World Aircraft Carriers List: RN Helicopter and Assault Ships

Revised 22 January 2000
Version 2.04
Compiled and Maintained by: Andrew Toppan
World Aircrat Carrier Lists Main Page:

Bulwark Class (amphibious assault ships)
Bulwark (R08)
Albion (R07)
Centaur (R06)

Hermes (R12) (amphibious assault ship)
Ocean (L12) (amphibious assault ship)

Tiger class (helicopter cruisers)
Blake (C99)
Tiger (C20)
Lion (C34)

Lofoten (K07) (helicopter training support ship)
Engadine (K08) (helicopter training support ship)
Argus (A135) (aviation support ship)
Reliant (experimental helicopter support ship)

Bulwark class amphibious assault ships

Displacement: 27,300 tons full load
Dimensions: 650 x 90 x 24.5 feet/198 x 27.4 x 7.5 meters
Extreme Dimensions: 737 x 90 x 24.5 feet/244.6 x 27.5 x 7.5 meters
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 4 boilers, 2 shafts, 76,000 shp, 28 knots
Crew: a1,037 + 700-900 troops
Armor: 1-2 inch decks, magazines and machinery
Armament: 8 40 mm
Aircraft: 16 helicopters

Concept/Program: Former Centaur class light fleet carriers converted to assault ships when they were rendered obsolete as aircraft carriers. These were some of the earliest and largest dedicated assault ships. They were known as "commando carriers". The conversion of Centaur was cancelled due to cost.

Design/Conversion: Catapults, arresting gear, etc. removed; berthing spaces altered as needed, space for vehicle and equipment storage added. Retained ability to act as interim ASW carriers.

Departure from Service/Disposal: Discarded due to age; they were not replaced.

34 - R08
Photos: [Bulwark as completed], [As an assault ship], [As an ASW carrier].

Built by Harland & Wolff. Laid down 10 May 1945, construction delayed following WWII, launched 22 June 1948, commissioned 29 October 1954.

Operated as trials & training carrier, then in the Mediterranean during the Suez crisis. Converted to commando carrier at Devonport Dockyard 1/1959-23 Jan 1960. Troop capacity was originally 700; upgraded to 900 in 1963.

Laid up in contingent reserve 5/1976. Designated as a reserve ASW carrier in 1976; conversion to ASW carrier started 20 March 1978, completed and recommissioned 23 Feb 1979. One boiler room destroyed by fire 15 March 1980; not repaired.

Decommissioned for disposal 4/1981. Scrapped at Cairn Ryan starting 4/1984.

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08 - R07
Photos: [Albion as completed], [Albion as assault ship].

Built by Swan Hunter. Laid down 22 March 1944, construction delayed following WWII, launched 6 May 1947 and immediately laid up, completed 26 May 1954.

Operated at Suez and extensively in the Far East. Converted to commando carrier at Devonport Dockyard 1/1961 to 8/1962; troop capacity was 900.

Replaced by Hermes. Decommissioned 2 March 1973. Sold 22 Oct 1973 for conversion to a heavy-lift ship for service in the North Sea oilfields, but conversion was cancelled and ship was scrapped at Faslane starting 11/1973.

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39 - R06
Photos: [Centaur as completed].

Built by Harland & Wolff. Laid down 30 May 1944, construction delayed following WWII, launched 22 April 1947, commissioned 17 Sept 1953. Designation had been changed to R06 under NATO designation system prior to commissioning.

Operated mostly in the Mediterranean and Far East. Limited modernization 5/1956 to 9/1958. Planned conversion as 3rd commando carrier cancelled. Decommissioned 12/1965 and hulked as an accommodations ship, mostly for crews of carriers in overhaul. Stricken for disposal 1971. Sold 11 Aug 1972 and subsequently scrapped.

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Hermes amphibious assualt ship

Displacement: 28,700 tons full load
Dimensions: 650 x 90 x 29 feet/198 x 27.4 x 8.8 meters
Extreme Dimensions: 744 x 160 x 29 feet/226.7 x 48.7 x 8.8 meters
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 4 boilers, 2 shafts, 76,000 shp, 28 knots
Crew: uncertain + 750 troops
Armor: thin armored decks
Armament: 2 quad Sea Cat SAM launchers
Aircraft: helicopters, unknown number

Concept/Program: A third "commando carrier" conversion. Originally laid down as a Centaur class ship, but completed to an extensively altered, and much more capable, design. Like the others, converted to the assault role when she could no longer operate first-line combat jets. Conversion was generally similar to the other ships. She returned to the first-line role when the VSTOL Harrier came into service.

61 - R12
Photos: [Hermes as completed], [After 1960's refit], [As an ASW carrier], [As a VSTOL carrier], [As Indian Viraat].

Built by Vickers-Armstrong, Barrow. Laid down 21 June 1944, renamed 11/1945, construction suspended following WWII. Construction resumed mid-1950's, completed 25 Nov 1959. Ship was built to a completely reworked design, including a full angled deck, steam catapults, relocated elevators, completely new island, and extensive electronics improvements.

Initially operated as a light fleet carrier. Refitted 24 Feb 1964-5/1966 with 40mm removed and 2 quad Sea Cat SAM launchers fitted. Was obsolete by the late 1960's due to small size; decommissioned to reserve 14 July 1970. Converted to a commando carrier at Devenport Dockyard 1 March 1971 to 18 Aug 1973, replacing Albion; had accommodations for 750 troops.

Converted to ASW carrier 10 May 1976 to 10 Dec 1976, then replaced in ASW role by Bulark and converted to VSTOL (Harrier) carrier in 1980.

Had been scheduled for decommissioning in 1981, but retained for Falklands service. Decommissioned to reserve 12 April 1984, stricken for disposal 1 July 1985. Sold to India 19 April 1986, refitted prior to transfer, commissioned 12 May 1987 as INS Viraat (R22), formally recommissioned in India 15 Feb 1989. Has undergone minor armament modifications. Will require replacement by 2005.

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Ocean amphibious assault ship

Displacement: 20,000 tons full load
Dimensions: 666 x 107 x 21 feet/203 x 32.6 x 6.4 meters
Propulsion: 2 Crossley-Pielstick PC2 Mk 6 series diesels, 2 shafts, 17 knots
Crew: 250 plus 803 Marines (1053 total)
Armor: none
Armamemt: 3 Phalanx CIWS
Aircraft: 18 helicopters

Concept/Program: RN's first new-construction amphibious assault ship, intended to significantly enhance amphibious capabilities by replacing capabilities lost when the original "commando carriers" were decommissioned. This project originated in the 1980's with the need to replace the converted support ship Argus with a purpose-built helicopter vessel; this eventually evolved into an amphibous support ship, and finally a full assault ship.

Design: Basic design is similar to Invincible class VSTOL carriers, with the following general changes: modified island, diesel propulsion, no skijump or VSTOL capabilities, reduced armament, completely new internal arrangements. Hull built to merchant standards.

Photos: [In transit for fitting out], [Starboard bow view],

Built at Kvaerner, Govan and completed at VSEL. First steel cut 30 May 1993, laid down 6/1994, launched 11 Oct 1995, transferred to VSEL for completion. Commissioned 30 September 1998.

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Tiger class helicopter cruisers

Displacement: 12,080 tons full load
Dimensions: 567 x 64 x 23 feet/172.8 x 195 x 7 meters
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 4 boilers, 4 shafts, 80,000 shp, 31.5 knots
Crew: 885
Armor: 3 inch belt, 1-2 inch turret
Armament: 1 dual 6/50, 1 dual 3/70, 2 Seacat SAM
Aircraft: 4 helicopters

Concept/Program: WWII-era cruisers suspended postwar and eventually completed to an extensively modernized, but all-gun, design. They had excellent command facilities but no useful armament, so they were modernized with a helicopter facilty in place of the after guns. In this role they could serve as the center of an ASW task force. Conversion of the third ship was cancelled for economic reasons.

Design/Conversion: All guns and superstructure in the aft 1/3 of the ship removed and replaced by a large helicopter deck and hangar. Seacat SAM fitted.

Variations: There were variations in the size and shape of the hangar, and other minor differences.

Departure from Service/Disposal: They were very expensive to operate, especially in terms of manpower, they were aging, and additional ASW carriers were available, so they were decommissioned in 1979-80. The Invincible class VSTOL carriers were meant as replacements for these ships.

ex-Tiger, ex-Blake
Photos: [As completed], [As converted].

Built by Fairfield. Laid down 17 Aug 1942, launched 20 Dec 1945, construction suspended at the end of WWII, restarted 1954, completed 8 March 1961.

Converted to ASW cruiser at Portsmouth Dockyard 1965-1969.

Decommissioned to reserve 1/1980. Sold 1982 and subsequently scrapped.

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Photos: [As completed], [As converted], [Towed away for scrap].

Built by John Brown. Laid down 1 Oct 1941, launched 25 Oct 1945, construction suspended at the end of WWII, restarted 1954, completed 18 March 1959.

Decommissioned for conversion 1966, converted to ASW cruiser at Devonport Dockyard 1968-1972.

Decommissioned to reserve 1979. Sold 1986 and subsequently scrapped in Spain.

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Photos: [],

Built by Scotts. Laid down 24 June 1942, launched 2 September 1944, construction suspended at the end of WWII, resumed 1954, completed 20 July 1960.

Conversion to ASW cruiser cancelled. Decommissioned and stripped to support sisterships. Sold 1975 and subsequently scrapped.

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Lofoten helicopter training support ship

Displacement: 4,820 tons full load
Dimensions: 345.5 x 55 x 8 feet/105.3 x 16.7 x 2.4 meters
Propulsion: Reciprocating engines, 2 boilers, 2 shafts, 5,500 shp, 12.5 knots
Crew: 110
Armor: none
Armament: none
Aircraft: up to 6 helicopters

Concept/Program: A former LST(3) converted to support helicopter training. The ship provided an platform for practicing at-sea landings, and transported helicopters for at-sea training, reducing the need to assign warships to training duties.

Class: One of a large fleet of LSTs built during WWII.

Design/Conversion: A fairly simple conversion, with the main deck forward of the bridge converted to a helicopter landing area. There was no hangar and minimal support facilities.

Departure from Service/Disposal: Replaced by purpose-built Engagine.

ex-LST 3027
LST 3027 - K07
Photos: [A typical LST(3)], [Lofoten as converted],

Built by Blyth Shipbuilding. Laid down 30 May 1944, launched 25 Jan 1945, completed 24 Oct 1945. Laid up in reserve after WWII. Converted to a helicopter training support ship at Devonport Dockyard in 1964.

Replaced by Engadine in 1967; laid up as an accomodation ship in 1969. Finally sold and towed away for scrapping 26 October 1993.

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Engadine helicopter training support ship

Displacement: 8,960 tons full load
Dimensions: 424 x 58.5 x 22 feet/129.2 x 17.8 x 6.7 meters
Propulsion: Diesel, 1 shaft, 5,500 bhp, 16 knots
Crew: 61 civilian + 14 naval + 133 air group
Armor: none
Armament: none
Aircraft: 4 helicopters

Concept/Program: A purpose-built ship to replace Lofoten in the helicopter training role.

Design: Merchant-type ship with helicopter deck and hangar aft, drone hangar and launch facilities amidships.

Departure from Service/Disposal: Replaced by converted Argus.

Photos: [Engadine].

Built by Henry Robb Ltd. Laid down 8/1965, launched 15 Sept 1966, commissioned 15 Dec 1967.

Replaced by Argus, decommissioned early 1989. Sold to Greek owners in 1990, but laid up at least through 1995; scrapped 1996 in India.

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Argus aviation support ship

Displacement: 28,480 tons full load
Dimensions: 536.8 x 100.5 x 27 feet/163.6 x 30.6 x 8.2 meters
Extreme Dimensions: 567.6 x 100.5 x 27 feet/172.8 x 30.6 x 8.2 meters
Propulsion: Diesel-electric, 2 Lindholmen-Pielstick 18PC2.5 V400 diesels, 2 electric motors, 2 shafts, 23,400 hp, 19 knots
Crew: 79 civilian, 28 military, 137 training, 750 troops in emergency (994 total)
Armor: none
Armament: 2 single 30 mm AA, 2 single 20 mm AA
Aircraft: up to 18 VSTOL and helicopters

Concept/Program: A RO/RO & container ship converted to replace Engadine in the helicopter training support role. Also supports Harrier training, and the ship's large size allows her to act as a transport, emergency "spare deck" or auxiliary carrier, and general-purpose auxiliary. A second conversion was considered but cancelled in 1984. This ship had operated as an emergency aircraft transport during the Falklands crisis, prior to being taken over for this role.

Design/Conversion: Large superstructure forward with a long clear deck aft. Small superstructure on the starboard side, aft, simulates destroyer/frigate superstructure for training purposes. The ship has suffered hull cracking problems and is considered to be unsuccessful.

Operational: Operates primarily as a training ship, both for landing training and by carrying ASW helicopters out to deep-sea training areas. In wartime can act as an aircraft ferry and/or an auxiliary carrier and/or as an assualt ship; has also operated as a hospital ship. The ship's transport and "spare deck" roles are no longer significant due to the availability of purpose-built transports (RO/ROs) and Ocean as a "spare deck".

Departure from Service/Disposal: The project that became HMS Ocean was originally meant as a replacement for this ship. Immediate replacement now seems unlikely, since the new ship evolved into an amphibious assault ship. The future of Argus is uncertain, but a replacement will probably be sought in the near future, as this ship is excessively large and expensive to serve purely as a training ship.

Photos: [Prior to conversion - M/V Contender Bezant], [Argus as completed].

Laid down ????, launched 1981, completed as cargo ship 1981. Chartered for Falklands service 5/82; returned postwar. Purchased by RN 2 March 1984, converted at Harland & Wolff 4/1984 to 3 March 1988. Commissioned 1 June 1988 but immediately went into post-trial refit 17 July 1989 to 3 Oct 1989, fully in service 10/1989.

Deployed to Persian Gulf early 1990's as hospital ship and as an aircraft transport.

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Reliant experimental helicopter support ship

Displacememt: 27,876 tons full load
Dimensions: 670 x 101 x 26 feet/204 x 30.8 x 7.9 meters
Propulsion: Diesel, 1 shaft, 29,000 bhp, 22 knots
Crew: 60 civilian + 141 naval
Armor: none
Armament: 4 40 mm AA
Aircraft: 5 helicopters

Concept/Program: A container ship initially chartered as an emergency helicopter support ship for Falklands duties. Later converted with US/UK "Arapaho" project modular helicopter support equipment to test the capabilities of the Arapaho project. This was intended as a pre-manufactured, standardized, modular helicopter support suite to enable merchant ships to serve as helicopter ships in wartime. The project was not found to be a particular success.

Design/Conversion: Main deck forward of the bridge converted to helicopter landing area, with hangar/maintenance facilties forward.

Departure from Service/Disposal: Following the experiment the ship was sold back into merchant service.

ex merchant Astronomer
Photos: [Astronomer in Falklands configuration], [Reliant as converted].

Built by Gdansk Shipyard, completed 1977. Taken up from trade for Falklands service 5/1982, converted to helicopter support ship, but arrived off the Falklands too late for war service. Chartered for full conversion 12/1982, converted at Cammell Laird, completed 7/1983.

Stripped of helicopter equipment 7/1986 and purchased by RN to avoid cost of full reconversion to original condition. Sold into merchant service by 10/1986.

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