Airborne aircraft carrier

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The Boeing X-43 being dropped from under the wing of a B-52 Stratofortress

An airborne aircraft carrier or carrier aircraft is an aircraft which can carry other smaller aircraft.

Dirigible aircraft carriers[edit]

Several plans were drawn up to outfit Zeppelin-type rigid airships to launch and recover fighters. Working prototypes include:

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.[1] In October 1925 Squadron Leader Rollo Haig, was released from the R33, and then reattached.[2] 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.[3]

These rigid airship aircraft carriers utilized an internal hangar bay using a "trapeze" to hold the aircraft.[4] However during the 1940s many alternate plans were drawn that were not realized.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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[edit]

TB-3-4AM-34FRN in Zveno-SPB configuration with Polikarpov I-16 fighters armed with FAB-250 bombs

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.

A Japanese Mitsubishi G4M2e launching the Ohka

Several bombers have been used by NASA as launch platforms for experimental aircraft.

Examples of such experiments in aviation history:

Transport aircraft carriers[edit]

A few aircraft have been built or modified to transport other aircraft; these include:

See also[edit]

References[edit]