I'm not sure if I agree (at least any more than IJN/USN etc in 20s/30s), RN did plans and exercises for large CV actions like strikes on bases and using multiple CVs together pre-war. Was it not also thought by at least some as critical to slow down an enemy to force it to battle considering WWI experience of others declining to stay and fight.
All I can tell you, is that the RN simulated a port attack in 1936 or 1938, I think, with two aircraft carriers operating in tandem. This seems to be how they operated their aircraft carriers "independently". They did not have recognizable multi-aircraft carrier centric operations at all that a CVBG would be recognized in 1942 or 1943. It was more like a surface action group would split off into two divisions in war games, with cruisers and destroyers operating as van forces off the BB gun line for team A and a "Italian" SAG without an aircraft carrier, standing in for team B. The single British aircraft carrier split off and made a preliminary spoiler attack or scouting sweep with her aircraft as she maneuvered astern of the gunline in this mostly Mediterranean fleet or Home fleet exercises.
The Japanese, for their part, only began to deviate from this British inspired practice, themselves, when they lesson learned massed operations in CAS support of the Imperial Japanese Army in China. They had to mass their flattops to generate air raid sorties large enough to get through the ROCAF fighter defense and to support IJA coastal operations. This in turn translated into their famous 1940-1941 naval exercises in the North Pacific which finally solidified Kido Butai. Their one actual exercise which they ran that fleet against another fleet was for real and it was the Indian Ocean Raid, before they tangled with the Americans. Then they lesson learned the hard way what lack of radar and losing the recon battle meant. Fleet Problem XX killed them.
That was the "fleet problem" where FDR put to sea himself and watched his navy play "mock war". It was the aircraft carrier vs aircraft carrier problem and involved the Panama Canal. This is "where" LANTFLT demonstrated multi-aircraft carrier tactics definitively.
As for the Americans, they did the British follow the gunline procedures until they managed to simulate attacks on the Canal Zone and HAWAII. Then they wondered what would happen if the defender had an aircraft carrier of his own and they "invented" aircraft carrier versus aircraft carrier warfare and quickly learned about the "first strike or you are dead" character of naval air power without the means to detect inbound enemy air craft. This was roughly 1935. They did not have aircraft carriers to mass air operations at the time, (who did?) but they did learn that to survive a first strike and to counter-strike, the aircraft carriers had to be fast, had to operate independent of the surface fleet, had to have bodyguards (heavy cruisers were all they had which were fast enough), and had spread out, so one strike did not catch all the flattops together to be mission killed in one enemy strike. Does any of this sound and look familiar? (Coral Sea and Midway)
Is that not simply the end result of trying to cover three+ oceans with a single/two ocean navy, ie they simply had to split up due to lack of numbers and to many places to have to try and defend?
The Americans had a 1 and 1/4 ocean navy as they underbuilt to treaty limits before 1938. The British had Home Fleet and the Mediterranean Fleet, so call it a two ocean coverage. They had a "presence" in the Indian Ocean. Their "plan", if one could call the "Singapore Bastion Defense" a plan, was to take each Axis naval threat in sequence and crush it and then move on to the next one.. The Home Fleet would handle the Germans (Norway). The Mediterranean Fleet would quickly crush the Italians (Never happened until Matapan and even then the RM kept fighting.) and then the RN was to send elements of the Home and Mediterranean Fleets to deter the Japanese and power project into the South China Sea. (Force Z annihilated.).
Is that not more that she (Aquila) is based off SS Roma, so she was never going to be anything well protected...?
The Aquila was the hull to hand but when one looks at the Aquila, it is an open hanger and armored rafted flight deck design complete with sheave and drum catapults. The closest modern equivalent is a Russian style aviation fleet defense ship which actually duplicates its intended function as a fighter base to support and defend the surface action group it supports.
This is entirely reasonable, but I do have one question:
Will the deep and crippling problems that the FAA had be somewhat rectified? Without this changing, I see little overall effect to the british carrier hitting power.
The British problems were institutional and somewhat "political" (The RAF was incompetent.). One thing the big three naval air power users got wrong was not pay attention to MAHAN and apply him to a navy's air service. The Japanese more or less created a naval air force with the (大日本帝國海軍航空隊, Dai-Nippon Teikoku Kaigun Kōkū-tai
and came closest to a unified air command, but they split off battlefield close air support and army air cooperation and gave those roles to the Imperial Japanese Army. Every other mission they gave to their navy, which is why they were so effective in the air early. Of all the air power users in WWII, the two who came closest to the use and denial of flight as an instrument of power projection and use, were... wait for it... China and Russia. Lack of means and tools did not prevent their air forces from organizing to the means, methods model for use and denial of the air as a medium to the enemy
What has this to do with a naval air service or fleet air arm? Integrated air power means that the same planes which control the use of the air over land can do it over the sea. The mistake is to over-specify that use and denial
. Strategic bombing is a means and method model. Battlefield interdiction mission is a means and method model. Air transport is a means and method model, Close air support is a means and method model.
The same plane can perform the same role whether it dive bombs or level bombs a troop concentration or a naval convoy. Proof? The Battle of the Bismarck Sea. The annihilation of Force Z. The air campaign against Rabaul. These were medium bomber battlefield interdiction missions performed by land based planes to complete sea denial and use missions. RIKKOs.
Aircraft carriers did the same thing with close air support type planes. Jimmy Doolittle ring a bell? (Ryujo rendered a dockyard case.). How about Taranto or PEARL HARBOR?
So... the British had the money, they had the production, they even had the technology, if they had applied it. What they did not have was a clear vision. But they were not alone. Like the Japanese and the Americans, it would take war to teach unified air operations as to mission and means and tools models, and still that lesson learned (F-4 Phantom; VIETNAM) has not been learned.
Some things to note here:
1. CVs with flight deck armor, and with the flight deck thus being the "strength deck" are significantly more expensive and tricky. The high weight higher in the hull creates stability problems and messes up basic ship structure by necessitating gigantic holes for elevators being chopped through said strength deck.
Well... the shock mounted armored flight deck over an armored open bay hanger strength deck, and the open bay hangers and deck edge lifts are war lessons learned.
Suddenly the RN is saving time and money.
By going to a "light aircraft carrier", using the "many aircraft carriers" hypothesis. The problem is Rennell Islands.
The British version is the "Club Runs" before the Pedestal Convoy Battle. RIKKOs can deny the use of the sea and the air above it; if the aircraft carriers and the planes they carry are not there to enforce air control themselves. If the wrong type of aircraft carriers and planes
are used, a fleet dies.
2. Deck spotting, handling, launch and recovery operations are greatly complicated by having the strength deck as the flight deck, usually because elevators must be limited in number
See previous comment. Strike and arm below was a (false) economy measure in peacetime carried over into war. Keeping the planes out of the weather was to extend their use hours in service rather than have salt water eat the plane alive. Since aircraft casualties aboard a flattop amounted to 10% per annum in aircraft and aircrew KILLED in peacetime, the Americans decided that weather was not a problem after all. The Japanese followed the British custom. The British lesson learned to keep the explosions and fires topside and much to their surprise, found that they could park 50% more planes on their CVs than they thought they could if they hardstood the planes on the flight deck. The Japanese did not and what happened to them? Kaboom and burn downs.
The RN may not be stuck launching aircraft in small groups that cannot coordinate.
This could be, but Ark Royal as a model, shows they could work around the problems if they had series built to that specification, better developed the Skuas and Fulmars and solved the watts through props problems and built a plane that could drop a 500 kg bomb in a dive for use from a CV.
3. Armored decks are focusing on preventing bomb damage while causing detriment to most other items. Certainly this paid off at times, Kamikazes being the standout here, but one may ask if less specialized protection wasnt better anyways.
The armored deck is an admission that one has a lousy integrated (fleet) air defense. War lessons learned are as noted above where I described the "onion". RN flak was "terrible". Fighter direction was "fair". Fighters were "lousy". It is in the fighter
(means and methods) that one ultimately controls the airspace use and denial over one's bit of ocean occupied. Notice that the Japanese were competitive as long as the A6M dominated the allied opposition in the air? Once they ran into a competitive tools user in the naval fighter means and methods (P-38 and F6F and F4U), they were done. This was NOT the Seafire or the Sea Hurricane or the land based versions of those aircraft in early war. Those, the IJNAS slaughtered.
4. They will be able to fit more aircraft on, period. Ths USN was able to mass enough naval aircraft onto carrier groups to challenge massed land based air; had they been using illustrious style ships they'd have needed twice the CVs for the compliment to match and 3 times the ships for the sortie generation to match. (Rough numbers, and I probably slightly overstate them.)
True, but one would have wished the USN had treaty cheated and shown up with 33,000 tonne Yorktowns with rafted armored flight decks with deck edge lifts. They could have traded about ten planes capacity for bouncing off the 500 kg bombs to which the Vals were limited. Plus the wider hulls to carry the flight deck means a 5 void torpedo defense system and tougher to sink by torpedoes, hulls. USN sortie rates were sloooooooow, until they learned Japanese methods, so I think the sortie rate argument is more a Korean War lessons learned.
This isn't me taking shots at RN design, mind you. They built good boats that served with distinction. It's hard not to view the Illustrious class in comparison the the Yorktowns from a roughly similar time period though.
Survival wise, the Yorktowns were pounded hard by expert PROFESSIONALS. The Illustrious series faced a clown club in Fliegerkorps X. Still the Illustrious class held up well.
The problem is that no carrier based fighter was capable of really matching land based based fighters much before 1943 and for much of that time there were periods where the latest carrier based fighter was slower or not significantly faster than the latest land based twin and triple engine bombers
The British problem was RAF politics. The American problem was Army, Navy and inside the Navy POLITICS. The Japanese problem was weak aircraft engines. The German problem was Fatso Goering and Fathead Raeder. The Italian problem was Balbo was not running their air war. The Russian problem was ... Stalin mainly. The watts through props issue really only affected the Japanese and they coped rather well at the start. The engines were there in 1939 (Pratts and Bristols and Merlins), as were the aircraft designers who could deliver the right type of air frames (Grumman and Douglas (Heinemann especially) and FOKKER and Northrop).
The Idiots In Charge, (Tower, Stark, for the USN, Arnold and Bissell and BRERETON for the USAAF) (Portal and Pound and et al for the British), did not know what worked or what was needed until 1943. Example... Whirlwind for the British and Skyrocket for the US. Even the P-38 (Model 24 had it been navalized.) despite its problems, would have tipped the scales because "THAT PLANE" would have been the "universal strike aircraft" the USN needed in 1942.
In 1940 for example the Japanese were still using the A5m Claude and the US were using the F2F, F3F and F2A Buffalo (10 aircraft assigned to VF-3 on USS Saratoga during 1940 with Thatch as one of those pilots).
First flight of the P-38 was January 1939.
First flight of the F5F Skyrocket was 1 April 1940.
First flight of the F4F Wildcat was 2 September 1937
First flight of the F2F was 2 December 1937
First flight of the Westland Whirlwind was 11 October 1938.
P-38 was not navalized because John Tower thought it was too expensive and too complicated. Tigercat ring a bell?
F5F Skyrocket was rejected because John Tower thought it was too expensive and too complicated. Tigercat ring a bell?
Tower chose the Buffalo over the Wildcat because he thought the Buffalo showed "more potential". Hellcat ring a bell?
Tower chose the F2F. He should have been in the same prison wing with the idiots of Brewster Aircraft.
The Whirlwind would evolve into the Welkin. The problem with it, can be traced to the incompetent RAF
who opted for the wrong type of propeller
and the wrong type of engines
. Ditch de Havilland props, use HAMILTON STANDARD and fit the bird with radial engined Bristol Taurus engines or PRATTs and she'll banshee at high altitude instead of limp due to the botched Peregrines
And of course with a Whirlwind, one gets an RAF "universal strike aircraft". Land or sea.
So unless the Hurricane and or Spitfire are given their sea legs much earlier there is not a hell of a lot of options.
There are four options. Five if one stuffs decent radials into a Fokker G1.
When did the RN get enough aircraft for it's carriers? IIUC Ark Royal had 54 aircraft in late 41 when she could carry 60 and possibly overload more than that. If the ADCs were replaced with modified Arks there might not be the aircraft to put on them, although perhaps the RN might have got the ex Dutch Buffalos instead of the RAF.
See my previous candidates and comments.
If there are enough aircraft then Taranto would be launched with 30+ aircraft and Sommerville would have a lot more aircraft available in the Indian Ocean in 1942.
See my previous comments. Somerville needed aircraft with GIBs for night-ops and he needed to be a much better admiral than he was, or he needed Lyster instead of the incompetent Boyd to handle flight ops.
Where sea based aircraft ever really faster, than true top end peer aircraft?
Phantom IIs and if one wants the WWII examples?
In its era, the Zero.
Is that not as much simply due to numbers that would be unbelievable pre-war ie 7 CV (all larger than 1/2LNT limits) +8 CVLs?
It depends. Five Ark Royals are better than the garbage lineup the RN had in 1939.
I mean, of course their environment and enemies influenced it. But all Illustrious' survived the war while only 1 Yorktown did.
See my previous comments about this.
I would say the Brits designed well for their environment and it worked well for them. Them being not future proof is not really a mark against them (and hey, not like their contemporaries served long after the war either (Essex class counted as later ships, rather than "contemporary"), Vicky's long service following massive rebuild aside).
The British BOTCHED their postwar rebuilds. The Americans looked and learned, but even they botched the Midways