Military Review

Great maneuvers


1922 year became in stories aircraft carrier fleet the milestone that most directly contributed to its further development. Although at first glance this statement may seem paradoxical. A year earlier, on July 10, United States Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes formally proposed convening an international conference on the reduction of naval armaments in Washington. In connection with this, official invitations were sent to the heads of the leading capitalist powers.

Starting point

The goal of the United States was to bring the balance of the naval forces of the major maritime powers into conformity with its interests, to eliminate as much as possible the predominance of the English linear fleet, and also to neutralize the steady build-up of Japanese power in the Pacific.

As for Britain, it was difficult for her to reject the proposal of the Americans - the naval arms race, which began in the First World War, put her in front of serious financial problems, she could hardly maintain the huge fleet at that time, and the military debt of Britain to the United States States were no less than 850 million pounds. In addition, the so-called “Irish question” was a “subtle place” for the British Empire. Back in June, 1921 was given to the British government that the decision of the American Congress to officially recognize the Republic of Ireland would depend on the nature of the relationship between England and Japan. The fact is that the Anglo-Japanese alliance significantly complicated the life of the United States in the Pacific, as it not only affected their economic interests (particularly in China), but could also, in the event of a war with one of the members of the union, lead to the need for fighting on two fronts. So, the English delegate had no choice but to support the proposals set forth by the United States.

The Japanese Minister of the Navy also expressed his agreement in principle. Japan, like the UK, experienced domestic political and financial difficulties. Moreover, at that time she did not have enough power to enter into open conflict with America and Britain, which means that in order to prepare for war in the Pacific, Japan needed to win as much time as possible.

6 February 1922, after almost three months of discussion, the representatives of the United States, Great Britain, Japan, Italy and France signed an agreement on the limitation of naval armaments, also known as the Treaty of the Five Powers. One of the clauses of the Agreement prohibited the construction of aircraft carriers with a displacement of more than 27 000 tons, but at the same time with the purpose of using the unfinished battleships and line cruisers of the participating countries on the stocks, they were allowed to complete them as aircraft carriers with a displacement not exceeding 33 000 tons.

Thus, the Washington Conference was the impetus for the beginning of a fundamentally new stage in the design, construction and development of aircraft carriers.

Sea monopolist

The only owner of the carrier fleet after the end of World War I was Great Britain. But in April 1918 by British Maritime aviation a very tangible blow was dealt. The Royal British Air Force Corps, which was run by the army, and the Royal Naval Air Service were merged into the Royal Air Force. And while naval aviation was under their control, it fell into complete decline. The level of pilot training was an order of magnitude lower than, for example, in the United States and Japan, and the types of carrier-based aircraft that the Royal Navy possessed were difficult to name otherwise than flying anachronisms. Nevertheless, flights over the sea, as well as operations from aircraft carriers and as part of a squadron, required special training and considerable practical experience. And therefore, for the second time in the history of the existence of British aircraft-carrying ships, the Admiralty was faced with the question of the need to create aviation subordinate specifically to the fleet. Among the supporters of this position was Winston Churchill, who soon became the First Lord of the Admiralty. As a result, the unit, dubbed the FAA (Fleet Air Arm), or Fleet Air Force, was able to form only by April 1924.

By the time World War I ended, there were three aircraft carriers in the fleet of aircraft carriers — the Argus, Fiumiosis and Vindictiv; two more — the Eagle and Hermes — were under construction. The Hermes, the first ship in the world, originally designed as an aircraft carrier, was laid by the British in January 1918-th at the shipyard Armstrong. The development of documentation, and the construction itself went fairly quickly, but after a truce was concluded with Germany, all work was suspended. At the end of the war, the need for a new aircraft carrier was no longer so obvious to the Admiralty. And only in 1920-m "Hermes" was transferred to Devonport for completion.

In 1922, the aircraft was put in for repair and the next modernization of the aircraft carrier Fiuryoz, which was put into operation during the First World War. The Korejjes and Glories light battle cruisers were unsuccessful, because even with strong armaments and high speed, they carried extremely weak reservations. That is why in July 1920 was decided to rebuild them into aircraft carriers of the same type as the Fiurios.

Nevertheless, all of these ships, which were the result of reworking ships of other classes, were far from being able to realize the full potential of full-fledged aircraft carriers, and therefore the Admiralty embarked on the development of a completely new ship project. In September, 1935 was laid down one of the most beautiful ships of the royal fleet - the aircraft carrier Arc Royal, which became a model for all subsequent ships of this type.

Before the start of the Second World War, in connection with the intensification of German actions, the pace of construction of new British ships increased significantly. Four aircraft carriers were laid in 1937, and three more in the 1939. Six of them were completely new type of ships - with armored flight decks. Thus, by 1 September 1939, the UK had 7 aircraft carriers in its fleet, however, their deck planes were obsolete. Moreover, most of them were designed according to a biplane scheme; besides, the Royal Navy, unlike the fleet of the United States of America, and especially Japan, had practically no diving bombers.

Big breakthrough

The Japanese, unlike the Americans and the British, much earlier realized that aircraft carriers would play a dominant role in the future war at sea, while the battleships and cruisers would serve to support the actions of the aircraft carrier groups. This was the reason for their main tactics - the Japanese intended to act in groups, at several ships, striking at the targets they had chosen at the same time with a large number of aircraft.

In 1920, Japan laid down its first aircraft carrier, Josho, or Flying Phoenix (a symbol of Japan’s military renaissance), thus becoming the owner of the world's first special-purpose aircraft carrier (the English Hermes came into service on Hosy 14 months later) . According to the new naval doctrine, adopted at the end of 1918, aircraft were given a fairly serious role in the day battle between the main forces. In addition to reconnaissance and fire adjustment, the task of direct destruction of enemy forces was assigned to it. The defeat was supposed to be completed by night attacks of ocean destroyers and light cruisers. But since in connection with the final document of the Washington Conference, these plans were not destined to be realized, Japan began to actively build aircraft carriers. For these purposes, it was decided to re-equip the unfinished battlecruisers "Akagi" ("Red Castle") and "Amagi" ("Sky Castle"). However, the last after the strongest earthquake that occurred in September 1923-th, which damaged its body, was sent for scrap, and its place was taken by the aircraft carrier “Kaga” (“Violent fun”) rebuilt from the battleship.

Both of these ships, like the British "Furyos", had a stepped deck layout. Although later they were also improved - an increase in the size of the hangars and the length of the flight decks made it possible to take on board not 60 machines, as before, but 90. The fourth Japanese aircraft carrier, the Ryujo (the Rearing Dragon), because of its very mediocre tactical and technical characteristics, had to take a limited part in combat operations during the initial period of the war. As for the other two pre-war aircraft carriers of the Imperial Navy - “Soryu” (“Gray-blue dragon”) and “Hiryu” (“Flying dragon”), they had a high speed, a fairly large air group and strong anti-aircraft artillery.

Thus, before the start of the war, Japan had six operating aircraft carriers, and another three could count on in the near future. The Japanese Navy paid a lot of attention to auxiliary vessels, such as floating submarine bases and hydro-vehicles, which, if hostilities began, could be quickly converted into aircraft carriers. In addition, before the war, the Japanese navy received new types of carrier-based aircraft, including the magnificent Zero fighter.

Property of the Republic

The French Navy, which had hydraulic avian carriers converted from commercial ships, was forced to “return” them to peaceful service after the end of the First World War. And the outcome of the Washington Conference clearly showed that the Republican fleet needed a full-fledged aircraft carrier, and not a carrier of seaplanes at all. The most suitable object for this was considered to be the unfinished battleship “Bearn”. Soon a hangar, a flight deck and a superstructure (the so-called “island” located on the starboard side) were built on it.

Then the work was suspended and resumed only in August, 1923-th, however, quite sluggishly. The main reason for this was not so much the budget deficit (although it could not be discounted), as the apparent distrust of the French command to the new, expensive and poorly-armed type of ship. Admirals could not accept the idea that there would be no artillery on the ship. And yet, after 5 years, “Bearn” nevertheless entered service.

And, actually, on this France's attempts to acquire their own aircraft carriers were completed.

The main culprit

Under the terms of the Versailles Treaty, Germany was deprived of the right to have military aircraft carrier ships, but this circumstance did not exclude for her the possibility of carrying out active design developments in this area. And therefore, in April, 1934, within the framework of the Main Design Directorate, organized its own department for designing aircraft carriers, which was given the task of developing the design of the first German aircraft carrier. The management of all the work was assigned to the shipbuilding engineer, technical adviser to the maritime ministry, Wilhelm Hadeler. He enthusiastically set to work, and by the beginning of the summer of 1934, the draft design of the first German aircraft carrier was submitted for consideration. In November 1935, Deutsche Werke Kiel AG, based in the city of Kiel, was issued an order for the construction of an aircraft carrier. In December, the 38-th not-yet-ready “Count Zeppelin” in the presence of Hitler and Goering was not water. The name was given to him by the Countess Hella von Brandenstein-Zeppelin, present at the ceremony, the daughter of the famous Count Zeppelin. A year later, all the programs of the German aircraft carrier construction were curtailed.

The version that the "Graf Zeppelin" was never put into operation at the suggestion of Luftwaffe commander Hermann Göring was widely adopted, since he in every way slowed down the work on the creation and transfer of deck aircraft to the fleet (his statement is well known - “Everything that flies, belongs to me. ") In fact, the deck planes were created in a timely manner, in accordance with the original schedule of construction of the ship.

It was even formed the wing of the ship, which included the Junkers Ju-87 dive bomber divers and the Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighters, equipped with devices for the ejection start and landing on the aerofinisher - deck braking device. But the construction of the aircraft carriers planned by Germany was never completed.

Skeptics of the New World

The American experimental aircraft carriers that existed after World War I could not claim to be the striking force of the fleet, and yet the possibility of building aircraft carriers continued to be studied. In the summer of 1919, the United States Congress passed the “Act on Naval Appropriations,” according to which the US Navy could afford to re-equip one aircraft carrier. For these purposes, the coal miner "Jupiter" was selected, which was commissioned in 1922 year as the aircraft carrier "Langley". At first, his planes were used only to protect battleships from coastal attacks, but in 1928, during exercises in the Hawaiian Islands, they made an unexpected attack on Pearl Harbor, “bombing” the base airfields.

As for the creation of independent US Air Forces, the movement in its support was very protracted and ambiguous. Brigadier General William Mitchell, who commanded during the First World American Aviation in Europe, headed this movement and advocated the creation of independent of the army or the air force fleet. At the beginning of 1920, Mitchell, proving the correctness of his position, stated that the air attacks, coupled with the attacks of submarines in the prevailing situation at that time, “make such free actions of surface ships as it was earlier. They are generally able to drive ships from the surface under water. " In this regard, it was decided to experimentally determine the degree of impact of the bombs on ships. And after the Mitchell aircraft sank several ship-targets, another series of tests took place, proving that "the advent of aviation made the battleship obsolete."

Rear Admiral William Sims also initially considered aircraft carriers only auxiliary units, assigning the main role to the linear fleet, but after holding a naval college within the walls of which he was appointed president, several "battles" of aircraft carrier formations against a fleet that does not have aircraft carriers turned into an ardent supporter of carrier-based aircraft, saying soon that he "is absolutely convinced that the future will inevitably prove: a fleet that has 20 aircraft carriers instead of 16 battleships and 4 aircraft carriers will destroy the enemy fleet." Sims was supported by Rear Admiral Bradley Fisk: "If there was a battle at sea between an aircraft carrier and 2 battleships, and I would have to choose which side to take, I would prefer to be on the aircraft carrier ...". Yet the struggle between supporters and opponents of this class of courts continued until the beginning of a new war.

Before the First World Congress approved the construction of 6 battlecruisers, after the Washington Conference, it was decided to disassemble 4 of them for metal, and to complete the rest of 2 as aircraft carriers. For this, Lexington and Saratoga were chosen - ships that were in the maximum degree of readiness. The first American aircraft carrier of special construction was the Ranger, laid out in September of the 1931, reflecting the new views on the role of a ship of this class. According to the new concept, the aircraft carrier was not to operate separately from the squadron, but only under the cover of cruisers and destroyers. And since his one-on-one meeting with the enemy was virtually eliminated, the enhanced booking, powerful artillery, as well as the travel speed exceeding the 30 nodes could be sacrificed for air capacity.

And yet, by the beginning of the new war, the training of naval pilots, however, like the fleet itself, left much to be desired.

The triumph of rationalism

Taking into account the direction of development of fleets of leading maritime powers and the command of the Red Army naval forces already received during the First World Experience in presenting the draft of the first Soviet military shipbuilding program in 1925, proposed to convert the unfinished line cruiser Izmail and damaged by aircraft into aircraft carriers fire battleship "Poltava". But since it was not possible to restore the practically burnt-out Poltava, it was decided to reconstruct only Izmail. In 1925, the scientific and technical committee of the Naval Forces Administration of the Red Army was tasked to develop a draft design of an aircraft carrier converted from Izmail, designed for 50 aircraft.

At the beginning of the 30s, the concept of "small war at sea" was based on the Soviet naval doctrine. According to this doctrine, the main tasks of the fleet were: to assist the coastal grouping of ground forces, jointly with the ground forces to defend their coast and act on enemy lines. Basic aviation and submarines were the best suited for solving the tasks that were set purely defensive. But in the middle of the 30-s, the situation changed. According to the newly developed project for the creation of a “large sea and ocean fleet” (1938 — 1947 years), priority was given to the construction of battleships and heavy cruisers. And in August, the 1937 th Defense Committee under the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR adopted a decree “On the construction of warships for the Red Army naval forces”, in which, among other things, it was recognized that it was necessary to develop an aircraft carrier project. The basis of the "project 71" lay light cruiser type "Chapaev."

Great maneuvers

Attempts to eliminate comments on the “71 project” led to the development of the “71 project”. This ship was much more responsive to the conditions of combat use in remote areas, differed by increased displacement, higher aircraft capacity (70 machines), improved seaworthiness, enhanced artillery weapons and the presence of anti-torpedo defense.

The role of aircraft carriers in the “large sea and ocean fleet”, the need for close cooperation between ships and aircraft in solving its tasks, was realized and proved to the country's leadership by the People’s Commissar of the Navy flagship 1939-rank N.G. Kuznetsov. But it must be said that at that time the sea power of the state, its scientific and technical potential were assessed primarily on whether it was able to build battleships and battle cruisers. In addition, unlike the Germans who tried to complete their only aircraft carrier throughout the war, the Soviet leadership quite soberly assessed the capabilities of the domestic shipbuilding industry, realizing that it would hardly be possible to commission a ship of this class without proper aviation equipment, but even it will be possible to carry out, then his single actions will be absolutely useless. So at that time, the refusal to build aircraft carriers was not a mistake, but rather the only correct solution, which allowed to avoid unnecessary waste of forces and means.

In total, by the beginning of the Second World War, 19 aircraft carriers were at the disposal of the fleets of the world, at the same time their initial classification was outlined and operational-tactical tasks were determined. Most clearly managed to develop tactics of the aircraft carrier groups of the Japanese Imperial Fleet, the other fleets identified it only in general terms. The upcoming war was to reveal the true value of ships of this class.
Weapon World War II. Aircraft carriers

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  1. Alex
    Alex 27 June 2014 22: 51
    Good reviewer, thanks to the author.