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Hello!  I thought this would be an interesting discussion. 

As you guys know, there were interwar treaties that influenced the formation of naval units prior to World War II.  From looking online, I see that there were two big carriers whose designs were heavily influenced by treaty standards and tonnage:

Japanese_aircraft_carrier_Ry%C5%ABj%C5%8

Ryūjō (Japanese: 龍驤 "Prancing Dragon") was a light aircraft carrier built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during the early 1930s. Small and lightly built in an attempt to exploit a loophole in the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, she proved to be top-heavy and only marginally stable and was back in the shipyard for modifications to address those issues within a year of completion.

image.png.4c5769ad111971961f63f8f0011040a2.png

USS Wasp (CV-7) was a United States Navy aircraft carrier commissioned in 1940 and lost in action in 1942. She was the eighth ship named USS Wasp, and the sole ship of a class built to use up the remaining tonnage allowed to the U.S. for aircraft carriers under the treaties of the time.

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If you guys can find any more carriers that were heavily influenced by the treaties, feel free to put it in the discussion below. 

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These are some starting questions.  Feel free to debate and add more meat to the answers:

-Who do you guys think made the better "budget" carrier: The United States or Japan?

-If the two were to meet on the field of battle (in the ocean, among islands, etc), who do you think would win?

-If you had to decide to construct carriers within treaty limits (or exploiting loopholes), would you have constructed either of these two carriers?  If so, why?  If not, what would you have done instead?

Thanks!

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USS Ranger's tonnage was selected to make best use of the remaining tonnage available.

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HMS Ark Royal is another such carrier.  The ship is an odd combination of trying to fit many conflicting requirements onto the tonnage.

hms-ark-royal-91-aircraft-carrier.jpg

The Ark Royal was designed to the WNT limit of 22,000 tons, not to a specific design requirement.  The resulting design was to carry as many aircraft and have as long a flight deck as possible while mounting a very heavy AA battery.

This resulted in the ship having two hanger decks accessed by 3 split elevators.  Capacity was theoretically about 72 aircraft.  The total hanger space was greater than any carrier's until the Midways showed up.

The double hanger arrangement is what makes the Ark Royal appear to be tall.  That appearance is amplified by the large overhangs of the flight deck.  These were necessary for a different reason.  The Ark Royal's hull had to fit in existing RN drydocks built mostly in the late 1800's.  These were on the small side for modern ships but the RN didn't have the funds to build newer larger ones.

The restriction on hull width and length resulted in a three screw design with the ship being capable of about 30 knots, a bit slower than most US or Japanese carriers.

The armor protection was good for the time with a 4.5" belt over the machinery and magazines with a 3.5" deck above those.  The AA battery of 16 4.5" guns and 4 8 barrel pompoms.  But, the high flight deck and hanger arrangement left them protected.  The serious flaw in the design was a very shallow torpedo defense system.  This can be seen in the sinking of Ark Royal by U 81 hitting the ship with one torpedo amidships where the torpedo defense should have been the strongest.  Instead, the system was defeated and flooding and progressive flooding doomed the ship.  I don't think any other carrier in WW 2 went down to a single torpedo hit like Ark Royal.

The elevator arrangement was another major fail on this class.  These were of a "letterbox" shape (not very wide and only adequately long).  This meant any aircraft carried had to have folding wings to be struck down to the hangers.  Their size didn't leave much room for increases in size and weight of planes either.  Worse, the elevators were split between the flight deck and upper hanger and the upper and lower hanger.  This meant bringing a plane from the lower hanger to the flight deck required transfer between elevators massively slowing the process and in turn operationally making the lower hanger only useful for spare planes or ones under long term maintenance.  This effectively cut the operational size of the air wing in half.

Thus, between the WNT limit on carrier displacement making two smaller 11,000 ton ones undesirable, and the limitations placed on the design by RN shipyards combined to make an oddly tall and really rather mediocre design.

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1 hour ago, Murotsu said:

I don't think any other carrier in WW 2 went down to a single torpedo hit like Ark Royal.

Taihō was sunk by a single torpedo, but infamously not from flooding but rather avgas fumes exploding.

main-qimg-18620dde8f38a1b7a7f9c93eb9b86d

 

Hiyō was also sunk by a single torpedo, but she was also struck by 2 bombs.  I believe the torpedo is attributed to causing a gasoline vapor explosion which sank the ship.

Japanese_aircraft_carrier_Hiyo.jpg

Edited by Royeaux

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2 hours ago, Murotsu said:

*Ark Royal*

My research into carrier lines gave me quite the appreciation for Ark Royal and British carrier design. There were definitely things I would do differently, the aforementioned split elevators would be right out, but all in all she's a great example of ship design differing based on strategic and tactical requirements. Ark Royal was meant to operate mainly in the Indian and Pacific oceans, where resupply would be hard to come by and the main threat would be other carriers. So the expanded hangar was much more important for her than the typical British armored flight deck. Contrast that with the Illustrious and her successors, all designed with the Atlantic and North Sea in mind, and thus sacrificing hangar space (spares are readily available close to home) for armor protection from land-based bombers. I think it would be interesting to see what the Royal Navy could have done if their original plan of having multiple Illustrious and Ark Royal task forces (three carriers of the same design in a group) each with a Unicorn for support and repair facilities had gone through. That would have given them three forces of four (3 + Uni) carriers from the Illustrious' alone.

14 hours ago, Battlecruiser_Yavuz said:

These are some starting questions.  Feel free to debate and add more meat to the answers:

-Who do you guys think made the better "budget" carrier: The United States or Japan?

-If the two were to meet on the field of battle (in the ocean, among islands, etc), who do you think would win?

-If you had to decide to construct carriers within treaty limits (or exploiting loopholes), would you have constructed either of these two carriers?  If so, why?  If not, what would you have done instead?

Thanks!

Wasp, easily. Larger, better aircraft handling layout, better stability, faster. First carrier with a deck-edge elevator. There's not really a contest here honestly, like you said Ryujo is a much older ship built under tighter constraints to exploit a loophole. Meanwhile Wasp had the experience of the Lexington sisters, Ranger, and the Yorktown all put into her. Ryujo is a typical Japanese light/escort carrier built from the keel up instead of being converted, while Wasp is a pocket Essex.

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I'd say that Wasp was better than RJ, but RJ was better than Ranger.    

I will also point out that Ark Royal was lost due to three things. Lack of diesel generators (the Naval Staff had a weird phobia of diesel generators, so there are a generation of ships without them). The trunking of the boiler uptakes across the lower hangar (which allowed the free movement of water across the ship) and inexperienced damage control staff. Rather than a general weakness in the TDS. 

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Wasp was a conscious decision to forego armor to get a carrier on the allowed tonnage that matched the previous Yorktown class in terms of air operations.  For the USN, carrier design was all about air operations and maximizing the size, flexibility, and power of the air wing.  Thus, the USN was willing to build an unarmored carrier before reducing the size of the air wing and its capacity for offensive and defensive operations.

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It's important to not fall into the trap of thinking "what was the best weapon".  The weapon you have on hand is better then the perfect weapon you don't have.

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With the Ark Royal...

Because the RN designed it specifically for Asian / Far Eastern use is a fail on their part.  Building a more general purpose, use it anywhere, carrier would have made more sense.  Because the ship ended up not being used as envisioned, it was really a waste of tonnage.  A better deal would have been to scrap the Hermes, or otherwise free up that tonnage and then build two 16,000 ton carriers that would have given the RN more flexibility and worked with smaller air wings.  The result would have been something about two-thirds the size of a Yorktown with say a 30 plane air wing.  Given the poor state of the FAA, that would have been more reasonable.

The US did this with Langley.  They got rid of an inefficient carrier to use the tonnage elsewhere.

The Japanese went down a different path.  They began converting every ship in sight that might make a half decent carrier and ended up with a bunch of small, inefficient ones mostly because their conversions were pretty badly done.  Other than Ryujo, the Zuiho and Shoho were two more that were really not worth the effort.

These two carriers were laid down as hulls that could, at least in theory, be used as submarine tenders or fleet oilers with the intent they could later be converted to light carriers.  For this conversion the shipyards had to lengthen the hull, replace all the machinery (remove the diesel engines and install turbines and boilers),  and then build the carrier conversion on top.  It would have likely been nearly as efficient, or even more so, to just build an entirely new ship.  The Japanese could have just stockpiled the materials for the builds and done all the preliminary work so when they went to make carriers the build time would be reduced.  Given the long original build times on these two (the original hulls for them as tenders ran about a year then it took nearly three years to rebuild them.

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9 hours ago, Murotsu said:

With the Ark Royal...

Because the RN designed it specifically for Asian / Far Eastern use is a fail on their part.  Building a more general purpose, use it anywhere, carrier would have made more sense. 

What aspects of Ark Royal's design, including large hangar made her less suitable than other carriers for general purpose use? She didn't necessarily make full use of her space, but early war she did generate more sorties than her British contemporaries and size does have advantages for operating in poor weather and generally handling aircraft. A couple of smaller carriers is an interesting idea, though the USN has done a lot of studies to demonstrate that one big carrier is more effective (and cost effective) than an equal tonnage of smaller ones.

Certainly she lacked the armored deck of the modern British carriers, but so did all of the world's carriers at the time she was built.

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On 6/10/2019 at 12:04 AM, Murotsu said:

With the Ark Royal...

Because the RN designed it specifically for Asian / Far Eastern use is a fail on their part.  Building a more general purpose, use it anywhere, carrier would have made more sense.  Because the ship ended up not being used as envisioned, it was really a waste of tonnage.  A better deal would have been to scrap the Hermes, or otherwise free up that tonnage and then build two 16,000 ton carriers that would have given the RN more flexibility and worked with smaller air wings.  The result would have been something about two-thirds the size of a Yorktown with say a 30 plane air wing.  Given the poor state of the FAA, that would have been more reasonable.

The US did this with Langley.  They got rid of an inefficient carrier to use the tonnage elsewhere.

Uh, Langley was sunk my dude, scuttled in 1942 following an air attack. If they had scrapped her to "free up the tonnage" then they would've had enough for four Yorktowns and Wasp wouldn't have been needed.

And I disagree on that description of Ark Royal as "wasted tonnage". Yes, she was meant for a theater that she never made it to, but I would argue that her larger air group still made her a valuable tool in the Atlantic, she was just more vulnerable and had to stay more vigilant due to that lack of armor. Besides, I'd say that the cramped confines on the Mediterranean and the North Sea, though more politically relevant, are more the anomaly among the vast amounts of ocean that Britain had to be prepared to fight in, so the more open-water Pacific design was more relevant than it's given credit. See "Every US carrier ever made regardless of operating theater" as exhibit A. Given the opportunity to shine Ark Royal would most certainly have been the "Pacific" version of Illustrious, and even without reaching those waters she left one hell of an impression and performed quite capably.

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2 hours ago, Landsraad said:

Uh, Langley was sunk my dude, scuttled in 1942 following an air attack. If they had scrapped her to "free up the tonnage" then they would've had enough for four Yorktowns and Wasp wouldn't have been needed.

And I disagree on that description of Ark Royal as "wasted tonnage". Yes, she was meant for a theater that she never made it to, but I would argue that her larger air group still made her a valuable tool in the Atlantic, she was just more vulnerable and had to stay more vigilant due to that lack of armor. Besides, I'd say that the cramped confines on the Mediterranean and the North Sea, though more politically relevant, are more the anomaly among the vast amounts of ocean that Britain had to be prepared to fight in, so the more open-water Pacific design was more relevant than it's given credit. See "Every US carrier ever made regardless of operating theater" as exhibit A. Given the opportunity to shine Ark Royal would most certainly have been the "Pacific" version of Illustrious, and even without reaching those waters she left one hell of an impression and performed quite capably.

Langley wasn't scrapped, but turned into an aircraft transport by removing about a third of the flight deck.  That met treaty obligations.

The problem with Ark Royal is that the larger air group was impossible for the RN to have in 1939, and pretty much impossible through 1942 unless you count US lend lease and purchased aircraft.  The FAA was grossly underfunded and essentially the proverbial red headed stepchild of the RN.

The US and Japan took the position that a carrier's aircraft should be as numerous as possible and all be usable.  The RN's position of having what amounts to an installed reserve of planes on a carrier has been clearly proven totally erroneous.  Because of the design, even if Ark Royal had 70 to 90 planes aboard the biggest deck park possible on the ship was around 20 to 30 planes, and that spotting a second strike was an unlikely thing.  The USN and Japan practiced a different operational strategy where they'd launch the largest (30 to 40 planes) strike possible, spot a second, and then launch that after which they'd recover the first.  It was not RN doctrine to do likewise until the RN started operating with the USN.

http://www.armouredcarriers.com/uss-robin-hms-victorious/

The RN had a good carrier controlled system for CAP, but in almost every other area their carriers proved less capable than their USN or IJN counterparts.  They couldn't spot and launch the same size of strikes, and had to accept a less flexible and less capable air wing because of their design.

 

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Wasp was designed and built about 6 years after Ryujo. 6 years may not seem like much time, but for carrier development and even aircraft development itself at that time, it is minuscule. Aircraft that the CVs were designed to operate were no longer in service by the time the CV was in operation. This hampered Ryujo later as her aft elevator was smaller then her fore elevator, effectively meaning she could only use one elevator to service her air group during WW2. There is also the issue as no war had yet been fought with true CVs. This resulted in misconceptions on how a CV would operate during a war. While a particular design feature might be considered useful during peacetime, during wartime it can hamper operations, much like Ark Royal's elevators.

Wasp had the better layout, having been developed from testing with the previous carriers. The IJN followed the British development with CVs, so alot of their CV ideas were based off of their observations of the British.

Neither carrier was designed to take a hit though. Both sacrificed armor to kept within the treaty limits and yet still have a meaningful load of aircraft. This would factor in to their loss.

Ranger, while the first CV to be built by the US from the keel up, is also flawed. She was built during the 'learning' period, and her flaws are a product of that. She is smaller then other 'fleet' CVs of the US, but also not armored, nor armed as well. She is also slower then the other CVs. Yes, she successfully participated in Operation Torch. But she really faced no opposition there. She never was close enough to be attacked from land and no ship or aircraft engaged her. By mid war, the Navy considered rebuilding her,  increasing her length to get her more speed as well as increasing the amount of aircraft she carried. But that rebuild was canceled as there was plenty of new construction (Essex) to take her place on the front lines. Ranger basically become a training/transport carrier from that point on in the war.

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One of the oddities of US carriers of this period was they were designed to be "double ended."  That is, flight ops could be conducted both ahead and astern 

557d2c3f6e39e.jpg

This is Yorktown landing a plane over the bow while steaming astern.

The idea was you could have a deck park ready to go and still land say a few CAP fighters over the bow to rotate the CAP.  Thus, US carriers had astern turbines installed that allowed for fairly high speeds on the order of 20 knots to get wind over the deck.

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