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A helicopter carrier is a warship, often superficially similar to an aircraft carrier, whose primary purpose is to operate helicopters. Helicopter carriers have been used as ASW carriers and amphibious assault ships.
Helicopter carriers can either have a full-length aircraft deck like HMS Ocean, or have a large helicopter deck, usually aft, as in the Soviet Navy's Moskva class or RFA Argus. A full-length deck maximises deck space for helicopter landing spots. Such a design also allows for a hangar deck.
Pure helicopter carriers are difficult to define in the 21st century. The advent of STOVL aircraft such as the Harrier Jump Jet have complicated the classification; the United States Navy's Wasp class, for instance, carries six to eight Harriers as well as over 20 helicopters. Only smaller carriers unable to operate the Harrier and older pre-Harrier-era carriers can be regarded as true helicopter carriers. In many cases, other carriers, able to operate STOVL aircraft, are classified as "light aircraft carriers". Other vessels, such as the Wasp class, are also capable of embarking troops such as marines and landing them ashore; they are classified as amphibious assault ships.
HMS Hermes and two of her sisters were 22,000 ton fleet carriers converted to "commando carriers" only able to operate helicopters. Hermes was later converted to a STOVL carrier.
Helicopter carriers currently in use
- Dokdo class amphibious assault ship (Republic of Korea Navy)
- Hyūga class helicopter destroyer (Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force) (Hyūga was commissioned on March 18, 2009. The second ship Ise was commissioned on 16 March 2011.)
- HMS Illustrious (Royal Navy) The sole remaining in-service Invincible-class light aircraft carrier, which will operate as a helicopter carrier when HMS Ocean enters her forthcoming refit.
- HMS Ocean (Royal Navy)
- Mistral class amphibious assault ship (French Navy),
- Tarawa class amphibious assault ship (US Navy)
- Wasp class amphibious assault ship (US Navy)
- HTMS Chakri Naruebet (Royal Thai Navy)
Retired helicopter carriers
- USS Iwo Jima (United States Navy) - the lead ship of the Iwo Jima class
- HMS Bulwark, HMS Albion, (Royal Navy) - helicopter carriers of the 1960s-1980s
- Moskva class (Soviet Navy)
- Vittorio Veneto class (Italian Marina Militare)
- Jeanne d'Arc (French Navy, decommissioned in 2010)
- USCGC Cobb (WPG-181) (US Coast Guard, decommissioned in 1946) - World's first helicopter carrier.
Helicopter carriers under construction
- America class amphibious assault ship (US Navy)
- Canberra class landing helicopter dock (Royal Australian Navy)
- Dokdo class amphibious assault ship (Republic of Korea Navy). The 2nd ship Marado is under construction.
- Mistral class amphibious assault ship. Two ships under construction for the Russian Navy. More ordered.
- Izumo-class helicopter destroyer (JMSDF).
Helicopter carriers by country
|Country||Navy||In service||In reserve||Under construction|
|United States||United States Navy||9||4||0|
|Japan||Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force||2||0||2|
|South Korea||Republic of Korea Navy||1||0||1 (+2 planed)|
|United Kingdom||Royal Navy||2||0||0|
|Thailand||Royal Thai Navy||1||0||0|
|Australia||Royal Australian Navy||0||0||2 (+2 planed)|