Essex-class Hangar Catapult

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I learned that the early Essex-class carriers had been built with a hangar-level catapult. It was called the HIVA catapult and shot planes out of the starboard forward hangar deck. It was removed during refits in 1944 because it didn’t get a lot of use. The only carrier to keep the hangar catapult through the end of the war was USS Hornet (CV 12).

25 February 1944. HORNET was the only carrier to keep its HIVA hangar deck catapult until the end of the war. Since the aircraft could not benifit from the ship steaming into the wind, these catapults were deemed unpractical, and replaced with a second flight deck catapult.

25 February 1944. HORNET (CV 12) was the only carrier to keep its HIVA hangar deck catapult until the end of the war. Since the aircraft could not benifit from the ship steaming into the wind, these catapults were deemed unpractical, and replaced with a second flight deck catapult.

Here’s a shot of the second USS Yorktown (CV 10) showing a folded ramp so you can see its location on the ship:

USS Yorktown (CV-10) underway 27 April 1943, outside Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va. She is painted in Measure 21 camouflage. The stowed hangar catapult outrigger can be seen clearly. Five lattice radio masts are fitted to the starboard edge of the flight deck (USN photo).

USS Yorktown (CV-10) underway 27 April 1943, outside Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va. She is painted in Measure 21 camouflage. The stowed hangar catapult outrigger can be seen clearly. Five lattice radio masts are fitted to the starboard edge of the flight deck (USN photo).

More photos below.

Aircraft of Air Group Five embarked in USS Yorktown (CV-10) for her spring shakedown cruise off Trinidad, BWI. Operating as a catchall group, CVG-5 consisted of VF-1 (F6F-3 Hellcat), VB-4 and VB-6 (SB2C-1 Helldiver), and VT-5 (TBF-1 Avenger). Shown here are Grumman F6F-3 Hellcats being loaded aboard Yorktown at Norfolk Naval Base, circa May 1943. USN, courtesy Russ Egnor.

Aircraft of Air Group Five embarked in USS Yorktown (CV-10) for her spring shakedown cruise off Trinidad, BWI. Operating as a catchall group, CVG-5 consisted of VF-1 (F6F-3 Hellcat), VB-4 and VB-6 (SB2C-1 Helldiver), and VT-5 (TBF-1 Avenger). Shown here are Grumman F6F-3 Hellcats being loaded aboard Yorktown at Norfolk Naval Base, circa May 1943. USN, courtesy Russ Egnor.

USS Essex (CV 9) hangar catapult launch of F6F Hellcat fighter, 1943

USS Essex (CV 9) hangar catapult launch of F6F Hellcat fighter, 1943

Comments

  1. From what I’ve read, they seemed like a good idea, but they ended up tying up way too much usable space on the hangar deck. They didn’t really add too much to getting planes in the air quickly.

    Kind of like the early Japanese carriers with their multiple flight decks…

    J.

  2. Couple of corrections for you. The Catapult was not a “HIVA”, but a H IV A or H-4A. The Navy had two types of catapults, H (hydralic) and P (Powder – essentially a shell) and the Essex class used the 4th model, so H IV. The hangar cats were a shorter stroke version than the deck cats, so you had H4As in the hangar and H4Bs on deck.

    Essex herself never had a hangar cat, so one of your photos is miss-captioned. The Navy was in such a rush to get her to the war zone that she left with a single H-2 catapult, the same type used in the earlier Yorktown class. She was busy enough during the war that she never received the two H-4s the Navy had set aside for her and stored at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

  3. My father was an Aviation metal smith aboard Essex for her entire tour in WWII. He told me before he passed away a few years ago that indeed, Essex never had a hanger deck catapult.

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