A fleet carrier is an aircraft carrier designed to operate with the main fleet of a nation's navy. The term was developed during World War II, to distinguish it from the escort carrier and other less capable types. In addition to many medium-sized carriers, supercarriers, as well as some light carriers, are also classed as fleet carriers.
Aircraft carriers evolved in the years between World War I and World War II. Flight decks were installed on several different types of ships to explore the possibilities of operating naval aircraft without the performance limitations of flotation devices required for seaplanes and flying boats. The most successful of these early aircraft carriers were built from battlecruisers. Battlecruisers typically had a speed of about 30 knots (56 km/h), which was several knots faster than the speed of contemporary battleships. Additional speed was not necessary for maintaining station with the battle fleet, but enabled the carrier to catch up with the battle fleet after temporarily leaving formation to turn into the wind for launch or recovery of aircraft. The speed of the carrier during launch effectively decreased the takeoff distance for embarked aircraft, so faster carriers could operate heavier aircraft with greater range and superior combat capability. As such naval aircraft became operational, no nation could risk fielding less capable aircraft; so the speed of later purpose-designed aircraft carriers was set by the speed of the converted battle cruisers. The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 limited the displacement of purpose-designed aircraft carriers to 23,000 tons.
The idea of a modern fleet carrier was developed in 1931 by Admirals J.J. Clark and Harry E. Yarnell of the United States Navy. Fleet carriers, instead of operating as scouts for the fleet, would operate in unison with the fleet, to ward off air attacks and to strike opposing forces from the air. Cruisers and destroyers would protect fleet carriers. The fleet carriers would then displace battleships as the preeminent assets of the surface fleet. A fleet carrier would carry more than 50 aircraft, and be fast enough to keep up with other major elements of the fleet, such as cruisers and battleships.
As combat experience demonstrated the importance of aircraft carriers, numerous ships were rapidly converted to operate aircraft during World War II; and it became important to differentiate ships with the speed and size allowed by the Washington Naval Treaty from ships that were slower and/or carried fewer aircraft. Ships of similar speed carrying fewer aircraft were identified as light aircraft carriers (CVL) and ships of lower speed became known as escort aircraft carriers (CVE). Fleet aircraft carrier became the term to distinguish front-line aircraft carriers from the generic description of any warship carrying aircraft.
In the post-war era, the United States Navy sought to give aircraft carriers a strategic bombing capability in addition to their tactical role. The largest bombs carried by carrier aircraft during the second world war had been about 2,000 pounds (910 kg) but experience had indicated some hardened targets like submarine pens were impervious to bombs of less than 12,000 pounds (5,400 kg). The fleet carriers of World War II were incapable of operating meaningful numbers of aircraft large enough to carry such heavy bombs over anticipated distances with performance characteristics to avoid defending aircraft. The term fleet carrier then evolved to differentiate the supercarriers designed for strategic bombing roles from the older fleet carriers delegated limited tactical roles like anti-submarine (CVS) or amphibious warfare (LPH).
The following is not an exhaustive list, but does provide context by comparing some examples, from three types, of fleet carriers active during WWII.
|Akagi||battlecruiser conversion||Japan||36,500 tons||31 knots||72|||
|Lexington||battlecruiser conversion||US||36,000 tons||34 knots||88|||
|Courageous||battlecruiser conversion||UK||22,500 tons||30 knots||42|||
|Yorktown||Washington Naval Treaty||US||19,800 tons||32 knots||79|||
|Ark Royal||Washington Naval Treaty||UK||22,000 tons||31 knots||54|||
|Hiryū||Washington Naval Treaty||Japan||17,300 tons||34 knots||64|||
|Illustrious||post-treaty production||UK||23,000 tons||30 knots||33|||
|Shōkaku||post-treaty production||Japan||25,675 tons||34 knots||72|||
|Essex||post-treaty production||US||27,100 tons||33 knots||90|||
The earliest carrier aircraft were designed as fighters, scouts and gunfire observers. Torpedo bombers were developed to slow enemy ships so friendly battleships might catch and sink them. Dive bombing tactics were developed as aircraft strength improved through the 1930s, but limited aircraft capacity encouraged production of dual-purpose fighter-bombers or scout-bombers rather than dedicated dive bombers. Japanese and American fleet carriers usually carried fighter squadrons, torpedo bomber squadrons, and dive bomber squadrons through World War II; but British fleet carriers were less likely to include a dive bomber squadron. The fleet carriers' longer range bombers were often used for the scouting role.
By the time of the Korean War, the typical United States Navy fleet carrier embarked two squadrons of jet fighters, two squadrons of piston fighter-bombers, and a squadron of attack planes. Smaller numbers of specialized aircraft were also carried, including night fighters, night-attack bombers, and planes uniquely modified for aerial reconnaissance, airborne early warning and control (AEW), electronic countermeasures (ECM), and carrier onboard delivery (COD). When the supercarriers became operational, they carried a heavy attack squadron, two light attack squadrons, and two fighter squadrons with similar numbers of specialized aircraft, except the night fighters and bombers. As improved aircraft sensors became available, one or more full squadrons of fighters and bombers became capable of night operations.
United States 21st-century fleet carriers typically embark 45 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet aircraft for traditional fighter, attack and ECM roles with twelve Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk helicopters, four Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye AEW aircraft and two Grumman C-2 Greyhound COD aircraft.
The 1942 Design Light Fleet Carrier, commonly referred to as the British Light Fleet Carrier, was a light aircraft carrier design created by the Royal Navy during the Second World War, and used by eight naval forces between 1944 and 2001. They were designed and constructed by civilian shipyards to serve as an intermediate step between the expensive, full-size fleet aircraft carriers and the less expensive but limited-capability escort carriers.
Sixteen Light Fleet carriers were ordered, and all were laid down to the Colossus class design during 1942 and 1943. However, only eight were completed to this design; of these, four entered service before the end of the war, and none saw front line operations. Two more were fitted with maintenance and repair facilities instead of aircraft catapults and arresting gear, and entered service as aircraft maintenance carriers. The final six were modified during construction to handle larger and faster aircraft, and were redesignated the Majestic class. The construction of the six ships was suspended at the end of the war. Five were eventually completed with the last commissioning in 1961; however, the sixth, Leviathan, was dismantled for spare parts and scrap.
Although not completed in time to fight in the war, the carriers in Royal Navy service participated in the Korean War and the Suez Crisis. During the latter, two Colossus-class ships performed the first ship-based helicopter assault in history. Four Colossuses and all five completed Majestics were loaned or sold to seven foreign nations – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, India, and the Netherlands – with three ships serving in three different naval forces during their careers. Foreign-operated Light Fleets took part in the Korean War, the First Indochina War, the Vietnam War, the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War, and the Falklands War.
Despite being intended as 'disposable warships', all of the completed Light Fleet carriers exceeded their planned three-year service life. The maintenance carriers were the first to be paid off in the 1950s, and by the 1960s, all of the Royal Navy carriers, (bar Triumph, which was later recommissioned as a repair ship) had been sold to other nations or for ship breaking. The carriers in other navies had longer service lives. At the time of her decommissioning in 2001, Minas Gerais was the oldest active aircraft carrier in the world. Despite attempts to preserve several of these carriers as museum ships, the last surviving example, Vikrant, was sold for scrapping in 2014.Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship that serves as a seagoing airbase, equipped with a full-length flight deck and facilities for carrying, arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft. Typically, it is the capital ship of a fleet, as it allows a naval force to project air power worldwide without depending on local bases for staging aircraft operations. Carriers have evolved since their inception in the early twentieth century from wooden vessels used to deploy balloons to nuclear-powered warships that carry numerous fighters, strike aircraft, helicopters, and other types of aircraft. While heavier aircraft such as fixed-wing gunships and bombers have been launched from aircraft carriers, it is currently not possible to land them. By its diplomatic and tactical power, its mobility, its autonomy and the variety of its means, the aircraft carrier is often the centerpiece of modern combat fleets. Tactically or even strategically, it replaced the battleship in the role of flagship of a fleet. One of its great advantages is that, by sailing in international waters, it does not interfere with any territorial sovereignty and thus obviates the need for overflight authorizations from third party countries, reduce the times and transit distances of aircraft and therefore significantly increase the time of availability on the combat zone.
There is no single definition of an "aircraft carrier", and modern navies use several variants of the type. These variants are sometimes categorized as sub-types of aircraft carriers, and sometimes as distinct types of naval aviation-capable ships. Aircraft carriers may be classified according to the type of aircraft they carry and their operational assignments. Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, RN, former First Sea Lord (head) of the Royal Navy, has said, "To put it simply, countries that aspire to strategic international influence have aircraft carriers." Henry Kissinger, while United States Secretary of State, also said: "An aircraft carrier is 100,000 tons of diplomacy".As of August 2019, there are 41 active aircraft carriers in the world operated by thirteen navies. The United States Navy has 11 large nuclear-powered fleet carriers—carrying around 80 fighter jets each—the largest carriers in the world; the total combined deckspace is over twice that of all other nations combined. As well as the aircraft carrier fleet, the U.S. Navy has nine amphibious assault ships used primarily for helicopters, although these also carry up to 20 vertical or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) fighter jets and are similar in size to medium-sized fleet carriers. China, France, India, Russia, and the UK each operate a single large/medium-size carrier, with capacity from 30 to 60 fighter jets. Italy operates two light fleet carriers and Spain operates one. Helicopter carriers are operated by Japan (4), France (3), Australia (2), Egypt (2), Brazil (1), South Korea (1), and Thailand (1). Future aircraft carriers are under construction or in planning by Brazil, China, India, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.Audacious-class aircraft carrier
The Audacious-class aircraft carriers were a class of aircraft carriers proposed by the British government in the 1930s - 1940s and completed after the Second World War. The two ships built were heavily modified and diverged over their service lives. They were in operation from 1951 until 1979.Battle of the Coral Sea
The Battle of the Coral Sea, fought from 4–8 May 1942, was a major naval battle between the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and naval and air forces from the United States and Australia, taking place in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. The battle is historically significant as the first action in which aircraft carriers engaged each other, as well as the first in which the opposing ships neither sighted nor fired directly upon one another.
In an attempt to strengthen their defensive position in the South Pacific, the Japanese decided to invade and occupy Port Moresby (in New Guinea) and Tulagi (in the southeastern Solomon Islands). The plan to accomplish this was called Operation Mo, and involved several major units of Japan's Combined Fleet. These included two fleet carriers and a light carrier to provide air cover for the invasion forces. It was under the overall command of Japanese Admiral Shigeyoshi Inoue.
The U.S. learned of the Japanese plan through signals intelligence, and sent two United States Navy carrier task forces and a joint Australian-U.S. cruiser force to oppose the offensive. These were under the overall command of U.S. Admiral Frank J. Fletcher.
On 3–4 May, Japanese forces successfully invaded and occupied Tulagi, although several of their supporting warships were sunk or damaged in surprise attacks by aircraft from the U.S. fleet carrier Yorktown. Now aware of the presence of U.S. carriers in the area, the Japanese fleet carriers advanced towards the Coral Sea with the intention of locating and destroying the Allied naval forces. On the evening of 6 May, the direction chosen for air searches by the opposing commanders brought the two carrier forces to within 70 nmi (81 mi; 130 km) of each other, unbeknownst to both sides. Beginning on 7 May, the carrier forces from the two sides engaged in airstrikes over two consecutive days. On the first day, both forces mistakenly believed they were attacking their opponent's fleet carriers, but were actually attacking other units, with the U.S. sinking the Japanese light carrier Shōhō while the Japanese sank a U.S. destroyer and heavily damaged a fleet oiler (which was later scuttled). The next day, the fleet carriers found and engaged each other, with the Japanese fleet carrier Shōkaku heavily damaged, the U.S. fleet carrier Lexington critically damaged (and later scuttled), and Yorktown damaged. With both sides having suffered heavy losses in aircraft and carriers damaged or sunk, the two forces disengaged and retired from the battle area. Because of the loss of carrier air cover, Inoue recalled the Port Moresby invasion fleet, intending to try again later.
Although a tactical victory for the Japanese in terms of ships sunk, the battle would prove to be a strategic victory for the Allies for several reasons. The battle marked the first time since the start of the war that a major Japanese advance had been checked by the Allies. More importantly, the Japanese fleet carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku—the former damaged and the latter with a depleted aircraft complement—were unable to participate in the Battle of Midway the following month, while Yorktown did participate, ensuring a rough parity in aircraft between the two adversaries and contributing significantly to the U.S. victory in that battle. The severe losses in carriers at Midway prevented the Japanese from reattempting to invade Port Moresby from the ocean and helped prompt their ill-fated land offensive over the Kokoda Track. Two months later, the Allies took advantage of Japan's resulting strategic vulnerability in the South Pacific and launched the Guadalcanal Campaign; this, along with the New Guinea Campaign, eventually broke Japanese defenses in the South Pacific and was a significant contributing factor to Japan's ultimate surrender in World War II.Carriers at War
Carriers at War is a computer game series developed by Strategic Studies Group.Centaur-class aircraft carrier
The Centaur class of aircraft carriers of the Royal Navy was the last of the light fleet carrier designs started during the closing years of World War II. The first ship of the original four in the class was commissioned in 1953 and the final decommissioned in 1984. The first three ships lacked an angled flight deck and were therefore unsuitable for fast jet aircraft, and production of a second batch of four carriers was cancelled.Escort carrier
The escort carrier or escort aircraft carrier (US hull classification symbol CVE), also called a "jeep carrier" or "baby flattop" in the United States Navy (USN) or "Woolworth Carrier" by the Royal Navy, was a small and slow type of aircraft carrier used by the Royal Navy, the United States Navy, the Imperial Japanese Navy and Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in World War II. They were typically half the length and a third the displacement of larger fleet carriers. While they were slower, carried fewer planes and were less well armed and armored, escort carriers were cheaper and could be built quickly, which was their principal advantage. Escort carriers could be completed in greater numbers as a stop-gap when fleet carriers were scarce. However, the lack of protection made escort carriers particularly vulnerable, and several were sunk with great loss of life. The light carrier (hull classification symbol CVL) was a similar concept to escort carriers in most respects, but were capable of higher speeds to allow operation alongside fleet carriers.
Most often built on a commercial ship hull, escort carriers were too slow to keep up with the main forces consisting of fleet carriers, battleships, and cruisers. Instead, they were used to escort convoys, defending them from enemy threats such as submarines and planes. In the invasions of mainland Europe and Pacific islands, escort carriers provided air support to ground forces during amphibious operations. Escort carriers also served as backup aircraft transports for fleet carriers and ferried aircraft of all military services to points of delivery.
In the Battle of the Atlantic, escort carriers were used to protect convoys against U-boats. Initially escort carriers accompanied the merchant ships and helped to fend off attacks from aircraft and submarines. As numbers increased later in the war, escort carriers also formed part of hunter-killer groups that sought out submarines instead of being attached to a particular convoy.
In the Pacific theater, CVEs provided air support of ground troops in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. They lacked the speed and weapons to counter enemy fleets, relying on the protection of a Fast Carrier Task Force. However, at the Battle off Samar, one U.S. task force of escort carriers managed to successfully defend itself against a much larger Japanese force of battleships and cruisers. The Japanese met a furious defense of carrier aircraft, screening destroyers, and destroyer escorts, proving that CVEs could appear to have the same striking power as full CVs.
Of the 151 aircraft carriers built in the U.S. during World War II, 122 were escort carriers. Though no examples survive to this day, the Casablanca class was the most numerous class of aircraft carrier, with 50 launched. Second was the Bogue class, with 45 launched.Kure Naval Arsenal
Kure Naval Arsenal (呉海軍工廠, Kure Kaigun Kosho) was one of four principal naval shipyards owned and operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy.Landing platform helicopter
Landing platform helicopter (LPH) is a term used by some navies to denote a type of amphibious warfare ship designed primarily to operate as a launch and recovery platform for helicopters and other VTOL aircraft. As such, they are considered a type of helicopter carrier.
Under the NATO Standardization Agreement (STANAG) document for reporting vessels, LPH is a short form designator used for "Amphibious Assault Ship, Helicopter" defined as a "large helicopter carrier" for carrying and deploying around 1,800 assault troops using its own aircraft, but for which use of landing craft is "not a principal function". For ships of this hull classification in the Royal Navy, LPH is a direct acronym for "Landing Platform Helicopter", while the United States Navy referred to its vessels within this classification as "amphibious assault ships". Regardless of the terminology, all vessels classified as an LPH possess essentially similar capabilities.
The Royal Navy also used the term "Commando Carrier", which it applied to aircraft carriers converted to helicopter only operations. The RN now operates one vessel that it classifies as an LPH, HMS Ocean. Following the British government's decision to withdraw its Harrier aircraft at the end of 2010, the former light fleet carrier HMS Illustrious also performed this role, but has now been decommissioned.
The LPH classification was used by the U.S. Navy for the amphibious assault ships of the Iwo Jima class, a converted Casablanca-class escort carrier and three converted Essex-class aircraft carriers. No ships of this classification are currently in active service with the U.S. Navy, having been replaced with multi-purpose ships classified under NATO naming conventions as landing helicopter dock or landing helicopter assault ships.Light aircraft carrier
A light aircraft carrier, or light fleet carrier, is an aircraft carrier that is smaller than the standard carriers of a navy. The precise definition of the type varies by country; light carriers typically have a complement of aircraft only one-half to two-thirds the size of a full-sized fleet carrier. A light carrier was similar in concept to an escort carrier in most respects, however light carriers were intended for higher speeds to be deployed alongside fleet carriers, while escort carriers usually defended convoys and provided air support during amphibious operations.List of aircraft carriers
This list of aircraft carriers contains aircraft carriers listed alphabetically by name. An aircraft carrier is a warship with a full-length flight deck and facilities for carrying, arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft, that serves as a seagoing airbase.
Included in this list are ships which meet the above definition and had an official name (italicized) or designation (non-italicized), regardless of whether they were or were not ordered, laid down, completed, or commissioned.
Not included in this list are the following:
Aircraft cruisers, also known as aviation cruisers, cruiser-carriers, flight deck cruisers, and hybrid battleship-carriers, which combine the characteristics of aircraft carriers and surface warfare ships, because they primarily operated helicopters or floatplanes and did not act as a floating airbase. Examples include the British Tiger-class cruisers, Japanese Hyūga-class helicopter destroyer, French cruiser Jeanne d'Arc, Soviet Moskva-class helicopter cruisers, and Italian Andrea Doria-class cruisers.
Amphibious assault ships, also known as commando carriers, assault carriers, helicopter carriers, landing helicopter assault ships, landing helicopter docks, landing platform docks, and landing platform helicopters. Although they have flight decks and look like aircraft carriers, they primarily operate helicopters and do not act as a floating airbase. Examples include the US Wasp-class assault ships, Brazilian PHM Atlântico (A140), Japanese Akitsu Maru escort carrier, and French Mistral-class.
Catapult aircraft merchantmen, merchant ships which carried cargo and an aircraft catapult (no flight deck).
Escort carriers, usually converted merchant ships, see separate List of escort carriers by country.
"Landing craft carriers" such as USS LST-906, which were modified amphibious landing ships, because they could not recover their aircraft.
Merchant aircraft carriers, cargo-carrying merchant ships with a full flight deck.
Seaplane tenders and seaplane carriers, because they could not land aircraft.
Submarine aircraft carriers, because they had no flight deck and could not land their aircraft."In commission" denotes the period that the ship was officially in commission with the given name for the given country as an aircraft carrier as defined above.List of aircraft carriers in service
This is a list of aircraft carriers which are currently in service, under maintenance or refit, in reserve, under construction, or being updated. An aircraft carrier is a warship with a full-length flight deck, hangar and facilities for arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft. The list only refers to the status of the ship, not availability or condition of an air wing. This includes helicopter carriers and also amphibious assault ships, if the vessel's primary purpose is to carry, arm, deploy, and recover aircraft.List of sunken aircraft carriers
With the advent of heavier-than-air flight, the aircraft carrier has become a decisive weapon at sea. In 1911 aircraft began to be successfully launched and landed on ships with the successful flight of a Curtiss Pusher aboard USS Pennsylvania. The British Royal Navy pioneered the first aircraft carrier as floatplanes, as flying boats under performed compared to traditional land based aircraft. The first true aircraft carrier was HMS Argus, launched in late 1917 with a complement of 20 aircraft and a flight deck 550 ft (170 m) long and 68 ft (21 m) wide. The last aircraft carrier sunk in wartime was the Japanese aircraft carrier Amagi, in Kure Harbour in July 1945. The greatest loss of life was the 2,046 killed on Akitsu Maru—a converted passenger liner with a small flight deck, carrying the Imperial Japanese Army's 64th Infantry Regiment.Malta-class aircraft carrier
The Malta-class aircraft carrier was a British large aircraft carrier design of World War II. Four ships were ordered in 1943 for the Royal Navy, but changing tactical concepts, based on American experience in the Pacific War, caused repeated changes to the design, which was not completed before the end of the war. All four ships were cancelled in 1945 before they were laid down.Syrian Air
Syrian Arab Airlines (Arabic: مؤسسة الطيران العربية السورية), operating as SyrianAir (Arabic: السورية), is the flag carrier airline of Syria. It operates scheduled international services to several destinations in Asia, Europe and North Africa, though the number of flights operated has seriously declined since 2011 due to the Arab Spring and subsequent Syrian war. SyrianAir previously served over 50 destinations worldwide. Its main bases are Damascus International Airport and previously Aleppo International Airport. SyrianAir is a member of the Arab Air Carriers Organization and Arabesk Airline Alliance. The company has its head office on the fifth floor of the Social Insurance Building in Damascus.Tail code
Tail codes are the markings usually on the vertical stabilizer of U.S. military aircraft that help to identify the aircraft's unit and/or base assignment and occasionally other information that is not unique. This is not the same as the serial number, bureau number, or aircraft registration which provide unique aircraft identification.USS Hornet (CV-8)
USS Hornet (CV-8), the seventh ship to carry the name Hornet, was a Yorktown-class aircraft carrier of the United States Navy. During World War II in the Pacific Theater, she launched the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo and participated in the Battle of Midway and the Buin-Faisi-Tonolai Raid. In the Solomon Islands campaign, she was involved in the capture and defense of Guadalcanal and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands where she was irreparably damaged by enemy torpedo and dive bombers. Faced with an approaching Japanese surface force, Hornet was abandoned and later torpedoed and sunk by approaching Japanese destroyers. Hornet was in service for a year and six days and was the last US fleet carrier ever sunk by enemy fire. For these actions, she was awarded four service stars, a citation for the Doolittle Raid in 1942, and her Torpedo Squadron 8 received a Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism for the Battle of Midway. Her wreck was located in late January 2019 near the Solomon Islands.Yokosuka Naval Arsenal
Yokosuka Naval Arsenal (横須賀海軍工廠, Yokosuka kaigun kōshō) was one of four principal naval shipyards owned and operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy, and was located at Yokosuka, Kanagawa prefecture on Tokyo Bay, south of Yokohama.
|Fast attack craft|
|Command and support|