THE BRITISH CARRIER STRIKE FLEET

After 1945
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Binding:Hardcover & eBook coming soon

David Hobbs looks at the post-World War II fortunes of the most powerful fleet in the Royal Navy—its decline in the face of diminishing resources, its final fall at the hands of ignorant politicians, and its recent resurrection in the form of the Queen Elizabeth class carriers, the largest ships ever built for the Royal Navy. Despite prophecies that nuclear weapons would make conventional forces obsolete, British carrier-borne aircraft were almost continuously employed. This book combines narratives of poorly understood operations with clear analysis of their strategic and political background. With beautiful illustrations and original research, British Carrier Strike Fleet tells an important but largely untold story of renewed significance as Britain once again embraces carrier operation.

DAVID HOBBS served in the Royal Navy for 33 years and is curator of the Fleet Air Arm Museum. He is the author of many books, including A Century of Naval Aviation, The British Pacific Fleet, and British Aircraft Carriers.

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Product Details
  • Subject: Ship Design & Reference
  • Hardcover & eBook coming soon : 480 pages
  • Product Dimensions: 6.125 X 0 in
  • Shipping Weight: 16 oz

Customer Reviews

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Average Customer Reviews
5.00 Stars
Controversial, illuminating and essential reading for all politicians lest they repeat the mistakes of the past (and present)
Saturday, May 14, 2016
By: Chris Smithers
Historian Michael Roper claims that if a history is not controversial, it is antiquarian. In other words, histories which do not add anything new to a subject are obsolete or unnecessary. And historian Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote, ‘history that is not controversial is dead history’. I do not think this is a book the RAF is going to like. But the authority of this book is unquestionable Ex-Royal Navy Commander David Hobbs’ knowledge of the workings of carrier aviation, joint service operations, government and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is all based on practical experience. The narrative leads easily from one chapter to the next, each giving the reader a sense of conclusions and accurate anticipation of what follows. Each chapter covers a specific theme and yet a sense of the evolving chronology is well maintained. Sometimes information in one chapter crops up in similar or the same form elsewhere, and this actually reinforces facts and arguments already addressed but in the context of a different theme. It gives the reader a satisfying sense of getting under the skin of complex subjects. The broad, yet detailed, palette of this book draws together the inter-dependent influences of social, political, economic, industrial and world affairs contexts on the decisions by governments and Whitehall and their outcomes in these areas. A clear reality that comes through is that politicians of whatever political party have consistently failed to grasp any understanding of the recent history of naval operations. As a result the lessons have nearly always been forgotten. The same appears to be the case within the MoD, whether it applies to an appreciation of operating requirements, drafting the resulting technical requirements or issuing equipment specifications. What the armed forces want is often ignored and instead the MoD offers what it thinks they should have. Through carefully researched analysis of RN and RAF operations in support of tactical objectives or the projection of power, it becomes abundantly clear that the rationale behind the continued existence of the RAF as an independent arm has been sustained through political influence and pressure from the Air Marshalls and the superficial assumptions of politicians. Even if David Hobbs didn’t deliberately set out to expose the fallacies surrounding the supposed capabilities of the RAF, nevertheless if ever a book was written that presents a well-reasoned case for demobilising the RAF and putting flying in the hands of the navy and army, then this is it. Since Britain’s strategic nuclear weapons were put to sea in Royal Navy submarines, the RAF has lost its core role and ethos as a strategic bombing force acting independently of the navy and army. And with fewer foreign bases available to it and restrictions on overflying sovereign air spaces, it has very little room for manoeuvre, even in a tactical role. The army isn’t going anywhere without the navy because if the RAF airlifts troops, they arrive in what they’re standing up in and can carry; the RAF can’t lift the armour or artillery or the ammunition, fuel and stores in the quantities needed. On the ground the Army Air Corps nowadays is very capable on its own of supporting the battlefield with reconnaissance, anti-armour and anti-personnel strike capability, troop movement and reinforcement, logistics support and evacuation. All of which can be augmented by naval flying in a joint operations scenario, together with mobile base facilities for the army aboard helicopter-carrying assault ships and aircraft carriers. The RAF can’t deploy to remote locations without trailing a huge logistical tail and lacks the mobile electronic defence, command and control systems essential for effective operations. On the other hand, the navy has the ability to project air power at any place, anytime with all the in-built mobile command and control and logistics support it needs. It can be in one place one day, the next in another and potentially impossible for the enemy to find. It’s quite striking that during the Falklands conflict the Phantoms and Buccaneers taken away from the navy when the Ark Royal was decommissioned in 1979 and passed to the RAF sat uselessly on their airfields in the UK. And equally striking that it took the heroism and determination of its crews for the RAF to deploy - at enormous cost in resources - 13 aircraft to enable just one of them to hit the runway at Port Stanley with a single 1,000lb bomb out of 21 released. When the navy arrived, 12 Sea Harriers pounded the airfields at Port Stanley and Goose Green in an attack with their 1,000lb bombs. More recently, the staging of RAF strike aircraft via Cyprus to operate in the Eastern Mediterranean has, because of the distances from base to operational areas, still left them reliant on in-flight refuelling, while transit times have severely limited the number of sorties that can be achieved. Looking at the present and future, governments have at last realised that the country and the navy cannot do much that is worthwhile on the international stage without aircraft carriers. Unfortunately, the bungling, indecision and simply wrong-decision making that seems to be inherent to the MoD’s DNA means the Royal Navy will have the world’s largest and most expensive helicopter landing platforms until the F35B joint strike aircraft enter service at least four years after the first carrier’s completion. Even then a carrier without catapults and arrestor wires will offer very little scope for cross-deck operations and co-operation with NATO allies. The ships won’t be what they could have been and the money spent and the value to the UK taxpayer don’t bear scrutiny. This book is not just about what was, but also what could have been and what can be. It is a necessary history in a book which is illuminating, eminently readable and absorbing. And its controversial nature makes it lively history, not dead history.
 

 
 

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