The Saipan class was a parallel evolution of the Independence class light aircraft carrier (CVL) based on the Baltimore class heavy cruiser. They were laid down in July-August 1944 but, like the Independence class light cruisers based on the Cleveland class light cruiser, they were built to the carrier specification. The hull below the hangar is identical to the heavy cruisers Fall River, Bremerton, Macon, and Toledo; all built at New York Shipbuilding, Camden NJ.
As built they were armed with the typical heavy battery of 40mm and 20mm AA guns; these were removed after World War II. Saipan was used to test operation of jet aircraft and improved radar. Plans to convert this class to ASW carriers were diverted due to the availability of the larger Essex class carriers. In the late 1960s she operated a squadron of F-4 Phantom jets based out of Pensacola. She was replaced by Antietam (CV-36) in this duty.
The ships are distinguished by the large radar mast abaft the superstructure which resembles that of the Independence class and four funnels extending above the flight deck on port side. One of the funnels was removed in the 1950s on both ships. Wright was withdrawn from service 15 Mar 1956 and converted to a national emergency command ship at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard from 1962-63. Saipan was decommissioned on 3 Oct 1957, converted to a command ship (CC-3) during 1963-64 and renamed Arlington. Her conversion specification was modified in 1964 and she re-entered service on 27 Aug 1966 as a communcations relay ship (AGMR-2); the flight deck was converted to an "antenna farm" with catapults and arresting wires removed, a helicopter landing area was retained aft, and the hangar was converted to house communications facilities. Both ships were decommissioned in 1970 and ultimately scrapped.
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