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
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.
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
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
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
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
Nos.1770 to 1799 Two-seat fighter squadrons.
Nos.I800 to 1809 Torpedo bomber reconnaissance squadrons (not
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
Nos.700 to 710 were earmarked
for use by amphibian and floatplane squadrons in 1943, but this
Nos.750 to 799 Training and
Nos.1830 to 1844
Used for Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve squadrons, and latterly RNR squadrons.