The Graf Zeppelin was an aircraft carrier built and used by the German Navy during World War II. It was the first aircraft carrier produced under the Nazi Regime and also is the last ordered by the German Navy. It was part of the Graf Zeppelin-class aircraft carrier series.
The ship length spanned 262.50 meters (861 feet). Though this hunk of metal seemed capable to take on most of the ships of the time, it was never launched into the battle, and was an object to show Hitler's power. The ship was purely constructed to carry forty-three planes on board, which is considered a good amount at the time. This complement was made up by twelve navalized Junkers Ju 87s, ten Messerschmitt Bf 109s, and twenty Fiesler Fi 167s. The design was later modified to hold thirty Ju 87s and twelve Bf 109s, completely removing the Fi 167s. The ship had two 270-foot hangers for conventional wheeled aircraft, and a single 422-foot hanger below for seaplanes. The propulsion systems comprised of four Brown, Boverie & Cie geared turbines powered by sixteen oil-fired LaMont boilers, generating roughly 200,000 shaft horsepower, and could propel the ship at speeds of 33.8 knots. At a maintained cruising speed of 19 knots, it was estimated that the Graf Zeppelin would a range of roughly 8,000 nautical miles.
The Graf Zeppelins defensive weaponry comprised of sixteen 150 mm SK C/28 heavy guns, twelve 105 mm SK C/33 heavy anti-aircraft guns, twenty-two 37 mm SK C/30 anti-aircraft guns, and an additional twenty-eight 20 mm FlaK 30 anti-aircraft guns. The Graf Zeppelins armor consisted of a 100 mm thick main armor belt at the waterline, with 60 mm armor plating on the main deck. The flight deck was arored with 45 mm thick plates of Woten Weich steel. The complete crew complement comprised of 1,720 enlisted men and officers, including the flight crews.
Construction of the ship began at 1918, but it was not from scratch. It was actually based on the modified ocean liner Ausonia which fit the bill for the design of the aircraft carrier.The Ausonia was 518 foot long and weighed 11,300 tons. The ship was powered by turbine engine that was manufactured by Blohm & Voss Hamburg for the Italian firm Sitmar and was launched on April 1915, but it never was completed. Now with plans to convert the liner to a combat-ready aircraft carrier, plans have been made to put hangers and a flight deck on top of the existing deck of the vessel, in addition to a small island and funnel to starboard. A short, downward-sloping launch deck area at the bow of the ship was also planned to be incorporated.
The aircraft planned to be the complimented was to be thirteen fixed wing or nineteen folding wing seaplanes and ten additional wheeled aircraft. The sketch is similar to those of the of HMS Courageous of the British Navy in the 1920s. However, the Germans abandoned all thoughts of aircraft carriers at the end of the war and the treaties formed, along with other reasons, meant work was never started.