HMS Warrior (R31)
Conventionally-Powered Aircraft Carrier
HMS Warrior R31 aircraft carrier led a long life in service to Britain, Canada and - finally - Argentina.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
With World War 2 in full swing and the British commitment continuing to grow, a new Colossus-class light aircraft carrier was ordered. The contracted builder became Harland and Wolff to which her keel was laid down on December 12th, 1942. The vessel was originally to carry the name of HMS Brave and serve under the British Royal Navy flag, primarily intended at the time for supporting Allied operations in and around the Indian Ocean. The vessel was launched on May 20th, 1944 and officially commissioned on April 2nd, 1945 as the HMS Warrior (R31). Interestingly, as built (for the tropical climate of the Indian Ocean region), the vessel lacked some of the heating facilities common to other warships of the time.
HMS Warrior made up the seventh of the 10-strong Colossus-class light carrier group led by HMS Colossus herself, appearing in 1944. A good portion of the group were eventually commissioned into the service of foreign navies including those of Argentina, Brazil, Canada and the Netherlands. The vessel displaced at 18,300 tons and sported a bow-to-stern length of 695 feet, a beam of 80 feet and a draught of 23 feet. Her crew complement could number up to 1,300. Defense was by way of 6 x QF 2-pounder anti-aircraft guns in quadruple-barreled mountings. This was supplemented through 32 x 20mm anti-aircraft cannons. Her general profile included the island superstructure offset to the starboard side and ahead of midships. This allowed for unfettered flight deck space from the bow to the stern. Hangar elevators allowed for the transmission of aircraft from or to the flight deck. A smoke funnel was identified aft of the bridge along the island superstructure. Her decks could support up to 48 aircraft of varying types including propeller-driven models and early jet-powered forms (the latter to a certain extent). Propulsion for HMS Warrior came from four boilers coupled to twin steam turbines driving two shafts with 40,000 horsepower output. This allowed the vessel to make headway at 25 knots and reach ranges of 12,000 nautical miles.
With the war over by September of 1945, a massive drawdown of military equipment ensued. The Royal Navy found itself without the need for this tropical climate light carrier and the vessel was therefore handed over to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). In its service, her name changed slightly to HMCS Warrior to indicate the new ownership though her form and function remained largely the same. The vessel reached Canadian waters at the end of March 1946. As can be expected, the lack of winter equipment (principally heaters on some components) in the Canadian North proved problematic. The Canadian and British governments then came to an arrangement in which the HMCS Warrior would be replaced for the Majestic-class HMCS Magnificent (CVL-21) carrier instead. Magnificent was commissioned in March of 1948 and served the Canadian Navy until 1956.
Having reclaimed the vessel, the Royal Navy recommissioned her once again as HMS Warrior (R31) on March 23, 1948. The warship was readied in time to serve the United Nations contingent during the Korean War (1950-1953) where her storage space proved handy in ferrying troops to the battlezone and launching combat aircraft in support. She served in this fashion until 1952 to which she returned home for refit at Devonport Dockyard. In 1954, during yet another refit, the carrier was given an angled deck for testing. From then on, Warrior became an active part of British hydrogen bomb testing that included "Operation Grapple" spanning several detonations from 1956 to 1958 in the Central Pacific region. Finding little value in another carrier for its inventory by this point, the vessel was decommissioned in February of 1958 and the search for a buyer began. The British government found one in the South American nation of Argentina - no doubt intent on extending its naval power in the region. Interestingly, HMS Warrior made a stop in Argentina during its return trip to Britain, allowing Argentine leadership close access to the ship prior to the purchase.
In Argentine Navy service, HMS Warrior was rechristened as ARA Independencia (V-1), becoming the first aircraft carrier of Argentina. She was commissioned on July 8th, 1959 and served as flagship of the Navy and conducted launches of Vought F4U Corsairs, North American T-6 Texans and Grumman S2 Trackers - all propeller-driven aircraft - from her deck. The original 32 x 20mm anti-aircraft cannons were reduced to twelve 40mm units before settling to just eight 40mm guns thereafter. Only in May of 1962 were defenses improved slightly with the adding of 1 x 40mm quadruple-barreled and 9 x double-barreled 40mm cannon mounts.
Over time, the vessel eventually supported Argentina's first jet-powered aircraft - these being American Grumman F9F Panther types with the Grumman F9F Cougar models following. With the commissioning of the ARA Venticinco de Mayo (V-2) carrier (ex-British HMS Venerable / ex-Dutch HNLMS Karel Doorman) in 1969, the ARA Inependencia was decommissioned in 1970. Her hulk was sold for scrapping the following year, officially ending the tenure of HMS Warrior in full.