CARRIER AVIATION IN THE 21ST CENTURY

Reviewed by: James Bosbotinis

Marking the first work dedicated to naval aviation in Harpia’s growing body of military aviation books, Carrier Aviation in the 21st Century: Aircraft Carriers and Their Units provides a review of aircraft carriers and naval aircraft currently in service (or due to enter service in the near-term). Ships dedicated to helicopter operations are not included, thus omitting units such as the Royal Australian Navy’s new Canberra-class, the French Mistral-class or Japan’s Izumo-class ‘helicopter-carrying destroyers’. The book is an edited volume featuring chapters by Felipe Salles, Andreas Rupprecht, Henri-Pierre Grolleau, Angad Singh, Riccardo Niccoli, Piotr Butowski, Salvador Mafé Huertas, Gabriele Molinelli, and Tom Kaminski. Some of the aforementioned will be well-known to readers; Andreas Rupprecht, for example, is a frequent writer on Chinese military aviation developments (including the author of the previously reviewed Flashpoint China: Chinese Air Power and Regional Security). The editor, Thomas Newdick, himself an aviation author, is also the editor of the popular magazine Air Forces Monthly.
The book itself features nine chapters covering naval aviation in Brazil, China, France, India, Italy, Russia, Spain, the UK, and the US. Two appendices are included – ‘Ship Classes’, an overview of the carriers (including technical specifications) covered in the book, and ‘Comparisons’, which features graphics depicting ‘All the World’s Aircraft Carriers (2017)’ and ‘Current Air Wings of the World (2017)’. A brief introduction by Thomas Newdick and a glossary of abbreviations are also included. Each chapter provides an historical overview of the national development of carrier aviation, the current ship(s) and air group operational, (if applicable) combat experience, and future plans. The chapter on Spain includes a discussion of collaboration with the Spanish Army and the process of qualifying Army helicopters for embarked operations, whilst the chapter on the US includes analysis of the Marines Corps’ Aviation Combat Element and how it fits into the wider Marine Air-Ground Task Force. Carrier Aviation in the 21st Century provides an up-to-date, and broad-based coverage of contemporary naval aviation developments, including the decommissioning of the Brazilian Navy’s Sao Paulo (the sale of Ocean was confirmed following the publication of this book). Rupprecht’s chapter on Chinese carrier efforts is timely and informative, and includes analysis of the current Liaoning, the new indigenous carrier and potential follow-on ships.
Carrier Aviation in the 21st Century is generally of very good quality. The book includes excellent photographs, informative tables and graphics showing notional carrier groups. There are occasional issues with the quality of the English in the text, this being due to the authors, for the most part, writing in a second language: this should have been addressed in editing, but does not detract from the overall readability of the book. There are also occasional errors, most glaringly in Molinelli’s chapter on the UK in which he suggests that the Royal Air Force reassumed control of the Fleet Air Arm in 2000. For the most part though, Carrier Aviation in the 21st Century is a good read, providing an excellent introduction to contemporary naval aviation for the casual reader, and much worthwhile reference material to the professional or academic: this reviewer found the book a valuable source of background information during a recent project. Thus far, this reviewer has found Harpia’s books to be written and produced to a high standard; Carrier Aviation in the 21st Century continues this trend and would be a worthy addition to bookshelves.