World Aircraft Carriers List Photo Gallery

Aviation Oddities

Part IV: Really Wierd Stuff

Deliberately Confusing

Most of these oddities are "odd" by accident. But some of them are "odd" for good reason.

 [THUMBNAIL] At first look, this ship appears to be the early carrier HMS Hermes... and you've just fallen for a British trick. This ship is really SS Mamari, also known as Fleet Tender C. This old merchant ship was dressed up as a decoy Hermes to distract the Luftwaffe. The British made extensive use of such decoys in both World Wars.

 [THUMBNAIL] The padding around the island and the "meatballs" on the aircraft make this ship look like a Japanese carrier of WWII. But the huge radar at the rear of the island, and the general island configuration, are sure signs of a US SCB 27A/27C Essex class carrier. The SH-3 helicopter at right makes it clear this isn't WWII. What's going on here? This ship is actually USS Yorktown (CVS 10) dressed up as a Japanese carrier for the movie Tora Tora Tora. Perhaps she should be identified as "USS Kaga".

 [THUMBNAIL] At first glance this appears to be a Royal Navy aircraft, perhaps a cruiser's spotting plane. In fact it is a Japanese aircraft carried by the disguised German raiding cruiser Orion. The aircraft is painted to resemble a RN aircraft to avoid tipping off unsuspected merchant ships. Orion's original aircraft had been wrecked, requiring its replacement by a Japanese aircraft while the ship was in the Far East.

Isn't that a bit large?

Over the years several "non-carrier capable" aircraft have ended up on carrier decks, including the DC-3, C-130, U-2, and the QSRA research aircraft. Other aircraft, including the Fokker F-27 and Boeing 727, have been "seen" on carrier decks in promotional materials, but only through careful photo editing. Still other aircraft have appeared on carrier decks to poke fun at those who think the F-27, 727, F-16N and others are really carrier capable.

 [THUMBNAIL] A USMC KC-130F Hercules aboard USS Forrestal (CVA 59) in October 1963. This aircraft conducted several landings and takeoffs, without the use of arresting wires, catapults or RATO/JATO, to test the possibility of using C-130s as Carried Onboard Delivery (COD) aircraft. The trials were successful, but the C-130 could not be accommodated in a carrier's hangar and could not land without disrupting flight operations, so the concept was abandoned.

 [THUMBNAIL] A U-2 reconnaissance aircraft aboard the carrier America (CVA 66). After landing and takeoff trials, U-2s were operationally employed from carrier decks, although on a very limited basis, to conduct recon flights in areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.

 [THUMBNAIL] The NASA/Army QSRA Quiet STOL Research Aircraft landing aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CVA 63). These trials proved that a heavy STOL jet aircraft could operate from a carrier, but the concept has not progressed further.

 [THUMBNAIL] A 737 lands on USS Constellation (CV 64) in a Southwest Airlines advertisment. This photo, obviously, was faked.

 [THUMBNAIL] Here Constellation has another odd airwing - a squadron of USAF B-2 "stealth bombers"! This one was faked as a joke.

 [THUMBNAIL] We all know the USAF C-17 was designed for a shorter takeoff run, compared to other airlifters...but short enough to operate from a LHA/LHD, as shown here? (folks, it's a joke....)

The Tables are Turned

Normally the aircraft lands on the ship. But sometimes the vessel ends up inside the plane.

 [THUMBNAIL] This is the rescue submersible Avalon (DSRV 2) being loaded into a USAF C-5A Galaxy airlifter for a "flyaway" exercise. The Navy's two rescue subs, based at San Diego, are maintained in a high state of readiness. They can be anywhere in the world within 24 hours, thanks to the Galaxy, and can be deployed aboard submarines or salvage/rescue ships. Thankfully, the DSRVs have never been called out for a real "flyaway" operation.

 [THUMBNAIL] The submarine backing into this C-5A Galaxy is Sea Cliff (DSV 5), a near-sister to the more famous Alvin (DSV 2), of Titanic fame. The Navy's three DSVs were air-transportable in the C-5, although such deployments are now uncommon.

 [THUMBNAIL] A patrol boat takes flight - a CH-54 Skycrane lifts a riverine patrol boat, PBR MkII.

 [THUMBNAIL] This sleek looking craft is the prototype Special Operations Craft (SOC) Mk V, a late-1990's replacement for several types of aged "specops" boats used by Navy SEALs. These craft are also air-transportable in the C-5, and thus can take part in clandestine operations in distant areas on relatively short notice.

A Different View

 [THUMBNAIL] What the heck? No, this isn't a ghost or a faked photo. It's an infrared (IR) linescan from an F-14 TARPS recon pod. The ship is John F. Kennedy. Note the hot plume from her stack, and the hot catapults.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another IR view, this time the Russian Kuznetsov. The ship is clearly "cold", obviously in port.

 [THUMBNAIL] This is Carl Vinson in IR. The nuclear carrier shows the characteristic "hot" catapults, but not the exhaust plume of her conventionally powered cousin.


 [THUMBNAIL] This is the QH-50 drone, commonly known as "DASH" (Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter). This little beastie, meant for ASW operation from small escort ships, proved to be a real headache - there were many control and training problems, resulting in high operational loss rates. The manned LAMPS helicopters were developed as a replacement.

 [THUMBNAIL] A "Pioneer" RPV (Remotely Piloted Vehicle) drone "landing" aboard an Iowa class battleship. These drones were consider a succes in the gunfire spotting role, despite high loss rates. Best of all, they were very cheap.

Back to Aviation Oddities

Back to the World Aircraft Carrier Lists

Compiled and Maintained by Andrew Toppan (
Copyright © 1998-2003 by Andrew Toppan
Reproduction, reuse or distribution without permission is prohibited