The Dawn of the Jet Age Gives Birth to the Supercarrier
Even the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt and her sisters, USS Midway and USS Coral Sea were not ideal platforms for operating jet aircraft due to being designed with piston engines in mind. Though their size made them more adaptable than members of the Essex Class, they were still not ideal for the new age of carrier aviation. An entirely new design was needed, one that would take into account the vagaries of jet aviation. So in a sense the first jet to take off from a Navy aircraft carrier Roosevelt led directly to the construction of the supercarriers.
In 1955 the USS Forrestall, first of a class of four, became the first supercarrier in the world. Although by the time she was commissioned the FH Phantom was retired, she could handle the best naval jet fighters in operation at the time. Built with an armored, angled flight deck to handle landing operations and four catapults to provide for quick launches the Forrestall carried an airwing of 80+ aircraft and was unmatched in size and combat power until the next generation of supercarriers, the Kittyhawk Class, was introduced in the 1960s. The supercarriers would carry the spiritual successors of the jet that started an era, the FH Phantom; from the F-4 Phantom and the A-4 Skyhawk to the F-14 Tomcat and the F/A 18 Hornet the supercarriers operated the most cutting edge aircraft all over the world.
Sixty-five years after the first jet aircraft landed on a US carrier, the carrier battle group remains queen of the seas due to its airwing. A potent symbol of national power, the US operates eleven carriers and even traditional land powers like China are developing aircraft carriers. The jet age began at sea in 1946 and shows no sign of ending anytime soon.
Janes Fighting Ships of World War II, 1946 Janes Publishing Company, 1994 reprint edition
Jean-Pierre Montbazet: Super Carriers, 1985 Osprey Publishing
A Wordsworth Colour Guide Modern Warships; 1993 Wordswordh Editions
LTD The Great Book of Fighter Planes, 1990 Beekman House
All courtesy the United States Navy, accessed via Wiki Commons