New book charts history of the RAAF 1972-1996


Taking the Lead

The Royal Australian Air Force 1972 – 1996

By Mark Lax

Published by Big Sky Publishing  LINK HERE TO PURCHASE

RRP $34.99 in hardback | ISBN 9781922265951

Taking the Lead is the third volume of the RAAF Official History Collection, the earlier books being

  • The Third Brother by Chris Coulthard-Clark (1991) covering the period 1921-1939, and
  • Going Solo by Dr Alan Stephen (1997) covering the period 1946-1971,

In this period, the personnel strength of the RAAF shrunk by over 5,000.

This third book in the history series begins just as Australia’s commitment to the Vietnam war ended with the return of RAAF No 37 SQN to RAAF Richmond.

The next twenty-five years were to be a period of change for the RAAF, marked particularly by reviews and restructuring intended to produce the streamlined command and control structure needed by a modern air force.

It was at the beginning of this period that we saw the last Minister for Air, replaced by the merging of the three forces into a single Defence portfolio under a new Minister for Defence.

But this did not stop the territorial clashes between the RAAF and the Army and the RAAF and the RAN.

Lax outlines, in some detail, the Army’s argument to control the air support it needed itself, dating from its Vietnam experience and the RAAF’s counter complaint that Army did not understand the difficulties of conducting high tempo operations with limited numbers of aircraft. Army won that round with the establishment of the 1st Aviation Regiment.

When it came to a replacement carrier for the RAN, then Chief of the Defence Force Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Neville McNamara was one of several voices to oppose the acquisition. Until Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and Britain rediscovered its need for a carrier fleet, Australia was to have acquired HMS Invincible in a cut price deal.

These are just two random issues I have chosen from a fascinating and very thorough examination of this period in the RAAF’s history.

From organisation, personnel and equipment to operations and deployments, everything is covered in some detail with a number of appendices to flesh out the numbers.

For anyone seeking to learn more about the RAAF, this book is essential reading. It certainly adds to the sum of knowledge about Australia’s youngest service.

— ends —

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