    3) my estimates are wrong (the most likley)
    4) your numbers are wrong (also a possibility)
    5) there really were large numbers of reserves after all. you are right I am wrong....but then, if that is the case, why were numbers kept so low and stay so low. The carriers went to war about half full
     
  14. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    Pars, this seems at odds with the famous air defense of Hatston by Marlet Is that resulted in downing a LW aircraft in December 1940. unless you are defining deployment on a flight deck as front line service. Was the Hatston event a fluke?
     
  15. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #15 oldcrowcv63, Aug 24, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2012
    It certainly looks like there is a lot of FAA history that remains to be written. Is it possible there is some political reluctance to writing such a history? A late 1939 - early 1940 FAA fully equipped with pilots, Swordfish, Gladiators and Skuas, would seem to me to be a formidable force albeit on a vector tending to obsolescence (a trend reversed by the advent of the Fulmar Martlet and sea going Hurricanes and Spitfires) but I don't get the impression from all that's written above and in the forum that was the situation. It seems more like the FAA was characterized by depleted carrier air wings and inadequately staffed pilot rosters. Was there such a thing in the FAA as a carrier air wing and CAG or were the squadrons deployed as needed and as ready? I find the whole situation very puzzling and becoming less clear with more information. :(
     
  16. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Although I can't really offer any real answers to discrepancies of figures shown above - that's assuming they are correct, there are other reasons why aircraft were not available for frontline service outside of the usual already mentioned. A completed aeroplane doesn't just roll off the production line and into the front line; in the UK freshly produced aircraft underwent testing and then were sent to Maintenance Units for conversion to service configuration depending on their role. In the beginning of the war the navy did not have much internal infrastructure; later, conversion work was done 'in the field' by the Special Service Units, but to begin with, in 1939, such a thing took time to establish.

    War preparedness for an organisation in a similar situation to the FAA in 1939 took awhile; the establishment of autonomy from the RAF took time, not only that but training air and ground crew on new types, Skuas and that, not to forget scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, which also would have chewed up a considerable amount of useable air frames all goes toward some explanation behind lack of availability of aircraft.

    I find this hard to accept. 80 F4F-3s (Grumman G-36A export variants) were actually ordered by the FAA in early 1940, but none were delivered before France fell that year, so the 85 that were earmarked for the Aeronavale were sent to the UK and simultaneously a further order of 100 G-36Bs with folding wings and P&W engines was submitted to Grumman (Martlet IIs). (I suspect this should be merged with the other thread on the Martlet, Oldcrow!)

    Martlet Is went into service with 804 Sqn at Hatston, Orkney in October 1940, superceding Sea Glads, so the type's service with the FAA was under no circumstances at all not accepted. No, Oldcrow, 804's Christmas present was not a fluke. There were issues with the type initially with French instrumentation and equipment making things difficult (That's the French for you), but there is a series of publicity images of a flight of three 804 Sqn machines in formation with the caption "A Yankee Fighter in the Royal Navy!", so the Martlet I was a much welcome boost propaganda wise.
     
  17. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    From the reading that I've done, that seems to be the tall and short of it. The RN has a history of making the absolute most of what it has, regardless of the circumstances (the same could be said of all the British armed forces when you think about it, certainly in recent years). Testimony to the courage and resourcefulness of the FAA regular guys are the efforts they put in in aircraft like the Swordfish, the Skua and Roc etc in the face of enemy aircraft like the Bf 109. Having read accounts of pilots going to war in the Skua, the Ju 88 could leave one in its wake and one airman stated that between the Sea Gladiator and the Skua, one was manoeuvrable but too slow and the other was faster (but not by much) but unmanoeuvrable!

    Sounds to me like it depends entirely on the information and its source. As I mentioned earlier, I'm sure working up for war was a lengthy process; Here's some info on what the British carriers were doing at the outbreak of war: Ark Royal and Courageous were with the Home Fleet, Furious was engaged in deck landing trials in the Firth of Forth and stationed at Rosyth, where she was originally based in 1917 alongside Adm Beatty's Battlecruiser Squadron. Argus was in reserve at Portsmouth and Hermes had recently been recommissioned after refit. Glorious was in the Med and Eagle in the Far East. Courageous took over from Furious in deck landing training, but was sent with Hermes and Ark on anti-submarine patrols, which led to Courageous' loss on 17 Sept and a near miss on Ark days earlier. This might give some idea of aircraft disposition.
     
  18. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    According to The British Fleet Air Arm in World War II by Mark Barber the FAA 232 aircraft and 360 pilots in Sept 1939.
    British Naval Aviation: The Fleet Air Arm, 1917-1990, by Ray Sturtivant, states that there were 16 first line squadrons, 11 catapult squadrons, one seaplane squadron and 11 second line squadrons on strength in Sept 1939.

    39 squadrons but only 360 pilots in Sept 1939...yet aircraft deliveries far exceeded the number of pilots.
     
  19. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    its not quite correct, or at least not quite confirmed that 690 Swordfish (to look at the prncipal type) were delivered. Producing is not the same as delivering. That might explain some of the discrepancy. how many of those 690 were still in the factory, how many at conversion shops, how many returned for 'warranty" repairs and the like....how many produced, delivered, but lost.

    We dont at this stage know why there were only 135 Swordfish but we know that was the number. we know that the FAA remained very sensitive to losses for a long period. Understanding why is an important and intersting question, but the effects of that question are known....there were limited numbers available, limited reserves to replace losses, and acute shortages of pilots....to compare, with japan for example, at the beginning of 1942, it had about 5000 pilots to fly about 1500 a/c. yet the shortage in IJN aircrew numbers is generally accepted. how much worse would the FAA be with just 360 aircrew (some of which have to be observers)
     
  20. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    These stats are just stunning. I could never have imagined that the FAA was so short of pilots. That seems an even better reason than standing doctrine/policy for not adopting any new aircraft in the period late 1939 to early 1940. Who would have flown them?
     
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