University of Cambridge > > Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History > 'Flat-tops or Not': Air power, policy-making and the Royal Navy since 1982

'Flat-tops or Not': Air power, policy-making and the Royal Navy since 1982

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The Falklands War of 1982 has had an unparallelled impact on thinking about fixed-wing air power in the Royal Navy. While previously the Fleet Air Arm had often been regarded as a poor relation to the wider surface Fleet, the victories (real and imagined) of the Sea Harriers and their carriers in spring 1982 captured the public imagination and transformed the prestige of naval air power not merely within the Senior Service, but throughout the nation as a whole. The Falklands experience – interpreted in particular ways – has played a key part in the decision to acquire two new Fleet carriers, the strategies for their deployment and the tactics for their defence. Yet it may be the case, as Lewis Page notes, that the wrong lessons were learnt from the Falklands.

This paper seeks to interrogate the different versions of history which have informed thinking on maritime air power in both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, and to examine the legacies of these contested histories for future carrier operations in an era of growing commitments accompanied by shrinking resources. With the new carrier programme envisaging an ever-closer relationship between the Navy and the Air Force, it is now time – within a ‘history of policy’ frame – to take a closer look at the afterlife of a conflict which has shaped the debate on the role of naval air power in the armed forces of the United Kingdom.

This talk is part of the Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History series.

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