Time to call time on the RAF Watch

landscape2014
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The creation of the RAF was arguably Britain’s greatest military blunder in the C20th by those charged with responsibility for the defence of the UK. The creation of a military organisation based on a weapon system able to stay ‘in the field’ for only a very limited period of time unnecessarily complicated the command structure required for the successful prosecution of operations by the two services capable of power projection and area occupation for extended periods of time, the army and navy. The father of the initial British fixed-wing military air service (RFC) was Sir David Henderson postulated that the heavier than air machines main functions would be reconnaissance, interception and support for the two existing military services. The Royal Flying Corps was formed on 13/05/12 and was composed of an army wing and a naval wing whose primary role was reconnaissance in support of the army or the navy. In the early years of its existence the naval wing, with Churchill’s encouragement, pushed for the development of long-range bombers to attack German airship sheds and harbours – the naval wing became the Royal Naval Air Service in July 1914, the army wing retaining the original nomenclature. In August 1914 the RFC embarked for France with the BEF and the RNAS remained in the UK to defend it from zeppelin attack. The enthusiasm for long-range bombing received a boost because of successful bombing attacks on the zeppelin sheds at Dusseldorf and Cologne. These raids resulted in the issue of an Admiralty specification for a long-range bomber (the Handley Page 0/100). The RNAS itself was divided between those who wished to continue with the long-range bombing strategy and those who saw cooperation with the fleet as the correct role for naval flying. It would have been better to give this aspect of military flying to the RFC but it was the only means at that time for the RNAS to conduct offensive operations against Germany and Churchill the 1st Sea lord was enthusiastic about offensive action. Shipboard air operations were not developed until the last year of the war (so until then the RNAS had a very limited purpose, balloon, airship and fixed wing reconnaissance).

In 1916 Lord Curzon suggested that an Air Board advise the Government on the creation of a larger body to deal with all air matters and on the formation of a separate independent air service because of the rivalry between the RFC and RNAS (which could have been avoided if they had been incorporated in their respective service command structures and the responsibility for long-range bombing transferred to the RFC). The Air Board was a 2 man committee (Jan Christian Smuts, a general and David Lloyd George, the Prime Minister). Sir David Henderson, the first commander of the RFC in France and since 1915 the Director-General of Military Aeronautics was their advisor. In 2 reports, issued on 19 July and 17 August 1917, Smuts recommended an Air Ministry and Air Staff to amalgamate the RFC and the RNAS into a new Air Service that was independent of the Army and the Navy. Reviewing the future of air power in general, he expounded a doctrine of the independent use of air power: “There is absolutely no limit to the scale of its future independent war use. And the day may not be far off when aerial operations with their devastation of enemy lands and destruction of industries and populous centres on a vast scale may become one of the principal operations of war, to which the older forms of military and naval operations may become secondary and subordinate ”(not the first time the imagined superior abilities of air power would be expounded only for them to be disabused by reality on the battlefield ). The recommendations were accepted by the Government and the process began of amalgamating the 2 air services into one. Serious doubts existed at the time as to the wisdom of such action but in spite of the doubts and reservations of a new Air Ministry assuming control in the middle of a war, with a belief in theories not supported by any practical experience, the plans for unification went ahead. Details of pay and discipline were worked out and the ‘Royal Air Force” was created. An Air Council and an Air Ministry was formed. From the start confusion embroiled the new Air Ministry, Lord Cowdray had expected to be appointed Air Minister by Lloyd George since the Air Board (which he headed) had now been taken over. But instead the Prime Minister asked Lord Northcliffe, owner of the Daily Mail and The Times, only to have his offer publicly and embarrassingly refused in a letter to The Times. This was the first indication that Cowdray had that he was being passed over, he resigned from the Air Board the same day. The post was offered to Northcliffe’s brother, Lord Rothermere, also a newspaper owner, and he became the first Secretary of State for the Royal Air Force and President of the Air Council. The squabbles, continued, Major-general Trenchard had been recalled from France to become the first Chief of the Air Staff but he and Rothermere were fundamentally opposed on future air policy and so he submitted his resignation just 2 weeks before the RAF came into being on 1 April 1918. Henderson also resigned from the fledgling Air Council; he had a difference of opinion (shared by Trenchard) with Lord Rothermere. General Sir Frederick Sykes, who had been Chief Staff Officer of the RFC when it went to France in 1914, became the next CAS. Finally, before April was through, Rothermere himself resigned and was replaced by the Scottish industrialist, Sir William Weir. The musical chairs at the Air Ministry coincided with the great German spring offensive of 1918. The foregoing illustrates the problems posed by incompetence exhibited by the personnel occupying the higher reaches of the British political establishment during the war. Lord Cowdray was one of the few members of the establishment who grasped the technical matters involved so the airman had at least one competent supporter but Smuts support was that of a military mind ‘taken’ by a new way of waging war based on a weapon system that was only able to stay ‘in the field’ for a very limited period of time (this should have signalled its auxiliary status in the scheme of things).

The creation of another military organisation unnecessarily complicated the command structure required for the successful prosecution of operations by other the two services. The fact that aircraft are time-limited in comparison with ships and motorised armies puts them in the category of a support weapons system not an independent military entity. In 1918 the ‘die was cast’ and the cost to the efficient execution of military operations by the British was to be paid in the next war by the needless loss of tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen and their valuable equipment. One reason this happened was the lack of a statistical evidence of the results of the strategic bombing offensive against Germany 1917/18. Lots of spectacular explosions, hardly any disruption to munitions production so there was no evidence conclusively against (because of the relatively small number of bombs dropped) strategic bombing as an effective strategy. The reason bombing of civilians became the main focus of the service was the success of the RAF in economically controlling revolts in Somalia (1919), Iraq (1922) and the north-west frontier in the 20’s and 30’s by aerial terror bombing (in the case of Iraq and the NW frontier, the RAF also provided ground troops - the RAF regiment). Villages believed to be assisting revolting tribesmen were indiscriminately bombed to terrorise the local population into quiescence. The tactic was effective and accomplished at a quarter of the cost of putting down the 1920 Iraqi/Kurdish rebellion by the army. The RAF became responsible for supplying squadrons for maritime patrol and use on the RN’s aircraft carriers (to which it failed to supply 1st rate aircraft, the navy received no machines of comparable performance to land-based aircraft). The expectation of not having to embark 1st rate aircraft resulted in the construction of new ships (23,000ton armoured aircraft carriers with half the a/c complement of comparable foreign carriers) barely capable of providing air cover for themselves and their immediate consorts in the face of land based aircraft never mind the necessity of providing air cover for additional commitments such as convoys and expeditionary armies. The RAF knew by the thirties that precision bombing of specific targets within a metropolitan area was impossible using high-level bombing (though they did their best to perfect it they failed and RAF bombing manuals emphasized the point) so the ‘lessons’ of Somaliland, Iraq and the NW frontier where the native populations had been demoralsed by bombing were cited as proof of the ability of indiscriminate bombing to break the morale of an industrial city’s inhabitants (in 1940 they had the glaringly obvious example of Londoner’s morale not being broken by the blitz). At the start of the war aircraft production was sensibly geared to the production of single engine fighters with a much lesser priority being given twin-engine aircraft. Four engine bombers were in the pipeline but soon they began to require a proportion of the engine production which began to have a deleterious effect on the provision of air cover (one strategic bomber robbed the tactical air force of 4 fighters) for the navy and army, until the US entered the war when the provision of single-engine fighters and fighter-bombers ceased to be a problem. The disasters the RN and army suffered in the Mediterranean and Far-East in 1941/42 were directly attributable to a desire on the part of the powers that be to hit back at Germany however ineffectually rather than support British army and naval forces. With such a primitive, short-sighted, childish response to a bloody but ineffectual German aerial bombardment (the blitz) they condemned thousands of servicemen and precious equipment to become needless casualties in Greece, Crete, the western desert and the Far-East. The RAF’s and the politician’s appreciation of the critical requirement for air superiority in military and naval operations does not appear substantial (the German’s had given them lessons for 18 months in tactical air support – they were a little slow on the uptake, ‘the bomber will get through’ brigade carried the day).

The leader of Bomber Command, ‘Bomber’ Harris, was in no doubt about bombings purpose “ [The] aim is the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers and the disruption of civilised community life throughout Germany. [These] are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy. They are not by-products of attempts to hit factories. [...] Acreages of housing devastation are infinitely more important." This policy was followed because Harris knew the chances of hitting a militarily significant target with high level bombing were negligible. Calling into question this bombing campaign does not make the dissenters ‘bleeding hearts’, they call into question the intellects of those charged with responsibility for the nation whose judgement in matters of military policy resulted in the needless sacrifice of thousands British servicemen on the altar of their affronted pride. We know that postponing the introduction of the 4-engine bombers for a year would not have made an ounce of difference to the outcome of the bombing campaign (German war production was not seriously affected until 1944- 2yrs after it had started) but even without knowing that, the Germans had shown the British that without air cover armies and ships were sitting ducks (A/A defence provision was pathetic) so single/twin - engine fighters/bombers should have remained an absolute priority throughout 1941 and 1942 (and been under the control of the respective military arms that could make best use of them). This situation had arisen because the RAF had to find a reason to exist as a separate entity with a role that could not be carried out by an auxiliary to the army or navy (there wasn’t one but the entrenched RAF establishment and their supporters clung to strategic bombing as a strategy because it could be carried out without reference to the war the other services were fighting) - as a separate service it could command resources to enable it to carry out its perceived unique role independent of the other services. The proselytes for the RAF embraced the dream that Smuts had expressed in 1918. Before WW2 the RAF knew that it could not deliver a militarily useful result from strategic bombing – only terror (as long as the target populations could be terrorised). Early in WW2 it became apparent that because its aircraft were not integrated into the army and navy it was just going to be one more administrative hurdle for army and navy planners to surmount. This is what happened throughout the war and a vital resource, high performance aircraft, remained outside of the control of the services that had most need of them. WW2 was a long time ago and the requirement for a separate air force is less now than it ever was (if there ever was a need for one). The RAF should be incorporated into the army air service, its maritime elements incorporated into the navy to create a defence establishment that is no longer a three cornered fight for scarce resources.
Last edited by landscape2014; 1 month ago
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Napp
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So what do you have against the RAF?
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username4889668
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3884848474 reps to the person that reads all of this
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CTLeafez
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Can you summarise this into a couple sentences, please...
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CoolCavy
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People take the piss out of the RAF but it is a vital branch especially for withdrawing battlefield casualties.
I think you need to summarise this in a much shorter post as currently it is too long to read.
Surprising you went for the RAF over the navy as that's usually the first one to get it in the neck over 'usefulness'
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landscape2014
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(Original post by CoolCavy)
People take the piss out of the RAF but it is a vital branch especially for withdrawing battlefield casualties.
I think you need to summarise this in a much shorter post as currently it is too long to read.
Surprising you went for the RAF over the navy as that's usually the first one to get it in the neck over 'usefulness'
The Post was not taking the piss out of the personnel in the RAF it was pointing out the deleterious effect an unnecessary additional military bureaucracy had on the conduct of WWII for the two principal military arms of the UK.
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AngryRedhead
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Oh **** dude, at least put a TL;DR in there. Nobody is reading all this essay.
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Drewski
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He's only *****ing because he failed to get in.
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Drewski
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(Original post by landscape2014)
The Post was not taking the piss out of the personnel in the RAF it was pointing out the deleterious effect an unnecessary additional military bureaucracy had on the conduct of WWII for the two principal military arms of the UK.
The very simple counter to that is that if it was such a bad idea it wouldn't have been copied by every country on the planet.

Indeed, some forces tried going back to a single joint structure, saw it fail, and then reintroduced single services.
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Levi23317
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Hi this is general levi. I just thought id pop in to see how tsr is doing, and i will definitely be takin your thoughts on the RAF into account. You can consider it completely shut down as of tomorrow.thank you
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landscape2014
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(Original post by Napp)
So what do you have against the RAF?
The RAF was an unnecessary addition to the UK's bureaucracy. The 20yrs that it had control of all fighting aircraft resulted in completely inadequate provision of naval and ground attack aircraft or development of the tactics to make them effective. The result was that between 1939 - 42 over 100,000 tons of warships and hundreds of merchant ships and their personnel together with tens of thousands of Army personnel were needlessly lost through lack of air cover. This criticism applies to the disasters in Norway, Greece, the Western Desert and Malaya. Had the Army and Navy failed to develop suitable aircraft for their service they could be criticised as it was 20yrs of relying on the Air Ministry (RAF) hierarchy to supply them with aircraft suitable to their needs resulted in a surfeit of second-rate aircraft.
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Drewski
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(Original post by landscape2014)
The RAF was an unnecessary addition to the UK's bureaucracy. The 20yrs that it had control of all fighting aircraft resulted in completely inadequate provision of naval and ground attack aircraft or development of the tactics to make them effective. The result was that between 1939 - 42 over 100,000 tons of warships and hundreds of merchant ships and their personnel together with tens of thousands of Army personnel were needlessly lost through lack of air cover. This criticism applies to the disasters in Norway, Greece, the Western Desert and Malaya. Had the Army and Navy failed to develop suitable aircraft for their service they could be criticised as it was 20yrs of relying on the Air Ministry (RAF) hierarchy to supply them with aircraft suitable to their needs resulted in a surfeit of second-rate aircraft.
So 100 years of service is dismissed due to 3 years of hectic wartime activities where we were getting soundly beaten in every theatre of war?

Ok...
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landscape2014
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(Original post by Drewski)
The very simple counter to that is that if it was such a bad idea it wouldn't have been copied by every country on the planet.

Indeed, some forces tried going back to a single joint structure, saw it fail, and then reintroduced single services.
It is not suggested that the army and navy be subsumed in a single structure only that aircraft be treated as a weapons system of vital import to the conduct of military operations and that its bureaucracy is an unnecessary complication for the military planners of the only two arms capable of power projection and area occupation for extended periods of time. The RAF should be incorporated into the army air service and its maritime elements incorporated into the navy to create a defence establishment that is no longer a three cornered fight for scarce resources.
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Drewski
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(Original post by landscape2014)
It is not suggested that the army and navy be subsumed in a single structure only that aircraft be treated as a weapons system of vital import to the conduct of military operations and that its bureaucracy is an unnecessary complication for the military planners of the only two arms capable of power projection and area occupation for extended periods of time. The RAF should be incorporated into the army air service and its maritime elements incorporated into the navy to create a defence establishment that is no longer a three cornered fight for scarce resources.
I would suggest you know nothing of the modern RAF - or indeed, any world air force - and that you've picked upon an utter non issue, however after seeing other threads of yours I know you don't care about any opinion that disagrees with yours, so I'm not going to bother with debating with someone who doesn't have a clue what they're talking about.

If you can't get basic details right - like the name of the relevent sections - then you have no place in this debate.
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landscape2014
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(Original post by Drewski)
I would suggest you know nothing of the modern RAF - or indeed, any world air force - and that you've picked upon an utter non issue, however after seeing other threads of yours I know you don't care about any opinion that disagrees with yours, so I'm not going to bother with debating with someone who doesn't have a clue what they're talking about.

If you can't get basic details right - like the name of the relevent sections - then you have no place in this debate.
If you've got facts put them in your submissions.
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the bear
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certainly Mr Putin would be delighted if the RAF stopped harrassing his innocent bombers who just want to have a look at our wonderful Cathedrals from 50 000 feet
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Drewski
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(Original post by landscape2014)
Your inability to string together a cogent argument based on fact is the overriding feature of your posts. If you've got facts put them in your submissions.
Burden of proof is on you as the OP; we're still waiting for an argument as to why one brief period of unrest - when all the armed forces were getting trounced - is reason why an entire branch of the armed forces should be permanently disbanded.

What happened between '39 and '42 is irrelevant to what's happening now, when neither the Army nor the RN have any ability to project power.
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Tempest II
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If you want to talk about the RAF in the Second World War then let's clear a few things up -

1 - Many air forces of that era believed that "the bomber will always get through", including the Luftwaffe and the USAAF (hint - the latter was a part of the US Army and still had similar doctrine).
https://www.historynet.com/how-allie...rld-war-ii.htm
It should also be noted that RAF operations against the Ruhr in the summer of 1943 were effective at damaging German industrial output. Unfortunately, due to the accuracy needed, it could only be effectively bombed in good weather meaning that, between that factor and Harris' desire to bomb Berlin, it wasn't continued.

2 - Neither the RAF or French air force of 1940 had obtained the combat experience that the Luftwaffe had in the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and then in the invasion of Poland in 1939. The RAF had Fairey Battles and Bristol Blenheims that it attempted to use for CAS in the Battle of France but they were out numbered and out matched by technically superior Luftwaffe Me-109 fighters.
However, it's worth pointing out that the German Ju-87 Stuka that proved so effective in the Blitzkrieg was found wanting over the UK in the Battle of Britain due to superior RAF fighters. The bottom line is that (and still is this day to an extent) that CAS and other support aircraft are only able to be fully utilised when the user has control of the skies
It's also worth pointing out that the RAF developed the "Cab Rank" system over North Africa which was continued throughout the rest of the Second World War.

If you want to talk about the modern RAF then I challenge you to look through the current inventory to find any front line aircraft that aren't heavily geared towards the combined operations with the British Army and Royal Navy:

Reaper/Proctector RPAS - Persistent Armed ISTAR and CAS. The latter also may get a maritime capability.

P-8 Poseidon MPA - ASW in conjunction with the RN.

Shadow R1 - ISTAR

Sentinel R1 - ISTAR

Airseeker R1 (aka Rivet Joint) - SIGINT ISTAR

E-3 Sentry/E-7 Wedgetail - AEW/C and ISTAR

C-130/A400M/C-17/Voyager - Air Transport for personnel and cargo of all British military services.

Chinook/Puma - Rotary Transport, usually for ground troops.

F-35B Lightning - Multi-role VTOL strike fighter able to be operated from RN carriers with an outstanding ISTAR capability.

Typhoon FGR4 - Arguably the most air to air focused aircraft in the RAF. However, air superiority is needed to allow all of the above besides maybe the F-35 to operate successfully in the battle space. The Typhoon can also now be equipped with the Brimstone 2 missile for effective CAS, as well as Paveway guided munitions.
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landscape2014
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(Original post by Drewski)
Burden of proof is on you as the OP; we're still waiting for an argument as to why one brief period of unrest - when all the armed forces were getting trounced - is reason why an entire branch of the armed forces should be permanently disbanded.

What happened between '39 and '42 is irrelevant to what's happening now, when neither the Army nor the RN have any ability to project power.
Precisely because the RAF bureaucracy stifled the development of the army and naval air services. You make my point.
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landscape2014
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(Original post by Tempest II)
If you want to talk about the RAF in the Second World War then let's clear a few things up -

1 - Many air forces of that era believed that "the bomber will always get through", including the Luftwaffe and the USAAF (hint - the latter was a part of the US Army and still had similar doctrine).
https://www.historynet.com/how-allie...rld-war-ii.htm
It should also be noted that RAF operations against the Ruhr in the summer of 1943 were effective at damaging German industrial output. Unfortunately, due to the accuracy needed, it could only be effectively bombed in good weather meaning that, between that factor and Harris' desire to bomb Berlin, it wasn't continued.

2 - Neither the RAF or French air force of 1940 had obtained the combat experience that the Luftwaffe had in the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and then in the invasion of Poland in 1939. The RAF had Fairey Battles and Bristol Blenheims that it attempted to use for CAS in the Battle of France but they were out numbered and out matched by technically superior Luftwaffe Me-109 fighters.
However, it's worth pointing out that the German Ju-87 Stuka that proved so effective in the Blitzkrieg was found wanting over the UK in the Battle of Britain due to superior RAF fighters. The bottom line is that (and still is this day to an extent) that CAS and other support aircraft are only able to be fully utilised when the user has control of the skies
It's also worth pointing out that the RAF developed the "Cab Rank" system over North Africa which was continued throughout the rest of the Second World War.

If you want to talk about the modern RAF then I challenge you to look through the current inventory to find any front line aircraft that aren't heavily geared towards the combined operations with the British Army and Royal Navy:

Reaper/Proctector RPAS - Persistent Armed ISTAR and CAS. The latter also may get a maritime capability.

P-8 Poseidon MPA - ASW in conjunction with the RN.

Shadow R1 - ISTAR

Sentinel R1 - ISTAR

Airseeker R1 (aka Rivet Joint) - SIGINT ISTAR

E-3 Sentry/E-7 Wedgetail - AEW/C and ISTAR

C-130/A400M/C-17/Voyager - Air Transport for personnel and cargo of all British military services.

Chinook/Puma - Rotary Transport, usually for ground troops.

F-35B Lightning - Multi-role VTOL strike fighter able to be operated from RN carriers with an outstanding ISTAR capability.

Typhoon FGR4 - Arguably the most air to air focused aircraft in the RAF. However, air superiority is needed to allow all of the above besides maybe the F-35 to operate successfully in the battle space. The Typhoon can also now be equipped with the Brimstone 2 missile for effective CAS, as well as Paveway guided munitions.
The period after 1942 (when the US provided the wherewithal for round the clock bombing through their daylight bombing of Germany the supply of bombers to the RAF through lend-lease which eventually began to have a perceptible effect by 1944 - read the post-war allied bombing survey compiled by, among other J K Galbraith a noted economist of the C20th) is outside the period I described but the article was meant to draw attention to the unnecessary bureaucracy injected into military decision making by the creation of a separate independent military arm. The navy and army operate on two mediums that allow prolonged occupation of an area. Both have need of a weapon system under their control that ensures that fleets and armies can be assured air protection. That protection is inefficiently provided when you have ask another to please send his planes to protect your army or fleet. The list of aircraft you cite could be more efficiently employed by the services that need them without reference to another military bureaucracy.
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