In effectiveness there must be little to choose between the airplane carrier Lexington, which has just broken speed records on a run from California to Honolulu, and her sister ship, the Saratoga. Each of these carriers has accommodations for seventy-six planes. British critics have said that this is putting too many eggs in one basket. Theoretically that may be so, since it is as easy to bomb a carrier as any other large ship of war. But two things would favor the Lexington: the great number of planes she could use to defend herself, and her high speed. Compared with the Lexington, our battleships are slow. Her designed speed of 34 knots could not be long kept up. In an emergency she might even exceed it. What counts most is her speed over long distances, when, for instance, she is called upon to join the fleet in a hurry. On the last twenty-four hours of her passage to Honolulu the Lexington steamed about 770 nautical miles-at the rate of 32 knots. The Mauretania's record for twenty-four hours was 678 knots. The distance covered by the Lexington was 2,228 nautical miles and her time for the voyage was three days, less one hour. If an enemy fleet had threatened Hawaii, planes could have been dispatched when she was still 200 miles distant, some to scout and others to attack.
While the Lexington and Saratoga are armed with eight 8-inch guns, besides guns of smaller caliber, they are expected to avoid engagement with battleships and even with cruisers. The carriers are vulnerable, their batteries are not disposed to the best advantage, and they must, if possible, avert destruction of the airplanes they are expected to send into action. Therefore high speed is requisite. When employed in picking up planes with the battle fleet steaming ahead, the carriers must maneuver without mistakes and move swiftly. There can be no doubt that other sea powers envy the United States possession of the Lexington and Saratoga. Nevertheless, we need more carriers to make up the tonnage allowed by the Washington Treaty. The additions will naturally be of smaller capacity than that of the Lexington.
Great Britain can build no more carriers. With completion of the Glorious, one of three converted "hush" or mystery cruisers planned during the war, the others being the Furious and the Courageous, the Admiralty will have all the floating airdromes it is entitled to. None of them is, or will be, as big and fast as the American pair. In the new Akagi and Kaga, Japan will have two carriers with the heaviest main armaments, ten 8-inch guns, the Washington Treaty limit. The big Japanese carriers have a displacement of 27,000 tons, but they will be slower by several miles an hour than the Americans. Japan could build one more large carrier, but the preference seems to be for small ships. That is now the case in Washington. The United States has taken the lead in using the catapult for auxiliary planes attached to battleships and cruisers. In fact, naval aviation promises to add considerable strength to the United States battle fleet and actually put it in the lead over other sea powers.