The Bomber in British Strategy: Britain's World Role, 1945-1960

By S. J. Ball | Go to book overview

3
Sir John Slessor and Nuclear Strategy:1950-1952

Sir John Slessor, the Medium Bomber Force and Nuclear Strategy

The contribution of RAF policy on the nuclear armed bomber to British strategy in the early 1950s revolved around three major issues. The first was the degree of substitution which could be achieved by replacing conventional land and sea forces with a nuclear armed bomber force. Although the need to address this issue was apparent to RAF planners in the 1940s its full consideration was effectively delayed until late 1951. This was partly because Sir John Slessor, who became Chief of the Air Staff in January 1950, believed that in the short-term a conventional air force with a smaller front-line but backed by reserves was of more use than a 'shop window' force. More importantly the outbreak of the Korean war caused the Attlee government to authorise rearmament programmes of such a size that each service could pursue its own objectives without trying to alter the proportional distribution of the defence budget. In 1952 the RAF began to argue vigorously that since SAC and Bomber Command would provide an effective deterrent to war, conventional forces, especially in Europe, could be drastically reduced. Despite the approval of the Lisbon force goals this was a policy accepted by the Churchill government almost from the outset. The exact size of the reduced conventional forces was, however, not agreed.

The second issue that exercised the RAF was the fear that the argument for nuclear deterrence and reduced conventional forces would be accepted by the government but that it would then be decided to leave nuclear deterrence to the USAF. This fear was an important determinant of its approach, even though the history of the British

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The Bomber in British Strategy: Britain's World Role, 1945-1960
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - Nuclear Strategy and the Central Organisation of Defence 1
  • Notes 17
  • 2 - Air Staff Nuclear Doctrine: 1945-1949 21
  • Notes 40
  • 3 - Sir John Slessor and Nuclear Strategy:1950-1952 49
  • Notes 79
  • 4 - Defence Reviews and Nuclear Strategy: 1953-1955 87
  • Notes 132
  • 5 - The Reassessment of Strategy: 1956 1960 143
  • Notes 195
  • Conclusion 207
  • Notes 218
  • Abbreviations 219
  • Bibliography 221
  • Index 235
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