British Naval Air Power 1945 to the Present (Warbirds Illustrated 33)
By Paul Beaver
Publisher: Arms and Armour 1985 70 Pages
PDF 65 MB
It is not often that one is invited to undertake a task which is pure self-indulgence, for that is what this picture album has become. The period from the end of the Second World War to the present day has been one of incredible development, change, success and disappointment for the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, the service which has exercised British naval air power so well. Further, this period is arguably the most interesting and important in the evolution of naval air power and the operational use of naval aircraft. The conflicts that have taken place during the postwar years - Korea, Malaya, Suez, Borneo, 'Confrontation', Aden, the South Atlantic - have shown just how valuable naval aviation is to any country, and especially to a maritime power like Great Britain.
The reintroduction of carrier aviation in the 1980s with the commissioning of three light aircraft carriers - previously termed 'ASW cruisers' - and the entry into service of the Sea Harrier short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) fighter have given the Fleet Air Arm the basis of its development until the end of the decade. As for helicopters, the Royal Navy already flies some of the best equipment in the world, although there is some doubt about the number of decks which will be available from which to use these valuable assets.
Despite the fact that the Falklands conflict of 1982 has played an important part in shaping the future of British naval air power, this episode has been deliberately under-emphasized in this volume, if only because it is deserving of a picture album all to itself. Similarly, not every British naval aircraft of the past four decades is featured between these covers; those included are representatives of the equipment used to promote naval air power, and photographs have been chosen that are pleasing to the eye. I am most grateful to my friends for the loan of pictures and to the office of Flag Officer Naval Air Command, the Fleet Air Arm Museum, the Royal Air Force Museum, Westland pic and the Fleet Photographic Unit for their considerable assistance. Photographs from naval establishments are Crown Copyright.
Preparing this work in the FAA's 70th Anniversary year, one cannot help looking back on the past decades and thinking of what might have been but for politicians. To a certain extent, that is why there is in this book a concentration on the 1950s and 1960s, when naval aviation was in a prime position. Britain was lucky to have the right sort of people in the Admiralty, in the aircraft, shipbuilding and equipment manufacturing industries and, above all, in the ranks of the Royal Navy. The reader is invited to reflect on the importance of and need for seaborne air power. Other nations are even now improving and re-equipping their naval air arms at a far greater speed than Great Britain. A maritime nation needs maritime air power - Fly Navy!