World Aircraft Carriers List Photo Gallery
Part III: Barges, Landing Ships, and Other Platforms
When we think of aircraft carriers and seaplane tenders, we rarely think
of barges. But several barges have served in various aviation-related
roles, in addition serving as aircraft transports.
A Royal Navy "seaplane barge", circa 1918. During WWI several barges
were used as small towed "carriers" along the British coast.
This is a US Navy "sea sled", the American counterpart to RN's seaplane
barges. The "sea sled" was designed as small, high-speed launching
platform for various
aircraft. Although proposals called for up to 5,600 such craft to be
constructed during WWI, records can only confirm the construction of the
one "sled" shown here. A few other "sleds" may have been constructed for
trials purposes. The "sled" was 24-25 tons in displacement, 55 feet
long, and propelled by four engines totalling to 1800 hp; the maximum
speed reached on trials was 56 knots. This sled was delivered to the US
Navy at Boston in September 1918; on 7 March 1919 it succesfully launched
an aircraft during trials in Hampton Roads. There the development stopped,
and the sea sled(s) passed into obscurity, their fates unrecorded.
Perhaps the only barge specifically built as an aviation vessel, this is
Catapult Lighter No. 1 (AVC 1), unofficially known as the "Silver
It was built to launch a very large seaplane, which was ultimately
cancelled. Since the seaplane could fly with a much heavier payload than
it could take off with, a catapult was required. This odd 5,800 ton, 424
foot vessel, built around a single giant catapult, was built to meet the
need. This view shows the stern of the vessel, where the seaplane would
be hauled aboard up a ramp. The vessel was laid down on a disused shipway
at Philadelphia Navy Yard on 29 May 1939. This photo was taken on
launching day, 17 August 1940.
A bow view of the unusual AVC 1. This photo was taken on launching day,
17 August 1940, when the ship was 72% complete. She was launched without
ceremony; the launching was probably motivated by the need to clear
shipways for wartime construction, rather than a need for this
experimental barge. The vessel was placed "in service" 17 December
which point experimental seaplanes were hardly a priority.
AVC-1 afloat. She was intended to have diesel propulsion, but
installation of her engines was cancelled along with the seaplane program.
Her catapult machinery proved to be unreliable and troublesome. She was
used for catapult trials on an intermittent basis, and spent several
periods in reserve. The odd vessel was sold in 1956,
shortly before USN abandoned seaplanes completely. Although some
sources report the barge was scrapped in 1956, she survived at least
through the mid-1970's
under the name Pulpwood #1, apparently as a pulpwood barge.
Landing Ship Oddities
A flying-off deck aboard a US LST during WWII. This platform allowed
light Army aircraft to be flown off to support invasions, but they could
not land aboard.
This is LST 776 carrying a primitive aircraft recovery system, sometimes
known as the "Brodie flycatcher", on her bow. A handful of LSTs were
outfitted to launch light aircraft in support of amphibious operations,
but only this ship could recover them, thanks to the "flycatcher".
It is not surprising that this device saw only limited use.
The Vietnam confict was an odd war, and it resulted in a variety of odd
aviation ships. These are a few of the more interesting ones.
This is USS Garrett County (LST 786) serving as a "mother ship" for
US riverine forces. The versatile LST was well-suited to this role, with
generous space for stores, repair shops, and berthing. In addition to the
numerous small craft seen alongside, she also supported the helicopters
that operated with riverine forces. The clear, flat main deck of the LSTs
served as a useful landing platform for several medium helicopters. In
this role she might be considered a "helicopter tender". This ship was
eventually redesignated as a patrol craft tender (AGP), a designation
previously carried by several ex-seaplane tenders.
This is USS Colleton (APB 36), a self-propelled barracks ship.
The ship is immediately recognizable as a former LST, in this case
converted during construction. She is serving in the same role as her
LST cousin in the previous picture. Some of her APB sisters survive today
as barracks hulks, the last WWII-era LST-type ships in US service.
The need to repair the Army's helicopters in Vietnam lead to this odd
ship, USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH 1), converted from the old
seaplane tender Albemarle (AV 5). Her seaplane deck was replaced
by a massive superstructure containing extensive repair shops. She was
civilian manned, with Army personnel working in the repair shops.
Perhaps the world's smallest aircraft carrier. This is an Armored Troop
Carrier (ATC) fitted with a helicopter deck, making it an ATC(H). These
small craft were converted from landing craft (LCM). They saw extensive
riverine use during the war.
The Oddball Oddballs
Some oddballs don't fit into any categories....
This is the Japanese battleship-carrier Hyuga. Following the
carrier losses at Midway, two older battleships gave up their aft gun
turrets in favor of a flight deck for seaplanes. In theory the seaplanes
were to be catapulted from the deck, then recovered from the sea. In
reality there were too few aircraft and too few pilots; these ships never
operated seaplanes. Both served as decoys at Leyte, and were destroyed
during the late-war raids on Japanese shipping.
This odd craft is Kaimalino, also known as SSP-1 (Stable
Semi-Submerged Platform). Built by the
Coast Guard for the Navy, she was USN's first SWATH (Small Waterplane Area
Twin Hull) experimental/research vessel. The helicopter deck is a
convenient result of the vessel's twin-hull configuration. The center of
the deck could be removed to give access to a centerline well for lowering
research gear. After a period in this configuration, the craft was
reconfigured as a range-support ship, with extensive equipment covering
over the entire "flight deck", rendering the ship nearly
This insane-looking ship is Wolverine, a primitive training carrier
employed in the Great Lakes during WWII. Cut down from a sidewheel
excursion steamer, she was meant as a cheap, no-frills training platform
to boost the number of pilots joining the fleet. The ship at left is a
second excursion steamer, also being cut down to a carrier (named
Sable); see below.
Sable, second of the Great Lakes training carriers. These ships
had no hangars or fueling facilities, the aircraft being flown out for
landings, takeoffs and "touch and goes" each day.
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Compiled and Maintained by Andrew Toppan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Copyright © 1998-2003 by Andrew Toppan
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