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Audacious-class aircraft carrier

HMS Eagle
Class overview
Operators:  Royal Navy
Preceded by: Implacable class
Succeeded by: Invincible class
Planned: 4
Completed: 2
Cancelled: 2
Retired: 2
Preserved: 0
General characteristics
Type: Aircraft carrier
Displacement: 36,800 tons (as built)
Length: 804 ft (245 m)
  • Ark Royal
  • 112 ft (34 m) (as built)
  • Eagle
  • 135 ft (41 m)
Draught: 33 ft (10 m)
  • 8 Admiralty 3-drum boilers in 4 boiler rooms
  • 4 sets of Parsons geared turbines, 4 shafts
  • Power: 152,000 shp (113,000 kW)
  • Eagle
  • 32 knots (37 mph/59 km/h)
  • Ark Royal
  • 31.5 kt (58 km/h)
  • Eagle
  • 7,000 nmi (13,000 km) at 18 knots (21 mph; 33 km/h)
  • Ark Royal
  • 11,265 km (7,000 mi) at 14 knots
  • 5000 nmi at 24 knots
  • Eagle (As built:)
  • 16 × 4.5 inch guns (8 × 2)
  • 61 × 40 mm guns (8 × 6, 2 × 2, 9 × 1)
  • Post-1964 re-fit:
  • 8 × 4.5 inch guns (4 × 2)
  • 6 × Seacat SAM missile launchers
  • Ark Royal (As built:)
  • 16 × 4.5 inch guns (8 × 2)
  • 52 × 40 mm (6 × 6, 2 × 2, 12 × 1)
  • 1969 refit: none
  • Eagle
  • Waterline belt: 4 in (100 mm)
  • Armoured flight deck: 1–4 in (25–102 mm)
  • Hangar side: 1 in (25 mm)
  • Hangar deck: 1 in (25 mm)
Aircraft carried:
  • Eagle (As built:)
  • 60
  • Post-1964: 45
  • Ark Royal (As built:)
  • 50
  • 38 after 1967-1970 refit

The Audacious class aircraft carriers were a class of aircraft carriers proposed by the British government in the 1930s - 1940s and completed after the Second World War.


  • History 1
  • Ships in class 2
  • Further reading 3
  • External links 4


HMS Ark Royal (left) next to USS Nimitz in 1978.

The Audacious class was originally designed as an expansion of the Implacable class with double storied hangars. However, it was realised that the hangar height would not be sufficient for the new aircraft that were expected to enter service, so the design was considerably enlarged.

Four ships were laid down between 1942 and 1943 during World War II as part of the British naval buildup - Africa, Irresistible, Audacious and Eagle. At the end of hostilities Africa and Eagle were cancelled. Work on the remaining two was suspended. They would be renamed and built to differing designs in the 1950s.

As the builds of Audacious (renamed Eagle) and Irresistible (renamed Ark Royal) progressed they differed so much that they effectively became the lead (and sole) ships of each of their own classes. They formed the backbone of the postwar carrier fleet, and were much modified.

Ships in class

HMS Eagle (R05) (Commissioned October 1951) (Ex Audacious)
Laid down in 1942 at Harland and Wolff, Belfast as HMS Audacious. Renamed at the start of 1946 as Eagle after the carrier that was sunk in 1942. Launched in March 1946. Decommissioned January 1972.
HMS Ark Royal (R09) (Commissioned 1955) (Ex Irresistible)
Intended as HMS Irresistible, but named after the third Ark Royal that was lost in 1941. Work on Ark Royal started in 1943 at Cammell Laird, Birkenhead. Launched in 1950. Decommissioned February 1979.
HMS Eagle
Ordered from Swan Hunter, Wallsend-on-Tyne in August 1942. Transferred to Vickers-Armstrong in December that year. Cancelled.
HMS Africa
Ordered from Fairfield, Govan on 12 July 1943. Re-ordered as Malta Class in 1944. Cancelled 15 October 1945

Further reading

  • Ireland, Bernard. The Illustrated Guide to Aircraft Carriers of the World. Hermes House, London, 2005. ISBN 1-84477-747-2
  • Johnstone-Bryden, Richard. Britain's Greatest Warship: HMS "Ark Royal IV". Sutton Publishing Ltd., Stroud, 2000. ISBN 0-7509-2504-3

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
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