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We envy no man on earth because we fly. The Australian Fleet Air Arm: a comparative operational study

Spargo, S. (2016) We envy no man on earth because we fly. The Australian Fleet Air Arm: a comparative operational study. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis examines a small component of the Australian Navy, the Fleet Air Arm. Naval aviators have been contributing to Australian military history since 1914 but they remain relatively unheard of in the wider community and in some instances, in Australian military circles. Aviation within the maritime environment was, and remains, a versatile weapon in any modern navy but the struggle to initiate an aviation branch within the Royal Australian Navy was a protracted one.

Finally coming into existence in 1947, the Australian Fleet Air Arm operated from the largest of all naval vessels in the post battle ship era; aircraft carriers. HMAS Albatross, Sydney, Vengeance and Melbourne carried, operated and fully maintained various fixed-wing aircraft and the naval personnel needed for operational deployments until 1982. These deployments included contributions to national and multinational combat, peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

With the Australian government’s decision not to replace the last of the aging aircraft carriers, HMAS Melbourne, in 1982, the survival of the Australian Fleet Air Arm, and its highly trained personnel, was in grave doubt. This was a major turning point for Australian Naval Aviation; these versatile flyers and the maintenance and technical crews who supported them retrained on rotary aircraft, or helicopters, and adapted to flight operations utilising small compact ships.

Oral testimony of those men who served aboard Australia’s aircraft carriers, and those who have served on small helicopter-capable ships, allows for a comparison of operational modes and an assessment of the value of the Australian Fleet Air Arm. Employing these two operational modes the Australian Fleet Air Arm have made small but valuable contributions to various world conflicts, peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

With little recognition or appreciation the Australian Fleet Air Arm continue to be deployed in national and multinational global security operations in which they play a vital role within Australian military operations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Durey, Michael
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