- HMS Eagle (R05)
HMS "Eagle" was an
aircraft carrierof the British Royal Navy, in service 1951-1972. With her sister ship HMS|Ark Royal|R09|2, she is one of the two largest British aircraft carriers yet built.
She was initially laid down in 1942 at
Harland and Wolffshipyard in Belfastas one of four ships of the sclass|Audacious|aircraft carrier. These were laid down during World War IIas part of the British naval buildup during that conflict. However, two were cancelled at the end of hostilities, and the remaining two were suspended. Originally designated "Audacious", she was finally launched as "Eagle" (the fifteenth Royal Navy ship to receive this name) in March 1946, after the "Audacious" class carrier "Eagle" was cancelled.
A number of changes were incorporated into the design, although "Eagle" was launched too early to see an
angled flight deckinstalled, and the ship was commissioned in October 1951. A year later she took part in the first large NATOnaval exercise, Exercise Mainbrace.
Her first wartime service came in 1956, when she took part in the
Suez Crisis. The ship's aircraft of that period included Westland Wyverns, Douglas Skyraiders, Armstrong Whitworth Sea Hawks and de Havilland Sea Venoms. An angled flight deck was fitted in 1956-1957 with a mirror landing sight.
The admiralty had originally planned to give the "Eagle" a complete rebuild on the lines of HMS|Victorious|R38|6, but due to high costs this was abandoned. "Eagle" was instead given a more austere, but still extensive modernization. The changes included major improvements to the accommodation, including the installation of air conditioning. The island was completely rebuilt and the new 3D Type 984 radar was to be installed. The flight deck was modified and included a new 2½ inch armoured deck with a full 8.5 degree angle, two new steam catapults were fitted as well as new arrester gear and mirror sights. As well, an overhaul of the DC electrical systems, AC generators was fitted to give additional power. It was decided that "Eagle" would have her anti-aircraft guns removed and replaced by the
Sea Cat missilesystem. All of "Eagle"’s original machinery and equipment was fully overhauled. This refit was budgeted to cost around £11 million and although expensive was still three times cheaper than building a new ship, it was expected that this refit would allow the "Eagle" to operate until the early 1980’s
In 1959 "Eagle" entered Devonport Dockyard to begin this extensive refit. By 1964 the refit was complete although at a significantly increased cost which had seen the original plan to install a new armoured deck abandoned. Standard displacement had increased to around 44,000 tons and "Eagle" was now the most capable aircraft carrier in the Royal Navy. "Eagle" now operated
Blackburn Buccaneer, de Havilland Sea Vixen, Supermarine Scimitarand Fairey Gannetaircraft.
Final Air Wing 1971 [http://www.btinternet.com/~a.c.walton/navy/rn-cv3.html]
*800 sqn. 14 Buccaneer S2
*899 sqn. 16 Sea Vixen FAW2
*849 sqn. D flt. 4 Gannet AEW3, 1 Gannet COD4
*826 sqn. 5 Sea King HAS1
*Ships Flight 1 Wessex HAS1 (SAR)
She was refitted at Devonport once more to give her more powerful catapults. She recommissioned in 1967. "Eagle" was originally intended to receive a further refit that would have enabled her to comfortably operate the McDonnell Douglas Phantom, however after damaging a propeller blade this was cancelled even though it would have only cost around £2 million compared to the £32 million spent on the "Ark Royal" which was considered to be in significantly worse material state than the "Eagle".
Despite being in excellent material condition, and capable of another 10 years of service, "Eagle" was paid off (many in the RN believed she should have been retained, and Ark Royal or Hermes decommissioned instead) in January 1972 at Portsmouth, and was stripped of reusable equipment (radars and missile systems primarily), after which she was towed to Devonport where she was placed in reserve. Up until 1976 she was officially still in reserve, but had been used as a source of parts for "Ark Royal" until the latter decommissioned in 1978. "Eagle" was then sold for scrap and towed from Devonport in October 1978 to
Cairnryannear Stranraer to be broken up, clearing her mooring space in Plymouth sound for the "Ark Royal", which after decommissioning was laid up there for two years. "Eagle" was completely broken up by the time her sister arrived at Cairnryan in November 1980. One of her anchors (along with one of "Ark Royal"'s) stands guard at the entrance to the Fleet Air Arm museum in Yeovilton.
*Raymond Blackman, "Ships of the Royal Navy" (Macdonald and Jane's, London, 1973)
* [http://www.maritimequest.com/warship_directory/great_britain/pages/aircraft_carriers/hms_eagle_r05.htm Maritimequest HMS Eagle photo gallery]
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