What would happen if the Admiral Reginald Henderson, does not get his way?

In 1937 British laid down 4 new Carriers of the Illustrious class, and they were designed to prioritise Armour protection over other attributes, with their Armoured Box design, which in turn limited the amount of aircraft they would be able to carry and operate. In later evolutions of the design, such as HMS Indomitable subvariant and the Implacable class the amount of aircraft carried was increased, but there were still issues with number of aircraft which could be carried and operated from them, as well as issues with the size of their hangars, which were compromised due to weight and other peculiarities of their design.
So, the worries about low carrying capacity of the planned fleet CVs win out ITTL, and instead of the Armoured Box Carriers of OTL, British go for an "unarmoured" design, along the lines of HMS Ark Royal (91).

So, what is the design they wnd up with? There is still 23k tons limit, as imposed by the 2LNT, for the CVs. The Ark Royal is most likely the basis for 1937 design of TTL, but some changes could be beneficial, though I struggle with just what they could or would change, considering there no combat experience from which lessons could be learned. The addition of 5 new Fleet CVs (Ark + 4 Ark v2.0) to the RN strength does mean that Fleet Air Arm would be needed to provide much greater amount of men and machinery then IOTL, with RAF being most unhappy with that situation.

So any thoughts, especially on the design of the carriers?
 
So any thoughts, especially on the design of the carriers?
Where and who are they planing on fighting? The Illustrious class to my understanding are for a European war fighting land air power (mostly Med/Italy post 35 scare) compared to Ark that was built more for fighting IJN and fighting other navies including CVs?

The issue is without radar and without large CV groups land based air will get thought and hit you as a single/few CVs cant maintain the size of cap needed for 12 hours a day to stop strikes.....? (and land based air can't be suppressed by a few CVs so hitting first doesn't work, unlike CV v CV in USN/IJN thinking)

With hindsight, Light Fleets in numbers (with radar and a good fighter) would be the better choice, but that requires a lot of hindsight!
 
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The twin decked armoured Implacables were designed to the 23,000 ton limit which led to their low hanger decks. Without the requirement for the armoured box hangers similar ships could possibly be designed with only the decks and not the hanger walls being armoured that would have full height hanger decks. It would be something like a larger and faster Unicorn.
 
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McPherson

Banned
Where and who are they planing on fighting? The Illustrious class to my understanding are for a European war fighting land air power (mostly Med/Italy post 35 scare) compared to Ark that was built more for fighting IJN and fighting other navies including CVs?

The issue is without radar and without large CV groups land based air will get thought and hit you as a single CV cant maintain the size of cap needed for 12 hours a day to stop strikes.....? (and land based air can't be suppressed by a few CVs so hitting first doesn't work, unlike CV v CV in USN/IJN thinking)

With hindsight, Light Fleets in numbers (with radar and a good fighter) would be the better choice, but that requires a lot of hindsight!
This is consistent with the thinking that developed pre-radar and and before war lessons learned from the Indian Ocean Raid, Coral Sea, Midway and Pedestal Convoy battles

The idea was that a lot of small cheap aircraft carriers were more effective than a few large ones, since it was correctly assumed that an aircraft carrier was a very vulnerable ship to air attack and naval gunfire. It was also assumed that armor, if it was used at all should be to protect the hanger (UK since it was fighting in the close proximity to land) or to protect against the torpedo and the cruiser artillery fire, (US which assumed the threats would be enemy surface ships and subs), or a mix of both sets of ideas which was the Japanese.

The British intended for their CV to tag along and support the surface fleet as a cruiser scout and auxiliary. It was not a primary strike weapon. It could be characterized as a scouting unit that would attack and sink cripples. We can see this idea at work with the intended addition of a CV to Force Z and how the CV was to be used as a scout and air defense platform in the planned South China sweep. The Indian Ocean Raid and Somerville's mis-use of his flattops and land based air, tends to show the RN was in evolution and was trying different things. The war-games of July 1942, the RN conducted from the lessons learned that horrible April 1942 experience, they applied to the Pedestal Convoy battle and it more or less sets the evidence where I see the RN change their attitude and their design practice about armored box hanger aircraft carriers. It should be pointed out that lessons learned also included the "Club Runs" to Malta, especially the two multi-aircraft carrier runs which involved the LANTFLT and its own CV element loaned to plane ferry in a high threat environment. If the USS Wasp could do a "Club Run" then maybe a compromise solution for the RN, where more plane handling and less top-heavy might be "acceptable". This does not mean the armored flight deck goes away, but an armored box hanger as some dinged up RN aircraft carriers parading through the Norfolk and New York Navy Yards and Bremerton might be contra-indicated as the heavy Luftwaffe bombs that penetrated the flight decks and exploded in the confined hangers made a mess in the explosion confining boxes.

Now Coral Sea was very interesting. A sort of box hanger type aircraft carrier (USS Lexington) suffered an aerosol gasoline explosion that wrecked her. The box confined and reflected back in the pressure wave and wrecked the fire mains and fuel lines. Burn-down from that torpedo and an impossible to fight fire resulted. The Yorktown had a bomb punch through her flight deck and explode inside her open hanger. The blast vented. There was a fire but chimney drafting the flame path so crews could fight the fire from front to back and they managed to get back home. Shokaku was a cross between Lex and Yorkie. She took one in the bow that actually opened her up and led to the DC officer using that hole and shutters aft to fight the fires that should have blow torched and burned her down. Lucky ship. She should have gone down but her clever captain avoided the sub ambushes and handled the heavy seas that came over her bow. so she would continue to plague the Americans until Philippine Sea.

As an odd contrast to the CV operators lesson learning the hard way we can look at the ideas prevalent among the Germans, French and Italians. The Germans went for an armored cruiser with a flight deck. The vessel was huge, fast, armored against surface ship combatants up to County class or Northamptons and it was designed to use its small air group to scout and to opportunity attack. The French in their Joffres were intent on giving the Force de Raid an aircraft carrier equivalent to what the British intended in that the aircraft carrier operated an air group for scout and opportunity attack work to support the gun-line.

The Italians, started late and after preliminary war lessons learned. Their flattop was designed to fight as a flattop, more or less in support and air defense of a surface action group.
The twin decked armoured Implacables were designed to the 23,000 ton limit which led to their low hanger decks. Without the requirement for the armoured box hangers similar ships could possibly be designed with only the decks and not the hanger walls being armoured that would have full height hanger decks. It would be something like a larger and faster Unicorn.
The thing is that one looks at the Maltas and the Midways, the rafted armored flight deck on top of an armored hanger deck and the open shuttered sides to that hanger for venting purposes is what the RN and USN learned. Same goes for bombing and fueling ON THE FLIGHT DECK as well as hard standing the planes on it. The two navies arrived at the same lessons learned. As for the Japanese, well one in the belly and Taiho, a Japanese version of the British armored box hanger CV and KABOOM.

It turns out that flattops, depending on how well built they are may be mission killed by bombs, but it takes torpedoes to kill them forever. So... if there is a subtle lesson learned, it is to put a roof stout enough to bounce kamikazes and to prime bombs to go off before they hit the strength deck, shock mount EVERYTHING, and this includes fuel systems and the fire fighting gear, and provide a capital ship 5 cell torpedo defense and unit machinery. Train the crew like the New York City Fire Department and set up the main defense around the bodyguard ships and the combat air patrols, both outer and inner.
 
The twin decked armoured Implacables were designed to the 23,000 ton limit which led to their low hanger decks. Without the requirement for the armoured box hangers similar ships could possibly be designed with only the decks and not the hanger walls being armoured that would have full height hanger decks. It would be something like a larger and faster Unicorn.
Originally the side armour was to be reduced too allow the hangers to be taller

Apparently the side armour was reduced but for whatever reason the hanger heights remained as per the earlier design.

My preference would be a mix of 28,000 Ton Shokaku type carriers with a pair of Longer Ark Royal style hangers (72 folding wing aircraft capacity) and 18,000 ton 'light fleet' with a single long Ark Royal style hanger (36 folding wing aircraft capacity).
 
The British intended for their CV to tag along and support the surface fleet as a cruiser scout and auxiliary. It was not a primary strike weapon. It could be characterized as a scouting unit that would attack and sink cripples.
I'm not sure if I agree (at least any more than IJN/USN etc in 20s/30s), RN did plans and exercises for large CV actions like strikes on bases and using multiple CVs together pre-war. Was it not also thought by at least some as critical to slow down an enemy to force it to battle considering WWI experience of others declining to stay and fight.
We can see this idea at work with the intended addition of a CV to Force Z and how the CV was to be used as a scout and air defense platform in the planned South China sweep.
Is that not simply the end result of trying to cover three+ oceans with a single/two ocean navy, ie they simply had to split up due to lack of numbers and to many places to have to try and defend?
The Italians, started late and after preliminary war lessons learned. Their flattop was designed to fight as a flattop, more or less in support and air defense of a surface action group.
Is that not more that she (Aquila) is based off SS Roma, so she was never going to be anything well protected...?
 
Thank you all for your replies.

Let us say that they do abandon the idea of the Armoured Box CV, due to worries about limited AC compliment. They did learn before the war, when they operated several CVs together (under Adm.Henderson) that there is going to be attrition of the aircraft complement during operations. OTL this resulted in HMS Unicorn (and her unbuilt sisters) to serve as maintenance ships, which complemented Armoured CVs rather nicely.

It would be reasonable for argument to be raised that instead of having to build an entire additional class of carriers just to augument another class of CVs. I mean, there was plenty of handwringing about HMS Unicorn, as it would/could be seen by other nations as an actual CV instead of just "maintenance" one. Issues about the cost could also be problem, and Treasury is not going to be pleased, while there is also going to be a need for crews for those "non-combat" ships.

But, as other poster did mention, British were expecting to fight in areas where enemy land based aviation would make an appearance, which does make AB CVs a valid choice in those pre-Radar days....

Though, if the British did generally operate their CVs alongside Surface Forces, that does open some possibilities. I mean, if your ships are around you, especially heavy units, then there is much less danger of running into enemy surface ships (unless its HMS Glorious), so design could, and should be modified accordingly. So, can you stick an Armoured Flight Deck 3in thick, have it capable of handling more then 33 a/c of OTL Illustrious class ships, while remaining within 23k ton displacement?
 
Thank you all for your replies.

Let us say that they do abandon the idea of the Armoured Box CV, due to worries about limited AC compliment. They did learn before the war, when they operated several CVs together (under Adm.Henderson) that there is going to be attrition of the aircraft complement during operations. OTL this resulted in HMS Unicorn (and her unbuilt sisters) to serve as maintenance ships, which complemented Armoured CVs rather nicely.

It would be reasonable for argument to be raised that instead of having to build an entire additional class of carriers just to augument another class of CVs. I mean, there was plenty of handwringing about HMS Unicorn, as it would/could be seen by other nations as an actual CV instead of just "maintenance" one. Issues about the cost could also be problem, and Treasury is not going to be pleased, while there is also going to be a need for crews for those "non-combat" ships.

But, as other poster did mention, British were expecting to fight in areas where enemy land based aviation would make an appearance, which does make AB CVs a valid choice in those pre-Radar days....

Though, if the British did generally operate their CVs alongside Surface Forces, that does open some possibilities. I mean, if your ships are around you, especially heavy units, then there is much less danger of running into enemy surface ships (unless its HMS Glorious), so design could, and should be modified accordingly. So, can you stick an Armoured Flight Deck 3in thick, have it capable of handling more then 33 a/c of OTL Illustrious class ships, while remaining within 23k ton displacement?

IIRC one of the designs that became the Essex class had the hanger deck armour at flight deck level....but that was 27,000 tons.
 
The British intended their carriers to survive a stand up battle with AA guns to fight off attacking aircraft and the armoured flight deck to reduce the impact of hits. The fighters on board were intended as escorts for the bombers.

If they had gone for a "Japanese/US" type of carrier they would have needed different set of aircraft including better CAP fighters. That means that the Blackburn Roc can be put out of its misery. A new fighter would have to be developed using one of the Bristol engines of the time.
 
Thank you all for your replies.

Let us say that they do abandon the idea of the Armoured Box CV, due to worries about limited AC compliment
This is entirely reasonable, but I do have one question:
Will the deep and crippling problems that the FAA had be somewhat rectified? Without this changing, I see little overall effect to the british carrier hitting power.

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Some things to note here:

1. CVs with flight deck armor, and with the flight deck thus being the "strength deck" are significantly more expensive and tricky. The high weight higher in the hull creates stability problems and messes up basic ship structure by necessitating gigantic holes for elevators being chopped through said strength deck.

Suddenly the RN is saving time and money.

2. Deck spotting, handling, launch and recovery operations are greatly complicated by having the strenghth deck as the flight deck, usually because elevators must be limited in number

The RN may not be stuck launching aircraft in small groups that cannot coordinate.

3. Armored decks are focusing on preventing bomb damage while causing detriment to most other items. Certainly this paid off at times, Kamikazes being the standout here, but one may ask if less specialized protection wasnt better anyways.

4. They will be able to fit more aircraft on, period. Ths USN was able to mass enough naval aircraft onto carrier groups to challenge massed land based air; had they been using illustrious style ships they'd have needed twice the CVs for the compliment to match and 3 times the ships for the sortie generation to match. (Rough numbers, and I probably slightly overstate them.)

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This isn't me taking shots at RN design, mind you. They built good boats that served with distinction. It's hard not to view the Illustrious class in comparison the the Yorktowns from a roughly similar time period though.
 
The British intended their carriers to survive a stand up battle with AA guns to fight off attacking aircraft and the armoured flight deck to reduce the impact of hits. The fighters on board were intended as escorts for the bombers.

If they had gone for a "Japanese/US" type of carrier they would have needed different set of aircraft including better CAP fighters. That means that the Blackburn Roc can be put out of its misery. A new fighter would have to be developed using one of the Bristol engines of the time.
The problem is that no carrier based fighter was capable of really matching land based based fighters much before 1943 and for much of that time there were periods where the latest carrier based fighter was slower or not significantly faster than the latest land based twin and triple engine bombers

In 1940 for example the Japanese were still using the A5m Claude and the US were using the F2F, F3F and F2A Buffalo (10 aircraft assigned to VF-3 on USS Saratoga during 1940 with Thatch as one of those pilots).

So unless the Hurricane and or Spitfire are given their sea legs much earlier there is not a hell of a lot of options.
 
Well, WRT FAA I was more thinking about organization and training changes which could occur. I mean, with CVs which are able to carry more AC, that requires that FAA is also increased in size, enlarging its training programme and size of its organisation in general. If such a thing starts around 1936/37 period, then it would result in larger, more robust FAA (at least when compared to OTL), which would certainly pay dividends during the war. I really was not thinking about aircraft, because generally FAA did have adequate machines at its disposal during the war, with Indian Ocean (April '42) being the most glaring exception.

I mean, this may sound like heresy to many people, but if something like Fairey Fulmar is in active service by beginning (say January/February) of 1940, I would say that it is an improvement over OTL situation. After that, RN and FAA would have probably be best off buying US, considering the issues they faced with their naval aircraft during WW2. Was there any carrier aircraft that British built that would compare favourably to things like Hellcat or Corsair, or perhaps to the TBM Avenger? I do not want to sound condescending, and I really am a fan of all the various aircraft British put into carrier service (just take a look at my previous threads;) ), but they lost a generation of development in early 1940s, and were simply lagging behind, not that they could not have built something as good as US did.

This isn't me taking shots at RN design, mind you. They built good boats that served with distinction. It's hard not to view the Illustrious class in comparison the the Yorktowns from a roughly similar time period though.
No, I understand your thinking. The hindsight is 20/20, and they went for the reasonable option from their POV, especially considering political, technological and doctrinal realities of the time.

Make no mistake, I would like nothing more then to see British sweeping the seas with Malta class analogues, flying off Sea Furies in 1942, but unfortunately we must remain realistic.
 
When did the RN get enough aircraft for it's carriers? IIUC Ark Royal had 54 aircraft in late 41 when she could carry 60 and possibly overload more than that. If the ADCs were replaced with modified Arks there might not be the aircraft to put on them, although perhaps the RN might have got the ex Dutch Buffalos instead of the RAF.

If there are enough aircraft then Taranto would be launched with 30+ aircraft and Sommerville would have a lot more aircraft available in the Indian Ocean in 1942.
 
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The problem is that no carrier based fighter was capable of really matching land based based fighters much before 1943 and for much of that time there were periods where the latest carrier based fighter was slower or not significantly faster than the latest land based twin and triple engine bombers
Where sea based aircraft ever really faster, than true top end peer aircraft?
4. They will be able to fit more aircraft on, period. Ths USN was able to mass enough naval aircraft onto carrier groups to challenge massed land based air; had they been using illustrious style ships they'd have needed twice the CVs for the compliment to match and 3 times the ships for the sortie generation to match. (Rough numbers, and I probably slightly overstate them.)
Is that not as much simply due to numbers that would be unbelievable pre-war ie 7 CV (all larger than 1/2LNT limits) +8 CVLs?
 
I mean, of course their environment and enemies influenced it. But all Illustrious' survived the war while only 1 Yorktown did.

I would say the Brits designed well for their environment and it worked well for them. Them being not future proof is not really a mark against them (and hey, not like their contemporaries served long after the war either (Essex class counted as later ships, rather than "contemporary"), Vicky's long service following massive rebuild aside).
 
The British intended their carriers to survive a stand up battle with AA guns to fight off attacking aircraft and the armoured flight deck to reduce the impact of hits. The fighters on board were intended as escorts for the bombers.

If they had gone for a "Japanese/US" type of carrier they would have needed different set of aircraft including better CAP fighters. That means that the Blackburn Roc can be put out of its misery. A new fighter would have to be developed using one of the Bristol engines of the time.
I have seen (I forget where) a description of Brit CV's as oversized AAA Cruisers with good armor and a (secondarily) useful air group. Necessary because of the need to operate in fairly confined waters under hostile enemy air force activity. In that context, they don't look half bad, assuming you can upgrade the FAA's equipment...
 
I have seen (I forget where) a description of Brit CV's as oversized AAA Cruisers with good armor and a (secondarily) useful air group. Necessary because of the need to operate in fairly confined waters under hostile enemy air force activity. In that context, they don't look half bad, assuming you can upgrade the FAA's equipment...
Like I said earlier removing the armour from the hanger walls would allow a twin full height hanger decks solving the problem of a small air group. It still wouldn't be the same size as equivalent American or Japanese carriers because running with a deck park in the North Sea or Mediterranean would be a suicidally bad idea. As for what aircraft they'd carry well, the Skua is an acceptable dive bomber, the Fulmar is a good scout, the Sea Gladiator and later Sea Hurricane are acceptable by 1939 to 1941 standards there just weren't enough early enough, the Swordfish is obsolete by any reasonable measure (though it performed far better than anyone could have expected) and the Albacore is a disgrace that should never have seen the light of day.
 

McPherson

Banned
I'm not sure if I agree (at least any more than IJN/USN etc in 20s/30s), RN did plans and exercises for large CV actions like strikes on bases and using multiple CVs together pre-war. Was it not also thought by at least some as critical to slow down an enemy to force it to battle considering WWI experience of others declining to stay and fight.
All I can tell you, is that the RN simulated a port attack in 1936 or 1938, I think, with two aircraft carriers operating in tandem. This seems to be how they operated their aircraft carriers "independently". They did not have recognizable multi-aircraft carrier centric operations at all that a CVBG would be recognized in 1942 or 1943. It was more like a surface action group would split off into two divisions in war games, with cruisers and destroyers operating as van forces off the BB gun line for team A and a "Italian" SAG without an aircraft carrier, standing in for team B. The single British aircraft carrier split off and made a preliminary spoiler attack or scouting sweep with her aircraft as she maneuvered astern of the gunline in this mostly Mediterranean fleet or Home fleet exercises.

The Japanese, for their part, only began to deviate from this British inspired practice, themselves, when they lesson learned massed operations in CAS support of the Imperial Japanese Army in China. They had to mass their flattops to generate air raid sorties large enough to get through the ROCAF fighter defense and to support IJA coastal operations. This in turn translated into their famous 1940-1941 naval exercises in the North Pacific which finally solidified Kido Butai. Their one actual exercise which they ran that fleet against another fleet was for real and it was the Indian Ocean Raid, before they tangled with the Americans. Then they lesson learned the hard way what lack of radar and losing the recon battle meant. Fleet Problem XX killed them.

That was the "fleet problem" where FDR put to sea himself and watched his navy play "mock war". It was the aircraft carrier vs aircraft carrier problem and involved the Panama Canal. This is "where" LANTFLT demonstrated multi-aircraft carrier tactics definitively.

As for the Americans, they did the British follow the gunline procedures until they managed to simulate attacks on the Canal Zone and HAWAII. Then they wondered what would happen if the defender had an aircraft carrier of his own and they "invented" aircraft carrier versus aircraft carrier warfare and quickly learned about the "first strike or you are dead" character of naval air power without the means to detect inbound enemy air craft. This was roughly 1935. They did not have aircraft carriers to mass air operations at the time, (who did?) but they did learn that to survive a first strike and to counter-strike, the aircraft carriers had to be fast, had to operate independent of the surface fleet, had to have bodyguards (heavy cruisers were all they had which were fast enough), and had spread out, so one strike did not catch all the flattops together to be mission killed in one enemy strike. Does any of this sound and look familiar? (Coral Sea and Midway)
Is that not simply the end result of trying to cover three+ oceans with a single/two ocean navy, ie they simply had to split up due to lack of numbers and to many places to have to try and defend?
The Americans had a 1 and 1/4 ocean navy as they underbuilt to treaty limits before 1938. The British had Home Fleet and the Mediterranean Fleet, so call it a two ocean coverage. They had a "presence" in the Indian Ocean. Their "plan", if one could call the "Singapore Bastion Defense" a plan, was to take each Axis naval threat in sequence and crush it and then move on to the next one.. The Home Fleet would handle the Germans (Norway). The Mediterranean Fleet would quickly crush the Italians (Never happened until Matapan and even then the RM kept fighting.) and then the RN was to send elements of the Home and Mediterranean Fleets to deter the Japanese and power project into the South China Sea. (Force Z annihilated.).
Is that not more that she (Aquila) is based off SS Roma, so she was never going to be anything well protected...?
The Aquila was the hull to hand but when one looks at the Aquila, it is an open hanger and armored rafted flight deck design complete with sheave and drum catapults. The closest modern equivalent is a Russian style aviation fleet defense ship which actually duplicates its intended function as a fighter base to support and defend the surface action group it supports.
This is entirely reasonable, but I do have one question:
Will the deep and crippling problems that the FAA had be somewhat rectified? Without this changing, I see little overall effect to the british carrier hitting power.
The British problems were institutional and somewhat "political" (The RAF was incompetent.). One thing the big three naval air power users got wrong was not pay attention to MAHAN and apply him to a navy's air service. The Japanese more or less created a naval air force with the (大日本帝國海軍航空隊, Dai-Nippon Teikoku Kaigun Kōkū-tai and came closest to a unified air command, but they split off battlefield close air support and army air cooperation and gave those roles to the Imperial Japanese Army. Every other mission they gave to their navy, which is why they were so effective in the air early. Of all the air power users in WWII, the two who came closest to the use and denial of flight as an instrument of power projection and use, were... wait for it... China and Russia. Lack of means and tools did not prevent their air forces from organizing to the means, methods model for use and denial of the air as a medium to the enemy.

What has this to do with a naval air service or fleet air arm? Integrated air power means that the same planes which control the use of the air over land can do it over the sea. The mistake is to over-specify that use and denial. Strategic bombing is a means and method model. Battlefield interdiction mission is a means and method model. Air transport is a means and method model, Close air support is a means and method model.

The same plane can perform the same role whether it dive bombs or level bombs a troop concentration or a naval convoy. Proof? The Battle of the Bismarck Sea. The annihilation of Force Z. The air campaign against Rabaul. These were medium bomber battlefield interdiction missions performed by land based planes to complete sea denial and use missions. RIKKOs.

Aircraft carriers did the same thing with close air support type planes. Jimmy Doolittle ring a bell? (Ryujo rendered a dockyard case.). How about Taranto or PEARL HARBOR?

So... the British had the money, they had the production, they even had the technology, if they had applied it. What they did not have was a clear vision. But they were not alone. Like the Japanese and the Americans, it would take war to teach unified air operations as to mission and means and tools models, and still that lesson learned (F-4 Phantom; VIETNAM) has not been learned.
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Some things to note here:

1. CVs with flight deck armor, and with the flight deck thus being the "strength deck" are significantly more expensive and tricky. The high weight higher in the hull creates stability problems and messes up basic ship structure by necessitating gigantic holes for elevators being chopped through said strength deck.
Well... the shock mounted armored flight deck over an armored open bay hanger strength deck, and the open bay hangers and deck edge lifts are war lessons learned.
Suddenly the RN is saving time and money.
By going to a "light aircraft carrier", using the "many aircraft carriers" hypothesis. The problem is Rennell Islands. The British version is the "Club Runs" before the Pedestal Convoy Battle. RIKKOs can deny the use of the sea and the air above it; if the aircraft carriers and the planes they carry are not there to enforce air control themselves. If the wrong type of aircraft carriers and planes are used, a fleet dies.
2. Deck spotting, handling, launch and recovery operations are greatly complicated by having the strength deck as the flight deck, usually because elevators must be limited in number
See previous comment. Strike and arm below was a (false) economy measure in peacetime carried over into war. Keeping the planes out of the weather was to extend their use hours in service rather than have salt water eat the plane alive. Since aircraft casualties aboard a flattop amounted to 10% per annum in aircraft and aircrew KILLED in peacetime, the Americans decided that weather was not a problem after all. The Japanese followed the British custom. The British lesson learned to keep the explosions and fires topside and much to their surprise, found that they could park 50% more planes on their CVs than they thought they could if they hardstood the planes on the flight deck. The Japanese did not and what happened to them? Kaboom and burn downs.
The RN may not be stuck launching aircraft in small groups that cannot coordinate.
This could be, but Ark Royal as a model, shows they could work around the problems if they had series built to that specification, better developed the Skuas and Fulmars and solved the watts through props problems and built a plane that could drop a 500 kg bomb in a dive for use from a CV.
3. Armored decks are focusing on preventing bomb damage while causing detriment to most other items. Certainly this paid off at times, Kamikazes being the standout here, but one may ask if less specialized protection wasnt better anyways.
The armored deck is an admission that one has a lousy integrated (fleet) air defense. War lessons learned are as noted above where I described the "onion". RN flak was "terrible". Fighter direction was "fair". Fighters were "lousy". It is in the fighter (means and methods) that one ultimately controls the airspace use and denial over one's bit of ocean occupied. Notice that the Japanese were competitive as long as the A6M dominated the allied opposition in the air? Once they ran into a competitive tools user in the naval fighter means and methods (P-38 and F6F and F4U), they were done. This was NOT the Seafire or the Sea Hurricane or the land based versions of those aircraft in early war. Those, the IJNAS slaughtered.
4. They will be able to fit more aircraft on, period. Ths USN was able to mass enough naval aircraft onto carrier groups to challenge massed land based air; had they been using illustrious style ships they'd have needed twice the CVs for the compliment to match and 3 times the ships for the sortie generation to match. (Rough numbers, and I probably slightly overstate them.)
True, but one would have wished the USN had treaty cheated and shown up with 33,000 tonne Yorktowns with rafted armored flight decks with deck edge lifts. They could have traded about ten planes capacity for bouncing off the 500 kg bombs to which the Vals were limited. Plus the wider hulls to carry the flight deck means a 5 void torpedo defense system and tougher to sink by torpedoes, hulls. USN sortie rates were sloooooooow, until they learned Japanese methods, so I think the sortie rate argument is more a Korean War lessons learned.
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This isn't me taking shots at RN design, mind you. They built good boats that served with distinction. It's hard not to view the Illustrious class in comparison the the Yorktowns from a roughly similar time period though.
Survival wise, the Yorktowns were pounded hard by expert PROFESSIONALS. The Illustrious series faced a clown club in Fliegerkorps X. Still the Illustrious class held up well.
The problem is that no carrier based fighter was capable of really matching land based based fighters much before 1943 and for much of that time there were periods where the latest carrier based fighter was slower or not significantly faster than the latest land based twin and triple engine bombers
The British problem was RAF politics. The American problem was Army, Navy and inside the Navy POLITICS. The Japanese problem was weak aircraft engines. The German problem was Fatso Goering and Fathead Raeder. The Italian problem was Balbo was not running their air war. The Russian problem was ... Stalin mainly. The watts through props issue really only affected the Japanese and they coped rather well at the start. The engines were there in 1939 (Pratts and Bristols and Merlins), as were the aircraft designers who could deliver the right type of air frames (Grumman and Douglas (Heinemann especially) and FOKKER and Northrop).

The Idiots In Charge, (Tower, Stark, for the USN, Arnold and Bissell and BRERETON for the USAAF) (Portal and Pound and et al for the British), did not know what worked or what was needed until 1943. Example... Whirlwind for the British and Skyrocket for the US. Even the P-38 (Model 24 had it been navalized.) despite its problems, would have tipped the scales because "THAT PLANE" would have been the "universal strike aircraft" the USN needed in 1942.
In 1940 for example the Japanese were still using the A5m Claude and the US were using the F2F, F3F and F2A Buffalo (10 aircraft assigned to VF-3 on USS Saratoga during 1940 with Thatch as one of those pilots).
First flight of the P-38 was January 1939.
First flight of the F5F Skyrocket was 1 April 1940.
First flight of the F4F Wildcat was 2 September 1937
First flight of the F2F was 2 December 1937
First flight of the Westland Whirlwind was 11 October 1938.

P-38 was not navalized because John Tower thought it was too expensive and too complicated. Tigercat ring a bell?
F5F Skyrocket was rejected because John Tower thought it was too expensive and too complicated. Tigercat ring a bell?
Tower chose the Buffalo over the Wildcat because he thought the Buffalo showed "more potential". Hellcat ring a bell?
Tower chose the F2F. He should have been in the same prison wing with the idiots of Brewster Aircraft.
The Whirlwind would evolve into the Welkin. The problem with it, can be traced to the incompetent RAF who opted for the wrong type of propeller and the wrong type of engines. Ditch de Havilland props, use HAMILTON STANDARD and fit the bird with radial engined Bristol Taurus engines or PRATTs and she'll banshee at high altitude instead of limp due to the botched Peregrines.

And of course with a Whirlwind, one gets an RAF "universal strike aircraft". Land or sea.
So unless the Hurricane and or Spitfire are given their sea legs much earlier there is not a hell of a lot of options.
There are four options. Five if one stuffs decent radials into a Fokker G1.
When did the RN get enough aircraft for it's carriers? IIUC Ark Royal had 54 aircraft in late 41 when she could carry 60 and possibly overload more than that. If the ADCs were replaced with modified Arks there might not be the aircraft to put on them, although perhaps the RN might have got the ex Dutch Buffalos instead of the RAF.
See my previous candidates and comments.
If there are enough aircraft then Taranto would be launched with 30+ aircraft and Sommerville would have a lot more aircraft available in the Indian Ocean in 1942.
See my previous comments. Somerville needed aircraft with GIBs for night-ops and he needed to be a much better admiral than he was, or he needed Lyster instead of the incompetent Boyd to handle flight ops.
Where sea based aircraft ever really faster, than true top end peer aircraft?
Phantom IIs and if one wants the WWII examples?

Hellcat.
Bearcat.
Corsair.
Tigercat.
In its era, the Zero.
Is that not as much simply due to numbers that would be unbelievable pre-war ie 7 CV (all larger than 1/2LNT limits) +8 CVLs?
It depends. Five Ark Royals are better than the garbage lineup the RN had in 1939.
I mean, of course their environment and enemies influenced it. But all Illustrious' survived the war while only 1 Yorktown did.
See my previous comments about this.
I would say the Brits designed well for their environment and it worked well for them. Them being not future proof is not really a mark against them (and hey, not like their contemporaries served long after the war either (Essex class counted as later ships, rather than "contemporary"), Vicky's long service following massive rebuild aside).
The British BOTCHED their postwar rebuilds. The Americans looked and learned, but even they botched the Midways.
 
N.B. All of the following background information is IIRC because I haven't checked my reference books. Therefore it may contain errors.

The number aircraft carriers required by the Royal Navy was a function of the number of aircraft required by the fleet.

When Ark Royal was designed the requirement was for 360 fleet aircraft. These were to be carried by five 22,000 ton aircraft carriers. The Washington and First London Naval Treaties were in force at the time and they allowed the British Commonwealth to have 135,000 tons of aircraft carriers with individual ships displacing a maximum of 27,000 tons. However, the Admiralty wanted this to be reduced to 110,000 tons with individual ships displacing a maximum of 22,000 tons in the Second London Naval Treaty which was scheduled to be negotiated in 1935 and come into force at the beginning of 1937. This was because the Admiralty wanted to reduce the cost of individual ships so that they could be built in the numbers it required.

However, it didn't work like that because the Second London Naval Treaty abolished the tonnage quotas and reduced the maximum displacement of individual ships from 27,000 tons to 23,000 tons.

Prior to the Nazis coming to power in Germany the Admiralty wanted a one-power standard fleet to fight Japan its only potential enemy. Its requirements evolved in the period 1934-36 into a two-power standard fleet capable of fighting Germany and Japan at the same time.

The fleet aircraft requirement declined from 360 to 300 because of the introduction of multi-role aircraft like the Torpedo-Spotter-Reconnaissance Blackburn Shark and Fairey Swordfish. Furthermore, the RN wasn't keen on cramming as many aircraft as possible into its aircraft carriers and thought the Americans and Japanese were lying about the numbers of aircraft that their aircraft carriers could operate.

Therefore, they took advantage of the abolition of the tonnage quotas and the Treasury loosening the purse strings to build a larger number of smaller capacity aircraft carriers. The 300 fleet aircraft were to be carried by seven 23,000 ton ships rated at 36 aircraft each and Ark Royal which was rated as a 48 aircraft ship. The abolition of the tonnage quotas and loosening of the purse strings also allowed for the addition of five trade protection carriers to work with the cruiser squadrons operating outside the two main fleets and one training carrier. These ships would displace in the region of 15,000 tons (give or take 2 or 3 thousand tons) and carry 18 aircraft. Thus the new requirement was for a total of 14 aircraft carriers (8 large fleet carriers and 6 smaller trade protection & training ships) to be completed by the middle of the 1940s.

None of the sketch designs for the trade protection carrier were satisfactory and at £3 million each they weren't significantly cheaper than the new fleet carrier whose estimated cost was £4 million. Therefore it was decided build more ships of the 23,000 ton design for the trade protection role. The new requirement was still for 14 ships by the middle of the 1940s but it would now comprise ten 23,000 ton ships to be ordered at a rate of 2 per year from the 1936-37 Estimates onwards plus Ark Royal, Courageous, Furious and Glorious. E.g. the 1936-37 Estimates originally included one 23,000 ton ship and one trade protection ship but it was altered to two 23,000 ton ships (Illustrious and Victorious).

Around the same time the Cabinet approved the RAF's Expansion Scheme F. This included increasing size of the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Air Force to 312 aircraft in the equivalent of 26 squadrons by the end of March 1939 and 504 aircraft in the equivalent of 42 squadrons by the end of March 1942. However, these totals included amphibians and seaplanes aboard capital ships, cruisers and seaplane carriers as well as carrier aircraft.

Although the Illustrious class and the un-built trade protection ships were rated by their respective hangar capacities of 36 and 18 aircraft the staff requirements that they were designed to meet called for maximum capacities of 48 and 24 aircraft respectively with the extra aircraft accommodated in deck parks.
 
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Why do armoured deck carriers get such a bad rap?

Ark Royal
Flight Deck 720x95ft (68400sq)
Upper Hangar 568x60ft (34080sq)
Lower Hangar 452x60ft (27120sq) (61200sq total)

Fuel: 100,000gal

Illustrious
Flight Deck 740x95ft (after round-downs removed) (70300sq)
Hangar 458x62ft (28396sq)

Fuel: 50,540gal

Yorktown
Flight Deck 802x86ft (68972sq)
Hangar 546x63ft (34398sq)

Fuel: 178,000gal

The flight deck areas is all three designs, within a 1000 square feet in area. Yorktown and Illustrious have half the hangar space of Ark Royal.
The real clear advantage that US carriers had was their ability to repair flight decks rapidly in theatre. The Fleet Exercises were nice for tactical ideas and eye catching stunts but the strategic tabletop gaming showed that the USN needed vast numbers of aircraft and the ability to stay close to the front by rapidly repairing decks that were so vulnerable to damage. The telling stat between navies is in how much avgas to carry, not just the size of the airgroup by the tempo of sorties it can run. However, the flight deck and keeping it safe is the most important feature of a carrier as without it, the ship is just a handicap.
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Back to the shop!

320px-HMS_Formidable_%2867%29_dented_flight_deck_1945.jpg

That'll buff out!
 
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