An aircraft carrier is a warship that serves as a sea-based air force base. It is also equipped with a flight deck on which military aircraft and suitable supply aircraft can take off and land. It also contains the infrastructure for the transport, repair, arming and disarming of military aircraft as well as for self-protection of the aircraft carrier. Each of the aircraft carriers in use today normally forms the core of a carrier combat group . With their help, a state can act militarily worldwide, even without maintaining bases in the conflict area. Modern large aircraft carriers ( fleet aircraft carriers ) with a displacement of over 75,000 tn.l. are sometimes also called "supercarriers".
The Americans Eugene Burton Ely succeeded on November 14, 1910 at 15:30 by a the bow of the Birmingham -mounted platform with a Curtiss - Biplane the first launch from a ship. Two months later, on January 18, 1911, he also landed on a ship for the first time. He landed with his machine on the Pennsylvania , which had been specially equipped with a wooden platform. After a short stay on board, he flew back ashore.
On September 6, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian cruiser Kaiserin Elisabeth and the German gunboat Jaguar were targets of the first sea-based air raid in history off Tsingtau ; both ships were not hit. The attack came from the Japanese aircraft mother ship Wakamiya . The Farman double-decker seaplanes , built in France, had to be launched and launched using an on-board crane.
The development of the aircraft carrier began even before the First World War , initially with merchant and warships, which were converted into so-called seaplane-carrying aircraft mother ships. The British Argus was the first fully-fledged aircraft carrier for wheeled aircraft towards the end of the First World War . The Japanese followed soon after with the Hōshō , and the US Navy also found the connection to this development with the converted coal freighter Jupiter , which was named Langley and the identifier CV-1 after the conversion . The first ship designed and built as an aircraft carrier was the British HMS Hermes, which was launched on September 11, 1919 and was commissioned in July 1917.
In the 1920s and 1930s, both aircraft carrier and aircraft technology continued to evolve. In 1930, for example, the Royal Navy equipped its aircraft carrier Courageous with one of the first usable safety rope systems .
In World War II aircraft carrier played an extremely important role for the first time. Japan's devastating air raid on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 was based on a fleet of six aircraft carriers ( Kaga , Akagi , Sōryū , Hiryū , Shōkaku and Zuikaku ), from which dive bombers and torpedo bombers took off. The Japanese and Americans used carrier-supported aircraft in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 and in the Battle of Midway in June 1942 to destroy the respective enemy carrier squadron. The aircraft carrier was the main weapon for naval domination in the Pacific War from the start. To increase the number of carriers, cruiser fuselages were also made into light aircraft carriers from 1942 onwards . This resulted in nine ships of the Independence class . Two units of the more powerful Saipan class could no longer intervene in the war.
The war in Africa between the Italian armed forces and the German Africa Corps on the one hand and the British armed forces on the other was decisively influenced by British aircraft carriers, who secured the convoys to supply the Mediterranean island of Malta and Malta with aircraft to defend themselves against the German bombing attacks supplied. Aircraft carriers were repeatedly used, which only transported fighter planes , which then flew from the carriers to the island of Malta, to reinforce the island's air defense. From the British base in Malta, the sea supplies for the German-Italian troops in Africa were significantly affected by the sinking of supply ships.
In the Atlantic, the air surveillance by escort aircraft carriers had a strong effect on the fight of the German submarines against the supply traffic to England. The escort aircraft carriers had their share in the victory over the German submarines.
The first and so far only German aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin was launched in 1938. However, it was never completed and sunk in August 1947 as "unusable spoils of war" by two torpedo shots from Soviet warships in the Baltic Sea.
In the mid-1950s, the change from propeller to jet aircraft on aircraft carriers was carried out, which could only be achieved with great new technical effort on the carriers, because the jet aircraft were much heavier and had much higher landing and take-off speeds . In the beginning there were great difficulties catching and throwing the machines.
With the Enterprise , the United States Navy introduced the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in 1961. The Enterprise was until her decommissioning on 1 December 2012, 342 meters long, the longest warship in the world.
The newest carrier of the American Navy leads the identifier CVN-78 and was a lead ship of the from the CVN-21 program emerged successors of the Nimitz class to the name Gerald R. Ford baptized. The ship was christened in 2013, the commissioning took place on July 22, 2017. This 13 billion US dollar aircraft carrier is to take over from the Enterprise , which is currently being scrapped .
India inaugurated its first self-built aircraft carrier in August 2013: the Vikrant . This makes India the sixth country in the world to have a self-made aircraft carrier (or several of them). In China, the first aircraft carrier Shandong built by the People's Republic was launched on April 26, 2017 . Until then, China only had the Liaoning , which was formerly called Varyag , belonged to the Soviet Navy and was bought by China in 1998 half-finished.
Soviet and subsequently Russian carrier ships are officially always referred to by the term “ flight deck cruiser ”, as the Treaty of Montreux (1936) forbids the passage of “aircraft carriers” through the Dardanelles . In order to be able to move the porters from the shipyards and ports on the Black Sea coast to the Mediterranean and back, this term is used.
Importance and subtypes of aircraft carriers
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Aircraft carriers enable military operations far beyond their own territorial area or allied armed forces by providing bases in international waters. They are used both in times when there is no open military conflict and in times of war. Due to their cost and their strategic orientation, they are part of the armed forces of great powers and emerging great powers. They are the largest ships in the Navy , but are an important element of the Air Force in particular. The support of the US Nimitz class that two nuclear reactors and four steam turbines are driven, have up to 6,300-man crew, and the last ship of this class cost 6.3 billion US dollars . The monthly operating costs for an aircraft carrier of this size are approximately $ 13 million (excluding staff costs ).
Subtypes of aircraft carriers:
- Fleet aircraft carrier
- Light aircraft carrier
- Escort aircraft carrier
- Flight deck cruiser
- Amphibious assault ship
- Helicopter carrier
In addition, aircraft carriers are divided into smooth-deck carriers, i.e. aircraft carriers without an 'island', and carriers of the "island type". After the Second World War, only island-type aircraft carriers were built.
Only 13 states have aircraft carriers (see list of aircraft carriers ): France , India , Russia , Spain , Brazil , Italy , Thailand , the United Kingdom , Japan , South Korea and the United States . The Chinese tourism company Chong Lot bought the former Soviet , unfinished aircraft carrier Varyag from the Ukraine in 2002 , officially to build a floating casino out of it. However, it was completed in Dalian , ran out for the first test drive on August 10, 2011, and entered service on September 25, 2012 under the name Liaoning . In addition, Australia recently had a Canberra- class STOVL ship in service, and another is under construction (completion 2016).
The largest and by far the most aircraft carriers belong to the United States Navy (20 aircraft carriers, 72% of the water displacement), followed by France and Japan (4 aircraft carriers each and 5% and 4% of the water displacement) and Egypt (2 aircraft carriers, 2 % of water displacement). All other countries with aircraft carriers have an aircraft carrier that is also significantly smaller than that of the US Navy. Only Great Britain is currently planning to build two new, significantly larger aircraft carriers of the Queen Elizabeth class . However, these will also be smaller in size than the US Navy aircraft carriers. France has now expressed interest in this project and is considering participating. However, a final decision has not yet been made.
“When word of a crisis breaks out in Washington, it's no accident that the first question is: ['] Where is the nearest carrier? [']”
"When an [international] crisis becomes noticeable in Washington, it is no coincidence that the first question that is generally asked is: 'Where is the nearest aircraft carrier?'"
The US Navy also has several amphibious assault ships, known as Amphibious Assault Ships, in service. These smaller, versatile aircraft carriers are used to transport around 3,000 soldiers from the US Marine Corps as well as additional military equipment such as landing craft . In addition to helicopters , vertical take-off combat aircraft can also be stationed on the flight deck . Great Britain and France also have such ships.
A specialty were aircraft mother ships and seaplane carriers . They carried float planes or flying boats , which were lifted onto deck with a crane after sinking on the water. The launch was also carried out from the water or from the deck with an aircraft catapult . With the development of aircraft carriers equipped with a flight deck, on which wheeled aircraft could take off and land, these ships became obsolete. As an example, which is Schwabenlandhalle worth noting that in the German Antarctic Expedition 1938-39 was used to Dornier Wal -Flugboote launch by catapult and then by airplane lifting crane to take back on board. Also worth mentioning are the submarine aircraft carriers of the Japanese Navy in World War II, the I-400 and AM classes , which also acted as mother ships and transported seaplanes in a partially disassembled state and were able to launch them for take-off.
Airships as aircraft carriers
The fuselage of an American Nimitz- class aircraft carrier is almost 333 m long and has a draft of up to 12 m. The British carriers of the Invincible class are a good third smaller at around 210 m in length. The hulls of Essex-class ships are made of steel several centimeters thick. Below the waterline, the hull consists of a double hull to protect against damage . Stability and safety are achieved through the division into bulkheads (transverse) and decks (horizontal). Above the waterline, the hull to support the flight deck becomes wider and wider and thus offers more space for hangars and other rooms. The interconnected hangars, which are three times the height of normal decks, are located in the hangar deck below the flight deck . The aircraft are housed in these and can be serviced there. They are brought to the flight deck via up to four elevators , which are located on the side or directly in the fuselage. Another three decks under the hangars are the engine rooms.
In order to have as much space as possible for the flight deck, the navigating bridge , all antennas and radar systems are housed on a single deck structure on all modern girders . This so-called " island " is mostly on the starboard side .
The hull is designed for high speed, so the maximum degree of completeness ( ship hydrodynamics ) is only achieved in the rear part. Due to this design and the length of the ship, a high hull speed is achieved, which in combination with a powerful drive enables a high maximum speed. The stability comes from the stern . When comparing the view of a cargo ship and an aircraft carrier obliquely from the front, it can be seen how narrow the bow of an aircraft carrier is.
Aircraft carriers come in two basic configurations: Most have a flat deck as a take-off and landing surface for aircraft. A steam catapult (since July 2017 an electromagnetically powered catapult on the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) for the first time ) accelerates the aircraft, which supports its take-off with full thrust, to take-off speed in two seconds. In order to land on the carrier, an aircraft has to pick up one of several steel cables lying across the deck with its catch hook . It is then brought to a stop within 100 meters. On large aircraft carriers, the flight deck is offset; this gives aircraft that have missed the safety cables the opportunity to take off without running the risk of falling into the aircraft parked at the bow. For this type of flight operations, special carrier-based aircraft are required that are designed for such. The principle is known as Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL).
The second approach taken by many navies - such as that of the British, Italians, Spanish, Indians and Russians - is a kind of “ski jump” at one end of the deck, a so-called ski jump , which helps the aircraft take off. These ships are known as STOVL (Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing) or STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) aircraft carriers . The principle was developed by the British Royal Navy in the late 1970s to build a cheaper and smaller type of aircraft carrier. After it proved itself in the Falklands War , other nations began to follow the British example. This works with jets that take off vertically, such as the British Hawker Siddeley Harrier , which can take off and land with almost no forward movement, but also with other aircraft that have correspondingly powerful engines. In this case, the modified departure angle gives the aircraft more time after leaving the flight deck to accelerate to a speed sufficient for level flight. Catapults are therefore not required - with vertical take-offs, there are also arresting ropes for landing.
In both cases the ship runs against the wind at up to 35 kn (64 km / h) during take-off or landing operations in order to reduce the necessary speed of the aircraft over the carrier deck or the relative “stall speed” . The difference to the true ground speed is therefore only the additional reduction of this due to the relative movement of the aircraft carrier in relation to the surface of the earth (sea surface).
- Example: Single-engine sports machines, such as the Katana DA20 with a very low stall speed (45 kcas), could take off like helicopters on an aircraft carrier with a speed of 35 knots and a headwind of around 20 knots, i.e. a total of 55 knots of true airspeed over deck and land.
The modern US carriers and the French Charles de Gaulle obtain the energy for their steam turbines from several (mostly two) pressurized water reactors , which gives them a very large output and range. All other aircraft carriers are conventionally powered by boilers or gas turbines. With up to four propellers, they can reach speeds of over 30 knots .
The aircraft carriers of the US Navy are traditionally marked with "CV" followed by a number, for example CV-6 for the Enterprise of World War II and CVN-65 for the Enterprise, which was active until 2012 . The number in this case means the 6th or 65th aircraft carrier ordered by the US Navy. The “C” stands for “cruiser”, since aircraft carriers were originally converted to cruisers and originally assigned to the “ Scouting Force ”. The letter "V" declares in the US Navy a certain class of aircraft that are heavier than air (English: "heavier-than-air craft", or " aerodynes "), but can move on their own (im This is in contrast to vehicles, such as a zeppelin , which is lighter than air and is accordingly called “lighter-than-air craft” or “ aerostats ”). This class also includes all fixed wing aircraft. Presumably for this reason the US Navy chose the designation V , also because CA was already used for heavy cruisers and AC for coal and fuel transporters. An aircraft carrier with the identifier CV thus has the primary task of carrying fixed-wing aircraft. The frequently used terms Carrier Vessel or Carrier Vehicle (for US aircraft carriers), on the other hand, are incorrect, but are often used even in military parlance.
Nuclear powered aircraft carriers carry the suffix N for Nuclear . The identification of all currently active US aircraft carriers is CVN due to the nuclear drive .
The Second World War led to the following additional terms in the US Navy, but these are rarely used today:
- CVE (cruiser, with heavier-than-air craft, escort) - escort aircraft carrier
- CVL (cruiser, with heavier-than-air craft, light) - Light aircraft carrier
- CVB (cruiser, with heavier-than-air craft, battle) - large aircraft carriers
- CVA (cruiser, with heavier-than-air craft, attack) - attack aircraft carrier
- CVS (cruiser, with heavier-than-air craft, anti-submarine) - U-Jagdträger (aircraft carrier primarily for aircraft used to combat submarines)
- AVT (auxiliary, with heavier-than-air craft, training) - training aircraft carrier
Other types of carriers whose main task is not to operate fixed-wing aircraft (helicopter carriers, amphibious landing craft) are identified as follows:
- LPH (amphibious assault helicopter carriers) - amphibious landing carriers for helicopters and marines
- LHD (landing helicopter dock) - helicopter carrier (also suitable for vertical takeoffs such as the AV-8B Harrier )
- LHA (landing helicopter assault) - Same properties as LHD , but designed as an amphibious assault ship (hull or hull classification of the Tarawa - and in the future also America class ).
The aircraft carrier of the British Royal Navy carry the identifier R . During the Second World War, the Royal Navy aircraft carriers in the designated Atlantic were stationed, with D , those in the Pacific with R . In order to standardize the identifiers, all aircraft carriers were later designated with R , since D was only used for destroyers. The exact meaning of the abbreviation R is no longer exactly understandable today. But it probably has its origin in the old identification system of the Royal Navy, the letters of which referred to the home base of the ships (D = Devonport , R = Rosyth ).
Identifiers of other countries
Many nations have adopted the R code from the Royal Navy, but there are exceptions:
- Italy only identifies its aircraft carriers with numbers.
- Russia currently has only one aircraft carrier, which is classified as a heavy flight deck cruiser for maritime law reasons .
- Brazil also marks its aircraft carriers with the prefix NAe (Portuguese "navio-aeródromo").
- China marks its first self-developed aircraft carrier as Type 001A
Aircraft carriers never operate alone, but together with various escort ships that provide protection and supplies as well as additional offensive potential. This escort fleet is usually made up of cruisers , destroyers and frigates that protect the formation against threats from the air, from other sea units or from submarines. In addition, submarines are used for reconnaissance and submarine hunting . Supply ships and tankers expand the scope of the carrier group many times over. These ships can also provide additional offensive capacity, such as cruise missiles .
Older Soviet aircraft carriers, for their part, were so heavily armed that they did not have to rely on the protection of other escort ships.
For aircraft carriers of the US Navy, the French Navy and the Brazilian Navy, the aircraft are brought to take-off speed by means of air catapults. In order to protect the crew and waiting or parked aircraft on the flight deck , a piece of the floor behind an aircraft to be taken off (" gas jet deflector", JBD) is folded up so that the exhaust jets are deflected upwards. The actual take-off takes place in just a few seconds, during which the aircraft is accelerated to take-off speed.
There are no steam catapults on the Russian, British, Chinese, Indian, Spanish and Italian aircraft carriers. Instead, there is a starting deck that is curved up at the end, similar to a ski jump , the so-called ski jump. The Russian naval aircraft are held in place by brake blocks and the crew are protected by beam deflectors, as is the case with the American aircraft carriers. The aircraft taking off spins the engines with afterburners but does not move forward because the brake pads hold the aircraft back. As soon as the brake pads let go of the aircraft, it accelerates and takes off from the ship via the ramp.
This variant of the start is usually not used. VTOL-capable aircraft usually take off from a jump and land vertically. This has the advantage that the aircraft can carry more payload when taking off.
The V-22 Osprey transport aircraft , on the other hand, can take off vertically with a full payload. Only the range is reduced by the vertical start. The helicopters stationed on all carriers also always take off vertically, but are not counted among the aircraft as rotary wing aircraft.
Start with short start capability
The VTOL aircraft deployed on the US Navy's Amphibious Assault Ships take off with a short run-up. The ships do not have catapults, but neither do they have entrenchments.
The landing on a carrier is one of the most challenging and dangerous flying operations, especially if it is to be carried out at night or in bad weather. There are two types of landings, landing with a safety rope and a vertical landing.
Landing with safety ropes
This type of landing is used on almost all aircraft carriers. Here, there are usually four (on some aircraft carriers only three) safety ropes stretched on the rear flight deck , one of which the pilot has to "catch" with the safety hook . During this maneuver, the pilot should preferably always approach the carrier in such a way that he hooks himself into the third rope as far as possible.
The basic process on an American aircraft carrier is as follows:
- The aircraft returning from the mission first flies a classic traffic pattern around the aircraft carrier in order to lose altitude and speed. The safety ropes are adjusted to the current landing weight of the aircraft in order to brake it effectively.
- On the final approach, the pilot extends the landing gear and the catch hook. The control of the jet is now handed over from the carrier's control center to the landing officers on the flight deck . This landing signal officer (LSO), who is himself a pilot on the aircraft carrier, “speaks down the pilot” by telling him how his attitude deviates from the ideal line. The glide angle is also indicated to the pilot by an optical landing aid system (called "Meatball" by the pilots), in which a sliding light is in line with a stationary green light chain if the glide angle is correct. If the pilot flies the carrier too flat, the light is below the chain of lights; if the glide angle is too steep, it is above. Should the LSOs discover any irregularities, they press a button that triggers the light signal that gives the approaching pilot the "wave off" signal. The pilot cancels the landing approach immediately and takes off to try again. The LSOs evaluate the approaches of all pilots and award grades that are important for their further careers.
- When the pilot hits the glide angle and speed, the hook catches the third rope and the main landing gear hits the deck. The aircraft is braked immediately. When putting on the main landing gear, the pilot gives full thrust in order to be able to take off safely in the event of a failure (bolter), for example when the hook springs back. If the safety cable is caught, the aircraft is braked hydraulically and comes to a stop within just two seconds over a distance of almost 50 m. During this maneuver, the pilot is extremely pressed into the belts. The engines are immediately switched to idle, the " hook runner " releases the hook from the safety rope and the hook is pulled in. The aircraft then rolls into the specified parking position.
- An aircraft usually has kerosene in its tank for two landings (Nimitz class). After two unsuccessful attempts to land, refueling must be carried out in the air. For such incidents there is always a Boeing F-18 E Super Hornet equipped with an air tank in the airspace above the aircraft carrier.
- In special emergencies, the pilot may not be able to land his aircraft properly, for example because the catch hook has been damaged. In such a case, a net is then stretched on the flight deck , with which the aircraft can be brought to a standstill even without safety ropes. Usually, however, such a landing leads to severe damage to the aircraft.
- An F-18 Hornet can also be landed fully automatically without the pilot having to do anything. This procedure is only used in emergencies because in the event of war the electronics can be disturbed by the enemy. Even then, a safe landing must be possible.
This type of landing is currently only operated with the Hawker Siddeley Harrier or the V-22 Osprey and by their users US Marine Corps, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy ( Fleet Air Arm ). The Marine Corps operate with their planes not only from aircraft carriers, but also by helicopter carriers of America - and Wasp class . The Harrier aircraft will be replaced by the Lockheed Martin F-35 , which is currently in the test phase . Italy has also ordered machines of this type of aircraft for use on their carriers.
As with take-off, helicopters always use their ability to land vertically.
Different types of aircraft are used on an aircraft carrier , which are divided into the following categories:
The jet aircraft can in turn be divided into the following categories:
- conventional jet aircraft,
- Swing-wing aircraft ( e.g. F-14 Tomcat ),
- V / STOL machines (“high flyers”, for example Hawker Siddeley Harrier).
The aircraft serve a wide variety of purposes:
- Combat air targets (other aircraft, missiles),
- Combating surface targets (ships and boats)
- Combating underwater targets (submarines),
- Sea and air surveillance , early warning,
- Attacks on land targets ,
- electronic warfare (ELOKA), disruption of enemy sensors ,
- Aerial reconnaissance ,
- Air refueling ,
- Sea rescue , transport , liaison flights, special operations.
Flight deck crew
The following colors are used on aircraft carriers of the United States Navy :
(Nickname "Grapes", translated "grapes")
In March 1934, following discussions with Adolf Hitler , the leadership of the German Navy decided on a shipbuilding program. This envisaged the construction of eight ironclad ships, three aircraft carriers, 18 cruisers, 48 destroyers and 72 submarines and was to be completed by 1949. On November 16, 1935 the aircraft carrier A and the sister ship aircraft carrier B were commissioned. Its construction was stopped in September 1939 in order to get more shipyard capacity and material for submarine construction; neither of the two ships was ever completed. On September 17, 1939 U 29 sank the British aircraft carrier Courageous ; shortly thereafter U 47 penetrated the British naval base Scapa Flow and sank the battleship Royal Oak there . These successes also convinced skeptics in the leadership of the Navy of the military value of submarines and put the value of capital ships into perspective; the Z-Plan was revised in favor of a submarine construction program.
- List of aircraft carriers
- List of historical aircraft carriers
- Helicopter carrier
- Light aircraft carrier
- Escort aircraft carrier
- Flight deck cruiser
- Amphibious assault ship
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