HMS Illustrious (CV-1939)


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The real life Illustrious class followed on from the Ark Royal type but took the armour to an even higher amount. A 4.5" citadel of armour encasing the flight deck and both sides was designed to be bomb proof to 500lb bombs and 8" gunfire. It was thought that these ships would be needed in the Mediterranean where aircraft were always just minutes away from Italian bases and along the coasts of Europe where airfields abounded. When it came down to it, the German Stuka with 1000lb (500kg) bombs dealt blows to the Illustrious itself that required the ship to spend a long time in a US dockyard, and from which it never recovered.

The classes air group was half that of Ark Royal with 36-40 being carried depending on size and type. The hangar height was not that good either as the designers had tried to keep the armoured flight deck as low as possible. This meant that the Illustrious class was unable to operate some of the later UK aircraft and most of the later US aircraft. The next full carrier class (Audacious type) being much larger cured some of these problems. The only Illustrious type that was kept and modernised post-war was the Victorious and the costs of that ships rebuilding were horrendous.

I have drawn an alternate Illustrious class aircraft carrier where the design of the Ark Royal is followed on with bigger all round dimensions to increase aircraft carrying capacity. Allied to that is better aircraft for the FAA from 1937-38 through to 1941-42. The advantage of having lots of aircraft of modern types. puts pressure on any attacking bombers. They need fighters to guard them. Axis fighters were notoriously short ranged so the bombers could only attack within the fighters range or risk having to try to get through to the ships through the fighter screens. A recipe for disaster.

The corsair took over as the fighter/bomber of choice replacing the aged Skua II aircraft.




Stats for original Illustrious class. Alternate Illustrious stats are on the drawing.

Displacement 25,000 tons std, 29,500 tons full load
Length 740 ft
Breadth 95.75 ft
Draught 28 ft
Machinery 3 shaft Geared turbines, 110,000shp
Speed 31 knots
Range 11,000 miles at 14 knots
Armour 4.5" flight deck, 4.5" side, 3" magazines.
Armament 16 x 4.5" (8x2)

96 x 2pd (12x8)

Aircraft 40 (increased to 56 with deck park)
Torpedoes nil
Complement 1275
Notes HMS Illustrious

HMS Inflexible

HMS Indomitable

HMS Implacable

HMS Indefatigable

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