Just thinking about

a.   our two new aircraft carriers

b.   the cuts of between 10 and 20 percent to come this autumn in the Defence Budget

c.   the MOD now having to pay for Trident at a cost of B£20 [half the MOD budget] instead of the Treasury paying as of yore

d.   the general malaise in the economy and the tightening of belts all around

I decided to have a look to see what the navy had in terms of aircraft 50 years ago back in 1960, when today we have precious little, embarrassingly so vis-a-vis other NATO countries.

Below you will see a table of the FAA assets of those days, and remember that these machines were as modern as anything our enemies of those times had, so please don't say, as so many do, 'ah, but, our machines today are that much more powerful etc etc' because it will not wear.

Type of Aircraft

Fitted with

UHF VHF HF RADAR IFF Radio Altimeter Beacon Receiver Homer Radio NAVAID
Buccaneer   a
Dragonfly [SAR]   b            
Gannet AEW 3   a
Gannet AS4 [EW]  
Gannet AS4 Courier      
Gannet T5        
Hiller HT1              
Hunter F4              
Hunter T8              
Meteor T7 TT20 [FRU]        
P.531-2              
Scimitar a  
Sea Devon C20      
Sea Hawk FGA6 [FRU]      
Sea Prince T1 Type X1    
Sea Vampire T22                
Sea Venom FAW22          
Sea Venom 22 EW          
Sea Vixon FAW1 a    
Whirlwind HAR3 & HAS 22 b    
Whirlwind HAS7        
Wessex HAS1        

Notes:  Letter 'a' = a conversion kit exists in limited quantity for the temporary conversion of UHF fitted aircraft to VHF.  Letter 'b' = VHF equipment, additional to UHF installation is provided in HMS VIDAL's and Airwork [Hurn's] Dragonflies and HMS PROTECTOR's Whirlwinds.

These aircraft, often with their parent ships, but as often flying from our foreign bases and UK RNAS' regularly employed cross-deck flying with carriers of other navies [India, US, Australia and Canada] and saw service world wide over a long period. They also flew from Allied airbases. Naval aircraft carried special marking and these are shown here:-

  The Sydney, the Melbourne and the Vikrant were respectively RAN, RAN and IN Carriers. The Canadian carrier HMCS Bonaventure is not mentioned but she was part of the system.

For my time, when operating with Naval aircraft from my submarine, we used VHF [World Wide Ship/Air Exercise Net 137.34 Mcs [now MHz of course] Primary and 129.42 Mcs overload or Secondary - there was no Tertiary, using a 86M transceiver. When neither of these frequencies were available [nearly always because the aircraft had not been channelled for them] we used A.S.A.P Primary on 143.28 Mcs which everybody had ! A.S.A.P didn't mean 'as soon as possible' but 'anti submarine air patrol'. We always kept a radio circuit [when surfaced or at periscope depth] with the parent air station or carrier of our 'on-task aircraft' and this was on 4340kcs [now kHz] and very occasionally [and a great treat although I can never get you to understand this] the aircraft itself would over-fly us using CW [A1 = Morse Code] on 4340 kcs, sacrosanct and dedicated as the Submarine Safety and Distress frequency, to talk to us direct - good old "FLYING TELEGRAPHISTS".

M.A.R.O played a huge part in the story of the FAA and it meant Maritime Air Radio Organisation. Every MHQ's in the land [world] - MHQ stands for Maritime Headquarters - was involved in this massive communications system, much too involved to go into detail here, but few aircraft got airborne without an input into the M.A.R.O., system. Just like submarines with their diving signals, check reports and surfacing signals, these aircraft had 'airmove' signals [departures and arrivals]  which traced every second they were in the air until their safe and timely arrival back on terra firma or on mobile flight-decks.

With the M.A.R.O., came the restrictions, procedures and adherence to the I.C.A.O = International Commercial Air Organisation, which made sure that military aircraft didn't hazard commercial aircraft and vice versa, although many were the times when military aircraft took precedence.  Perhaps the most famous of these is the 'Purple Air Zone' in which only aircraft with royalty onboard can fly:  all other flights are re-routed or grounded.

Many HM Ship's and all other "flying" navies [including ships like the Chichester and the Salisbury for example] were fitted with Beacons and there was a US System, a RCN system, an Australian System etc. Chichester's Identity code as "QC" whereas the code "QB" was allocated to Salisbury. In addition to all this, names like TACAN, TALBE, SARBE meaning respectively Tactical Air Navigation,  Talk and Listen Beacon, Search and Rescue Beacon, were all systems aiding the safe guidance of aircraft during their mission and subsequently back to base for a most welcomed pint of beer.

Not widely known are the callsigns of UK Airfields.  These all had CW [Morse Code] callsigns as well as voice callsigns. They were ABBOTSINCH = GYV: ARBROATH = GZI: BELFAST = MAK: BRAWDY = MTH: CULDROSE = MTV: LEE-ON-THE-SOLENT = GZD: LOSSIEMOUTH = MHZ: PORTLAND = MAN and YEOVILTON = GZE. 

In the Mediterranean RNAS Hal Far used MGW on Ship/NAS W/T using 3340kcs: RAN Air Station Nowra used the callsign VHN on Ship/NAS - 3892kcs: whilst the Far East facilities used MEO [on 8967kcs] for Singapore JATCC [RAF], MRX for RAAF Butterworth on 9035kcs, MEX for RAF GAN, and MKR on 5695.5kcs/11199.5kcs for Hong Kong ARC.

Our American friends used the following range of CW callsigns [WXG, WXI, WXB, WXA, WXC, WXF, WXE, WXJ, WXH] for frequencies of 3310kcs and 10900kcs in bases, respectively, Philippines, Formosa, Japan [Southern], Japan [Central], Japan [Northern], Korea, Okinawa, Guam and Hawaii [Pearl Harbour].

RAF frequencies with voice callsigns on VHF were allocated for Butterworth, Tengah, Seletar, Changi, Gan, Kai Tak and Labuan.

Search and Rescue frequencies/callsigns for the Far East were registered as Singapore = GFX on 11199.5kcs, 5695.5kcs, 3095.5kcs, Gan MEX same, Hong Kong MEZ same, and Manila WXG on 5695.5kcs and 3053kcs.

In the Middle East Aden was on 3235kcs plus other frequencies using GFQ, with Bahrain, Sharjah, Riyan, Salalah, Masirah with callsigns respectively 2AE, 2AF/GHB, MRR, MRU, MRQ. At this point [1961] UHF communications with Khormaksar, Masirah, Bahrain, Sharjah, Nairboi, Eastleight, Riyan, Salalah were not yet available.

 This is just a snippet which I hope you enjoyed.  To cover the Naval Air Communication Organisation would take a great deal of space, and I am quoting from AFO 'S' Series S4 of 1961.

Regards. Yours aye.