White Coast class assault carrier
In 1936, the final months of the construction of the Carpathia class fleet carriers revealed several flaws to Antara's new carrier programme. While some issues could be corrected in future classes, a major issue with the carriers themselves were the long construction times. Carpathia took four years to construct, although this was an anomaly with the class itself, it did get the navy thinking about smaller vessels that might be needed as it seemed that Japan was a very likely enemy, who of which had been pioneering the aircraft carrier concept at the time. While the fleet carrier was not thrown out - in fact the navy wanted more - but the Bureau of Naval Construction and Repair had been given the task of developing a new type of carrier that could be constructed in half the time (of Carpathia, 2 years) and serve more as a fleet escort than the core of a battle fleet.
In late 1936, the final plans for the White Coast class were being drafted. The 'assault carrier' was unique only to WW2 and late pre-war Antara, and was described as a vessel larger than an escort or light carrier, but smaller than a fleet carrier, whose role in the fleet was as a support ship, though some historians prefer to think of them as simply purpose-built light carriers. The White Coasts needed to be able to keep up with the battle speed of the navy's cruisers and have the range to operate as far out as the Philippines. White Coast was rated at 34 knots, exceeding her design speed, and had a range of 10k nm at 18 knots. While the navy would later like the ships they received, the Bureau failed in the one task the class was built for, in that it still took as much time to build as a fleet carrier, taking three years to construct. Taking it further, the hoped rapid construction of these carriers would allow them to be active as soon as a war broke out, however due to the circumstances surrounding the outbreak of WW2, none of the three vessels left home waters until almost a year had gone by.
Following the Port Isla attack in June 1940, Antara's neighbours declared war along with Japan, which meant that the seas surrounding the Colonet naval base and shipyards were now contested waters. Straits needed to be crossed in order to reach the Pacific Ocean, and as the Antarans had predicted the straights were heavily mined and watched by coastal batteries. While Antara avoided docking her vessels at Colonet, the war had come too sudden and her three White Coasts were essentially trapped in port/shipyard. White Coast and Cape Carida were already completed, but only Cape Carida had received her airgroup and Deadre Coast was still under construction for several more weeks. Colonet was the prime target for Ilyanora due to its importance to Antara's industry and military and within a few weeks of the war's start, the city was under siege.
Strangely enough, in conjuction with army airforce planes, Cape Carida sortied her planes to meet the enemy who were often only a few kilometers from her. During the several months siege, White Coast had a massive hole put in her bow from an enemy submarine and both carriers had their decks destroyed by constant air raids. Deadre Coast was abandoned a couple of times, with the workers being forced to resume once the enemy was pushed back momentarily. The navy assured that the straits that granted access to the ocean would be swept, and almost as long as the siege itself, the navy and army had cleared the passage, not that their haste had mattered, as all carriers required more
time in the dockyard for repairs following the end of the siege.
In July 1941, White Coast and Cape Carida had arrived at Port Isla at last to begin operations against the Japanese. Both vessels saw extensive combat in the island hopping campaigns of the time, flying combat air patrol and assisting ground forces in raiding and capturing various Japanese held islands. On 21-22 September, the two sister ships were in the middle conducting operations when they were greeted with aircraft from the opposing force, specifically Zuiryuu and Zuikaku. These fleet carriers were exactly what they were not
supposed to face. Neither of the captains were trained in particular to deal with the dedicated attack from an enemy carrier force and were thus completely unprepared. The Battle of the Marshall Islands saw the initial sinking of White Coast, followed by Zuiryuu the following day which was actually by a submarine rather than the counterattacking Cape Carida.
Carida would get her revenge in 1943, being among the many carriers to participate in the Battle of Tuscadia, which saw the destruction of four Japanese fleet carriers. Cape Carida would be the only of her class to survive the war, being present and active in many battles throughout. Carida took a Kamikaze hit in 1944 and 1945. She continued her service until 1949, where she was decommissioned and used as a target ship. Failing to sink as a target ship, she was scuttled as a reef ship in 1952. Cape Carida received ten battle stars for her service. White Coast received three battle stars for her actions in the Marshalls and Gilberts, as well as on the home front in 1940/1941.
Deadre Coast arrived in the Pacific in very late 1941, after White Coast's sinking, and saw minor action in the Solomon Islands as part of the 'Coral Sea' task force. Even despite that, she was regularly tasked with sailing to the Solomons to conduct air attacks in the very heavily contested Guadalcanal region. On 15 June 1942, Deadre's task force was spotted by Japanese scout aircraft and submarine I-8 saw an opportunity to get famous. With four torpedoes to her starboard, Deadre Coast went down with 1200 of her crewmen after damage control could not keep the ship stable enough to allow for a safe abandonment of the vessel. Deadre received two battle stars for her very brief service.
Ships in class
White Coast - sunk in action, 1941
Cape Carida - used as target ship, sunk as reef ship, 1952
Deadre Coast - sunk in action, 1942