After writing about the problems the America and Gerald R. Ford-class carriers of the United States Navy are suffering, I thought about what carriers are the best in my mind. There are plenty of ways to get your head around it. You can sort them by size, tonnage and power, or by historical importance, or even by looks! But I look at aircraft carriers as symbols of our technical capacity and marvel, and as the might of Human ‘spirit’. I will be rating 5 aircraft carriers that go down in my books as my favourites and I will be giving reasons for each rating.
5) United States Navy & Royal Navy, Bogue-class
Kicking this small list off. The Bogue-class were the first major class of escort carriers to be built by the United States. My interest in them is the historical importance of them to both the US and the UK, to which many were lend-leased to the latter during World War II. 45 ships of the class were completed, making them the second most mass-produced aircraft carrier class ever. They were based of the Type C3 cargo ship hull, and were quickly assembled to provide much-needed air/escort coverage to conveys during their transit throughout the sea, freeing up larger carriers for offensive operations. Without their contribution, countless convoy and merchantmen ships would of perished at the hands of German and Japanese submarines.
4) United States Navy, Essex-class
When you think about the impact that aircraft carriers have had on the world, undoubtedly the Essex-class fleet carriers is the first carriers on some people’s mind (as long as they know about the events in the Pacific 😛 ). Essex is thought as being the class of ship that won the Pacific theatre of World War II, and for good reason. The US’s industrial capacity powered the quick and overwhelming onslaught of Essex-class carriers that utterly defeated the Japan’s resistance to attack in the Pacific. No ships of the class were lost to enemy action, although USS Franklin (CV-13) came close due to kamikaze attacks. She survived the War despite the damage, and many other ships of the class became the backbone of post-war US naval strength until the supercarriers of the Forrestal and Kitty Hawk-class entered the fleet in numbers during the 1950s and 1960s. Some members of the class even remained in service until the early-1990s after rigorous refitting. Four ships of the class have been preserved as museums (4 out of the 5 total preserved USN carriers, as of October 2016).
3) Royal Navy, HMS Argus (I49)
The next carrier is another carrier with a huge impact behind its belt, but an even bigger one than the Essex-class. Argus is the first true aircraft carrier of any sorts. The completely-flat flight deck is something that all future aircraft carriers share. The design does not incorporate an island superstructure yet. Her early service period involved aiding the development of the optimum design for carriers. She entered service too late to see any action in World War I, but she served in World War II first as a training carrier and then as a front-line unit to replace losses. She served as an accommodation ship near the end of the War and was scrapped shortly after.
2) Royal Navy, HMS Ocean (L12)
The Royal Navy has been stripped of its naval aviation assets as of late, leaving HMS Ocean (L12) as currently the only aircraft carrier of any sorts at the Royal Navy’s disposal. She is also currently one of only a few Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) carriers left in service within a World’s navy. My interest in Ocean is hope. She represents the potential of our Navy to field a powerful and sophisticated naval aviation force. Ocean is an advanced vessel, with known prowess in operation efficiency. I am saddened that she will be retired in only two years time. I hope she will be preserved, as she is my favourite British aircraft carrier!
1) United States Navy, USS Enterprise
The “Big E” CVN-65 takes my spot as my favourite aircraft carrier. She takes this spot with a combination of factors. Firstly, she is a technical achievement due to the fact Enterprise is the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier built. She is also the longest naval ship built, and the longest serving aircraft carrier of the United States Navy (51 years). Enterprise is a truly a beautiful piece of technical marvel, and an appreciated national treasure for the United States. It saddens me she will not be preserved due to the fact nuclear deactivation requires the ship to be cut up and thus no longer sea-worthy to be transported or preserved as a museum ship.
She is the second aircraft carrier to bare the legendary name of Enterprise. The name itself is a no stranger to fame and glory, with the CV-6 of World War II fame also being affectionately referred to as the Big E. CV-6 was the most decorated warship of World War II, and became a national symbol of power for the United States. Sadly, she too was not preserved, a true crime against history. But the impact Enterprise made remains with us to this day. So much so, that the third Gerald R. Ford-class supercarrier will be named Enterprise.
The name will continue.