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
- 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 all 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.
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 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
- McDonnell XF-85 Goblin
- Composite aircraft
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