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Malta-class aircraft carrier
Class overview
Name: Malta
Operators:  Royal Navy
Planned: 3
Cancelled: 3
General characteristics (Design X1)
Type: aircraft carrier
Displacement: 46,900 long tons (47,700 t) standard
57,700 long tons (58,600 t) deep load
Length: 820 ft (249.9 m) between perpendiculars
850 ft (260 m) waterline
Beam: 115 ft 9 in (35.3 m)
Draught: 35 ft (10.7 m) deep load
Installed power: 200,000 shp (150,000 kW)
Propulsion: 4 shafts
4 geared steam turbine sets
8 water-tube boilers
Speed: 33.25 knots (61.58 km/h; 38.26 mph)
Range: 7,100 nmi (13,100 km; 8,200 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Complement: 3,500
Armament: 8 × 2 – QF 4.5 inch dual-purpose guns
7 × 6 – 40 mm Bofors Mk VI anti-aircraft guns
Armour: 4 inches (100 mm) over hangar walls and flight deck
Aircraft carried: 80
Aviation facilities: 2 catapults
Notes: [1]

The Malta-class aircraft carrier was a British large fleet aircraft carrier design of World War II. Inspired by the strike capability of United States Navy aircraft carriers, the Malta design took onboard several American innovations in hangar design and aircraft operations. Three ships were ordered in 1943 for the Royal Navy. However, design work on the class was not completed before the end of the war, and all three ships were cancelled before construction started.


The Maltas were designed with the strike role in mind, as British carriers in service at the time were unable to field the same quantity of aircraft, or launch and recover them at similar rates, to carriers of the United States Navy. The ships were designed along similar lines to the American Midway-class aircraft carriers, and were to be slightly larger at 897 feet (273 m) in length overall and 115 feet 9 inches (35.28 m) at the beam. It was predicted that each ship would displace 47,350 tonnes at standard load, and 56,800 tonnes at full load, with draughts of 29 feet 6 inches (8.99 m) and 34 feet 6 inches (10.52 m) respectively.[1] Eight boilers and geared steam turbines would have supplied 200,000 shp (150,000 kW) for propulsion; this was to be distributed to four or five propeller shafts (the thinking was that a fifth, centerline shaft would have been less susceptible to damage from torpedoes).[1]

There were major design departures from previous British carriers, with an open hangar deck, allowing aircraft to warm up their engines before transferring to the flight deck for launch.[1] The 897-by-136-foot (273 by 41 m) flight deck allowed multiple aircraft to launch or land simultaneously, and four aircraft lifts (two on the centereline, and two on the deck edges) aided the rapid movement of aircraft around the flight deck.[1] Sixteen arrestor cables would have been capable of catching landing aircraft up to 20,000 pounds (9,100 kg) in weight, at speeds of up to 75 knots (139 km/h; 86 mph), while the two hydraulic aircraft catapults could launch fully laden aircraft at 130 knots (240 km/h; 150 mph).[2] The armoured flight deck, while seen as a necessity in the context of Japanese kamikaze attacks, was, at 4 inches (100 mm), thinner than other British carriers.[1] Between the hangar spaces and the deck park, the Malta class design would have been capable of carrying up to 80 aircraft.[1]

Ordering and cancellation

Although the design was still being finalised, three ships were ordered in July 1943. The design was continually revised until the end of the war, when the order for the ships was suspended.[1] All were cancelled by the end of 1945, although it is unclear if the lead ship, HMS Malta was laid down before the cancellation.[2]

Ships in class

There were to be three ships:

Name Assigned builder Cancelled[citation needed]
HMS Malta (D93) John Brown & Company, Clydebank 21 December 1945
HMS New Zealand (D43) Cammell Laird, Birkenhead 21 December 1945
HMS Gibraltar (D68) Vickers-Armstrong, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 5 November 1945

HMS Africa was ordered as an Audacious class carrier from Fairfield, Govan in July 1943 but re-ordered as a Malta class carrier in 1944, then cancelled in October 1945.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Ireland, Bernard (2008) [2005]. The Illustrated Guide to Aircraft Carriers of the World. London: Anness Publishing. p. 176. ISBN 978-1-84477-747-1. OCLC 156616762. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hobbs, David (2005). "Naval aviation, 1930-2000". In Harding, Richard. The Royal Navy, 1930-2000: Innovation and defence. Cass series-naval policy and history. 30. Taylor & Francis. p. 80. ISBN 0-7146-8581-X. 
  3. Ireland, Bernard. The Illustrated Guide to Aircraft Carriers of the World. Hermes House, London, 2005. ISBN 1-84477-747-2[page needed]


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