Aircraft Carriers

Did you know that USS Franklin D. Roosevelt holds the record for the largest number of planes ever embarked on an aircraft carrier?

The USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, F.D.R or ‘Rosie’ as she was affectionately known, was a Midway class carrier, the next step up from the war winning Essex class.

Equipped with a full-length flight deck and facilities for carrying, arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft, the aircraft carrier is a true seagoing air base. Typically, it is the capital ship of a fleet, as it allows a naval force to project air power worldwide without depending on local bases for staging aircraft operations.

Carriers have evolved since their inception in the early twentieth century from wooden vessels used to deploy balloons to nuclear-powered warships that carry numerous fighters, strike aircraft, helicopters, and other types of aircraft. While heavier aircraft such as fixed-wing gunships and bombers have been launched from aircraft carriers, it is currently not possible to land them.

But how many aircraft can an aircraft carrier carry?

The USS Franklin D. Roosevelt was able, when commissioned in October 1945, to carry 137 planes,’ says Ben Pyper, an aviation expert on Quora. ‘The F.D.R or ‘Rosie’ as she was affectionately known, was a Midway class carrier, the next step up from the war winning Essex class. The largest number of planes embarked that I can find a record of was on her first shakedown cruise. 135 aircraft… consisting of F4U-4 Corsairs, SB2C Helldivers and F6F-5P Hellcats, of the CVG(CAG)-75 air wing [CLICK HERE to check out the ship fact sheet].’

Pyper continues;

‘The reason why numbers were greater then than now is simply that the planes were a lot smaller, so you could fit more of them in. Modern carriers are much larger that the Rosie, but they still have fewer planes, because they are a whole lot bigger. The Gerald R Ford is scheduled to carry about 75 planes.’

Noteworhty, in their original configuration, the Midway-class ships had an airwing of almost 130 aircraft. It was soon realized that the coordination of so many planes was beyond the effective command and control ability of one ship.

Originally christened Coral Sea (CVB-42) the FDR was laid down on Dec. 1, 1943, at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y. and launched on Apr. 29,1945. The ship sponsor was Mrs. Anne P. Towers, née Pierette, wife of Adm. John H. Towers, Commander Air Force, Pacific Fleet, while its honorary sponsor was First Lady A. Eleanor Roosevelt. Coral Sea renamed Franklin D. Roosevelt to honor the late President Roosevelt on May 8, 1945, marking the first time that the Navy made an exception to the traditional naming of fleet aircraft carriers for battles or famous ships. FDR was commissioned on Oct. 27, 1945 with Capt. Apollo Soucek in command.

This image gives a fair idea of how much bigger the F/A-18 Super Hornet is compared to a WW2 F4U Corsair fighter

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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