Aircraft Carrier: Illustrious Class - United Kingdom (Europe 1940)

Aircraft Carrier: Illustrious Class - United Kingdom (Europe 1940)

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Part Number:EU40_UKAC

Illustrious Class Carrier

Ship/ Class

Length

Beam

Disp.

Main Arm.

Speed

#

Date

Illustrious Class

740’ (229.5 m)

96’ (32.5 m)

28,143 t

51 Aircraft

30.5

2

1940

 

Illustrious Class Aircraft Carrier

 

ID: Plastic aircraft carrier gaming piece: Illustrious class aircraft carrier, from the game Axis & Allies Europe 40 & Pacific 40.

 

The Story of the Illustrious Class Carrier:  In order to build an aircraft carrier within the treaty limits compromises had to be made even in the largest “treaty” carrier designs.  The Americans and Japanese designers decided to maximize their designs’ capacity for aircraft somewhat at the expense of armor, partly on the theory that their own ships’ aircraft were their best defense.  The British, however, operating their carriers closer to home in Atlantic waters, felt this to be unrealistic, as the carriers couldn’t possibly carry enough fighters to cope with the threat from land-based aircraft.  They therefore sacrificed the size of their carrier air-wings somewhat in order to give their carriers a fully-armored flight deck.  The American and Japanese approach overall seems to have been the better one, for their wooden flight decks, vulnerable as they were, proved easy to compare and carrying the maximum-possible air wing proved essential.  (In one famous incident, the US carrier Yorktown was able to repair its wooden flight deck so quickly that the next wave of Japanese bombers thought they were attacking a different ship than the first wave.)  What’s more, the British approach caused them to try to make use of multi-role fighter/ dive bomber/ reconnaissance planes that proved far less capable at their roles than the US and American single role types. By the end of the war, the British had been forced to adapt their excellent land-based fighters (the Spitfire and Hurricane) to carrier use while also making heavy use of American-made planes on their carrier air wings.  By the end of the war, however, when the British were able to send a significant fleet into the Pacific, those armored flight decks really started to come in handy!  The armored-deck carriers of the Illustrious and Implacable classes proved to be just the thing to cope with the kamikaze attacks which an increasingly desperate Japan was resorting to.  In fact, the British Pacific Fleet (by then included as Task Force 57 of the US 5th Fleet, was specifically given the role of suppressing the kamikaze menace so that the rest of the US fleet could better concentrate on supporting the landings at Okinawa.  While a successful Japanese kamikaze attack on a US carrier was always a devastating prospect, forcing it to return home for repairs, the British found that the kamikaze’s simply bounced off their armored flight decks!

 

Usage Notes: Use this piece for “Global 1939” and “Invasion of Italy” Variants as a carrier unit.  Other British warships of interest may be: the Revenge class battleship & the County class cruiser.

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