Papers in Australian Maritime Affairs: A Historical Appreciation of the Contribution of Naval Air Power

Papers in Australian Maritime Affairs No. 26
Papers in Australian Maritime Affairs No. 26

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Andrew T Ross and James M Sandison, introduction by Jack McCaffrie


This volume reprints a Central Studies Establishment paper prepared for the RAN-sponsored Seaborne Air Capabilities Special Group in 1978, during considerations over the replacement of the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. An introduction places the report in its historical context, but also examines Australian military developments over the ensuing 30 years, showing the range of contingencies and operations undertaken and the transition to larger amphibious forces with an expeditionary focus.

The book is divided into three chapters and provides a consolidated historical record of the operational use of aircraft carriers in peace and war, identifying the key factors that operated in favour of sea-based air power in numerous situations. The study is confined to an appreciation of the operational experience pertaining to aircraft carrier types in the various forms in which they have existed.

The first chapter considers the main aircraft carrier roles in peacetime, and concentrates on: defining the peacetime uses of forces; identifying the situations which have involved aircraft carriers; noting the important capabilities possessed by aircraft carriers which determine their suitability for peacetime roles; and examining the reasons why aircraft carriers were preferred to other means for the situations analysed. The second chapter considers the main wartime roles of aircraft carriers; the analysis identifies the important strategic and tactical roles played by aircraft carriers during war and examines the reason why aircraft carriers were superior to or preferred to other means for execution of the tasks. The last chapter summarises the analysis listing the important factors that led to the aircrafts’ use and the capabilities they afforded.