Nine Sisters - CVL Light Carrier
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Independence Class

USS Independence

USS Princeton

USS Belleau Wood

USS Cowpens

USS Monterey

USS Langley

USS Cabot

USS Bataan

USS San Jacinto


Saipan Class

USS Saipan

USS Wright


CVL Topics

CVL Cutaway Drawing

CVL Specifications

Ford and Monterey

Bush and San Jacinto

Ernie Pyle and Cabot



World War II
Multimedia Database

Day of the Kamikaze


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Independence Class Light Carrier Technical Specifications

The Independence class CVLs were built as emergency war construction, when nine light cruisers already under construction were converted on the slipway to become aircraft carriers. They were all built by New York Shipbuilding in Camden, New Jersey.

The Independence class light carriers were marvels of speedy shipbuilding. To take ships already designed and under construction, and redically resdesign not only their form but change the basic function of the ship — in only a few months — was evidence of the massive ability of the United States economy.

With the loss of five out of seven carriers that started the war, Roosevelt acted on Navy recommendations to build more carriers in June 1942. All nine ships were completed in only 18 months, the time it took to build the first new fleet carrier, the USS Essex (CV-9). Together the nine sisters of the Independence class added 270 aircraft to the striking power of the Fast Carrier Task Force.

Expecting some of the Independence class to be lost in combat, the Saipan class carriers were started during the war, the first CVLs built from the keel up as aircraft carriers. With USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), currently the oldest currently active ship in the United States Navy, the Saipan class are the only purpose-built carriers to come form New York Shipbuilding. They were commissioned after the war and served as training carriers and on special operations, like disaster relief, around the world. USS Wright was later converted to a communications ship in the days before satellite relays were commonplace.

CLV outline

Aerial photograph shot at 7000 feet altitude, showing one unidentified CVL type carrier in docks along with several other ships. Hunters' Point, San Francisco Naval Shipyard, San Francisco, CA, May 24, 1945. Right click and choose "view image" to enlarge.

Independence Class (1942-2001)

Saipan Class (1947-1980)

CVL Camoflauge

CVL Radio & Flag Call Signals

Independence Class Cutaway Line Drawing

Independence Class

Displacement: 14,800 tons full load, 11,000 tons as designed
Dimensions: 600 x 71.5 x 26 feet
Extreme Dimensions: 622.5 x 109.25 x 26 feet
Height of Flight Deck above Water: 44.5 feet
Length of Flight Deck (unarmored): 552 feet
Width of Flight Deck (unarmored): 73 feet
Length of Hangar Deck (unarmored): 258 feet
Width of Hangar Deck (unarmored): 57.75 feet
Landing apparatus: 8 arresting wires fitted at the stern
Aircraft Elevators: 2 hydraulic lifts
Catapults: 1 Type H-IVC upon commissioning; another added in 1945 for total of 2.
Aircraft Crane: 7 ton capacity
Propulsion: (4) GE Steam turbines, (4) 565 psi B&W boilers, 4 shafts, 100,000 SHP, 31.6 kts
Fuel Consumption: 60 Gallons Oil/minute under normal cruising conditions
Fresh Water Distillation: 40,000 Gallons/Day used for propulsion, drinking, etc.
Crew: 1,461
Armor: Waterline belt :1.5 - 5 "; Main bulkheads - 5 "; Main deck-3", lower decks-2".
Armament: 2 quad, 8 dual 40 mm AA, 16 single 20 mm AA
Aircraft: 45 combat aircraft; 90-100 could be carried for transportation

War emergency program to rapidly create fast fleet carriers to combat the Imperial Japanese Fleet due to the loss of Lexington, Yorktown, Wasp, and Hornet in 1942. The basis was to convert light cruiser hulls already under construction at the New York Shipbuilding Company of Camden, NJ into CV's.

Initially classified as fleet carriers (CV), the Independence class changed to light carriers (CVL) on 15 July 1943. By 1959, all CVLs in the US Reserve Fleet were reclassified as aircraft transports (AVT).

Nine Cleveland class light cruiser hulls were completed as aircraft carriers. General arrangement of the Cleveland class light cruiser remained the same below the main deck while a hangar, flight deck and island structure were added topside. Exhaust fumes from the boiler uptakes were discharged via four short cranked smokestacks suspended outside the starboard edge of the flight deck. Side bulges (below the hangar deck both port and starboard) were added to compensate for top heaviness and increase stability. Original design included 2 single 5/38 DP guns, which were fitted to class leader USS Independence. Six weeks later, the 5/38 guns were replaced by 2 quad 40 mm as it was assumed most antiaircraft protection would come from escort vessels.

Quick turnover rate as hulls were already under construction; high speed allowed them to operate in fast carrier strikes; fast transport or attack vehicles for aircraft.

Poor sea keeping qualities- especially in harsh weather; inadequate hangar and shop facilities; difficult to fly from.

Additions of second catapult, radar, and radio equipment were the major World War II upgrades. The small size of the Independence class hindered their postwar use and no major improvements were done. Cabot and Bataan were refitted in 1950-1951 as ASW "Hunter-Killers" where as their flight and hangar decks were strengthened to operate 20 heavy aircraft, two of the four smokestacks were removed to improve stability; and a light electronics mast was fitted between the two remaining stacks. Upon Cabot's transfer to Spain, she carried SPS-6, SPS-8, SPS-10, and SPS-40 surface and air search radar suites that were comparable to US destroyer forces. Cabot also had MK-28, MK-29, and Tacan radar systems added.

They served superbly in the fast carrier task forces in the war in the Pacific winning 81 battle stars between them and accounting for hundreds of enemy planes and ships destroyed. One, the Princeton, was lost to enemy action at the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
After WW2, these CVLs operated as light attack, ASW and training carriers. One, USS Bataan, was awarded 7 battle stars for outstanding service during the Korean War. USS Monterey operated successfully as a training carrier where she held landing and takeoff records for many years.

USS Independence was used for testing at Operation Crossroads, Bikini Atoll. She was subsequently used as a target ship in 1951 off California. The rest were laid up by 1947, but several returned to service as ASW, light strike and training carriers in the early 1950's. These were again decommissioned to reserve when larger ships became available. Belleau Wood, Langley, and Cabot were transferred to foreign countries. Belleau Wood and Langley took part in the Indochina conflict and Suez war 1958-59 while in the French Navy. Cabot, now named Dedalo, served in the Spanish Navy until 1989. After a long effort to turn her into a museum failed, she was scrapped in 2001.

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Saipan Class

Displacement: 19,086 tons full load; 14,500 tons as designed
Dimensions: 664 x 76.75 x 25 feet
Extreme Dimensions: 683.5 x 108 x 25 feet
Propulsion: (4) GE Steam turbines, (4) 600 psi B&W boilers, 4 shafts, 120,000 SHP, 33 kts
Endurance: 8000 NM/15 Knots
Crew: 1,677
Armor: 2.5-4 inch belt
Armament: 5 quad, 11 dual 40 mm AA, 16 dual 20 mm AA
Aircraft: 48-50 WW2 era combat planes, 100 could be carried for transportation.

To improve upon the design of the Independence class CVLs by correcting design deficiencies while maintaining operational success.

General configuration was basically the same as the Indepedence class however the hull design was based on the Baltimore class heavy cruisers. Instead of being fitted with side bulges, the hull was widened several feet at the design stage.

Initially classified as CVLs the Saipan class became AVTs while in reserve. By the mid 60's, Saipan was renamed Arlington as a Major Communications Relay Ship and Wright was designated as a NECPA Command Ship.

Saipan had her fore funnel removed in 1950. Wright (CC-2) was converted to NECPA Command Ship in 1962-1963 with the forward flight deck supporting several antennas and the hangar deck converted for command space. Conversion of Saipan to CC-3 was cancelled when 64% complete and was then converted to a Major Communication Relay Ship in 1966 with antennas mounted on the forward part of the flight deck and hangar deck converted to house communication equipment.

The Saipan class saw service as ASW, training and fleet carriers prior to decommissioning. During the 1960's, both saw major roles as Cold War intelligence and operation ships. Arlington (ex-Saipan), in fact, was awarded 7 battle stars for her service in Vietnam.

Placed in Reserve during the late 1950's, both ships reappeared in different forms in the 1960's. By 1980, Wright and Saipan were stricken and scrapped.

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The light carriers had various camouflage schemes and patterns during World War II. Below is a list of known schemes for each ship by year and type.





USS Independence MS 14 MS 33/8a Being Researched
USS Princeton MS 21 MS 33/7a Sunk 1944
USS Belleau Wood MS 14 MS 33/3d MS 21
USS Cowpens MS 21 MS 33/7a MS 22
USS Monterey MS 22 MS 33/3d MS 21
USS Langley MS 14 MS 21 MS 21
USS Cabot MS 14 MS 21 MS 21
USS Bataan MS 22 MS 32/8a Being Researched
USS San Jacinto Being Researched MS 33/7a Being Researched
USS Saipan N/A N/A N/A
USS Wright N/A N/A N/A

To read more about these patterns and what they entailed, please visit USN Warship Camouflage

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CVL Radio & Flag Call Signals

Each ship in the United States Navy has a four letter set of call letters that uniquely identified it in radio, signal flag, and semaphore communications within the fleet.


Signal Code

USS Independence NZBF
USS Princeton NFDC
USS Belleau Wood NFGN
USS Cowpens NFLQ
USS Monterey NFND
USS Langley NFQB
USS San Jacinto NFJX
USS Wright Being Researched
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Original Research by Richard Angelini


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