Yorktown class

Design History
Original Yorktown class

By 1930, the United States had ordered or finished four carriers. Since the commissioning of the Lexington class in 1927, there had been considerable experience in the relative merits of large carriers, and the necessities required to keep such elaborate fighting vessels operating - from deck space considerations, to hangar deck layouts, to fuel line distribution, to speed and maneuverability.

Although CV-4, whose design began in earnest in 1927, failed to be able to take any advantage of the slowly incoming information, the follow-on design, which became Yorktown, would finally benefit from the work of the aircraft carrier force.

With the beginning of construction of Ranger, the remaining tonnage available for the construction of carriers dwindled to 52.000 tons. Several options could be pursued on the basis of utilizing all this tonnage. Four carriers of the Ranger size could be build, or alternatively, barely two ships of the maximum tonnage allowed by the 1921 Washington Treaty, 27,000 tons. Still another option would make for three carriers of an intermediate size.

A fourth option suggested the construction of two ships of 20.500 tons and another Ranger sized vessel, in many regards an optimal solution: it would offer a wide variety of experience (providing small, medium, and large carriers to the Fleet), and allow the deployment of the carriers in pairs.

Several factors were demanded to be considered in the design of the new carrier. First, higher speed than Ranger - preferably 32.5 knots to operate alongside the new heavy cruisers. The aviation handling facilities, notably hangar and elevator size and arrangement were to be remodeled, as were protection and anti-air armament.

In May 1931 initial planning began for the Yorktown class. It became clear very soon in to the design that to construct a carrier of the desired characteristics on Ranger’s tonnage was virtually impossible. With the variety of missions facing the American carrier force, a similarly wide range of characteristics was necessary to be included in the design of any new ship.

Two features that were later to be eliminated played a role in the early draft of the design: an armored flight deck, and a second flying-off level. Both proposals promised great benefits to the Navy having them. In fact, the Japanese Akagi and Kaga had been commissioned with two flying-off decks, although both were later to lose them again. The main concern of the aviators was to make available landing space to planes even while attacks were flown off, an impossibility under the current operations procedure of U.S. carriers, whose deckload strikes left no room for landing planes. Alas, the two-flight deck scheme did not offer unending happiness: the lower deck would have to deal with the upper deck’s supports, a danger to the fast-moving launching planes. The upper deck, meanwhile, would be relatively short, a great waste of ship’s length. It was, moreover, a severe drain on available tonnage, since the entire ship would be higher, and therefore, displace more.

In the end, hangar-deck catapults for launching planes broadside were installed, but the Yorktown class retained a single, long flight deck.

Armament was little cause for discussion. Although, at times, surface-fire artillery was considered (for it had been considered useful in the Lexington class), 8”/203mm artillery could not fitted on 20,000 tons and 6”/152mm artillery was not considered a worthwhile addition for the necessary sacrifice of air power. Thus, the standard 8 5”/127mm guns were ordered, supported by a large total of 40 .50cal/12.7mm machine guns. Urgently required were the new 28mm anti-air guns, which would be a vital addition to the vessels‘ ability to stop approaching dive bombers.

Preliminary design drew up a number of designs, from which one, F, was used as the basis for a later reduction in tonnage from 20,700 tons to 20,000 tons, allowing a third carrier of 15,200 to be built instead of the earlier trio (see above). The smaller carrier, which would become Wasp, was shorter and lacked torpedo protection, but otherwise possessed the same protection against 6” fire which the larger carriers were designed for. This design, as we shall see in the Wasp description, underwent considerable change.

So, in fact, did the Yorktown design. The initial laying down was severely delayed by the worsening Depression, and allowed for more work to be done. While the time passed, the design was modified in certain respects to follow the progress of technology. After much discussion, a longer flight deck was ordered, to support the increased take-off length of the newer, heavier planes.

As it were, with the 20.000 ton Yorktown class, an excellent example of modern carrier design had been completed. Although the design had been begun in 1931, and had already been essentially completed in time for the two vessels to be included in Financial Year 1933, the delays had not measurably decreased the value of the new carriers, or the improvements they brought. With a sufficiently large island to house the fire-control for the artillery, air and ship control facilities, and, most importantly, the smokestack, the new vessels made the desired 32.5 knots, turned smoothly and tightly, possessed a flight deck of almost 800 feet, and could easily manage a ninety-plane air group with three centerline elevators.

The designs were completed and accepted by the Secretary of the Navy on November 17th, 1934; Yorktown and Enterprise had, however, begun construction in May and July of that year respectively, since SecNav had only to approve late changes to the flight deck length by this time.

The Hornet

In 1938, Congress declared its willingness to fund an extension of the Navy, and a new carrier was among the ships it funded. However, at this time, the Navy constructors were fully occupied readying the design of BB-61 Iowa for production leaving the choice of waiting for it to complete its battleship design and design a new carrier, or procure another Yorktown class ship (now clearly regarded as the best pre-war U.S. design). The choice was made that another Yorktown with minor alterations was the best choice, and immediate begin of construction desirable. Small changes were made to fire-direction and the propulsion systems, and Hornet did away with the rather large foretop of her sisters. In addition, she had a longer flight deck overhanging her bows. She was, in all other respects, a Yorktown. Her construction began in September of 1939.


The two original Yorktown class ships, CV-5 Yorktown and CV-6 Enterprise, commissioned in September 1938 and May 1939 respectively. Both ships participated in the final Fleet Problem, held in the Caribbean, then moved to join the Battle Force, U.S. Fleet, in the Pacific. There, they remained during the conclusion of the restructuring of the U.S. Fleet into an Atlantic and a Pacific Fleet. In April 1941, Yorktown was removed from the Pacific Fleet to join the Atlantic Fleet in its extended Neutrality Patrols. Both carriers were not at Pearl Harbor when the place was struck on December 7th, 1941 - Enterprise was just returning from a ferry mission to Wake and had been fatefully delayed by refueling problems.

Following the outbreak of the war, Yorktown returned to the Pacific. She and Enterprise performed raids against various island targets in the first months of 1942, then Yorktown headed for the South Pacific were, from March to April she remained with little consequence, except for a raid on Lae in mid-March. In May, she and Lexington fought the Battle of the Coral Sea from which she returned damaged to Pearl Harbor. Enterprise, meanwhile, had been reinforced at Pearl by the new Hornet, commissioned in October 1941 and finally done with its shakedown cruises in March 1942, and had struck Tokyo in the Doolittle Raid. All three carriers met at Pearl in late May to sortie again in the waning days of May for Midway, were they joined in battle with the Japanese in early June. Yorktown was lost there to combined air-submarine torpedo hits.

Enterprise and Hornet returned to Pearl, were Hornet’s poor showing during the Midway operation led to its retention at the Pacific Fleet base for more training. Enterprise joined the fleet heading for Guadalcanal in August. There, in late September, she fought the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, suffering slight damage. She returned to Pearl for a refit, replaced in the South Pacific by Hornet. Enterprise and Hornet joined up in the South Pacific in October 1942 to fight the Battle of Santa Cruz, were Japanese air units crippled Hornet so that she had to be sunk by American forces. Enterprise incurred heavy damage but remained in the South Pacific without the ability to operate her forward elevator. Her aircraft sank the crippled battleship Hiei in mid-November. Relieved by H.M.S. Victorious in early 1943, she headed for the West Coast, were a large refit awaited her. She then formed the nucleus of the Fast Carrier Force, and participated in late 1943 in raids and invasion operations in the Gilbert Islands. In 1944, she participated in the Marshall operations and the raid on Truk, and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. She continued service during the Leyte operation and throughout the raids in the South China Sea and the Japanese home islands. In March 1945, she suffered damage from a bomb; in April, from two Kamikaze crashes. On May 11th, 1945, while supporting Operation Iceberg, the Okinawa operation, she was hit by a kamikaze crashing into her forward elevator, putting her out of business for the duration of the war. Decommissioned in 1947, efforts to preserve her failed and she was scrapped in the 1950s.

Ships in class:
CV-5 Yorktown
CV-6 Enterprise
CV-8 Hornet

Standard: 19,576 tons
Full: 25,484 tons
Length: 246,74m / 809ft 6in
Beam: 33.38m / 109ft 6,25in
Draft (Full Load): 7m / 25ft 11,5"
Height: ???? / ????
Crew (Officers/Men) (1941): 227/1990
Endurance: 12,000nm at 15kn
Speed: 32.5 knots
Belt: 4 - 2,5in / 104mm - 6,4mm
Deck: 60lbs STS / 27,2kg STS(per f^2)
Barbettes: No barbette armor
Conning Tower: 4in side, 2in top / 104mm side, 54mm top
Armament and Equipment
(As designed):
Main: 8 x 127mm L/38 in pairs around the flightdeck: two pairs in front and abaft the bridge on each side of the flight deck
Secondary: None
AA: 40 x 12.7mm L/90 (with 28mm L/74 planned)
Aviation: 96 Aircraft

(Yorktown, May 1942):
Main: 8 x 127mm L/38 as above
AA: 16 x 28mm L/74 in four quad mounts, 30 x 20mm L/70 in single mounts
VF-5: 20 x F4F-4 Wildcat fighters
VB-5: 19 x SBD-3 Dauntless dive-bomber
VS-5: 19 x SBD-3 Dauntless dive-bomber
VT-5: 13 x TBD-1 Devastator torpedo-bomber

(Enterprise, June 1944):
Main: 8 x 127mm L/38 as above
AA: 40 x 40mm L/56 in quad and twin mounts, 48 x 20mm L/70 in single mounts
VF-10: 31 x F6F-3 Hellcat fighters
VFN-101: 3 x F4U-1N Corsair fighters
VB-10: 21 x SBD-6 Dauntless dive-bomber
VT-10: 14 x TBM-1 Avenger torpedo-bomber