Also known as Fleet Carriers, they were the largest class of carriers to see combat having excellent speed (30+ knots), some measure of protection, and the ability to operate air groups of 60 or more aircraft.

They themselves are nothing but floating airfields. A few of the earliest carriers converted from battlecruiser hulls (example: Lexington-class battlecruiser to Lexington-class aircraft carrier), under the terms of the naval disarmament treaties, carried 8" (20cm) guns and had substantial armor belts. But most carriers were armed only with dual-purpose and antiaircraft guns, and their armor protection was comparable to that of a cruiser. Their power lay in their air groups which typically were composed of three to five squadrons of fighters and light bombers, a total of 60 to 90 aircraft. Whereas a battleship could fire shells at a distance of around 30 miles (50 km) and rarely hit a maneuvering target, the air group of an aircraft carrier could project accurate firepower out as far as 300 miles (500 km). Its aircraft also gave a carrier group a tremendous search area.

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