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British Aviation of World War II

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The Fleet Air Arm is the branch of the Royal Navy responsible for the operation of the aircraft on board their ships.

The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) was first established in January 1914 under the Air Department of the Admiralty . By the outbreak of the First World War in August, it had more aircraft under its control than the Army's Royal Flying Corps (RFC). The main roles of the RNAS were fleet reconnaissance, patrolling coasts for enemy ships and submarines, attacking enemy coastal territory and defending Britain from enemy air-raids. In April 1918 the RNAS, which at this time had 67,000 officers and men, 2,949 aircraft, 103 airships and 126 coastal stations, was merged with the RFC to form the Royal Air Force.

In 1937 the Naval Air Branch was returned to Admiralty control under the Inskip* Award, and soon renamed the Fleet Air Arm (FAA). At the onset of the Second World War, the Fleet Air Arm consisted of 20 Squadrons with only 232 aircraft. By the end of the war the strength of the Fleet Air Arm was: 59 aircraft carriers, 3,700 aircraft, 72,000 officers and men and 56 air stations all over the world. The aircraft carrier had replaced the battleship as the Fleet's capital ship and its aircraft were now strike weapons in their own right. After the second World war, the FAA was again named the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).

* Thomas Walker Hobart Inskip - in 1936 became the first Minister for Coordination of Defence.


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