World Aircraft Carriers List: RN Developmental & Experimental Carriers

Revised 25 June 1998
Version 2.01
Compiled and Maintained by: Andrew Toppan
World Aircraft Carrier Lists Main Page:

Furious (aircraft cruiser)
Vindictive (aircraft cruiser)
Argus (I49) (experimental carrier)
Hermes (I95) (experimental carrier)
Eagle (94) (experimental carrier)

Furious aircraft cruiser

Displacement: approx. 23,000 tons full load
Dimensions: 786.5 x 88 x 21 feet/239.7 x 26.8 x 6.4 meters
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 18 boilers, 4 shafts, 90,000 hp, 31.5 knots
Crew: 880
Armor: 2-3 inch belt, .75-3 inch deck, 4-7 inch barbettes, 9 inch turrets, 10 inch CT
Armament: 10 5.5/50, 2 3 inch AA, 4 3 pound AA, 21 inch TT
Aircraft: unknown number

Concept/Program: Originally designed as an oddball "large light cruiser" with two 18" guns, completed as a cruiser-seaplane carrier with a seaplane flying-off deck forward. This conversion was a failure, so she was rebuilt as a primitive "aircraft carrier" with a landing-on deck added aft. She still retained her original midships superstructure, rendering her ineffective in her new role.

Class: Near sister to Glorious and Courageous.

Design/Conversion: The after 18 inch gun was removed, and the secondary guns relocated and reduced in number. A large landing-on deck, with arresting gear, was built aft; a hangar below it could store a large number of aircraft. The new aft deck was connected to the original forward flying-off deck via ramps beside the superstructure. She operated landplanes, not seaplanes, in this role. The midships superstructure was retained; it obstructed the flight deck and created strange air flow patterns.

Departure from Service/Disposal: Finally converted to a modern, flush-decked aircraft carrier after being placed in reserve in 1919.

Photos: [As completed, with forward flight deck], [With aft flight deck added], [Superstructure closeup with aft deck], [after full conversion to carrier], [During WWII, with an island added], [Three sisters Furious, Courageous and Glorious].

Built by Armstrong. Laid down 8 June 1915, launched 15 Aug 1916, conversion to cruiser-carrier started 19 March 1917, completed 4 July 1917. Aft flying deck added 11/1917 to 2/1918; reclassified as aircraft carrier during conversion, recommissioned 15 March 1918.

To reserve 21 Nov 1919 pending reconstruction. Reconstructed as a flush-deck carrier 6/1922-1 Aug 1925 at Devonport Dockyard.

Refitted with a small, low-level island and rearmed 1939. Operated as ASW, convoy escort, invasion support and strike carrier during WWII. Participated in strike on Tirpitz.

Decommissioned to reserve 15 Sept 1944 due to badly deteriorated condition. Used as target/trials hulk after decommissioning. Sold 1/1948 and scrapped at Troon; scrapping completed 1954.

[Back To Top]

Vindictive (Hawkins class) aircraft cruiser

Displacement: ~12,190 tons full load
Dimensions: 605 x 65 x 19 feet/184.4 x 19.8 x 5.8 meters
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 12 boilers, 4 shafts, 60,000 shp, 30 knots
Crew: 560
Armor: 1.5-3 inch belt, 1-1.5 inch decks, 3 inch CT
Armament: 4 7.5/45, 4 3 inch, 4 12 pound AA, 6 21 inch TT
Aircraft: see notes

Concept/Program: A light cruiser converted while building to become essentially a small sister to Furious in that ship's 2nd conversion configuration. She was not a success.

Class: Originally a Hawkins class ship.

Design/Conversion: Generally similar to Furious. A flying-off deck forward with a small hangar below; large landing-on deck aft with a large hangar below. Flight decks connected via ramps. The midships superstructure was retained.

Operational: By the time this ship was commissioned, the problems inherent in her design had been made obvious by trials in Furious. She saw very little operational flying service.

Departure from Service/Disposal: Laid up in reserve within a year of completion, employed in auxiliary duties for several years, then reconverted to cruiser configuration. Became a training ship in 1936, repair ship in 1939, and was scrapped immediately after WWII.

Photos: [Vindictive as completed], [As reconverted to cruiser], [As a repair ship].

Built by Harland & Wolff. Laid down 29 June 1917, carrier conversion started late 1917, launched 17 Jan 1918, renamed 6/1918, commissioned 1 October 1918.

Ran aground 6 July 1919, seriously damaged, repaired at Portsmouth Dockyard and laid up in reserve 24 December 1919 following completion of repairs. Briefly recommissioned in 1920 as a troopship. Reconverted to cruiser 1 March 1923 to 3/1925. Retained a small hangar and catapult forward until 1928.

Laid up in reserve 1929; demilitarized under the London Treaty 5/1937, recommissioned as a training ship 7 September 1937. Converted to a repair ship in 1939. Decommissioned for disposal 9 September 1945. Sold 24 January 1946 and subsequently scrapped at Blyth.

[Back To Top]

Argus experimental aircraft carrier

Displacement: 14,550 tons normal
Dimensions: 566 x 68 x 21 feet/172.5 x 20.7 x 6.4 meters
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 12 boilers, 4 shafts, 20,000 shp, 20 knots
Crew: 401
Armor: none Armament: 6 4 inch AA
Aircraft: 20

Concept/Program: Following a confused design period, this ship was completed as the first true "aircraft carrier" as we know the term today. The ship was a merchant hull which had been suspended incomplete at the start of the war; the builders proposed an aircraft-carrying conversion and this plan was eventually accepted. Through several design changes the ship reached her final form as a flush-decked aircraft carrier of surprisingly modern form.

Design/Conversion: Built on the hull of an Italian merchant ship. The original conversion plan was for a large seaplane carrier; the plan was soon changed to an aicraft carrier with separate forward and aft flying decks. The two flying decks were then connected, but a large midships superstructure was retained. Ultimately the island was eliminated totally and the two decks were merged into a single full-length deck. The deck sloped downwards at the bow; there was a small retractable navigating position. A large hangar was built above the hull, as became standard in later ships. The hangar was open at the stern, and there were two cranes aft to allow seaplanes to be hoisted into the hangar. The boiler exhausts were run aft to the extreme stern.

Modifications: Refitted and bulged 1925-1927. Further modifications during the 1930's: reboilered, forward flight deck rebuilt and a catapult was fitted, old four inch guns removed. She was fitted with a minimal self-defense battery during WWII.

Operational: During her early years she served as a valuable experimentation and trials ship as naval aviation underwent rapid development. After the mid-1930's she was no longer a first-line ship, having been replaced by larger, more effective ships. She was a training carrier by 1940, but also served in escort and transport roles; briefly served as a combat carrier in the Mediterreanean during the early-war carrier crisis. Returned to training by mid-war.

Departure from Service/Disposal: Left operational service 12/1944 due to age and obsolescence.

ex merchant Conte Rosso
Photos: [Argus as completed], [Overhead view of Argus], [After 1930's refit.].

Built by Beardmore. Laid down 6/1914, suspended at the outbreak of war, purchased by RN 8/1916, launched 2 Dec 1917, commissioned 16 Sept 1918.

Operated as an experimental and trials ship, and as a fleet carrier. Refitted and bulged at Chatham 1 November 1925 to 19 January 1927. Replaced in first-line service by 1930; placed in reserve 4/1930, refitted at Chatham 1932, and maintained in reserve post-refit. Refitted, reboilered with destroyer boilers, outfitted as a training carrier and target drone carrier, and recommissioned 30 July 1938. Her forward flight deck was rebuilt and enlarged, bows enclosed, catapults fitted.

Served as a training carrier early WWII, later as convoy escort and aircraft transport. Saw limited use as a fleet carrier late 1941, then supported operation Torch, but reverted to training by 1943. WWII gun armament was 4 4 inch AA and 13 20 mm.

Taken out out service and hulked as an accomodations ship 8/1944. Sold 5 December 1946 and scrapped at Inverkeithing in 1947.

[Back To Top]

Hermes experimental aircraft carrier

Displacement: 13,000 tons full load
Dimensions: 598 x 70 x 18.5 feet/182.3 x 21.3 x 5.6 meters
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 6 boilers, 2 shafts, 40,000 shp, 25 knots
Crew: 664
Armor: 3 inch belt, 1 inch deck
Armament: 10 5.5 inch SP, 4 4 inch AA
Aircraft: 20

Concept/Program: First RN carrier designed and built as such. Design mission was cruiser-type fleet scouting by means of shipboard aircraft. She was the second of RN's trio of rather small experimental carriers. Her small sized proved a hinderance soon after she was commissioned, and she was relegated to China Station duty.

Design: Followed light cruiser design practice in terms of hull size, and form, structure, etc. She had a full-length hangar and flight deck, which narrowed sharply at the bow. Her island was the first in the RN, and was very large for her time. She trimmed down by the bow and suffered continual stability problems due to excessive topweight.

Modifications: There were few modifications, other than incremental improvements in aircraft handling arrangements and gun armament.

Operational: From the 1930's on she was severely limited by her small size. Spent most of her career on China Station, but saw service in the Atlantic and Middle East before she was sunk.

Departure from Service/Disposal: Caught by Japanese fleet carriers while she had no aircraft aboard; quickly sunk.

Photos: [Hermes as completed], [After 1930's refit], [Sinking].

Built by Armstrong. Laid down 15 Jan 1918, launched 11 Sept 1919 to clear slip, transferred to Devonport Dockyard for completion, conducted trials 1923-1924, commissioned 3 June 1925.

Refitted at Devonport Dockyard 22 September 1933 to 1 November 1934; gun armament was changed to 6 5.5 inch SP, 3 4 inch AA, 2 quad .5 inch AA. Served on China Station during the 1930's. Decommissioned to reserve 20 May 1937 and used as a harbor training ship. Recommissioned 8/1939.

By the start of WWII aicraft capacity was reduced to 12 planes. Sent to the Atlantic to hunt raiders early in the war. Collided with AMC Corfu mid-1940; repaired in South Africa. Operated off East Africa and in the Middle East following repairs. A few 20 mm guns were fitted early in the war.

Bombed and sunk by Japanese carrier aircraft off Ceylon 9 April 1942.

[Back To Top]

Eagle experimental aircraft carrier

Displacement: 26,000 tons full load
Dimensions: 667 x 105 x 24.5 feet/203.3 x 32 x 7.5 meters
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 32 boilers, 4 shafts, 50,000 shp, 22.5 knots
Crew: 950
Armor: 1-4.5 inch belt, 1-1.5 inch deck
Armament: 9 6 inch SP, 5 4/45 AA, 4 3 pound, 6 21 inch TT
Aircraft: 21

Concept/Program: Third ship of RN's early carrier trio. Converted from a Chilean battleship hull after the value of seaplane carriers had been proven by WWI. As in Argus, there was considerable confusion regarding the ship's configuration as reconstruction plans were drawn up. Following the conclusion of WWI there was much doubt about the wisdom of completing the ship as a carrier; she was nearly reconverted to a battleship. In the end she was completed to a standard carrier configuration, but was quite inefficient due to her battleship origins.

Class: Originally one of two battleships being built for Chile. Her sister was taken over, completed as a battleship, and commissioned in RN as Canada; she was returned to Chile postwar.

Design/Conversion: The original design was for a seaplane carrier, then an aircraft carrier with separate forward and aft decks, then a full-length deck with a large superstructure amidships, and finally a relatively conventional configuration with a clear full-length deck, large island, and full hangar. Partially outfitted and made operational for flying trials several years before completion, but then returned to the dockyard for completion. During the final completion work there were several changes to the design, including hull bulges. She was slow and inefficient due to her origin.

Modifications: The ship saw standard modifications in aircraft handling arrangements, updated gun armament, etc. She was reboilered in 1931-32.

Operational: Operated in the Mediterranean early in her career, then on China Station from 1934 to the start of WWII. Early in the war she served in the Indian Ocean, then moved back to the Mediterranean.

Departure from Service/Disposal: Torpedoed and sunk by a U-boat during the relief of Malta.

ex Chilean Almirante Cochrane, ex Santiago, ex Constitution
Photos: [Battleship sister Canada], [Eagle during early trials], [Eagle as completed], [After 1930's refit], [During WWII], [Listing], [About to capsize].

Built by Armstrong, Newcastle. Laid down 22 Jan 1913 as a battleship but work stopped during WWI. Purchased by RN 28 Feb 1918 for conversion to carrier. Conversion started immediately, but industrial problems stopped work from 11/1918 to mid-1919, then work was suspended in 10/1919 and she was nearly converted back to a battleship for resale to Chile. Completion ordered 11 Nov 1919. Ship was completed 13 April 1920 but only enough for limited aviation trials. Final completion as carrier ordered 24 September 1920, decommissioned for completion 16 November 1920. Transferred to Portsmouth Dockyard for completion 21 Feb 1921. Commissioned 26 Feb 1924.

Served in the Mediterranean early in her career. Refitted and reboilered at Devonport Dockyard 8/1931 to 28 Nov 1932, recommissioned 9 Jan 1933. Transferred to China Station in 1934. Major refit 6/1935 to 2/1937. Underwent various minor modifications to AA armament during the 1930's and 1940's.

Operated in the Indian Ocean on raider patrol and troop convoy escort duties early in the war. Transferred to the Mediterranean in 1940, and operated on Atlantic convoys in 1941. Deployed during Bismarck hunt. Torpedoed and sunk by U-73 during the relief of Malta, 11 August 1942.

[Back To Top]

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