Ranger class

Design History
Following the successful conversions of Langley, Lexington and Saratoga, the United States would have three carriers active with the fleet, of which two were quite the equals of anything another nation could offer. However, the United States still had not designed a carrier from keel up; it had not, in other words, purpose-built a carrier.

Since the General Board, on the one hand, saw the need for more carriers, and the Naval War College, on the other hand, was providing alot of impetus for the construction of a new ship, the procurement of Ranger was rather an obvious conclusion to some ten years of preliminaries.

The first moves to design the carrier that lead to Ranger began in 1922, with a series of draft designs ending in 1927. At that time, with three carriers soon to be in service, the United States could only plan carriers of another 69,000 tons displacement. Essentially three different approaches could be chosen, leading to either five small, four medium, or three relatively large carriers (which would still be considerably lighter than Lexington).

Among the choices to be made for the design were the size of the ship and its speed; its armor and armament; whether it was to be a flush-deck, i.e. island-less carrier or whether an island should be used; complement of aircraft.

It was obvious that all these were competing requirements - more speed would mean less armor, more planes less guns.

It was, in the event, the General Board’s view that a smaller, slower carrier with a flush-deck (which the aviators had demanded), minimal surface-fire armament but a rather large air group, and little armor, would best combine with the tactical units the Fleet was using; that is, one carrier supported by a cruiser division. It would offer strong air units and would still be able to keep up with the cruisers in all but ideal sea conditions. It would, moreover, presumably be frequently tied to the battle line, were the planned seven knots excess speed versus the battleships would suffice clearly to handle aircraft and not lose contact with the fleet.

The General Board, thus, submitted to the Secretary of the Navy in 1927 four separate designs for a 13,800 ton carrier, basically differentiated by a choice of superior speed or superior aircraft complement. The General Board much preferred the alternative with more aircraft, since a lower speed would also improve the disposition of smoke (which, given the lack of an island, would have to be indigenously devised). All the same, the carrier still had a heavy artillery armament, of eight 6”(152mm) L/53 guns, plus six torpedo tubes and twelve 37mm AA guns. However, the development of the 37mm gun stalled, and the General Board replaced it and the 6” guns with the much more useful 5” (127mm) L/25 dual-purpose gun, of which twelve would be mounted. In the event, no torpedo tubes would be carried.

Ranger was included in the FY29 appropriations, but even before the carrier was finished, her looks and interior design had been radically altered. Ranger had been ordered without an island, with six smokestacks on her stern third, three on each side, which could be angled outward to allow unimpeded flight operations. However, as the construction of the vessel progressed, the Bureau of Aeronautics, advocating the pilots‘ views, suddenly dropped the demand for a flush deck and left the possibility for designing an island open. This solved many problems, including ship, aircraft and fire control. Adopted in late 1932, Ranger would be completed with a full-fledged, if comparatively small island.

As this process dragged on, BuAer also dropped another demand (this one more understandable, but far less sensible): torpedo stowage. By the early 1930s, it had become obvious that the dive-bomber was the primary U.S. carrier weapon. It appeared much more promising than the torpedo bomber, and BuAer advocated that Ranger become an exclusively dive-bomber carrier (plus fighters). Since she also was among the first warship to mount a strong battery of small caliber AA weapons, Ranger stood symbolically for the U.S. realization of the value, and danger, of the dive-bomber.

Ranger completed in April 1934, and became part of Aircraft, Battle Force. She participated in many Fleet Problems and exercises. Her service was not without problems. She was found to be unsuitable to the Pacific swells, which made her a very unstable flying platform. Partly for this reason, and partly because she was too slow at 28 knots for the faster Pacific Fleet operations (and also too weak), Ranger spent the better part of her carrier in World War II in the Atlantic. She operated as part of the Neutrality Patrol in the South Atlantic until America’s entry into the war, then underwent a refit at Norfolk. She participated in the North African landings in October 1942, supplying air support to the troops ashore and ferrying Army aircraft. She returned to the East Coast for yet another yard period, returning to her ferrying mission the next year. In mid-1943, she was detached to the British Home Fleet, in lieu of a British carrier, operating from Scapa Flow on covering missions and strike missions to Norway. In early 1944, she returned to the United States to become a training carrier. She conducted another ferrying mission to North Africa, then underwent another refit prior to making the journey through the Panama Canal to the Pacific. Operating from the West Coast, Ranger retained her role as training carrier for the rest of the war. She was decommissioned in October, 1946.

Ships in class:
CV-4 Ranger

Standard: 16.578 tons
Full: 17.577 tons
Length: 234.4m / 769ft
Beam: 24.38m / 80ft
Draft (Full Load): 7,62m / 22ft 4 7/8"
Height: ???? / ????
Crew (Officers/Men): 201/1947
Endurance: 10,000nm at 15kn
Speed: 28 knots
Belt: No belt armor
Deck: No deck armor
Barbettes: No barbette armor
Gunhouses: No gunhouse armor
Conning Tower: No conning tower armor
Armament and Equipment
(As designed):
Main: 8 x 127mm L/25 in eight single mounts, four on each side: two in galleries infront and two in galleries abaft the bridge
Secondary: None
AA: 40 x 12.7mm L/90 machine guns around the flight deck
Aviation: Theoretically 108, practically 72 Aircraft

Note: In her final configuration, Ranger carried no fixed air group. Thus her maximum air group and maximum armament numbers are given here from two separate dates.

(Ranger, 1944):
Main: As above
AA: 24 x 40mm L/56 in six quad mounts, 46 x 20mm L/70 in single mounts
Aviation (in August 1942):
VF-9: 27 x F4F-4 Wildcat fighters
VF-41: 27 x F4F-4 Wildcat fighters
VS-41: 18 x SBD-3 Dauntless dive-bomber