Author Topic: British Army Aviation is split from the RAF in 1939  (Read 6040 times)

Offline Volkodav

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British Army Aviation is split from the RAF in 1939
« on: April 23, 2016, 06:33:20 PM »
I have been reading Niall Corduroys book on the Whirlwind and was surprised to read that the RAF were genuinely concerned that if it was perceived that they were not adequately supporting the Army then, as had occurred with the RN FAA, the squadrons intended to support that service (the Army Cooperation Squadrons) would be parred off the RAF and form the nucleus of a new Army Air Corps or Army Air Service.

One of the reasons behind the small numbers in which the Whirlwind was built was that it had actually been cancelled, after the initial production orders had been placed, because the RAF and Air Ministry placed a very high priority (much higher than the Whirlwind) on producing the Westland Lysander.  The reason the Lysander was so important is the RAF were obligated to provide sufficient Arm Cooperation Squadrons to equip the BEF and the apparently very real fear was if the RAF failed to adequately support the army, then forces sufficient to do so would be seconded from the RAF to form a new Army aviation service, in much the same manner as occurred with the FAA.

Dead easy whiff, this happened and the RAFs Army Cooperation Squadrons became the Army Air Corps.  Reading on the Lysander it appears the type was what RAF pilots thought was needed for the job, not what the Army needed, let alone wanted.  Just look at the Wirraways and Boomerangs the RAAF operated in the role to imagine AAC Henleys, Hurricanes, Tomahawks and Kittyhawks, perhaps even Taurus or Hercules powered variants of the Hawkers.  The AAC serves with distinction through the war and after.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2016, 07:50:03 PM by Volkodav »

Offline Old Wombat

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Re: British Army Aviation is split from the RAF in 1939
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2016, 06:53:33 PM »
I think you mean RN FAA, mate. ;)

However, the RANAS/RAN FAA was 1st initiated in 1927 but cancelled in 1928 due to fervent opposition from the RAAF. Probably on the grounds of cost but officially because the Goverment accepted that the RAAF could cover all RAN operations from land bases.

As I've said earlier elsewhere, I'm a great believer in the division of labour in this field; with the Air Force covering strategic defence & strike capabilities & the Army & Navy (& Marines) covering their own butts at a more tactical level.
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Offline Volkodav

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Re: British Army Aviation is split from the RAF in 1939
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2016, 07:50:48 PM »
I think you mean RN FAA, mate. ;)

However, the RANAS/RAN FAA was 1st initiated in 1927 but cancelled in 1928 due to fervent opposition from the RAAF. Probably on the grounds of cost but officially because the Goverment accepted that the RAAF could cover all RAN operations from land bases.

As I've said earlier elsewhere, I'm a great believer in the division of labour in this field; with the Air Force covering strategic defence & strike capabilities & the Army & Navy (& Marines) covering their own butts at a more tactical level.

Thanks, fixed.

Offline Weaver

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Re: British Army Aviation is split from the RAF in 1939
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2016, 08:28:26 PM »
That'd be an interesting alternative lead up to something I've worked into a number of scenarios, namely the British Army and the Royal marines getting their own fixed-wing CAS force in the 1960s after the US Army win their battle with the USAF to get it and the UK follows the same model. In my story, the Army Air Corps are limited to 'anything which can operate from an unprepared field of dimensions <small>', which is intended to limit them to helicopters and light aircraft, but which doesn't take into account the Harrier.

This AAC Harrier PR.4 is from that background:



I wonder what the AAC's pre-WWII thoughts would be on the type of aircraft they needed? With 20/20 hindsight we can say air-cooled radial engines, lots of guns, lots of armour, lots of rockets and dive brakes, but what was the stated requirement in the late 1930s? Did they want a 1944-style fighter-bomber, or did they want a dive-bomber and fighters to escort it?

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Offline Volkodav

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Re: British Army Aviation is split from the RAF in 1939
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2016, 08:56:41 PM »
My interest spiked when I read the reference, I have known about RAF/RAAF staff work and their reputation for being able to win the political battle for a long time but had never been aware of the Army wanting control of their own airpower again immediately pre WWII. 

Thinking on it, it makes sense, as does the RAFs fear that they would win the battle should the RAF be seen not to be meeting its obligations.  The had probably assumed that with th number of anti aviation senior sirs in the admiralty that the RN would never regain control of their own airpower but it happened, providing incentive to pre-empt and avert any similar move by the army.

Radials would definitely be the go, like I said Taurus or Hercules engined, cannon armed, Huricanes and Henleys for a start.

Offline Volkodav

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Re: British Army Aviation is split from the RAF in 1939
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2016, 08:58:17 PM »
Love the harrier by the way

Offline Old Wombat

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Re: British Army Aviation is split from the RAF in 1939
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2016, 08:59:50 PM »
From an Australian perspective: In my Royal Australian Marines universe I already have the RAMAS & RANAS being formed during WW1 (1916/17) & remaining as separate entities from the start.

I haven't been sure what to do with the AFC/AAS/RAAF but I'm thinking of having the AFC survive the 1919 disbandment of the AIF only to be absorbed into the new RAAF in 1921. Then using the 1927/28 RAN attempt as the time that the Armybegins to wrest back its own Air Corps. Possibly starting with artillery spotters, then moving on to ground support fighters in the mid-30's, probably using obsolete RAAF aircraft, & on to full-blown fighter-bomber support in the early 1940's.

The modern trend towards multi-role fighter aircraft & the turn away from long-range bombers will actually see the RAAF struggling to maintain its existence, rather than the other air arms.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2016, 01:02:32 AM by Old Wombat »
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Offline Weaver

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Re: British Army Aviation is split from the RAF in 1939
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2016, 10:50:58 PM »
My interest spiked when I read the reference, I have known about RAF/RAAF staff work and their reputation for being able to win the political battle for a long time but had never been aware of the Army wanting control of their own airpower again immediately pre WWII. 

Thinking on it, it makes sense, as does the RAFs fear that they would win the battle should the RAF be seen not to be meeting its obligations.  The had probably assumed that with th number of anti aviation senior sirs in the admiralty that the RN would never regain control of their own airpower but it happened, providing incentive to pre-empt and avert any similar move by the army.

Radials would definitely be the go, like I said Taurus or Hercules engined, cannon armed, Huricanes and Henleys for a start.

Not sure about cannons from a 1930s perspective. Early cannons had very limited ammo supply (typically 60-round drums) and were over-spec for straffing the soft targets that were predominant on the battlefield. Given that 8x .303" MGs were considered adequate for bringing down bombers, I'd imagine a strong urge to fit something similar to the ground attack type with a view to hosing down infantry in the field or trucks on roads.

Dive-bombing was all the rage in the 1930s. You might imagine the AAC gonig for something like the Henschel Hs.123: a tough, operate-from-any-field biplane that could come in two versions:

Dive-bomber: strengthened structure, dive brakes, bomb crutch for one big bomb, two guns.

Ground-attack: armour, lots of MGs, racks for lots of little bombs.

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Online The Big Gimper

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Re: British Army Aviation is split from the RAF in 1939
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2016, 10:59:52 PM »
That's one hottie of a Harrier Harold.  :)
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Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: British Army Aviation is split from the RAF in 1939
« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2016, 05:36:50 AM »
Interesting scenario.  I suppose a lot will depend on when exactly the Army Aviation goes its own way.

If early on (i.e. pre-1930), you might see some specialised developments though I suspect most would look much the same as were already in existence/used in the army cooperation/light bomber roles - e.g. the Bristol F.2 Fighter.  Maybe some development towards a metal version along the lines of the Bristol M.R.1 or an air-cooled engined variant such as was considered in the real world.  This may lead/be superseded by the real world developments such as the Bristol F.2C Badger:



or Westland Weasel:



If done around the start/middle of the '30s you get options still very much the same as the real world though again with potential differences:

E.g. Hawker Audax



I agree the fashion of the dive bomber would potentially see this being pursued, thus potentially giving army versions of the Hawker Henley or Blackburn Skua:



Of course it could be interesting to see if US developments in this field play any role, thus leading to types similar to the Curtiss A-8/A-12 Shrike:




Looking further afield, I like the idea of something akin to the Hs-123 - just not sure what.

During WWII I think you would see standardisation on platforms such as the Typhoon, Beaufighter and perhaps the various US types such as the A-25A Shrike or Vultee Vengeance.
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Offline Weaver

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Re: British Army Aviation is split from the RAF in 1939
« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2016, 06:06:16 AM »
It depends on whether the AAC sees itself as a 'mini-RAF' or decides to go it's own way. If it did the latter, it might go for something like the Junkers J 4:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junkers_J.I





This was really the first example of the thinking that ulitmately produced the A-10. It had 1000lb of armour and all sorts of survivability mods such as solid rod control linkages rather than cables. It didn't achieve much, but then it arrived late in WWI and had limited engine power. Imagine what the same thinking could produce with a 750bhp Mercury to play with.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2016, 06:10:21 AM by Weaver »
"I have described nothing but what I saw myself, or learned from others" - Thucydides

"I've jazzed mine up a bit" - Spike Milligan

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Offline Weaver

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Re: British Army Aviation is split from the RAF in 1939
« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2016, 06:22:17 AM »
In fact, you don't need to imagine it, because Junkers went on to develop the idea, first in the J 10 monoplane (world's first all-metal combat aircraft) and then as the K 47, the latter having a 600bhp radial engine:

J 10 (CL.1):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junkers_CL.I





K 47:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junkers_K_47





"I have described nothing but what I saw myself, or learned from others" - Thucydides

"I've jazzed mine up a bit" - Spike Milligan

"I'm a general specialist," - Harry Purvis in Tales from the White Hart by Arthur C. Clarke

Twitter: @hws5mp
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Offline Weaver

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Re: British Army Aviation is split from the RAF in 1939
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2016, 06:43:01 AM »
Here's a thought: would an early, independent AAC, with a budget, see value in things like autogyros and helicopters and put more money into them earlier than happened in real life?
"I have described nothing but what I saw myself, or learned from others" - Thucydides

"I've jazzed mine up a bit" - Spike Milligan

"I'm a general specialist," - Harry Purvis in Tales from the White Hart by Arthur C. Clarke

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Offline Volkodav

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Re: British Army Aviation is split from the RAF in 1939
« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2016, 10:31:02 PM »
Love the dive bomber idea, they would be a natural fit for a reconstituted air service / corps as they were the effective replacement for heavy artillery.  Agree also that the Henley would be a good fit for the role, this could also lead to a two seat dive bomber equivalent to the Typhoon/Tempest/Fury.

Being Army aviation they could go with the new army weapons, calibres and unique missions.  i.e. 7.92 and 15mm BESAs, maybe a 2pdr auto cannon for an airborne AT mission in addition to dive bombing.  Maybe the splitting off of army cooperation could have included the light bombers as well as battle field air superiority.

From its constitution the RAFs primary concerns became the air defence of London (hence the concentration on short range point defence interceptors and slightly longer ranged pursuit or patrol fighters (also called interceptors)) and strategic bombing.  They were obligated to support the army and RN but made their own interpretation of what the other services needed, as such the aircraft developed for these roles tended to have the flying and performance characteristics desired by the RAFs pilots but had taken very little input from the customer services in reference to what they needed them to do.  Agreed again that it would depend when the split occurred as to how different the army's aircraft were to those used by the RAF.

What also interests me is how the service would be organised.  There was meant to be one army cooperation squadron per division but would there also be a regiment / wing at Corps level or a brigade / group for each Army?  Controlling their own aircraft would the scale actually increase, i.e. a regiment or brigade per division so instead of just army cooperation Lysanders they would also have a dive bomber squadron and a battlefield air defence squadron, maybe also a transport squadron as well?

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Re: British Army Aviation is split from the RAF in 1939
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2016, 06:33:41 AM »
Here's a thought: would an early, independent AAC, with a budget, see value in things like autogyros and helicopters and put more money into them earlier than happened in real life?

Maybe.  Perhaps we would see greater use of platforms such as the Sikorsky R-4B Hoverfly I (see example below) than was the case in the real world.



Maybe a version of this armed with some form of rocket (maybe starting with simply attaching bazookas or similar to provide a limited attack capability in support of troops)?

I also could imagine later on (say mid '50s) versions of the Westland WS-51 Dragonfly or Westland Sioux being trailed with the likes of Malkara or SS.11 missiles...
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