Just about everything that flew since the last war appears to have had a radome or other excrescence stuck on it - from Andovers and Pembrokes to Dominies and Buccaneers - to fulfil the Admiralty's desire for a hi-tech "crow's nest". The developments, real and proposed, since World War 2 are described in an engaging style and with some outstanding illustrations. If you think that these are just typical 50's and 60's fantasies then what about the jet-powered biplane of 1990? CVF has led to many proposals for AEW and, apparently as late as 2007, these included not only the Merlin and Osprey but also the S-2 Tracker and S-3 Viking!
Chris Gibson has produced what I can only describe as a belter! I'm looking forward to the companion RAF volume.
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The battles in the Pacific in World War II showed that airborne early warning was very important for naval forces to survive and succeed their missions. As jets replaced pistons and anti-ship missiles became common, warning times shorten and AEW for naval forces became vital. This point was driven home with the Royal Navy's experiences in the Falklands. The Royal Navy has not had the luxury of operating a dozen or more large aircraft carriers like the Americans. They have operated fewer smaller carriers with smaller aircraft lifts than the Americans. Thus they have had a harder time providing the vitally needed AEW coverage to the fleet.
Chris Gibson's The Admiralty and AEW is an excellent review of all of the Royal Navy's programs to provide AEW protection to the Royal Navy. This book covers not only the well-known RN programs such as the Gannett AEW.3 and the post-Falklands Sea King HAS.2 (AEW) but also literally dozens of other programs and proposals. (Did you know that there were at least 3 different prior attempts by the Royal Navy to develop a helicopter AEW system before the adoption of the Sea King HAS.2 (AEW)?) The book stretches in time from the first experiments in 1937 to a discussion of the options currently under consideration for the new CVF. The Admiralty and AEW clearly takes the reader through the rather convoluted history of the Royal Navy's AEW plans.
Mr. Gibson writes in an engaging style and he has clearly done an enormous amount of research. Many of the proposals are illustrated with specially done three-views by Mr. Gibson. In addition there are a number of striking colour illustrations by Adrian Mann showing what some of these proposals might have looked like in operational service.
While some of these proposals are quite graceful, many emphasize utility over beauty, and a few are certainly in the running for title of world's ugliest plane.
Highly recommended for people interested in secret projects, what-ifs, AEW, Royal Navy policies, UK aviation and technology policies, and weird and beautiful planes. Even if you are a serious student of UK aviation or AEW, you will find a wealth of knowledge that you didn't know before.
Like another reviewer, I am looking forward to the companion book on the RAF, The Air Staff and AEW: Royal Air Force Airborne Early Warning Projects, which is expected to be released later this year (and available for pre-order on Amazon). With these 2 books you would have as comprehensive a coverage of the UK's fits and starts on AEW programs as anyone could reasonably hope.
This is the third of Blue Envoy Press' Project Tech Profiles. All have been well done, are packed with throughly researched information, and are profusely illustrated, in many cases by drawings and illustrations especially prepared for these works.
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