Early Aircraft Carriers

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November 7, 2008

When we think of early Aircraft Carriers, most defer to the US Navy converting Jupiter (Collier # 3) in 1920 to CVI Langley. Commissioned in March 1922, Langley was the U.S. Navy’s first conventional aircraft carrier. In October-November 1922, she launched, recovered and catapulted her first aircraft during initial operations in the Atlantic and Caribbean areas.

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The history of Aircraft Carriers dates back to 1806 when the British Frigate HMS Pallas was used as platform to launch kites that dropped leaflets over France.

During the (American) Civil War, Union Forces converted the coal barge George Washington Parke Custis to launch hot air ballons to conduct reconnaissance. The barges never worked off shore.

The Union Army balloon Washington aboard the George Washington Parke Custis, towed by the tug Coeur de Lion.

During World War I, a number of countries used Balloon Tenders.

Swedish captive balloon carrier in 1907.

Merchant aircraft carriers (MAC) were minimal aircraft carriers used during WW II by Britain and the Netherlands as an emergency measure until United States-built escort carriers became available in useful numbers.

They were bulk grain carriers or tankers built with flight decks and small islands, but no catapult or other aircraft support facilities. The nature of the cargoes removed the need for the type of deck mounted cargo-handling gear needed by general freighters. They operated with civilian crews, under merchant colors, and carried their regular cargo while serving as aircraft carriers. Their Fairey Swordfish aircraft carried out anti-submarine patrols around the convoy.

Merchant Carrier MV Empire Mac Cabe


This post was written by Richard Rodriguez, Rescue Tug Captain, and US Coast Guard approved instructor for License Training. You can read more of his articles at the BitterEnd of the net.

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