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    Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Bender 

    All Hands Magazine

    Since the invention of the aircraft
    carrier, the United States carrier fleet has
    been the largest in the world. The U.S. Navy
    currently has 11 aircraft carriers and nine
    amphibious assault carriers, nearly as many
    as every other country in the world combined.
    Since the beginning, aircraft carriers were
    built for a specific time and place but often
    saw use well beyond their intended lifespan
    and purpose.
    The first full-length flat-deck ship used
    to launch aircraft was HMS Argus, a Royal
    Navy aircraft carrier built in 1918 on a converted
    merchant-ship hull. The concept was an
    evolutionary improvement on earlier seaplane
    carriers, which used cranes to place sea or float
    planes for takeoff from the sea. Seaplanes were
    heavier than wheeled-land planes, so engineers
    designed a flat-deck ship to take advantage
    of the better performance of lighter, wheeled
    planes. World War I ended before Argus saw
    action, but the U.S. and Japanese navies soon
    followed the British example. The first U.S.
    carrier was a converted collier renamed USS
    Langley (CV 1), completed in March 1922 and
    followed closely by the Japanese carrier Hosho,
    which was the first purpose-built carrier and
    entered service in December 1922.
    Although Britain, the U.S., and Japan
    were limited by arms control treaties in the
    1920-30s, all three navies built additional
    aircraft carriers, with each fielding about half-a-
    dozen carriers by the start of World War II.
    Other than some combat operations in
    China by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), no
    one had much wartime experience operating
    fast carriers. Following the outbreak of war
    in Europe in 1939, and especially after the
    Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, all
    that changed.
    By delivering devastating attacks on
    enemy ships and bases by aircraft based on
    mobile bases at sea, aircraft carrier strikes
    transformed naval warfare at sea.
    On May 4, 1942, the Battle of the
    Coral Sea commenced, which was the first
    carrier-to-carrier naval battle in history, and
    the first naval engagement where neither fleet
    came within sight of or fired directly upon the
    other. The Japanese were turned back by the
    allies for the first time during the war after a
    4-day engagement.
    Coral Sea was followed one month later
    by what is considered to be the most important
    naval battle in the Pacific during World War II;
    the Battle of Midway. Japan intended to occupy
    Midway and lure the American carriers into a
    trap, but American cryptographers were able to
    uncover the plot and forewarn the fleet. During
    the battle, the Japanese lost four of six carriers.
    The U.S. lost one carrier; USS Yorktown (CV
    5). This was a decisive victory for the U.S. and
    a turning point in the war.
    The first Allied counter-offensive took
    place around Guadalcanal starting in August
    1942. The battles in and around the Solomon
    Islands sank most of the pre-war aircraft
    carriers on both sides but American industrial
    capacity rose to the challenge and built 26
    replacement fleet carriers by the end of 1945,
    h e l p i n g t o fi r s t o v e r w h e l m a n d t h e n d e f e a t
    the IJN.
    Following the end of the war, the U.S. continued
    to deploy carriers during the early years of the
    Cold War and they played a critical role in
    the Korean War and in crises all around the
    world. With the advent of nuclear technology,
    engineers designed nuclear-powered ships
    that could remain at sea indefinitely. In 1961,
    the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier
    commissioned; USS Enterprise (CVN 65). On
    October 3, 1964, Enterprise, USS Long Beach,
    and USS Bainbridge completed Operation
    Sea Orbit; the first circumnavigation of the
    globe by fully nuclear-powered ships in 65
    days without stopping for fuel or provisions.
    With this technology, newly designed CVNs
    had the freedom to better utilize space aboard
    for new weapons systems and aircraft and
    refuel and restock at sea whenever necessary.
    Carriers continued to evolve and saw use in
    crises across the globe, including the Vietnam
    War, the Persian Gulf, and the wars in Iraq
    and Afghanistan.
    Today, wherever it is needed in the
    world, the U.S. carrier fleet, escorted by its
    carrier strike groups, is effectively patrolling
    the entire world’s oceans, keeping the peace
    and ready to deliver whatever deterrent force
    is needed. In the modern era, the future of
    the carrier platform is uncertain, but who is
    to say that technology has advanced so far as
    to render these behemoth, floating nuclear-powered
    airport cities obsolete? For the time
    being, the U.S., aided by its floating mega-fortresses,
    continues to dominate the sea.



    Date Taken: 12.01.2022
    Date Posted: 12.28.2022 13:50
    Story ID: 435986
    Location: FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, MD, US 

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