See This Plane? It Was Suppose to Turn Aircraft Carriers into Scrap Metal

Warfare History Network

Key point: The plane's successful development would have made carriers obsolete, but it failed.

The first few years after World War II were challenging ones for the U.S. Navy. Massive demobilization of personnel and rapid scrapping or retirement of ships created internal disruptions. Formation of a new Defense Department, combined with sharp reductions in defense spending, led to bitter rivalries among the American military services, each seeking its proper share of increasingly limited resources. Birth of an independent Air Force eager to gain control over all airpower accelerated an internecine struggle with the Navy, leading to the sudden 1949 cancellation of a proposed new aircraft carrier, USS United States.

In this milieu, the Navy faced a concurrent operational challenge: the adaptation of larger, heavier, and faster jet-powered aircraft to existing carriers that had supplanted battleships as primary projectors of naval power during the war. Senior naval aviators were concerned that the new supersonic jet aircraft, with their greater weight and higher takeoff and landing speeds, might not be able to operate safely from available carriers—or even new ones of any reasonable size. One theoretical solution was the Seaplane Striking Force (SSF), in which newly developed seaplanes and vertically launched and recovered aircraft would be unshackled from the need for land-based runways or large aircraft carriers.

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