Authored by retired Naval War College Professor Thomas C. Hone and defense analysts Norman Friedman and Mark D. Mandeles, the 37th monograph in the Newport Papers series describes and analyzes the three key innovations essential to the modern aircraft carrier.
The steam catapult, angled flight deck, and mirror-light landing aid were developed first by the Royal Navy and then quickly adopted by the U.S. Navy. Why, the authors ask, did the Royal Navy, which used U.S. aircraft and carrier doctrine, come out of the starting gate first when it came to adapting carriers to jet aircraft?
“Innovation in Carrier Aviation” examines the watershed period in carrier development that occurred immediately following World War II. Major technological breakthroughs, such as the jet engine and nuclear weapons, led to an array of innovations in the design and operational utilization of aircraft carriers that were crucial to forming the position that carriers and naval aviation have today in national-security policy making.
“Central to this story is the collaboration between the aviation communities in the navies of the United States and Great Britain during these years, building on the intimate relationship they had developed during the war itself,” noted Naval War College Press Director Carnes Lord, in the foreword. “Strikingly, the most important of these innovations, notably the angled flight deck and steam catapult, originated with the British, not the Americans.”
The study on which this monograph is based was commissioned by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Net Assessment) in the fall of 2006 as part of that office’s longstanding support for studies of military innovation.
The main sources for the study were Royal Navy records held by the Public Records Office (PRO), U.S. Navy papers held by the National Archives and by the Aviation History Office of the Naval History and Heritage Command, records of the Grumman Aircraft Corporation held in the Northrop Grumman archives, memoirs of Royal Navy (RN) and U.S. Navy (USN) personnel, memoirs of American aviation engineers, and oral histories of Americans involved in the development of jet aircraft and modern carrier aviation. The authors also consulted books and articles that were well researched.
The Newport Papers are extended research projects that the Director of the Naval War College Press, the Dean of Naval Warfare Studies, and the President of the Naval War College consider of particular interest to policy makers, scholars, and analysts.
The next Newport Paper will be "High Seas Buffer: The Taiwan Patrol Force, 1950-1979," by Bruce A. Elleman (forthcoming).
From Naval War College Public Affairs
Posted by Cmdr. Carla McCarthy