What If the Navy Brought Back Flying Aircraft Carriers?

Key point: Flying aircraft carriers are doable, but it is unclear how useful they would be in practice.

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The U.S. Navy should consider reviving a concept that died a catastrophic death in the 1930s, one journalist recommended in the pages of Proceedings, the professional journal of the U.S. Naval Institute.

Kyle Mizokami argued that the American fleet should look into large airships as carriers for unmanned aerial vehicles, in essence updating the fleet’s costly experimentation with Akron-class airships more than 80 years ago. Airships could complement multi-billion-dollar aircraft carriers.

“The necessary technology already exists for unmanned airships to team up with UAVs to provide modern-day equivalents of the Akron-class airships,” Mizokami wrote.

The Navy on its official website describes the brief service of the two Akrons, which at 785 feet long could cruise at 50 knots over a distance of thousands of miles while carrying 89 crew, seven machine guns and four fighter aircraft that launched and landed via a complex trapeze device.

During an exercise near Cuba in 1932, the New Jersey-based Akron “succeeded in spotting the light cruiser Raleigh and a dozen destroyers, positively identifying them on the eastern horizon two minutes later,” the Navy explained.

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