Clémenceau Class


Origin: France.

Type: Aircraft carrier.

Number: 2 ships.

Displacement: 27,397 tons standard; 32,780 tons full load.

Dimensions: Length overall 870ft (265); beam 168ft (51·2m); draught 28·1ft (8·6m).

Propulsion: Geared steam turbines, 126,000shp; 2 shafts; 32kt.

Armament: 8 single 3·9in (100mm) DP guns.

Aircraft: 16 Super Étendard; 3 Étendard IVP; 7 Breguet Alize, 2 Aerosopatiale Alouette III.

Complement: 1,338.


Development: Clémenceau and Foch were commissioned in the early 1960s and incorporated all the major advances made in carrier operating techniques during the immediate postwar period. The flight deck is angled at 80 to the ship’s major axis. The forward aircraft lift is offset to starboard and the after lift is positioned on the deck-edge to clear the flight deck and to increase hangar capacity.

            The attack aircraft is the Dassault Super Étendard, which can carry anti-ship (ASM) missiles such as the Exocet, as was demonstrated so dramatically by the Argentine naval air arm during the South Atlantic war in 1982. The small size and light construction of the ships, together with the limited capacity of their lifts and catapults, have made it difficult to find a replacement for the Crusader fighter aircraft formerly carried. The ASW aircraft is the Brequet Alizé; ten are carried, but these are now somewhat aged, although no replacement is in slight. A further limitation on the effectiveness of these ships is the lack of integral airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft, and a French carrier group would thus suffer the same problems as the Royal Navy task force experienced in the South Atlantic in 1982.

            The French Navy plans to replace these two aircraft carriers with new nuclear-powered carriers in the 1990s. These will be enormously expensive for such a relatively small navy and will take up a disproportionate amount of the available resources, but they will nevertheless be a valuable addition to NATO’s maritime capabilities.


Below: The BAe Harrier demonstrator prepares for takeoff during trials aboard Foch; in the event, the French navy preferred to stick with non-STOVL aircraft.

Above: The aircraft carrier clémenceau during a naval revue with the crew on parade and a pair of super Frelon helicopters on the flight deck.


Below: Clémenceau under way, with 2 mix of Super Étendard, Étendard IVP, crusader and on Alizé Fixed wing aircraft, plus tour Alouette helicopters.



Giuseppe Garibaldi Class


Origin: Italy.

Type: Aircraft carrier.

Number: 1 ship.

Displacement: 10,100 tons standard; 13,370 tons full load.

Dimensions: Length overall 591 ft (180·1m); beam 100ft (30·5m); draught 22ft (6·7m).

Propulsion: COGAG; 4 LM2500 gas turbines; 80,000shp; 2 shafts; 30 kt.

Armament: 4 Otomat Mk 2 SSM launchers; 2 octuple Albatros SAM systems; 3 twin Breda 40 mm guns; 2 triple Mk 32 torpedo tubes.

Aircraft: 18 SH-3D Sea King.

Complement: 550.


Development: Following a series of helicopter carrying cruisers, the Italian Navy has finally decided to produce a full blown aircraft carrier, although the project has been a far from easy one and there may be further problems ahead. Nevertheless, Giuseppe Garibaldi was launched on 4 June 1983 and is scheduled to join the fleet in 1985. She is designed for ASW operations and will carry eighteen SH-3D Sea King helicopters in place of the AB 204/212s which serve aboard earlier ships. The hangar, which is located centrally, is 361 ft (110m) long and 20 ft (6m) high, with a maximum width of 49 ft (15m). Twelve Sea Kings can be struck down in the hangar, which is divided into three sections by fire curtains, but the other aircraft must remain on the flight deck. Six helicopter spots are marked on the deck.

            Short-range air defence and close in anti-missile systems are fitted, and these are all of Italian design and manufacture, as are the Selenia surveillance, 3-D tracking and fire control radars. A bow sonar is fitted; this is a Raytheon DE-1167, manufactured in Italy under licence by Elsag.

            Giuseppe Garibaldi’s most striking feature is a 91ft (28m) 60 ski-jump, which has no feasible helicopter application and is quite clearly intended for use by Sea Harrier V/STOL air craft. This whole problem has been the subject of a major interservice row between the Italian Navy and Air Force:  the Navy desperately wants fixed wing aircraft at sea but is not allowed to operate them, while the Air Force is adamant in its refusal to provide a sea going component. There the matter rests for the moment, but meanwhile the Italian Navy has built itself a very useful light aircraft carrier, optimized for the ASW role. The design makes an interesting comparison with the Spanish Principle de Asturias (qv).

Above:The Giuseppe Garibaldi under construction at Italcantieri’s Monfalcone yard in October 1982, and immediately after her launch in June 1983.



Invincible Class


Origin: UK.

Type: Light aircraft carrier.

Number: 3 ships.

Displacement: 16,256 tons standard; 19,812 tons full load.

Dimensions: Length overall 677 ft (206·3m); beam 105ft (32m); draught 24ft (7·3m).

Propulsion: COGAG; 4 Rolls-Royce Olympus TM3B gas turbines, 112,000shp, 2 shafts; 28 kt.

Armament: 1 twin Sea Dart launcher )22 missiles); 2 phalanx CIWS.

Aircraft: 5 Sea Harrier FRS. 1; 9 Sea King HAS. 5;2 Sea King AEW.

Complement: 1,000 (+ 320 air group).


Development: It is indisputable that without the air cover provided by HMS Invincible and the older Hermes the British task force could never have succeeded in reestablishing British rule over the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic war of 1982. In fact, the British were very lucky to have these carriers at all, especially the invincible which has had a very chequered history and was very nearly cancelled on several occasions, initially this class was to operate large ASW helicopters, but late in the design process provision was made for operating Sea Harrier aircraft to intercept hostile reconnaissance and ASW patrol aircraft. A final change in 1976-77 required the ships to be able to act as commando carriers as well!

            The hangar has a ‘dumb-bell’ shape, with a narrow center section and wide bays at each end, dictated by the large exhaust uptakes for the gas turbines to starboard and imposing some constraints on the movement of fixed wing aircraft within it. Unlike earlier RN carriers, the invincible class has an open forecastle. The 600ft (182-9m) x 44ft (13-4m) flight deck is offset to port and angled slightly to avoid the Sea Dart launcher which is fairly central on the foredeck. Invincible and Illustrious have a 70 ski jump at the forward end of the flight deck, which enables the Sea Harrier to increase its payload by some 1,500Ib (680kg). Ark Royal, however, has a 120 ski jump, which means that the Sea Dart launcher has had to be moved. Following experience in the Falkland Islands, US Vulcan/Phalanx close in defence weapons have been installed, one beside the Sea Dart launcher forward and the second on the after end of the flight deck.

            A further lesson from the Falklands has led to the inclusion of two Sea King AEW helicopters in the air wing. During that conflict Invincible operated between eight and twelve Sea Harrier/ Harrier GR. 3 aircraft in addition to her complement of Mk5 Sea Kings. Her sister ship Illustrious, which relieved her in the summer of 1982, operated ten Sea Harriers while on patrol in the South Atlantic. The limited hangar capacity means that a permanent deck park must be operated.

            For the NATO EASTLANT role, which remains their primary mission, the Invincibles are equipped with a sophisticated ASW command center and first rate communications. They are also fitted with Type 184 hull sonar but have no shipborne anti submarine weapons. The planned sale of Invincible to Australia has been cancelled.


Below: HMS Illustrious passes her sister Ark Royal, the latter still fitting out at the Swan Hunter yard where both ships were built, on the Tyne in 1982.



Above: Invincible under way. Note the slightly angled flight deck offset to port to clear the Sea Dart launcher in the center of the foredeck.


Above: The profusion of antennas and radomes highlight the comprehensive sensor and communications fit on Illustrious.


Below: Sea Harriers and a Sea King on Illustrious’ flight deck Note the Vulcan / Phalanx on the after end of the deck.



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