British WW1 Aircraft & seaplane carriers
HMS Vindex ()
HMS Vindex in
HMS Vindex was born in at Armstrong Whitworth (Newcastle upon Tyne) as SS Viking, fast passenger ferry on the Isle of Man line. Requisitioned on 26 March she was converted as a seaplane carrier, purchased in November under the new name of HMS Vindex (There was already a destroyer named HMS Viking). She was feet 6 inches ( m) long for 42 feet ( m) and 13 feet 8 inches ( m) draught, for a 2, long tons (3, t) displacement. She was propelled by three direct-drive steam turbines, coupled tow four VTE boilers giving a total of 11, shaft horsepower (8, kW). long tons ( t) were enough for nautical miles (1, km; 1, mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).
She was armed by four 3-in/50 (76 mm) pounder 18 cwt guns ( rounds each). The practical range was 9, yd (8, m), averaging 15 rpm, and a single QF 6 Pdr Hotchkiss AA gun for which (about 20 rpm, 10, ft (3, m) ceiling. Later two 4-inch ( mm) anti-aircraft guns replaced it. There was a foot-long ( m) flying-off deck, forward to operate land-based, wheeled undercarriages planes. A massive hangar was built aft and two electric cranes fitted to handle her on-board aviation. Two dismantled single-seat aircraft were stored in the small forward hold, ready to operate in ten minutes from the platform and five floatplanes in the rear hangar. So she operated up to seven aircraft, including seaplanes but also the land-based Sopwith Schneider, Pup and 1½ Strutter. The crew comprised , including 76 aviation personnel, pilots and mechanics.
HMS Vindex, camouflaged in
Vindex first served with Harwich Force from November , North Sea until Tests were performed with Bristol Scout C launched when steaming ar 12 knots, from the flight deck. That was a first. In March the next year, HMS Vindex's planes attacked a Zeppelin base at Tondern with Short Type escorted by Sopwith Baby, all floatplanes. The attack was repeated on 4 May with HMS Engadine. However, the pound ( kg) bombs they carried were almost harmless, while the planes failed to take off. In August her Bristol Scouts attacked Zeppelin LZ17 with explosive Ranken darts, also a first. Transferred to the Mediterranean (Malta) in , she served here until Sold back in February she was reverted to SS Viking, and requisitioned again in WW2 to serve as a troopship.
Author's profile of the HMS Vindex
HMS Manxman ()
HMS Manxman was born SS Manxman in Vickers, Barrow yard, laid in She had three propellers and turbines (10, hp, 22 knots) for a tonnage of GRT and dimensions of by 43 feet by 18 feet. She could carry up to 2, passengers and had a crew of She was converted at Chatham Dockyard, receiving two aircraft hangars and a flying-off deck forward. Commissioned as HMS Manxman by 17 April she would carry the Sopwith Baby, Sopwith Pup, Sopwith Camel and Short Type during her career.
She served until October with the Grand and was transferred to the Eastern Mediterranean.Not as fast as the earlier Ben-my-Chree and Viking, she could not keep up indeed with Grand Fleet, as her conversion added too much displacement. This was clearly underlined by Admiral Sir David Beatty, in his own handwriting.
She however was the first ship in the Navy to make good use of the Sopwith Pup single-seat fighter in combat. The nimble and nervous aircraft could take off from a 20 feet long platform, in a knot wind due to a favourable power-to-weight ratio. She used Flotation bags, which allowed her to "crash" in the water near the ship, and be hoisted up back onboard. In she was based on the coast of East Africa, from Zanzibar on 22 November, learning the hostilities were over. She sailed back to Plymouth at the same time as HMS Viking, was paid off in May , and returned to the civilian market to serve for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company (as SS Manxman) and in WW2, ferrying troops back from Dunkirk and Cherbourg and later as HMS Caduceus from , refitted as a Radio Direction Finding Vessel.
HMS Empress ()
Launched in , she was at first the SS Empress, owned by the South East and Chatham Railway, built at William Denny and Brothers Dumbarton. She was requisitioned by the Admiralty on 11 August , and 14 days later commissioned as HMS Empress, at first carrying planes and equipments from the Eastchurch Squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service to Ostend.
When back she was sent to Chatham for reconstruction as a seaplane carrier, carrying three seaplanes: One was stored on the forward bridge, covered by a tarpaulin and launched from a flying-off platform and the two at the rear were stored in a canvas hangar and hoisted to the sea when used. She received two QF 2-pdr for self defence and operated the Fairey Hamble Baby, Short Admiralty Type 74, Short Type , Sopwith Schneider and Sopwith Baby floatplanes.
As this was found insufficient she was taken in hand in May-July and modified by Cunard, Liverpool, fitted with a permanent four-aircraft, hangar and received a better armament, four QF pounder 12 cwt guns and two 3-pdr AA. Relatively slow she did not served with the Grand fleet but in January was operated by the East Indies and Egypt Seaplane Squadron, together with the Raven II, Anne, and Ben-my-Chree.
She operated against Turkish positions in southern Palestine, Sinai and later the Aegean coast of Bulgaria, and after a refit at Genoa, she was back at the Syrian and Palestinian coast, and then she was versed to ASW patrol from Port Said and later Gibraltar until the end of the war. After it in she was sold to a French company, collided with a British schooner in the channel and was scrapped in
HMS Riviera ()
HMS Riviera in , showing her canvas floatplane tents.
HMS Riviera was born SS Riviera, Owned by the South East and Chatham Railway in after entering service. Registered in London she has been built by William Denny and Brothers, Dumbarton from Scotland, launched on 1 April Requisitioned on 11 August , she was commissioned on 6 September after modifications at Chatham Dockyard. She was given three canvas hangars. She was operating with the Harwich Force a participated in the Cuxhaven raid against German airships.
In March-April she was taken in hands for a true conversion at Cunard, receiving a hard aft hangar and gunnery, four pounder 12 cwt guns and two QF 3-pounder anti-aircraft guns. Operating four seaplanes, Short Type , she operated on the river Ems and spotting missions for naval bombardments off the Belgian coast, before going to Malta by She was resold back home to the South Eastern and Chatham Railway in and converted back.
HMS Anne ()
HMS Anne in
This vessel was acquired in a unusual way, as the German SS Aenne Rickmersshe was seize in August in Port Said near Alexandria. This 4, GRT liner was built by Bremerhaven in , but slightly larger than most British seaplane carriers, she was limited by her slow speed, her single shaft and triple-expansion steam engine giving her 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph). At first she served with the Red Ensign of the British Merchant Marine, carrying goods and personal in the Mediterranean, before being taken in hands in early for a conversion as a seaplane carrier.
She at first received former French Nieuport VI.H floatplanes from the old cruiser Foudre, flying with British observers and French pilots. She participated in allied operations in Syria, Palestine and the Sinai Peninsula, and was torpedoed by the Turkish TB Demirhisar. She regularly bring support to various French warships, providing reconnaissance and artillery spotting.
From , she joined the East Indies and Egypt Seaplane Squadron and served with three other seaplane carriers, and among other, she spotted an U-boat base at Makry. Her planes made missions and two were lost. The squadron was later given to the French seaplane carrier Campinas and served afterwards as a plane carrier from Port Said. She was transferred later to the red sea, and served with the HMS Fox and Dufferin of the Royal Indian Marine (RIM) from Rabigh. She supported the Arab revolt as well in However from from 29 January she was converted back as a collier, under the Red Ensign. She was sold in to S.N. Vlassopoulos of Greece and to a Romanian company in , then in Wallem & Co. and renamed Jagharat in (Panamean flag) and Moldova from , scrapped in
HMS Raven II ()
HMS Raven 2 in Port Said, probably Like Anne she never has been converted and simply carried aviation inside her holds.
In Port Said, the British authorities captured several German ships in August The SS Rabenfels, operated by Hansa was one of these. Built at Swan Hunter as a 4, GRT freighter, she was powered by a single quadruple vertical expansion steam engine, giving her 10 knots. She was recommissioned in the Royal Navy as Raven II, on 12 June She operated with the Red Ensign, with planes stored into the holds, with simple hatch covers over them. She operated Short Type , Sopwith Schneider, Sopwith Baby and Short Admiralty Type floatplanes.
She was in missions together with the seaplane carrier HMS Anne, participating in artillery spotting and later passed onto the larger East Indies and Egypt Seaplane Squadron deployed over Palestine and Sinai in early She also fought in the Red Sea. She played a role during the great Arab revolt, hdropping supplies, attacking Turkish positions, or bringing armaments and supplies at Aqaba after it was taken. She also operated in the Aegean sea, and later the squadron helped Monitors to shell El Afule.
She also operated in the Adalia area and after bombed by a German plane, relieved by Anne and later sent to harass Turkish troops at Rabigh and Yenbo, cutting a bridge at Ceyhan River. She later teamed with the French cruiser Pothuau in search of a German blockade runner in the Indian Ocean, up to Colombo, and down to the Chagos and Maldives islands. She was later back at Port Said to participate in the Third Battle of Gaza. She was however paid off innovember-December and returned to the Red ensign to wotk as a collier. After the war, she was purchased by Japan as SS Ravenrock and served as SS Heiyei Maru No. 7, sunk in the Pacific during ww2 at an unknown date.
HMS Pegasus ()
HMS Pegasus in a dazzle camouflage,
This John Brown built Ferry for the Great Eastern Railway was named SS Stockholm. She was laid down in , but construction was suspended, and restarted later. She was completed on 28 August and acquired by the RN on 27 February She was feet 4 inches ( m) long, 43 feet ( m) wide, with 15 feet 9 inches ( m) draught at deep load.
She displaced 3, long tons (3, t). Conversion into a seaplane carrier commenced immediately. She was recommissioned on 14 August , armed with four calibre, 3-inch (76 mm) pounder 12 cwt, and operating four floatplanes, but later eight planes, four Short Type torpedo bombers, four Beardmore W.B.III fighters. Later she received four Sopwith Camel 2F.1, one Type and three Fairey Campania.
In her large holds she carried 1, imperial gallons (5, l; 1, US gal) of petrol for te aviation while were stored eight inch ( mm) torpedoes, 72 pound (45 kg), pound (29 kg), and 68, later 84, pound (7 kg) bombs. Like the other ships, she had a large aft hangar and a forward flying-off deck. Capable of 20 knots, she joined the Grand Fleet.
She supported the Battle Cruiser Force but missions were rare. She usually spent her time training pilots or ferrying aircraft to battleships operating flying-off platforms. She was more active during the Russian Civil War in , supporting the "Whites"from Archangelsk. She was later sent in the Mediterranean Fleet in March after a short refit. From she became a new career as an aircraft tender stationed at Singapore. On 5 July she was back in Devonport, in reserved, but recommissioned in and discarded, sold in for scrap at Morecambe.
HMS Campania ()This famous ship was a former, innovative transatlantic of She was built at Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Co Ltd of Glasgow and was launched on 8th September but completed in Measuring ′ x ′ x ′ for displacing 20, gross tons she entered service with the Cunard on her famous Transatlantic American line (Liverpool-NYC), earning the Blue Ribbond. It was retaken by her sister ship, the SS Lucania not long after and the record held until Both had a twin 5 cylinder vertical triple expansion engines generating 28, ihp. The SS Campania was the first Cunard liner fitted with the Marconi wireless telegraph.
Fairey Campania in
By October she was considered obsolete by her company and resold to brokers. She was saved by her immediate requisition by the RN in October She was to be used as an auxiliary cruiser at first, purchased for £32, The plans changed however towards the end of and she was converted as an aircraft carrier, with a foot flying-off deck mounted in top of the forward superstructure.
Cranes were fitted either side to transfer seaplanes between the water and hold, which had the capacity for seven large seaplanes. The secondary the forward hold under the flight deck was large enough for four small seaplanes but there was a manoeuvre to lift a flight deck section to access them. Therefore manoeuvres were relatively long and necessitated a calm sea.
The HMS Campania in her first appearance, still with the relatively short flight deck and unchanged funnels.
HMS Campania was recommissioned on 17th April Her first flight was performed by a Sopwith Schneider in August. Mounted on a wheeled trolley, she was propelled in the wind while the ship was cruising at 17 knots; Despite of this the lightest and highest-powered RNAS model barely took off, showing the limits of the system. By October she started to operate with the Grand Fleet. In total she would perform a few missions, showing that taking off in rough seas with violent winds was detrimental for safety.
The captain requested modifications, which was granted in November She ship entered the Cammell Laird to see her flying-off deck lengthened and given a steeper slope for the planes to accelerate. She was back in operations in April , showing her forward funnel split in two to manage space in between to extend the flight deck up to feets. A canvas windscreen was provided to unfold the plane's wings before takeoff and an observation balloon and supporting gear was placed aft.
HMS Campania in , showing her modifications.
By May , the Campania operated with the Grand fleet a small squadron composed of seven Short Type torpedo bombers and fighters. The first flight was performed in June, using a wheeled trolley (no catapults yet). Success confirmed the soundness of the modifications. The admiralty then ordered the company Faireyto produced a tailored carrier aircraft, world's first, called aptly the Fairey Campania. They replaced the Short models in and joined brand new Sopwith 1/12 Strutterscouts.
The Fairey Campania torpedo/bomber/scout, world's first carrier-borne designed aircraft.
She departed Scapa Flow on 30th May the day of the Battle of Jutland, only to return as she lacked an escort: German submarines had been reported in the area. Later she participated in ASW patrols and searching for Zeppelins. However her worn out machinery was troublesome to the point of declaring her unfit for fleet duty. Later in she became a seaplane training vessels and balloon depot ship.
HMS Campania, camouflaged in
By November the war was over and HMS Campania was moored in the Forth nearby HMS Glorious, HMS Royal Oak and HMS Royal Sovereign, off Burntisland, Fife. On the night of 4th November, Captain John J C Lindsay was in his cabin while Lieutenant Thomas Smart RNR was the Officer of the Middle Watch. It was a calm night, but around , a force wind started to pull on the chains, and this evolved to a violent force 10 burst. This was enough to drag the Campania out of her position. The staff however failed to order the release of the secondary anchor, and at am, her flank met HMS Royal Oak's bow on her port side at the dynamo compartment. Rapid flooding was limited by the use of watertight doors, but on the long run, failing to receive any assistance she sank by the stern, still deriving. It took five hours for her to finally sink upright near HMS Royal Sovereign, with no casualty on board as all had been evacuated.
HMS Campania slowly sinking in the Firth of Forth on the early morning, 5 November. There will be a standalone post on her
wikipedia.org - Seaplane
Before the start of World War I, the idea of launching aircraft from the sea was already being touted as a potential game changer. But when the war ended in , only two aircraft carriers—with full-length flight decks—were in service.
By August , flights had taken off from moving ships and there was interest in using planes for the reconnaissance of enemy positions. But no one had cracked the problem of how to land the planes once airborne.
Often the rickety aircraft would have to return to dry land or even ditch in the water. To get around this problem, the Royal Naval Air Service converted ships with cranes that could haul seaplanes back on deck once they landed in the ocean.
This system, which was soon mimicked by the French, Germans and Russians, was limited in scope. Relatively few seaplanes were used during World War I. Those that were mainly performed reconnaissance work. Other missions were used to bomb zeppelin bases and to spot and attack submarines.
The development of converted ships with large, flat landing decks occurred toward the end of the war. In , British Squadron Commander Edwin Harris Dunning managed to land his fighter on a short runway built onto a battle cruiser. However, the feat was dangerous and Mr. Dunning drowned soon after when trying to repeat it
In , the British launched a converted ocean liner, HMS Argus, with a full-length flight deck. The ship took to the sea too late to participate in World War I, but it was seen as a breakthrough for a new type of warfare that would alter naval tactics for good.
Aircraft carriers remain a cornerstone of naval power. The U.S., which has by far the largest collection of carriers in the world, officially operates a fleet of 11, each of them home to about 80 aircraft. A new, larger class of the vessels is in development.
British Aircraft Carriers of the First World War
The First World War saw the appearance of an entirely new type of warship, the aircraft carrier. Pre-war experiments followed two paths. The first saw aircraft platforms built over the gun turrets of existing ships, a system that would be used with some success during the war. The second saw the light cruiser HMS Hermes converted into the first British seaplane carrier. During she was given a hanger that could carry three seaplanes, a launching platform, and cranes to retrieve the seaplanes after they had landed alongside the ship.
She was followed by HMS Ark Royal, the first ship to be completed as a seaplane carrier. Although she had a forward flight deck, this was originally designed as a working space. Seaplanes would be launched by being lowered to the water and then taking off as normal. Eventually her deck was used to launch land and sea planes.
HMS Ark Royal was not complete until the end of The outbreak of the First World War thus found the Royal Navy without a seaplane carrier. Hermes was rushed back into commission, while three cross-channel ferries (Empress, Riviera and Engadine) were taken over from the South East and Chatham Railway Company on 11 August , and converted to carry seaplanes. They would be followed in by three Isle of Man steamers (Ben-My-Chree, Vindex and Manxman). Two German ships captured at Port Said in were also converted to carry seaplanes (Anne and Raven II).
While these seaplane carriers had their uses, the need for bigger ships with proper launching platforms was clear. The first such ship to enter service was HMS Campania, a converted liner that was eventually given a foot flight deck, first used in August The Campania could be used to launch land or sea planes, but sea planes still had to be retrieved by crane and land planes find somewhere else to land. The basic design was repeated in in HMS Nairana and HMS Pegasus, both taken over while under construction on 27 February
The next four conversions would see the emergence of the modern aircraft carrier, ships on which aircraft could land as well as take off. The key ship was HMS Furious. She was originally designed as a rather useless light battle cruiser armed with two 18in guns and virtually un-armoured. In March this design was abandoned in favour of converting her to act as a carrier. The incomplete forward turret was abandoned and replaced with a sloping flying-off deck. On 2 August Squadron Commander Dunning twice successfully landed a Sopwith Pup on this flying-off deck, the first time this had been achieved. Sadly on 7 August Dunning was drowned while making a third attempt to land. In October it was decided to give the Furious a rear landing-deck, and on 15 March she rejoined the Grand Fleet in this new configuration. The new design was not a great success, and landings were soon suspended. After the war the Furious was repeatedly modified, eventually emerging as a recognisably modern carrier with full length flight deck and island.
Two more converted aircraft carriers would enter service before the end of the war. First to be completed was HMS Argus, built on the hull of the liner Conte Rosso. She had a full length flight deck and could safely land aircraft, but she did not enter service until September She was followed into service in October by HMS Vindictive, a converted cruiser with the same split flight deck arrangement as the Furious after her second refit.
The most ambitious conversion saw the Chilean battleship Almirante Cochrane completed as HMS Eagle. She was a flush-decked aircraft carrier, originally designed with port and starboard islands, but eventually completed with a single starboard island. She was partially completed by and fully complete by the end of
Finally, a second HMS Hermes was the first warship to be designed and built as an aircraft carrier. She was designed in , laid down in but not completed until
Number of planes
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* Date completed as aircraft carrier
Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War
How to cite this article: Rickard, J (17 November ), British Aircraft Carriers of the First World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/lists_carriers_british_WWI.html
By Brad Reynolds
In , Samuel P. Langley’s first flying prototype sparked interest from the U.S. Navy, which immediately began looking for military applications. Prior to World War I, various navies were experimenting with different forms of vessels to facilitate airpower, but it would be the British fleet who pushed carrier technology to new heights before the interwar period. Like many weapons that evolved out of the Great War, aircraft carriers with the primary mission of combat sorties was a tactic grasped through combat.
As early as , the United States Navy began testing cruisers with modified wooden ramps for launching planes. In November of that year, Aviator Eugene Ely took off from the USS Birmingham Scott modified cruiser and landed two miles away on the mainland. In January of , Ely would again test aviation from a ship when he landed and later look off from the USS Pennsylvania in San Francisco harbor. His landing made use of a primitive version of the modern day tail hook, attaching multiple sandbags to a line of rope, which was hand-stretched across the deck, to slow down Ely’s mile-per-hour landing. Ely was the first man to land and take off from a ship, but at the time, many did not see a future for naval aviation; it was mainly considered an advanced reconnaissance tool. This attitude would persist within the U.S. Navy throughout World War I, and they would not commission an aircraft carrier of their own until , well after their Allied counterparts.
Seaplane Carriers & Advancements in the British Royal Navy
The British Royal Fleet had also been experimenting with modified cruisers, similar to those of the Americans, with small flight decks built over the gun turrets of existing ships. Their exploration of carrier abilities would progress quicker than that of the Americans, due to their ability to gauge combat effectiveness early in the war. As World War I commenced, the Royal Navy opted to pursue the production of seaplane carriers rather than specialized carriers. Seaplane carriers house three seaplanes used for reconnaissance and submarine spotting, with cranes used for recovering the seaplanes once they landed in the ocean upon return. Though taking off from a seaborne vessel had become possible, it was landing on them that limited combat sorties. As the war progressed and the strategic advantage of an aviation platform at sea became apparent, the need for larger carriers with the ability to launch combat aircraft became a valued priority.
The British Royal Navy began converting more cruisers into modified carriers to facilitate torpedo bombers, but the issue still remained: once a pilot took off, they had to find a land-based airfield to land at, limiting the range of the carriers. In an attempt to mitigate this problem, the Royal Navy ordered their first flush-deck aircraft carrier. The intent was to launch and land torpedo bombers, rather than requiring pilots to land at mainland bases. The William Bearmore Shipyard, which had attempted to sell the Royal Navy on flush-deck carriers from the beginning of the war, took on the project. The HMS Argus became the first ever flush-deck aircraft carrier in naval history.
Delivered in , and commissioned in September , the Argus was not able to complete her initial sea trials in time to be commissioned during the First World War. Despite her lack of action in World War I, the Argus would become the prototype for the modern day aircraft carrier and a platform for continual naval testing. The U.S. Navy followed close behind, commissioning the USS Langley in as a platform for their own naval aviation testing, ratcheting up the race for carrier development.
It would be the Langley and the Argus that would take the first significant steps towards improving naval aviation. The interwar period would facilitate a technological arms race over carrier development, setting the stage for carriers as an offensive weapon and their tactical domination in World War II.
Carriers wwi aircraft
What Was the First Aircraft Carrier?
The following article on the first aircraft carrier is an excerpt from Barrett Tillmans book On Wave and Wing: The Year Quest to Perfect the Aircraft Carrier. It is available to order now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
The first shipboard aviator was a civilian named Eugene B. Ely, a native Iowan who came to aviation as an Oregon automobile salesman. Largely self-taught after crashing on his first flying attempt, Ely quickly gained a national reputation working for speed merchant Glen Curtiss, who held U.S. pilot license number one.
In October Ely became the seventeenth Aero Club member to gain a pilot’s license. The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company was a bitter rival of the Wright brothers, who had mastered powered flight in But while the Wrights expended much of their effort in patent feuds, Curtiss pressed ahead with technical and—equally important— political matters.
Glenn Curtiss knew an opportunity when he saw one. Though Ely had only gained his license that month, Curtiss took him to meet with Chambers. Asked if they could take off from a platform rigged on a ship, the fliers reckoned that they could not only take off but land aboard as well.
Events accelerated. At Norfolk an eighty-three-foot-long wood platform was erected over the two-year-old cruiser, United States Ship Birmingham’s (CL-2) forward deck. The platform was sloped slightly downward to provide a speedier descent on the takeoff run. Although not considered by most naval historians to be the first aircraft carrier, the ship still featured a historic flight.
On November 14, , the cruiser eased into Hampton Roads with two destroyers as contingency rescue ships. Ely, draped with inner tubes for flotation and sporting a football helmet, climbed into the exposed seat of his Curtiss Pusher. With the four-cylinder engine revving up, he advanced the throttle and began his downhill takeoff.
Ely got off in less than sixty feet and, running off the ramp, he pushed forward on his control wheel. He recovered so low that his wheels dragged in the water, creating a potent rooster-tail spray that cracked his propeller. After wiping saltwater off his goggles, he landed safely on the beach, considering the experiment a failure due to the prop damage. But officialdom disagreed: he received a hefty five hundred dollar reward (worth about $12, in ) from the U.S. Aeronautical Reserve.
On January 18, , Ely took off from San Bruno and motored over San Francisco Bay. Forced to land downwind, the aviator dropped the pusher onto the improvised deck and bounced several feet, missing the first ten ropes. But Robinson’s hooks snagged several successive lines, dragging the flying machine to a halt. Officers and sailors waved their hats and cheered. Ely’s young wife, Mabel—who reputedly had spent the last three years waiting to see him killed— breathed an enormous sigh of relief. Less than an hour later, Ely again revved his plane, returning to shore. Elys daring flights paved the way for first aircraft carrier to be designed, particularly in the wake of the First World War.
THE FIRST AIRCRAFT CARRIER IN BRITAIN AND THE UNITED STATES
Although World War I vessels launched aircraft from their decks, the first ship to have a full-length flat deck was Britains HMS Argus, which was converted in September The United States Navy lagged behind, converting the USS Langley in They engaged in an unofficial arms race to develop their own first aircraft carrier.
The U.S. Navy’s General Board had suggested an aircraft carrier construction program in , but postwar progress was tentative. “Flying-off platforms” were constructed on some battleships, affording a means of launching spotter airplanes, which would land ashore. However, the wooden platforms on the USS Texas (BB) and other battlewagons clearly could not substitute for a genuine aircraft carrier flight deck.
In , the world’s naval powers began allotting permitted combatant tonnage under the Washington Naval Treaty. The signatories agreed to a ratio of tonnage among America, Britain, and Japan, with smaller quotas for France and Italy. In compliance with the treaty, the top three nations scrapped or halted construction on sixty-six major warships, limiting themselves to , tons of aircraft carriers for the United States and Britain, with eighty-one thousand for Japan. Because conversion of existing ships was permitted, America would gain her first fighting flattops. Two massive thirty-five thousand-ton, sixteen-inch battlecruisers about one-third complete were redesigned as USS Lexington (CV-2) and Saratoga (CV-3).
Commissioned in late , the “Lady Lex” and “Sara” were matched only by Japan’s thirty-six thousand-ton Kaga—powerful ships capable of making 33 knots and embarking up to ninety aircraft. Over the next fourteen years, five more carriers joined the U.S. Fleet, including the fifteen thousand-ton Ranger (CV-4) in , America’s first flattop built as such but limited in size by the Washington Naval Treaty. Most notable were the twenty thousand-ton sisters Yorktown Sisters Yorktown (CV-5) and Enterprise (CV-6) under construction at Newport News, Virginia, early They were invaluable in the Pacific five years later.
THE FIRST AIRCRAFT CARRIER IN JAPAN
A third carrier power was building during the decade following the Great War. The Imperial Japanese Navy’s experimental carrier Hosho (“Phoenix in Flight”) was their own first aircraft carrier, commissioned in — the same year as Langley—and Japan forged ahead with two fleet carriers.
The Imperial Navy had a long-established relationship with the Royal Navy, even displaying a lock of the famed British naval commander Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson’s hair at the Eta Jima Naval Academy. Japan’s twenty-seven thousand-ton Kongo-class battleships were designed by British naval architects, and Kongo herself was built in Britain. Therefore, it was not surprising that the Japanese Navy relied heavily upon its English friends for guidance in the emerging art of carrier aircraft.
Only displacing 7, tons, Hosho nonetheless provided a platform for learning the carrier trade. But the Japanese proceeded slowly and methodically. In early Hosho’s first takeoffs and landings were performed by former RNAS officer William Jordan, contracted to Mitsubishi. Lieutenant Shunichi Kira logged the first landing by an Imperial Navy aviator in March of that year, flying a type 1MF fighter from the Mitsubishi Internal Combustion Engine Manufacturing Company.
Japan’s first carrier was the purpose-built Hosho (“Phoenix in Flight”), commissioned in , the same year as USS Langley. The starboard island was removed two years later, and the slanted portion of the flight deck was straightened.Courtesy Tailhook Association.
Hosho’s early air group included nine 1MF fighters and six B1M3 torpedo planes. In the new all-metal Mitsubishi A5M fighter and Yokosuka B4Y bombers dominated, with the A5M (later “Claude” to the Allies) marking the transition to monoplanes.
This article on the first aircraft carrier is an excerpt from Barrett Tillmans book On Wave and Wing: The Year Quest to Perfect the Aircraft Carrier. It is available to order now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
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History of the aircraft carrier
Aircraft carriers are warships that evolved from balloon-carrying wooden vessels into nuclear-powered vessels carrying scores of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. Since their introduction they have allowed naval forces to project air power great distances without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations.
Balloon carriers were the first ships to deploy manned aircraft, used during the 19th and early 20th century, mainly for observation purposes. The advent of fixed-wing aircraft in was followed in by the first flight from the deck of a US Navy cruiser. Seaplanes and seaplane tender support ships, such as HMSEngadine, followed. The development of flat top vessels produced the first large fleet ships. This evolution was well underway by the early to mids, resulting in the commissioning of ships such as Hōshō (), HMSHermes (),Béarn (), and the Lexington-class aircraft carriers ().
Most early aircraft carriers were conversions of ships that were laid down (or had even served) as different ship types: cargo ships, cruisers, battlecruisers, or battleships. During the s, several navies started ordering and building aircraft carriers that were specifically designed as such. This allowed the design to be specialized to their future role, and resulted in superior ships. During the Second World War, these ships would become the backbone of the carrier forces of the US, British, and Japanese navies, known as fleet carriers.
World War II saw the first large-scale use of aircraft carriers and induced further refinement of their launch and recovery cycle leading to several design variants. The USA built small escort carriers, such as USSBogue, as a stop-gap measure to provide air support for convoys and amphibious invasions. Subsequent light aircraft carriers, such as USSIndependence, represented a larger, more "militarized" version of the escort carrier concept. Although the light carriers usually carried the same size air groups as escort carriers, they had the advantage of higher speed as they had been converted from cruisers under construction.
Early history - balloon and seaplane carriers
Main articles: Balloon carrier and Seaplane carrier
The earliest recorded instance of using a ship for airborne operations occurred in , when Lord Cochrane of the Royal Navy launched kites from the gun frigate HMSPallas in order to drop propaganda leaflets. The proclamations against Napoleon Bonaparte, written in French, were attached to kites, and the kite strings were set alight; when the strings had burned through, the leaflets landed on French soil.
Just over 40 years later on 12 July , the Austrian Navy ship SMSVulcano was used for launching incendiary balloons. A number of small Montgolfiere hot air ballons were launched with the intention of dropping bombs on Venice. Although the attempt largely failed due to contrary winds which drove the balloons back over the ship, one bomb did land on the city.
Later, during the American Civil War, about the time of the Peninsula Campaign, gas-filled balloons were used to perform reconnaissance on Confederate positions. The battles soon turned inland into the heavily forested areas of the Peninsula, however, where balloons could not travel. A coal barge, USSGeorge Washington Parke Custis, was cleared of all deck rigging to accommodate the gas generators and apparatus of balloons. From the barge Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, Chief Aeronaut of the Union Army Balloon Corps, made his first ascents over the Potomac River and telegraphed claims of the success of the first aerial venture ever made from a water-borne vessel. Other barges were converted to assist with the other military balloons transported about the eastern waterways, but none of these Civil War craft ever took to the high seas.
Balloons launched from ships led to the development of balloon carriers, or balloon tenders, during World War I, by the navies of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Sweden. About ten such "balloon tenders" were built, their main objective being aerial observation posts. These ships were either decommissioned or converted to seaplane tenders after the war.
The invention of the seaplane in March , with the French Fabre Hydravion, led to development of the earliest ship designed as an aircraft carrier, albeit limited to aircraft equipped with floats, in December with the French Navy Foudre, the first seaplane carrier. Commissioned as a seaplane tender, and carrying seaplanes under hangars on the main deck, from where they were lowered onto the sea with a crane, she participated in tactical exercises in the Mediterranean in Foudre was further modified in November with a meter flat deck to launch her seaplanes.
HMSHermes, temporarily converted as an experimental seaplane carrier in April–May , was also one of the first seaplane carriers, and the first experimental seaplane carrier of the Royal Navy. She was originally laid down as a merchant ship, but was converted on the building stocks to be a seaplane carrier for a few trials in , before being converted again to a cruiser, and back again to a seaplane carrier in She was sunk by a German submarine in October The first seaplane tender of the US Navy was the USSMississippi, converted to that role in December 
In September , during World War I, in the Battle of Tsingtao, the Imperial Japanese Navy seaplane carrier Wakamiya conducted the world's first successful naval-launched air raids. It lowered four Maurice Farman seaplanes into the water using its crane. These seaplanes later took off in order to bombard German forces, and were retrieved from the surface afterwards.
On the Western front the first naval air raid occurred on 25 December when twelve seaplanes from HMSEngadine, Riviera and Empress (cross-channel steamers converted into seaplane carriers) attacked the Zeppelin base at Cuxhaven. The attack was not a complete success, although a German warship was damaged; nevertheless the raid demonstrated in the European theatre the feasibility of attack by ship-borne aircraft and showed the strategic importance of this new weapon.
The Russians also were quite innovative in their use of seaplane carriers in the Black Sea theatre of World War I.
Many cruisers and capital ships of the inter-war years often carried a catapult-launched seaplane for reconnaissance and spotting the fall of shot. Such seaplanes were launched by a catapult and recovered by crane from the water after landing. They were successful even during World War II. There were many notable successes early in the war, such as HMSWarspite's float-equipped Swordfish during the Second Battle of Narvik in , which spotted for the guns of the British warships, helping to sink seven German destroyers, and sank the German submarineU with bombs. The Japanese Nakajima A6M2-N "Rufe" floatplane, was derived from the Zero.
Genesis of the flat-deck carrier
|"An airplane-carrying vessel is indispensable. These vessels will be constructed on a plan very different from what is currently used. First of all the deck will be cleared of all obstacles. It will be flat, as wide as possible without jeopardizing the nautical lines of the hull, and it will look like a landing field."|
|Clément Ader, L'Aviation Militaire, |
(See note for additional quotes.)
As heavier-than-air aircraft developed in the early 20th century, various navies began to take an interest in their potential use as scouts for their big gun warships. In the French inventor Clément Ader published in his book L'Aviation Militaire the description of a ship to operate airplanes at sea, with a flat flight deck, an island superstructure, deck elevators and a hangar bay. That year the US Naval Attaché in Paris sent a report on his observations.
A number of experimental flights were made to test the concept. Eugene Ely was the first pilotto launch from a stationary ship in November He took off from a structure fixed over the forecastle of the US armored cruiserUSSBirmingham at Hampton Roads, Virginia and landed nearby on Willoughby Spit after some five minutes in the air.
On 18 January , he became the first pilot to land on a stationary ship. He took off from the Tanforan racetrack and landed on a similar temporary structure on the aft of USSPennsylvania anchored at the San Francisco waterfront—the improvised braking system of sandbags and ropes led directly to the arrestor hook and wires described below. His aircraft was then turned around and he was able to take off again.
CommanderCharles Rumney Samson, Royal Navy, became the first airman to take off from a moving warship, on 9 May He took off in a Short S from the battleship HMSHibernia while she steamed at 15kn (17mph; 28km/h) during the Royal Fleet Review at Weymouth, England.
Flat-deck carriers in World War I
HMSArk Royal was arguably the first active aircraft carrier, as it carried armed seaplanes for use in combat and military operations. She was originally laid down as a merchant ship, but was converted on the building stocks to be a hybrid airplane/seaplane carrier with a launch platform. Launched on 5 September , she served in the Dardanelles campaign and throughout World War I. The ship proved to be too slow to work with the Grand Fleet and for operations in the North Sea in general, so Ark Royal was ordered to the Mediterranean in mid-January to support the Gallipoli campaign.
HMSFurious was the first ship to be designed with the same basic features as modern aircraft carriers, as it was the first aircraft carrier to be equipped with a flight deck for airplanes although its initial flight decks were in two portions and therefore were not continuously full-length with the ship. This ship was rebuilt in with a full-length flight deck, and served in combat operations during World War II. Since HMSArk Royal was a seaplane carrier, it had no actual flight deck; the planes that it carried would take off and land on the sea, and would then be hoisted aboard by shipboard cranes.
During World War I the Royal Navy used HMSFurious to experiment with the use of wheeled aircraft on ships. This ship was reconstructed three times between and first, while still under construction, it was modified to receive a flight deck on the fore-deck; in it was reconstructed with separate flight decks fore and aft of the superstructure; then finally, after the war, it was heavily reconstructed with a three-quarter length main flight deck, and a lower-level takeoff-only flight deck on the fore-deck.
On 2 August First attack using an air-launched torpedo, from a Short Type seaplane flown by Flight Commander Charles H. K. Edmonds from seaplane carrier HMSBen-my-Chree.
On 2 August , Squadron Commander E.H. Dunning, Royal Navy, landed his Sopwith Pup aircraft on HMSFurious in Scapa Flow, Orkney, becoming the first man to land a plane on a moving ship. He was killed 5 days later during another landing on Furious.
Of carrier operations mounted during the war, one of the most successful took place on 19 July during the Tondern raid when seven Sopwith Camels launched from HMS Furious attacked the German Zeppelin base at Tondern, with two 50lb (23kg) bombs each. Several airships and balloons were destroyed, but as the carrier had no method of recovering the aircraft, two of the pilots ditched their aircraft in the sea alongside the carrier while the others headed for neutral Denmark. This was the first ever carrier-launched airstrike.
The Washington Naval Treaty of placed strict limits on the tonnages of battleships and battlecruisers for the major naval powers after World War I, as well as not only a limit on the total tonnage for carriers, but also an upper limit of tons for each ship. Although exceptions were made regarding the maximum ship tonnage, fleet units counted, experimental units did not, the total tonnage could not be exceeded. However, while all of the major navies were over-tonnage on battleships, they were all considerably under-tonnage on aircraft carriers. Consequently, many battleships and battlecruisers under construction (or in service) were converted into aircraft carriers.
HMS Argus: the first full-length flat deck
The first ship to have a full-length flat deck was HMSArgus, the conversion of which was completed in September The United States Navy did not follow suit until , when the conversion of USSLangley, an experimental ship which did not count against America's carrier tonnage, was completed. The first American fleet carriers would not enter service until November when USSSaratoga of the Lexington-class was commissioned. The lead ship of the class, USSLexington, was commissioned the following month.
Hōshō: the first purpose-built aircraft carrier commissioned
The first purpose-designed aircraft carrier to be laid down was HMSHermes () in Japan began work on Hōshō the following year. In December , Hōshō became the first to be commissioned, while Hermes was commissioned in February 
HMS Hermes (): the first off-set control tower
The design of HMS Hermes () preceded and influenced that of Hōshō, and its construction actually began earlier, but numerous tests, experiments and budget considerations delayed its commission. The long gestation of Hermes resulted finally in the first aircraft carrier to display the two most distinctive features of a modern aircraft carrier: the full-length flight deck and the starboard-side control tower island. With the exception of the squared-off flight deck prow and angled flight deck of later carriers, Hermes was the first to display the main features of the classic silhouette and plan layout of the great majority of aircraft carriers produced over the next century.
HMS Hermes () was commissioned two days earlier than a sister aircraft carrier, HMSEagle. Like Hermes, Eagle had a full-length flight deck and a starboard-side control tower island. Unlike Hermes, however, Eagle was a converted battleship and had a less integrated design and appearance than the purpose-designed Hermes.
A "hurricane bow" is a bow sealed up to the flight deck, first seen on HMSHermes (). The American Lexington-class carriers also featured this when they entered service in Combat experience proved it to be by far the most useful configuration for the bow of the ship among others that were tried, including an additional flying-off deck and an anti-aircraft battery. The latter was the most common American configuration during World War II, seen in the Essex-class (the "long-hull" variant), and it was not until after the war when a majority of American carriers incorporated the hurricane bow. The first Japanese carrier with a hurricane bow was Taihō.
Important innovations just before and during World War II
By the late s, carriers around the world typically carried three types of aircraft: torpedo bombers, also used for conventional bombings and reconnaissance; dive bombers, also used for reconnaissance (in the U.S. Navy, aircraft of this type were known as "scout bombers"); and fighters for fleet defence and bomber escort duties. Because of the restricted space on aircraft carriers, all these aircraft were of small, single-engined types, usually with folding wings to facilitate storage. In the late s, the RN also developed the concept of the armoured flight deck, enclosing the hangar in an armoured box. The lead ship of this new type, HMSIllustrious, commissioned in
Light aircraft carriers
Prior to the beginning of the war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt noticed that no new aircraft carriers were expected to enter the fleet before , and proposed the conversion of several Cleveland-class cruiser hulls that had already been laid down. They were intended to serve as additional fast carriers, as escort carriers did not have the requisite speed to keep up with the fleet carriers and their escorts. The actual U.S. Navy classification was small aircraft carrier (CVL), not light. Prior to July , they were just classified as aircraft carriers (CV).
The Royal Navy made a similar design which served both Britain and the Commonwealth countries after World War II. One of these carriers, HMSHermes (), was in use as India's INSViraat, until it was decommissioned in
Escort carriers and merchant aircraft carriers
To protect Atlantic convoys, the British developed what they called Merchant Aircraft Carriers, which were merchant ships equipped with a flat deck for six aircraft. These operated with civilian crews, under merchant colors, and carried their normal cargo besides providing air support for the convoy. As there was no lift or hangar, aircraft maintenance was limited and the aircraft spent the entire trip sitting on the deck.
These served as a stop-gap measure until dedicated escort carriers (CVE) could be built in the U.S. About a third of the size of a fleet carrier, they carried between 20 and 30 aircraft, mostly for anti-submarine duties. Over were built or converted from merchantmen. Escort carriers were built in the US from two basic hull designs: one from a merchant ship, and the other from a slightly larger, slightly faster tanker. Besides defending convoys, these were used to transport aircraft across the ocean. Nevertheless, some participated in the battles to liberate the Philippines, notably the Battle off Samar in which six escort carriers and their escorting destroyers aggressively attacked five Japanese battleships and bluffed them into retreating.
Catapult aircraft merchantmen
As an emergency stop-gap before sufficient merchant aircraft carriers became available, the British provided air cover for convoys using Catapult aircraft merchantman (CAM ships). CAM ships were merchant vessels equipped with an aircraft, usually a battle-weary Hawker Hurricane, launched by a catapult. Once launched, the aircraft could not land back on the deck and had to ditch in the sea if it was not within range of land. In over two years, fewer than 10 launches were ever made, yet these flights did have some success: 6 bombers for the loss of a single pilot.
World War II
Aircraft carriers played a significant role in World War II. With seven aircraft carriers afloat, the Royal Navy had a considerable numerical advantage at the start of the war as neither the Germans nor the Italians had carriers of their own. However, the vulnerability of carriers compared to traditional battleships when forced into a gun-range encounter was quickly illustrated by the sinking of HMSGlorious by German battlecruisers during the Norwegian campaign in The first British warship lost in the war was HMSCourageous sunk by U on 17 September
The versatility of the carrier was demonstrated in November when HMS Illustrious launched a long-range strike on the Italian fleet at Taranto signalling the beginning of the effective mobile aircraft strikes, by short-ranged aircraft. This operation incapacitated three of the six battleships in the harbour at a cost of two of the 21 attacking Fairey Swordfishtorpedo bombers. Carriers also played a major part in reinforcing Malta, both by transporting planes and by defending convoys sent to supply the besieged island. The use of carriers prevented the Italian Navy and land-based German aircraft from dominating the Mediterranean theatre.
In the Atlantic, aircraft from HMSArk Royal and HMSVictorious were responsible for slowing the German battleship Bismarck during May Later in the war, escort carriers proved their worth guarding convoys crossing the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.
Germany and Italy also started with the construction or conversion of several aircraft carriers, but with the exception of the nearly finished Graf Zeppelin, no ship was launched.
World War II in the Pacific Ocean involved clashes between aircraft carrier fleets. Japan started the war with ten aircraft carriers, the largest and most modern carrier fleet in the world at that time. There were seven American aircraft carriers at the beginning of the hostilities, although only three of them were operating in the Pacific.
Drawing on the Japanese development of shallow-water modifications for aerial torpedoes and the British aerial attack on the Italian fleet at Taranto, the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was a clear illustration of the power projection capability afforded by a large force of modern carriers. Concentrating six carriers in a single striking unit marked a turning point in naval history, as no other nation had fielded anything comparable.
Meanwhile, the Japanese began their advance through Southeast Asia, and the sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse by Japanese land-based aircraft proved in finality that aircraft, and aircraft carrying warships, would dominate the seas. For the first time in naval history aircraft had sunk a battleship while maneuvering at sea and fighting back. In April , the Japanese fast carrier strike force ranged into the Indian Ocean and sank shipping, including the damaged and undefended carrier HMSHermes (). Smaller Allied fleets with inadequate aerial protection were forced to retreat or be destroyed. The Doolittle Raid, consisting of 16 B Mitchell medium bombers launched from USSHornet against Tokyo, forced the recall of the Japanese strike force to home waters. In the Battle of the Coral Sea, the world's first carrier battle and one in which fleets only exchanged blows with aircraft became a tactical victory for the Japanese, but a strategic victory for the allies. For the first time in history, at the Battle of Midway, a naval battle was decisively fought by aircraft and not warships; all four Japanese carriers engaged were sunk by planes from three American carriers (one of which was lost); the battle is considered the turning point of the war in the Pacific. Notably, the battle was orchestrated by the Japanese to draw out American carriers that had proven very elusive and troublesome to the Japanese.
Subsequently, the US was able to build up large numbers of aircraft aboard a mixture of fleet, light and (newly commissioned) escort carriers, primarily with the introduction of the Essex-class in These ships, around which were built the fast carrier task forces of the 3rd and 5th Fleets, played a major part in winning the Pacific war. The Battle of the Philippine Sea in was the largest aircraft carrier battle in history and the decisive naval battle of World War II.
The reign of the battleship as the primary component of a fleet finally came to an end when U.S. carrier-borne aircraft sank the largest battleships ever built, the Japanese super battleships Musashi in and Yamato in Japan built the largest aircraft carrier of the war: Shinano, which was a Yamato-class ship converted before being halfway completed in order to counter the disastrous loss of four fleet carriers at Midway. She was sunk by the patrolling US submarine Archerfish while in transit shortly after commissioning, but before being fully outfitted or operational, in November
Wartime emergencies also spurred the creation or conversion of unconventional aircraft carriers. CAM ships, like SSMichael E, were cargo-carrying merchant ships that could launch but not retrieve a single fighter aircraft from a catapult. These vessels were an emergency measure during World War II as were the Merchant aircraft carriers (MACs), such as MVEmpire MacAlpine which put a flight deck on top of a cargo ship. Submarine aircraft carriers, such as the French Surcouf and the Japanese I-class submarines, which was capable of carrying three AichiM6A Seiran aircraft, were first built in the s but were generally unsuccessful at war.
Three major post-war developments came from the need to improve operations of jet-powered aircraft, which had higher weights and landing speeds than their propeller-powered forebears.
The first jet landing on a carrier was made by Lt Cdr Eric "Winkle" Brown who landed on HMSOcean in the specially modified de Havilland VampireLZ/G on 3 December  Brown is also the all-time record holder for the number of carrier landings, at 2,
After these successful tests, there were still many misgivings about the suitability of operating jet aircraft routinely from carriers, and LZ/G was taken to Farnborough to participate in trials of the experimental "rubber deck". Despite significant effort toward developing this idea, and some performance advantages due to the removal of the undercarriage, it was found to be unnecessary; and following the introduction of angled flight decks, jets were operating from carriers by the mids.
See also: Flight deck §Angled flight deck
During World War II, aircraft would land on the flight deck parallel to the long axis of the ship's hull. Aircraft which had already landed would be parked on the deck at the bow end of the flight deck. A crash barrier was raised behind them to stop any landing aircraft which overshot the landing area because its landing hook missed the arrestor cables. If this happened, it would often cause serious damage or injury and even, if the crash barrier was not strong enough, destruction of parked aircraft.
An important development of the early s was the introduction by the Royal Navy of the angled flight deck by Capt D.R.F. Campbell RN in conjunction with Lewis Boddington of the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. The runway was canted at an angle of a few degrees from the longitudinal axis of the ship. If an aircraft missed the arrestor cables (referred to as a "bolter"), the pilot only needed to increase engine power to maximum to get airborne again, and would not hit the parked aircraft because the angled deck pointed out over the sea.
The angled flight deck was first tested on HMSTriumph, by painting angled deck markings onto the centerline flight deck for touch and go landings. This was also tested on USSMidway the same year. In both tests, the arresting gear and barriers remained oriented to the original axis deck. During September through December USSAntietam had a rudimentary sponson installed for true angled deck tests, allowing for full arrested landings, which proved during trials to be superior. In Antietam trained with both US and British naval units, proving the worth of the angled deck concept.HMSCentaur was modified with an overhanging angled flight deck in  The US Navy installed the decks as part of the SCB upgrade for the Essex-class and SCB/A for the Midway-class. In February , HMSArk Royal became the first carrier to be constructed and launched with the deck, followed in the same year by the lead ships of the British Majestic-class (HMASMelbourne) and the American Forrestal-class (USSForrestal).
The modern steam-powered catapult, powered by steam from the ship's boilers or reactors, was invented by Commander C.C. Mitchell of the Royal Naval Reserve. It was widely adopted following trials on HMSPerseus between and which showed it to be more powerful and reliable than the hydraulic catapults which had been introduced in the s.
Optical Landing Systems
The first of the Optical Landing Systems was another British innovation, the Mirror Landing Aid invented by Lieutenant Commander H. C. N. Goodhart RN. This was a gyroscopically-controlled concave mirror (in later designs replaced by a Fresnel lens Optical Landing System) on the port side of the deck. On either side of the mirror was a line of green "datum" lights. A bright orange "source" light was directed into the mirror creating the "ball" (or "meatball" in later USN parlance), which could be seen by the aviator who was about to land. The position of the ball compared to the datum lights indicated the aircraft's position in relation to the desired glidepath: if the ball was above the datum, the plane was high; below the datum, the plane was low; between the datum, the plane was on glidepath. The gyro stabilisation compensated for much of the movement of the flight deck due to the sea, giving a constant glidepath. The first trials of a mirror landing sight were conducted on HMS Illustrious in  Prior to OLSs, pilots relied on visual flag signals from Landing Signal Officers to help maintain proper glidepath.
The US Navy attempted to become a strategic nuclear force in parallel with the United States Air Force (USAF) long-range bombers with the project to build United States. This ship would have carried long range twin-engine bombers, each of which could carry an atomic bomb. The project was canceled under pressure from the newly created United States Air Force. This only delayed the growth of carriers. Nuclear weapons would be part of the carrier weapons load, despite Air Force objections, beginning in aboard USSFranklin D. Roosevelt and continuing in aboard USSForrestal. By the end of the s the Navy had a series of nuclear-armed attack aircraft.
The US Navy also built the first aircraft carrier to be powered by nuclear reactors. USSEnterprise was powered by eight nuclear reactors and was the second surface warship, after USSLong Beach, with nuclear propulsion. Subsequent nuclear supercarriers starting with USSNimitz took advantage of this technology to increase their endurance utilizing only two reactors. While other nations operate nuclear-powered submarines, thus far only France has a nuclear-powered carrier, Charles de Gaulle.
The post-war years also saw the development of the helicopter, with a variety of useful roles and mission capability aboard aircraft carriers. Whereas fixed-wing aircraft are suited to air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack, helicopters are used to transport equipment and personnel and can be used in an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) role, with dipping sonar, air-launched torpedoes, and depth charges; as well as for anti-surface vessel warfare, with air-launched anti-ship missiles.
In the late s and early s, the United Kingdom and the United States converted some older carriers into helicopter carriers or Landing Platform Helicopters (LPH); seagoing helicopter bases like HMSBulwark. To mitigate the expensive connotations of the term "aircraft carrier", the new Invincible-class carriers were originally designated as "through deck cruisers" and were initially to operate as helicopter-only escort carriers. The arrival of the Sea Harrier VTOL/STOVL fast jet meant they could carry fixed-wing aircraft, despite their short flight deck.
The United States used some Essex-class carriers initially as pure anti-submarine warfare (ASW) carriers, embarking helicopters and fixed-wing ASW aircraft like the S-2 Tracker. Later, specialized LPH helicopter carriers for the transport of Marine Corps troops and their helicopter transports were developed. These evolved into the Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) and later into the Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) classes of amphibious assault ships, which normally also embark a few Harrier aircraft.
Another British innovation was the ski-jump ramp as an alternative to contemporary catapult systems. The ski-jump ramp at the end of a runway or flight deck allows an aircraft which makes a running start to convert part of its forward momentum into upward motion. The intent is that the additional altitude and upward-angled flight path from the jump provides extra time until the forward airspeed generated by engine thrust is high enough to maintain level flight. STOVL aircraft often also use their ability to direct some of their thrust downwards to give them additional lift until required airspeed is attained.
As the Royal Navy retired or sold the last of its World War II-era carriers, they were replaced with smaller ships designed to operate helicopters and the STOVL Sea Harrier jet. The ski-jump gave the Harriers an enhanced STOVL capability, allowing them to take off with heavier payloads. It was subsequently adopted by the navies of other nations including India, Spain, Italy, Russia, and Thailand.
Post-World War II conflicts
UN carrier operations in the Korean War
The United Nations command began carrier operations against the North Korean Army on July 3, in response to the invasion of South Korea. Task Force 77 consisted at that time of the carriers USSValley Forge and HMSTriumph. Before the armistice of July 27, , twelve U.S. carriers served 27 tours in the Sea of Japan as part of Task Force During periods of intensive air operations as many as four carriers were on the line at the same time (see Attack on the Sui-ho Dam), but the norm was two on the line with a third "ready" carrier at Yokosuka able to respond to the Sea of Japan at short notice.
A second carrier unit, Task Force 95, served as a blockade force in the Yellow Sea off the west coast of North Korea. The task force consisted of a Commonwealth light carrier (HMSTriumph, Theseus, Glory, Ocean, and HMASSydney) and usually a U.S. escort carrier (USSBadoeng Strait, Bairoko, Point Cruz, Rendova, and Sicily).
Over , carrier sorties were flown during the Korean War: , by the aircraft of Task Force 77; 25, by the Commonwealth aircraft of Task Force 95, and 20, by the escort carriers of Task Force United States Navy and Marine Corps carrier-based combat losses were aircraft. The Fleet Air Arm lost 86 aircraft in combat, and the Australian Fleet Air Arm
In the period following World War II through the s, the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands employed their carriers during decolonization conflicts of former colonies.
France employed the carriers Dixmude, La Fayette, Bois Belleau, and Arromanches to conduct operations against the Viet Minh during the – First Indochina War.
The United Kingdom used carrier-based aircraft from HMSEagle, HMSAlbion, and HMSBulwark, and France from Arromanches and La Fayette, to attack Egyptian positions during the Suez Crisis. Royal Navy carriers HMSOcean and Theseus acted as floating bases to ferry troops ashore by helicopter in the first ever large-scale helicopter-borne assault.
The Royal Netherlands Navy deployed HNLMSKarel Doorman and an escorting battle group to Western New Guinea in to protect it from Indonesian invasion. This intervention nearly resulted in her being attacked by the Indonesian Air Force using Soviet supplied Tupolev TuKS-1 Badger naval bombers carrying anti-ship missiles. The attack was called off by a last-minute cease fire.
Between and , the Royal Navy deployed the Far East Fleet carriers Ark Royal, Centaur, and HMSVictorious in support of operations in Borneo during the Konfrontasi conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia. HMS Albion and Bulwark were deployed as commando carriers, and the Australian carrier HMAS Sydney served as a troop transport.
Indo-Pakistan War of 
During the war, India deployed INSVikrant against Pakistan from its station in the Andaman Islands for operations against Pakistani forces in the East (present day Bangladesh). Hawker Sea Hawks from the carrier successfully choked the Chittagong harbour and put it out of service.
U.S. carrier operations in Southeast Asia
The United States Navy fought "the most protracted, bitter, and costly war" in the history of naval aviation from August 2, to August 15, in the waters of the South China Sea. Operating from two deployment points (Yankee Station and Dixie Station), carrier aircraft supported combat operations in South Vietnam and conducted bombing operations in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force in North Vietnam under Operations Flaming Dart, Rolling Thunder, and Linebacker. The number of carriers on the line varied during differing points of the conflict, but as many as six operated at one time during Operation Linebacker.
Twenty-one aircraft carriers, all of the attack carriers operational during the era except John F. Kennedy, deployed to Task Force 77 of the US Seventh Fleet, conducting 86 war cruises and operating 9, total days on the line in the Gulf of Tonkin. aircraft were lost in combat and more in operational accidents, causing the deaths of naval aviators, with 64 others reported missing and captured. officers and men of the ship's complements of three carriers Forrestal, Enterprise, and Oriskany, were killed in major shipboard fires. At times some of the carrier groups operated over 12,miles from their home ports.
During the Falklands War the United Kingdom was able to win a conflict 8,miles (13,km) from home in large part due to the use of the light fleet carrier HMSHermes () and the smaller "through deck cruiser" carrier HMSInvincible. The Falklands showed the value of STOVL aircraft, the Hawker Siddeley Harrier, both the RN Sea Harrier and press-ganged RAF Harrier variants, in defending the fleet and assault force from shore-based aircraft and in attacking the enemy. Sea Harriers shot down 21 fast-attack jets and suffered no aerial combat losses, although six were lost to accidents and ground fire. Helicopters from the carriers were used to deploy troops and for medevac, search and rescue and anti-submarine warfare.
Another lesson from the Falklands War resulted in the withdrawal of Argentina's aircraft carrier ARA Veinticinco de Mayo with her A-4Qs. The sinking of the Argentine cruiser ARA General Belgrano by the fast attack submarineHMS Conqueror showed that capital ships were vulnerable in nuclear submarines' hunting grounds.
Operations in the Persian Gulf
The U.S. has also made use of carriers in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan and to protect its interests in the Pacific. During the invasion of Iraq U.S. aircraft carriers served as the primary base of American air power. Even without the ability to place significant numbers of aircraft in Middle Eastern airbases, the United States was capable of carrying out significant air attacks from carrier-based squadrons. Recently, U.S. aircraft carriers such as the Ronald Reagan provided air support for counter-insurgency operations in Iraq.
Types of ships that carry aircraft
- ^Note: three generations of Royal Navy aircraft carriers named HMS Hermes are mentioned in this article: HMSHermes(), HMSHermes (), and HMSHermes (),
- ^Military Ballooning During the Early Civil War, p 96, F. Stansbury Haydon, JHU Press, , ISBN
- ^Chambers's Supplementary Reader, p 12, W. and R. Chambers, BiblioBazaar, , ISBN
- ^van Beverhoudt, Jr., Arnold E. (). "Carriers: Airpower at Sea - The Early Years / Part 1". sandcastlevi.com. Sandcastle VI. Retrieved
- ^Military Aircraft, Origins to , p 10, Justin D. Murphy, ABC-CLIO, , ISBN
- ^Description and photograph of Foudre
- ^"First US seaplane carrier, the USS Mississippi". Hazegray.org. Retrieved
- ^Wakamiya is "credited with conducting the first successful carrier air raid in history"Source:GlobalSecurity.org
- ^"Sabre et pinceau", Christian Polak, p.
- ^IJN Wakamiya Aircraft Carrier
- ^Barry Watts and Williamson Murray, "Military Innovation in Peacetime," in Murray, Williamson; Millet, Allan R, eds. (). Military Innovation in the Interwar Period. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. ISBN.
- ^Halpern, Paul G. (11 October ). A Naval History of World War I. Naval Institute Press. ISBN.
- ^Green, William (). War Planes of the Second World War: Volume Six: Floatplanes. London: Macdonald. pp.90–
- ^Clement Ader on the structure of the aircraft carrier:
"An airplane-carrying vessel is indispensable. These vessels will be constructed on a plan very different from what is currently used. First of all the deck will be cleared of all obstacles. It will be flat, as wide as possible without jeopardizing the nautical lines of the hull, and it will look like a landing field." Military Aviation, p35
"Of necessity, the airplanes will be stowed below decks; they would be solidly fixed anchored to their bases, each in its place, so they would not be affected with the pitching and rolling. Access to this lower decks would be by an elevator sufficiently long and wide to hold an airplane with its wings folded. A large, sliding trap would cover the hole in the deck, and it would have waterproof joints, so that neither rain nor seawater, from heavy seas could penetrate below." Military Aviation, p36
On the technique of landing:
"The ship will be headed straight into the wind, the stern clear, but a padded bulwark set up forward in case the airplane should run past the stop line" Military Aviation, p
- ^van Beverhoudt, Arnold E., Jr. (). "Carriers: Airpower at Sea - The Early Years / Part 2". sandcastlevi.com. Sandcastle VI. Retrieved 19 October
- ^Barnes C.H. & James D.N (). Shorts Aircraft since . London: Putnam. p. ISBN.
- ^Friedman, p. 28
- ^Sturtivant (), p
- ^ Squadron History: –
- ^ ab"HMS Furious ". Royal Navy. RN official web site. Archived from the original on 13 June Retrieved 10 January
- ^Probert, p. 46
- ^ ab"Hōshō was a carrier from the keel, the first of its kind completed in any navy of the world" Scot MacDonald US Navy History: Evolution of Aircraft Carriers
- ^"The Imperial Japanese Navy was a pioneer in naval aviation, having commissioned the world's first built-from-the-keel-up carrier, the Hosho." GlobalSecurity: Carrier Hosho.
- ^CVLSmall Aircraft Carriers, Naval Historical Center, http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/shusn-no/cvl-no.htm. Retrieved 22 September
- ^Black, Jeremy (). World War Two: A Military History. Routledge. p. ISBN.
- ^Francillon p.
- ^ abcdefghiSturtivant, Ray (). British Naval Aviation, The Fleet Air Arm, . London: Arm & Armour Press. pp.– ISBN.
- ^ abc"The angled flight deck". Sea Power Centre Australia. Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 22 January
- ^ abFriedman , p
- ^"U.S. Navy - A Brief History of Aircraft Carriers - USS Midway (CVB 41)". Chinfo.navy.mil. Archived from the original on Retrieved
- ^"Peoples Planes Places"(PDF). Naval Historical Center. Retrieved
- ^"World Aircraft Carriers List: France". Hazegray.org. Retrieved
- ^"Suez Crisis, ". Acig.org. Retrieved
- ^Tu Badger: The stealth from the Southern Hemisphere - Rubrik HISTORYArchived October 22, , at the Wayback Machine
- ^"British & Commonwealth units serving in Borneo, Brunei and supporting operations - ". Britains-smallwars.com. Archived from the original on Retrieved
- ^René Francillon
- Francillon, René J, Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club US Carrier Operations off Vietnam, () ISBN
- Friedman, Norman (). British Carrier Aviation: The Evolution of the Ships and Their Aircraft. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN.
- Nordeen, Lon, Air Warfare in the Missile Age, () ISBNX
- Ader, Clement, "Military Aviation", , Edited and translated by Lee Kennett, Air University Press, Maxwell Air Force Base Alabama, , ISBNX
- Sheldon-Duplaix, Alexandre, Histoire mondiale des porte-avions: des origines à nos jours. (Boulogne-Billancourt: ETAI, DL, ).
- Friedman, Norman, U. S. Aircraft Carriers: an Illustrated Design History, Naval Institute Press, - ISBN Contains many detailed ship plans.
- Polak, Christian (). Sabre et Pinceau: Par d'autres Français au Japon. (in French and Japanese). Hiroshi Ueki (植木 浩), Philippe Pons, foreword; 筆と刀・日本の中のもうひとつのフランス (). éd. L'Harmattan.
- Williams, Alison J. "Aircraft carriers and the capacity to mobilise US power across the Pacific, –," Journal of Historical Geography () 15#1 Online free doi.org//j.jhg
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WW1 Aircraft Carriers
Naval Warfare History | The Great War
Like other battlefield systems still in play today, the mighty aircraft carrier had its humble start in World War 1.There are a total of [ 11 ] WW1 Aircraft Carriers entries in the Military Factory. Entries are listed below in alphanumeric order (1-to-Z). Flag images indicative of country of origin and not necessarily the primary operator. Those vessels appearing in World War 1, but subsequently modified to become aircraft/seaplane tenders later, are also included in this listing.
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