During the 1960s - in the midst of its retreat from empire - the British government had to grapple with complex political and military problems in order to find a strategic defence policy that was both credible and affordable. Addressing what was perhaps the most contentious issue within those debates, this book charts the arguments that raged between supporters of a land based air power strategy, and those who favoured aircraft carriers. Drawing upon a wealth of previously classified documents, the book reveals how the Admiralty and Air Ministry became interlocked in a bitter political struggle over which of their military strategies could best meet Britain's future foreign policy challenges. Whilst the broad story of this inter-service rivalry is well known - the Air Force's proposal for a series of island based airfields, and the Navy championing of a small number of expensive but mobile aircraft carriers - the complexity and previous lack of archival sources means that it has, until now, only ever been partially researched and understood. Former studies have largely focused on the cancellation of the CVA-01 carrier programme, and offered little depth as regards the Royal Air Force perspectives. Given that this was a two-Service rivalry, which greatly influenced many aspects of British foreign and defence policy decisions of the period, this book presents an important and balanced overview of the complex issues involved. Through this historical study of the British debate about maritime air power and strategic alternatives in the 1960s, the detailed arguments used for and against both alternatives demonstrate clear relevance to both historical and contemporary conceptual debates on carrier forces and land-based air power. Both from military strategy and inter-service relationship perspectives, contemporary Britain and many other nations with maritime forces may learn much from this historical case.
Table of Contents
Contents: Preface, Geoffrey Till; Introduction; Replacement carriers and the new idea of an 'island strategy'; The debate on carriers and the island strategy; A new framework: a new debate on maritime air power; The fate of the CVA-01; New home-waters challenges, and the British forces; The British heading home; The grand story and the lessons learned; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.
'Meticulously researched and engagingly written, this new work by Gjert Dyndal is a comprehensive historical investigation of the British maritime air power debate that took place in the 1960s. Dyndal has taken advantage of recently declassified archival material to bring to light the complexity and dynamics of this most fascinating period in British strategic thinking.' Chief of [the Australian] Air Force’s Reading List 2012 'What is notable about this book is that it is derived largely from materials that were previously classified and thus unavailable to scholars researching this topic.' British Politics Group Newsletter 'In Land based air power or aircraft carriers, Gjert Lage Dyndal has made an important contribution to the historical analysis on Britain’s political decision to dispense with aircraft carriers in the 1960s... The key strength of the book is the breadth and depth of its primary source research and the original insights available therein. It will not only appeal to sea and air power specialists, but also to those with general interests in the history of British defence policy-making.' Defense & Security Analysis 'It is such a pity that this important study did not appear two years ago, when Britain was agonising over the future size and shape of defence!... However, this work is still a very worthy contribution to the historiography, and should be read by both maritime and air power scholars.' Journal of Military History 'In total, Land Based Air Power or Aircraft Carriers? Is a well-written and readable book which offers many considerations inherent in any inter-Service debate over strategies-supporting weapons procurement, especially when economies are tight. It is recommended for a wide variety of audiences, and especially those interested in strategic debates, inter-Service competition, and politics as it related to re-election considerations versus requisite national security.' International Journal of Maritime History 'The story i