The Audacious-class aircraft carriers were a class of aircraft carriers proposed by the British government in the 1930s - 1940s and completed after the Second World War. The two ships built were heavily modified and diverged over their service lives. They were in operation from 1951 until 1979.
The Audacious class was originally designed as an expansion of the Implacable class with double storied hangars. However, it was realised that the hangar height would not be sufficient for the new aircraft that were expected to enter service, so the design was considerably enlarged.
Four ships were laid down between 1942 and 1943 during World War II as part of the British naval buildup - Africa, Irresistible, Audacious and Eagle. At the end of hostilities Africa and Eagle were cancelled. Work on the remaining two was suspended. They would be renamed and built to differing designs in the 1950s.
As the builds of Audacious (renamed Eagle) and Irresistible (renamed Ark Royal) progressed they differed so much that they effectively became the lead (and sole) ships of each of their own classes. They formed the backbone of the postwar carrier fleet, and were much modified.HMS Eagle (R05) (Ex Audacious)
Laid down in 1942 at Harland and Wolff, Belfast as HMS Audacious
. Renamed at the start of 1946 as Eagle
after the aircraft carrier that was sunk in 1942. Launched in March 1946. Commissioned October 1951. Decommissioned January 1972.
HMS Ark Royal (R09) (Ex Irresistible)
Intended as HMS Irresistible
, but named after the third Ark Royal
that was lost in 1941. Work on Ark Royal
began in 1943 at Cammell Laird, Birkenhead. Launched in 1950. Commissioned 1955. Decommissioned February 1979.
Ordered from Swan Hunter, Wallsend-on-Tyne in August 1942. Transferred to Vickers-Armstrong in December that year. Laid down 19 April 1944, cancelled January 1946 when 23% complete.
Ordered from Fairfield, Govan on 12 July 1943. Re-ordered as Malta
class in 1944. Cancelled 15 October 1945