Author Topic: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA  (Read 11691 times)

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Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« on: August 10, 2013, 03:32:56 AM »
Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA

In 1924 the Royal Australian Navy decided to purchase two 10 000 ton cruisers, HMAS Australia and Canberra, two submarines, HMAS Oxley and Otway and to build a seaplane carrier at Cockatoo Dockyard, Sydney. The seaplane carrier was commissioned as HMAS Albatross at Sydney in 1929.

In the early thirties, lack of funds forced many economies in naval activity, including transfer of the submarines Oxley and Otway to the Royal Navy.  After work-up, the Albatross had joined the Fleet but the economic depression also saw her paid off into Reserve in 1933.  After two years in Reserve, work began to bring Albatross back to operational status.  Negotiations in 1937 were planned to lead to an agreement to transfer ownership of the Albatross to the Royal Navy (RN), as part payment for a new cruiser.  However, after the Japanese invasion of mainland China in the middle of the year these negotiations were put on hold indefinitely.

Instead, it was now decided that the Albatross should be modified to become a proper conventional aircraft carrier.  In part this conversion was also viewed as a nation building project aimed at helping to relieve some of the pain of the depression.  By the end of 1938, the conversions were complete with the Albatross now featuring a timber flight deck some 130m long by 21m wide. Although a relative small carrier even by the standards of the day and in no way the fastest of ships (able to reach a max speed of just over 21 knots), the newly rebuilt Albatross was still a valuable addition to the RAN and became the centrepiece of the RAN Fleet Air Arm (RAN FAA).  The new ship soon received its first aircraft – 8 Gloster Sea Gladiators and 4 Fairey Swordfish aircraft which had been shipped out from Great Britain.







When WWII broke out in September 1939, the Albatross had just finished working up.  Almost immediately it was put into service helping to search for German raiders and merchant ships that may be in Australia’s vicinity.  Although no such ships were discovered, it still proved a valuable first mission that helped consolidate the crews’ training. 

In early 1940, the Albatross along with the cruiser HMAS Sydney escorted ships carrying three AIF infantry divisions sent to the Middle East.  During this mission, the crew of the Albatross suffered its first casualties when the crew of a Swordfish failed to return from a scouting mission.  This aircraft was quickly replaced with another transferred from the RN.





For the remainder of 1940, the Albatross continued to operate in the African area, escorting convoys to and from Great Britain and South Africa and in the South Atlantic.  During this period the ship was largely home ported at Cape Town, South Africa.  It was also during this period that the Albatross claimed its first blood when two of the ship’s Sea Gladiators intercepted and shot down a Dornier Do 24 Flying Boat that had been shadowing the convoy it was escorting.
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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2013, 03:33:24 AM »
The beginning of 1941 saw the Albatross return to Australia for overhaul and refitting.  During this time, it was decided to trial a more modern aircraft from the ship.  This would be a navalised version of the CAC Wirraway then under production by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC).  The trials were successful with the result that the RAN quickly placed an order for 6 CA-3N Sea Wirraways to replace the Fairey Swordfish aircraft which were by now well worn.  Although the ability to carry a torpedo had been lost, the new aircraft provided a significant step up in performance and were welcomed by crews.  Replacement of the Sea Gladiators would take longer.



As war with Japan loomed in 1941, the search for such a replacement became urgent.  At first it was proposed that another foreign aircraft be sought and delegations were sent to Britain and the USA.  At first the Sea Hurricane was the favourite, though with Britain still desperate for every aircraft, this would not be possible.  In the USA, the choice was between the Brewster F2A Buffalo (then also entering service with the RAAF) and the Grumman F4F Wildcat.  The latter was selected with an order for 12 being placed.  However, before any of these could be delivered, Japan attacked Pearl Harbour and the RAN machines were quickly diverted to the USN (at least 1 was already painted in Australian markings).

With a desperate need for new fighter aircraft, the CAC stepped forward.  Already developing the CAC Boomerang fighter, it now offered a version of this to the RAN.  This would become the CA-12N Sea Boomerang and 12 were ordered straight off the drawing board.  The first of these flew only 1 month after the first Boomerang prototype on 29 June 1942.  Although not as spritely as the Wildcats the FAA had originally looked at, the Sea Boomerang was still an improvement over the Sea Gladiators and the crews quickly developed a healthy respect for the tough little aircraft.



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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2013, 03:34:01 AM »
With Japan’s entry into the war and the direct threat this posed, it was quickly decided that the Albatross may need to be joined by another carrier.  To this end, a two pronged strategy was developed.  Firstly, both Great Britain and the USA were approached to see whether an already built carrier could be acquired.  Secondly, construction of a home grown carrier would begin in Australia.  If possible, it was hoped that the home grown carrier would be largely identical to that acquired overseas.

With both Great Britain and the USA wanting such ships for their own use, the efforts to acquire a new carrier were at first difficult.  Eventually though, the USN agreed to transfer the newly commissioned USS Card (CVE-11, a Bogue class escort aircraft carrier) to the RAN.  This was renamed the HMAS Kookaburra and entered service at the end of January 1943.



Concurrent to this, the Cockatoo Dockyard started planning to build a similar ship.  In March it was decided to change the design of this ship to match that of the follow-on Casablanca class.  This ship was named the HMAS Magpie and would be launched in October 1943.



To equip the new ships, the RAN at first ordered more Sea Boomerangs and Sea Wirraways.  However, it was also decided that the ability to use aerial torpedo bombers would be desirable.  With the Sea Wirraway unable to carry a torpedo, an alternative aircraft was sought.  Coincidently, in early 1942, the RAAF had also identified the need for a new attack aircraft.  The Commonwealth's Department of Aircraft Production’s (DAP) new Beaufort bombers were entering service, but it was thought that something between it and the Wirraway was also needed.  With the need to introduce such an aircraft quickly, it was again decided to look to either building or modifying an existing design.   The choice would be surprising.

At the time, a large number of Fairey Battles were being introduced to the RAAF in the training role.  Engineers at DAP were now asked to see if they could modify the Battle design to produce a new attack aircraft.  They leapt to the challenge and by August, 1942 they had produced their design.  This largely kept the Battle’s fuselage and wing but reduced the crew to 2 (pilot and gunner).  The engine was slightly uprated and numerous modifications were made to lighten and simplify the design.  The RAAF however had changed its mind in the meantime and now no longer wished to purchase the aircraft.



With the RAN’s need for a new torpedo bomber, DAP now offered the design to the RAN.  Unlike the RAAF, the RAN decided to purchase the aircraft as the DAP N-7 Wandabaa (aboriginal for Eaglehawk).  The first of these were introduced in February 1943 aboard the HMAS Kookaburra. Six months after this, DAP introduced an improved version.  This was powered by the same Bristol Taurus 14-cylinder radial engines as used on the DAP Beauforts and included a pair of 20mm cannon in the wings.  Although based upon the less than successful Fairey Battle, the Wandabaa was liked by its crews and provided a useful capability throughout 1943 and the early months of 1944.  Operating from both the Albatross and the Kookaburra as well as occasionally from land bases, RAN Sea Wirraways and Wandabaas soon made their selves felt with attacks against Japanese shipping and land forces.


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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2013, 03:34:37 AM »
By the beginning of 1944, the RAN was in the process of introducing its home grown carrier, the HMAS Magpie.  Over the previous 12 months, aircraft development had leapt forward significantly.  Wanting to keep at the forefront of this, the RAN now looked for new aircraft to equip its new carrier.  Given that RAN Carriers were already operating alongside their USN counterparts, the decision was made to match whatever the USN was using.  Therefore, from the start, the Magpie would be equipped with Grumman F6F Hellcat and TBF Avenger aircraft (interestingly enough though these aircraft had not been purchased by the RAN, but rather were provided under the provisions of the Lend-Lease agreement).











Both the Albatross and the Magpie took part in the Battle of Saipan in mid 1944.  During this action, the Albatross was heavily damaged when a Japanese dive bomber crashed into its deck.  Despite the valiant attempts of its crew, the ship was subsequently lost when fires aboard got out of control. Mercifully, only 73 of its crew were lost.  Never-the-less, the loss was felt greatly by Australia.  To restore pride, the RAN was ordered to seek a replacement. 

This time, Great Britain was able to assist.  The newly launched Colossus-class light fleet aircraft carrier, HMS Triumph was agreed to be transferred to the RAN as the HMAS Osprey.  This entered service in May 1945 but by the time its crew was fully trained was too late to see any action during the war.  It would however see action during the Korean War.



Meanwhile, both the Kookaburra and the Magpie continued to serve with distinction as part of the Allied fleet closing on Japan.  Both took part in the Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.  During this later action, the Kookaburra also suffered damage when a kamikaze attacker crashed into the sea nearby.
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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2013, 03:34:59 AM »
With the end of the war, the RAN undertook a major review of its fleet.  As pert of this it was decided that Australia would operate two major fleets – the Eastern fleet based at Sydney and the Western fleet based in Fremantle.  Each of these fleets would be centred upon two carriers – a fleet carrier and a light carrier.  In the case of the Eastern fleet these would be the Osprey and Kookaburra respectively.  In the west, the light carrier was the Magpie.  To this, the RAN added the Majestic class carrier, HMAS Pelican.

The ending of the war also witnessed a major change in the aircraft compliments these ships carried.  In part this was driven by the need to either return or dispose of the lend-lease aircraft.  The RAN decided to standardise upon a combination of Douglas AD Skyraider attack aircraft (replacing the Avengers, Wandabaas and Sea Wirraways – although a small number of the latter were kept in the training role) and Ca-15N Sea Kangaroo (universally known as Sea’Roos in service) fighters.  The later was chosen over the Hawker Sea Fury and Grumman Bearcat after extensive trials by the RAN and was based upon the similar RAAF CAC CA-15 Kangaroo fighter.  Initially equipped with a turbocharged Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine, this was later changed to a Bristol Centaurus XVIIC 18-cylinder twin-row radial engine giving 2,480 hp (in this guise, the aircraft were re-designated as CA-18Ns).  In both forms, the aircraft were armed with twin 20mm cannon in each foldable wing.







In September 1951, HMAS Osprey was deployed to support United Nations forces fighting in the Korean War.  During this patrol, the carrier operated a United States Navy helicopter as well as her Sea’Roos and Skyraiders. On 11 October, Osprey set a record when her aircraft flew 89 sorties in a single day.  The Osprey eventually returned to Australia having lost only 9 aircraft, with 3 pilots killed, and having launched over 2,700 missions from her flight deck.
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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2013, 03:35:32 AM »
Whilst the Osprey operated in Korea, the Pelican returned to the United Kingdom (UK) to undergo extensive modification.  This modification included incorporation of an angled flight deck, steam catapult, and a mirror landing system.  Following its return, the Osprey also returned to the UK for a similar modification.  Following their modifications both carriers replaced their piston engined fighters with jets.  Initially the de Havilland Sea Venom was considered, but in keeping with the practice of seeking commonality with the RAAF wherever possible, it was quickly decided to purchase 60 North American FJ-4 Fury fighters. Two years later, the carriers also had half of their Skyraiders replaced by Fairey Gannet ASW aircraft.





The two smaller carriers, Kookaburra and Magpie did not undergo any such modification being deemed too small.  Rather in 1958 both ships retired their piston engined aircraft and replaced them with new Sikorsky S-58 helicopters (each ship was able to carry 8 such aircraft).  In this configuration the ships were tasked with the anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue and Seaborne Assault roles.

During the Vietnam War, both the Osprey and the Pelican undertook a number of combat tours off Vietnam and their aircraft conducted a significant number of airstrikes against North Vietnamese targets.  In July 1968, in an event reminiscent of the Korean conflict, a Fury from the 805 SQN on the Pelican, achieved the RAN’s (and indeed Australia’s) first jet combat kill when it shot down a North Vietnamese MiG-17.



In the early 1970’s, both the Osprey and the Pelican were once again upgraded.  Although the upgrades were quire extensive, the most noticeable changes were to their air wing.  The Furies and remaining Skyraiders were replaced by Douglas F5D Skylancers and the Gannets were replaced with Grumman S-2E Trackers.  At the same time both Kookaburra and Magpie had their S-58s replaced by the larger Sikorsky S-61.



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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2013, 03:36:09 AM »
By the early ‘80s all four carriers were showing their age.  Consequently, it was decided to replace them.  Therefore, in 1983 the RAN placed orders for the 2 new CVV class carriers from the USA.  These carriers were to be named HMAS Albatross II and HMAS Cockatoo.  To equip them orders were also placed for 60 carrier capable SAAB JA-37N ‘Cyclone’ fighters plus 20 two-seat SAAB S-37N trainers.  In addition the Carriers also carry a number of S-3 and KS-3 Vikings as well as E-2 Hawkeye AEW&C aircraft plus Seahawk and Sea King helicopters.







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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2013, 03:38:08 AM »
Original Volkodav Comment:

Outstanding and far more probable than my flights of fancy, except perhaps for the SAAB Cyclones (love the concept and it would be a no brainer extension to a SeaGripen).  Surprised you didn't get more bites on this one, lets see if its gets going again.
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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2013, 03:38:51 AM »
Original Elmayerle Comment:

Would those FJ-4s retain their J65/Sapphire engines or would they be re-engined with Avons for commonality with the RAAF's Sabres?  Since it already has the enlarged intake needed by the J65, the engine swap should be fairly straight forward.  For that matter, would a FJ-4 wing and other navalization gear fit a CA-27 fuselage?

Would the F5Ds be productionized F5D-1s with J57 engines or the proposed F5D-2s with J79 engines?
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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2013, 03:39:37 AM »
Original Volkodav Comment:

The FJ-4B would have been a great alternative to the final batch of CA-32 Sabres for the RAAF and there could even have been a "Joint Sabre/Fury Force" formed to create savings on training overheads and introduce a significant surge capacity in the event of an emergency.  Having a considerable number of RAAF pilots and ground crew trained in naval operations should have encouraged better relations between the services and a better understanding of their differing needs.  Along this line the ideal tasking of the RAAF Fury's would have been CAS and tactical strike in support of the Army, in effect making the Fury force a tri service capability.
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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2013, 03:40:10 AM »
Original Volkodav Comment:

Actually if we really want to go to town on the FJ-4 we could look at some of the mod considered for the CAC Sabre.  Four ADEN cannon, Firestreak with a nose (think Sabre Dog), or podded centreline radar and more powerful Avon varients, including if I remeber correctly consideration of an afterburner. 

Another, more pie in the sky, option could have been to further modify the fuselage to fit Olympus inplace of Avon.  Now this would form the basis of a very serious mud mover that would still be able to give the average MIG 17/19/21 pilot nightmares. 

Next step from here, an Olympus powered, Firestreak/Redtop and ADEN armed Crusader/Twosader to replace the original FJ-4s with the Super Fury continuing inservice in the attack role until replaced with the Olympus Corsair during the 70s
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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2013, 03:41:04 AM »
Original Volkodav Comment:

Actually if we really want to go to town on the FJ-4 we could look at some of the mod considered for the CAC Sabre.  Four ADEN cannon, Firestreak with a nose (think Sabre Dog), or podded centreline radar and more powerful Avon varients, including if I remeber correctly consideration of an afterburner. 

Do you have more info on this?
Meteor, Sabre and Mirage In Australian Service by Stewart Wilson has a chapter titled "Developing the Sabre" which includes a section on "Firestreak Testing" using two modified Mk30 Sabres during 1956/57 for the trials program that also mentions that a bigger better radar coupled with a fire control system not dissimilar to that in the D/K/L model Sabres would be required to get the best out of the Firestreak/Bluejay.  Another section on "Paper Sabres" describes a proposed installation of a 6000lb thrust Napier Double Scorpion Rocket, replacement of the Avon RA.7 with the 10000lb thrust RA.14 and 4 in place of 2 ADENs.  Also mentioned were HV ADENs, in flight refueling capability, replacement of the AN/APG radar with NASARR.  On rereading the sections I realise I stuffed up on the reheat, that was the F-86D not the CAC Avon Sabres.
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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2013, 03:41:58 AM »
Original Volkodav Comment:

AGRA mentioned on another forum that Implacible and Indefatigable were considered / offered for transfer to the RAN upon completion due to the RNs (and the UKs) severe man power shortages in the latter years of the war.  These ships would have been a very interesting proposition for the RAN assuming they were modernised in a similar fashion to Victorious in the late 50s.
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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2013, 03:42:33 AM »
Original Old Wombat Comment:

Remembering, of course, that by the end of the war Australia was undergoing severe manpower shortages itself. Also, food was in such short supply that rationing in Australia was more severe than in the UK (to whick we were still exporting food stuffs) & the military were pulling troops out of active service & putting them to work on farms to prevent the total collapse of the rationing system.

Mind you, Greg's alt-hist obviously relies on an Australia with a considerably higher population at the start of WW2 than actually was (as does my own, unpublished Royal Aust Marines scenario  ;) ).
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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #14 on: August 10, 2013, 03:45:12 AM »
Sorry folks - a bit of a kerfuffle there.  I noticed an omission in the original posted story.  Tried to clean up.  Messed things up.  Now trying to recover it with all the original comments made.
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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #15 on: August 10, 2013, 03:52:15 AM »
Jolly good! :)

Has revitalised my interest, too - which is a good thing!

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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #16 on: August 10, 2013, 05:24:29 AM »
Indeed! Some real food for thought in this thread.

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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #17 on: August 10, 2013, 08:24:38 AM »
Thanks GTX for pointing me here, I've actually been toying with an idea for a possible "RAN Task force 1990" build in either 1/600 or 1/700 using the most 'plausible' hulls etc.

Cool story line, didn't realise I actually worked on Skyrays and went to sea ............ cool!
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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #18 on: June 22, 2014, 03:57:18 AM »
One aspect I forgot to mention back when I created this story and especially the first image:  This was all inspired by an essay in the Navy League magazine from 2008 by John Henshaw.  You can see the original here starting on Pg 23.
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Re: Southern Sea Eagles - The Alternative RAN FAA
« Reply #19 on: June 22, 2014, 08:48:00 AM »
Thanks for that GTX. I read that HMAS Albatross article with great interest, I can see another Whiff idea coming on ......... just have to add it to the rest ......... :D
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