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Armoured Aircraft Carriers - A Good Thing?

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  • Armoured Aircraft Carriers - A Good Thing?

    At first sight, such a question appears obvious. Would you prefer to be on an aircraft carrier that can survive hits by 1000Ibs bombs or not?

    When I was at school, I was told that the US produced a fairly unarmoured aircraft carrier because many needed to be built quickly in 1942-3. However, that is not the whole story. Armour takes weight and space. The US carriers could carry more aircraft, and that means more defensive fighters and more offensive bombers. British naval historian D.K. Brown stated fighters protect better than armour, and from quote that found this :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compari...t_deck_designs

    Overall it's opinion is very neutral. So in the Pacific 1944-5 what do you think - decent armour or more planes?

    Illustrious - Armour



    Essex - Planes

    45
    Make me bomb proof please!
    24.44%
    11
    Lets get at 'em with more planes!
    75.56%
    34
    Last edited by Nick the Noodle; 02 Sep 09, 16:31.
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  • #2
    Good question Nick, and one that has been hotly debated.

    Firstly, as US carriers did have armour, I will assume you are asking whether we would prefer a ship with an armoured flight deck?

    The Essex class carriers were armoured essentially in the same manner as a light cruiser.

    http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/E/s/Essex_class.htm
    Last edited by Roadkiller; 02 Sep 09, 17:51.
    Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

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    • #3
      Probably the most heavily armored carrier ever built, the Shinano which was built on a Yamato-class hull, was sunk by a single critical torpedo hit.

      Later analysis concluded that the presence of the armored anti-torpedo bulge itself probably contained the fatal flaw that led to the rapid sinking.
      Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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      • #4
        Don't forget that major bomb damage to the flight deck of wood on an Essex is much easier and faster to repair than an armoured flight deck.
        Eagles may fly; but weasels aren't sucked into jet engines!

        "I'm not expendable; I'm not stupid and I'm not going." - Kerr Avon, Blake's 7

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        • #5
          Carrier Armour

          I think you need to look at a the larger picture on why the Brits built armoured "flight decks" on their carriers and the U.S. did not. What was the over all strategic goals of the two countries and the locations these carriers fought?
          The Brits used theirs primarly in the North Altantic near land, correct? the U.S. Pacific during the island hopping.
          What where the precieved threats to them?
          I beleive the comments about wieght vs the number of aircraft carriered did enter into the decision. Possible speed issues also, he more weight the slower the carrier. The US did have some larger aircraft and the carriers would have to travel into the wind at full speed in order to help the aircraft off the flight deck, just food for thought.
          J.W>

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          • #6
            Well, no Essex class carriers were sunk during the war, so seems they were a pretty robust design. On the other hand, RN carriers didn't fight major fleet engagements against the IJN.

            A ship with an armored deck is less vulnerable to kamikaze attacks (only used historically by one nation, and late in the war at that) and bombers, but deck armor won't help you against torpedo attacks, might be penetrated by armor-piercing bombs, and a carrier is still vulnerable to a bomb wrecking an elevator, bridge island, etc, and there is always the danger of a Midway-style situation of being hit while having armed/fueled aircraft on deck.

            An aircraft carrier is an offensive weapon by design, and aircraft are a carrier's offensive weapon, so it stands to reason that the more aircraft that can be carried, the more effective a CV is. Massive armor protection and massive aircraft capacity are mutually exclusive, and you need a good power/weight ratio because flight ops require a CV to have high speed. If you need a ship to slug it out with the enemy there are battleships and heavy cruisers. Carriers always travel with escorts and launch defensive fighters on combat air patrols.

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            • #7
              According to this source(also quoted at the end of the wiki article) http://www.navweaps.com/index_tech/tech-030.htm the question is WHERE to put the armour that both RN and USN carriers used. "This is a VERY complex design issue that defies easy answers. The question is not so much whether armor is useful (both US and British designs had very roughly comparable armor protection in terms of weight) but where does the designer put it." Another useful article from the same source "Kamikaze Damage to US and British Carriers" http://www.navweaps.com/index_tech/tech-042.htm and contains some good pictures, and useful references.

              A conclusion from the first article "What it does illustrate is one very important thing - carriers are unique in that their design is dictated by the aircraft they carry and how those aircraft are to be used. It is not correct to say that the USN was right and the RN was wrong or vice versa or that one design was better than another. The navies used their aircraft in very different ways and their carrier designs reflected that difference. When they started to use their aircraft in the same way, their carrier designs converged."
              Last edited by At ease; 02 Sep 09, 21:25.
              "It's like shooting rats in a barrel."
              "You'll be in a barrel if you don't watch out for the fighters!"

              "Talking about airplanes is a very pleasant mental disease."
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              • #8
                If the enemy has the ability to reach out and touch my fleet, make mine armored.

                There were several cases of Kamakaze strikes that sent US Carriers to a dry-dock for six months, where the same hit on a British carrier was a case of "sweepers, man your brooms".

                BTW- wasn't the Franklin an Essex Class?
                "Why is the Rum gone?"

                -Captain Jack

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Exorcist View Post
                  There were several cases of Kamakaze strikes that sent US Carriers to a dry-dock for six months, where the same hit on a British carrier was a case of "sweepers, man your brooms".
                  Have a look at the articles quoted. The damage sometimes went far deeper than the armoured deck.
                  "It's like shooting rats in a barrel."
                  "You'll be in a barrel if you don't watch out for the fighters!"

                  "Talking about airplanes is a very pleasant mental disease."
                  Sergei(son of Igor) Sikorsky, 'AOPA Pilot' magazine February 2003.

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                  • #10
                    Firstly the middle of the Atlantic is hardly 'near land'. If this were so the u-boat threat would have been blunted by land based patrol aircraft early in the war.

                    Secondly, RN carriers had to be prepared to be deployed anywhere in the empire, and they were. HM Ships PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE were supposed to be acccompanied by HMS INDOMITABLE on their ill-fated sortie from Singapore.

                    HMS VICTORIOUS teamed with USS SARATOGA as the only operational allied fleet carriers in the south west Pacific for 6 months in '43.

                    And while RN carriers may not have fought against the IJN when the latter was in its' prime, they certainly fought hard and took serious damage. On the 10th of January, 1942 HMS ILLUSTRIOUS was hit by 8 bombs while escorting a Malta convoy, she was hit twice more a couple of days later while alongside in Malta ( http://www.historynet.com/admiral-cu...rld-war-ii.htm )

                    This battle is a good example of the quandary under discussion. ILLUSTRIOUS' armoured flight deck did very little to prevent damage from the attack. None of the bombs were defeated by it (well maybe one).

                    However, partly because of the restrictions of the 'armoured box' flight and hangar deck, her entire complement of fighters was only 15. Therefore her CAP was a paltry 4 fighters, who were off chasing torpedo bombers when Stuka aircraft arrived and inflicted the damage described above.

                    With a larger fighter complement, would the ship have been able to defend itself to the point where the enemy would have inflicted less damage?
                    Last edited by Roadkiller; 02 Sep 09, 22:28.
                    Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
                      Probably the most heavily armored carrier ever built, the Shinano which was built on a Yamato-class hull, was sunk by a single critical torpedo hit.

                      Later analysis concluded that the presence of the armored anti-torpedo bulge itself probably contained the fatal flaw that led to the rapid sinking.
                      Keep in mind too that the IJN Shinano was still a largely unfinished warship when she set sail on her only voyage and most of her water tight doors lacked the necessary seals to make them so. She was also stuck by more than one torpedo by the USS ARcherfish, not one. Her damage control parties were largely unskilled and inexperienced. All of these factors contributed in her sinking.
                      "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Exorcist View Post
                        If the enemy has the ability to reach out and touch my fleet, make mine armored.

                        There were several cases of Kamakaze strikes that sent US Carriers to a dry-dock for six months, where the same hit on a British carrier was a case of "sweepers, man your brooms".

                        BTW- wasn't the Franklin an Essex Class?
                        The Franklin was an Essex Class Carrier.
                        "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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                        • #13
                          Late in the war, it was SOP for US Aircraft carriers to leave a squadron of dive bombers or torpedo bombers on the beach, in favor of shipping aboard an additional squadron of fighter planes to combat the kamakazes.

                          Earlier in the war, there were numerous cases wherein Japanese bomb damage to unarmored flight deck US aircraft carriers was quickly repaired before the Japanese aircraft could even return to their own carriers. The USS Yorktown at Midway and the USS Enterprise during the Guadalcanal campaign immediately come to mind.
                          "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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                          • #14
                            In the end, an armor piercing bomb with a delay fuse will break through an armored flight deck as surely as an unarmored one. The Battleship, USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor on 12/7/41 is a perfect example of this.
                            "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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                            • #15
                              Actually, it has a lot to do with the overall philosophy of the Navy in question. Heavily armored deck carriers normally had only one hangar deck and it was relatively low. Putting all that weight high on a ship affects stability. On the other hand, having the strength deck lower, say on the bottom of the second hangar deck, allows more decks to be added above and the hangar decks can be taller.

                              If you plan on fighting another Navy that also has carriers, you should seriously consider putting as many aircraft on carriers as you can. Numbers of aircraft have a quality all their own. These carriers are also cheaper to build allowing you to build more!

                              American Carriers tended to have two high hangar decks, with rollers to close off the sides of the hangar decks. The higher hangar deck allowed the American carriers to carry aircraft that folded their wings over the body, like the Corsair. A better system was to turn the wing and fold it against the body, as in the Hellcat. As size in aircraft increased, the large hangar decked American carriers were able to handle them. The large elevators also helped. Some of the original aircraft carriers had problems in that their elevators were tiny and/or badly positioned. The roller sides also enabled the American hangars to run the aircraft engines in the hangar deck with the exhaust being blown out by natural means. This kept ventilation systems from spreading flammable fumes throughout the ship.

                              One feature not mentioned so far is protection of the fuel and aviation fuel tanks. If these are not protected seawater, can get in or fumes can seep through the ship. Once the fumes spread far enough all it takes is a spark (say turning on a light switch!).

                              A last design feature of American capital ships is they had to be narrow enough to pass through the Panama Canal. A longer ship has trouble turning nimbly, but can go faster on the same horsepower, allowing weight to be used for something else.

                              I believe the only deck armored aircraft carriers in the US Navy were the Midway class. They were so large they were able to get two hangar decks without affecting stability too much.

                              Escort carriers were built to merchant ship specifications and only had an armored cap on its torpedo magazine. This protected it from plunging fire (ie bombs).

                              Pruitt
                              Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                              Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

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