Forrestal Class Aircraft Carrier


Forrestal Class Aircraft Carrier
The Forrestal-class aircraft carriers were a four-ship class designed and built for the United States Navy in the 1950s. It was the first class of so-called supercarriers, combining high tonnage, deck-edge elevators and an angled deck. The first ship was commissioned in 1955, the last decommissioned in 1998.

The Forrestal class was the first completed class of "supercarriers" of the Navy, so called because of their then-extraordinarily high tonnage (75,000 tons, 25% larger than the post-World War II-era Midway class), full integration of the angled deck (Forrestal and Saratoga were laid down as axial deck carriers and converted to angled deck ships while under construction; Ranger and Independence were laid down as angled deck ships and had various minor improvements compared to the first two), a very large island and most importantly their extremely strong air wing (80–100 jet aircraft, compared to 65–75 for the Midway class and fewer than 50 for the Essex class). Compared to the Midway class, the Forrestals were 100 feet (30 m) longer and nearly 20 feet (6 m) wider abeam, resulting in a far more stable and comfortable aircraft platform even in very rough weather. When commissioned, the Forrestal class ships had the roomiest hangar decks and largest flight decks of any carrier ever built. Because of their immense size they were built to a new, deep-hulled design that incorporated the armored flight deck into the hull (previous American design practice was to design the flight deck as superstructure). This was a very similar structural design as used on British "armored" carriers, and grew out of the requirement for such a very large carrier, because carrying the strength deck at the flight deck level produced a stronger and lighter hull. The Midway class ships sat very low in the water and were poor sea boats through their long careers; they were very wet forward and their aviation characteristics were poor. The deeper Forrestal hull allowed the ships more freeboard and better seakeeping. The Forrestal-class carriers, like the Midway class that preceded it, were designed with armored flight decks.

Forrestal Class Aircraft Carrier
Name: Forrestal-class aircraft carrier
Builders: New York Navy Yard
Newport News Shipbuilding
Operators: United States Navy
Preceded by: Midway class aircraft carrier
Succeeded by: Kitty Hawk class aircraft carrier
In commission: 1 October 1955 – 30 September 1998
Completed: 4
Laid up: 4
General characteristics
Displacement: 60,000 tons

1,070 ft (330 m)

990 ft (300 m) waterline
Beam: 129 ft 4 in (39.42 m) waterline
Draft: 35 ft 9 in (10.90 m)
Propulsion: Steam turbines
280,000 shp
Speed: 34 knots (63 km/h)
Complement: 4,378

Original armament:

  • 8 × 5 in/54 caliber Mark 42 guns

Refit armament:

  • 3 × 8 cell NATO Sea Sparrow Mark 29 missile launcher launchers
  • 3 × 20 mm Phalanx CIWS Mark 15 guns
Aircraft carried: Up to 90
Aviation facilities: 326 × 77 m flight deck

Forrestal-class ships were the first examples of supercarriers and thus not quite a perfected design; their elevators in particular were poorly arranged for aircraft handling. The portside elevator, a relic of the original axial-deck design, was almost completely useless, as it was located at the fore end of the angled deck, in the landing path as well as the launch path of aircraft from the #3 and #4 catapults. The subsequent Kitty Hawk class moved the portside elevator to the aft end of the angle and reversed the position of the island and the second starboard elevator, vastly improving aircraft handling. The sponson-mounted guns suffered from poor range and complicated firing arcs, and were located in very wet and thus nearly useless positions in the bow and stern; they were removed after only a few years and replaced by missiles and close-in weapon systems (CIWS). In Forrestal, the aft guns lasted until the fire in 1967, then were removed and eventually replaced by missiles in the mid-70s.

The original design of the Forrestal class ships would have had a very small, retractable island; this design had numerous problems (the mechanism to raise and lower the island was never perfected before the angled deck was added to the design) and smoke fouling of the deck was expected to be a severe problem due to lack of adequate venting. The redesign to an angled deck allowed a very large island, much larger than on previous carriers, giving unprecedented flexibility and control in air operations.

As of 2006, all four ships have been struck from the Naval Vessel Register. Ex-Forrestal and ex-Independence are slated to be sunk as targets and ex-Saratoga scrapped due to their very poor material condition, while ex-Ranger is on donation hold as a potential museum ship.


Keel laid Launched Commissioned Decommissioned
Forrestal (CV-59) 1952 July 1954 December 1955 October 1993 September
Saratoga (CV-60) 1952 December. 1955 October 1956 April 1994 August
Ranger (CV-61) 1954 August 1956 September 1957 August 1993 July
Independence (CV-62) 1955 July 1958 June 1959 January 1998 September

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