By Tommy H. Thomason

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hellcats on CVEs

The CVE was an escort carrier built, in the beginning, on an oiler or merchant-ship hull. They had the smallest flight decks and slowest top speed of all the U.S. carriers. (See There were also far more of them commissioned during World War II than any other carrier type.

I had thought that during World War II they 1) only deployed "composite" squadrons and 2) never deployed with F6Fs. It turns out that I was wrong on both counts.

A composite squadron at the time, by the way, was called that because it operated more that one type of airplane, e.g. fighters as well as bombers. They came into being because the small number of airplanes that could be carried by an escort carrier didn't justify the bureaucracy associated with two or three squadrons, an air group commander, etc.

The FM-2 Wildcat was specifically developed for CVE-based VC squadrons. It was lighter and had a more powerful engine than the FM-1. The vertical fin and rudder were increased in size to compensate for the horsepower increase.
 National Archives 80-G-224669

Grumman did a design study in mid-1943 of an F6F-3 modified for operation from CVEs. The "F6F-4" was to be armed with four .50 caliber guns instead of six and have the 75-gallon fuselage fuel tank deleted; the "F6F EX. W.T." was to have a greater wing span. Each wing tip was to be extended two feet and the ailerons moved outboard, with the span increase being split between the ailerons and the flaps by seven inches and 17 inches respectively. The study concluded that the F6F was faster but the FM-2 was smaller and had a lower stall speed and better takeoff performance, making them more suitable for operation from a CVE.

As it turned out, there appear to be many instances of CVEs deploying with Hellcats.

Barnes (CVE-20) reportedly deployed with VF-1 flying F6F Hellcats in November and December 1943. Some of the results were ugly. The pilot was killed in this landing attempt during workups in October. (Note the very unusual variation on the tri-color scheme.)

National Archives 80-G-202611
This one wasn't fatal but still embarrassing for all concerned.

Some Sangamon-class CVEs deployments during World War II were with both a fighter squadron equipped with F6F Hellcats as well as a VT squadron assigned TBMs or a VC squadron operating SBDs and TBMs. The Sangamons (only four were built) were a bit longer and had a bigger hangar deck than the earlier U.S. Navy CVEs. The later Commencement Bay-class CVEs were similar in size and considered big enough and fast enough for Vought F4U Corsair and Grumman AF Guardian operation.

1 comment:

Erik said...

Hellcats operated from escort carriers during the invasion of Southern France with VF-74 and VOF-1 aboard USS Tulagi and USS Kasaan Bay.