Wednesday, January 18, 2017

R21, the Majestic Melbourne

I've no idea why, but I've always been keenly interested in Australia's last aircraft carrier, HMAS Melbourne.

I speak of her as Majestic, because she was launched as HMS Majestic in 1945. She was the lead ship in what was to be a class of light carriers. With the war drawing to a close, however, work on Majestic was suspended until, in 1947, she was purchased by Australia for service with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

Australia actually bought a pair of carriers in 1947, Majestic and Terrible, which was also of the Majestic class. As Terrible was nearer completion, she joined the RAN first, in 1948, as HMAS Sydney.

With one new carrier in hand, and with an additional loaner (HMS Vengeance) from the RN in the interim, Australia asked that Majestic be given the most modern upgrades, including a steam catapult, angled deck, mirror landing system, upgraded arresting gear and barricade, upgraded aircraft fuel storage and distribution, state of the art radars, etc. This work was completed in 1955 and the RAN took delivery of their new flagship, HMAS Melbourne.

One of the things that is fascinating to me is the way the RAN operated a remarkably diverse and capable airwing from such a tiny ship. I think of small carriers as the 27 Charlie Essex/Ticonderoga class, but those were monsters twice the size of the Majestic class.

Below are some interweb videos that you might enjoy. The final two are of a rather famous on-deck ejection which happened on May 23, 1979. The pilot, Kevin Finan, was a US Navy pilot on an exchange tour with the RAN.


  1. With all their coastline, and the nearness of the Torres Straight, I can't fathom why Australia does not have real carriers. It can only be the astronomical cost of running them.

    1. I've been told by several Aussie navy types that they'll never buy and operate carriers as long as the U.S. has them. It's the same old NATO/Europe calculus, why spend that money when Uncle Sam will do the heavy lifting for you. Looking at from a completely pragmatic perspective, I can't say they're stupid, but they're playing a rather dangerous hand.

  2. That's the best Aussie accent I've ever seen in comments! :)

  3. Replies
    1. Indeed. She sank more destroyers post-WWII than any other ship, if you exclude sinkex's.