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British AIRCRAFT Carriers

Above: HMS Hermes sinks off Ceylon (Sri Lanka) after a Japanese carrier aircraft attack in April 1942. Symptomatic of British handling of the war in the Far East at this time, she had no aircraft aboard and no means of signalling for help if attacked. Above: HMS Hermes sinks off Ceylon (Sri Lanka) after a Japanese carrier aircraft attack in April 1942. Symptomatic of British handling of the war in the Far East at this time, she had no aircraft aboard and no means of signalling for help if attacked.

[With a limited number of ships but with worldwide responsibilities, the Royal Navy deployed and operated its carriers in a very different way to the Americans. Yet despite their lack of numbers and mediocre aircraft, British carriers made a vital contribution to the victory at sea]

UK : HMS Hermes

The Argus concept was obviously considered sound for early in 1918, before her completion, the keel was laid down for HMS Hermes. Though she was designed for the job, it was obviously not with the benefit of operational experience, Lacking a precedent, her designers made her too small, prompting the Japanese to repeat the error with their pioneer Hosho, laid down in the following year. With the end of World War I, construction was leisurely, the ship being launched in September 1919 and with completion delayed until 1923. As a result she entered service after the much larger but converted HMS Eagle, which had meanwhile proved the idea of the island superstructure. Like that of the Eagle, Hermes' island seemed disproportionately large, with a massive battleship-style tripod and fighting top, bearing rangefinders for the unusual armament of six 140-mm (5.5-in) guns: early carriers were expected to be able to repel light surface attack, the potential of their aircraft not having been fully evaluated. A light armour belt was also worked in. An improvement on the Argus was a doubling of installed power to give a speed increase of over 4 kts.

A distinctive feature on the after flight deck was a low hump, designed to decelerate incoming aircraft. This was also copied by the Japanese, but neither fleet found it a success and abandoned it.

Though obsolete by World War II, the Hermes made an extremely valuable contribution in lower-threat areas. This found her hunting for raiders in the Atlantic, undertaking spotting and reconnaissance missions in operations against the Vichy French in West Africa and the Italians in the Red Sea, giving shore support during the suppression of the Iraqi rebellion of 1941 and escorting Indian ocean convoys. She was sunk in April 1942 off Ceylon during the Japanese carrier raids, but had adequately demonstrated the value of even a small flight deck in areas where no other aviation support existed.

Specification

HMS Hermes

Type: second-line light aircraft-carrier

Displacement: 10,850 tons standard and 12,950 tons full load

Dimensions: length 182.3 m (598 ft); beam 21.4 m (70.25 ft); draught 6.9 m

(22.6 ft)

Propulsion: 2-shaft geared steam turbines delivering 40,000 shp

(29828 kW)

Speed: 25 kts

Armour: belt 51-76 mm (2-3 in); hangar deck 25 mm ( 1 in) shields 25 mm ( 1 in)

Armament: six 140-mm (5.5-in), and three 102-mm (4-in) A Aguns

Aircraft: about 20

Complement: 660 excluding aircrew

22°C

Dhaka

Clear

Humidity: 78%

Wind: 1.61 km/h

  • 24 Mar 2016 33°C 22°C
  • 25 Mar 2016 36°C 23°C
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