HMS Hermes (R12)
Overview
 
HMS Hermes was a Centaur-class
Centaur class aircraft carrier
The Centaur class of aircraft carriers of the British Royal Navy was the last of the light fleet carrier designs started during the closing years of World War II.-Ships In Class:HMS Centaur...

 British aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

, the last of the postwar conventional aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

s commissioned into the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

.
She was laid down by Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness
Barrow-in-Furness
Barrow-in-Furness is an industrial town and seaport which forms about half the territory of the wider Borough of Barrow-in-Furness in the county of Cumbria, England. It lies north of Liverpool, northwest of Manchester and southwest from the county town of Carlisle...

 during WW II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 as HMS Elephant. Construction was suspended in 1945 but work was resumed in 1952 to clear the slipway
Slipway
A slipway, boat slip or just a slip, is a ramp on the shore by which ships or boats can be moved to and from the water. They are used for building and repairing ships and boats. They are also used for launching and retrieving small boats on trailers and flying boats on their undercarriage. The...

 and the hull was launched on 16 February 1953. The vessel remained unfinished until 1957, when she entered service on 18 November 1959 as HMS Hermes after extensive modifications which included installation of a massive Type 984 'searchlight' 3D radar
3D radar
3D radar provides for radar coverage on three dimensions unlike the more common 2D radar. While the normal 2D radar provides range and azimuth, the 3D radar provides elevation information with range and azimuth...

.
Hermes cost £18 million, with another £1 million for electronic equipment and £10 million for aircraft in 1959.
A 1966 review indicating that Hermes was surplus to operational requirements and was offered to the Royal Australian Navy
Royal Australian Navy
The Royal Australian Navy is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Following the Federation of Australia in 1901, the ships and resources of the separate colonial navies were integrated into a national force: the Commonwealth Naval Forces...

 as a replacement for HMAS Melbourne.
Encyclopedia
HMS Hermes was a Centaur-class
Centaur class aircraft carrier
The Centaur class of aircraft carriers of the British Royal Navy was the last of the light fleet carrier designs started during the closing years of World War II.-Ships In Class:HMS Centaur...

 British aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

, the last of the postwar conventional aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

s commissioned into the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

.

Construction and modifications

She was laid down by Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness
Barrow-in-Furness
Barrow-in-Furness is an industrial town and seaport which forms about half the territory of the wider Borough of Barrow-in-Furness in the county of Cumbria, England. It lies north of Liverpool, northwest of Manchester and southwest from the county town of Carlisle...

 during WW II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 as HMS Elephant. Construction was suspended in 1945 but work was resumed in 1952 to clear the slipway
Slipway
A slipway, boat slip or just a slip, is a ramp on the shore by which ships or boats can be moved to and from the water. They are used for building and repairing ships and boats. They are also used for launching and retrieving small boats on trailers and flying boats on their undercarriage. The...

 and the hull was launched on 16 February 1953. The vessel remained unfinished until 1957, when she entered service on 18 November 1959 as HMS Hermes after extensive modifications which included installation of a massive Type 984 'searchlight' 3D radar
3D radar
3D radar provides for radar coverage on three dimensions unlike the more common 2D radar. While the normal 2D radar provides range and azimuth, the 3D radar provides elevation information with range and azimuth...

.

Cost

Hermes cost £18 million, with another £1 million for electronic equipment and £10 million for aircraft in 1959.

Proposed transfer to Australia

A 1966 review indicating that Hermes was surplus to operational requirements and was offered to the Royal Australian Navy
Royal Australian Navy
The Royal Australian Navy is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Following the Federation of Australia in 1901, the ships and resources of the separate colonial navies were integrated into a national force: the Commonwealth Naval Forces...

 as a replacement for HMAS Melbourne. In 1968, Hermes took part in a combined exercise with the RAN, during which the carrier was visited by senior RAN officers and Australian government officials, while RAN Skyhawks
A-4 Skyhawk
The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk is a carrier-capable ground-attack aircraft designed for the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. The delta winged, single-engined Skyhawk was designed and produced by Douglas Aircraft Company, and later McDonnell Douglas. It was originally designated the A4D...

 and Trackers
S-2 Tracker
The Grumman S-2 Tracker was the first purpose-built, single airframe anti-submarine warfare aircraft to enter service with the US Navy. The Tracker was of conventional design with twin engines, a high wing and tricycle undercarriage. The type was exported to a number of navies around the world...

 practiced landings on the larger carrier. The offer was turned down due to operating and manpower costs.

Proposed International Fleet

Hermes served as one of four Royal Navy strike carriers mainly in the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 area until 1970. She could have seen action against the Egyptians when Egypt closed off the Strait of Tiran
Straits of Tiran
The Straits of Tiran , are the narrow sea passages, about wide, between the Sinai and Arabian peninsulas which separate the Gulf of Aqaba from the Red Sea...

 to Israeli shipping in May 1967. when the UK and US contemplated forming an international fleet to open the strait with force if necessary, but the idea never materialised.

The final CATOBAR air wing in 1968-1970 consisted of:
  • 801 NAS. 7 Buccaneer
    Blackburn Buccaneer
    The Blackburn Buccaneer was a British low-level subsonic strike aircraft with nuclear weapon delivery capability serving with the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force between 1962 and 1994, including service in the 1991 Gulf War...

     S2 naval strike aircraft
  • 893 NAS. 12 Sea Vixen
    De Havilland Sea Vixen
    The de Havilland DH.110 Sea Vixen was a twin boom 1950s–1960s British two-seat jet fighter of the Fleet Air Arm designed by de Havilland. Developed from an earlier first generation jet fighter, the Sea Vixen was a capable carrier-based fleet defence fighter that served into the 1970s...

     FAW2 all-weather fighter
  • 849 NAS. A flt. 4 Gannet
    Fairey Gannet
    The Fairey Gannet was a British carrier-borne anti-submarine warfare and airborne early warning aircraft of the post-Second World War era developed for the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm by the Fairey Aviation Company...

     AEW3 airborne early warning
  • 849 NAS. 1 Gannet
    Fairey Gannet
    The Fairey Gannet was a British carrier-borne anti-submarine warfare and airborne early warning aircraft of the post-Second World War era developed for the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm by the Fairey Aviation Company...

     COD4 for carrier onboard delivery
    Carrier onboard delivery
    Carrier Onboard Delivery is a military term used to describe type of aircraft which are able to ferry personnel, mail, and high-priority cargo on and off a naval ship .-History:...

  • 814 NAS. 5 Wessex
    Westland Wessex
    The Westland Wessex is a British turbine-powered version of the Sikorsky S-58 "Choctaw", developed under license by Westland Aircraft , initially for the Royal Navy, and later for the Royal Air Force...

     HAS3 anti-submarine warfare
  • Ships Flight 1 Wessex
    Westland Wessex
    The Westland Wessex is a British turbine-powered version of the Sikorsky S-58 "Choctaw", developed under license by Westland Aircraft , initially for the Royal Navy, and later for the Royal Air Force...

     HAS1 search and rescue
    Air-sea rescue
    Air-sea rescue is the coordinated search and rescue of the survivors of emergency water landings as well as people who have survived the loss of their sea-going vessel. ASR can involve a wide variety of resources including seaplanes, helicopters, submarines, rescue boats and ships...



She was refitted at Portsmouth from 1980 to June 1981, during which a 12-degree ski-jump and facilities for operating Sea Harriers were added. After this refit the air wing comprised:
  • 800 NAS 5 Sea Harrier
    BAE Sea Harrier
    The British Aerospace Sea Harrier is a naval VTOL/STOVL jet fighter, reconnaissance and attack aircraft, a development of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier. It first entered service with the Royal Navy in April 1980 as the Sea Harrier FRS1 and became informally known as the "Shar"...

     FRS1 Fighter
  • 826 NAS 12 Sea King
    Westland Sea King
    The Westland WS-61 Sea King is a British licence-built version of the American Sikorsky S-61 helicopter of the same name, built by Westland Helicopters. The aircraft differs considerably from the American version, with Rolls-Royce Gnome engines , British made anti-submarine warfare systems and a...

     HAS5 ASW

Falklands War

Hermes was due to be decommissioned in 1982 after a defence review by the British government, but when the Falklands War
Falklands War
The Falklands War , also called the Falklands Conflict or Falklands Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands...

 broke out, she was made the flagship
Flagship
A flagship is a vessel used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships, reflecting the custom of its commander, characteristically a flag officer, flying a distinguishing flag...

 of the British forces, setting sail for the South Atlantic just three days after the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands. She sailed for the Falklands with an airgroup of 12 Sea Harrier FRS1
BAE Sea Harrier
The British Aerospace Sea Harrier is a naval VTOL/STOVL jet fighter, reconnaissance and attack aircraft, a development of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier. It first entered service with the Royal Navy in April 1980 as the Sea Harrier FRS1 and became informally known as the "Shar"...

 jets of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm
The Fleet Air Arm is the branch of the British Royal Navy responsible for the operation of naval aircraft. The Fleet Air Arm currently operates the AgustaWestland Merlin, Westland Sea King and Westland Lynx helicopters...

, and 18 Sea King
Westland Sea King
The Westland WS-61 Sea King is a British licence-built version of the American Sikorsky S-61 helicopter of the same name, built by Westland Helicopters. The aircraft differs considerably from the American version, with Rolls-Royce Gnome engines , British made anti-submarine warfare systems and a...

s. A few weeks after sailing, more aircraft were flown or transported via other ships to replace some losses and augment the task force. Hermes airgroup grew to 16 Sea Harriers, 10 GR3 Harrier
Harrier
-Military:* Harrier Jump Jet vertical take-off and landing fighter/attack aircraft and derivatives:** Hawker Siddeley Harrier—1st generation Harrier** BAE Sea Harrier—Maritime strike/air defence fighter** AV-8 Harrier II—2nd generation Harrier...

s of the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

, and 10 Sea Kings (after some of the helicopters were dispersed to other ships) as well as a troop of Special Air Service
Special Air Service
Special Air Service or SAS is a corps of the British Army constituted on 31 May 1950. They are part of the United Kingdom Special Forces and have served as a model for the special forces of many other countries all over the world...

 (SAS) and Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

. As she was the RN's largest carrier, she was considered too valuable to risk close into the Falklands, due to the possibility of Argentinian AF attacks. Her Harriers therefore operated at the limit of their endurance radius, but were very successful in keeping the enemy aircraft at bay.

After the Falklands War

After her return home from the Falklands conflict Hermes entered into a much needed 4-month refit until November 1982. She then took part in NATO exercises in the North Atlantic, and the Mediterranean Sea as a commando carrier. In the autumn of 1983 she took part in her last exercise, Ocean Safari, where she reverted to a strike carrier role, embarking 12 Sea Harriers, 10 RAF Harrier GR.3s and 10 Sea Kings. After this exercise she returned to the UK for a minor refit and into maintain reserve in February 1984.

In 1983, when the proposed sale of HMS Invincible
HMS Invincible (R05)
HMS Invincible was a British light aircraft carrier, the lead ship of three in her class in the Royal Navy. She was launched on 3 May 1977 and is the seventh ship to carry the name. She saw action in the Falklands War when she was deployed with , she took over as flagship of the British fleet when...

 to the Royal Australian Navy
Royal Australian Navy
The Royal Australian Navy is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Following the Federation of Australia in 1901, the ships and resources of the separate colonial navies were integrated into a national force: the Commonwealth Naval Forces...

 was cancelled following the Falklands War, an offer was made to sell Hermes and a squadron of Sea Harriers
BAE Sea Harrier
The British Aerospace Sea Harrier is a naval VTOL/STOVL jet fighter, reconnaissance and attack aircraft, a development of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier. It first entered service with the Royal Navy in April 1980 as the Sea Harrier FRS1 and became informally known as the "Shar"...

 to Australia. However the new Hawke
Bob Hawke
Robert James Lee "Bob" Hawke AC GCL was the 23rd Prime Minister of Australia from March 1983 to December 1991 and therefore longest serving Australian Labor Party Prime Minister....

 government decided against purchasing a replacement for HMAS Melbourne.

Hermes served with the Royal Navy until 12 April 1984. She was paid off in 1985.

Viraat

In April 1986 Hermes was refitted and sold to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and recommissioned as the INS Viraat
INS Viraat
INS Viraat is a Centaur class aircraft carrier currently in service with the Indian Navy. INS Viraat is the flagship of the Indian Navy, the oldest carrier in service and one of two aircraft carriers in the Indian Ocean Region.The Viraat was completed and commissioned in 1959 as the Royal Navy's...

 in 1989.

Complement

Her typical aircraft complement in the late 1960s consisted of 12 Sea Vixen FAW2s, 7 Buccaneer
Blackburn Buccaneer
The Blackburn Buccaneer was a British low-level subsonic strike aircraft with nuclear weapon delivery capability serving with the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force between 1962 and 1994, including service in the 1991 Gulf War...

 S2s, 4 Gannet
Fairey Gannet
The Fairey Gannet was a British carrier-borne anti-submarine warfare and airborne early warning aircraft of the post-Second World War era developed for the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm by the Fairey Aviation Company...

 AEW3s, 1 Gannet
Fairey Gannet
The Fairey Gannet was a British carrier-borne anti-submarine warfare and airborne early warning aircraft of the post-Second World War era developed for the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm by the Fairey Aviation Company...

 COD4, 5 Wessex
Westland Wessex
The Westland Wessex is a British turbine-powered version of the Sikorsky S-58 "Choctaw", developed under license by Westland Aircraft , initially for the Royal Navy, and later for the Royal Air Force...

 HAS3s and 1 Wessex
Westland Wessex
The Westland Wessex is a British turbine-powered version of the Sikorsky S-58 "Choctaw", developed under license by Westland Aircraft , initially for the Royal Navy, and later for the Royal Air Force...

 HAS1. She was recommissioned as a commando
Commando
In English, the term commando means a specific kind of individual soldier or military unit. In contemporary usage, commando usually means elite light infantry and/or special operations forces units, specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting, rappelling and similar techniques, to conduct and...

 carrier in 1973, as an ASW carrier in 1976 (carrying around 20 or so Sea King and Wessex helicopters), and then as a V/STOL
V/STOL
Vertical and/or short take-off and landing is a term used to describe aircraft that are able to take-off or land vertically or on short runways. Vertical takeoff and landing describes craft which do not require runways at all...

carrier in 1981. Hermes initial complement of aircraft as a V/STOL carrier was 5 Harriers and 12 Sea King helicopters, though she had the capacity for up to a total of 37 aircraft.

External links

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