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Aircraft Carriers: Armored Or Not?  
User currently offlineflyingturtle From Switzerland, joined Oct 2011, 2389 posts, RR: 13
Posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 14253 times:

Hello dear fellow a.netters,


years and years ago I read a superb book on aircraft carriers, their aircraft, their history and their operations. It was made in the early 1990ies, way before the F-18 assumed the tanker, electronic warfare and troop transport roles, and therefore it depicted a wonderful variety of carrier aircraft (Hawkeye, Viking, Prowler/Intruder, Tomcat, Harrier...).

The book said that all aircraft carriers are not armored due to an international treaty, so they are less resistant to e.g. torpedoes; and that Japan in World War II built battleships that "accidentally" received an aircraft deck, thus building aircraft carriers that were effectively armored.

Do I remember right? If so, what was the reason behind prohibiting aircraft carriers to be armored?



Kind regards,

David


Keeping calm is terrorism against those who want to live in fear.
43 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlinepar13del From Bahamas, joined Dec 2005, 7135 posts, RR: 8
Reply 1, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 14246 times:

What we know from WWII is that the UK had armoured deck carriers and suffered less damage than the US Navy whose decks were unarmoured.
The treaties in force prior to WWII were probably all scrapped by the war, I'm inclined to believe if any current carrier US or otherwise is unarmoured its because of cost and weight.
The historians will chime in I'm sure.


User currently offlinesprout5199 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 1852 posts, RR: 2
Reply 2, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 2 days 13 hours ago) and read 14227 times:

Quoting flyingturtle (Thread starter):
Do I remember right? If so, what was the reason behind prohibiting aircraft carriers to be armored?

Actually I think you are talking about the Washington Naval Treaty when you read about the BB's being turned into carriers. I could try to explain it but a link will do:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Naval_Treaty

Also when you are talking about torpedoes, there is a big difference between a WW2 torpedo and a modern one. The WW2 one hit the side of the ship (hence the creation of torpedo "blisters") and modern one that explodes under the ship creating an air bubble that breaks the keel of the ship.

Also armored is "relative". Do you mean a armored ship like a BB? Or do you mean that certain parts are protected? Todays carriers are not "armored" per say, but I'm sure parts are. I'm sure the hull is as thin as they can get away with, knowing that it is designed for 50 years of service, so about 2 inches thick. But I'm sure the "special weapons" mags are much thicker ( I know, no more of those onboard, so they tell us).

The thickest armor I aver seen was aboard a decommed Albany class CG. She had a 4 inch main deck. But the Iowa class had 20 inches of hardened steel in places(boggles the mind if you think about it, my ship had a 1/2 inch steel hull).

I'm sure someone can expand on what I have said.

Dan in Jupiter


User currently offlinesprout5199 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 1852 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 2 days 13 hours ago) and read 14219 times:

Quoting par13del (Reply 1):
What we know from WWII is that the UK had armoured deck carriers and suffered less damage than the US Navy whose decks were unarmoured.

The US had wooden decks. Different trains of thought. Wooden was easier to repair, lighter weight. The steel(armored) was tougher, but cost topside weight, harder to repair. We learned that wood doesn't stop an armor piercing bomb but steel might. But since we had less "top weight" our hangars could be bigger and we could carry more aircraft. A trade off. Like I said, different trains of thought. We learned a lot from the Brits, shame that they couldn't afford to keep building carriers after the 60's. To think, the British thinking and the US pocketbook, what we could have made. A Brit/US SST, WOW, would still be flying. I regress, forgive me.

Dan in Jupiter


User currently offlineflyingturtle From Switzerland, joined Oct 2011, 2389 posts, RR: 13
Reply 4, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 2 days 12 hours ago) and read 14172 times:

Quoting par13del (Reply 1):
What we know from WWII is that the UK had armoured deck carriers and suffered less damage than the US Navy whose decks were unarmoured.

Thank you, but I knew that difference between British and U.S. carriers.  
Quoting sprout5199 (Reply 2):
Also armored is "relative". Do you mean a armored ship like a BB? Or do you mean that certain parts are protected?

I have to specifiy that I meant by "armored" that the hull below the waterline was armored - thus clearly pointing to the older torpedoes that detonated upon impact with the ship.

Having an above-waterline armor like a battleship makes not much sense, given that the aircraft on the deck would be destroyed anyway if it meets gunshells, bombs or kamikaze attacks.

So, if there was a real prohibition on amored aircraft carriers, USS Midway couldn't have been built?

On the Washington Naval Treaty wiki page, it says:

"Aircraft carriers were limited to 27,000 tons and could carry no more than 10 heavy guns, of a maximum calibre of 8 inches. However, each signatory was allowed to use two existing capital ship hulls for aircraft carriers, with a displacement limit of 33,000 tons each. (Articles IX and X)"

This is the only, albeit weak reference I could find that is pointing to a prohibition of armored aircraft carriers...


Thank you – perhaps I can dig a bit deeper and try to locate that book I mentioned in the first post.



David



Keeping calm is terrorism against those who want to live in fear.
User currently offlinerwessel From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 2346 posts, RR: 2
Reply 5, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 14128 times:
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Quoting sprout5199 (Reply 2):
Also when you are talking about torpedoes, there is a big difference between a WW2 torpedo and a modern one. The WW2 one hit the side of the ship (hence the creation of torpedo "blisters") and modern one that explodes under the ship creating an air bubble that breaks the keel of the ship.

Torpedoes that did that were actually developed by all three major submarine forces *before* the war, but at the onset of the war, the Japanese had not fielded theirs (deciding to go for simpler contact hits and bigger warheads on bigger torpedoes*), and neither the German or American magnetic exploders (triggers) worked very well.

In both the German and American cases the fixes required to make the magnetic triggers effective were not that huge, but in both cases extreme secrecy and limited time and testing budgets (the latter was especially a problem for the USN), resulted in mechanisms that were not reliable, mainly because neither side really took into account the actual variability of the earth's magnetic field (so the original magnetic exploders for both sides worked well in the one spot on the planet each side conducted testing).

As an interesting aside, both the German and American torpedoes suffered three parallel problems at the beginning of the war - unreliable magnetic exploders as mentioned above, depth keeping problems (in both cases, consideration was not given to the gradual build up of pressure inside the submarine during extended periods submerged, which caused the reference pressure used for depth keeping in the torpedo to be high), and unreliable contact exploders (although the failures modes were completely different). The Germans, while initially discounting the problem reports from their submarines commanders (like the Americans did later), accepted and fixed their problem much more quickly than the Americans did.


*And the Long Lances were by far the best torpedoes in the first few years of the war, with excellent range, speed and reliability backed up with a large (and deadly) warhead. An unusually small wake (for a chemically power torpedo) was a nice advantage too.


User currently offlineGDB From United Kingdom, joined May 2001, 13190 posts, RR: 77
Reply 6, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 14116 times:

The carriers the UK built prior to WW2, at least the dedicated ones rather than conversions, had deck armour due to the belief that the most likely area they might see action was the Mediterranean. Where they were expected to be in range of land based enemy aircraft.
The downside was a smaller complement of aircraft.


User currently offlinespudh From Ireland, joined Jul 2009, 301 posts, RR: 1
Reply 7, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 14058 times:

Quoting ThePointblank (Reply 7):

Pointblank,

Thank you again for a very well researched post!

Cormac


User currently offlineKC135TopBoom From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 12135 posts, RR: 51
Reply 8, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 13625 times:

Quoting sprout5199 (Reply 2):
The thickest armor I aver seen was aboard a decommed Albany class CG. She had a 4 inch main deck. But the Iowa class had 20 inches of hardened steel in places(boggles the mind if you think about it, my ship had a 1/2 inch steel hull).

Want to see a thick armored deck? Visit the museum BBs USS Massachusetts, USS Alabama (both are South Dakota, or SoDak class BBs), or any of the 4 Iowa class BBs. The two SoDaks, have hatches open through the nearly 6" armored deck you can pass through going up or down the latter to decks below. The weather decks were designed to initiate the fuze of AP shells, and the armored deck (often called the main deck or second deck) contained the exploding shell. Both the weather deck and main deck had splinter protection, too.

Quoting flyingturtle (Reply 4):
I have to specifiy that I meant by "armored" that the hull below the waterline was armored - thus clearly pointing to the older torpedoes that detonated upon impact with the ship.

Having an above-waterline armor like a battleship makes not much sense, given that the aircraft on the deck would be destroyed anyway if it meets gunshells, bombs or kamikaze attacks.

For BBs, the belt armor was not normally part of the TDS (torpedo defense system), the belt was meant to reject AP shells of large BB caliber (14", 15", 16", and in some casese bigger shells). The armored belt extended (on most BBs) from above the waterline almost to the bottom of the ship's side, and were often tapered with the thickest portion at the top of the belt and the thinnest portion at the bottom. It was thought AP shells that hit the water short of the side of the BB would begin to loose energy as it traveled further through the water to hit the ship below the waterline, thus thinner armor plate was placed there.

The SoDak class had an armored belt as thick as 12.2" at the topp, thinning to 1" at the bottom and inclined at 19 degrees (thus the travel of the shell at most oblique angles would actually have to travel through more armor plate as it continued at its downward angle). I have been on the lower decks aboard the Massachusetts, and you can actually see the armor plate interior.

BBs and CVs used bulges and several compartments below the waterline to defeat torpedos, usually 4 or more compartments, some were empty and some were liquid filled (fuel or water). The SoDaks also incorproated an unusual skeg design for the outboard shafts that added extra torpedo protection to turrent #3 magazine. The skegs were part of the TDS.

USN CVNs of today have some armor protection below the waterline, and the hull is lined with kevlar for additional protection. These ships also have very strong longititual and lateral beams between the the inner and outer lower hulls of the double (or triple) bottoms that add strenght designed to defeat a torpedo exploding beneath the ship and creating the deadly bubble such as a Mk.48 torpedo creates.


User currently offlineSmittyOne From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 21 hours ago) and read 13559 times:

Quoting flyingturtle (Thread starter):
Do I remember right? If so, what was the reason behind prohibiting aircraft carriers to be armored?

I think this thread has answered the question for you, but the bottom line is that many carriers built to the Washington Treaty standard DID have armor. The amount they could use was limited by the competing desire to construct a very large ship on a limited displacement.


User currently onlineStitch From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 30898 posts, RR: 87
Reply 10, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 19 hours ago) and read 13502 times:
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Quoting flyingturtle (Thread starter):
Japan in World War II built battleships that "accidentally" received an aircraft deck...

IJN Shinano was laid down as a Yamato class battleship. however it was converted to a carrier while under construction after the Battle of Midway because of carrier losses during that battle.


User currently offlineMD-90 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 8507 posts, RR: 12
Reply 11, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 18 hours ago) and read 13468 times:

Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 10):
Want to see a thick armored deck? Visit the museum BBs USS Massachusetts, USS Alabama (both are South Dakota, or SoDak class BBs), or any of the 4 Iowa class BBs.

Despite living in Alabama for years I've never been to see the USS Alabama. Some day I'm definitely going to tour it. I enjoyed getting to see the USS Intrepid last year in New York--I just wish we could've seen more of the ship.


User currently offlinesprout5199 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 1852 posts, RR: 2
Reply 12, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 15 hours ago) and read 13411 times:

I bow to the master.

Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 10):
Want to see a thick armored deck? Visit the museum BBs USS Massachusetts, USS Alabama (both are South Dakota, or SoDak class BBs), or any of the 4 Iowa class BBs.

I have visited the Wisconsin in Norfolk Virginia , is impressive. I knocked on the armored citadel, thinking it would sound like knocking on a steel plate. NOPE no sound at all. FREAKING IMPRESSIVE.

Quoting MD-90 (Reply 13):
Despite living in Alabama for years I've never been to see the USS Alabama.

GO SEE IT. I was in Norfolk for a class and went on the WORST day ever, Mid 40's drizzle, but my buddy and I spent 5 hours just walking around the main deck. couldn't go below, what a shame, was still in "ready reserve" status. WAS GREAT. The best thing seeing the Albany class CG was we went to it to get parts for my ship(it was decommed awaiting disposal). So we had the run of the ship. Talos missiles are bad ass, was an awesome ship. There was two rubber belts that circled the ship 1/3 and 2/3rds the length, to prevent "hogging" and the bridge was like 100 feet above the water line, must have been fun in high seas.

Boy, went on a tangent again.

Dan in Jupiter

[Edited 2012-07-24 00:43:26 by SA7700]

User currently offlineSmittyOne From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 14 hours ago) and read 13395 times:

Quoting sprout5199 (Reply 14):
I have visited the Wisconsin in Norfolk Virginia , is impressive. I knocked on the armored citadel, thinking it would sound like knocking on a steel plate. NOPE no sound at all. FREAKING IMPRESSIVE.

Haha nothing but the sound of your knuckles crunching  


User currently offlineThePointblank From Canada, joined Jan 2009, 1693 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 14 hours ago) and read 13395 times:

Quoting SmittyOne (Reply 11):
I think this thread has answered the question for you, but the bottom line is that many carriers built to the Washington Treaty standard DID have armor. The amount they could use was limited by the competing desire to construct a very large ship on a limited displacement.

The Washington Naval Treaty limited aircraft carrier size to 27,000 tons, however each signatory was allowed to convert 2 existing ships to aircraft carriers with a maximum displacement of 33,000 tons. Furthermore, maximum tonnage for each signatory nation was restricted; the USN and Royal Navy were allowed up to 135,000 tons, the Japanese were restricted to 81,000 tons, and the French and Italians could have 60,000 tons each.

The Second London Naval Treaty, further limited carrier size to an upper limit of 23,000 tons. However, the various naval treaties were effectively ignored towards the later 1930's, and a large build up of carriers started again.

[Edited 2012-07-21 18:50:46]

User currently offlinesprout5199 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 1852 posts, RR: 2
Reply 15, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 13 hours ago) and read 13370 times:

I can be stupid sometimes.

The thing about treaties like this is those that are in the "top end" comply, and those that aren't, don't and you get a false sense of security for those in the "top end" and a rejection of all treaties after from all others. Thats one reason why I dont like the non-proliferation treaties about nukes. Once a country shows(tests) that they have a bomb even if they are not part of the "gang" they soon will be part of that "gang". I digress again(beers will do that).

I think that armor went the way of the big gun, nice to have but are we going to use it? Until a ship is hit and we didn't learn from the past,we are doomed to repeat it. Does a carrier need enough to stop a 16 inch shell?NO but how about enough to stop an RPG? I'm sure a well placed RPG hit into the side of a CVN would cause a lot of damage. IIRC when the Stark was hit one missile actually went completely through the ship. As far as torps are concerned, not sure armor can do anything. Maybe a anti-torpedo torpedo, have thought about that one. Why not? Sonar can tell when a torp is inbound, launch a small torp to hit the inbound with about 10 pounds of H.E. Makes sense to me, use a missile to hit a missile, use a torp to hit a torp. God let me design the next small ship, would be under budget, under time, and BAD ASS. Ya Right, mine would launch the space shuttle for a side job. Beer talking again.

Dan in Jupiter

[Edited 2012-07-24 00:44:37 by SA7700]

User currently offlinebeau222 From United States of America, joined May 2005, 117 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 11 hours ago) and read 13326 times:

Does Armor matter anymore? I thought that current torpedoes actually detonated under the keel to break the boat instead of actually impacting for damage. I hope I did not miss that point in prior postings.

User currently offlineSmittyOne From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 17, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 3 hours ago) and read 13231 times:

Quoting sprout5199 (Reply 17):
Maybe a anti-torpedo torpedo, have thought about that one. Why not? Sonar can tell when a torp is inbound, launch a small torp to hit the inbound with about 10 pounds of H.E. Makes sense to me, use a missile to hit a missile, use a torp to hit a torp.

Dan this is not nearly as dumb as it sounds - I can't believe that (as far as we know) no one has developed it yet.

Quoting beau222 (Reply 18):
Does Armor matter anymore? I thought that current torpedoes actually detonated under the keel to break the boat instead of actually impacting for damage. I hope I did not miss that point in prior postings.

Against torpedoes, armor is pretty useless...however, some armor protection for magazines and other critical spaces can protect them from indirect impacts of missles/torpedoes and prevent a catastrophic loss.

One thing a lot of people probably don't realize is that armor protection has historically been RELATIVELY INEFFECTIVE in naval combat. Armor systems intended to counter shellfire must be designed with a 'zone of immunity' in mind...a safe spot in between the closest range at which the side armor can defeat a flat shot and the longest range at which the deck armor can defeat a plunging shot.

Unfortunately, at the close ranges where a lot of World War 2 gun battles took place (especially in the Pacific) main caliber rounds tore their targets to shreds. Likewise, the lack of ability to validate 'side protection systems' in real-world conditions resulted in a lot of capital ships taking much worse damage from torpedo hits than anticipated.

In 2012, a ship's survivability and combat power depend on a steady flow of electrical power / integrity of electronic networks, radar arrays etc. - fairly sensitive stuff so the key is to prevent hits in the first place.


User currently offlineOzair From Australia, joined Jan 2005, 846 posts, RR: 1
Reply 18, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 2 hours ago) and read 13212 times:

Quoting SmittyOne (Reply 19):
Quoting sprout5199 (Reply 17):
Maybe a anti-torpedo torpedo, have thought about that one. Why not? Sonar can tell when a torp is inbound, launch a small torp to hit the inbound with about 10 pounds of H.E. Makes sense to me, use a missile to hit a missile, use a torp to hit a torp.

Dan this is not nearly as dumb as it sounds - I can't believe that (as far as we know) no one has developed it yet.

Atlas introduced the SeaSpider to the market a couple of years ago but I don't think anyone has ordered it yet. http://p124031.webspaceconfig.de/index.php?id=2677&L=3


User currently offlineSmittyOne From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 19, posted (2 years 1 month 1 week 1 hour ago) and read 13182 times:

Quoting Ozair (Reply 20):

Atlas introduced the SeaSpider to the market a couple of years ago but I don't think anyone has ordered it yet. http://p124031.webspaceconfig.de/index.php?id=2677&L=3

Wow, deceptively simple...I wonder if it really works!


User currently offlineHaveBlue From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 2106 posts, RR: 1
Reply 20, posted (2 years 1 month 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 13105 times:

Quoting MD-90 (Reply 13):
Despite living in Alabama for years I've never been to see the USS Alabama. Some day I'm definitely going to tour it. I enjoyed getting to see the USS Intrepid last year in New York--I just wish we could've seen more of the ship

You should go. I live in Daytona Beach but have been there once back in the 90's. The USS Alabama and USS Drum were very interesting, but as an aviation guy it was seeing an A-12 Blackbird that made the trip for me.  



Here Here for Severe Clear!
User currently offlinedlednicer From United States of America, joined May 2005, 544 posts, RR: 7
Reply 21, posted (2 years 1 month 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 12857 times:
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DATABASE EDITOR

The USS Missouri in Pearl Harbor is worth a visit too. The thickness of the armor around the battle helm station really amazed me. From the aviation standpoint, what really made an impression on me was standing on the bridge and looking across the harbor. Only then did I realize how narrow it is and how difficult it must have been for the attacking Japanese Nakajima B5N Vals to launch torpedoes at Battleship Row.

User currently offlinerfields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 22, posted (2 years 1 month 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 12767 times:

Most US Navy, JMSDF ships I've been upon have some 'armor' around the magazines. While protecting against penetration of the magazine is important, it is also to protect the rest of the ship from a 'minor' explosion in the magazine. That includes aircraft carriers.


Quoting flyingturtle (Reply 4):
I could find that is pointing to a prohibition of armored aircraft carriers...

According to Wikipedia

CV-4 - the USS Ranger - laid down in Sept 1931 - commissioned in 1934 had 2 inch 'armor' at the belt and bulkheads, with 1 inch deck over the steering gear. She was the US first 'keel up' carrier. As mentioned above - 2 inch is about as thin of steel as you could probably use to build a carrier.

CV-5 - the USS Yorktown - laid down in May 1934 - commissioned 30 Sep 1937 - had 2.5 inch to 4 inch belt armor, 4 inch bulkheads, 4 inch sides and 4 inches over the steering gear. She was clearly built with armor protection as a standard criteria.

CVE-63 - the USS Midway - laid down in Jan 1943 - commissioned 23 Oct 1943 - did not have any armor listed. Kaiser built those ships fast and light. She fought in the Pacific until October 1944 when the ship name was changed to USS St Lo.

CV-41 - the last USS Midway - laid down Oct 1943 - commissioned 10 Sep 1945 - had some limited armor. By the time I was stationed in Yokosuka in 1982 - I don't think she had any special armor left. During her 1986 dry dock in Yokosuka - the added sea keeping blisters (I don't know if they were in addition or replacement of previous blisters).

You want to talk about BIG - I got to walk down on the dry dock floor under the turn of her bilge. Friend of mine was one of the SRF project managers - in charge of the new blisters.

Quoting flyingturtle (Reply 4):
So, if there was a real prohibition on amored aircraft carriers, USS Midway couldn't have been built?

Both USS Midway carriers were designed and built long after the Washington Treaty limitations were no longer even considered.

As I note above - the USS Yorktown appears to be built in contravention of the treaty - and the 1940 designed USS Essex - CV-9 - clearly was not built to Washington Treaty standards.

The references I see say the Washington Treaty effectively ended at the end of 1936.

Quoting dlednicer (Reply 23):
The USS Missouri in Pearl Harbor
Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 10):
or any of the 4 Iowa class BBs.

Among the many ships I've been privileged to be upon underway were the USS New Jersey (off the coast of Lebanon) and the USS Missouri (San Francisco to Pearl Harbor).

Smoothest riding ships I ever had the honor to visit.


User currently offlineMD-90 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 8507 posts, RR: 12
Reply 23, posted (2 years 1 month 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 12653 times:

Quoting HaveBlue (Reply 22):
You should go. I live in Daytona Beach but have been there once back in the 90's. The USS Alabama and USS Drum were very interesting, but as an aviation guy it was seeing an A-12 Blackbird that made the trip for me

Alabama has at least three A-12/SR-71s. I've seen the one at the Space & Rocket Center numerous times (which apparently is an A-12 since it's a single seater) and there's also one at the Southern Museum of Flight in Birmingham.

My dad's been on both and he said the USS Drum is extremely cramped--still, I'd bet it be interesting. I'll make sure to bring a wide angle lens when I go.


User currently offlineThePointblank From Canada, joined Jan 2009, 1693 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (2 years 1 month 5 days 9 hours ago) and read 12602 times:

Quoting rfields5421 (Reply 24):

As I note above - the USS Yorktown appears to be built in contravention of the treaty - and the 1940 designed USS Essex - CV-9 - clearly was not built to Washington Treaty standards.

The Washington Naval Treaty specified a maximum displacement a carrier could be at 27,000 tons with a total tonnage for USN of 135,000 tons. Yorktown was under that maximum restriction. It was not until the USN built USS Wasp that the USN hit the 135,000 ton limit, meaning the USN had 6 carriers under the Washington Naval Treaty (Langley, Lexington, Saratoga, Ranger, Yorktown, Enterprise and Wasp).

The Second London Naval Treaty removed the cap on number of warships, but limited new carrier builds to under 23,000 tons.

With the Washington Naval Treaty no longer in force after the mid 1930's and the collapse of the Second London Naval Treaty, the USN proceeded to build Hornet in the interim, and proceeded to refine the design free from arms limitations into the Essex class carriers.

The Royal Navy on the other hand had Eagle, Courageous, Glorious, Furious, Argus, Hermes, Ark Royal, as their Washington Naval Treaty carriers. Illustrious, Formidable, Victorious, and Indomitable followed as their Second London Naval Treaty restricted carriers.

The RN then added Unicorn as a aircraft repair ship and a light carrier. The RN then built the Implacable class, which were a slightly refined version of the Illustrious class carrier (new features included moving to 4 engined propulsion rather than 3, slimmer hangar walls, an additional lower hangar, and adopted a permanent deck park. During WWII, the RN planned for, but never built the Malta class carriers, which would have been essentially the RN's version of the USN Midway class carriers. They did complete 15 of the 1942 Design Light Fleet Carriers (the Colossus and the Majestic class carriers), of which many were sold overseas, 2 of the Audacious class carriers, and 4 of the Centaur class carriers.

It should be noted that the RN armored carriers had for the most part fairly short service lives after the war, some of which was due to the major damage that was accumulated over the years that was extremely costly to fix, and because RN build quality suffered during the war. Indefatigable and Implacable were built badly (as were most British wartime ships - Admiralty records related to planned reconstructions implicitly give war-built cruisers a life of only ten years). No criticism intended there - emphasis was on quantity rather than quality.

The box armor requirement dragged a crowd of design burdens on its coattails in terms of structure, lift configuration, freeboard, habitability, ship’s speed. But the salient fact, overshadowing all others, was the limit it imposed on air complement. Here, however, a fundamental misconception has clouded the armor debate; the RN's leadership’s decision for smaller air groups preceded the flight deck armor, a feature subsequently superimposed on the preliminary design work.

These two steps, though distinct, became inseparably meshed in the design’s wartime shortcomings and thus must be considered together. The small-group specification put the ships at an initial disadvantage, and the armor then canceled any hope for a remedy, cramping the hangars and reducing the space available for deck parks.

As the Washington Naval Treaty and the Second London treaty expiration date drew near, the British foresaw their freedom to build multiple carriers, which led them to think they need not crowd each individual ship with a powerful air complement - the dubious decision that made the armored carrier possible. It paralleled the navy’s willingness to build small but numerous cruisers, though along a different line of thought - design studies revealed that small carriers would prove cost-ineffective and operationally inferior; yet small air groups had an allure in keeping FAA size manageable for budgetary concerns while reducing risk to having large portions of the FAA lost if a carrier is sunk. While no one dared apply such logic to battleships—arguing for only two or three guns per ship - it had some validity as applied to carriers in view of the limited FAA resources at the time. However, it forfeited the potential impetus for increased procurement inherent in a fleet of half-empty carriers, and it neglected any consideration of wartime mobilization.

All the extra armor RN carriers had was to detonate higher in the hull, which certainly enhanced survivability, though not in the way the designers intended. The hangars and their planes suffered increased damage, but crippling damage to the vitals became less likely. There’s no debating the advantage of this; yet debate continues, and properly so, because of the extra ounce of prevention the ships could have enjoyed with a larger CAP.

Accepting a small fighter group meant accepting a greater probability of bomb hits, with the hopes of minimizing the damage those bombs caused - which is completely backwards thinking but it made sense to someone at the time. Of course, the carrier’s escorts might dispute the entire notion of minimizing the damage - the armored box did them no good, in contrast to the universal blessing of a hefty CAP. And hangar armor, unlike fighters, could never counter a flight of torpedo planes.

Apart from this self-defense issue, a larger, American-sized air group would have greatly increased the ships’ offensive capability. With a larger airgroup, the British could have accomplished much more at Taranto, probably putting more of the Italian Navy out of commission longer. Vittorio Veneto and more of the Italian fleet probably would not have survived Matapan if attacked by twice as many Albacores.


25 rfields5421 : Thanks for the posts. Reminds me of an old line "Sufficient quantity can create quality on its own" As much as I've studied WWII history, I always rem
26 BigJKU : This is more than a bit looney. Hitting a CVN with an RPG on the side would be the like firing your pellet gun at an elephant. RPG's are designed to
27 spudh : I think the quote was attributed to Stalin and is most quoted as ; Quantity has a quality all its own
28 sprout5199 : I see what you are saying, but if an RPG hit, say, the side of the hangar(having never served on a carrier, don't know the layout) and then hit a air
29 Post contains links BigJKU : Hangers have impressive fire suppression systems if that were to happen. More than that an RPG has a range of less than 300 meters effective and you
30 Ozair : The most common warhead for an RPG is a shaped charge which results in a focused jet of molten copper. The primary purpose of the weapon is to penetr
31 connies4ever : Indeed it would have been. Dumb question, but wouldn't adding armour to the deck increase the roll moment ? Not knowing much about naval design, but
32 SmittyOne : Yes, armor plating at the flight deck level would raise the center of gravity and decrease stability (all things being equal). Perhaps significantly.
33 bigjku : As others have said both the USN and RN "armored" their carriers with horizontal (deck) protection. The US did it on the hanger deck. The RN did it o
34 spqr : Without reading the treaty (and the definitions stated in it), this may be incorrect, but when referring to tonnage of the ship, they may be referrin
35 rwessel : BBs had enough armor that a high CG was a problem for those as well. The really heavy guns mounted high on the ship, were a significant contributor a
36 ThePointblank : By 1942, the British had realized that the sacrifices they were making for the heavy protection of an internal hangar could not be justified and they
37 GDB : True, however in the 1930's when these carriers were designed, they presumably looked at what potential enemies had in terms of aircraft/ordnance, me
38 ThePointblank : Incorrect. Wartime exploits in the Mediterranean have given a false impression that the armored carriers were intended specifically for that narrow-s
39 LMP737 : The Japanese had the worst of both worlds. Their carriers had unarmored flight decks and enclosed hangar bays. As was seen at the Battle of Midway on
40 Smittyone : From the Treaty: ************ STANDARD DISPLACEMENT The standard displacement of a ship is the displacement of the ship complete, fully manned, engin
41 aklrno : I have a picture in my mind of some guy (or girl) in the combat data center moving the mouse over the target on his screen, right click, select from:
42 rfields5421 : It was a long time ago - mid-80s - but SLQ-32 EW operators on frigates and destroyers used to say they played the most realistic video game in the wo
43 ThePointblank : However, a bomb hit among a large group of aircraft parked on the deck while being armed and fuel is disaster for any aircraft carrier, armored or un
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