The flight-deck cruiser
was a proposed type of warship
A warship is a ship that is built and primarily intended for combat. Warships are usually built in a completely different way from merchant ships. As well as being armed, warships are designed to withstand damage and are usually faster and more maneuvrable than merchant ships...
, designed by the United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...
during the period between World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...
and World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
. Combining features of aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...
s and light cruiser
A light cruiser is a type of small- or medium-sized warship. The term is a shortening of the phrase "light armored cruiser", describing a small ship that carried armor in the same way as an armored cruiser: a protective belt and deck...
s, several designs were proposed for the type, but none were approved for construction. The final design was developed just before World War II, and the entry of the United States into the war saw the project come to an end.
In the 1920s, following the signing of the Washington Naval Treaty
The Washington Naval Treaty, also known as the Five-Power Treaty, was an attempt to cap and limit, and "prevent 'further' costly escalation" of the naval arms race that had begun after World War I between various International powers, each of which had significant naval fleets. The treaty was...
, the United States Navy converted two incomplete battlecruisers into aircraft carriers, and . These conversions proved to be extremely expensive, and designs were sought that would provide aircraft carrying capability for the fleet at a more reasonable cost. , America's first purpose-built aircraft carrier, was of a smaller, more economical design than the battlecruiser conversions, however the ship sacrificed the big-gun scouting capability of the earlier ships. In an attempt to develop a ship capable of both carrying aircraft and engaging the enemy in the scouting role, the "flight-deck cruiser" concept was developed, following a series of studies proposing the conversion of cruisers under construction into carriers, all of which were rejected. In addition to providing an economical method of providing additional aircraft for the fleet, the "flight-deck cruiser" was seen to have an additional advantage; it would be considered a cruiser under the terms of the Washington Treaty, not an aircraft carrier, and thus the Navy would not be restricted in the number of ships of the type that could be built.
Several designs were proposed for a ship carrying both aircraft and a gun armament equivalent to a light cruiser's. One design, from 1930, was described as "a forwards [and] one half of a aft", and utilized an early version of the angled deck that would in the 1950s be adopted for use by fleet carriers. The vessel, 650 feet (198.1 m) in length, had a 350 feet (106.7 m) flight deck and hangar aft for twenty-four aircraft, while forwards three triple 6 inches (152.4 mm) gun turrets were mounted, the standard armament for a light cruiser of the time. A secondary dual purpose armament of eight 5 inches (127 mm) guns was also projected to be carried for defense against enemy torpedo-boats and aircraft..
In 1934, another design for a flight-deck cruiser was proposed, featuring twelve 6 in (152.4 mm) guns, mounted forwards and aft with a 200 feet (61 m) flight deck in between; while a 1939 revival of the concept proposed two triple turrets, fore and aft, again with an amidships flight deck.
In December 1939, a design for a much larger flight-deck cruiser, displacing 12,000 tons, was proposed, fitted with two catapults, a triple turret for 8 inches (203.2 mm) guns, and a 420 feet (128 m) flight deck; by January 1940 the design had been shrunk to a flight deck 390 feet (118.9 m) in length and two triple 6 in (152.4 mm) guns for main armament.
Despite the continued designs and interest in the idea, no funding was ever appropriated for the construction of a flight-deck cruiser; in addition, evaluation of the design by the Naval War College
The Naval War College is an education and research institution of the United States Navy that specializes in developing ideas for naval warfare and passing them along to officers of the Navy. The college is located on the grounds of Naval Station Newport in Newport, Rhode Island...
determined that even a 12,000-ton ship was too small for the concept's intended characteristics to be effectively realized, and thus the ship would be ineffective in battle. In 1940, the design was formally shelved, although provision was made for reconsideration of the concept at a future date. The entry of the United States into World War II following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, however, removed the primary justifications for the concept of a hybrid warship, as naval limitations treaties were now moot and adequate funding was now available for the construction of more conventional ships. As a result, the flight deck cruiser concept was never revisited.
Although no flight-deck cruisers were ever built by the U.S. Navy, the Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....
's , developed in the 1970s, is remarkably similar to that of the original flight-deck cruiser design, featuring an angled flight deck aft with anti-ship missile
Anti-ship missiles are guided missiles that are designed for use against ships and large boats. Most anti-ship missiles are of the sea-skimming type, many use a combination of inertial guidance and radar homing...
launchers forwards. In addition, during the early 1980s, plans were proposed for the reactivation of the U.S. Navy's Iowa
class battleships that entailed the removal of each ship's aft turret and the installation of a flight deck for operating V/STOL aircraft; in the end a much more modest conversion, lacking the flight deck, was carried out.
- Kiev class aircraft carrier
The Kiev class carriers were the first class of fixed-wing aircraft carriers built in the Soviet Union....
- Moskva class helicopter carrier
- Through deck cruiser