A number of carriers were started or planned, but for one reason or another never saw completion. Politics, finances and defeat have all played their role.
I thought I’d put together a lot of these “what-if” carriers.
First up, the Royal Navy
Malta Class Fleet Carriers
There were to have been 3 of these, named Malta, Gibraltar and New Zealand. They were to have been large fleet carriers, with much of their design inspired by the US Navy’s carriers of the Essex class. Only Malta had any steel laid down before they were all cancelled in December of 1945. The economics of the time prevented the RN from building these, but from their design they would appear to have been better candidates for modification and conversion than the Eagle and Ark Royal.
Centaur Class Light Fleet Carriers
Although several of this class were completed, a number of others were cancelled at the end of WW2. Arrogant, Hermes, Monmouth and Polyphemus were all cancelled before being laid down. To keep the Hermes name alive, the carrier Elephant that was under construction at the time was renamed.
Majestic Class Light Fleet Carrier
Leviathan was launched in 1945, then sat incomplete for over 20 years. During that time a number of proposals were made to complete her as a commando carrier or as a missile carrier or to sell her to a third party but they all came to nothing. In 1966, her boilers and turbines were stripped out and sold to the Netherlands for the refit of the Karel Doorman. In 1968, she was scrapped.
CVA-01 and CVA-02 Fleet Carriers
These two large carriers were planned for laying down in 1966 with completion in 1973. Instead they were cancelled in 1966 when the British government announced the withdrawal of all forces east of Suez. It is believed they would have been named HMS Queen Elizabeth II and HMS Duke of Edinburgh. Defensive weapons were to have been an interesting mixture of Sea Dart and Ikara.
Next up, the French Navy
Joffre Class Fleet Carriers
Two of these carriers named Joffre and Painleve were planned prior to WW2 as replacements for the less than satisfactory Bearn. Only Joffre was laid down in 1938, and construction was abandoned in June of 1940 with all steel scrapped.
Clemenceau Class Light Fleet Carrier
Authorised in 1947, and the first major French carrier construction program of the post WW2 era, this ship would have been a light fleet carrier. Economic reasons caused the cancellation of the project in 1950 before any steel had been laid down.
Verdun Class Attack Carrier
A larger carrier, the Verdun was intended as a nuclear-strike ship. Authorised in 1958, in 1961 it was cancelled due to costs.
PH 75 Nuclear Powered Amphibious Assault Ship
Initially conceived as a replacement for the aging Arromanches in the assault role, this ship grew to include assault, ASW, disaster relief, and command roles. Nuclear propulsion was chosen, presumably to allow expeditionary operations without supporting auxiliaries. When this was officially a "live" project it was planned for completion in 1981, but was continually delayed and eventually cancelled.
And now, Germany
Graf Zeppelin Class Fleet Carriers
The Graf Zeppelin was the first class of carriers to be laid down by the Germans. This program was subject to political arguments over which service would operate the aircraft, leading to delays. The aircraft operating features were poorly designed due to a total lack of experience in shipboard aircraft operation.
Both ships were suspended in 1940, but the Graf Zeppelin was resumed 1942, only to be cancelled in 1943. Her sister was cancelled and scrapped when about 60% complete. The Graf Zeppelin was scuttled late in the war, but was raised by the Soviets post-war and was later destroyed as a target.
Auxiliary Fleet Carrier Program
In addition to the Graf Zeppelin, a number of captured/seized/incomplete vessels were taken in hand for conversions to auxiliary aircraft carriers including the French cruiser DeGrasse and the Prinz Eugen class cruiser Seydlitz. Work on all of these was suspended in 1943 and never resumed.
Now for Italy
Aquila Fleet Carrier
Aquila was a passenger liner taken over in 1940 and converted to a carrier. Almost completed in 1943, she was sabotaged before being taken over by Germany upon the Italian surrender. Completion post-war was considered but not proceeded with.
Sparviero Auxiliary Fleet Carrier
Another passenger liner converted into a carrier, although her conversion was much less extensive than that of Aquila. Conversion started in 1942, but was stopped in 1943 after the German take over. She was later scuttled as a block ship and broken up for scrap post-war.
Andrea Doria Class Helicopter Cruisers
The third planned unit of this class, to be called Enrico Dandolo was cancelled in favour of the Vittorio Veneto.
Vittorio Veneto Class Helicopter Cruisers
A second unit of this class, to be called Italia was cancelled before any work was commenced.
Trieste Aviation Cruiser
A planned large missile cruiser/carrier, she was cancelled before any work was commenced.
Next posts will cover the Soviet Union/Russia, and Japan before the last one, the US Navy.
Post War Aircraft Carriers
The initial 10 year plans for the Soviet Navy post war included 9 large aircraft carriers and 6 small carriers. This was later cut of 6 of each, and then finally rejected altogether.
In 1955, the Council of Ministers ordered 2 light carriers (Project 85). These ships would have displaced about 35,000 tonnes and operated 20-25 Mig-15 fighters. Khrushchev cancelled this program late in 1955 in favour of more nuclear submarines.
Kuznetsov Class Fleet Carrier
The Varyag, 2nd of this class was structurally complete but not fitted out with electronics and internal fittings when work on her was stopped in 1992. She was subsequently sold to China as “a casino resort” and is now supposed to return to service as a training carrier for the PLAN. Whether this eventuates remains to be seen.
Ulyanovsk Class Fleet Carrier
A nuclear powered follow on to the Kuznetsov, this ship was approximately 40% complete when the Soviet Union collapsed. She was subsequently scrapped.
Akagi Class Fleet Carriers
The Amagi was started in 1920 as a battleship before being converted into a carrier. Her hull was wrecked by the 1923 Tokyo earthquake and she was scrapped on the slipway.
Taiho Class Fleet Carriers
2 of these were ordered (no names assigned) in 1942, before being cancelled prior to any work starting. Up to 5 others were also wanted, but never started.
Unryu Class Fleet Carriers
None of these carriers ever saw service as there were no aircraft to operate from them. 3 were completed, but never deployed. Kasagi was 85% complete when the war ended, Aso and Ikoma were both at 60%. All were scrapped post war. 11 additional ships of this class were planned but never laid down.
Shokaku Class Light Fleet Carriers
This class of light carrier were planned for in 1922 but were never laid down because of the Washington naval treaty.
Merchant Escort Carrier Conversions
A number of merchant ships were taken up for completion as escort carriers. Not all of these were completed by war’s end, and several of them were sunk on their way to the dock yards for conversion.
Langley Class Experimental Carrier
A second conversion of this type was planned but not proceeded with.
Planned Liner Conversions
During the 1930's there was much interest in the possibility of employing fast passenger liners as warships in wartime. Extensive studies were carried out on the idea of converting liners to auxiliary carriers; potential liners were identified and plans for conversion were drawn up. As war grew near, four ships were specified for conversion and allocated aircraft carrier designations. However, it was decided that these ships would be better employed as troopships, and freighters were substituted in the auxiliary carrier role.
Due to their size and speed, these ships would have been quite unlike other AVG/CVE-series conversions. They would have served as auxiliary fleet carriers, as did several Japanese liner conversions, rather than as second-line transport and ASW ships.
Essex Class Fleet Carriers
USS Reprisal was cancelled in 1945 when 50% complete and used for explosives tests. She was inspected for possible completion, but deemed beyond salvage. She was sold for scrapping in 1949. The USS Iwo Jima was cancelled in August 1945 and scrapped on the slipway. Six other Essex class carriers (for which only hull numbers, not names had been assigned) were also cancelled in 1945 prior to work commencing.
Midway Class Large Fleet Carriers
3 extra units of this class (for which only hull numbers were assigned) were cancelled in 1945 due to a lack of dock space.
United States Class Nuclear Attack Carriers
The USS United States, first of the planned four of these was cancelled only 5 days after she was laid down. The others were not assigned names at the time of cancellation.
Enterprise Class Fleet Carrier
A second Enterprise class carrier had been planned, but was not commenced due to the high costs of the first unit.
Sea Control Ship
The Sea Control Ship was to be a small cheap carrier designed to provide convoy escorts and deliver limited air power to the field without tying up a super carrier during times of conflict. The Sea Control ship was intended to carry a mix of (the failed) Rockwell XFV-12 fighters and anti-submarine warfare helicopters. The idea was abandoned in 1981 and no ship was ever laid down.
The VSTOL Support Ship (VSS) was a proposed light aircraft carrier design for the United States Navy in the late 1970s that would be smaller and less expensive than the Navy's existing aircraft carriers such as the Nimitz-class. The design would cost one-quarter as much, although the V/STOL aircraft it would carry would have reduced performance. The United States Senate and others supported the design, but it was ultimately rejected by the Navy.
Here's a link to a website I stumbled upon many, many moons ago. Some sort of early Shipbucket about the Germany Navy. Very nice pictures and a good load of information, among them the projected carriers for the Z-Plan and conversions.
Some nations had very ambitious plans for carriers but nothing ever came of it.
I read once that in the 50s, Venezuela planned to buy one or two carriers from Britain, while in a 1979 warships of the world, the Peruvian(!) navy is said to plan to buy up to four VTOL carriers!