Fleet Air Arm


Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm logo.JPG
Founded 1937
Country United Kingdom
Size 6,200 personnel
184 aircraft
Part of Royal Navy
Engagements World War II
Korean War
Operation Musketeer (Suez Crisis)
Falklands War
Gulf War
Afghanistan War
Iraq War
Commanders
Commodore-in-Chief HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York
Insignia
Roundels RAF Lowvis Army roundel.svg RAF roundel.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack Lynx
Patrol Merlin
Lynx
Trainer Firefly
Tutor
Hawk
Transport Sea King
United Kingdom
Components
Surface fleet
Fleet Air Arm
Submarine Service
Royal Naval Reserve
Nursing Service (QARNNS)
Royal Fleet Auxiliary
Royal Marines Reserve
Special Boat Service
History and future
History of the Royal Navy
History of the Royal Marines
Customs and traditions
Future of the Royal Navy
Ships
Current fleet
Current deployments
Historic ships
Personnel
The Admiralty
Senior officers
Uniforms
Officer rank insignia
Ratings rank insignia
Related civilian agencies of
the Ministry of Defence
Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service
(now privatised)
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The Fleet Air Arm (FAA) is the branch of the British Royal Navy responsible for the operation of naval aircraft. The Fleet Air Arm currently operates the AgustaWestland Merlin, Westland Sea King and Westland Lynx helicopters. Helicopters such as the Lynx and Westland Wasp have been deployed on smaller vessels since 1964, taking over the roles once performed by biplanes such as the Fairey Swordfish.

The Fleet Air Arm was formed in 1924 as organizational unit of the Royal Air Force which was then operating the aircraft embarked on RN ships - the Royal Naval Aviation Service having been merged with the British Army's Royal Flying Corps in 1918 - and did not come under the direct control of the Admiralty until mid-1939. During the Second World War, the Fleet Air Arm operated both aircraft on ships and land-based aircraft that defended the Royal Navy's shore establishments and facilities.

Contents

History

Beginnings

British naval flying started in 1909, with the construction of an airship for naval duties.[1] In 1911 the Royal Navy graduated its first aeroplane pilots at the Royal Aero Club flying ground at Eastchurch, Isle of Sheppey under the tutelage of pioneer aviator George Bertram Cockburn,[2] but in May 1912 naval and army aviation were combined to become the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). The Naval Wing of the RFC lasted until July 1914 when the Royal Navy reformed its air branch, under the Air Department of the Admiralty[citation needed], naming it the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).[3]

By the outbreak of the First World War, in August 1914, the RNAS had more aircraft under its control than the remaining RFC.[citation needed] The main roles of the RNAS were fleet reconnaissance, patrolling coasts for enemy ships and submarines, attacking enemy coastal territory and defending Britain from enemy air-raids, along with deployment along the Western Front. In April 1918 the RNAS, which at this time had 67,000 officers and men, 2,949 aircraft, 103 airships and 126 coastal stations, merged with the RFC to form the Royal Air Force.

Fleet Air Arm

On 1 April 1924, the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Air Force was formed, encompassing those RAF units that normally embarked on aircraft carriers and fighting ships.[4] On 24 May 1939 the Fleet Air Arm was returned to Admiralty control[5] under the "Inskip Award" (named after the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence who was overseeing Britain's re-armament programme)and renamed the Air Branch of the Royal Navy. At the onset of the Second World War, the Fleet Air Arm consisted of 20 squadrons with only 232 aircraft. By the end of the war the worldwide strength of the Fleet Air Arm was 59 aircraft carriers, 3,700 aircraft, 72,000 officers and men, and 56 Naval air stations.

Durign the war, the FAA operated fighters, torpedo bombers and reconnaisance aircraft. In the waters around the British Isles and out into the Atlantic Ocean, operations against enemy shipping and submarines in support of the RN were mounted by RAF Coastal Command with large partol bombers and flying boats and land-based fighter-bombers. The aircraft carrier had replaced the battleship as the Fleet's capital ship and its aircraft were now strike weapons in their own right. The top scoring fighter ace with 17 victories was Commander Stanley Orr, the only Royal Marine ace was Ronald Cuthbert Hay with 13 victories.

Post-war history

After the war the FAA needed to fly jet aircraft from their carriers. The jet aircraft of the era were considerably less effective at low speeds than propeller aircraft, but propeller aircraft could not effectively fight jets at the high speeds flown by jet aircraft. The FAA took on its first jet, the Sea Vampire, in the late 1940s. The Sea Vampire was the first jet credited with taking off and landing on a carrier. The Air Arm continued with high-powered prop aircraft alongside the new jets resulting in the FAA being woefully outpowered during the Korean War. Nevertheless, jets were not yet wholly superior to propeller aircraft and a flight of ground-attack Hawker Sea Furies downed a MiG-15 and damaged others in an engagement.

As jets became larger, more powerful and faster they required more space to take off and land. The US Navy simply built much larger carriers. The Royal Navy had a few large carriers built and completed after the end of the war but another solution was sought. This was partly overcome by the introduction of a Royal Navy idea to angle the flight deck away from the centre line so that the aircraft landing had a clear run away from the usual forward deck park. An associated British invention, intended to provide more precise optical guidance to aircraft on final approaching the deck, was the Fresnel lens optical landing aid. Another Royal Navy invention was the use of a steam powered catapult to cater for the larger and heavier aircraft (both systems were adopted by the US Navy).

Defence cuts across the British armed forces during the 1960s led to the withdrawal of existing carriers and cancellation of replacements including the CVA-01 design. A new series of small carriers, the Invincible classanti-submarine warfare ships (known as "through deck cruisers") were built and equipped with the Sea Harrier a derivative of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier VTOL aircraft. These carriers incorporated an upswept forward section of the flight deck that deflected the aircraft upward on launch and permitted heavier loads to be carried by the Harrier, for example in weaponry, and the system was used extensively in the Falklands war. The Harrier went on to form the basis of the Royal Navy's fixed-wing strike forces.

Two new Queen Elizabeth class carriers able to operate the navalised version of the US Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft are under construction; it is not certain if both carriers will enter service no the number of aircraft that will be purchased.

Helicopters also became important combat vehicles starting in the 1960s. At first they were employed on the carriers alongside the fixed-wing aircraft, but later they were also deployed on most smaller ships. Today at least one helicopter is found on all ships of frigate size or larger. Wasps and Sea Harriers played an active part in the 1982 Falkland Islands conflict, while Lynx helicopters played an attack role against Iraqi patrol boats in the 1991 Gulf War and Commando Sea King HC4s as well as the Lynx HMA Mk 8 from HMS Argyll, assisted in suppressing rebel forces in Sierra Leone.

In 2000 the Sea Harrier force was merged with the RAF's Harrier GR7 fleet to form Joint Force Harrier. The Fleet Air Arm began withdrawing the Sea Harrier from service in 2004 with the disbandment of 800 NAS. 801 NAS disbanded on 28 March 2006 at RNAS Yeovilton (HMS Heron). 800 and 801 NAS were then combined to form the Naval Strike Wing, flying ex-RAF Harrier GR7 and GR9s. On 1 April 2010, NSW reverted to the identity of 800 Naval Air Squadron. The Harrier GR7 and GR9 retired from service in December 2010 following the 2010 SDSR.[6]

The Fleet Air Arm has a museum near RNAS Yeovilton (HMS Heron) in Somerset, England at which many of the great historical aircraft flown by the Service are on display, along with aircraft from other sources. There is also a Fleet Air Arm museum inside the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) in Auckland, New Zealand. On display there is a full-size replica Fairey Swordfish, along with historic items and memorabilia.

The FAA today

The Fleet Air Arm has approximately 6,200 personnel, which is over 15% of the Royal Navy's total strength.

Chief of Staff (Aviation and Carriers) and Rear Admiral Fleet Air Arm

REAR ADMIRAL TOM CUNNINGHAM April 2010-?

Squadrons

Fleet Air Arm flying squadrons are formally named Naval Air Squadron (NASs),[7] a title used as a suffix to the squadron number. The FAA assigns numbers in the 700-799 range to training and operational conversion squadrons and numbers in the 800-899 range to operational squadrons. During WWII the 1700 and 1800 ranges were also used for operational squadrons.

Squadrons active in the FAA are:[7]

Squadron Aircraft Base Role
700W Naval Air Squadron Lynx Wildcat Yeovilton Lynx Wildcat Trials unit
702 Naval Air Squadron Lynx Yeovilton Training (Lynx)
703 Naval Air Squadron (G115 Tutor from November 2009) Barkston Heath Elementary flying training
705 SquadronNote 1 Squirrel HT.1 and HT.2 Shawbury Advanced helicopter training (DHFS)
727 Naval Air Squadron Grob G 115 Tutor Yeovilton Air Experience
750 Naval Air Squadron Beechcraft King Air 350ER Culdrose Observer training
771 Naval Air Squadron Sea King HAR.5 Culdrose Search and Rescue
792 Naval Air Squadron Galileo Mirach 100 (aerial target) Culdrose Missile testing
814 Naval Air Squadron Merlin HM.1 Culdrose Anti-Submarine Warfare
815 Naval Air Squadron Lynx HAS.3/HMA.8 Yeovilton Small ship flights
820 Naval Air Squadron Merlin HM.1 Culdrose Anti-Submarine Warfare
824 Naval Air Squadron Merlin HM.1 (OCU) Culdrose Training (Merlin)
829 Naval Air Squadron Merlin HM.1 Culdrose Anti-Submarine Warfare
845 Naval Air Squadron Sea King HC.4/HC.4+ Yeovilton Commando support
846 Naval Air Squadron Sea King HC.4/HC.4+ Yeovilton Commando Support
847 Naval Air Squadron Lynx AH.7/9 Yeovilton Commando Support
848 Naval Air Squadron Sea King HC.4/HAS.6(CR) Yeovilton Training (Sea King)
849 Naval Air Squadron Sea King ASaC.7 Culdrose Airborne Surveillance
854 Naval Air Squadron Sea King ASaC.7 Culdrose Airborne Surveillance
857 Naval Air Squadron Sea King ASaC.7 Culdrose Airborne Surveillance
HMS Gannet SAR Flight Sea King HAR.5 Prestwick Search and Rescue

Note:

1. Designated 705 Squadron rather than a NAS due to being an integral part of the Defence Helicopter Flying School.

Culdrose (HMS Seahawk) is near Helston in Cornwall and Yeovilton (HMS Heron) is near Ilchester in Somerset. Their satellites or relief airfields are at Predannack and Merryfield respectively.

Squadrons that were active at some point can be found in the List of Fleet Air Arm aircraft squadrons.

Royal Naval Reserve Air Branch

In 1938, Admiralty Fleet Orders 2885 announced the formation of an Air Branch of the Royal Naval Reserve. Thirty three unmarried men signed up for 18 months full-time flying training; however, before these first volunteers were able to gain their wings Britain was at war.

At the end of hostilities in 1945 the RNVR(A) was 46,000 strong, with over 8000 aircrew. Post war the RNVR(A) comprised 12 dedicated reserve squadrons, grouped regionally into Air Divisions. However, defence cuts in 1957 disbanded the five Air Divisions, and the following year the RNVR was merged with the RNR.

The RNR Air Branch was commissioned at RNAS Yeovilton on 16 July 1980, and shortly afterwards 38 ex-regular aircrew began refresher training. Today the Air Branch comprises approx 250 ex-regular service Officers and Ratings, covering all aviation trades, tasked to support the Fleet Air Arm.

Aircraft

Merlin HM.1, 814 NAS

The FAA operates fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. The FAA uses the same designation system for aircraft as the RAF.

Three types of fixed-wing aircraft are operated by the FAA for training purposes: pilot training is carried out using the Grob Tutor while, from March 2011, observer training is done using four Beechcraft King Air 350s.[8] The third type is the Hawk T1, which is used to simulate enemy aircraft for training purposes including AEW Fighter Control, air-to-air combat and ship attack.

Today the larger section of the FAA is the rotary-wing part. Its aviators fly four types of helicopter, and within each type there are usually several marks/versions which carry out different roles.

Pilots designated for rotary wing service train at the Defence Helicopter Flying School, RAF Shawbury. The School is a tri-Service organisation consisting of civilian and military instructors (including Naval instructors and a Naval Squadron) that take the student from basic flying through to more advanced flying such as instrument flying, navigation, formation and captaincy.

The oldest aircraft in the fleet is the Westland Sea King, which performs missions in several versions. The Sea King HC4 serves as a medium-lifter and troop-transporter in support of the Royal Marines. The HAS5U model operates in the search and rescue and utility roles, while the Sea King HU5 is designed for search and rescue work (although the HAS5Us are often called HU5s as well).[citation needed] The HAS6C is used for assault transport training; and the ASaC7 operates in the AEW role.

Intermediate in age is the Westland Lynx. The Lynx AH7s serve the FAA in the observation and anti-armour helicopter roles, but are mainly a light-lift helicopter. Along with the Sea King HC4s, they are part of the Commando Helicopter Force, which provides support to 3 Commando Brigade of the Royal Marines.

The surface combatants of the Royal Navy have their helicopters provided for the most part by the Lynx HAS3 and HMA8 aircraft. These Lynxes have primarily an anti-submarine warfare role and anti-surface vessel role. They are able to fire the Sea Skua anti-surface missile, which was used to combat the Iraqi navy in the 1991 Gulf War. It can be armed with Stingray air-launched torpedoes and depth charges for anti-submarine warfare, as well as a machine gun. The Lynx was originally envisaged for surface combatants that were too small for the Sea King, but now equips most surface ships of the Royal Navy.

The newest helicopter in the FAA is the AgustaWestland Merlin HM1. This has now replaced the Sea King HAS6 in the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) role, and is deployed on the various ships of the Royal Navy. The EH101 airframe is to replace the Sea King ASaC7s in the AEW role on Britain's planned new aircraft carriers.[citation needed]

Notable members

Some 64 naval pilots and 9 observers have reached flag rank in the Royal Navy and 4 Royal Marines pilots general rank in the Royal Marines. Four of these admirals with pilot's 'wings' were air engineering officers (test pilots) and two were supply officers; two of the non-executive officers reached four-star rank: a supply officer, Admiral Sir Brian Brown (1934-), and a Royal Marine, General Sir Peter Whiteley (1920-).

  • At least 21 naval air engineering officers have reached flag rank (including the four test pilots (see above).

See also

References

  1. ^ Naval Aviation History & FAA Origins - Fleet Air Arm Archive
  2. ^ [1] Flight Magazine, 13 May 1911
  3. ^ The Australian Naval Aviation Museum (1998). Flying stations: a story of Australian naval aviation. St Leonards, NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-846-8. 
  4. ^ Sea Your History - Interwar: Fleet Air Arm
  5. ^ Fleet Air Arm Officers' Association - Notable Dates
  6. ^ "Naval Strike Wing". www.royalnavy.mod.uk. Royal Navy. http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/operations-and-support/fleet-air-arm/naval-air-squadrons/naval-strike-wing/. Retrieved 25 June 2010. [dead link]
  7. ^ a b Naval Air Squadrons royalnavy.mod.uk
  8. ^ Royal Navy unveils its new King Air
  9. ^ "Jutland Veteran Celebrated as Hologram". IWM. Archived from the original on 2008-06-27. http://web.archive.org/web/20080627080404/http://www.iwm.org.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.3699. "Britain’s oldest man and the last known survivor of the Battle of Jutland, Henry Allingham aged 109 has been captured as a hologram" 
  • Ray Sturtivant & Theo Ballance, The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm, first edition 1994, Air Britain, Kent UK, ISBN 0-85130-223-8.

External links


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