Unsinkable aircraft carrier

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Aerial view of the American airstrip on Enewetak atoll, a quintessential "unsinkable aircraft carrier".

An unsinkable aircraft carrier is a term sometimes used to refer to a geographical or political island that is used to extend the power projection of a military force. Because such an entity is capable of acting as an airbase and is a physical landmass not easily destroyed, it is, in effect, an immobile aircraft carrier that cannot be sunk.

The term unsinkable aircraft carrier first appeared during World War II, to describe the islands and atolls in the Pacific Ocean that became strategically important as potential airstrips for American bombers in their transoceanic war against Japan. To this end, the US military engaged in numerous island hopping operations to oust the occupying Japanese forces from such islands; the US Navy Seabees would often have to subsequently construct airstrips there from scratch — sometimes over entire atolls — quickly, in order to support air operations against Japan.

Malta and Iceland[1] were sometimes described as unsinkable aircraft carriers during World War II, making Malta a target of the Axis powers. The US military is said to have considered Taiwan since the Chinese Civil War, and the British Isles and Japan during the Cold War, as unsinkable aircraft carriers.[2][3] In 1983, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone pledged to make Japan an "unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Pacific", assisting the US in defending against the threat of Soviet bombers.[4][5] US Secretary of State General Alexander Haig described Israel as "the largest American aircraft carrier in the world that cannot be sunk".[6] In arguing against production of the CVA-01 aircraft carriers, the Royal Air Force claimed that Australia could serve adequately in the same role, using false maps that placed Australia 400 miles west of its actual location.[7]

During the Second World War, the United Kingdom gave some serious thought to building virtually unsinkable aircraft carriers from ice reinforced with sawdust (Project Habakkuk). A model was made, and serious consideration was given to the project, with a design displacing 2.2 million tons and accommodating 150 twin-engined bombers on the drawing board, but it was never produced.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Iceland: Some historical remarks". The Baltic Initiative and Network. Retrieved February 19, 2019.
  2. ^ Blystone, Richard. "Europe learning lessons of Greenham Common". CNN. Archived from the original on 2006-03-26. Retrieved 2019-02-19.
  3. ^ "An unsinkable aircraft carrier". Time. 1950-09-04. Retrieved 2007-12-18.
  4. ^ Smith, William E; McGeary, Johanna; Reingold, Edwin M. (1983-01-31). "Beef and Bitter Lemons". Time. Retrieved 2007-12-18.
  5. ^ Sanger, David E (1995-05-14). "The Nation: Car Wars; The Corrosion at the Core of Pax Pacifica". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-18.
  6. ^ Oren, Michael (April 25, 2011). "The Ultimate Ally". Foreign Policy. Retrieved February 19, 2019.
  7. ^ Nick Childs (3 July 2014). "The aircraft carrier that never was". BBC. Retrieved 10 December 2016.