Essex Class Aircraft Carriers 1945-91, Mark Stille

Essex Class Aircraft Carriers 1945-91, Mark Stille

New Vanguard 310

We start with a brief introduction to the Essex class, looking at the size of class, how many were built, how many fought during the Second World War and their fate immediately after the end of the war. The actual design and development of the carriers is skipped, and is covered in books on their wartime careers. Instead the Design and Development chapter here looks at the various modernisation programs.

These saw major changes made to the carriers, initially to allow them to operate jet aircraft. We get a detailed list of the changes made under the SCB 27A, SCB 27C and SCB 125 modernization schemes, and lists of which ships received each one. The SCB 27C was perhaps the most significant, giving six ships the angled flight decks first developed by the British and which made jet operations much safer by allowing aircraft that had failed to catch onto an arrestor cable to take off and come around again. SCB 125 also included the angled deck, but began slightly later. Thankfully there is also a summary table saying which ships got which upgrade, and how that affected their dimensions, elevators, catapults etc.

As well as the upgrades, the Essex class carriers got new designations. The seven that were both re-commissioned and not upgraded became submarine warfare ships (CVS) in 1952-53, as they didn’t need the angled flight deck to operate the anti-submarine warfare aircraft.

After the technical sections we reach their post-war careers. In the immediate aftermath of the war most remained in use, either on occupation duties in the Pacific or taking part in Operation Market Carpet, carrying US service personnel back home. However by 1950 only four were still in active service, and the others had all been placed into the reserve. They were saved by the Korean War, which saw many of them return to service and triggered the boost in US military spending that allowed them to be modernised. The small number of more modern Midway carriers remained in the Atlantic, so the Essex class was at the heart of the US Navy’s response in Korea. By Vietnam that had changed, and the new supercarriers were in service, but some of the old Essex class ships did play a part in the war.

A large part of the book provides a ship by ship history of each of the Essex class carrier’s post-war carriers, although with this many ships that still amounts to less than one page per ship! However it does give a useful overview of the careers of each ship, including all of their changes of designations and dates of upgrades, time off Korea and Vietnam, and in many cases aid to the space programme!

Design and Development
The Essex Class in War and Peace 1945-1991
Essex-class Cold War Careers

Author: Mark Stille
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 48
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2022

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