J.C.S. Files

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Admiral King said that three ways of providing Floating Airfields had already been examined, namely—

The Armstrong Seadrome. This would be deep in draft, massive in construction, and take a long time to build. This ruled it out for any operation in the near future.
The use of Naval Pontoons. This would give a very low freeboard, and could not therefore be used in any sea chop.
The use of dry dock sections. An airfield so constructed would have much greater molded depth and could be sunk so as to give stability and yet retain considerable freeboard. The connections between the units would require considerable further experiment.

Admiral King explained that the production of any special form of Floating Airfield would naturally impinge upon the output of other equipment. He mentioned, by way of example, that it had been decided to step up the output of landing craft by 25 to 35 per cent, and that this involved a reduction of 35 to 48 in the libertyship programme.

In conclusion, Admiral King suggested that an Ad Hoc Committee consisting of Admirals McCain, Moreell and Badger should at once study the question from every aspect, and submit a report to the President and Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister explained the great operational advantages which we would derive from the possession of airfields of this character. [Page 1208] He said that he wanted at least three of them to be delivered in the Indian Ocean within the next nine months. His idea was that the airfields would be attended by special ships carrying the aeroplanes and the necessary fuel.

It was suggested that escort carriers were now coming out in very large numbers, and that their use would satisfy the operational requirements prescribed by the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister agreed, but was doubtful whether they could be provided in adequate numbers. In any case it would seem advisable to have two or three airfields in addition to any escort carriers that could be provided.

There was some discussion about the number of machines that could operate from a floating field of the size contemplated.

Admiral McCain put the figure at about 40, whereas Professor Bernal said that the British Fleet Air Arm experts in England estimated that, by a slight increase in the width, it would be possible to operate 150.

A general discussion followed on the production aspect and the quantity of steel that would be required.

In conclusion, The President and Prime Minister agreed that a Sub-Committee should be set up on the lines proposed by Admiral King, and instructed to report as soon as possible.4

The Prime Minister asked, and Admiral King agreed, that Professor Bernal should be summoned by the Committee whenever his technical advice was desired.

  1. Authorship not indicated. On the basis of internal evidence, it seems probable that these minutes were prepared by one of the British participants and that a copy was then made available to the United States participants.
  2. For the subcommittee report, see post, p. 1242.