World Aircraft Carriers List: US Fleet Carriers, Pre-WWII

Revised 26 November 2001
Version 2.03
Compiled and Maintained by: Andrew Toppan
World Aircraft Carrier Lists Main Page:

Langley Class
Langley (CV 1)
Planned second conversion

Lexington Class
Lexington (CV 2)
Saratoga (CV 3)

Ranger (CV 4)
Yorktown Class
Yorktown (CV 5)
Enterprise (CV 6)
Hornet (CV 8)

Wasp (CV 7)

Langley class experimental aircraft carriers

Displacement: 15,150 tons full load
Dimensions: 520 x 65.5 x 16.5 feet/158.5 x 20 x 5 meters
Extreme Dimensions: 542 x 65.5 x 16.5 feet/165 x 20 x 5 meters
Propulsion: Turbo-electric, 3 190 psi boilers, 2 shafts, 7,000 shp, 15.5 knots
Crew: 468
Armor: none
Armament: 4 single 5/51 SP
Aircraft: 30-35 initially

Concept/Program: Experimental conversion of a collier into an aircraft carrier. Ship was intended to provide operational testing, development and evaluation platform. A proposed second ship would have served as a training carrier.

Design/Conversion: Conversion was very spartan & limited; old coaling masts were cut down and turned into trusses to support new flight deck. Original bridge superstructure was retained; hangar deck was completely open.

Modifications: Originally built with a single funnel; refitted with a second funnel soon after completion. No other major modifications prior to conversion to a seaplane tender (see below).

Classification: Reclassified from collier (AC) to carrier (CV) after conversion.

Operational: Conducted extensive trials, test and developmental work; "lessons learned" with this ship contributed greatly to evolution of US carrier aviation, both in terms of equipment and tactics. Regularly took part in fleet exercises.

Departure from Service/Disposal: Rendered obsolete by rapid advance of carrier technology; replaced by new carrier Wasp in 1936. Converted to a seaplane carrier 1936-37; new displacement was 11,500 tons, with forward third of flight deck cut away to create a seaplane handling area.

Other Notes: As collier she had been the first turbo-electric USN vessel.

AC 3 - CV 1 - AV 3
Photos: [USS Jupiter (AC 3)], [Langley during conversion, still designated AC 3], [Langley as converted to aircraft carrier], [Langley converted to seaplane tender] [Langley as seaplane tender], [Langley during WWII].

DANFS History

Built by Mare Island Navy Yard as collier Jupiter (AC 3). Laid down 18 Oct 1911, launched 24 Aug 1912, commissioned as collier 7 April 1913. Converted to experimental aircraft carrier at Norfolk Navy Yard 24 March 1920 to 20 March 1922. Renamed Langley 11 April 1920, reclassified CV 1 and recommissioned 20 March 1922.

Replaced as carrier by new Wasp in 1936. Converted to seaplane tender at Mare Island Navy Yard 25 Oct 1936 to 26 Feb 1937, redesignated AV 3 11 April 1937, recommissioned 21 April 1937. Used as aircraft transport early in WWII. Attacked by Japanese bombers 27 Feb 1942 while arriving at Java with P-40s as cargo; hit multiple times and crippled, abandoned and scuttled by destroyer gunfire.

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Planned second conversion
no designation assigned

In 1925 a conversion of a second carrier of this type, to serve as a training carrier, was considered. The idea was not proceeded with.

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Lexington class large fleet aircraft carriers

Displacement: 38,746 tons design full load
Dimensions: 850 x 105.5 x 24.25 feet/295 x 32 x 7.5 meters
Extreme Dimensions:888 x 105.5 x 24.25 feet/270.6 x 32 x 7.5 meters
Propulsion: Turbo-electric, 16 300 psi boilers, 4 shafts, 180,000 shp, 34 knots
Crew: 3,300
Armor: 5-7 inch belt
Armament: 4 dual 8/55 SP, 12 single 5/25 DP
Aircraft: 90 initially

Concept/Program: Laid down as large battlecruisers but cancelled under the Washington Treaty prior to launch; redesigned and completed as carriers. These ships were the first US carriers designed to be fleet, rather than experimental, units.

Design/Conversion: Original hull remained essentially unchanged but was fitted with large hangar, the largest hangar until CVA 59 postwar. Exhausts were routed into huge starboard-side funnel, and a massive island was constructed forward of the funnel. Ships had an inherent list to starboard due to weight of the funnel & island. Flight deck was long but very narrow forward. Carried gun battery of a heavy cruiser to provide self defense against surface ships at close range. Guns would have damaged aircraft and flight deck, but were intended for use only as a last-ditch measure, after the flight deck had been destroyed by enemy action. These were the only prewar carriers considered suitable for independent operations, and the largest carriers in the world until the Midway class.

Variations: The ships were identical at completion. Details varied during the 1930's and into WWII.

Modifications/Modernizations: Minor modifications, especially additions in light AA guns, were undertaken during the 1930's. AA armament was updated at the start of the war. Both ships needed major overhauls and modernizations immediately prior to WWII, but they could not be spared from the active fleet due to the shortage of large carriers. Ships underwent varying degrees of modernization before and during WWII, as described in the individual entries.

Classification: Reclassified from CC to CV at the start of conversion.

Operational: Experience with these ships proved the value of larger carriers vs. small designs such as Ranger. They played a key role in developing US naval aviation tactics and equipment. Both saw extensive fleet service prior to WWII, and Saratoga was very active throughout the war.

Departure from Service/Disposal: The surviving ship was old, outdated, overloaded and worn out by the end of WWII, making her unsuitable for further service. She was destroyed as a target ship in the Bikini Atoll atom bomb tests.

CC 1 - CV 2
Photos: [Original Battlecruiser Design], [Immediately prior to launch], [Original configuration as carrier], [After 1936 modernization], [8" Guns being hoisted off], [Last photo of Lexington as an operational carrier], [Crew abandoning as ship burns], [Lexington abandoned and burning], [Death throes - the magazines explode], [Last photo of Lexington - torpedoed by friendly forces and listing to port]

DANFS History

Built by Bethlehem Fore River. Laid down as battlecruiser 8 Jan 1921, suspended 8 Feb 1922, cancelled 17 Aug 1923. Reordered as carrier and redesignated CV 2 (date?), launched 3 Oct 1925, commissioned as carrier 14 Dec 1927.

During winter 1929-1930 Lexington supplied Tacoma, Washington with electrical power from her generators when the municipal power supply failed. Overhauled and modernized 1936, flight deck widened forward, general modernizations, 36 .50 cal AA added; 43,054 tons full load. Was transporting aircraft to Midway 7 December 1941. Guns altered 3-4/1942: 8 inch guns removed for shore defense in Hawaii; 12 quad 1.1 inch AA and 32 single 20 mm AA were added. Briefly carried 5 3/50 AA. A major modernization was planned but never carried out because the ship was badly needed in service.

Struck by several bombs and torpedoes at Coral Sea 8 May 1942. Damage was initially controlled and the ship was able to make 25 knots and recover her aircraft, but was down by the bow. Fumes from ruptured fuel lines ignited and exploded several hours later; fire rapidly became uncontrollable. Ship was abandoned and sunk by US torpedoes.

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CC 3 - CV 3
Photos: [Original Battlecruiser Design], [Original configuration as carrier], [After 1942 refit], [Returning to port after 1st torpedo], [Listing after 2nd torpedo], [Final configuration - end of WWII], [Sinking at Bikini Atoll].

DANFS History

Built by New York Shipbuilding. Laid down as battlecruiser 25 Sept 1920, suspended 8 Feb 1922, cancelled 17 Aug 1923. Reordered as carrier and redesignated CV 3 (date?), launched 7 April 1925, commissioned as carrier 16 Nov 1927.

Planned pre-war upgrade/overhaul cancelled because the ship was urgently required in service. 24 .50 cal AA added 1936. Was at San Diego 7 December 1941. Torpedoed by I-16 11 Jan 1942; suffered minor damage. Repairs at Bremerton Navy Yard included general modernization: hull bulged, flight deck widened forward, superstructure cut down, 8 inch and .50 cal guns removed; 4 dual 5/38 DP, 8 single 5/38 DP, 4 quad 40 mm AA, 5 quad 1.1 inch AA and 30 single 20 mm AA added.

Torpedoed by I-26 with serious damage 25 Aug 1942; disabled by shock and towed to Tonga for temporary repairs. Permanent repairs at Pearl Harbor included AA battery modification; new AA outfit was 9 quad 40 mm, 52 single 20 mm. Served with the Carrier TF mid-war. Refit at Hunters Point Navy 9 Dec 1943 to 3 Jan 1944; 2 twin 40 mm AA and 7 quad 40 mm AA added. Operated with the Royal Navy in the Indian Ocean early 1944. Refit at Puget Sound Navy summer 1944.

Used mostly for training 1944-1945; returned to combat 1945. Bombed 21 Feb 1945; severe damage. Repaired at Bremerton Navy; rear elevator removed, half the hanger converted to berthing. Final wartime displacement well over 52,000 tons. Used as troopship postwar. Deemed unfit for further service due to age and wear; used as target ship for Operations Crossroads atom bomb tests. Survived first test blast, but was sunk by second test 25 July 1946. Stricken 15 Aug 1946.

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Ranger light fleet aircraft carrier

Displacement: 17,577 tons full load
Dimensions: 730 x 80 x 19.75 feet/222.5 x 24.4 x 6 meters
Extreme Dimensions: 769 x 109.5 x 19.75 feet/234.4 x 33.4 x 6 meters
Prop: Steam turbines, 6 boilers, 2 shafts, 53,500 shp, 29.25 knots
Crew: 2,000
Armor: none
Armament: 8 single 5/25 AA, 40 .50 cal MG
Aircraft: 86 initially

Concept/Program: First US ship designed and built as a carrier. This ship was an attempt to build a smaller, more efficient carrier that could operate almost as many aircraft as the large Lexington class ships on much less displacement.

Design: Originally designed as a flush-deck carrier; very small growth margins. Small island added during construction. Three folding exhaust stacks each side, aft. Design was not a success; too slow to operate with the fleet, could not operate aircraft in heavy weather.

Modifications: Twice refitted during WWII to improve AA armament.

Modernization: No major modernization.

Operational: Served in CVE-type roles during WWII: convoy escort, transport, transport, and strike and CAP for invasions. Supported Operation Torch. Served with the British fleet for a while; served as a night fighter training carrier in the Pacific late in the war. Generally should be considered as CVE/CVL-equivalent during WWII.

Departure from Service/Disposal: Discarded immediately following WWII due to age, wear and small size.

CV 4
Photos: [At launch, without island], [As completed], [After 1944 modernization]

DANFS History

Built by Newport News. Laid down 26 Sept 1931, launched 24 Feb 1933, commissioned 4 June 1934. Designed with no island, but small island was added after launch.

Refit at Norfolk Navy 9/1941, guns changed to 8 5/25 AA, 6 quad 1.1 inch AA, 24 .50 cal MG. Operated in the Atlantic until 1944, primarily as a transport and convoy escort. Second refit at Norfolk 1/1943, guns changed to 8 5/25 AA, 6 quad 40 mm AA, 46 single 20 mm AA. Served with British Home Fleet 1943. Served as training carrier and transport in 1944.

Refit May-July 1944, all 5/25 were removed. Designated as night fighter training ship 11 July 1944; transferred to the Pacific. Decommissioned 18 Oct 1946, stricken 29 Oct 1946, sold for scrapping 28 Jan 1947. Scrapped at Chester PA starting 2/47.

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Yorktown class fleet aircraft carriers

Displacement: 25,484 tons full load
Dimensions: 761 x 83.25 x 26 feet/232 x 25.4 x 8.125 meters
Extreme Dimensions: 809.5 x 109 x 21.75 feet/253 x 32.3 x 6.6 meters
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 9 400 psi boilers, 4 shafts, 120,000 shp, 32.5 knots
Crew: 2,200
Armor: 2.5-4 inch belt
Armament: 8 single 5/38, 4 quad 1.1 inch AA, 24 .50 cal MG
Aircraft: 100 initially

Concept/Program: These were large, modern ships taking into account all the "lessons learned" with the previous carrier classes. Intended for fleet operation, rather than independent operation as in the first carriers. Hornet was built as part of the pre-WWII buildup; this design was used to speed construction.

Design: Designed to the maximum size allowable under Treaty restrictions. Their only major flaw was insufficient underwater protection.

Variations: Hornet had minor improvements compared to the first two ships of the class, including improved AA armament as completed. Her extreme beam was 114 feet; full load displacement was 26,507 tons.

Modifications/Modernizations: First two ships did not commission with the 1.1 inch and .50 cal weapons, but they were added later. Ships entered WWII essentially unmodified; only Enterprise lasted long enough to receive standard wartime upgrades and improvements based on flaws shown in the sinking of the other two ships. She was extensively overhauled and upgraded during the course of WWII.

Operational: Saw service as fleet carriers throughout their careers. Enterprise was in the Pacific at the time of Pearl Harbor; the other two soon transferred from the Atlantic.

Departure from Service/Disposal: Enterprise to reserve soon after the war and was not reactivated.

CV 5
Photos: [On builders trials], [Repairing damage post-Coral Sea], [Burning after bomb hit at Midway], [Crew abandoning at Midway], [Capsizing], [Final photo as Yorktown sinks].

DANFS History

Built by Newport News. Laid down 21 May 1934, launched 4 April 1936, commissioned 30 Sept 1937.

Few prewar modifications. Transferred to the Pacific immediately after Pearl Harbor. Sustained heavy damage at Coral Sea 8 May 1942. Returned to Pearl Harbor and underwent emergency repairs; sailed to Midway with repair work ongoing.

Bombed and set afire at Midway 4 June 1942; second attack resulted in two torpedo hits which crippled the ship. abandoned, but flooding was later controlled. Towing efforts failed. Torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-168 6 June 1942 while salvage efforts were ongoing; abandoned 7 June 1942; capsized and sank later that day.

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CV 6 - CVA 6 - CVS 6
Photos: [As completed], [Damage after Eastern Solomons], [After 1943 refit], [1945 Kamikaze - moment of impact], [Enterprise returns to US for repairs], [Scrapping].

DANFS History

Built by Newport News. Laid down 16 July 1934, launched 3 Oct 1936, commissioned 12 May 1938.

Few prewar modifications. Was returning to Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 after transporting aircraft to Wake. Escorted Hornet during Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, then returned to Pearl Harbor and sailed for Midway. Seriously damaged in the Solomon Islands 24 August 1942 and again seriously damaged at Santa Cruz 26 October 1942.

Overhauled July - October 1943 at Bremerton Navy Yard; modifications included blisters added (95.5 ft beam), displacement raised to 32,060 tons full load, guns changed to 8 5/38 DP, 6 quad 40 mm AA, 8 twin 40 mm AA, 50 single 20 mm AA.

Served with the Carrier TF mid-war. Participated in nearly every Pacific naval battle; became the most decorated ship of WWII. Bombed 18 March 1945, kamikaze 11 April 1945; relatively minor resulted and the ship remained in combat. Kamikaze 14 May 1945; severe damage including forward elevator blown overboard.

Refit/repair at Mare Island Navy until September 1945; guns changed to 11 quad 40 mm AA, 8 twin 20 mm AA, 16 single 20 mm AA. Never resumed combat operations, used as troop ship. Donation to New York State as a memorial planned 1946, cancelled. Decommissioned to reserve 17 Feb 1947.

1949 plan for use as Navy-owned museum and memorial at San Francisco failed. Redesignated attack carrier CVA 6 1 Oct 1952 while in reserve, reclassified ASW support ship in 1952, redesignated ASW carrier CVS 6 8 Aug 1953 while in reserve. Stricken for disposal 2 Oct 1956. Effort to save the ship as a memorial at Washington DC failed due to lack of funds. Sold for scrapping 1 July 1958, scrapped at Kearny NJ 9/58 to 3/60.

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CV 8
Photos: [As completed], [En route to B-25 launch point, in heavy seas], [B-25 launch], [Returning to Pearl after B-25 raid], [Torpedoed & listing, Japanese aircraft about to crash aboard], [Northampton takes Hornet in tow], [Japanese aircraft delivers the final torpedo].

DANFS History

Built by Newport News. Laid down 25 Sept 1939, launched 14 Dec 1940, commissioned 25 Oct 1941.

Launched 16 B-25 bombers for Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, April 1942. Returned to Pearl, then sailed for Midway, where she was undamaged.

At the Battle of Santa Cruz she was hit and immobilized by bombs, torpedoes and one Japanese aircraft which crashed on the bridge, then plunged into the hangar deck. taken in tow, but towing failed and she was torpedoed again. Abandoned due to approach of Japanese forces; scuttling torpedoes were fired but failed to sink the ship. Japanese tried to tow the ship but failed, and scuttled her with torpedoes 26 October 1942. In all she took 16 torpedoes.

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Wasp light fleet aircraft carrier

Displacement: 19,116 tons full load
Dimensions: 688 x 80.75 x 20 feet/209.7 x 24.6 x 6 meters
Extreme Dimensions: 741.25 x 80.75 x 20 feet/226 x 24.6 x 6 meters
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 2 shafts, 75,000 shp, 29.5 knots
Crew: 1,800
Armor: none
Armament: 8 single 5/38 DP, 16 1.1 inch AA, 24 .50 cal AA
Aircraft: 84 initially

Concept/Program: Small carrier meant to use up the remaining carrier tonnage allowed under Treaty restrictions. Replaced Langley in the carrier force.

Design: Based on a scaled-down Yorktown. Not a satisfactory design; had even less underwater protection than the Yorktown class.

Modifications: Refitted early in the war to improve AA armament.

Operational: First used on escort and transport duties in the Atlantic, then went to the Pacific where she saw service as a fleet carrier due to the carrier shortage. Generally should be considered a CVE/CVL-equivalent.

CV 7
Photos: [Wasp as completed], [During WWII], [Death throes - Wasp burning and sinking]

DANFS History

Built by Bethlehem Fore River. Laid down 1 April 1936, launched 4 April 1939, commissioned 25 April 1940.

Initially served in the Atlantic fleet. Refit at Norfolk Navy completed 1/1942, gun battery changed to 8 5/38 DP, 1 quad 40 mm AA, 4 quad 1.1 inch AA, 32 single 20 mm AA, 6 .50 cal MG. Participated in the relief of Malta March-May 1942, made two runs from England to Malta. Then returned to Norfolk for minor refit and transferred to the Pacific 6/1942.

Struck by three torpedoes from submarine I-19 15 Sept 1942 while operating against Japanese forces in the Guadalcanal area. Gasoline fires rapidly became uncontrollable; ship was abandoned and scuttled by destroyer torpedoes.

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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