Seaplane Tenders (AV)

Photograph of seaplane tender Akitsushima
Wikipedia Commons

Seaplane tenders were ships equipped to refuel, rearm, and repair seaplanes and flying boats. They could be stationed at any sizeable body of protected water where seaplanes could land and take off. They were particularly useful early in the war, when bases for conventional reconnaissance aircraft were few and far between.

American naval planners saw the seaplane tender as a way to get around the fortifications clause of the Washington Treaty, which prohibited any further development of bases in the western Pacific. The seaplane tenders were seen as mobile bases for maintaining the aircraft of the Asiatic Fleet without violating the fortifications clause, since their repair facilities would be entirely afloat. Consideration was even given to putting small flight decks on the tenders, but this was rejected as an almost certain violation of the treaty. However, construction of large seaplane tenders was slow due to tight naval budgets, and when more money became available, the Navy gave priority to constructing conventional aircraft carriers up to the treaty limits.

The United States Navy classified fast seaplane tenders (converted destroyers) and small seaplane tenders separately from generic seaplane tenders. The Japanese Navy likewise distinguished seaplane carriers from ordinary seaplane tenders.

Japanese seaplane tenders


U.S. seaplane tenders

Currituck class

Curtiss class

Kenneth Whiting class


Tangier class



Kuehn (2008)

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