10 incredible moments in the storied 108-year history of aircraft carrier aviation

An F/A-18F Super Hornet jet flies over the USS Gerald R. Ford as the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier tests its new launch and flight arrest systems

caption
An F/A-18F Super Hornet jet flies over the USS Gerald R. Ford as the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier tests its new launch and flight arrest systems
source
US Navy/Erik Hildebrandt/Handout/Reuters

Exactly 108 years ago Wednesday, carrier aviation was born from an experiment that would eventually evolve into one of the most important aspects of modern warfare.

Here are some impressive moments in the history of carrier aviation.


Eugene Burton Ely flew a Curtiss Pusher biplane off the deck of the USS Birmingham on November 14, 1910, marking the first time the Navy had launched a plane from a warship, which came only seven years after the Wright Brothers’ first flights. This moment can be considered the birth of carrier aviation.

caption
Eugene Burton Ely flies his Curtiss Pusher biplane from USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser No. 2), in Hampton Roads, Virginia, during the afternoon of November 14, 1910.
source
US Navy

Source: Business Insider


The following year, on January 18, 1911, Eugene B. Ely landed on the USS Pennsylvania, completing the first successful landing on a stationary warship.

caption
Eugene B. Ely lands his Curtiss Pusher biplane on USS Pennsylvania (Armored Cruiser # 4), anchored in San Francisco Bay, California on Jan. 18, 1911.
source
US Navy

Source: Business Insider


British Royal Naval Air Service pilot Edwin H. Dunning successfully landed an aircraft on a moving warship, the HMS Furious, for the first time on August 2, 1917. He died five days later on a follow-up attempt, demonstrating the challenge of landing on a ship at sea.

caption
Squadron Commander E H Dunning attempting to land his Sopwith Pup on the flying-off deck of HMS Furious, Scapa Flow, 7 August 1917. He was killed when his aircraft veered off the flight deck and into the sea.
source
United Kingdom Government/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Source: BBC


The first plane specifically designed to take off from an aircraft carrier and drop torpedoes was the Sopwith Cuckoo. The plane, which lacked the ability to land on a carrier, completed its first flight in June 1917. As this technology evolved, it would play a critical role in future battles.

caption
A Sopwith Cuckoo, which was designed to take off from British carriers but land ashore, dropping a torpedo.
source
Imperial War Museums collection/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Source: Royal Air Force Museum


The Douglas SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber, unquestionably the most important carrier-based aircraft in the Pacific Theater of World War II, entered service with the US military in 1940. The bomber carried a 1,000-pound bomb and was responsible for sinking 300,000 tons of enemy shipping, everything from submarines to battleships to carriers, reportedly more than any other Allied aircraft.

caption
An SBD Dauntless dropping a bomb.
source
US Navy

Source: Smithsonian


Sixteen B-25 Mitchell medium bombers took off from the deck of the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942 for an attack on Tokyo. The aircraft that took part in the “Doolittle Raid” conducted the first raid on the Japanese home islands.

caption
A US Army Air Forces North American B-25B Mitchell bomber takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) during the “Doolittle Raid.”
source
US Navy

Source: Naval History and Heritage Command


US Navy Lt. Edward “Butch” O’Hare became the first naval aviator to win the Medal of Honor for defending the American aircraft carrier USS Lexington from a wave of Japanese heavy bombers on February 20, 1942. He took on a formation of nine Japanese bombers, shooting down roughly half a dozen enemy planes. He would later lead the first nighttime mission from a carrier on Nov. 26, 1943. O’Hare was killed during that mission.

Source: NPR


The Battle of the Coral Sea, fought May 4-8, 1942, was the first naval battle in history in which the two opposing naval surface forces never came within sight of one another, highlighting the true warfighting range of carrier-based fighters and bombers.

caption
Douglas SBDs of USS Yorktown´s air group head back to the ship after a strike on Japanese ships in Tulagi harbor on 4 May 1942.
source
US Navy

Source: Naval History and Heritage Command


On October 30, 1963, a C-130 Hercules pulled off the seemingly impossible, landing on the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal. There in the North Atlantic, the C-130 became the heaviest aircraft to ever land on an aircraft carrier.

caption
The U.S. Navy Lockheed KC-130F Hercules from Transport Squadron 1 (VR-1), loaned to the U.S. Naval Air Test Center aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CVA-59) on 10 October 1963.
source
US Navy

Source: The Aviationist


A carrier version of the F-35, the most expensive aircraft in history, landed on an aircraft carrier for the first time in November 2014. Four years later, an American F-35B conducted its first combat operation from the deck of a US Navy amphibious assault ship.

caption
An F-35C Lightning II carrier-variant of the Joint Strike Fighter makes an arrested landing aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
source
U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin by Andy Wolfe

Source: US Navy