Allied Warships

Aircraft carriers


The Unicorn class aircraft carrier HMS Unicorn (D 72) of the Royal Navy.

The primary mission of the aircraft carrier is to deploy and recover aircraft – effectively operating as a seagoing airbase. Each carrier at the time would have over thousand sailors and upwards of 30 aircraft. The US Navy fielded an incredible 36 carriers during WWII, the Royal Navy 24 and the French Navy had one obsolete carrier. The US navy used most of their carrier against the very powerful Japanese Navy in the Pacific that was arguably the most capable carrier force at the beginning of the war.

Typically the aircraft carrier formed a part of fast carrier force, being able to strike long and hard at the enemy, even in the most unlikely areas. They were heavily defended by destroyers, light cruisers and often powerful fast battleships – not to mention their own aircraft defenses against enemy carriers.

The Allies lost 9 aircraft carriers during the war, 3 of the 4 Royal Navy losses were to German U-boats.

Aircraft carriers, both during the British attack on Taranto in Nov 1940 and of course Pearl Harbor in Dec 1941, proved to be the future of naval warfare, along with submarines. In modern times the aircraft carrier is the ultimate show of naval power.

All Aircraft carrier classes

The list is divided by navy, then ordered by commissioned date of each class (oldest first).

Commissioned

French Navy

 Béarn (1)1927 - 1927

Royal Navy

 Courageous (2)1916 - 1916
 Furious (1)1917 - 1917
 Argus (1)1918 - 1918
 Hermes (1)1923 - 1923
 Eagle (1)1924 - 1924
 Ark Royal (1)1938 - 1938
 Illustrious (3)1940 - 1941
 Indomitable (1)1941 - 1941
 Unicorn (1)1943 - 1943
 Colossus (10)1944 - 1948
 Implacable (2)1944 - 1944

US Navy

 Lexington (2)1927 - 1927
 Ranger (1)1934 - 1934
 Yorktown (3)1937 - 1941
 Wasp (1)1940 - 1940
 Essex (24)1942 - 1950
 Midway (3)1945 - 1947


Please note that we list the classes by navies that initiated/owned the class. Often vessels of certain classes were then built for other nations (or lent), those ships are not visible here but only through the navies pages or by looking into each class.

War losses: Aircraft carriers


 DateVesselClass

1939

Royal Navy17 Sep 1939HMS Courageous (50)Courageous 

1940

Royal Navy8 Jun 1940HMS Glorious (77)Courageous 

1941

Royal Navy13 Nov 1941HMS Ark Royal (91)Ark Royal 

1942

Royal Navy9 Apr 1942HMS Hermes (D 95)Hermes 
US Navy8 May 1942USS Lexington (CV 2)Lexington 
US Navy7 Jun 1942USS Yorktown (i) (CV 5)Yorktown 
Royal Navy11 Aug 1942HMS Eagle (94)Eagle 
US Navy15 Sep 1942USS Wasp (CV 7)Wasp 
US Navy27 Oct 1942USS Hornet (i) (CV 8)Yorktown 

9 Aircraft carriers lost. See all Allied Warship losses.

See all Allied Warship types



Pacific Crucible

Ian W. Toll

Books dealing with this subject include:

Aircraft Carriers, Macintyre, Donald, 1968 (transl.)
Aircraft Carriers of the Royal & Commonwealth Navies, Hobbs, David, 1996
The Allied Convoy System 1939-1945, Hague, Arnold, 2000
American and British Aircraft Carrier Development, 1919-1941, Hone, Thomas and Norman Friedman, Mark David Mandeles, 1999
Battlestations, Veronico, Nicholas A., 2001
The Big E, Stafford, Edward Peary, 2002
British Aircraft Carriers 1939-45 (New Vanguard), Angus Konstam, 2010
British Warships of the Second World War, Roberts, John, 2001
Carrier Strike, Hammel, Eric M., 2000
The Catafighters and Merchant Aircraft Carriers, Poolman, Kenneth, 1970
Clash of the carriers, Barrett Tillman, 2006
Combat Carriers, Sommers, Sam, 1997
Enterprise, Barrett Tillman, 2012
French Battleships 1933-1970, Wayne Scarpaci, 2009
Graf Zeppelin, Breyer, Siegfried,



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