Independence Class, U.S. Light Carriers

Photograph of Independence-class light carrier

National Archives #NH 88416

Schematic diagram of Independence class light

ONI 222


Tonnage 11,000 tons standard displacement
Dimensions 619' by 71' by 24'
188.7m by 21.6m by 7.3m
Maximum speed       31.5 knots
Complement 1461
Aircraft 552' (168.2m) flight deck
2 H2 catapults
8 arrestor wires
2 elevators
30 aircraft
Armament 2x4, 8x2 40mm Bofors AA guns
10x1 20mm Oerlikon AA guns
Protection 254 tons:
5.5" (140mm) machinery belt tapering to 1.5" (38mm) (omitted from first two units)
2" (51mm) forward magazine belt
5" (127mm) bulkheads
2" (51mm) armor deck
4-shaft General Electric geared turbine (100,000 shp)
4 Babcock & Wilcox boilers
Bunkerage 2686 tons fuel oil
110,000 gallons (416,000 liters) aviation gasoline
Range 8325 nautical miles (15,400 km) at 15 knots
Munitions 686.1 tons
SK air search radar
SC-2 search radar
By 1945 all units had 26-28 40mm in twin and quadruple mounts and SK-2, SP, and SPS-2 radar.

The Independences were completed in 1943.  They were an emergency measure, Cleveland-class light cruiser hulls converted to smaller fleet aircraft carriers. The driving force behind their conversion was Roosevelt himself, who ignored the protests of his naval architects that the fine lines of the cruiser hulls would preclude a roomy hangar and large island and make it difficult to position the elevators or support the forward flight deck. A compromise design was developed that truncated the flight deck, included a very small island resembling those of escort carriers, made do with a rather small hangar, and bulged the hull to maintain stability. This required some modifications to the belt armor. Class A armor could not be easily welded to the blister frame, and class B armor could not be provided in time for the first two ships, which were completed with no belts to speed their delivery to the fleet. The blisters were designed only for stability and the ships lacked any meaningful underwater protection.

The air group was typically 12 F6F Hellcat fighters, 9 TBM Avenger torpedo bombers, and 9 SBD Dauntless dive bombers, but in practice many more aircraft could be carried, if not efficiently operated.

As it turned out, they began entering service at almost exactly the same time as the Essexes, which meant they never really played a crucial role in the war, being overshadowed by their larger and more capable sisters.  They had an unusually hefty armor belt but were unable to operate large air groups and lacked the impressive 5"/38 batteries of the larger carriers. By the end of the war they were being employed as aircraft transports, carrying up to 40 aircraft in their hangars and another 60 to 70 on their flight decks.

Independence herself completed with two 5"/38 DP guns in place of the two quad 40mm guns.

Units in the Pacific:


Arrived 1943-6-25

Belleau Wood      

Arrived 1943-7-18


Arrived 1943-8-1

Scuttled after air attack on 1944-10-22 off Samar in the Philippines


Arrived 1943-9-11


Arrived 1943-10-21   


Arrived 1943-11-20      

Langley Arrived 1943-12-14
Bataan Arrived 1944-3-8
San Jacinto Arrived 1944-3-8

Photo Gallery

Profile view of Independence-class light carrier

U.S. Navy

Bow view of Independence-class light carrier

U.S. Navy

Aft view of Independence-class light carrier

U.S. Navy

Forward overhead view of Independence-class light

U.S. Navy

Radar of Independence-class light carrier

U.S. Navy

Superstructure of Independence-class light carrier

U.S. Navy

Flight quarters of Independence-class light

U.S. Navy


Chesneau (1992)


Friedman (1983)

Worth (2001)

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