Land Based Air Power or Aircraft Carriers?: A Case Study of the British Debate about Maritime Air Power in the 1960s, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Land Based Air Power or Aircraft Carriers?

A Case Study of the British Debate about Maritime Air Power in the 1960s, 1st Edition

By Gjert Lage Dyndal


230 pages

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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.


'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

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.

About the Author

Lt. Colonel Gjert Lage Dyndal is Dean of Academics at the Royal Norwegian Air Force Academy. From 2003 to 2005 he was Head of the Maritime Air Power Section at the Royal Norwegian Naval Warfare Centre. He was awarded his PhD from the University of Glasgow in 2009 and is author of three previous books, 'Trenchard and Slessor: On the Supremacy of Air Power over Sea Power' (2007); 'Strategisk ledelse i krise og krig' [Strategic Leadership in Crisis and War] (2010), and 'Exit Afghanistan' (with prof Torbjorn Knutsen) (2012) .

About the Series

Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies Series

Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies Series
The Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies Series is the publishing platform of the Corbett Centre. Drawing on the expertise and wider networks of the Defence Studies Department of King's College London, and based at the Joint Services Command and Staff College in the UK Defence Academy, the Corbett Centre is already a leading centre for academic expertise and education in maritime and naval studies. It enjoys close links with several other institutions, both academic and governmental, that have an interest in maritime matters, including the Developments, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), the Naval Staff of the Ministry of Defence and the Naval Historical Branch. The centre and its publishing output aims to promote the understanding and analysis of maritime history and policy and to provide a forum for the interaction of academics, policy-makers and practitioners. Books published under the eagis of the Corbett Centre series reflect these aims and provide an opportunity to stimulate research and debate into a broad range of maritime related themes. The core subject matter for the series is maritime strategy and policy, conceived broadly to include theory, history and practice, military and civil, historical and contemporary, British and international aspects. As a result this series offers a unique opportunity to examine key issues such as maritime security, the future of naval power, and the commercial uses of the sea, from an exceptionally broad chronological, geographical and thematic range. Truly interdisciplinary in its approach, the series welcomes books from across the humanities, social sciences and professional worlds, providing an unrivalled opportunity for authors and readers to enhance the national and international visibility of maritime affairs, and provide a forum for policy debate and analysis.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Military / General
HISTORY / Military / Strategy