There were a number of reasons:
1. Racism. The typical view of Europeans during the colonial era was that non-whites were less competent than whites. Force Z itself was indicative of that concede - two capital ships would be enough to deter the Japanese.
2. Adherence to strict radio silence. No one new where Force Z was. At one point Phillips detached one of the destroyer to a point sufficiently far from Force Z to send a signal to Singapore. This would naturally delay the message.
3. All air reconn was in the hands of the RAF. Any request that Phillips make would first go to RN Singapore who would then forward to RAF Singapore then down the chain of command to the patrol squadron that covers the target area. Unless it was marked urgent, target would just be added to one of the regular patrols.
Again strict radio silence meant that the patrol would not report until it returns to base. The info would then go up the chain of command to RAF Singapore and forwarded to RN Singapore.
The value of the Indomitable was not the fighters it carried but that it would allow Phillips to have air reconn under his direct control.
You are correct Graham, I was not aware that at the time Indomitable carried Hurri's in her air wing. They definately, if used properly, would have mauled the attacking torpedo bombers. I 'ASSumed' that her air wing only consisted of Stringbags/Albacores and Fulmars, three British a/c that should not have gone any further east than the Levant.
I apologize for the unjutified adjectives.
Even though their strength would have been limited Hurricanes proved in their small numbers quite effective against all the Japanese types employed in Malaya including the A6M2.
Why would an experienced senior officer commit his command to exposure to certain air attack without insisting on comprehensive top cover?
Phillips was a wide-awake commander in a navy that had just suffered a severe spanking at the hands of air power just seven months prior at Crete. He knew what was in store for him. Who did he think two days earlier had sent the U S Navy to the bottom bobbing at anchor at its home port?
And he sortied even without active reconnaissance even though that was available with Hudsons and Catalina's.
Fotce Z was almost criminal (if not!) And even without its Sea Hurricane's there is no doubt with Vigor's offer and encouragement it would not have occurred, as it did.
Indomitable's Sea Hurricanes were neither antiquated nor wholly unsuited: certainly not to the problem of shooting down unescorted unarmoured bombers. As was to be proven some months later in the Mediterranean.
On Dec 10th both 453 and 487 Sqn's were at almost full strength and manned by, as further evidence would prove, competent and aggressive pilots. They were well within range to offer overlapping air cover and would have severely mauled the obsolete 'Nell' torpedo bombers before, during and after their attacks, had they went ahead in view of fighter cover.
If not, then the antiquated and wholly unsuited a/c carried aboard Indomitable or Ark Royal or any other RN carrier at the time, would have made a difference anyway? You could have simply added an aircraft carrier to the waste of Force Z.
I don't agree, the Buffs couldn't have stayed overhead in any strength for very long and were unlikely to time things when the attack started. There would have been a few more bombers shot down but I don't think the result would have changed.
The RAF did not protect Force Z. Its protection was offered but ignored.
Let's not forget - and most importantly - Force Z was not lost because it had no aircraft carrier accompaniment, it was lost because of the refusal or unwillingness of its commander to accept air cover from Singapore and Malaya's land based fighter a/c. No air cover was asked to screen it when it sortied to its destruction, even though two Buffalo Sqn's were at a moment's notice and would have annihilated those unprotected Nell's.
There is no doubt if this was not the case, Force Z would not have been destroyed on the day.
A complimentary strategic study, which speaks to the grand strategy. Convincingly argues that the Indian Ocean was second only to the Atlantic in importance to the war effort.
Leaves the directly operational details to other studies--once Force Z sorties from Singapore, we read only of its loss.
But puts paid to the story of Indomitable meant to accompany them. That was Ark Royal ; when she was lost, they sailed without a carrier. The RAF would protect them until the fleet carriers arrived in 1942, as they did.
Extremely well sourced-lots of cues available in the notes and bibliography for further reading.