Meet the USS Akron: The Disastrous 'Flying Aircraft Carrier' That Never War

Kyle Mizokami

Key Point: The loss of both airships effectively ended the flying aircraft carrier concept. It’s interesting to speculate what might have happened had the concept been further developed and survived until the Second World War. As scouts, airship carriers would not have lasted long had they accomplished their mission and located Japanese ships and bases.

Nearly a hundred years ago the U.S. Navy asked a question: if airplanes can fly through the air, why couldn’t a vessel carrying them fly through the air as well? The result was the Akron-class airships, the only flying aircraft carriers put into service in any country. Although promising, a pair of accidents—prompted by the airship’s limitations—destroyed the flying carrier fleet and ended development of the entire concept.

The Akron-class airships were designed and built in the late 1920s. The ships were designed, like conventional seagoing aircraft carriers, to reconnoiter the seas and search for the enemy main battle fleet. Once the enemy fleet was located, the U.S. Navy’s battleships would close with the enemy and defeat them. This was a primitive and limiting use of the aircraft carrier, which had not yet evolved into the centerpiece of U.S. naval striking power.

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