anchor chain


New Zealand (proposed)

Line drawing of Malta-Class

Adapted from US Navy photo
Displacement 45,000 tons
Armament 12 x 2  5.25 DP
Smaller AA
Aircraft 84
Speed 33 knots
VTS Rating   1   5   7 (4)

These three large carriers were going to bring the Royal Navy in line with the best qualities of American CV's (size, speed, and large air complement) while retaining the now-traditional British "armored box" hangar protection. Construction was cancelled in 1945 due to their high cost and lack of naval enemies worthy of such a large ship. The many "Light Fleet" carriers in the Royal Navy inventory seemed plenty enough.

In "Grand Fleet" the Malta-class are conceived just before the war started, but other war concerns retarded their completion until late 1943. The British had come up with the idea of the angle-deck at the outset, but couldn't implement it. They passed the concept on to the Americans, resulting in the first truly angled-deck CV Bon Homme Richard in 1942. Also incorporated was the ability to refuel underway with American equipment, now becoming standard for all Allied warships being built. The British were never too keen on the dive bomber, so this new class of CV carried the Fairey Firefly multi-purpose aircraft, along with Supermarine Spiteful fighters. American TBM Avenger torpedo-bombers were carried initially, eventually replaced by a new biplane (!) jet torpedo bomber--the Fairey Cuttlefish.

Gibraltar completed ahead of the supposed "lead" ship Malta and accompanied Magnificent and a convoy to the Norwegian sea in a vain search for German heavy units. With the demise of the surface Kriegsmarine at hand, the Gibraltar was sent immediately through the Med to Ceylon to battle the Japanese in the Far East. At the Java landings the Gibraltar gave needed air support and sank the Japanese CVL Chichibu.

Malta completed six months later and traversed the Panama Canal to join the Americans at Pearl Harbor. To take the pressure off the intense fighting in Indonesia, the Malta and the latest batch of new American carriers (including the redoubtable USS Coral Sea) sailed directly to the Japanese homeland and launched a series of airstrikes. The Cuttlefish ushered in the jet era over Japan as she twisted gingerly between outlying ships in anchorages to torpedo the main fleet elements in the centers.

In the final air-sea battles near the Japanese homeland, the Gibraltar and Malta teamed up with other British carriers in Task Force 57 to challenge the last remnants of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The more "traditional'" Kamikaze aircraft with attached bombs either dented or bounced off the tough armored decks of the British CV's, but the Japanese had a surprise in store. Taking a cue from the German "Fritz X" heavy guided bomb, the Japanese wanted something able to penetrate an entire ship and explode just underneath to break its back. The resulting "Doshaburi" (Cloudburst) suicide plane was like an enlarged "Ohka" resembling a German V-1 with its dorsally-mounted pulse-jet motor. A pilot lay prone in the nose with a small plexiglas window etched with an "x" for aiming. Carried by the Renzan "Rita" bomber to within 60 miles of the British fleet, the launched Doshaburis hurtled toward the big CV's. The heavy deck armor slowed down the powerful manned missles enough to have them explode in the armored hangar, flattening all the wall fixtures, destroying all aircraft, and bulging and distorting the hangar walls and flight deck. Both Malta and Gibraltar were unfit for further duty and were so badly damaged that they were scrapped post-war. The New Zealand was cancelled.

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