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  • The RAF is never formed

    A thread over in the WW 1 section got me thinking about this.

    What if the RAF wasn't formed? Instead the air arms of the British military remain the RFC (like the RAC), and the RNAS / FAA? Japan and the US had similar arrangements so it is at least possible that this could have happened.
    This would mean that the Royal Navy is not at the mercy of the RAF to be supplied aircraft or left with such a small air service that it has no political clout within the Navy itself.

    I would say the biggest bonus is that the Royal Navy actually has decent carrier aircraft and good numbers of them in service in 1939. This would mean that a typical carrier has 40 to 60 aircraft aboard with a fighter comparable to the F2B or F4F and not based on an RAF design like a Seafire or Sea Hurricane, or even the Gladiator.

    Ashore, the RNAS has a long range land based (or seaplane) maritime patrol aircraft in service. Say, a twin engine type with good endurance that can double as a bomber.

    This would mean when war breaks out the RN has a number of maritime patrol aircraft to harass transiting U-boats right from the start. At sea, British carriers are a real offensive threat capable of operating in a higher threat environment.
    The Eagle for example wouldn't have a single Sea Gladiator aboard as its fighter complement like it did historically. It would have a dozen or more fighters capable of intercepting and shooting down any bomber in service.
    That alone in the Med would have given the Italians and Germans serious problems. It also would mean that they might not have several carriers crippled in air actions where the Axis has sent in strikes without fighter cover.

  • #2
    Assuming two decades of uninterrupted development I wonder what a FAA interceptor and bomber would have looked like?

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    • #3
      My tuppence for the lead up to WWII

      I'd see the RFC putting much greater emphasis on Photo Reconnaissance and Tac-R, meaning using the best available planes for the job.
      Long range strategic bombing would still be an important role.
      Air defence would be the primary aim of the RFC so a higher priority on fighters.
      I believe the army would also want a close support aircraft so a single or two-seat aircraft, with armour, capable of carrying a decent amount of ordnance powered by a Bristol Mercury or Hercules, perhaps capable of dive bombing but probably short ranged would be on the cards.

      It would be nice to think that the RFC would have less money spent on it than historically and that the savings would fund a couple or three armoured divisions and a proper Field Force but the decision for a 'Limited Liability' war in the 1930s was a political one.

      So by 1939 I'd expect the RFC to have:

      A higher proportion of fighters
      Good reconnaissance aircraft
      Some long range bomber squadrons
      Some close support squadrons
      Far fewer light bomber squadrons

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Gooner View Post
        My tuppence for the lead up to WWII

        I'd see the RFC putting much greater emphasis on Photo Reconnaissance and Tac-R, meaning using the best available planes for the job.
        Long range strategic bombing would still be an important role.
        Air defence would be the primary aim of the RFC so a higher priority on fighters.
        I believe the army would also want a close support aircraft so a single or two-seat aircraft, with armour, capable of carrying a decent amount of ordnance powered by a Bristol Mercury or Hercules, perhaps capable of dive bombing but probably short ranged would be on the cards.

        It would be nice to think that the RFC would have less money spent on it than historically and that the savings would fund a couple or three armoured divisions and a proper Field Force but the decision for a 'Limited Liability' war in the 1930s was a political one.

        So by 1939 I'd expect the RFC to have:

        A higher proportion of fighters
        Good reconnaissance aircraft
        Some long range bomber squadrons
        Some close support squadrons
        Far fewer light bomber squadrons

        I would have thought that the RFC of 1939 would, conversely, have more close support and more tactical light bomber squadrons, at the expense of an expensive (in all respects) long range strategic bomber force. Trenchard, it is assumed, would have been over-ruled by the rest of the Imperial General Staff.

        The roles assigned in reality to RAF Coastal Command, would probably be performed by the RNAS, just as they were in WW1.
        "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
        Samuel Johnson.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
          A thread over in the WW 1 section got me thinking about this.

          What if the RAF wasn't formed? Instead the air arms of the British military remain the RFC (like the RAC), and the RNAS / FAA? Japan and the US had similar arrangements so it is at least possible that this could have happened.
          This would mean that the Royal Navy is not at the mercy of the RAF to be supplied aircraft or left with such a small air service that it has no political clout within the Navy itself.

          I would say the biggest bonus is that the Royal Navy actually has decent carrier aircraft and good numbers of them in service in 1939. This would mean that a typical carrier has 40 to 60 aircraft aboard with a fighter comparable to the F2B or F4F and not based on an RAF design like a Seafire or Sea Hurricane, or even the Gladiator.

          Ashore, the RNAS has a long range land based (or seaplane) maritime patrol aircraft in service. Say, a twin engine type with good endurance that can double as a bomber.

          This would mean when war breaks out the RN has a number of maritime patrol aircraft to harass transiting U-boats right from the start. At sea, British carriers are a real offensive threat capable of operating in a higher threat environment.
          The Eagle for example wouldn't have a single Sea Gladiator aboard as its fighter complement like it did historically. It would have a dozen or more fighters capable of intercepting and shooting down any bomber in service.
          That alone in the Med would have given the Italians and Germans serious problems. It also would mean that they might not have several carriers crippled in air actions where the Axis has sent in strikes without fighter cover.
          The RAF became the political service before the war and never let that grasp reduce until well after. I see much of what you say here as reasonable and possible with this alteration,, but have more a mind to look past the war as wqell, when the RAF really started picking up its clout at the expense of the Navy. British defence policy only got more and more different based on this alteration. In my view, for the worse. The RN, IMO should have retained its dominance and, even, perhaps be the only service.
          Considering Cold War RAF duties there's not intrinsic of them which could nto have been done by RNAS. AND force projection would have remained more solid, with the US only having to pick up the NATO slack in interceptors. Whether British lead in engines and aircraft in the 40s and 50s would have come about though is another matter; there's nothing necessarily saying that, without RAF there would still have been no 'Empire of the Clouds.' but a lack of an independent service with its political controls would seem to suggest that, or provide potential for reducing it.
          ------
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          • #6
            Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post
            I would have thought that the RFC of 1939 would, conversely, have more close support and more tactical light bomber squadrons, at the expense of an expensive (in all respects) long range strategic bomber force. Trenchard, it is assumed, would have been over-ruled by the rest of the Imperial General Staff.
            I disagree. Britain would still need a means of hitting Germany which means long-range bombers. As for expensive it was reckoned in January 1940 that it took 38 thousand man hours to build a Wellington and 24 thousand to build a Battle.
            I don't think many would take 3 Battles over 2 Wellingtons.

            The whole point of light bombers must be questioned, after all a whole squadron of Battles or Blenheims can only deliver the same amount of HE as a regiment of 25-pdrs firing at rapid for 5 minutes!

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            • #7
              Down side is Dowding may not be as able to create as capable a air defense system and the RFC is significantly less able to repel a German bombing campaign in 1940.

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              • #8
                At some point during the inter war years it would have came to the attention of those holding the purse strings that while the RFC were involved in numerous minor bombing campaigns the RNAS were living it up in Singapore and Gib.,being unable to partake in any strikes on internal countries.
                Army Generals and Battleship Admirals would have both been extremely unhappy with the RNAS continued existence.
                The RNAS would need very powerful patrons in very high places in order to survive through the 20s/30s.
                I think the final straw would have came when the RNAS proves unable to make any kind of meaningful contribution to the Battle of France,the aircraft that were involved invariably flying from UK Naval bases.
                In June 40 the RNAS is absorbed into the RFC and renamed the RAF.
                BB admirals are secretly pleased and Army Generals learn to be careful what they wish for because although helping to bring about the demise of the RNAS they have forfeited control of the former RFC.

                We may have seen the RNAS introducing a Supermarine design much like a Spitfire but perhaps with a wider u/c track and the RFC introducing a Hawker Hurricanish type thing.

                During WW1 the Admiralty simply bought the best planes available while the RFC seemed to be hidebound into flying what was provided for them,whether it was slow and rubbish or not.
                This would have continued through the inter war years so that the RNAS were using monoplanes with retractable uc in the early to mid 30s while the RAF were still using ostensibly updated versions of WW1 designs.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by flash View Post
                  At some point during the inter war years it would have came to the attention of those holding the purse strings that while the RFC were involved in numerous minor bombing campaigns the RNAS were living it up in Singapore and Gib.,being unable to partake in any strikes on internal countries.
                  Really? There must have been some truculent natives somewhere in range of RNAS civilisation missions.

                  Army Generals and Battleship Admirals would have both been extremely unhappy with the RNAS continued existence.
                  The RNAS would need very powerful patrons in very high places in order to survive through the 20s/30s.
                  I think the final straw would have came when the RNAS proves unable to make any kind of meaningful contribution to the Battle of France,the aircraft that were involved invariably flying from UK Naval bases.
                  Battleship Admirals? France one wouldn't expect the RNAS to have much impact, Norway OTOH ...

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                  • #10
                    No Raf means no real superiority fighter like the Spitfire. Most of the army's planes would have been light bombers for close support or recon. Essentially army planes would be same poor quality as the FAA was in real life.
                    Little difference in FAA.
                    Overall British air power much weaker than it was both in quantity and quality.
                    "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Surrey View Post
                      No Raf means no real superiority fighter like the Spitfire. Most of the army's planes would have been light bombers for close support or recon. Essentially army planes would be same poor quality as the FAA was in real life.
                      Little difference in FAA.
                      Overall British air power much weaker than it was both in quantity and quality.
                      Why would that be? That wasn't the case in the two other examples of militaries without a separate air force. Both Japan and the US had effective fighter designs and the USAAC had medium and heavy bombers as did the IJAAF.

                      Neither had "poor quality." Both nation's naval arm had far more effective aircraft resulting from their navies having control of design and development of their aircraft.

                      So, we have two real historical examples of nations where the army and navy each had an air service that was part of those organizations and two (the RAF and Luftwaffe) where they weren't. We could also show more with Italy (on the RAF / Luftwaffe model) or France.

                      In each case the separate air force model resulted in a much poorer naval air arm, a disregard for naval air missions, an attitude that close support was definitely secondary to a "strategic" mission for the air force.
                      Inter-service cooperation was worse with the independent air force acting separately from the army and navy to the maximum extent possible.

                      Even post WW 2 one can see the vast contrast between these organizing styles.

                      The RAF pushed the "strategic offensive" mission and saw the entire service fall into near ruin. The "Sandy storm" of 1957 stating that there was no future need for manned fighter aircraft doomed the British aerospace industry while the V bomber force got cut to nothing as missiles replaced it.
                      The FAA at the same time was denuded of funds and carriers slowly went away.

                      In the US the USAF moved away from the tactical support role as quick as they could and fought over control of missiles with the US Army (tactical versus strategic) while pushing for a "strategic" air force as their primary role.

                      The USN having control of their own aircraft continued to push naval aviation, fleet defense, and a tactical role for their aircraft. That resulted in a strong naval air arm with large carriers and maritime patrol, a role ignored by the USAF almost entirely.
                      How many Nimrod does the RAF operate? How many P3 Orion and P 8 Poseidon does the USN operate?

                      The Luftwaffe was / is no different. Before WW 2 naval requirements were ignored all but entirely. Like the RAF there was a fight to put RAF / Luftwaffe pilots in carrier aircraft for the few being put in service.
                      The RA of Italy was just as bad.

                      Bottom line: History shows that a separate air service from the two primary components of warfare, land and sea, is less efficient and more costly than blending the role of aerial warfare into them.

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                      • #12
                        Question is also what does it mean from an imperial point of view - and then how does that affect decisions in the run up to conflict.
                        "Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it"
                        G.B Shaw

                        "They promised us homes fit for heroes, they give us heroes fit for homes."
                        Grandad, Only Fools and Horses

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Surrey View Post
                          No Raf means no real superiority fighter like the Spitfire. Most of the army's planes would have been light bombers for close support or recon. Essentially army planes would be same poor quality as the FAA was in real life.
                          Little difference in FAA.
                          Overall British air power much weaker than it was both in quantity and quality.
                          The FAA only became part of the RN in 1939; before that it was part of the RAF, which is why it was so heavily neglected in the years leading up to war.
                          Diadochi Rising Wargame:
                          King Pairisades I of the Bosporan Kingdom

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Gooner View Post
                            I disagree. Britain would still need a means of hitting Germany which means long-range bombers. As for expensive it was reckoned in January 1940 that it took 38 thousand man hours to build a Wellington and 24 thousand to build a Battle.
                            I don't think many would take 3 Battles over 2 Wellingtons.

                            The whole point of light bombers must be questioned, after all a whole squadron of Battles or Blenheims can only deliver the same amount of HE as a regiment of 25-pdrs firing at rapid for 5 minutes!
                            Perhaps that's because the Fairey Battle was a totally ineffective aircraft. Had the air force possessed an equivalent of the JU-87 Stuka or, better still a British Shturmovik things might have been different. (How would a de-navalised Blackburn Skua with a fixed undercarriage have fared, I wonder ?)
                            "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
                            Samuel Johnson.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post
                              Perhaps that's because the Fairey Battle was a totally ineffective aircraft. Had the air force possessed an equivalent of the JU-87 Stuka or, better still a British Shturmovik things might have been different. (How would a de-navalised Blackburn Skua with a fixed undercarriage have fared, I wonder ?)
                              Maybe a Blenheim turned Beaufighter a few years early...

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