"Experience with the huge aircraft carriers Saratoga and Lexington in commission has shown them to be very costly ships to run; so much so that, during the discussion on the Appropriations Bill, it was suggested that one of them should be withdrawn from service. The Navy Department strongly resisted this, however, and said that both vessels were indispensable. It is possible that the matter will be reviewed again when further carriers are available." Brassyís Naval & Shipping Annual 1930, William Clowes and Sons, London, at pages35-36
The development of the aircraft carrier for the United States Navy was largely guided by the terms of the 1921 Washington Treaty. The Royal Navy, which had truly pioneered the concept, already had constructed or was constructing a number of smaller carriers, which in the long run really hurt the development of the Fleet Air Arm. The status of the USN and IJN were different however, as neither power had invested any significant tonnage to aircraft carriers at the time of the signing of the Treaty. The IJN had the Hosho and the USN had the Langley CV1, which were both used basically as experiments and indoctrination, rather than as operational carriers. Both Pacific powers likewise wished to save capital ship hulls from scrapping, so both were granted two carriers over the established displacement in the Treaty, Lexington CV2 and Saratoga CV3 for the USN and Kaga and Akagi for the IJN. The small "training" carriers and the oversized conversions of battlecruisers and a battleship (Kaga) formed the training and operational base of the fleets of both powers throughout the 1920s and early 1930.
In an interesting divergence, Japan and the US parted ways with their next carrier designs. Japan was first at bat with a new design. On November 29,1929 the Ryujo was laid down. The philosophy behind this design placed the primary characteristic on minimizing tonnage with goal to have a good operational design on the lightest tonnage in order to maximize the number of ships that could be built under the terms of the Washington Treaty. The size of the air group, although important, was a secondary consideration. Even though designed initially for an air complement of 30 machines, too much was tried on too light of a hull. The two small elevators made spotting aircraft on the flight deck slower than the big boys Akagi and Kaga, and the Japanese admirals were dissatisfied with the end result. The emphasis in the next USN design went in a different direction. Although a low displacement was a desired objective, it was not the primary objective. The USN placed the number one design objective to have a new carrier that have a very large air group and that design philosophy has remained the primary design characteristic of USN fleet carriers up to the present day. This design was Ranger CV-4.
For the USN the Ranger was its first attempt to build a carrier from the keel up. To cram as many ships into the allowable tonnage of the Washington and London Treaties as possible, the USN pared the shipís displacement to a bare minimum. It was determined that they could build five carriers of this size with the allowable tonnage left. Up to this point, this was the same philosophy employed by the Japanese for the Ryujo. Another factor was operational expense. As seen in the quote, which started this article, bureaucrats and political drones had criticized the big Lexingtons for their high operating expense and had wanted to place one in reserve. In 1930 there was no "mothballing" as the process of cacooning warships to protect them from the elements came after World War Two. In 1930 for a ship to be placed in reserve meant a slow rot. Ships were unprotected from the elements and allowed to rust at anchor, as all of the shipís systems slowly became useless to salt water erosion. When it came time to take hundreds of flush deck destroyers out of reserve, most were found barely worth activation due to the extent of corrosion to their systems. Fortunately the USN admirals had their way and both Lexington class carriers were kept operational. In the Ranger design speed was sacrificed and protection was minimal in order to magnify one characteristic of Ranger CV4. That trait was maximum size of the air wing, and that became a characteristic that USN aircraft carriers have emphasized to the present day.
Rather than start with the design of the Lexington as the basis for the Ranger, this new carrier had more in common with the old and slow Langley. With Lexington the hull went all the way to the flight deck with the old superstructure being the island/stack. Although there were openings for ventilation, they were few and compared to Ranger and later designs, the Lexingtons were poorly ventilated. In fact the loss of the Lexington was not caused by the initial battle damage but by the ignition of fuel vapor trapped within the hull. Langley, as the ex-collier Jupiter, had her flight deck as part of the superstructure, held up by enough steel girders to do any steelworker proud. The Ranger would employ this same concept but without all of the girder supports. The hull would end at the hangar deck and everything above would be superstructure. Instead of an open lattice support structure the hangar sides were solid with numerous openings, which could be closed with segmented roller doors. By opening these doors the hangar would be extremely well ventilated, allowing aircraft to be warmed up while in the hangar. This greatly increased the operations tempo, since aircraft were brought to the flight deck ready to go.
The hull lines of Ranger were very graceful, which is a fact mostly obscured by the reversion of the funnel arrangements of Langley, or more appropriately a tripling of those arrangements. Rather than again use the massive stack design found with Lexington, designers chose retractable or pivoting funnels. Langley had two such funnels but Ranger with her far greater power plant had six. There were three funnels on each side, which were raised vertically upright when the carrier was not operating her aircraft put were pivoted down to the horizontal plane when engaged in flight operations. The exhaust would vent outwards and theoretically keep smoke from interfering with operations. The same idea was used by the Japanese navy for almost all of their carrier designs, except that the Japanese used fixed funnels. Needless to say, six conical stacks made for an awkward profile and the graceful hull lines were completely lost in the forest of funnels.
Compared to the Lexington, speed, armor, and armament were sacrificed in Ranger. Of all of the design characteristics that go into a warship design, nothing sucks up more space than speed. You high horsepower for high speed and this means a lot of machinery that takes up a lot of space. To move the 38,500-tons of the Lexington at a maximum speed of 33 knots required 180,000shp. The Lexington needed every bit of her 850-feet to provide enough room for a plant to produce that much power. The Ranger was almost 100 feet shorter, coming in at 769-feet, which is hardly short. The admirals were willing to sacrifice 4-knots with Ranger. For a maximum speed of 29 knots, the Ranger only required 53,500shp. Ranger only had two shafts and six boilers compared to the four shafts and sixteen boilers of the Lexington. With only two shafts half the machinery was needed with Ranger.
Operational deployment policy was also a factor for the slower speed of Ranger. From the start Lexington and Saratoga were planned to be used with the scouting fleet and not be tied to the battle line. They needed at higher speed to operate in this role and received eight-inch guns to combat the fastest warship that could catch them, the heavy cruiser. Ranger on the other hand was intended to operate with the main battle fleet. Rangerís 29 knots was more than fast enough to support battleships whose top speed was 21-knots. Likewise Ranger didnít need eight-inch guns, as the big guns would be near by. Five-inch guns, primarily for AA defense, would be sufficient. As designed the Ranger was to have been flush deck with no island, again like Japanese carriers. However, it was realized that better command and control could be exercised from an island, so a small island was added to the design, also adding to top weight.
Lexington could carry 80 aircraft on her 38,500-tons and yet by a slight reduction in top speed, dropping the larger armament and ditching most of the armor, the 14,000-ton Ranger could carry almost the same number of aircraft at 76. The 76 aircraft consisted of 36 fighters, 36 dive bombers and 4 utility aircraft, with a noticeable lack of torpedo bombers. To further enhance internal volume for aviation, the engine plant was placed as far aft as possible with each boiler having its own stack. This freed space amidships, which had been impaired on the Lexington by the huge exhaust trunks needed to serve her 16 boilers. This extra space was used for aviation facilities. It was a truly remarkable design to accomplish so much on such a light displacement but in the end the admirals decided too much had been sacrificed to achieve the light displacement. The ship was somewhat unwieldy and exhibited poor sea-keeping. Even in moderate weather the Ranger was hard pressed to continue air operations. Accordingly, the Ranger was considered a failed design, as too much was attempted on too small a displacement. Laid down at Newport News on September 26, 1931, the Ranger was launched on February 25, 1933 and commissioned on July 4, 1934. Initial armament consisted of eight 5-inch/25 guns.
Of the eight five-inch guns two were on the forecastle, one each at forward deck edge quarter positions and the aft four in two gun positions at the quarter deck edge positions. One of the first modifications was to remove the forecastle guns and mount them at the forward quarter positions, matching the arrangement of the aft four. In 1935 two Mk 33 directors were added to the bridge to control the AA fire. In December 1941 Ranger was in the South Atlantic on patrol. The 1.1-inch (28mm) quadruple AA cannon was developed by the USN to provide medium range AA defense. They were only coming into service by the end of 1941. Ranger, based in the Atlantic didnít get hers until March 1942 with four quadruple mounts, two on pedestals, one in front and one aft of the island and one aft of each forward 5-inch gun gallery. Initially the Ranger was used primarily as an aircraft transport, moving aircraft to Africa. In spite of the critical carrier situation in the Pacific, the admirals never considered Ranger up to snuff to join the first team in the Pacific. It was one thing to face the limited assets the Luftwaffe could put over open water and another thing entirely to go against the ship killer pros of the crack Japanese naval aviation squadrons. Poor Ranger was consigned to spend her career in single A ball and never get to The Show. That did not mean Ranger didnít see action in the Atlantic because she did.
In November 1942 the US planned to make landings in French North Africa in Operation Torch. Planners hoped that Vichy French forces would come over to the allied side but had prepared US forces to engage the French if the Vichy forces resisted. At Casablanca the center point of French defense was the incomplete battleship Jean Bart. Immobilized at a dock, the Jean Bart only had one of her quadruple 15-inch gun turrets operational. Nonetheless, four 15-inch guns were a formidable threat. To counter the latent threat posed by the Jean Bart, planners had included two warships in the invasion flotilla that had a major objective of engaging the French battleship. One was the battleship Massachusetts, which would use her nine 16-inch guns if necessary in a one-sided battleship duel. Hopefully, this would not be necessary as the second ship was the Ranger. Planners thought that the Rangerís aircraft could take out the Jean Bart before it became necessary for the Massachusetts to slug it out.
It was early on November 8, 1942 when reports of ship movements off coast reached the officers of the Jean Bart, and the French crew was called to battle stations at 05:00. As Massachusetts and the cruisers Tuscaloosa and Wichita closed Casablanca the Ranger was 30 miles to the north west. Nine SBD Dauntless dive-bombers were launched and quickly arrived over Casablanca. Starting at 07:13 the SBDs attacked Jean Bart with 500 lb bombs. One bomb landed near the port catapult and went through several decks before leaving the hull without exploding. This strike started a small fire but that was quickly put under control by French damage control parties and caused flooding of the hand steering compartment. A second bomb hit the dock next to the battleship and the blast partially collapsed a bridge crane. Rocks and concrete thrown up by the explosion were hurled a sufficient velocity to dent the thin plating on the starboard side of Jean Bart. The Massachusetts had opened fire nine minutes earlier and the Jean Bartís gunfire was silenced by the shells of the Massachusetts not the aircraft of Ranger.
However, Jean Bart was not finished. In the afternoon of November 9, the shipís 90mm guns opened up. The Americans still thought that the main guns of the battleship had been knocked out by the Massachusetts on the 8th. In late morning of November 10, the heavy cruiser Augusta was closing the coast to deal with some French destroyers. The Augusta was at a range of 17,000 yards from Jean Bart, when suddenly muzzle flashes erupted from the 15-inch guns of Jean Bart. Yikes! The Augusta certainly was not designed to absorb 15-inch shell hits. Three salvos bracketed Augusta as the cruiser promptly un-assed the area. (Sorry, but I had to use this rather colorful US Army term, as it seemed singularly appropriate for this event.) That afternoon Ranger sent out another nine SBDs for another go at the French battleship. Again armed with 500lb bombs, the strike had two hits and one near miss. One bomb penetrated the hull side just under the junction with the forecastle. As soon as it penetrated it exploded opening up the upper hull like a tin can. A huge hole 16-feet into the ship and 65-feet long was the result and the forecastle deck above was broken and bulged up like a camelís hump. The break water was distorted and the anchor windlass destroyed.
The second hit was on the quarterdeck in an area already damaged by aircraft bombs and gunnery duel of the 8th. A 100-feet section of the main deck on the starboard side in front of the catapult to the aft superstructure was destroyed. The explosion blew out the upper hull side plating and threw the remnants of the deck on top of the catapult. Lieutenant Commander Embree, the squadron commander signaled back to the Ranger, "No More Jean Bart!" A significant fire was started that spread to the electrical room. The Jean Bart brought civilian fire-fighters on board but it still took over five hours to put out the fire. Water poured through the decks and the ship took on over 1,000-tons of water from the fire fighting. Progressive flooding eventually half filled the aft engine room until the process was stopped when the stern grounded. If there had been more water under the battleship, the Jean Bart would have continued to settle. The turbo-generators were knocked out by flooding and emergency electrical power had to be provided by diesel generators. This was undoubtedly the single best bomb strike ever delivered by Ranger, which is not surprising as this remained the only significant combat operation of Ranger against surface ships. The Ranger sent out a seven plane strike at a coastal battery at El Hank but this only succeeded in damaging some buildings.
The Ranger herself was a target. On November 10 the French submarine Tonnant fired four torpedoes at the carrier but fortunately for Ranger, they were set too deep and passed under the carrierís stern. The next day the French asked for a cease-fire. However, on November 12 Ranger apparently ran into a wolf pack of U-boats as torpedoes were spotted passing aft of the stern and forward of the bow. Periscopes were sighted from the flight deck and the floatplane from Brooklyn spotted a submerged submarine. The Germans had their chance and had missed as the French before them and as Ranger left the area, escorting destroyers raked the water with depth charge patterns for three hours. Although the Ranger didnít make to the "The Show" her air group at Casablanca Air Group 9 certainly did as after Operation Torch the group was reassigned to USS Essex and the Rangerís captain, C.T. Durgin became an admiral with the carriers in the Pacific.
In 1943 Ranger made more cruises off of North Africa and then was assigned to operate with the British Home Fleet. During this time she sent her Dauntlesses against German shipping and facilities in Norway. In 1944 there were some significant modifications of Ranger. Her five-inch guns were landed and the positions left vacant. The 1.1-inch guns were removed and the ship received six quadruple 40mm Bofor mounts and 46 20mm Oerlikons, although many Oerlikons were probably mounted in 1943. According to the instructions, Ranger was still saddled with .50 machine guns in November 1942. The flight deck was strengthened and two H-II catapults added. That same year she was assigned as a training aircraft carrier with an occasional trip to ferry aircraft to add spice to the monotony. In July 1944 Ranger finally made it to the Pacific but not the western Pacific. She transported troops and aircraft from the West Coast to Pearl Harbor and served as a training carrier off the West Coast.
She was decommissioned on October 26, 1946 but didnít last long in reserve. In three months she was sold for scrap in January 1947. The Ranger may have tried to accomplish too much on too little but it was a necessary experiment that directly led to the most effective classes of warships in World War Two. Her good points were carried over to the next USN fleet carrier design, one which had an additional 5,000-tons worked in to provide those necessary features that Ranger lacked. This was the Yorktown class, whose design was subsequently enlarged to provide the seminal USN carrier design of the war, the Essex class.
Iron Shipwright USS Ranger CV-4 Hull
This is no small kit. The Ranger may have only had a displacement of 14,500-tons, but she was 760-feet in overall length. Her length to beam ratio was 9 to 1 so she had very fine hull lines that are apparent on the full hull casting from Iron Shipwright. The big resin hull readily shows the USN design concept inaugurated with Ranger and continued to this very day. The one-piece hull has the hangar sides cast integral to the hull and this is the beginning of the superstructure. The hull is really nicely cast, although it does display some defects common with the ISW casting process. There are two large resin pour stubs on the bottom of the hull that will need to be removed and their connecting points with the hull sanded smooth. A Dremel is probably the best tool for this process. There are some voids on the bottom of the hull, along with a seam line to be smoothed and yes Virginia, I have included a picture of this seam/voids for all of the negative mongers. I consider some of this optional because the area is not seen once the model is mounted on pedestals. Obviously, the resin that protrudes should be smoothed but I consider filling unseen voids busy work. However, some critics of ISW become apocalyptic (or is it epileptic) over voids on the hull bottom. Something that does need to be addressed is the occasional resin splash on the hull sides, which will need to be sanded smooth. An example of this flash is seen in the close up photograph of the starboard cutwater/bow.
The short forecastle has some interesting features with a small deckhouse flanked by equipment splinter shielding. There was a void in one of the shields, which will need filling and smoothing. Near the top of the cutwater the deck extends beyond the hull edge. These hemisphere extensions were a platform extension for light AA added in 1942, for .50 machine guns since Ranger was low on the AA upgrade program. The platform extensions were there from the start as Ranger was completed with two 5-inch/25 guns at these locations. Short raised anchor chain bed plates run from the deck hawse to the anchor windlass positions. The anchor deck hawse have significant depth facilitating the attachment of anchor chain. The ship has a metal deck from the tip of the both to just behind the deck hawse fittings where wooden planking takes over. The deckhouse has large square windows and access door detail and door detail and fire hose fittings are found on the forward face of the hangar bulkhead behind the deckhouse. There are four twin bollard base plates but the actual vertical bollards will have to be added from cut plastic rod by the modeler. Some my not want to do this but ISW has eliminated the bollards as they have proven to be air or void traps in the casting process. There is a very small quarterdeck with two more bollard base plates and a centerline fitting. A three-story bulkhead rises from the quarterdeck, which will have platforms and has cast on doors and fire hose fittings.
The Ranger has a very graceful cutwater and significant flare to the upper hull on the forward portion of the hull. A prominent hull side anchor hawse is on both sides. The forward hangar area is offset inboard of the hull edge creating significant deck space from hull edge to the base of the hangar external bulkhead. Forward there are some deck houses that extend to hull edge but these were apparently for berthing or facilities as opposed to being part of the hangar. There are a number of doors and fore hose fittings on the two-story external bulkhead. The major part of the hangar begins with prominent vertical supports to the hangar bulkheads. Running above the hangar deck are a series of panels. Some are closed bulkheads with their vertical support ribs and others are hangar doors. On each side there are four hangar doors, three closed and one open.
The closed doors have segmented panels since they were roller doors, opening like a segmented garage door. The resin is thin enough to open any or all of these doors to completely open up the hangar. Some may wish to do this as the interior hangar bulkheads also have detail. Towards the stern on each side are three bays in which the hinged funnels rest. Even these bays have support ribs. On each side of the lower hull is a moderately thin bilge keel. There was a small void in one bilge keel but this is easily fixed. As mentioned the interior hangar bulkheads also have the same types of details with doors, fire hoses and other fittings. If you wish to open up the hangar, you may want to get out your hobby knife as there are resin pour remnants here and there that need to be removed if they are in a position that can be seen.
Smaller Resin Parts
The hull is large and graceful but it is the smaller parts that give the model its character. First of all there is the small island with the unique overhang of the front face. The structure is smaller at the base than at bridge level. Since the island was a late addition and the designers were worried but weight, the only explanation I can come up with for the island design was to save weight. If so, not much weight would have been saved and the carrier undoubtedly could have used more space in the island. In dry-fitting the parts the island went together very easily, as it is a series of interlocking parts. The island base will need some clean up as there was excess resin on both sides and some of the portholes were filled. The base has plenty of detailed access doors and fire hose fittings. The bridge levels have nicely indented bridge windows and sturdy splinter shielding. It may be a little on the thick side but I prefer this approach over having too fine splinter shields that are subject to breakage and voids. On the photos of the island parts youíll see the numerous resin pour vents sticking up like antennae. These will need to be removed.
Each of the six stacks is tapered, as the get wider as they go up, like a flat base ice cream cone. Each stack has three parts: the stack, the linking collar and the rounded elbow trunking. Since the hinge or swivel for the stacks is at the collar joining the stack to the trunk, the modeler has the option of assembling the stacks up vertically or outwards horizontally for flight operations. That will be a tough call to make although my initial preference is with funnels up. ISW provides the various types of armament carried by the Ranger right before World War Two and during the war. If you want a mahogany deck crammed with yellow winged biplanes, all you need are the eight 5-inch/25 DP guns and the machine guns found on the photo-etch fret. Of course youíll have to do a little more research so youíll not attach a gallery or fitting that was not present at the time. The instructions give options for the 1942 fit with 1.1-inch Chicago Pianos or 1944 fit with 40mm Bofors and the only four color carrier dazzle scheme. I especially like the Chicago Pianos, which were cast very well with a separate barrel assembly and separate base.
The Bofors are good to but a number of them were broken, especially at the flash suppressor. ISW provided enough spares so I was not short the requisite guns for either the 1942 or 1944 version. I received ten 5-inch/25 guns, although only eight are needed for the kit. I rather like these parts to as the gun mounts have the fuse station on the left side of the mount and good detail for the breach block and recoil mechanism. Eleven resin runners containing five Oerlikons each round out the armament. Seven of the 55 were damaged beyond being usable but that left 48, two more than the maximum needed for Ranger. The resin part has the gun and pedestal assembly and the photo-etch has training wheel, gun shield, gun sight and shoulder rest for each Oerlikon. Most of the smaller resin parts have flash that will need to be removed.
Most of the other larger parts are Oerlikon galleries that ringed the flight deck. Each of these galleries had multiple gun tubs divided from each other by splinter shields but with an open passage on the seaward side of the position, allowing passage to the next tub. Th large part that looks like a massive grate is actually a flight deck support for the overhang of the deck above the forecastle. There is also support bracing cast underneath the galleries. Smaller platforms and tubs make up the medium sized fittings. Running gear consisted of propellers, struts, rudder and anchors. It is a good thing that ISW included four propellers because two of them had voids in one of the blades. There are only two shipís boats but a lot of carley rafts, most of them double stacked. Other resin parts include search lights, signal lamps, Mk 51 directors and the large Mk 33 directors.
Wooden Flight Deck
The ISW Ranger comes with a wooden flight deck made by Nautilus Models. The deck is composed of two parts. One is the much longer forward deck, stretching from the bow to aft of the island. For the aft flight deck there are two options, one for the deck with funnels up with separate panels that are hinged upwards when the funnels are vertical and the other option with these hinged panels down and flush with the deck when the funnels extend horizontally for flight operations. I must admit, I have always liked the wooden decks from Nautilus. The flight deck pieces provide excellent detail but do present their own unique pit falls in assembly. One is getting a tight bond between the porous wooden deck and non-porous resin bulkheads. Rather than super glue, white glue may be better for this purpose. Another pit fall is in staining the deck. This deck will actually take a stain as in the original but should be done slowly, as you donít want to water log the deck creating a distortion or hump where the stained wood has expanded from absorbing a too watery stain. All three elevators are provided as separate parts, allowing them to be in a up or down position.
Brass Photo-Etch Fret
Through the combined efforts of Jon Warneke of ISW and James "Chainsaw" Corley of Nautilus Models, the ISW Ranger includes one very large brass photo-etch fret. The fret has masses of optional parts, such as the water cooled machine guns for the 1942 Ranger and the additional Oerlikon parts for the 1943-1944 Ranger. Additional variation comes in the form of the radar fit as the fret contains all of the various radar arrays carried by Ranger during the war. The instructions delineate which radar was carried during which fit. The largest brass parts are five folding cranes, which will provide plenty of eye interest for the side hangar deck gallery. In addition to the numerous radar arrays, there are plenty of latticework supports, which go to support the numerous carley rafts. It is not an iron workers paradise as in the Langley, but enough to add great interest to the finished model. The arrestor wires are included in the fret so this will provide a three dimensional appearance when strung across the wooden flight deck. Additional brass parts include two bladed propellers for biplanes, three bladed propellers for the Wildcats and Dauntlesses, life buoys, boat fittings, hose/cable reel assemblies, various DF loops, crash barriers, accommodation ladders, inclined ladders, vertical ladder and a complete railing fit. The fret is not relief etched.
Decals & Instructions
Instructions have always been a problem with ISW. Although the instructions included in the kit are far better than those included in their 1:700 scale Essex 27A, they still fall short. The instructions comprise twelve pages printed on one side. Page one is general instructions. Page two drawings of the resin parts and descriptions of resin parts and the start of brass parts. Page three has a drawing of the fret and finishes with the description of the brass parts. Then starting on page four are the assembly steps with the stern on page four and five; amidships on page six; forecastle on page seven; stacks and island on page eight; cranes, radar, Oerlikons and raft supports on page nine; flight deck assembly on pages ten and eleven; and construction notes and dazzle paint scheme on page twelve. Check the fit and assembly locations before ever going to the super glue and if possible have some back up photographs or better yet, a plan. I think taking this methodical approach will gt you through the assembly without too much difficulty, but nonetheless, they could have been better.
The one-off USS Ranger was always second string. Although she packed a large air group, her deficiencies precluded her use in the Pacific in a combat role. Although the USN admirals may have considered her to be a bench warming sister of the pine, there is no reason this unique and historical ship canít receive her time at the plate. The Iron Shipwright 1:350 scale USS Ranger CV-4 provides all the parts to recreate the first USN carrier designed from the keel up, whose best features are still retained on the nuclear carriers of the USN of the present day.