Airborne aircraft carrier
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An airborne aircraft carrier or carrier aircraft is an aircraft which can carry other smaller aircraft.
Dirigible aircraft carriers
- 23-class airship (1918)
The British R33 was used for experiments in the 1920s as part of the "Airship Development Programme". A de Havilland Humming Bird light aeroplane with a hook fitted was slung beneath it. In October 1925 Squadron Leader Rollo Haig, was released from the R33, and then reattached. Later that year, the attempt was repeated and the Humming Bird remained attached until the airship landed. In 1926, it carried two Gloster Grebe fighters releasing them at the Pulham and Cardington airship stations.
- USS Los Angeles (ZR-3), used for prototype testing for the Akron and Macon.
- USS Akron (ZRS-4)
- USS Macon (ZRS-5)
These rigid airship aircraft carriers utilized an internal hangar bay using a "trapeze" to hold the aircraft. However during the 1940s many alternate plans were drawn that were not realized. A popular proposal was a rigid runway situated on the top of the dirigible for both take off and landings of planes, and an elevator to move the aircraft into the hangar located inside the main assembly. This would allow a relatively innocuous vehicle to field a large amount of aircraft. These plans were abandoned due to weight/lift ratio of the dirigible and the lost internal gas space (thus reducing the lift) due to the installation of a large hangar. A trapeze arrangement was deployed more practicably on boats using the Brodie landing system later in WWII.
Bomber aircraft carriers
During the early days of the jet age, fighter aircraft could not fly long distances and still match point defence fighters or interceptors in dogfighting. The solution was long range bombers that would carry or tow their escort fighters. This is similar in concept to cruiser warships that carried escort fighters, or the merchant aircraft carrier.
Several bombers have been used by NASA as launch platforms for experimental aircraft. Notable among these was the use during the 1960s of a modified Boeing B-52 Stratofortress for the repeated launching of the North American X-15.
Examples of such experiments in aviation history:
- The B-29 Superfortress and B-36 Peacemaker bombers were tested as carriers for the RF-84K Thunderflash (FICON project) and XF-85 Goblin fighters.
- The Russian Zveno project used Tupolev TB-1 and TB-3 aircraft to carry fighters.
- During World War II the Japanese Mitsubishi G4M bomber was used to carry the rocket-powered Kamikaze aircraft Ohka within range of a target ship.
- Nazi-Germany planned a jet-carrying bomber, called the Daimler-Benz Project C.
Transport aircraft carriers
A few aircraft have been built or modified to transport other aircraft; these include:
- The Short S.21 Maia flying boat formed the carrier component of the Short Mayo Composite seaplane / flying boat of the 1930s.
- A pair of modified Boeing 747s known as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, were used by NASA to transport the Space Shuttle orbiter and to launch the orbiter for flight tests.
- The Soviet Union developed and used the Antonov An-225 to ferry the Buran spacecraft.
- The White Knight series of aircraft have been used to launch privately owned spacecraft.
- Submarine aircraft carrier
- Fictional airborne aircraft carriers
- Parasite aircraft
- Mother ship
- Composite aircraft
- "R33: G-FAAG: 1921-1928: "The Breakaway"
- "R.33 as Aircraft Carrier", Flight, 22 October 1926: 698
- "R.33 as Aircraft Carrier", Flight, 28 October 1926: 703
- "Plane Hitched To Dirigible by Hook in Flight" Popular Mechanics, August 1930
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