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Fleet Air Arm---Carriers

Discussion in 'Atlantic Naval Conflict' started by Andy235, Apr 23, 2018.

  1. Andy235

    Andy235 Member

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    At it's peak, how many carriers did the Fleet Air Arm have in service and what time period was this? I know the UK had multiple carriers, but there is a lot less information I have seen about it than the American or Japanese fleets.
     
  2. bushmaster

    bushmaster Active Member

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    If memory serves the bulk (if not all) of the RN's carriers were in the Pacific and Indian Ocean in 1945. There were, I believe six fleet carriers and a number of escort/light carriers as well. A gentleman by the name of David Hobbs has an excellent book on the British Pacific Fleet which covers this in some detail.
     
  3. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    Excluding the dozens of escort carriers and merchant aircraft "carriers", 1945 was when the RN had the most carriers in service: Unicorn, Illustrious, Victorious, Indomitable, Indefatigable, Colossus, Glory, Ocean, Venerable, and Pioneer (the latter not a combat carrier, but instead a carrier used for aircraft maintenance). This is a total of 13. A nice visual source below:


    According to a brief review of Wikipedia's listing of WW2 aircraft carriers; in addition to the 13 carriers listed above, in 1945 the RN had:

    Merchant Aircraft "Carrier": 16
    Escort Carrier: 36, plus 2 crewed by RCN​
     
  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Over on the axis history forum theirs a thread that lists all the RN carriers I believe and tells what state (where as in what ocean, under construction, under repair , etc) they were on month to month. It's several years old so may take some digging to find. Similar threads exist for US carriers both countries battleships, cruisers and at least some DDs.
     
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  5. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Do a search on AHF with the author's name: Mescal
     
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  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Good memory. I'd forgotten his name. Great series of threads.
     
  7. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Memory hell. I have his US threads bookmarked and still use them for reference.

    although I think his RN carriers was just the large fleet types.
     
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  8. Andy235

    Andy235 Member

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    I know there were British carriers at Okinawa. I would guess by 1945, there was very little for any RN carrier to do in the war against Germany that couldn't be done by ground based planes in the UK or on the continent.
     
  9. Andy235

    Andy235 Member

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    That is a quite formidable Fleet! I do remember reading that a lot of the newer RN carriers didn't have as many planes as their American equivalents, but were often better armored and more likely to survive in the kamikaze style attacks that the Japanese had resorted to by late 1944-1945.
     
  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The armored flight deck vs unarmored is one of those things that provoke extensive and some times impassioned debates on the net. There were good reasons for both decisions IMO and the two countries probably made the best choices for their likely usage cases, again IMO. One of the things about trading armored flight decks for more planes is you get a larger fighter force to defend the carriers which decreases the chance of getting hit. Not having enclosed hangers also made the results of explosions less damaging and allowed for quicker clearance of burning debris or potentially dangerous objects. On the other hand if I was operating near European land bases I think I'd want the armored deck.
     
  11. Andy235

    Andy235 Member

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    If I was a high ranking Naval Officer in WWII, I would have opted for building models of both. Heavily armored carriers that could take more punishment for certain jobs (like being in an area were there was high risk of the enemy actually reaching the carriers), and carriers that held as many planes as possible for other situations.
     
  12. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    For the Pacific carriers had so much area they could utilize and airbases were so sparse I'm not sure the armored deck made much sense until the threat of the suicide planes was revealed. Given the large areas and the attrition suffered by even successful strikes carrying more planes just made a lot of sense. If you are operating close to your own as well as enemy bases I think the armored deck starts making more sense. By the time the US needed to devote much in the way of carriers to the European war the threat of opposing air was decreased considerably so again the larger air groups were useful.
     
  13. bushmaster

    bushmaster Active Member

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    The British Pacific Fleet operated as a separate Task Force (but was apparently the rough equivalent of a USN Task Group) at Okinawa. They were not under the direct command of Nimitz but were privy to the US battle plan and orders and acted in conjunction with the US fleet. They later participated in strikes against the Japanese home islands in a similar manner.
     
  14. Andy235

    Andy235 Member

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    I agree---but in hindsight, it is easy to see the utility of a heavily armored carrier that is supporting operations close in (like at Okinawa) and in vulnerable positions. It is also quite reasonable to want carriers that can carry more planes for major fleet actions or to use as "floating islands" in the vast area of the Pacific.
     
  15. bushmaster

    bushmaster Active Member

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    It's my understanding that the RN's fleet carriers were designed with an eye toward a European conflict in which the threat from land-based aircraft was much more commonly a possibility. Did the lighter carriers laid down later (not the converted merchant hulls) have an armored flight deck?
     
  16. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Many of the CVE's that Britain put into service were identical to US CVE even built in US yards. I think the Canadians may have built a few as well but again to US specs. I think it was only the fleet carriers that had armored decks. Later US carriers had armored decks as well I believe. Not sure when it was started and or if it was just an artifact of the US using armor grade steel throughout a warship.
     

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