HMS Ark Royal survives unscathed into 1942.

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Admiral Beez

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Oct 21, 2019
Toronto, Canada
If Ark Royal isn't hit by the torpedo in Nov 1941 how do we envision her service into 1942 and beyond?

Possible mods might include radar and AA upgrades, removal of the two level lifts, increased lift weight capacity, and deleting the aft round down. The lift dimensions are large enough to take any folding wing single engined prop aircraft operated by the FAA until the postwar A1 Skyraider. Hangar height is more of a limit that we must live with. What about the dual catapults - they're rarely shown to be used? Or, with yards and resources stretched as they were perhaps any mods are not pursued and Ark Royal is only refitted as needed.

Possible service could be Sommerville's Indian Ocean fleet, further Malta/MTO ops, or North Atlantic work. There's also an option as USS Robin. What size of CAG is likely later in the war with fuel-hungry Hellcats, Corsairs and Tarpons?
 
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The problem is you need hindsight to know the armoured sides of the Illustrious and following classes isn't worth adding - there's still no Radar when they are being designed and there aren't enough cruisers, to ensure your carrier group always has one. But yes, more Ark Royal with modifications to sub-divide the boiler rooms would have been better.
Ark Royal's survival would also present a challenge, since there's no example to tell Britain's carrier designers to subdivide boiler rooms or enact other damage control systems or measures.
 
I would have loved to have seen Ark Royal in the Pacific.
Me too, after first an upgrade to radar, AA and CIC. I can envision Ark Royal's deck with Martlets and maybe Chesapekes, followed by Hellcats and Tarpons when available.

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What about torpedo bombers before the TBF is available, do we have a mixed British TSR and American fighter CAG like we saw with the Illustrious class in the MTO and IPTO? If we're deep in the PTO and dependent on the Americans for support we may want an all US aircraft CAG.

Her specs would curtail Ark Royal somewhat in the Pacific. Per Wikipedia: Range: 7,600 nmi at 20 knots vs. Yorktown class 12,500 nmi at 15 knots (I can't find Ark's range at this lower speed). Avgas: 120,000 gal US vs. Yorktown class 178,000 gal US. We'd want Ark Royal to make mods to be compatible with the USN's UNREP system for both fuel oil and avgas.
 
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Ark Royal's survival would also present a challenge, since there's no example to tell Britain's carrier designers to subdivide boiler rooms or enact other damage control systems or measures.
Ark Royal's boiler rooms were divided. Two boilers in each three boiler rooms situated abreast each other. Her issue lay in the single compartment above those three boiler rooms which contained the boiler uptakes which took the boiler gases across the ship to the funnel on the starboard side. As she listed to starboard and sank lower in the water, water entered that compartment, gradually cutting off the gas flow and allowing each boiler room to flood in turn so forcing their evacuation.

The Illustrious and Implacable classes were originally designed the same way.

Following the loss of Ark Royal, the Illustrious clas were modified during refits, and the Implacables modified before completion, to incorporate half height bulkheads in that cross ship compartment to limit the flow of water in the event of an Ark Royal type incident. (See Friedman British Carrier Aviation). Indomitablecwas probably the first to be modified post Operation Pedestal. That change, coupled with new training in counter flooding meant Indomitable did not suffer the same fate when torpedoed in July 1943.

News of Ark's problem also became available in sufficient time in early 1942 to allow modification of the Audacious class at the design stage, to carry the boiler uptakes a deck higher before taking them across the ship to the funnel.
 
Ark Royal's boiler rooms were divided. Two boilers in each three boiler rooms situated abreast each other. Her issue lay in the single compartment above those three boiler rooms which contained the boiler uptakes which took the boiler gases across the ship to the funnel on the starboard side. As she listed to starboard and sank lower in the water, water entered that compartment, gradually cutting off the gas flow and allowing each boiler room to flood in turn so forcing their evacuation.

Interesting. And I see now that the uptake turn is right at the waterline.

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Considering that the start of the war would have forced the improvement on the AA defences which were already formidable by 1939 standards. Changing the lift configuration was the major alteration that was needed.

The primary reason for the loss of the Ark Royal was appalling damage control decisions. Yes improvements would have helped but as she was, she should and would have survived, if the correct decisions had been made.

Its a personal belief I admit but the time and resources spent on designing the various Illustrious classes would have been better spent on a modified, (or even unmodified) Ark Royal design. The carriers would have been available much earlier and quite possibly an extra carrier built for the same outlay.
 
I wonder how suitable the Ark would have been to basing jets, once that age had broke?
Small jets like the Sea Vampire would fit down the lifts. But compared to the postwar surplus of newer carriers on hand (6 x Illustrious/Implacable class, 7 x Colossus/Majestic) and those under construction (8 x Colossus/Majestic class, 4 x Centaur, 3 x Audacious), HMS Ark Royal would be thoroughly worn out by then and would need a complete teardown like HMS Victorious.

hms_victorious_re-build__large.jpg


My guess is Ark Royal is placed in reserve before VJ Day and scrapped in 1948-50.
 
Its a personal belief I admit but the time and resources spent on designing the various Illustrious classes would have been better spent on a modified, (or even unmodified) Ark Royal design. The carriers would have been available much earlier and quite possibly an extra carrier built for the same outlay.
I agree, but only if more and better fighter aircraft are available. Otherwise our additional Ark Royal units are going to die in the MTO. In Jan 1941, HMS Illustrious was attacked by 24-36 Stukas and hit by six 1000 lb bombs, plus a near miss, followed by 13 Stukas attacking the next day, scoring another bomb hit on Illustrious. Then, when undergoing emergency repairs at Malta, Illustrious was attacked by by 17 Junkers Ju 88s and 44 Stukas, being hit again by a single 1,000 lb bomb, plus several damaging near misses. In these raids the few number of slow Fulmars were unable to stop these unescorted Luftwaffe attacks. Then, in May 1941, HMS Formidable was attacked by Ju 87 Stukas, all of which got through to the carrier, hitting her with two 1,000 lb bombs. In both cases, Illustrious and Formidable survived, but needed more than six months months of repair in Norfolk, VA, at the generosity of a then non-combatant USA. While the armoured fight deck did not prevent these hits from destroying flight ops, I'm not sure Ark Royal would survive at all.

If we want to send Ark Royals on these same missions, they need to stop those Stukas before they can reach the carrier(s). So, more and better fighters, radar and effective CDC (called aircraft direction room in the RN). Otherwise we'd best leave the Ark Royal's in the Atlantic until the I/PTO fires up, and when Martlets and other advanced US types are available. Ark Royal would look impressive with a sixty+ CAG of Hellcats and Tarpons - hopefully the latter get the shorty torpedoes that the FAA never operated otherwise.
 
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Small jets like the Sea Vampire would fit down the lifts.
Nope.
Ark's lifts were 45ft long and either 22ft wide (aft pair) or 25ft forward.

Sea Vampire F.20 - span (no folding wings) 38ft, length 30ft 9in.
When it went to sea for trials on Theseus about 1950 it had to be struck down into the hangar sideways on her larger 45x34ft lifts.

Supermarine Attacker - span 36ft11in (28ft 11in folded), length 37ft 1in

While the Hawker Sea Hawk fits the lifts when folded, it doesn't fit Ark's 16ft high hangars.
Sea Hawk - span 39ft (folded 13ft 3in), length 39ft 8in, height 8ft 8in (folded 16ft 9in)
 
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The Ark Royal would have been worn out after fighting in WW2, no matter what fitted onto her lifts and into her hangers.
Agreed, especially if we see Ark Royal serve with Sommerville at Ceylon in March/April 1942, Crace (or other?) at Coral Sea in May 1942 and perhaps a supporting role in Midway, followed by action across the PTO. A major refit will be necessary by autumn/winter 1942 - is that at CA, WA, UK or Simonstown?
 
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Agreed, especially if we see Ark Royal serve with Sommerville at Ceylon in March/April 1942, Crace (or other?) at Coral Sea in May 1942 and perhaps a supporting role in Midway, followed by action across the PTO. A major refit will be necessary by autumn/winter 1942 - is that at CA, WA, UK or Simonstown?
Ark would have been very useful in any of those actions. She would have been great to have around during the Solomons campaign.
Would she have been available in time for the battle of the Coral Sea or would she have been in transit had that torpedo been dodged? If she were available for the action at Midway, I think night flying Swordfish might have been quite a surprise. Had Ark Royal made it through any of those, a flight deck able to launch at night in the Solomons would've been invaluable in restricting IJN reinforcement runs. Would we be able to coordinate with USN surface forces? I kinda' doubt it. It would certainly would have improved USN fighter direction techniques. There had to be a few officers looking to be invited on a RN ship and have a drink.
I think that rather Ark Royal would've been used in the reinforcing of Malta. I can't see Sir Winston, or anyone in the Admiralty, detaching Ark semi-permanently to save the USN.
I prefer imagining HMS Ark Royal at sea than under it.
 
I think that rather Ark Royal would've been used in the reinforcing of Malta. I can't see Sir Winston, or anyone in the Admiralty, detaching Ark semi-permanently to save the USN.
I prefer imagining HMS Ark Royal at sea than under it.

While I agree with your sentiment (Ark was the first carrier model I built as a kid), reinforcing Malta with her unarmored deck was always going to be a huge risk, entirely aside from the subs and S-M79s launching torpedoes, I think.

If she survives the fatal strike, I bet Admiralty works to keep her with the Home Fleet to provide search and attack possibilities against a Tirpitz breakout. I agree they wouldn't like her on long-term loan to CincPAC, even if it does mean she gets to use Bremerton for a thorough refit.
 

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