1942 Design Light Fleet Carrier

1942 Design Light Fleet Carrier
A small aircraft carrier travelling at speed through choppy water. Several propeller aircraft with folded wings are sitting on the flight deck. A small warship is following in the carrier's wake, and a rocky, hilly shoreline can be seen across the horizon
The Colossus class carrier HMS Triumph underway off Subic Bay, Philippines. Supermarine Seafires and Fairey Fireflies are sitting on her flight deck.
Class overview
Operators:  Royal Navy
 Argentine Navy
 Royal Australian Navy
 Brazilian Navy
 Royal Canadian Navy/
   Royal Canadian Navy
 French Navy
 Indian Navy
 Royal Netherlands Navy
Succeeded by: Centaur class aircraft carrier
Subclasses: Colossus class
Majestic class
Built: March 1942–April 1961
In commission: December 1944 – October 2001
Planned: 16
Completed: 8 Colossus class, plus 2 maintenance carriers
5 Majestic class
Cancelled: 1
Preserved: 1
General characteristics : Colossus class (as designed)
Displacement: 13,200 tons (standard)
18,000 tons (full load)
Length: 690 ft (210 m) (flight deck)
695 ft (212 m) overall
Beam: 80 ft (24 m)
Draught: 18 ft 6 in (5.64 m) (standard)
23 ft 3 in (7.09 m) (full load)
Propulsion: Parsons geared turbines
4 x Admiralty 3-drum boilers
40,000 shp (30,000 kW)
2 propeller shafts
Speed: 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph)
Range: 12,000 nautical miles (22,000 km; 14,000 mi) at 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)
Complement: 1,050
Armament: 6 x 4-barrelled 2 pounder anti-aircraft guns
16 x twin 20 mm Oerlikon mountings
All weapons later replaced by 40 mm Bofors in varying configurations
Aircraft carried: Up to 52
Notes: Taken from:[1][2]
General characteristics : Majestic class (as designed)
Displacement: 15,750 tons (standard)
19,500 tons (full load)
Draught: 19 ft 6 in (5.94 m) (standard)
24 ft 9 in (7.54 m) (full load)
Armament: 30 x 40 mm Bofors (6 twin mountings, 18 single mountings)
Notes: Other characteristics as above
Taken from:[1]

The 1942 Design Light Fleet Carrier, commonly referred to as the British Light Fleet Carrier, was a light aircraft carrier design created by the Royal Navy during World War II, and used by eight naval forces between 1944 and 2001. They were designed and constructed by civilian shipyards to serve as an intermediate step between the expensive, full-size fleet aircraft carriers and the cheap but limited-capability escort carriers.

Sixteen Light Fleet carriers were ordered, and all were laid down to the Colossus class design during 1942 and 1943. However, only eight were completed to this design; of these, four entered service before the end of the war, and none saw front line operations. Two more were fitted with maintenance and repair facilities instead of aircraft catapults and arresting gear, and entered service as aircraft maintenance carriers. The final six were modified during construction to handle larger and faster aircraft, and were redesignated the Majestic class. These six ships were still under construction at the end of the war, and work was suspended; five were eventually completed (the last commissioning in 1961), but the sixth was dismantled for spare parts and scrap.

Although not completed in time to fight in World War II, the carriers in Royal Navy service participated in the Korean War and the Suez Crisis. During the latter, two Colossus class ships performed the first ship-based helicopter assault in history. Four Colossuses and all five completed Majestics were sold to seven foreign nations: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, India, and the Netherlands. No Majestic was ever operated by the Royal Navy, and three ships served in three different naval forces during their careers. Foreign-operated Light Fleets took part in the Korean War, the First Indochina War, the Vietnam War, the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War, and the Falklands War. With the exception of the Majestic class INS Vikrant, which was preserved as a museum ship, all of the Light Fleet carriers were broken up for scrap.


Design and construction

Experiences during the early part of World War II had demonstrated to the British that the Royal Navy needed access to defensive air cover for Allied fleets and convoys, which could only be provided by more aircraft carriers.[3][4] In mid 1941, the Director of Naval Construction was instructed to investigate how best to achieve this without the lengthy construction times normally associated with carriers.[3] The options were to refit the surviving Hawkins class cruisers with flight decks and aviation facilities, convert additional merchant vessels and passenger liners into vessels similar to but more capable than previous merchant aircraft carriers, or create a new design for a cheap, lightly armed, and unarmoured ship similar to the Woolworth carriers.[3]

In December 1941, it was decided that a new design was the best option.[3] This ship was conceived as an intermediate step between the expensive fleet carriers and the limited-capability escort carriers,[3] The design had to be as simple as possible so construction time was kept to a minimum and so more shipyards (particularly those with no naval construction experience) could be used.[3][5] However, the ships had to be capable of operating in fleet actions.[6] Originally designated the 'Intermediate Aircraft Carrier', the ships were reclassified as 'Light Fleet Carriers'.[7] Because naval design staff were overworked, the carrier was primarily designed by shipbuilders at Vickers-Armstrong.[4]

The Light Fleet design, completed at the start of 1942, was effectively a scaled-down Illustrious.[3][7] Each carrier would displace 13,190 tons at standard load and 18,040 tons at full load, have a length of 680 feet (210 m) at the flight deck and 695 feet (212 m) overall, a maximum beam of 80 feet (24 m), and a draught of 18 feet 6 inches (5.64 m) at standard displacement, and 23 feet 6 inches (7.16 m) at full load displacement.[2] The hull was built to Lloyd's specifications for merchant vessels from keel to maindeck, but incorporated better subdivision of compartments to reduce secondary damage by flooding.[4][8]

The propulsion machinery was of a similar design to that used in cruisers—some of the steam turbines were sourced from cancelled cruisers.[5] The machinery was arranged in two compartments (each containing two Admiralty 3-drum boilers and a Parsons geared turbine), which were staggered en echelon, with the starboard compartment forward of the port.[8] These provided 40,000 shaft horsepower to two propeller shafts, driving the carriers at a maximum speed of 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph), with 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph) as the designated economical speed.[8]

The carriers were intended to be 'disposable warships': to be scrapped and replaced at the end of World War II or within three years of entering service.[9] However, all exceeded this planned service life, with one ship operating from 1945 to 2001.[10]

Colossus class

Construction was approved by the Naval Board in February 1942, with the first two ships, Colossus and Glory, laid down in March.[3] During 1942 and 1943, another fourteen Light Fleet carriers (named the Colossus class after the lead ship) were laid down under the 1942 Programme, to be constructed by eight British shipyards.[4][11][12] Although it was originally planned that each Light Fleet would be ready for service in 21 months, modifications to the design saw the construction time increase to 27 months.[4] Even with the omission of several important pieces of backup equipment, only two ships met this target.[4]

The ships were launched from late 1943 onwards, and began to commission during 1944.[3][12] However, the delays meant that only four ships (Colossus, Glory, Venerable, and Vengeance; formed up as the 11th Aircraft Carrier Squadron) were completed before the end of World War II,[3] and only eight of the sixteen planned Light Fleets were completed as Colossus class carriers.

During operational service, the living conditions aboard the Colossus class ships were criticised, which resulted in the abolishment of hammocks in favour of fixed bunks and the introduction of centralised eating arrangements in later warship designs.[13]

Maintenance carriers

The impracticality of shore-based repair establishments in the Far East and Pacific theatres of World War II saw a requirement for Aircraft Maintenance Carriers.[14] Instead of building new ships from scratch, two under-construction Colossuses, Perseus and Pioneer, were marked for conversion as they would enter service quicker, and could be converted back into operational aircraft carriers if required, a need which never arose.[14] Both ships were completed before the end of the war, with Pioneer sailing to the Pacific in company with the 11th Aircraft Carrier Squadron, but neither ship saw active service.[3][15]

As the ships were designed with the repair and transportation of aircraft in mind, much of the equipment required for carrier flight operations, including control facilities, arresting gear, and catapult, were not installed.[14] This space was instead used for additional hangar room, repair and maintenance workshops, and system testing facilities.[14]

Majestic class

The six remaining Light Fleet hulls were originally to be completed as Colossus class ships, but the rapid development of carrier-based aircraft and anti-aircraft weapons required modifications to the original design.[1] The catapult, arrestor cables, and aircraft elevators had to be upgraded to handle faster and heavier aircraft, while the flight deck was reinforced.[1] Improved weapons and radars were fitted, and equipment to perform replenishment at sea was installed.[1] The modifications increased the full-load displacement by 1,500 tons, and the draught by 1 foot 6 inches (0.46 m).[1] This led to the six ships being reclassified as the Majestic class in September 1945.[1][3] Five carriers were launched before the end of World War II, with the sixth launched in late September 1945.[16]

Following the war's end, work on the Majestic class was suspended, then restored to a low-priority status,[17][18] with the rate of work increasing as foreign nations purchased the ships.[citation needed] Two, Magnificent and Terrible entered service more-or-less as designed, but the next three were heavily upgraded with three British developments allowing the operation of large, fast, jet-propelled aircraft: the angled flight deck, the steam catapult, and the mirror landing aid.[18][19][20] The sixth, Leviathan, was not completed.[21] Work was suspended in May 1946, and plans to convert her into a commando carrier or missile cruiser, or sell her to a foreign buyer, fell through.[21] During the 1950s, she was used as an accommodation ship, and in 1966, her boilers were removed and sold to the shipyard refitting the Colossus class HNLMS Karel Doorman for Argentine service.[21] Leviathan was scrapped in May 1968.[22] None of the completed Majestic class saw service in the Royal Navy.[17]

In 1943, eight 'Improved Majestics' were planned, but developments in carrier aviation and the rapid obsolescence of the Light Fleets and the wartime armoured carriers required a larger and more capable design, which became the four-ship Centaur class.[23]



In the original design, each ship was capable of carrying 41 aircraft.[3][4] A redesign of the available parking area on the flight deck in March 1942 saw the ships' air group expanded to 24 Fairey Barracuda torpedo bombers and 24 Supermarine Seafire fighters, or 18 Barracudas and 34 Seafires.[3] In RN service, the Barracuda was later replaced by the Fairey Firefly, and the Seafire was superseded by the Hawker Sea Fury during the Korean War.[24] Early in their careers, Glory and Ocean were fitted out for night flying operations: these carriers were to embark a 32-strong air group; mixed between Fireflies and Grumman F6F Hellcats supplied by the United States as part of the Lend Lease program.[25]

To launch and recover aircraft, the carriers were initially equipped with hydraulic catapults, arresting gear, and crash barriers.[2] Aircraft were stored in a single hangar measuring 445 by 52 feet (136 by 16 m), with a height clearance of 17 feet 6 inches (5.33 m).[2] This allowed the Light Fleets to later operate aircraft that the fleet carriers, which generally had two hangars with lower clearance in each, could not.[4] The hangar was serviced by two aircraft lifts.[2]


The Light Fleets were the first British aircraft carriers where the ship's air group was seen as the 'main armament'; any mounted weapons were to be for close-range anti-aircraft defence.[10] The Colossus design called for six quadruple barrelled 2 pounder gun mounts, and 16 twin Oerlikon 20 mm cannons.[2] Two 4-inch (100 mm) guns[clarification needed] were originally included, but an increase in the design's flight deck length in March 1942 saw them displaced.[3][4] The ships were unarmoured, as increasing the size of the vessels was deemed more important than protection.[6]

The flank of a ship. Several long-barrelled guns are aimed over the side, and are being operated by sailors. One of the guns has just fired, with a cloud of smoke issuing from the barrel.
Some of Sydney's Bofors guns firing during gunnery practice in 1951

Lessons learned during the early part of the Pacific War showed the superiority of the Bofors 40 mm gun to other anti-aircraft weapons. By the end of the war, all Colossus class ships had swapped all their other weapons for Bofors in single and twin mountings, and the Majestic design had been modified to carry 30 of the guns: 18 single mountings, and 6 twin mountings.[1][2] The number of Bofors carried by the Light Fleets was reduced after the war, with British ships carrying only eight.[2]

Royal Navy service

World War II and aftermath

Although four Colossus class ships were completed before the end of World War II, they did not see front-line action: the war in Europe had proceeded to the point where aircraft carriers were of limited use, and by the time the carriers reached the Pacific, Japan had surrendered.[3][4] The four ships, assigned to the British Pacific Fleet, were instead used for the transportation of returning soldiers and rescued prisoners-of-war, to help alleviate the shortage of troopships and liners.[26] As with the Colossus class, the maintenance carriers were completed but did not enter active service before the end of the war.[3][14] They were reclassified as Ferry Carriers, and used to transport aircraft to British bases and ships across the world.[14]

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, the carriers were used as testbeds for new aircraft and technology. Throughout late 1945, Ocean was used to trial several new aircraft: the Hawker Sea Fury and de Havilland Sea Hornet piston-engine fighters during August, and the de Havilland Sea Venom jet-propelled fighter-bomber in December.[27] On 4 December 1945, the Sea Venom became the first jet aircraft to land on a carrier—two months before, Ocean's flight deck saw the last landing of a Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber.[27][28] The angled flight deck concept (which would later be installed on several of the Majestic class carriers) was first trialled aboard Theseus: the straight-line deck markings were removed, and markings for an angled landing painted on.[29] After a two-year loan to Canada, Warrior served as a testbed for rubberised flexible decks and skid-like landing gear during 1948 and 1949.[15] During 1951 and 1952, Perseus was used as a trials ship for the under-development steam catapult.[14]

Korean War

The Colossus class first saw combat during the Korean War. Following the invasion of South Korea by North Korea on 25 June, ships of the British Far East Fleet that were operating in Japanese waters, including the carrier Triumph, were placed under the United States Far East Commander, to operate in retaliation to the invasion under the instructions of the United Nations Security Council.[30] The first carrier attack began on 3 July 1950, with aircraft from Triumph and United States carrier USS Valley Forge performing air strikes on North Korean airfields.[31]

Between them, the Colossus class carriers Triumph, Theseus, Glory, and Ocean, along with the Majestic class HMAS Sydney, maintained a constant British aircraft carrier presence for the duration of the Korean War.[32] The Light Fleets were cheaper to operate than the armoured fleet carriers while providing a similar sized air group, but during the war proved to be slower, less comfortable, and more prone to wear-and-tear than other RN carriers.[33] Financial and manpower restrictions meant that only one Light Fleet could be deployed to Korea at a time.[33] Warrior also contributed to the Korean War effort by transporting replacement aircraft from the United Kingdom to British bases throughout the Far East region, which were then drawn upon by the active carriers.[34]

Following the end of the Korean War, Warrior and Sydney returned to Korean waters on separate deployments, to ensure that the armistice was enforced and hostilities did not re-ignite.[35]

Suez Crisis

Ocean and Theseus were part of the British response to the 1956 Suez Crisis.[36] The two ships were not used as aircraft carriers; instead they were equipped with helicopters and tasked with transporting 45 Commando, a battalion of the Royal Marines, ashore, in order to secure harbours and other landing points for heavy equipment.[37] This, the first ship-based helicopter assault, was successful, and prompted the development of the amphibious assault ship.[38]

Decommissioning and disposal

A small aircraft carrier underway in calm, open seas. Structures have been built on the ship's flight deck, and additional cranes have been installed. No aircraft can be seen, and a large number of people are clustered around the forward end of the flight deck.
Triumph, following her conversion into a repair ship

The two maintenance carriers were decommissioned during the 1950s and scrapped: Pioneer was sold in 1954, and Perseus in 1958.[39] With the exception of HMS Triumph, the Colossus class carriers that remained in RN service were disposed of during the early 1960s.[4] None were significantly modernised during their service life.[4] Triumph left service in 1958, underwent a major conversion into a Heavy Repair Ship, and re-entered service in 1965.[8]

Foreign service

As Britain was unable to maintain the size of her wartime fleet after the end of World War II, several Colossus class ships were placed into reserve,[17] while work on the Majestic class was initially halted at the end of World War II, then restored to a low-priority status.[17][18] Demands for fiscal cutbacks, combined with the rapid obsolescence of the carriers by the development of jet aircraft, saw four of the eight Colossuses and all five completed Majestics sold off to other nations.[2][17]

The majority of the Light Fleets in foreign service were modernised, either during construction or afterwards, to operate jet aircraft. This usually consisted of the installation of an angled flight deck, upgrading the aircraft catapult to be steam-powered, and installing an optical landing system: Australian Majestic class carrier HMAS Melbourne was the third aircraft carrier in the world, after HMS Ark Royal and USS Forrestal, to be constructed with these features instead of having them added later.[40]


After a two-year loan to Canada, and a second period in Royal Navy commission, Warrior was sold to the Argentine Navy in 1958, and commissioned as ARA Independencia on 11 November.[15] Independencia served as the Argentine flagship until she was replaced by the Dutch Karel Doorman (formerly HMS Venerable), which was sold on to Argentina in 1969.[41][42] Independencia was struck from service in 1971 and broken up for scrap.[42]

The new carrier was commissioned as ARA Veinticinco de Mayo.[43] Veinticinco was initially equipped with A-4 Skyhawk jet fighters, but these were replaced with Super Étendards in the 1980s.[42] The carrier provided air cover for the Occupation of the Falkland Islands in 1982, but remained confined to port for the rest of the Falklands War, particularly after the British submarine HMS Conqueror sank the Argentine cruiser ARA General Belgrano.[42][44] Problems with her propulsion machinery meant that Veinticinco was effectively inoperable from June 1986, although it was not until the start of 1999 that she was marked for scrapping.[42][45]


In 1944, the Australian government suggested that Australian personnel be used to help counteract a personnel shortage in the Royal Navy by manning an aircraft carrier, one or more cruisers, and six destroyers.[46] The Admiralty deemed a Colossus class Light Fleet to be the most appropriate aircraft carrier, and Venerable was initially proposed for transfer to the Royal Australian Navy as a gift or on loan.[47] The plan was deferred on the Australian end until a review of manpower requirements across the entire war effort was completed.[48] The ship manning proposal was revisited in mid-1945, but the surrender of Germany in May meant that British shortages were not as problematic; as a counteroffer, the purchase of the Colossus class Ocean by Australia was suggested.[49] The Australian government decided against the purchase of Ocean in June.[50]

Following World War II, a post-war review suggested that the Royal Australian Navy acquire three aircraft carriers as the core of a new fleet; funding restrictions saw the number of proposed carriers dropped to two.[51] To this end, Australia acquired two Majestic class ships: Terrible, which was commissioned in 1948 as HMAS Sydney; and Majestic, which was upgraded for jet operations and commissioned in 1955 as HMAS Melbourne.[17][52] While waiting for Majestic/Melbourne to finish modernisation, the Colossus class Vengeance was loaned to Australia from 1952 until 1955, allowing them to operate a two-carrier fleet.[53]

A aircraft carrier at anchor in still waters. Propeller aircraft are visible on her deck.
Sydney at anchor in Korean waters during 1951

The first aircraft carrier acquired by the Royal Australian Navy, Sydney was deployed to Korea in order to maintain a consistent British Commonwealth carrier presence in the conflict.[54] Operating between September 1951 and January 1952, Sydney was the first carrier owned by a Commonwealth Dominion to see combat.[32][54] Reclassified as a training ship in 1955, Sydney was decommissioned in 1958 but reactivated in 1962 as a fast troop transport.[55] In her troopship role, Sydney travelled to Vietnam 25 times between 1965 and 1972.[56] She was decommissioned in November 1973, and sold to a South Korean company for scrapping in 1975.[57]

Although deployed to the Far East Strategic Reserve on several occasions, and assigned to escort Sydney to and from Vietnam on three occasions, Melbourne was not directly involved in any conflict during her career. However, she collided with and sank two plane guard destroyers—HMAS Voyager in 1964, and USS Frank E. Evans in 1969—which, along with several minor collisions and incidents, led to the reputation that the carrier was jinxed.[58][59] Melbourne was sold to China for scrapping in 1985; instead of being broken up, she was studied as part of the nation's top-secret carrier development program, and may not have been dismantled until 2002.[60][61] There were plans to replace Melbourne with the British carrier HMS Invincible, but Invincible was withdrawn from sale following her service in the Falklands War, and a 1983 election promise to not replace the carrier saw the end of fixed-wing naval aviation by 1985.[41][61]


After Vengeance was returned from her loan to Australia, she was sold to the Brazilian Navy on 14 December 1956.[42][62] From mid-1957 until December 1960, the carrier underwent a massive refit and reconstruction at Verolme Dock in Rotterdam; the work performed included the installation of an 8.5-degree angled flight deck and a steam catapult, strengthening of arresting gear, and reinforcing of the hangar elevators.[62][63][64] The carrier was commissioned into the Marinha do Brasil (MB, Brazilian Navy) as Minas Gerais on 6 December 1960.[62]

The Brazilian carrier was equipped with S-2E Tracker aircraft, and helicopters of the ASH-3D Sea King, AS-355 Ecureuil, and A-332 Super Puma types: Brazilian law prevented the MB from operating fixed-wing aircraft, so two separate air groups had to be embarked.[45][65] In 1999, the MB acquired A-4KU Skyhawks—the first time Brazilian naval aviators were permitted to operate fixed-wing aircraft until the carrier's 2001 decommissioning.[42][66] Minas Gerais was replaced by NAe São Paulo (the former French carrier Foch).[64]

Minas Gerais about to launch an S-2 Tracker

Minas Gerais was the last of the World War II-era light aircraft carriers to leave service, and at the time of her decommissioning was the oldest active aircraft carrier in the world (a title passed on to the 1961-commissioned USS Kitty Hawk).[9][67] The carrier was marked for sale in 2002, and was actively sought after by British naval associations for return to England and preservation as a museum ship, although they were unable to raise the required money.[68][69] Just before Christmas 2003, the carrier was listed for sale on auction website eBay, but was removed because the site's rules prevented the sale of military ordnance.[70] Sometime between February and July 2004, the carrier was towed to the ship breaking yards at Alang, India for dismantling.[69]


Following wartime experience showing the effectiveness of naval aviation, the Royal Canadian Navy decided to acquire an aircraft carrier.[71] The Canadian government decided to purchase the Majestic class carrier Powerful, and have her upgraded to modern standards.[72] The Colossus class vessel Warrior was transferred on a two-year loan from 1946 to 1948, so the experience gained by providing ship's companies for two British escort carriers during the war could be maintained.[11][71] The upgrading of Powerful took longer than expected, and as Warrior had to be returned by 1948, the Majestic class Magnificent was completed to the basic Majestic design and loaned to the Royal Canadian Navy in 1948 as HMCS Magnificent.[72] On her return to Britain, Warrior was used as a trials ship, then modernised before her sale to Argentina.[15] The loan of Magnificent continued until Powerful's completion in 1957, at which point Magnificent was returned to the British.[72] She was to be sold to another nation, but after no buyers came forward, the carrier was scrapped.[72]

In the meantime, Powerful had been upgraded to operate jet aircraft.[72] The modifications included an 8° angled flight deck and steam catapult, and she was equipped with American weapons, radars, and jet aircraft instead of their British equivalents.[72] She was commissioned in 1957 as HMCS Bonaventure.[72] The carrier's design could not keep up with the advances in naval aircraft, and during the early 1960s, her air group was reduced to helicopters only.[72] She remained in service until 1970.[41] Her departure marked the end of carrier-based aviation in the Canadian Forces.[41]


Lead ship Colossus was loaned to the French Navy in August 1946 and renamed Arromanches.[2][17] The vessel remained in French service, and was purchased outright in 1951.[73]

Arromanches was deployed to French Indochina and operated during the First Indochina War from 1949 to 1954.[42] After the war's end, the carrier was assigned to the Mediterranean.[42] She participated in the 1956 Suez Crisis, but unlike her British sister ships, Arromanches' role consisted of air strikes against Egyptian positions around Port Said.[42] A modernisation from 1956 to 1958 saw the installation of a 4° angled flight deck, allowing Arromanches to operate Breguet Alizé anti-submarine aircraft.[74]

Arromanches was replaced in active service by the French-built Clemenceau class, and was converted into a training ship in 1960.[42][74] Apart from a short stint as an anti-submarine carrier in 1968, the ship remained in this role until her 1974 decommissioning.[42] Arromanches was broken up for scrap in 1978.[74]


Work on the Majestic class Hercules was suspended in May 1946, with the ship about 75% complete.[75] The carrier remained in an unfinished condition until January 1957, when she was purchased by the Indian Navy.[76] Fitted with an angled flight deck, Hercules was commissioned into the Indian Navy as INS Vikrant in 1961.[76] Vikrant was not involved in the 1962 Sino-Indian War or the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War because she was docked for maintenance and refits on both occasions.[76] She did operate during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War, with her air group performing strike and interdiction operations in East Pakistan.[76]

A small aircraft carrier tied up at a wharf. A helicopter and two aircraft sit on the flight deck. Other ships and skyscrapers are in the background.
The Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikrant has been preserved as a museum ship—the only Light Fleet remaining

A major upgrade between 1979 and 1982 saw the carrier fitted with a new propulsion system, an updated radar suite, and a 9.75° ski-jump ramp to be used by Sea Harriers.[76] The carrier was last deployed in 1994, and she was decommissioned in 1997.[76] Vikrant helped the Indian Navy to become the dominant regional power.[41]

Following her decommissioning, Vikrant was marked for preservation as a museum ship, although a lack of funding has prevented progress on the ship's conversion for this role.[77][78] Vikrant is opened to the public by the Indian Navy for short periods, but as of April 2010, the Government of Maharashtra has been unable to find an industrial partner to operate the museum on a permanent, long-term basis.[77][78]


The Royal Netherlands Navy acquired the Colossus class Venerable in 1948, and commissioned her as HNLMS Karel Doorman.[41] Initially, the carrier operated piston-engined aircraft, but underwent modernisation from 1955 to 1958, including a steam catapult, reinforced flight deck and aircraft lifts, and an 8° angled deck.[79] Between the upgrade and 1964, Karel Doorman possessed a mixed air group of jet fighters, anti-submarine aircraft, and helicopters; the fixed-wing aircraft were removed in that year.[42]

In 1968, Karel Doorman was heavily damaged by fire.[79] She was repaired with equipment stripped from British Light Fleet Carriers in reserve and awaiting disposal.[79] However, before the fire, the Royal Netherlands Navy was reconsidering carrier-based operation, and instead of returning her to service, Karel Doorman was sold to Argentina.[43][79]


Name Builder Laid down Launched Commissioned Paid off Foreign service and notes Fate
Colossus class
HMS Colossus Vickers-Armstrong[80] 1 June 1942[80] 30 September 1943[80] 16 December 1944[80] 1946 French Navy: Arromanches (1946–1974)[73] Scrapped in 1978[73]
HMS Glory Harland & Wolff[80] 27 August 1942[80] 27 November 1943[80] 2 April 1945[80] 1956 - Scrapped in 1961[8]
HMS Ocean Stephen & Sons[80] 8 November 1942[80] 8 July 1943[80] 8 August 1945[80] 1960 - Scrapped in 1962[8]
HMS Venerable Cammell-Laird[80] 3 December 1942[80] 30 December 1943[80] 17 January 1945[80] April 1947 Royal Netherlands Navy: HNLMS Karel Doorman (1948–1968)[79]
Argentine Navy: ARA Veinticinco de Mayo (1969–1999)[42]
Scrapped in 1999[42]
HMS Vengeance Swan Hunter[80] 16 November 1942[80] 23 February 1944[80] 15 January 1945[80] 1952 Royal Australian Navy: HMAS Vengeance (1952–1955)[53]
Brazilian Navy: Minas Gerais (1960–2001)[42][62]
Scrapped in 2004[69]
HMS Pioneer Vickers-Armstrong[80] 2 December 1942[80] 20 May 1944[2] 8 February 1945[80] 1954 Completed as maintenance carrier[14] Scrapped in 1954[39]
HMS Warrior Harland & Wolff Ltd.[2] 12 December 1942[2] 20 May 1944[2] 2 April 1945 1946 Royal Canadian Navy: HMCS Warrior (1946–1948)
Returned to Royal Navy (1948-195?)
Argentine Navy: ARA Independencia (1958–1971)[15][42]
Scrapped in 1971
HMS Theseus Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company[2] 6 January 1943[2] 6 July 1944[2] 9 February 1946[2] 1957 - Scrapped in 1962[8]
HMS Triumph R. & W. Hawthorn Leslie & Company Ltd.[2] 27 January 1943[2] 2 October 1944[2] 9 May 1946[2] 1975 Reclassified as repair ship in 1965[8] 1981
HMS Perseus Vickers-Armstrong[81] 1 June 1943 26 March 1944[81] 19 October 1945[81] 1957 Completed as maintenance carrier[14] Scrapped in 1958[39]
Majestic class
HMAS Melbourne
Vickers-Armstrong 15 April 1943 28 February 1945 28 October 1955 30 May 1982 Royal Australian Navy Scrapped in 1985
HMAS Sydney
HM Dockyard Devonport 19 April 1943 30 September 1944 16 December 1948 12 November 1973 Royal Australian Navy Scrapped in 1975
HMCS Magnificent
Harland & Wolff[72] 29 July 1943 16 November 1944 21 March 1948[72] 1956 Royal Canadian Navy Scrapped in 1965
INS Vikrant
Vickers-Armstrong (construction)
Harland & Wolff (fitting out)[75]
14 October 1943[75] 22 September 1945[75] 4 April 1961[75] 31 January 1997 Indian Navy Preserved as museum ship
Leviathan Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd. 18 October 1943 7 June 1945 Scrapped before completion Scrapped in 1968[22]
HMCS Bonaventure
Harland & Wolff[72] 27 November 1943 27 February 1945 17 January 1957[72] 3 July 1970 Royal Canadian Navy/
Canadian Forces Maritime Command
Scrapped 1971


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 173
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Fontenoy, Aircraft Carriers, p. 266
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Robbins, The Aircraft Carrier Story, p. 91
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 172
  5. ^ a b Harding, The Royal Navy 1930-2000, pp. 79-80
  6. ^ a b Preston, Aircraft Carriers, p. 142
  7. ^ a b Konstam, British Aircraft Carriers 1939-45, p. 24
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Blackman (ed.), Jane's Fighting Ships (1968–69), p. 313
  9. ^ a b Hobbs, in The Navy and the Nation, p. 217
  10. ^ a b Harding, The Royal Navy 1930-2000, p. 79
  11. ^ a b Wright, Australian Carrier Decisions, p. 65
  12. ^ a b Konstam, British Aircraft Carriers 1939-45, pp. 24, 26
  13. ^ Robbins, The Aircraft Carrier Story, pp. 91–2
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 177
  15. ^ a b c d e Bishop & Chant, Aircraft carriers, p. 62
  16. ^ Konstam, British Aircraft Carriers 1939-45, p. 26
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 74
  18. ^ a b c Hobbs, HMAS Melbourne – 25 Years On, p. 5
  19. ^ Hobbs, Aircraft Carriers of the British and Commonwealth Navies, p. 130
  20. ^ Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, pp. 70–1
  21. ^ a b c Hobbs, Aircraft Carriers of the British and Commonwealth Navies, pp. 129-30
  22. ^ a b Fontenoy, Aircraft Carriers, p. 353
  23. ^ Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 178
  24. ^ Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 72
  25. ^ Robbins, The Aircraft Carrier Story, pgs 91, 284
  26. ^ Wragg, A Century of Maritime Aviation, pp. 152-3
  27. ^ a b Robbins, The Aircraft Carrier Story, p. 107
  28. ^ Konstam, British Aircraft Carriers 1939-45, p. 39
  29. ^ Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 71
  30. ^ Hobbs, British Commonwealth Carrier Operations, p. 63
  31. ^ Hobbs, British Commonwealth Carrier Operations, p. 64
  32. ^ a b Hobbs, British Commonwealth Carrier Operations, pp. 64–6
  33. ^ a b Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 73
  34. ^ Hobbs, British Commonwealth Carrier Operations, p. 65
  35. ^ Hobbs, British Commonwealth Carrier Operations, p. 67
  36. ^ Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 76
  37. ^ Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, pp. 76–7
  38. ^ Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 77
  39. ^ a b c Bishop & Chant, Aircraft carriers, p. 51
  40. ^ Hobbs, HMAS Melbourne – 25 Years On, p. 6
  41. ^ a b c d e f Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 75
  42. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Fontenoy, Aircraft Carriers, p. 268
  43. ^ a b Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 241
  44. ^ Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, pp. 92–3
  45. ^ a b English, Latin American Navies still treading water
  46. ^ Wright, Australian Carrier Decisions, pgs. 71, 83–6
  47. ^ Wright, Australian Carrier Decisions, p. 84
  48. ^ Wright, Australian Carrier Decisions, pp. 92–3
  49. ^ Wright, Australian Carrier Decisions, pp. 104–5
  50. ^ Wright, Australian Carrier Decisions, p. 107
  51. ^ Donohue, From Empire Defence to the Long Haul, pgs. 33, 38, 45–7
  52. ^ Donohue, From Empire Defence to the Long Haul, pgs. 61, 94
  53. ^ a b Donohue, From Empire Defence to the Long Haul, p. 94
  54. ^ a b Bastock, Australia's Ships of War, p. 304
  55. ^ Bastock, Australia's Ships of War, pp. 304–5
  56. ^ Hobbs, in The Navy and the Nation, p. 228
  57. ^ Hobbs, in The Navy and the Nation, pp. 228–9
  58. ^ Bastock, Australia's Ships of War, p. 313
  59. ^ Hall, HMAS Melbourne, p. 9
  60. ^ Storey and Ji, China's aircraft carrier ambitions, p. 79.
  61. ^ a b Hobbs, HMAS Melbourne – 25 Years On, p. 9
  62. ^ a b c d Blackman (ed.), Jane's Fighting Ships (1968–69), p. 23
  63. ^ Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 245
  64. ^ a b Bishop & Chant, Aircraft carriers, p. 82
  65. ^ Sharpe (ed.), Jane's Fighting Ships, 1996–1997, p. 55
  66. ^ Corless, The Brazilian Navy blazes a trail in the South Atlantic
  67. ^ Polmar, The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet, p. 107
  68. ^ Syal & Lashmar, Race to save historic ship from scrap heap
  69. ^ a b c Parry, Sad end to symbol of city's liberation
  70. ^ Tweedie, For internet sale: aircraft carrier, only three owners
  71. ^ a b Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 231
  72. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 232
  73. ^ a b c Bishop & Chant, Aircraft carriers, p. 63
  74. ^ a b c Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 217
  75. ^ a b c d e Blackman (ed.), Jane's Fighting Ships (1968–69), p. 130
  76. ^ a b c d e f Bishop & Chant, Aircraft carriers, p. 64
  77. ^ a b R 11 Vikrant, GlobalSecurity.org
  78. ^ a b Tembhekar, No takers for INS Vikrant's museum plan
  79. ^ a b c d e Ireland, Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 244
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  81. ^ a b c Fontenoy, Aircraft Carrier, p. 265


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