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TAKR - Aircraft-Carrying Cruiser - History

Russia's history with ship-launched 'aircraft' technically began in 1904 with the Rus, a German-built ship converted into an aerostat-carrier by the Imperial Russian Navy to conduct long-range marine reconnaissance. With the advent of the seaplane on the eve of the First World War, Russia would join other powers in converting vessels to carry the newfangled aircraft. The antecedents of use of the sea and air power of the Russian fleet were the 5 hydroplane support ships used between 1910 and 1920. First it was the Volodga with 91 ms of length and 3800 ton with capacity for 4 to 5 hydroplanes, followed the Almaz with 110 ms, 3200 tn and of 3 to 4 seaplanes, the Imperator Alexander and Imperator Nikolai I of 117 ms, 9200 tn and finally the Rumyniya of 108 ms, 4500 tn and able to operate between 4 and 7 aircraft.

Several other small Russian merchant ships were taken over by the Royal Navy and converted to support the White Russians during the Russian Civil War, then given to the White Russians. Operated in the Caspian sea. The ships are believed to have been similar but not identical, with only ery minimal conversion.

The Almaz was a small ex-Russian seaplane tender given to the White Russians by the British, having been surrendered by the Germans at the end of the War. Originally an armed yacht/small cruiser; converted by the Russians to operate seaplanes. Served with the Black Sea Fleet. Hoisting booms and servicing facilties for 4 seaplanes were fitted. Interned with the rest of the White Russian fleet, and eventually scrapped.

The Orlitsa, a steamer purchased from Britain in 1903 and converted into a seaplane-carrying ship in 1915 by the Putilov Wharf. The Oriltsa was equipped with 4 M-9 type seaplanes. The ship lifted and lowered the planes into the water using electric winches and booms. The deck was fitted with canvas-covered hangers. The engine and boiler room were equipped with a special net to protect against enemy bombs.

The Russian seaplane mothership "Orlitsa" and her aircraft were very active in the waters off of the Estonian Islands as well as in the Gulf of Riga in 1915 and 1916. This was a time when German land forces were driving the Russian armies out of Couronia (Kurland/Kurzeme) and every effort had to be taken by the Russian to neutralize the German threats. Seeing fighting in the Baltic Sea during the war, the ship was disarmed and renamed the Sovet in 1918, and transferred to the Far East, where it was written off for scrap in 1964.

In addition to the Orlitsa, the Imperial Navy fielded two more steamers, the Emperor Alexander I and Emperor Nikolai I, ships purchased from Britain in 1913, and converted for use as seaplane carriers in 1916. The ships were armed with 6x120-mm and 2x57-mm machine guns and carried between 7-8 seaplanes apiece. Serving in the Black Sea during WWI, the ships carried out numerous operations against Turkish and German forces.

In 1919, the Alexander I, renamed the Republican after the February Revolution, was captured by French interventionist forces and taken back to France. In 1942, the ship was sunk by a US Air Force Bomber off the coast of Indochina. Its sister ship, the Emperor Nikolai I, suffered a similar fate. Renamed the 'Aviator' in May 1917, the ship was captured by Germany, transferred to the breakaway Ukrainian state, and then to the French government. After France's military defeat in 1940, Britain took control of many French merchant ships, including the Aviator. In 1942, the ship ran aground off the coast of Gabon, was abandoned, and consumed by the waves.

In 1918, at the start of the Russian Civil War, the Red Army commissioned an interesting project for their Volga Flotilla. Sailors converted an old oil-carrying barge into a seaplane carrier, and the result was the Kommuna, a 'shock barge' equipped with two lifting and lowering mechanisms for the ship's 9 aircraft, including 6 M-9s and 3 WWI-era French Newport 17 seaplanes. The barge "Kommuna" with a length of 140 meters [450 feet] and a width of 19 meters was most effectively used in combat conditions The Kommuna's planes were used to gather intelligence, and to bomb White Army fortifications and ships. The barge was not self-propelled and was set in motion by tugboats.

The common drawback of all the "red aircraft carriers" described by us was the absence of a roof over the aircraft, which led to a rapid wear of the wooden cars. Given this shortcoming, in 1919-1920 a barge "Death" (length 153.7 m, width 23.5 m) was equipped at the Sormovo plant. On the upper deck of the barge, cleared of superstructures, pipes, bollards and masts and boarded with boards, two wooden hangars were put up, which accommodated up to 10 M-9 flying boats. Between the hangars there was a passage for the withdrawal and deployment of aircraft. Opposite him on both sides of the barge were arranged on wooden brackets wooden slopes. This barge was refurbished at the factory in a very short time and immediately arrived in the area of military operations, but participated in military operations for a short time, and was subsequently converted to a river military transport barge.

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Page last modified: 09-02-2018 18:48:17 ZULU