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Three SH-3A Sea Kings from HS-6 flying over the aircraft carrier , circa 1962–1964
An S-2E ready for launching from the

An ASW carrier (Anti-Submarine Warfare carrier) is a type of small aircraft carrier whose primary role is to hunt and destroy submarines. This type of ship came into existence during the Cold War as a development of the escort carriers used in the ASW role in the North Atlantic during World War II.


After World War II, the main naval threat to most western nations was confrontation with the Soviet Union. The Soviets ended the war with a small navy and took the route of asymmetric confrontation against western surface ship superiority by investing heavily in submarines both for attack and later fielding submarine launched missiles. Several nations who purchased British and US surplus light carriers were most easily able to accommodate slow moving, less expensive, and easy to land antisubmarine aircraft from the 1960s forward such as the S-2 Tracker which flew from the decks of US, Canadian, Australian, Dutch, Argentine, and Brazilian carriers or Alizé which flew from French and Indian ships and still remain useful especially in the framework of NATO even as newer fighter and strike aircraft were becoming too heavy for the equipment designed for WW-II aircraft.

Improvement in long range shore based patrol and conventional ship based ASW helicopter capability combined with the increasing difficulty maintaining surplus WW-II carriers lead to most of these ships to be retired or docked by smaller nations from the 1970s to the mid 1980's. This trend in ASW force draw down only accelerated with the massive reduction in the operational Soviet/Russian submarine fleet which rarely went to sea in large numbers in the 1990s. Ships that could be called dedicated ASW carriers are now only found with the Japanese navy which operates helicopters and no fixed wing carrier based aircraft of any kind. Even the United States Navy, the last nation to regularly operate a dedicated fixed wing carrier based ASW aircraft, the S-3 Viking, on its mixed role super carriers had already removed most ASW equipment in the 1990's from this aircraft and has now removed this type from service as of January 2009 without replacement. Interestingly the Argentine Navy currently without much hope of a replacement CATOBAR carrier its own still trains several times a year landing S-2 Turbo Trackers aboard the Brazilian carrier São Paulo.

Much easier to operate from small decks than fixed wing aircraft were ASW helicopters which flew from the decks of nearly all allied conventional carriers to this day and most LPH or STOVL carriers operated by the Soviet, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, British, and Thai navies. Since the only navy currently building new ASW though-deck helicopter-only ships is Japan, who terms their vessels as helicopter destroyers instead of ASW carriers, it is disputable if a ASW helicopter only vessel is best defined as a ASW carrier or perhaps a new designation.

List of ASW carriers

Aircraft carriers and helicopter carriers that had primary ASW duties from the mid 1960's onward.

ASW aircraft carriers

Brazilian Navy

French Navy
  • Arromanches - one ship (ex-Colossus-class) ASW (retired/scrapped) Fixed Wing CATOBAR and Helicopters

Italian Navy
  • Giuseppe Garibaldi one ship, ASW helicopter carrier 1985-1988, STOVL fighters and ASW Helicopters carrier 1988-current.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force
  • Hyūga was commissioned Wednesday, March 18, 2009. It will be stationed in Yokosuka port, near Tokyomarker.

Spanish Navy
  • Dédalo - one ship (ex-Independence class) ASW helicopter carrier 1967-1976, STOVL carrier 1976-1989. Strike/ASW (retired/scrapped) STOVL and Helicopters
  • Principe de Asturias one ship STOVL fighters and Helicopters

Royal Navy

The three ships of the Invincible class, were originally designed as through deck cruisers for the ASW role, but ended up also equipped with Harrier STOVL fighters. Following the Falklands War, however, the role of these ships was reconsidered, and they were used as conventional, albeit light, fleet aircraft carriers, in the power projection role.

Royal Australian Navy
  • - one ship (Majestic-class) Strike/ASW (retired/scrapped) Fixed Wing CATOBAR and Helicopters

Royal Canadian Navy
  • - one ship (ex-Majestic-class) ASW (retired/scrapped) Fixed Wing CATOBAR and Helicopters

Royal Netherlands Navy
  • - one ship (ex-Colossus-class) ASW (retired/sold) Fixed Wing CATOBAR and Helicopters

Soviet/Russian Navy
  • Moskva class ASW helicopter support ship, rear deck landing pad only(retired/scrapped) Helicopters only
  • Kiev Class Cruiser/Carrier Guided Missile Cruiser/Limited Air Defense/ASW(retired/sold) STOVL and Helicopters

United States Navy
  • Essex class during their careers ships fitted and assigned the CVS designation were ASW carriers with Fixed wing and helicopter anti-submarine aircraft and AEW aircraft, although for a short time some also carried an attack squadron (retired/scrapped) Fixed Wing CATOBAR and Helicopters
  • Wasp class, Tarawa Class, and the now retired LPH Amphibious assault ships were given secondary roles of Sea Control meaning they would deploy with a modified air compliment consisting of Helicopters for ASW coverage and a larger STOVL fighter group for air defense and even limited strike missions.


See also

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