Some aircraft carriers are legends – either from long service like that of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) or with an unmatched war record like that of another USS Enterprise (CV 6).
They have either heroic sacrifices, the way USS Yorktown (CV 5) did at Midway, or they simply take a ton of abuse as USS Franklin (CV 13) did.
But some carriers just stink. You wouldn’t wish them on your worst enemy… or maybe you would, simply to make the war easier. There’s arguments on both sides of that. Here are the carriers that would prompt such an internal debate.
6. USS Ranger (CV 4)
When America was down to one carrier in the South Pacific in 1942, re-deploying America’s first purpose-built carrier, the USS Ranger (CV 4) was not considered as an option.
That tells you something about the ship. Her combat career was relatively brief, and she eventually was relegated to training duties. Still, she had a decent air group (mostly fighters and dive-bombers), so she is the best of this bad lot.
5. Admiral Kuznetsov Class (Kuznetsov, Liaoning, and unnamed Type 001A)
If you’ve read a lot of WATM, then you know about the Kuznetsov Follies. The crappy engines (the Russians send tugs along with her in case of breakdown), the splash landings, and the fact the Russians ended up using her as a glorified ferry all speak to real problems. In her favor, though, is the presence of 12 long-range anti-ship missiles on the lead ship, and she can fly MiG-29K and Su-33 Flankers off her deck. China’s versions carry J-15 fighters, but not the missiles.
4. Kiev class (Kiev, Minsk, Novorossiysk)
The Russian Kiev and her sisters are on here for a crap air wing.
The Yak-38 Forger was one of the worst planes to ever operate from a carrier. The Kiev gets a higher ranking largely because she had a lot of firepower, including eight SS-N-12 Sandbox missiles as well as a lot of SA-N-3 Goblets and point-defense systems, which were arguably more of a threat to the enemy than the planes she carried.
Yeah… that kinda has the whole purpose backwards. Now, a modern version with F-35Bs or even AV-8B+ Harriers and the Aegis system could be interesting.
3. HTMS Chakri Naruebet
The Chakri Naruebet from the Thai navy is on the list not so much for inherent problems, but because of substantial air wing neglect during the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (aka Rana IX). Worse, the Thais officially call her an “offshore patrol helicopter carrier.”
They did buy some second-hand AV-8S Matadors from Spain. But most flunked the maintenance, and soon Thailand had one flyable jet. At least the Kievs had heavy firepower to make up for their crap air wing!
That said, his successor, King Vajiralongkorn, was a former fighter pilot, and hopefully will be able to turn things around.
2. Ise Class battleship/carrier hybrid conversions
Okay, in some ways, this is understandable. After the Battle of Midway, Japan needed carriers in the worst possible way. Ise and Hyuga are perfect examples of getting those “carriers” — in the worst possible way.
Initially built as battleships with a top speed of 23 knots, they got turned not into full carriers, which might have been useful. But a half-battleship/half-carrier holding 22 seaplanes (okay about 50 percent more than Hosho) that they could launch and recover wasn’t totally awful.
Remember that’s seaplanes, not Zeroes for fighter cover or strike planes. Granted Japan had the A6M-2 Rufe, a seaplane Zero, but this was a rush job, and it showed. At least they each had eight 14-inch guns.
1. HIJMS Hosho
This was the world’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier. But let’s be honest, the Japanese boat was a dog. It had a top speed of 25 knots, and it carried all of 15 planes. During the Battle of Midway, it had eight biplanes.
By comparison, USS Langley (CV 1), America’s first aircraft carrier, could carry 36 planes. Even with a top speed of 15 knots, she would have been useful escorting convoys in the Atlantic – if America hadn’t turned her into a seaplane tender to satisfy an arms-control treaty Japan violated anyhow.
Are there any bad carriers we missed? Let us know in the comments!