The Casablanca class of escort aircraft carriers was the largest class of this type ever built. A total of 50 of were laid down, launched and commissioned within the space of a year, 1943 and 1944. They were built by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Company in Vancouver, Washington on the Columbia River.
Henry Kaiser's persuaded President Roosevelt to order fifty more escort carriers through the Maritime Commission, the wartime shipping construction agency. The primary mission of the new ships would be ferrying aircraft, with a secondary task of convoy protection. Amphibious support was not among the missions initially projected.
The resulting ships of the Casablanca class were relatively small at 10,200 tons (about the size of envisaged in the 1920s and 1930s small carrier designs). The first class designed from keel up an escort carrier, the Casablanca class featured a larger and more useful hangar deck than the preceding conversions. With a larger flight deck than the Bogue class, though not the Sangamons, it had a much smoother interior layout.
Since steam turbine machinery was restricted to other, more urgent programs, reciprocating engines were employed, powering two shafts. With a speed of 20 knots, the ships were considerably faster, and considerably more maneuverable, than earlier classes of escorts. The most evident weakness in the design was protection, which was limited to splinter plating.
Two catapults supported a design air group of 28 planes, with two aircraft elevators of sufficient size and shape to handle the common types found. The new carriers were armed with a single 5" L/38 on the stern, 16 40mm L/56 in twins around the flightdeck, and numbers of 20mm L/70 guns. In keeping with their air group capacity, the ships received SK and SG radars when available.
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