USS LEXINGTON CV-2 was one of the first true aircraft carriers in the world. Originally laid down in January of 1921, she and her sister ships were to be battle cruisers, a class of ship in between a battleship and a cruiser. The Navy treaty signed the next year called for their cancelling and destruction, however, and work was stopped. But there was a loophole in the treaty that allowed for LEXINGTON and her sister SARATOGA to be saved.
The treaty had set limits by ship type, and while there was not enough tonage left for battle cruisers, the US Navy had very little in the way of aircraft carriers. Proponents of aviation successfully fought to get save them from the scrap yards by turning them into aircraft carriers instead. The Navy's first carrier LANGLEY, an old converted collier was barely comissioned and the two most advanced warships in the worldwere set to leapfrog the United States to the forefront of carrier aviation.
Although first in her class, her sister ship USS Saratoga CV-3 was commissioned into service nearly a month before Lexington. These two ships were the largest to be launched in North America at the time, the largest and fastest ships in the Navy, and the Navy barely had enough planes to load them. LEXINGTON did have the distinction of flying a plane off of her deck before SARATOGA, starting a rivalry that lasted until LEXINGTON's loss.
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