USS Ranger CV-4: The US Navy’s Historic First Combat Drone Carrier

The USS Ranger (CV-4) was commissioned in 1934 as one of the first purpose-built aircraft carriers of the United States Navy. She played an important role in advancing the capabilities of naval aviation during a transformative period for aircraft carrier operations.

Though not the largest or most advanced carrier when completed, the Ranger introduced several innovative features. Her small size compared to battleships allowed for greater speed and maneuverability. She was the first ship designed and built from the keel up as an aircraft carrier, incorporating a strengthened flight deck and hangar facilities.

The Ranger conducted vital carrier qualification tests for naval aviators in the mid-1930s. These tests helped develop procedures for launching and recovering aircraft on short carrier decks in adverse weather conditions – skills that would be crucial in World War II. The experience gained aboard Ranger directly contributed to improved carrier and aircraft design.

During World War II, Ranger served in the Atlantic theater where her aircraft provided air cover and attacked enemy shipping. She was the first Allied carrier to sink an enemy warship, the German E-boat S-36 in 1940.

Though Ranger did not see as much active deployment as other carriers, her early pioneering role was essential in shaping the future of naval aviation. She helped the Navy learn how to operate aircraft carriers effectively, which paved the way for the critical impact carriers had on the war effort.

The USS Ranger remains an important part of the legacy of carrier development. She demonstrated the possibilities of naval aviation and set the stage for the aircraft carrier’s rise to prominence as the dominant capital ship of modern naval warfare. Any article on the history of carriers should recognize Ranger’s integral role as one of the first flattops to get naval aviation off the ground.


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