Carrier: A Guided Tour of an Aircraft Carrier (Tom Clancys Military Reference)

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They are floating cities with crews of thousands. They are the linchpins of any military strategy, for they provide what has become the key to every battle fought since World War I: air superiority. The mere presence of a U. Now, Tom Clancy welcomes you aboard for a detailed look at how these floating behemoths function. With his trademark style and eye for detail, Clancy brings you naval combat strategy like no one else can.

More Details. Table of Contents. Loading Table Of Contents LC Subjects. Meanwhile the British continued their program of converting hulls into aircraft carriers, and began work on their own from-the-keel-up carrier, the Hermes. These programs spurred the General Board of the U. Navy to start its own aircraft carrier program. For the next two decades, the little Langley provided the first generation of U.

When World War II arrived, the slow little ship was converted into a transport for moving aircraft to forward bases, and was sunk during the fighting around the Java barrier in However, the Langley remains a beloved memory for the men who learned the naval aviation trade aboard her.

Carrier: A Guided Tour of an Aircraft Carrier

The problem was finding the money to build these new ships. The early 's were hardly the time to request funds for a new and unproved naval technology, when the fleet was desperately trying to hold onto the modern battleships constructed during the First World War. The solution came after the five great naval powers the United States, Great Britain, Japan, France, and Italy signed the world's first arms-control treaty at the Washington Naval Conference of Though the treaty set quotas and limits on all sorts of warship classes, including aircraft carriers, a bit of fine print provided all the signatories with the opportunity to get "something for nothing.

Meanwhile, the Washington Naval Treaty set limits on the maximum allowable displacement and gun size of individual ships, as well as a total quota of tonnage available to each signatory nation the famous ratio. Even after scrapping older dreadnought-era battleships, the nations within the agreement were left with no room for building new battleships and battle cruisers which were classed together because of gun size. However, the treaty allowed the signatories to convert a percentage of their allowable carrier tonnage from the hulls of the uncompleted capital ships.

Thus, even if the aircraft carriers themselves proved to be unsuccessful, those heavy cruiser guns would still make the ships useful. The British had already converted their tonnage quota with the Furious, Courageous, Glorious , and Eagle , while the Japanese converted their new carriers from the uncompleted battle cruiser Akagi and the battleship Kaga. The American vessels, however, were something special. The U. Navy wanted its two new carriers to be the biggest, fastest, and most capable in the world. The starting points were a pair of partially completed battle cruiser hulls.

Already christened the Lexington and Saratoga , they were converted into the ships that the fledgling naval air arm had always dreamed of. When commissioned in , the Lexington CV-2 and Saratoga CV-3 were not only the largest 36,tons displacement , fastest thirty-five knots , most powerful warships in the world, most important they could operate up to ninety aircraft, twice the capacity of the Japanese or British carriers.

The Lexington and Saratoga also featured a number of new design features such as the now-familiar "island" structures, which contained the bridge, flight control stations, and uptakes for the engineering exhausts , which greatly improved their efficiency and usefulness.

The treaty-mandated gun turrets were placed in four mounts fore and aft of the island structure. With the commissioning of the Lexington and Saratoga and parallel rapid strides in naval aircraft design , the U. Navy took the world lead in naval aviation development. Virtually all of the American leaders who commanded carriers and air units during the Second World War served their early tours of duty aboard the two giant carriers.

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In addition, the series of fleet problems war games involving the Lexington and Saratoga led to the tactics America would take into the coming Pacific war with Japan. This was not merely institutional integration, for there were also plans for potential wartime carrier operations.

One of these plans, devised in the s, involved a surprise strike against the Italian battle fleet based at Taranto harbor in southern Italy: A carrier force would approach at night, launch torpedo bombers, and sink the Italian battleships at their moorings. The opportunity to implement the plan came soon after the Italian declaration of war on Great Britain in June of and the fall of France later that summer.

Despite the highly aggressive efforts of the British Mediterranean Fleet under their legendary commander, Fleet Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, the fleet was in trouble from the start.

It was outnumbered and split by Fascist Italy, since the Italian peninsula more or less bisects the Mediterranean. By the fall of , Italy had six modern battleships, while Cunningham only commanded a pair.

Doing what he could to make the odds more even, Cunningham ordered his staff to plan a carrier aircraft strike on the Italian fleet base at Taranto. Though they had no real-world experience to work from, and only sketchy data from old fleet exercises about how to proceed, with typical British aplomb they began training aircrews and modifying their aerial torpedoes so they would run successfully in the shallow water of Taranto Harbor.

Meanwhile, a special flight of Martin Maryland bombers began regular reconnaissance of Italian fleet anchorages. By November of , they were ready to go with Operation Judgment. Though the original Operation Judgment plan called for almost thirty Swordfish torpedo bombers from both Eagle and Illustrious , engine problems with Eagle and a hangar fire on Illustrious cut that number considerably. In the end, only Illustrious , along with an escort force of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, set out to conduct the attack.

On the night of November 11th, Illustrious and several escorting cruisers broke off from the main force, and made a run north into the Gulf of Taranto.


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Later that night, Illustrious launched a pair of airstrikes using twenty-one Swordfish torpedo bombers only a dozen of which carried the modified shallow-water torpedoes. The two strikes sank three of the six Italian battleships then in port and damaged several smaller ships and some shore facilities. In just a few hours, the brilliantly executed strike had cut the Italian battleship fleet in half, and changed the balance of naval power in the Mediterranean.

While most of the world's attention was focused at the time on the Battle of Britain, the eyes of naval leaders were turned on Operation Judgment. Even before the Italians began salvage operations, naval observers from around the world began to pour into Taranto to view the wreckage, and write reports back to their home countries. Most of these reports were quietly read and filed away, or else were read and discounted such was still the potency of the battleship myth. This report eventually became the blueprint for an even more devastating carrier raid the following year, when over aircraft launched from six big carriers would make the strike.

The target would be entire U. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Out of the tiny strike on Taranto emerged the decisive naval weapon of the Second World War. Less than six months after the Taranto raid, battleship enthusiasts got a shocking dose of reality with the sea chase and sinking of the German battleship Bismarck , one of the most powerful warships in the world. Outraged at this defeat and humiliation , Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered the Bismarck to be sunk at all costs.

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Though she was damaged enough during her fight with the Hood to need repairs in port, and her British enemies were in hot pursuit, Bismarck was still a dangerous foe, and was able to slip away from her pursuers and make for a French port. She might well have escaped, but for the efforts of two British aircraft carriers. A strike by Swordfish torpedo bombers from the carrier Victorious slowed down the German monster, while another strike from the carrier Ark Royal crippled her. However, naval observers took note and wrote their reports home; and naval professionals around the world began to wonder if aircraft from carriers might do more than just hit ships in harbor.

One of the most modern and powerful ships in the world had been crippled by a single torpedo dropped by a nearly obsolete, fabric-covered biplane in the open ocean. Before the end of , further proof that the age of battleships had passed came with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the sinking a few days later of the British battleship Prince of Wales and the battle cruiser Repulse by land-based aircraft. While battleships would continue to play an important part in World War II, it was naval aircraft flying from carriers that would win the coming naval war.