A helicopter carrier is a type of aircraft carrier whose primary purpose is to operate helicopters. A helicopter carrier has a large flight deck that occupies a large part of the ship, which can extend the full length of the ship like HMS Ocean of the Royal Navy (RN), or only partway, usually aft, as in the Soviet Navy's Moskva class, the Chinese Navy's Type 0891A or the Royal Fleet Auxiliary's (RFA) RFA Argus. It often also has a hangar deck for the storage of aircraft.
Pure helicopter carriers are difficult to define in the 21st century. The advent of STOVL aircraft such as the Harrier Jump Jet, and now the F-35, have complicated the classification; the United States Navy's Wasp class, for instance, carries six to eight Harriers as well as over 20 helicopters. Only smaller carriers unable to operate the Harrier and older pre-Harrier-era carriers can be regarded as true helicopter carriers. In many cases, other carriers, able to operate STOVL aircraft, are classified as "light aircraft carriers". Other vessels, such as the Wasp class, are also capable of embarking troops such as marines and landing them ashore; they are classified as amphibious assault ships.
HMS Hermes and two of her sisters were 22,000 ton fleet carriers converted to "commando carriers" only able to operate helicopters. Hermes was later converted to a STOVL carrier.
Helicopter carriers by country
|Country||Navy||In service||In reserve||Under construction|
|2||0||2 (4 planned)|
|0||0||0 (4 planned total)|
|0||0||0 (3 planned total)|
|9||3||1 (11 planned total)|
Helicopter carriers currently in use
|Country||Name (Hull number)||Length||Tonnage (mt)||Class||Propulsion||Type||Classification||Commission|
|Canberra (L02)||230.82 m (757.3 ft)||27,500 mt||Canberra
(modified Juan Carlos I)
|Conventional||STOVL||Landing Helicopter Dock||28 November 2014|
|Adelaide (L01)||230.82 m (757.3 ft)||27,500 mt||Canberra
(modified Juan Carlos I)
|Conventional||STOVL||Landing Helicopter Dock||4 December 2015|
|Type 0891A Shichang (82)||125 m (410 ft)||9,500 mt||Shichang||Conventional||VTOL||Training Ship||January 1997|
|PHM Atlântico (A140)||203.4 m (667 ft)||21,500 mt||Conventional||VTOL||Landing Platform Helicopter||29 June 2018|
|Gamal Abdel Nasser (L1010)||199 m (653 ft)||21,300 mt||Mistral||Conventional||VTOL||Landing Helicopter Dock||2 June 2016|
|Anwar El Sadat (L1020)||199 m (653 ft)||21,300 mt||Mistral||Conventional||VTOL||Landing Helicopter Dock||16 September 2016|
|Mistral (L9013)||199 m (653 ft)||21,300 mt||Mistral||Conventional||VTOL||Landing Helicopter Dock||December 2005|
|Tonnerre (L9014)||199 m (653 ft)||21,300 mt||Mistral||Conventional||VTOL||Landing Helicopter Dock||December 2006|
|Dixmude (L9015)||199 m (653 ft)||21,300 mt||Mistral||Conventional||VTOL||Landing Helicopter Dock||December 2011|
|JS Kaga (DDH-184)||248 m (814 ft)||27,000 mt||Izumo||Conventional||VTOL||Helicopter destroyer||22 March 2017|
|JS Izumo (DDH-183)||248 m (814 ft)||27,000 mt||Izumo||Conventional||VTOL||Helicopter destroyer||25 March 2015|
|JS Hyūga (DDH-181)||197 m (646 ft)||19,000 mt||Hyūga||Conventional||VTOL||Helicopter destroyer||18 March 2009|
|JS Ise (DDH-182)||197 m (646 ft)||19,000 mt||Hyūga||Conventional||VTOL||Helicopter destroyer||16 March 2011|
|Dokdo (LPH-6111)||199 m (653 ft)||18,800 mt||Dokdo||Conventional||VTOL||Landing Platform Helicopter||3 July 2007|
|Juan Carlos I (L-61)||230.82 m (757.3 ft)||27,079 mt||Juan Carlos I||Conventional||STOVL||Landing Helicopter Dock||30 September 2010|
|Argus (A135)||175.1 m (574 ft)||20,081 mt||Unique merchant conversion||Conventional||VTOL||Aviation Training Ship||1 June 1988|
|America (LHA-6)||257.3 m (844 ft)||45,000 mt||America||Conventional||STOVL||Landing Helicopter Assault||11 October 2014|
|Wasp (LHD-1)||257 m (843 ft)||40,532 mt||Wasp||Conventional||STOVL||Landing Helicopter Dock||29 July 1989|
|Essex (LHD-2)||257 m (843 ft)||40,650 mt||Wasp||Conventional||STOVL||Landing Helicopter Dock||17 October 1992|
|Kearsarge (LHD-3)||257 m (843 ft)||40,500 mt||Wasp||Conventional||STOVL||Landing Helicopter Dock||16 October 1993|
|Boxer (LHD-4)||257 m (843 ft)||40,722 mt||Wasp||Conventional||STOVL||Landing Helicopter Dock||11 February 1995|
|Bataan (LHD-5)||257 m (843 ft)||40,358 mt||Wasp||Conventional||STOVL||Landing Helicopter Dock||20 September 1997|
|Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6)||257 m (843 ft)||40,500 mt||Wasp||Conventional||STOVL||Landing Helicopter Dock||15 August 1998|
|Iwo Jima (LHD-7)||257 m (843 ft)||40,530 mt||Wasp||Conventional||STOVL||Landing Helicopter Dock||30 June 2001|
|Makin Island (LHD-8)||258 m (846 ft)||41,649 mt||Wasp||Conventional||STOVL||Landing Helicopter Dock||24 October 2009|
Retired helicopter carriers
Albion (R07), (Royal Navy) – helicopter carrier of the 1960s–1980s Bulwark (R08), (Royal Navy) – helicopter carrier of the 1960s–1980s Cobb (WPG-181) (US Coast Guard), decommissioned in 1946 – World's first helicopter carrier. Illustrious (R06) (Royal Navy) An Invincible-class light aircraft carrier, which operated as a helicopter carrier when HMS Ocean was being refitted. Iwo Jima (LPH-2) (United States Navy) – lead of the seven-ship Iwo Jima class, active from the early 1960s to the early 2000s Jeanne d'Arc (French Navy), decommissioned in 2010 Leningrad (Soviet Navy) - second of the two-ship Moskva class - active 1969 - 1991 Moskva (Soviet Navy) - lead of the two-ship Moskva-class, active 1967 - 1991 ex-Ocean (L12), (Royal Navy) – helicopter carrier 1998-2018, decommissioned March 2018.
- Sold to Brazil in February 2018, renamed Atlântico (A140).
Vittorio Veneto 550 (Italian Marina Militare) - a helicopter cruiser active from 1969 to 2003
- "HMS Ocean (LPH01) Helicopter Carrier". Naval Technology. 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2014-04-20.
- "Brazil commissions helicopter carrier". www.janes.com. 29 June 2018.
- "DCNS delivers the second Mistral-class helicopter carrier to the Egyptian Navy, the LHD Anwar El Sadat". 16 September 2016.
- "Hyuga Class". JMSDF Gallery (in Japanese). JMSDF. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
- B. Ireland and F. Crosby (2011). The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Aircraft Carriers And Naval Aircraft. Hermes House. p. 189.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
- World Wide Aircraft Carriers
- "America 'Sails Away' for Maiden Transit to San Diego Homeport". United States Navy. 10 October 2014.
- "BBC News – Warship HMS Illustrious starts sea trials". Bbc.co.uk. 2011-06-17. Retrieved 2014-04-20.