HMS Ark Royal not sunk is 1941?

Lascaris

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Idle thought of the day. Say HMS Ark Royal is not sunk in 1941 and comes out of the war unscathed. Does it make a better candidate for modernization than the Illustrious class ships?
 

EwenS

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Idle thought of the day. Say HMS Ark Royal is not sunk in 1941 and comes out of the war unscathed. Does it make a better candidate for modernization than the Illustrious class ships?
The problems of such a modernisation are exactly the same, driven by the need for more hangar height (increase from 16ft to 17ft 6in under the hangar beams), larger lifts, more internal hull volume (need for a gallery deck). So a strip down to the lower hangar deck level to minimise effects of additional topweight from adding an angled deck and related sponson. Rebuild upwards with a single hangar deck.
 

Dilandu

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The only meaningful outcome is, that if RN have additional fleet carrier in 1941, they would send one (not necessary Ark Royal, though) to Far East. And therefore Force Z would most likely be able to survive Japanese attacks.
 

EwenS

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The only meaningful outcome is, that if RN have additional fleet carrier in 1941, they would send one (not necessary Ark Royal, though) to Far East. And therefore Force Z would most likely be able to survive Japanese attacks.
It wouldn’t make any difference to the historical position in 1941. Potentially it might make a difference in 1942.

Ark was scheduled to make another run to Malta in Nov with badly needed Hurricanes already at Gibraltar. The Admiralty then had a refit planned for her in either the U.K. or US. That was due to continue until at least April 1942 per the Admiralty in Aug 1941 before she went to the Indian Ocean. She was badly in need of it machinery wise and the radar sets and air direction facilities and improved light AA armament that it would have brought. Large amounts of time had been lost in “self maintenance” in late 1941 keeping her going.

Illustrious and Formidable would be as historical, completing repairs in the USA and not arriving in U.K. until Christmas 1941. And the former took the first folding wing Martlet II to the UK to re-equip their fighter squadrons then based there and which had only started to come off the production lines in numbers in Oct.

Indomitable, even without the delay from grounding in the Caribbean, was not due at Gibraltar until the end of Nov 1941 following her work up. So too late to help Force Z.

Victorious was needed with the Home Fleet as its sole carrier. Ark’s survival in this AH doesn’t change that need.

Furious, Eagle and Hermes still need the refits they got historically at the end of 1941 into early 1942. Argus was ferrying Hurricanes from U.K. to Gibraltar and then on to Malta. Historically she filled in for the lost Ark until Eagle joined Force H in Feb 1942.

Even if Ark were ordered to delay the refit, she had that already planned ferry trip to carry out before she could be released. And then the best part of a month to get to Singapore.

So Ark’s survival makes absolutely no difference to Force Z.
 

CV12Hornet

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The problems of such a modernisation are exactly the same, driven by the need for more hangar height (increase from 16ft to 17ft 6in under the hangar beams), larger lifts, more internal hull volume (need for a gallery deck). So a strip down to the lower hangar deck level to minimise effects of additional topweight from adding an angled deck and related sponson. Rebuild upwards with a single hangar deck.
On the other hand, Ark's lighter structure may be easier and cheaper to conduct such a refit on, and her overall greater length makes her somewhat more suitable to begin with - more length = more aircraft capacity.

On the gripping hand, Ark postwar would be an orphan and generally the UK preferred to modernize blocks of ships of the same class. Plus, given she's older if she's brought in for modernization it'll probably be earlier, which leads to the problems Eagle and the second Ark had with being behind the times and needing further modernization work after all the tech advances of the 1950s.

On balance I'd say she wouldn't be a better candidate.
 

EwenS

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The problems of such a modernisation are exactly the same, driven by the need for more hangar height (increase from 16ft to 17ft 6in under the hangar beams), larger lifts, more internal hull volume (need for a gallery deck). So a strip down to the lower hangar deck level to minimise effects of additional topweight from adding an angled deck and related sponson. Rebuild upwards with a single hangar deck.
On the other hand, Ark's lighter structure may be easier and cheaper to conduct such a refit on, and her overall greater length makes her somewhat more suitable to begin with - more length = more aircraft capacity.

On the gripping hand, Ark postwar would be an orphan and generally the UK preferred to modernize blocks of ships of the same class. Plus, given she's older if she's brought in for modernization it'll probably be earlier, which leads to the problems Eagle and the second Ark had with being behind the times and needing further modernization work after all the tech advances of the 1950s.

On balance I'd say she wouldn't be a better candidate.
Ark’s greater overall length is meaningless in terms of such a refit as it is all related to the overhanging flight deck round down aft. At the water line she was only 11ft longer at 721ft, when compared to the Illustrious class at 710ft.

Looking at her hangar spaces, her lower hangar actually has less space than an Illustrious. While only 4 ft shorter overall at 452ft, that length contains the length for all 3 of the original lifts (all 45ft long and taking up, with their machinery and surrounding structure, about half the hangar width). In an Illustrious the lifts were outwith the 456ft long hangar space.

Ark of course has that upper hangar, 568ft in length but again that includes the lifts as noted above. But with Ark already being significantly taller than either an Illustrious or an Implacable I think you would have to lose that to regain some stability by simply raising the flight deck.

If you do simply plan to raise the fight deck to keep the upper hangar, then the refit starts to look like that planned for the Implacable and abandoned. That included significantly larger hull bulges than were eventually fitted to Victorious to retain stability. That affects speed and Ark started out slower than an Implacable but marginally faster than Victorious. How much speed can you afford to lose? And adding a gallery deck under the now raised flight deck would be, I think, a step to far in stability terms in an already taller ship than an Implacable. That means losing some/all of the lower hangar space to gain the extra space for accommodation workshops etc that were on Victorious’ gallery deck.

As for timing, I don’t think that modernisation could occur any sooner than historical. Plans for all the postwar carrier modifications begin to bear fruit in 1949. Money is not available before that.

Ark was pushed hard in her short life. Her material state in 1949 would I think very much depend on the use that was made of her between 1946 and 1949. Fundamentally, would she be a Victorious or a Formidable? Given her reputation I could see her used a training ship like Victorious.

As you say, she is however a one off.
 

Hood

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Agreed, Ark Royal has several features that would make her difficult to rebuild, perhaps an even larger job than Victorious. As Ewen says, basically rebuilding from the lower hangar deck up, probably a new larger island, new boilers, possibly new turbines, NBC protection, additional generators and additional avgas bunkerage. Probably looking at 70% new ship. Given the cash constraints and the (on paper) cheaper options of rebuilding the Illustrious-class hulls available, the likely outcome is she acts as a training carrier then laid up circa 1952-54 and scrapped.
 

Archibald

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The six Illustrious unlike the Essex were merely half-brothers: each reconstruction was just different enough to repeat a Victorious quagmire, except just different enough no lesson could be drawn to try and save some money for the next rebuild. Rinse, repeat five times... the horror, the horror.
Throwing the even older Ark Royal into that god awful and ruinous process... ugh, no thanks.
 

EwenS

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The six Illustrious unlike the Essex were merely half-brothers: each reconstruction was just different enough to repeat a Victorious quagmire, except just different enough no lesson could be drawn to try and save some money for the next rebuild. Rinse, repeat five times... the horror, the horror.
Throwing the even older Ark Royal into that god awful and ruinous process... ugh, no thanks.
Not quite that bad. There were 3 distinct groups.

Illustrious, Formidable & Victorious. Single 16ft high hangar. 3 shaft machinery layout.
Indomitable. Lower 16ft high half hangar, full length 14ft high upper hangar. 3 shaft machinery layout.
The Implacable class. Implacable & Indefatigable. Lower half and full length upper hangar both 14ft high. 4 shaft machinery layout.

For various reasons we have discussed elsewhere the original reconstruction plan that would have seen a start with the 3 Illustrious class, went out the window very early. Implacable and Indefatigable were then to follow Victorious in that order. Then everyone woke up to the error of their ways in even contemplating this before physical work began on Implacable.

When it comes to the Essex class and setting aside the obvious short/long hull distinction, they are not such a homogeneous single class as might at first appear. Modifications to the design were introduced as the war went on. Some were able to be retrofitted, others not.

One major change saw the forward avgas tanks moved aft in the hull in later ships, where they could be better protected, as a result of war experience with the loss of CV-2 Lexington and CV-7 Wasp. The avgas tank design was also changed and capacity reduced in later ships. I’m not entirely clear which ships that applied to but it certainly applied to the CV-38 Shangri La.

And the standard of refit applied to the Essex class evolved with time.

SCB-27 Applied 1947-50 to the suspended Oriskany CV-34 as a prototype with H-8 hydraulic catapults.
SCB-27A conversion to 8 hulls 1949-53.
SCB-27C conversion of 3 hulls 1951-54. Introduced the C-11 steam catapult. Fitted with larger bulges to cope with increased weight. Various other mods.
SCB-27C/125 conversion of 3 hulls 1952-55. Introduced angled flight deck and enclosed “Hurricane” bow in addition to the SCB-27C work.
SCB-125 applied to 11 of the SCB-27 ships 1954-59.

And that left 7 of the class unconverted. 3 were later used as helicopter carriers.
 

EwenS

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Does anyone know?

Admiralty plans for Ark Royal in Aug 1941 had her scheduled for a refit in the US probably starting in Dec 1941 on relief by Indomitable, and lasting through until about April 1942 when she was expected to be in the Indian Ocean.

Does anyone have any details of the work to be carried out?

Undoubtedly it would have included upgrade of the AA armament (20mm in place of quad 0.5” for example), fitment of gunnery radars (Type 282 for Pom-Pom & Type 285 for 4.5”). Fitting air warning (Type 281 was the preferred option around that time) would have been more difficult requiring new masts. But what about modifications to the island structure itself? Anything else?
 
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