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A new drydock for the RN

zen

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This could have happened, it certainly was on the cards several times. Arguably it should have happened.
I'm not going to say where, though I suspect Davenport is the answer really.
But from even before WWI the potential to build a decent 1,000ft long drydock, ideally over 130ft wide, would change the game for the RN carriers.
The design called Incomparable (if I recall correctly) would have required it.
Potentially this could have been driven to threaten to build supersized warships post WWI and certainly after the Admiral class designs were already getting to the limits of infrastructure available. It was inevitable that larger facilities would be desired, planned for and purchases of land made.....and it was.

But just one drydock like this, is all it takes and from Malta to CVA-01 the easing of constraints makes new large carriers much more likely.

The question is, assuming this is available before WWII.
What changes result?

Do we see sketched Far Eastern Carriers in the 30's?

Do we see DNC flesh out the 900ft long concept of 1931?

Would Malta be given the go ahead earlier?
If so it might be simpler to complete her and dispose of some Illustrious class during the 50's

Certainly the 1952 carrier process would see a British Forrestal like carrier result.

And in the 60's CVA-01 could well be the 68,000ton sketch design.

In the instance of these post WWII carriers the moment when the F4 is chosen for the FAA would make it much more likely to be a quick and affordable process. Though still with some UK content, there would be no need to fit Spey turbofans.

Arguably the potential to acquire the F14 for both RN and RAF is only limited by finances.
 
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EwenS

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Having been back through Friedman's British Carrier Aviation I can see no concept around 1930 for a 900ft long carrier nor does Brown make any mention in Nelson to Vanguard.

At the time the Washington Treaty set a limit of 27000 tons per carrier with an overall tonnage limit of 135k tons (to exclude ships in existence or building in Nov 1921 i.e. Argus, Eagle, Hermes and Furious). As early as 1926 Britain is contemplating proposals to reduce the tonnage of each ship to 23000 tons and actually proposed 25000 tons at the failed Geneva Conference in 1927 and reduced total carrier tonnages were discussed. As far as I can see all the designs contemplated in the lead up to Ark Royal were all 22-23k tons and around 800ft long. Then 2nd London reduced the carrier size limit to 23k tons. There were also issues around acquiring enough aircraft to put on the carriers.

To go to 900ft means a carrier nearer the 27k limit with more aircraft. That means a change of policy from the mid 1920s right through until WW2 and the co-operation of the RAF. Then we have to consider the state of the economy in the early 1930s with severe limits on defence spending. To me that makes a bigger more expensive ship even less likely.

Turning to Malta in the 1943-45 timeframe her design might have been easier without the constrictions around dock sizes. But I'm not sure the outcome would have been any different. The real disagreements around that design were not about size but whether a closed armoured hangar design was better than an open ultimately unarmoured design. Having settled on the former, Design C, in Oct 1943 the question was reopened in April 1944 with Design X being presented in Oct that year. So maybe a year was lost in that process. But then there were the issues of docks, the Suez Canal etc that forced a further redesign to give the final design X1 in April 1945 which was never approved. Cancellation then happened in Oct/Dec 1945 in light of the financial plight of the country post-war.

The real problem with the Maltas is that they were always seen by the Admiralty as post-war ships. In March 1944 Design C wasn't expected to complete until Feb 1948, at a time when the war was expected to be over in a 1946/47 timeframe. Even if they could have been laid down in late 1943/early 1944 (which itself is questionable in the case of some of them) they may well not have been sufficiently far advanced to survive the end of war axe (look at the original Eagle ordered from Vickers Tyne - laid down Dec 1943 but cancelled in Dec 1945).

Postwar massive changes in naval aviation occurred in the first half of the 1950s - jets, angled decks and mirror landing sights. While a Malta would have been better than Victorious Eagle/Ark Royal and the various light carriers, it would still have needed reconstruction in the early/mid 1950s. Would it then have been as good as a purpose designed 1950s carrier? But if we had them then there would be no need for a 1952 carrier. And that would also throw into question CVA-01 in the early 1960s.

But even if you had the docks would it have made any difference given the post war financial position of the country and Britain's withdrawal from being a world power?
 

zen

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Norman Friedman
British Carrier Aviation
Published 1988
ISBN 0 85177 488

Page 118
Second column of text, fourth paragraph.
Concerning Staff requirements for new carrier resumes summer 1931.

"The first draft requirement called for a 900ft flight deck, of about the same width as that in Courageous. It was soon reduced to 800ft in the interests of docking in existing facilities and of handiness."

Note 18 on margin of next page referenced Haslar tests showed new carrier would be hardier than Courageous
 

zen

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On Alternative Ark Royal. I'd forgotten about the US preference for 27,000tons. This makes it more mot less agreeable if Scheme 3 is chosen.
It's deep load is closer to 30,000tons of course, but Standard Displacement is the accepted measure.
It is much more plausible to achieve the 72 aircraft figure on such a ship, albeit through the modification of removing the 8" guns.

On Malta. Certainly I agree that Malta is still likely to be bogged down for a host of reasons.
However ships not laid down until '45 were still completed if the Admiralty deemed it despite financial constraints. Arguably thrust would prefer this, even if the design was subject to substantial changes prior to completion.

Post war, entirely plausible that other carriers would be sacrificed to sustain the new large CV. Certainly the 1952 effort might be delayed and thus instead of two efforts (1952 and CVA-01) a single effort might be realised building on the experiences with something like Malta.

Post '66 decision is actually to run on existing assets until they must go through the 70's.
Situation would be different and again smaller CVs and perhaps Cruiser modernisations might be sacrificed to keep one or two larger ships. Point of decision delayed into 70's and scrapping in 80's.....depending.
 

EwenS

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Norman Friedman
British Carrier Aviation
Published 1988
ISBN 0 85177 488

Page 118
Second column of text, fourth paragraph.
Concerning Staff requirements for new carrier resumes summer 1931.

"The first draft requirement called for a 900ft flight deck, of about the same width as that in Courageous. It was soon reduced to 800ft in the interests of docking in existing facilities and of handiness."

Note 18 on margin of next page referenced Haslar tests showed new carrier would be hardier than Courageous
Thanks. I'd missed that. But see footnote 17. Physical size wasn't the only constraint. Cost was as well. As now there is the overseeing eye of the Treasury to worry about!
 
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EwenS

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However ships not laid down until '45 were still completed if the Admiralty deemed it despite financial constraints. Arguably thrust would prefer this, even if the design was subject to substantial changes prior to completion.
There were very few actually laid down in 1945 that I can think of.

Bulwark. While 8 of this class were ordered, they were controversial from the start. They were intended as post-war carriers to take a generation of larger aircraft expected in 1947/48 but which never really materialised. The compromise immediately after ordering them in 1943 was to proceed with 4. Due to delays at Fairfields in laying down Monmouth in 1944, it was decided to lay down Bulwark at H&W instead. Those 4, plus Ark Royal IV and Eagle were to be the core of the 1950s carrier fleet.

2 Darings (+6 more laid down over the next 4 years). The second flotilla survived the first round of cuts in Oct 1945 but got the chop in Dec. Big modern destroyers were needed in the fleet. Indication of the dissatisfaction with the Battles for having no turret aft? 2 flotillas of Battles were axed.

6 A class subs understandable given everything else was a pre-war design.
 

JFC Fuller

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There is confusion created by the way the RN managed its shipbuilding programme during the war, particularly the growing separation between when ships were authorised and when they were actually ordered and laid down. This was largely caused by changing wartime needs, first ocean escorts, then landing ships, then new landing ships for the Pacific etc. Ultimately, more ships were approved through the annual programmes than there was shipbuilding capacity to build them. For instance, Ark Royal was originally Irresistible and was authorised under the 1940 supplementary programme but wasn't ordered until March 1942 and didn't get laid down until May 1943. Audacious and Eagle were 1942 ships whilst the Maltas and Centaurs were 1943 programme ships. In 1943 the Centaurs were all expected to complete in 1946, at which point it would not have been unreasonable to imagine them getting some war service and having a pipeline of ships to ensure against war losses was desirable. Because of the lack of shipbuilding capacity none of the timelines were achieved but the vessels remained, zombie like, in the shipbuilding programme. Sometimes they were reallocated to different yards when the designs changed making them too big for the originally planned builder or when emerging capacity was perceived somewhere else. Something very similar happened with the frigate programme in the 1950s. The delays resulted in the ships becoming de-facto post-war vessels though they were never really intended as such. By early 1945 Churchill was coming to the conclusion that the future shape of the navy was a decision for a post-election government so the 1945 election postponed the inevitable until later that year.

One of the odder parts of wartime RN history is a planning exercise conducted in late 1944/early 45 to outline the post-war fleet in which senior officers indulged in a game of fantasy fleets that would put even the most ambitious alternative history fan to shame. The initial propositions would have had a manpower requirement 90k in excess of the 1939 Vote A. It was outlandish by 1939 standards and even more outlandish when one considers that at the end of the war there was no other navy for this vast fleet to oppose. Friedman mentions some aspects of it in his British cruisers book. The 1943 carriers were not designed against this proposed fleet but the two Lion class battleships included in the original draft 1945 estimates were.

The Malta class get seen as a sort of panacea to RN carrier challenges but they still would have been war construction with everything that went with that. Designed and built for piston engined aircraft, with generating capacity for wartime electronics and crew accommodation to wartime standards. They would have either required a Hermes scale redesign before completion or an Eagle scale reconstruction later. The result would have been a bigger ship, more aircraft and perhaps an additional elevator and catapult after reconstruction but with operating and reconstruction costs equally scaled up.
 
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zen

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Well I started a thread on the carrier conundrum yonks ago.

In essence if there wasn't the impediment to a large CV over 900ft long, then it's reasonable to assume post war that such a design would be realised.

It's clear almost nothing from Malta bar the propulsion and the hull had any future into the jet age. Clear from 1945 certainly.
But equally it's already clear they need larger carriers than Audacious class. Again by '45 and then in '47 and ultimately '52.....
So yes, either Malta ends up almost completely redesigned or is rebuilt virtually before she can reach operational status. Though a 950ft long carrier reaching IOC by 1959 would be of far more long term utility than Victorious.
But it's much more plausible that the RN would make sacrifices to get even one such ship.
And this would feed into a second built likely to a further refinement of design....and at least a planned third and fourth and who knows how many before reality hits.
Probably 3 might make it.
 

zen

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Let's go a bit further.....

When things settle for Medium Fleet Carrier the two main restrictions continue. That is propulsion and drydocks. Which means that while they can trim down discplament and cost, they still have the same length limitations.
So had a nice large and long military drydock existed at this time, then even if the Medium Fleet Carrier is of lower beam and draught, the critical issue of length is now no longer restricting them.
Making it easier to proceed.
Equally had they wanted to have both deck edge lifts and a full Gallery deck over the hanger. They'd still need a beam in the waterline over 120ft.....the one thing even Davenport No.10 didn't give them.
But had a nice large and wide military drydock existed at that time.....then again a major impediment to proceeding with the Medium Fleet Carrier is gone.

Really a major instrument in delay seems to be the drydock and I suspect this is the same for CVA-01 as well. Until they are told to use civilian drydocks.
But....remove this impediment and the process speeds along much more smoothly.
 

A Tentative Fleet Plan

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In his article on Admiralty Floating Docks for Warship 2010, Ian Buxton briefly mentioned a 1960s project for a 100,000 ton capacity Admiralty Floating Dock but unfortunately did not provide any more information.
 
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JFC Fuller

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