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A seaplane tender (or seaplane carrier) is a ship that provides facilities for operating seaplanes. These ships were the first aircraft carriers and appeared just before the First World War.

History

The first seaplane tender appeared in 1911 with the French Navy La Foudre, following the invention of the seaplane in 1910 with the French Le Canard. La Foudre carried float-equipped planes under hangars on the main deck, from where they were lowered on the sea with a crane. La Foudre was further modified in November 1913 with a 10 meters flat deck to launch her seaplanes. Another early seaplane carrier was the HMS Hermes, an old cruiser converted and commissioned with a flying off deck in mid 1913.

World War I

In the Battle of Tsingtao, from September 5 1914 the Imperial Japanese Navy seaplane carrier Wakamiya conducted the world's first naval-launched air raids from Kiaochow Bay. The four Maurice Farman seaplanes bombarded German-held land targets (communication centers and command centers) and damaged a German minelayer in the Tsingtaomarker peninsula from September to November 6, 1914 when the Germans surrendered.On Christmas day 1914 the British carried out the Cuxhaven Raid - seaplanes carried with range of their targets attacked German naval targets in the Heligoland bight.

carriers had hangars for storing and maintaining the aircraft, but no flight deck as in a true aircraft carrier. Instead they used cranes to lower the aircraft into the sea for takeoff and to recover them after landing. The ships were normally converted merchant vessel rather than specially constructed for the task. As aircraft improved the problems of using seaplanes became more of a handicap. The aircraft could only be operated in a smooth sea and the ship had to stop for launching or recovery, both of which would take around 20 minutes. The tender was often stationed ten miles or so in front of the main battle fleet with the cruiser screen so that it would not fall hopelessly behind when it launched its aircraft. Seaplanes also had poorer performance than other aircraft because of the drag and weight of the floats. Seaplane tenders had largely been superseded by aircraft carriers in the battle fleet by the end of the First World War, although aircraft were still of minor importance compared to the firepower of naval artillery.

In the inter-war years, it was common for cruisers and battleships to be equipped with catapult-launched reconnaissance seaplanes. A few navies, especially those which lacked true aircraft carriers, also acquired catapult-equipped seaplane carriers for fleet reconnaissance purposes.

[[Image:USS Timbalier (AVP-54).jpg|thumb|USS Timbalier (AVP-54)
USS Timbalier with two Martin PBM Mariner flying boats shortly after World War II]]

World War II

During the Second World War both the United States Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy built a number of seaplane tenders to supplement their aircraft carrier fleets; however these ships often had their catapults removed, and were used usually as support vessels which operated seaplanes from harbours rather than in a seaway. These aircraft were generally for long range reconnaissance patrols. The tenders allowed the aircraft to be rapidly deployed to new bases because their runways did not have to be constructed, and support facilities were mobile much like supply ships for submarine or destroyer.

Seaplane tenders became obsolete at the end of the Second World War. A few remained in service after the war but by the late-1950s most had been scrapped or converted to other uses such as helicopter repair ships.

List of examples

Examples of seaplane tenders included:



References

Seaplane bases in the United Kingdom


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