Introduction of Aircraft Carriers into the Royal Navy: Lessons for the Development of Naval Doctrine

Introduction of Aircraft Carriers into the Royal Navy: Lessons for the Development of Naval Doctrine

30 Nov 23
Posted by: Cdr James J Tritten USN (rtd)
Message from the Editor

The Battle of Taranto of 11-12 November 1940 was an epoch defining event in the history of naval aviation and a decisive moment for the Fleet Air Arm. With the 83rd anniversary of the battle in mind, we reproduce here an American perspective on the Royal Navy’s pioneering development of aircraft carriers and the lessons for naval doctrine this history demonstrates. Originally published in July 1994 [82/3, p. 260]. A 30 minute read.


The US Navy and Marine Corps have created a new Naval Doctrine Command which is charged with meeting the doctrinal needs of the naval services into the 21st century.[1] Although one can find current standardised operating concepts, principles, and even an existing system of naval tactical warfare publications, most Western naval services have never formally established and published ‘naval doctrine’. In the effort to write doctrine, the US sea services have looked to major lessons of history to help them to define it. One way to find previous doctrine is to look for shifts in the existing concepts of war when militaries of the world reacted to the introduction of a new technology. Often, the very nature of war (doctrine) shifted due to the opportunities afforded by the new technology.

Such major introductions of new technology in the industrial age include:[2]

  • British and French rifled handguns
  • Prussian breech-loading rifles and steel artillery
  • French steam propulsion and screw propellers
  • French seagoing ironclad fleet
  • British Dreadnought
  • French submarine as warship
  • British aircraft as a military platform
  • Germany splitting the atom
  • US atomic and thermonuclear weapons
  • Superpower development of world-wide nuclear weapons delivery capability.

Looking at this list, the US Navy could probably best benefit from the lesson of the introduction of the aircraft as a weapon of war since the changes in doctrine were extremely dramatic and affected virtually every part of the military and naval services.

“From the start, the aeroplane was an awkward pill for the Navy to swallow. Everything about it was novel and unorthodox. It was expensive. It introduced into naval affairs very complex new problems of men and material. It revolutionised the conduct of maritime warfare. It changed the shape of the Navy by superseding the battleship, and in doing so it challenged centuries of traditional thought.”[3]

This article will consider the introduction of the aircraft and aircraft carrier and the eventual role of the Fleet Air Arm in the Royal Navy as a case study in the development and change in naval doctrine.[4]

Beginnings of British Sea-based Aviation

Having initially failed to convince the sceptical US Armed Forces that their product had any merit, two American contractors travelled to Europe at the turn of the century, peddling their latest version of a new advanced technology – the aeroplane. France accepted the Wright Brothers’ new technology and commenced a modest building programme which explored its military applications. The brothers then travelled to Britain where the new technology was initially rejected by the Admiralty. Vice Admiral Sir Arthur Hezlet has commented that the aeroplane in 1907 was “…a powered box kite with a 25-mile range, no payload and a single pilot whose whole attention was taken up keeping the machine in the air,” and that it “did not seem to contribute much to naval warfare.”[5] This type of thought was heard as late as 1927 – “the development of aircraft for war purposes is a sheer waste of men and money and moreover, constitutes a grave danger, since expenditure and dependence upon unreliable and futile weapons is a sure road to defeat.”[6] As we well know today, events were to prove those opinions wrong and the aircraft revolutionised both naval warfare and the British Navy.

Although the Admiralty initially rejected the Wright brothers’ attempt to get them involved with aeroplanes, the Royal Navy did launch a rigid airship building programme in 1908. This effort was to produce an airborne reconnaissance platform for the fleet – a function that would colour the development of aircraft and the doctrine for the use of aviation assets by the RN for the next 35 years. In short, because aircraft were first procured for auxiliary purposes, it was hard to break free of this image even though technology offered alternative uses in war.

It was not until 1912 that heavier-than-air machines were taken seriously by the Navy – largely a result of three events. First, Louis Bleriot crossed the channel in 37 minutes, forever challenging Britain’s insularity. Second, the US Navy finally admitted aircraft had some military merit and held a series of public tests of aircraft taking off and landing from warships. Third, Francis McClean and George Cockburn offered to supply the Admiralty with aeroplanes, a flying field, and free instruction. Four Royal Navy officers were sent to Eastchurch to form the nucleus of fixed wing naval aviation and, within a year, they replicated the American efforts of flying from the decks of warships.

The Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was soon created with separate Military and Naval Wings. The mission of the Naval Wing was reconnaissance (similar to that of airships) and anti-Zeppelin defence. In October 1912, the violation of British territorial airspace by an airship, feared to be the Zeppelin L1, caused a public clamour leading to a debate over which arm of the RFC should have cognisance over anti-Zeppelin air defence. In this debate, Winston Churchill gave a rousing speech before the House of Commons in which he said that “…any hostile aircraft, airships or airplanes, which reached our coast during the coming year would be promptly attacked in superior force by a swarm of very formidable hornets.”[7] Naval proponents won the day by emphasising the traditional role of the Royal Navy in terms of homeland defence and by arguing that the mission should be assigned to the Naval Wing of the RFC. The Military Wing would, instead, follow the newly formed British Expeditionary Force (BEF) wherever it went in time of war.

Although intrepid naval officers had learned to drop bombs, it was this fear of the German Zeppelin that shaped the initial direction of naval aviation. The Naval Wing of the RFC was an auxiliary and defensive force. The Admiralty, however, had recruited a strong supporter and provided flight training to the energetic Winston Churchill – who had other ideas. Soon the Naval Wing of the RFC was granted independence and formed into a separate Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) with mostly seaplanes and the primary missions of homeland defence and reconnaissance. Again, naval aviation was an auxiliary force.

In the Great War, the Royal Navy operated their aeroplanes in accordance with these given missions. They learned that their seaplanes, however, had too much drag to be effective anti-Zeppelin interceptors. As often happens, the fleet was forced to improvise. Flight Sub-Lieutenant Warneford won a Victoria Cross for destruction of a German Zeppelin by bombing it from the air.[8] Better land plane fighters were soon stationed aboard major combatants that had been fitted with special ‘flying-off’ platforms – no provision initially being made to recover the pilot aboard his ship. The RNAS did experiment with landing on these flying-off platforms which eventually led to the pioneering development of flushdeck aircraft carriers – the first in the world.

Aviators being inherently aggressive minded, anti-Zeppelin defence was soon interpreted by the RNAS to include long-range attack against German airships at their home bases – leading to one of the first diplomatic protests over the violation of neutral airspace during time of war. This concept of ‘defence’ surfaced again years later when NATO navies inherently understood that defence against Backfire bombers in the Norwegian Sea should include strikes against their bases in the Kola Peninsula. The RNAS Great War spirit of the ‘offensive’, however, did not carry over to the development of an approved doctrine for strikes from the air against ships at sea or ships in their ports.

In World War I, Germany did make some initial attempts to use its aviation assets against the Royal Navy, but their lack of success reinforced naval officers’ conclusions that aircraft were mere auxiliaries to the main battle fleet. British ships that had been modified to handle aircraft were officially called fleet auxiliaries and were viewed by officers of that time as quite simply “not career enhancing.” Despite the best efforts of the RNAS, the continued success of German air attacks in the Channel and on the British Islands, as well as other events of the war, led to a parliamentary committee recommending a mid-war reunification of the air forces under a new Royal Air Force (RAF). Admiralty officers were fully engrossed with the German submarine menace, and a possible decisive battle with the German High Seas Fleet, and they let the matter pass with only minor opposition. Although the creation of another unified flying service actually changed aviation support of the fleet very little during the remainder of the war, the loss of control over its air arm would haunt the Admiralty for the next 20 years.

The legacy of aviation in the British Armed Forces during the interwar years is well known to us all and does not need to be repeated herein.[9] The Washington Naval Conference freed up resources for the development of aircraft carriers that would have otherwise have been spent on battleships. Those aircraft carriers were built by the Royal Navy and they would prove during combat to be of a superior design. The RAF did not adequately address the needs of naval aviation and the Navy.[10] The Navy, essentially devoid of aviation expertise, did not approve of the use of aircraft as they would later serve during World War II, and hence submitted no advanced designs.

In contrast to naval aviation in the US Navy, there was no serious path for advancement for aviators within the Royal Navy. The incentive for upward mobility being within the ranks of the RAF, it is no wonder that a Royal Navy officer did not command a flight within the Fleet Air Arm until 1927.[11] Hence, although the Admiralty fought for and eventually won back control of the Fleet Air Arm, when the war broke out there was not the large pool of experienced senior aviators within the ranks of the Royal Navy that were found in the US Navy. Many of the aviation-experienced naval officers were found in the ranks of observers rather than of pilots. Doctrinal thinking about the role of airpower at sea did not change and the Royal Navy remained committed to the conduct of sea battles centred around the battleship and the aircraft carrier and her aircraft as auxiliary units.[12] The centre for airpower doctrinal development was the RAF, whose primary concerns did not include war at sea.

Second World War

With the outbreak of the Second World War, naval aviation served essentially defensively as envisaged under existing naval doctrine. Fleet aircraft served as search platforms scouring the seas for surface raiders and forces to be engaged. Aircraft carriers ferried aircraft for the RAF to distant theatres. Biplanes served as gunfire spotters during the bombardment of the French fleet at Oran. Aircraft were a part of a Joint Services effort that effectively dealt with the Bismarck. Interestingly, when Ark Royal was attacked by German fighters, her fighters were kept below so that anti-aircraft fire would not be impeded – in accordance with existing doctrine.[13] Hence, at the outbreak of the war, the aircraft carrier was not the centre of gravity in the Royal Navy.

There were, however, actions taken by the fleet and from the sea that were not fully in accordance with this approved doctrinal concept of the aircraft carrier merely as an auxiliary in fleet engagements. Early in the war, carrier aircraft were sent from the sea into Norwegian fjords to strike at German warships and against shore targets. This included the first squadron-sized night torpedo attacks – nearly a month prior to the subsequent strike at Taranto.[14] Fleet aircraft also operated in support of ground forces ashore – including supporting their withdrawal.

A September 1940 Free French amphibious landing at Dakar was totally supported by air with naval aviation assets.[15] Fleet Air Arm units operating in the Mediterranean made dusk torpedo attacks against Italian ships in Augusta Bay and similar attacks elsewhere. Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham made use of carrier aircraft to harass Axis lines of communications and in numerous strikes from the sea. Carrier aircraft from Force H struck French battleships in their harbours at Oran and Dakar.

One of these strikes from the sea was the famous November 1940 attack by carrier aircraft against the main Italian fleet at Taranto. Half of the Italian battle fleet was put out of action for the loss of two planes, one officer killed, and three taken prisoner. The attack on Taranto is a textbook case of ‘economy of force’ and ‘surprise’ – principles of war found in our new US naval doctrine. The attack on Taranto and earlier strikes against other Italian and French fleet locations and against German warships in Norwegian fjords were extremely effective strikes from the sea that all predate the similar Japanese strike at Pearl Harbor.

Even after these attacks from the sea proved that naval aviation had potential beyond that accorded in existing approved doctrine, senior British naval leaders still wrote about naval aviation’s activities merely as extensions of the fleet. In his 1941 book Modern Naval Strategy, Admiral Sir Reginald H. S. Bacon acknowledged the attack at Taranto but still described the role of the aeroplane as an auxiliary.[16] Change would come to the Royal Navy, and the aircraft carrier and the Fleet Air Arm would soon be the focal point of naval operations.

The attack on Taranto set up the Royal Navy’s subsequent blue water victory off Cape Matapan during which venerable Albacore and Swordfish biplanes demonstrated that they could also disable armoured capital ships that were manoeuvring defensively at sea and were well-protected by escorts. Matapan was an old-school ‘decisive battle’ at sea but conducted in modem ‘combined arms’ fashion. Aircraft served as advanced striking weapons and the ‘big-guns’ delivered the coup de grace.[17] Matapan resulted in the loss of three Italian heavy cruisers and damage to Italy’s most modem battleship – at the cost of only one aircraft (again, the principle of war of economy of force is illustrated).[18] The March 1941 Battle of Matapan had operational-strategic repercussions on the conduct and outcome of the war in the Mediterranean and North African theatre. The role played by Formidable and her aircraft in the battle, which incidentally predates the experiences of US carrier-based aircraft as long-range war-at-sea strike assets in the Coral Sea and at Midway, was a harbinger of successful operation by British fast carrier task groups in the Pacific. The numerous attacks by the Fleet Air Arm against fleet and maritime anchorages, and the Battle at Matapan illustrate the ‘objective’ – another principle of war.

Fleet Air Arm carrier aircraft made strikes against the harbours of Petsamo and Kirkenes in occupied Norway following the 1941 entry of the Soviet Union into the war. They also made numerous strikes against German warships such as Tirpitz and auxiliaries in Norwegian fjords – making do as best they could with the aircraft at hand. Aircraft carriers provided air support for the invasions of North Africa and Italy until such time as air operations could be sustained ashore and they supported a model amphibious operation against Madagascar in May 1942. In the latter half of the war, newly commissioned escort carriers and those converted from merchant ships operated in support of the Battle of the Atlantic much the same as their American cousins.

Despite the lack of official doctrinal development in the interwar years and in the initial days of World War II, the Fleet Air Arm was, therefore, extremely innovative in its approach to war at sea and war from the sea. In part, the Royal Navy was limited by the aircraft that had been provided by the RAF in those earlier years. Yet despite these handicaps, the fleet successfully adopted many combat forms that had been developed in the US during the interwar years and were to serve the US well subsequent to its losses at Pearl Harbor.[19] With the benefit of training in the US and the infusion of US Navy aircraft, the Fleet Air Arm was finally able to demonstrate its full potential – in the Pacific theatre where naval operations tended to dominate the war.

With the arrival in the Pacific of Victorious in 1943, the Royal Navy began to adopt American tactical doctrine and procedures for aircraft carriers[20] in support of amphibious landings, ground forces ashore, and independent strikes against land targets. The British Pacific Fleet, with its four modem carriers, was moulded into an American fast carrier task force – joining Admiral Spruance as Task Force 57 and later Admiral Halsey as Task Force 37. It took about a year for the Royal Navy to acclimatise to the American doctrine, but even then the lack of a similar logistical support force restricted British operations to fewer days on the line than their US counterpart.[21]

The British Pacific Fleet performed laudably in support of the invasion of Okinawa and in strikes from the sea against Japan and the Japanese fleet in home waters. It was in one of the final strikes of the war that Lt Hampton Gray courageously pressed home an attack with his Corsair against an escort vessel – an action for which he was posthumously awarded one of only two Victoria Crosses given to naval aviators in World War II.[22]

While their armoured decks reduced the numbers of aircraft that were embarked (a major debating point in the 1930s), the value of these Royal Navy carriers was proven in dramatic fashion when they were fully operational within hours of kamikaze attacks – unlike their American counterparts. On the other hand, it must be admitted that the paucity of their offensive striking power also reduced their operational capabilities in the minds of the American fleet commanders. Although officially termed a task ‘force’, the British task ‘group’-sized Pacific Fleet was essentially operated as an independent but collaborative arm of American forces – unlike more fully integrated operations associated with North Atlantic convoys, antisubmarine warfare operations, and modem NATO procedures.

Although finally organised and equipped for war at sea against other carrier task forces, the Royal Navy never fought such a battle with their own carriers as the centre of gravity. Their relatively recent entree in the field of carrier-centred warfare made them a poor stepchild in the minds of many American admirals in the Pacific who preferred to let them operate on their own in the Indian Ocean or, if they had to be a part of the Pacific ‘show’, to be assigned to General Douglas MacArthur in the south vide Admiral Chester Nimitz’s thrust across the centre.

It had taken nearly 40 years for the Royal Navy to change its formal doctrine from emphasis on the battleship to that of the aircraft carrier and for it to accept the proper role accorded to naval aviation during the Second World War. It took tremendous bureaucratic efforts, the courage and skill of daring aviators, and the intervention of a global war to change Admiralty policy. This does not bode well for anyone thinking about revolutionising navies.

Lessons of History

There are some excellent lessons learned here on the development of doctrine which we can capitalise on. First, naval doctrine has existed in the past. According to the current US Department of Defence and Joint Chiefs of Staff definition, doctrine is the “fundamental principles by which the military forces or elements thereof guide their actions in support of national objectives. It is authoritative but requires judgement in application.”[23] Naval ‘doctrine’ has existed, under other names, even in the US Navy in written form and probably more importantly as a shared culture in the minds of its admirals. Written doctrine existed in the Pacific in World War II and documented how commanders should operate their forces at sea and win against a determined enemy engaged in mortal combat. That written doctrine was adopted by the Royal Navy which operated in the Pacific as an integral part of the US fleet. Having written doctrine did not detract from our victory at sea. What is new today is the formalisation of a US Navy-wide doctrinal process more on the model of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

Second, doctrine must be developed from the tried and true lessons of history, but also with an eye toward the opportunities presented by emerging technologies and new political realities. History is important to learn what has been tried and either fails or succeeds. It is not, however, a total guide to how we must fight in the future. The technological innovation of the RNAS in using land planes as Zeppelin interceptors and by providing flying-off platforms on surface warships during the First World War is the type of originality that we expect of our naval forces in time of war.

Innovation in time of war, however, is extremely difficult and, under today’s concepts of short regional contingencies, will we have the time? The technological opportunities afforded by the development of the lightweight radial engine for aircraft were capitalised upon by the US Navy’s peacetime doctrinal development for carrier warfare. It represents a missed opportunity for the Royal Navy. Great Britain, the Royal Navy, and the Fleet Air Arm suffered early in World War II because, during the interwar years, there was only modest activity within the Royal Navy to address changes in doctrine afforded by new aviation technologies.[24]

Third, no matter how well thought out doctrine is before the war, it is very likely that forces will be used in a manner that has not been fully anticipated during a war. When the real world does not develop as anticipated in the programming world, naval forces will still go to sea in the ships and aircraft that resulted from the fiscal realities that drove pre-war programming decisions. This is exactly what happened when Lieutenant-Commanders N. W. Williamson and J. W. Hale and 40 other intrepid aviators flying their obsolete Swordsfish biplanes 53 years ago struck the heart of the Italian fleet at Taranto. Hence there is no reason that the military should not develop prototype doctrine today for concepts of war under political and fiscal guidance different from that currently approved for programming purposes by governments which are presently in office.

Witness the restructuring of the American Armed Forces from: (1) being able to handle a European-centred global conventional war under President Ronald Reagan, to; (2) planned downsizing to handle DESERT STORM-sized major regional contingencies and a program to reconstitute for global war under President Bush, to; (3) a NATO alliance and a US government that does not include plans to reconstitute a European-centred global conventional warfighting capability.[25] Before we lose the expertise on how we planned to fight and win a European-centred global conventional war, we need to document it in formal written doctrine so that if the doctrine is ever needed again, it will be available. Granted, the best efforts of governments and mankind will try to prevent another global conventional war – but if they fail, it might be nice to have the lessons of our previous thoughts.

Fourth, doctrine changes. Doctrine is not cast in stone and must be subject to the interpretation of commanders at sea. It was extremely difficult for the Royal Navy to break free of its doctrinal constraints and accept new roles for the fleet possible with more innovative uses of airpower. Naval doctrine should be authoritative but not directive. The operator in the field must be allowed sufficient latitude to use doctrine to his advantage and to supplement that doctrine with his own best judgment. Where doctrine is routinely supplemented or disregarded, then doctrine clearly needs to be adjusted. Inputs from the operators in the field are vital to ensuring that doctrine does not become ‘doctrinaire’.

Fifth, it is acceptable to study the doctrine of other navies and borrow from them – just as we routinely borrow each other’s technology. In part, this is what the Royal Navy did when it integrated within the US Pacific Fleet in World War II. Did the US Navy prior to our entry into World War II study those initial uses of British carrier aircraft to strike ashore from the sea and to conduct long-range strikes at sea? The Soviet Navy studied the Royal Navy’s performance in the Falklands War, in part, to learn from the experience and especially to see how one might use limited capability aircraft carriers to support an operational-level military action in distant waters. Have we studied the use of naval power by Arabs and the Israelis as we shift to littoral warfare?[26]

The concept of formal written doctrine for the US Naval Services is one that we have borrowed from the British. Are there Navies in the world today that have previously thought through naval doctrine, under various titles, that we should consider when we develop new doctrine? The model for initial US naval doctrine is to borrow from sister Services.[27] Why not look at foreign models as well with full recognition that not all lessons learned will be valid?

Sixth, it is not easy to institute a significant doctrinal change in large organisations. The legacy of the difficulty of change within the Royal Navy leads one to conclude that doctrinal change is akin to religious or ideological war. The shift of the fleet’s centre of gravity from the battleship to the aircraft carrier in the US Navy was a consequence of both the actions at Pearl Harbor and the controversial doctrinal development undertaken by a small group of heretical officers within the US Navy throughout the 1930s.[28] Changes to doctrine in the British and American Navies were the result of sequential bureaucratic operations, not one ‘decisive battle’. For those who want to make major changes to a Navy, it would be wise to plan a ‘naval campaign’ with the goal of ‘getting the camel’s nose under the tent’.


There is much to learn about the history of naval doctrine and especially the changes in previous doctrine caused by changes in technology. Is the doctrine demonstrated successfully during our recent Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM the right doctrine for tomorrow? Is our military thinking still caught up in a Cold War mentality where the enemy is a foreign government (vice a non-governmental actor with military capability) and we need to project forces (instead of the infrastructure)?[29] Is it possible to predict the doctrine that we will need for the future? How do you develop doctrine in the absence of fielded forces (we did this for the Strategic Defence Initiative)? Today, we are witnessing both changes in technology as well as the international security environment which will change how navies are to operate. The uses of naval forces will change in the future which will in turn require different types of hardware for the fleet. Under austere fiscal conditions, we may need the doctrine first to justify why we want to buy various types of weapons systems.

Even if we simply focus on current capabilities, before we move on to doctrine for more advanced concepts of warfare, the shift from open-ocean naval operations to joint littoral warfare will be as traumatic to Western navies as was the shift from the battleship to the aircraft carrier…. From the Sea and the move within the US Armed Forces to jointness are not business as normal. Despite early emphasis on not being perceived as a ‘revolutionary’ organisation, the Naval Doctrine Command cannot help but be perceived as such.[30] In short, the first order of business for the Naval Doctrine Command will be to deliver to the fleet naval doctrine that is viewed as ‘useful’.

Perhaps the best solution to this problem is first to document the doctrine of today with the obvious necessity to adjust from open-ocean operations to the joint littoral. Once that is done – no easy task – the next step should be to internalise successfully that doctrine within the fleet. Once the Navy demonstrates that it accepts formal written doctrine and that it has value, it will then be time to move into the development of doctrine for the future and the inevitable entree into the world of programming.

The recent shift in emphasis in the US Naval Services from the old European-centred global conventional war to regionally-focused crisis response has taken place amid relatively little controversy and, up to now, without shooting. As further cuts reveal themselves, it will be interesting to see how cordial this downsizing process remains.[31]


[1] Rear Admiral Frederick L. Lewis, USN, ‘The Naval Doctrine Command Starts Work,’ US Naval Institute Proceedings, 119, 10 (October 1993): 95-87.

[2] Dr. Terrence R. Fehner ‘National Responses to Technological Innovations in Weapons Systems, 1815 to the Present,’ (Germantown, MD, History Associates, Inc., 7 January, 1986).

[3] Admiral of the Fleet Sir Casper John RN, in Hugh Popham, Into Wind (London, Hamish Hamilton, 1969) pp. vii-viii.

[4] See also Lieutenant-Commander James J. Tritten USN, ‘The Evolution of Fixed-Wing Aviation and the Carrier Striking Group in the Royal Navy,’ The Army Quarterly and Defence Journal, 109, no. 3 (July 1979): 280-290.

[5] Vice-Admiral Sir Arthur Hezlet RN, Aircraft and Sea Power, New York: Stein and Day publishers, 1970, pp. 4-5.

[6] ‘Neon’ (Marion Whiteford Asworth), The Great Delusion, London: Ernest Benn, Ltd., 1927, p. xxxvii.

[7] Winston S. Churchill, ‘Naval Estimates’ (A Speech before the House of Commons, 17 March 1914), quoted in Robert R. James, ed., Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches, Vol. 111: 19/4-1922 (New York. NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 1974) p. 2245.

[8] Vice Admiral Brian B. Schofield RN, The Attack on Taranto (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press (Sea Battles in Close-up, no. 6), 1993) p. 10.

[9] Geoffrey Till, Air Power and the Royal Navy 1914-1945: A Historical Survey (London, UK: Jane’s Publishing Co., 1979). See also Norman Friedman, ‘The Fleet Air Arm: A Failed Military Technical Revolution’ unpublished draft chapter for a forthcoming book on the early years of carrier aviation.

[10] G. A. H. Gordon, British Seapower and Procurement Between the Wars: A Reappraisal of Rearmament (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1988, pp. 227-229) provides a slightly different rendition of this theme. Gordon claims that the Royal Air Force did not purposely ignore the needs of naval aviation; there were problems that would have made it difficult for the Royal Navy to procure the proper aircraft had it had control of the Fleet Air Arm and the airpower doctrine.

[11] Thomas C. Hone and Mark D. Mandeles, ‘Interwar Innovation in Three Navies: U.S. Navy, Royal Navy, Imperial Japanese Navy,’ Naval War College Review, 40, no. 2 (Spring 1987): 65.

[12] Geoffrey Till, ‘Airpower and the Battleship in the 1920’s’, in Technical Change and British Naval Policy 1860-1939, Bryan Ranft, ed. (New York, NY: Holmea & Meier publishers, Inc., 1977) pp. 108-122; and Captain Bernard Acworth RN, The Navies of Today and Tomorrow, no place of publication given (Eyre and Spottiswoode, Ltd., 1930) especially chapter 14. Credit should be given for the use of carrier-based aircraft as long-range strike assets in the Mediterranean Fleet exercise of July 1928. The attacks, however, were against ‘enemy’ aircraft carriers and not against the main battle fleet. Similarly, Combined Staff exercises and planning during the interwar years included air strikes from the sea against the shore. Geoffrey Till, Air Power and the Royal Navy 1914-1945: A Historica1 Survey (London, UK: Jane’s Publishing Co., 1979) pp. 162-163, 166.

[13] Geoffrey Till, Air Power and the Royal Navy 1914-1945: A Historical Survey, p. 149.

[14] J. D. Brown, Carrier Operations in World War II, Volume One: The Royal Navy, (London: Ian Allan, 1968) p. 15.

[15] J. D. Brown, ibid., p. 83.

[16] Admiral Sir Reginald H. S. Bacon RN, and Francis E. McMurtrie, Modern Naval Strategy (Brooklyn, NY: Chemical Publishing Co., 1941) pp. 60-61, 103-112.

[17] J. D. Brown, op. cit. supra n.14, p. 79.

[18] Michael A. Lewis, The History of the British Navy (Fair Lawn, NJ: Essential Books, 1959), p. 236.

[19] Commander Charles M. Melhorn USN (Ret.), Two-Block Fox: The Rise of the Aircraft Carrier, 1911-1929 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1974).

[20] Stephen P. Rosen, Winning the Next War: Innovation and the Modern Military (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press. 1991) p.80, documents the formalisation of US Navy doctrine for its Pacific Fleet.

[21] I am indebted to Dr Jeff Barlow at the Naval Historical Centre for this point as well as a number of other observations on the performance of the British Navy in the Pacific during World War II and the views of the American admirals under which they served.

[22] J. D. Brown, op. cit. supra n. 14, p. 179

[23] Joint Chiefs of Staff, Department of Defence Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, Joint Pub 1-02, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1 December 1989, p. 118.

[24] Thomas C. Hone and Mark D. Mandeles, op. cit. supra n. 11, p. 68.

[25] Les Aspin, Secretary of Defence, Report of the Bottom-Up Review, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, October 1993.

[26] Although we normally do not think in terms of naval power in the modern Middle East there is a body of literature which addresses the use of smaller naval forces in littoral operations. For example, see discussions of the Israeli and Arab navies in: Shai Feldman, ‘Maritime Power and Naval Arms Control in the Mediterranean: Implications in the Middle East Context’, and Ahdel Monem Said Aly and Mohamed Kadry, ‘Naval Arms Control in the Southern Mediterranean: An Arab Perspective’, both contained in Europe and Naval Arms Control in the Gorbachev Era, ed. by Andreas Furst, Volker Heise, and Steven E. Miller (New York, NY: Oxford University Press for the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), 1992) pp. 289-323.

[27] Commander Rey Arellano, USN and Richard D. Kohout, ‘Realising the New Maritime Strategy Through Doctrine Development’, CRM 93-21, Alexandria, VA; Centre for Naval Analysis, July 1993, pp. 37-49.

[28] See especially, op. cit. supra n. 19.

[29] To stretch your mind, I highly recommend Alvin and Heidi Toffler, War and Anti-War: Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co., 1993).

[30] The choice of role of the Naval Doctrine Command as being revolutionary or evolutionary has been well explained by Arellano and Kohout, op. cit. supra n. 27.

[31] There have already been calls for another ‘revolt of the admirals’. See James George, ‘Where’s the Admiral’s Revolt?’, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 119, no. 5 (May 1993): 66-71.