Essex Class Aircraft Carrier - Post-war Rebuilds

Post-war Rebuilds

The large numbers of new ships, coupled with their larger Midway-class contemporaries, sustained the Navy's air power through the rest of the 1940s, the Korean War era, and beyond. While the spacious hangars accommodated the introduction of jets, various modifications significantly improved the capability of fifteen of the ships to handle the jets’ increased weight and speed. These modifications included jet-blast deflectors (JBDs); mirror and then Fresnel-lens landing light systems (a British innovation); greater aviation fuel capacity; stronger decks, elevators, and catapults; and ultimately an angled flight deck.

Five of the long-hulls were laid up in 1946–47, along with all of the short-hulls. Eight of the last nine completed stayed on active duty to form, with three Midways, the backbone of the post-war Navy's combat strength. Though the Truman administration's defense economies sent three of the active Essexes into "mothballs" in 1949, these soon came back into commission after the Korean War began. Ultimately, nine short-hulls and all thirteen long-hulls had active Cold War service.

Oriskany, which had been left unfinished at the end of the war, was completed to an improved design between August 1948 and September 1950, with a much stronger (straight) flight deck and a reconfigured island. Eight earlier ships were thoroughly rebuilt to the Oriskany design under the SCB-27A program in the early 1950s. Six more of the earlier ships were rebuilt to an improved 27C design as the last stage of the SCB-27 program; these ships received steam catapults instead of the less powerful hydraulic units. The otherwise unmodified Antietam received an experimental 10.5 degree angled deck in 1952. An angled flight deck and enclosed hurricane bow became the distinctive features of the SCB-125 program, which was undertaken concurrently with the last three 27C conversions and later applied to all 27A and 27C ships except Lake Champlain. Shangri-La became the first operational United States angled deck aircraft carrier in 1955. Oriskany, the first of the modernized ships but the last angled-deck conversion, received a unique SCB-125A refit which upgraded her to 27C standard, and included steam catapults and an aluminum flight deck.

Korean War and subsequent Cold War needs ensured twenty-two of the twenty-four ships had extensive post–World War II service (Bunker Hill and Franklin had suffered heavy damage and were never recommissioned). All initially carried attack air groups; however by 1955 seven unconverted Essexes were operating under the anti-submarine warfare carrier (CVS) designation established in August 1953. As the Forrestal-class "supercarriers" entered the fleet, the eight 27A conversions were designated CVS to replace the original unconverted ships; the latter began to leave active service in the late 1950s. Two 27C conversions were designated CVS in 1962 (although Intrepid would operate as an attack carrier off Vietnam) and two more in 1969. The seven angle-deck 27As and one 27C received specialized CVS modifications including bow-mounted SQS-23 sonar under the SCB-144 program in the early 1960s. The updated units remained active until age and the growing number of supercarriers made them obsolete, from the late 1960s into the middle 1970s. However, one of the very first of the type, Lexington, served until 1991 as a training ship.

Of the unmodernized Essexes, Boxer, Princeton, and Valley Forge were redesignated Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) amphibious assault ships for the Marine Corps, and remained in commission with their original straight decks until about 1970. The remainder decommissioned in the late 1950s and early 1960s and were promptly reclassified as aircraft transports (AVT), reflecting their very limited ability to operate modern aircraft safely. An unmodernised Essex was offered to the Royal Australian Navy in 1960 as a replacement for HMAS Melbourne but the offer was declined due to the expense of modifications required to make it operationally compatible with the RAN's primarily British-designed fleet. All were scrapped, most in the 1970s.

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Essex Class Aircraft Carrier - Post-war Rebuilds - Evolution of The Air Wing
... By the mid-to-late 1960s, the attack air wing had evolved ... Oriskany deployed with two squadrons of F-8J Crusaders, three squadrons of A-4E Skyhawks, E-1 Tracers, EKA-3B Skywarriors, and RF-8G photo Crusaders ...

Famous quotes containing the words rebuilds, post-war:

    Really, there is no infidelity, nowadays, so great as that which prays, and keeps the Sabbath, and rebuilds the churches. The sealer of the South Pacific preaches a truer doctrine.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)

    Much of what Mr. Wallace calls his global thinking is, no matter how you slice it, still “globaloney.” Mr. Wallace’s warp of sense and his woof of nonsense is very tricky cloth out of which to cut the pattern of a post-war world.
    Clare Boothe Luce (1903–1987)