HMS Illustrious (CV-1939)


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The 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 500kg/1000lb 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.

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. For the first three ships a complete rebuilding (2-3 years) would have been required to bring them to a standard where they would have been able to operate the bigger jets of the Battle / Gannet and even the Meteors.

The first 3 Illustrious class ships could have nothing done for them for full angled flight deck as their building was too far advanced and the ships were badly needed at sea. The final two ships in the class not being so far advanced could have more advanced features fitted. They became virtually seperate classes.

The Implacable type had an extra 4 feet of height built into the hangar, the centerline lifts were replaced with deck edge lifts. The bridge structures were altered with both an Admirals bridge and an extra flight commanders position. To enable these adaptions the deck and side armour had to be reduced from the 4.5" box citadel to a 3" deck and 2.5" side armour. The other device used to save weight to increase the hangar height and to improve the angle deck was the removal of all 8 twin heavy AA 4.5" turrets. In fact all of the AA guns fitted to the Illustrious type were removed and replaced with the fully automatic twin 40mm MkVI mounting. By 1943 when these ships were completed it had been rubbed in that an aircraft carriers best defense was in fact its own aircraft. and with the advent of jets this was even more so.


Displacement 25,000 tons std, 29,500 tons full load
Length 740 ft (Jet - 782 ft new bow and stern)
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 Illustrious

16 x 4.5" (8x2)

96 x 2pd (12x8)


14 x 40mm (7x2)


Aircraft 34-40 (increased to 56 with deck park)
Torpedoes nil
Complement 1275
Notes HMS Illustrious (Orig)

HMS Inflexible (Orig)

HMS Indomitable (Orig)

HMS Implacable (Jet)

HMS Indefatigable (Jet)


A post-war shot of Implacable during a UK-US fleet training exercise. (Note US jets on left)


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