Biplanes to Helicopters


The first squadrons were equipped with biplanes, the majority of which were amphibians or Landplanes adapted with floats for operations as Ship's flights. Biplanes continued to be used throughout the Second World War but monoplanes quickly began to serve in in all roles, TBR, Fighter, and trainers.

Monoplanes had replaced the slower, more vulnerable biplanes after the war and a new type of flying machine also arrived in the post-war era, the helicopter. So successful were these versatile machines that they re-laced biplanes in the roles of ship’s flight and anti-submarine operations, transport and Search and Rescue.


Prop driven to Jet power


Early petrol engine, propeller driven naval aircraft were slow and design of aero-engines and propellers which allowed newer monoplanes to enter service and to achieve superior speeds and better handling. High performance engines, such as the Rolls-Royce Merlin and Griffon helped FAA squadrons to dominate the skies into the post-war years.

During the Korean conflict Jet powered aircraft began entering service and the propeller driven fighters could not compete in aerial combat. The FAA entered the Jet age with Supermarine Attacker in 1951, the first of a long line of jet aircraft to operate from carriers into the 21st century. Helicopters adopted the jet engine with Gas Turbines replacing piston engines beginning with the versatile Westland Wessex in 1961.


The Admiralty takes control

On May 24th 1939 administrative control of the Fleet Air Arm, the naval aviation wing of the Royal Navy, was transferred to the Board of Admiralty from the Royal Air Force under the "Inskip Award". Formed on April 1st 1924 the Fleet Air Arm encompassed all RAF aircraft that operated from carriers and other fighting ships. Renamed the Air Branch of the Royal Navy, at the onset of the Second World War, the Fleet Air Arm consisted of only 20 squadrons and 232 aircraft.

Squadrons were to be numbered in two blocks – 800 – 899 for first-line and 700-799 for second-line units; once these numbers were exhausted 1700 and 1800 series numbers were allocated.  Squadron numbers in further divided into blocks, organised by type and function:


First Line Squadrons

Nos.800 to 809 Single-seat fighter squadrons in carriers.Nos.810 to 819 Torpedo bomber squadrons in carriers, later torpedo spotter reconnaissance and torpedo bomber reconnaissance squadrons.
Nos.820 to 859 Spotter reconnaissance squadrons, later torpedo spotter reconnaissance and torpedo bomber reconnaissance squadrons.
Nos.860 to 869 Torpedo bomber reconnaissance squadrons. Later reserved for Dutch-manned and then Dutch Navy squadrons.
Nos.870 to 879 Single-seat fighter squadrons. Later reserved for Royal Canadian Navy use.
Nos.880 to 899 Single - seat fighter squadrons in carriers.
Nos.1700 to 1749 Torpedo bomber reconnaissance squadrons, reallocated to amphibian bomber reconnaissance squadrons.
Nos.1750 to 1769 Single-seat fighter squadrons (not taken up).
Nos.1770 to 1799 Two-seat fighter squadrons.
Nos.I800 to 1809 Torpedo bomber reconnaissance squadrons (not taken up)
Nos.1810 to 1829 Dive-bomber squadrons.
Nos.1830 to 1899 Single-seat fighter squadrons.


Second Line Squadrons

Nos.700 to 749 initially for Catapult flights, later becoming catapult squadrons. When these ceased to exist the range became available for training and ancillary squadrons.

Nos.700 to 710 were earmarked for use by amphibian and floatplane squadrons in 1943, but this later lapsed.

Nos.750 to 799 Training and ancillary squadrons.

Reserve Squadron

Nos.1830 to 1844 Used for Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve squadrons, and latterly RNR squadrons.



Latest News


On October 2nd 2017 the Maritime Aviation Support Force (MASF), based at RNAS Culdrose, was redesignated 1700 Naval Air Squadron. The new squadron was officially commissioned at a ceremony held on October 31st.


In September 2013, it was announced that 809 NAS was to be reformed to become the first Fleet Air Arm squadron to be equipped with the F-35 Lightning II for deployment aboard one of the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. The squadron will be stationed at RAF Marham and will operate alongside 617 Squadron of the Royal Air Force; both squadrons will consist of both Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel and operate from the carriers.


Latest site additions/updates


1700 ASR Squadron - history and personnel list are now completed February 2018

1700 Squadron - The RN's newest squadron formed in October 2017 added January 2018

898 Squadron history and personnel list are now completed December 2017

840 Squadron history and personnel list added June 2017

716 Squadron history and personnel list are now completed June 2017

1820 Squadron history and personnel list are now completed June 2017

1831 Squadron history and personnel list are now completed June 2017


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Last modified: 11 February 2018

 © 2016 Tony Drury