About the World Aircraft Carriers Lists

Revised 1 January 1998
Version 2.00
Maintained by: Andrew Toppan
World Aircraft Carrier Lists Main Page: http://www.hazegray.org/navhist/carriers/

What's this all about? Why are you doing all this?
What is an Aircraft Carrier?
Formatting, Content and Terminology

What's this all about? Why are you doing all this?

The World Carriers List is a project to provide comprehensive, detailed, up-to-date, accurate lists of aircraft carriers and other aviation ships from the start of naval aviation to the current day, for the entire world.

When researching aircraft carriers (or any other ships), it quickly becomes apparent that no single book lists "all" the information or "all" the ships, and that many books are rapidly outdated by the passage of time. It also become clear that errors do creep into books and other sources; these errors cannot be corrected once a book goes to press. As a remedy for these problems, this list seeks to consolidate information from dozens of sources into a single, easily accesible, easily updated list.

The lists seek to be both "broad" (covering a wide range of ships and data) and "deep" (providing significant detail wherever possible). There is always a tradeoff between breadth and depth, but we feel an appropriate mix has been reached for these lists. To make the information easy to find and understand, a more-or-less "standard" format has been worked out. This format is flexible enough to accomodate the peculiarities of any particular ship, but rigid enough to standardize the presentation of data.

The World Wide Web allows several unique features in these lists, such as direct links to dozens of photos (rather than one or two per ship, at best, in most works), crosslinks from one entry to another, trivially simple updates and corrections, and links to sources of additional information.

We make no claims to perfection, but we feel these lists are a considerable improvement over most other sources. This is especially true because the World Aircraft Carrier Lists are available for free, so they can be accessed by many people who could not afford (and would not need) expensive reference books.

What is an Aircraft Carrier?

Clearly, this question must be addressed here. An aircraft carrier is, generally speaking, a ship in which the primary mission is the operation of a significant number of aircraft for combat purposes, or in support of combat operations, or in support of other aircraft carriers (i.e. the case of training carriers). The key here is that the vessel must operate the aircraft while at sea, not just transport them (an aviation transport) or operate them while moored (an aviation tender).

In practice this definition includes all vessels with the open expanse of flight deck we commonly associate with aircraft carriers, plus various seaplane carriers without large flight decks, plus a number of ships that are part aircraft carrier and part conventional warship. To draw the line between ships that are aircraft carriers of some sort and ships that simply operate a few aircraft (i.e. most modern destroyers, WWII-era cruisers), we've used a "50% rule": if 50% or more of the ship is dedicated to aviation operations, it qualifies for inclusion. This often means a helicopter/seaplane facility has been installed in place of (or instead of) part of the main armament of a ship.

However, the contribution of seaplane tenders and similar vessels cannot be ignored. Although they do not qualify as aircraft carriers under the definition used above, they played a vital aviation role in the days of seaplanes. Therefore, seaplane tenders have been included in separate lists within this project. A seaplane tender has been defined as a vessel designed or modified to support, repair, and supply seaplanes in forward areas, including establishment and maintenance of forward operating bases. Excluded are ships which embarked or supported seaplanes only as an emergency measure, or without modification for seaplane duties.

Formatting, Content and Terminology

At the top of each list is an index of all ships and classes included in that document, with links which allow one to quickly jump to a specific class or ship of interest. Due to the size of the US and UK lists, these are broken into several documents, with a single master index for each nation.

Each class is listed in a separate entry. The first section of the class entry lists the techical data relevant to the entire class, followed by operational, design, historical or other notes relating to the entire class, or to several ships of the class. The data categories used in this section are generally similar to those used in many other works, but the notes are more structured and categorized than in most works. By categorizing the notes, we ensure that all relevant data is included and can be readily located.

Following the general class data and notes are the individual ship entries, one per ship, except that several cancelled ships may be combined into a single entry. The individual ship entries give individual information such as operational and technical history, changes of designation, etc. Each entry includes a listing of the vessel's previous names (if any), designations, and links to photographs of the ships. For US ships each entry also includes a link to the ship's Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships entry, which gives a more detailed operational history.

US ships are listed in numerical order within each class. Non-US ships are listed in chronological order by date of commissioning, with the name ship of the class listed first.

In general each ship has only one entry. Exceptions occurr when ships are transferred from one nation to another, or when a ship undergoes a major change in role (i.e. aircraft carrier to amphibious assault ship) which requires a second listing for the new role. For US Navy ships, a second listing is only added if the ship's designation number is changed (i.e. CVS 21 to LPH 4), but not for more minor changes (i.e. CV 21 to CVS 21).

The World Aircraft Carrier Lists
Compiled and Maintained by Andrew Toppan (actoppan@hazegray.org)
Copyright © 1995-2003 by Andrew Toppan
Reproduction, reuse or distribution without permission is prohibited