An aircraft carrier is a type of massive warship that acts as an airbase on the water. Their job is to house, arm, and deploy aircraft along with sailors and soldiers. First used in the early twentieth century to launch balloons, today, many are nuclear-powered and carry all different kinds of aircraft and supplies. As of June 2019, there are 41 active aircraft carriers in the world operated by 13 different navies. Wait until you see the power and size of the biggest ones in the world!
Gerald R Ford Class: United States
Owned by the United States Navy, the Gerald R For Class is one of the biggest aircraft carriers in the world. Delivered in May 2017, it is expected to be operating internationally by 2020. Its flight deck is 78 meters wide and has state-of-the-art electromagnetic systems to help planes both take off and land.
The carrier is operated by 4,539 personnel and has the capacity to carry more than 75 aircraft. On top of that, it is equipt with Rolling Airframe Missiles, Phalynx close-in-weapons systems, and RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles.
Nimitz Class: United States
The Nimitz Class is a massive ship with the first of its class being put into commission in May 1975. There are ten of them in total with the last being deployed in January 2009. Each of the ships is given a lifetime of 50 years with each expected to have at least one mid-life overhaul.
It can carry around 97,000 tons, which equates to around 60 aircraft. With 3,200 sailors, 1,500 airmen, and 500 other crew, the ship reaches 20 stories above sea level. Powered by two nuclear reactors, the ship can reach a speed of 30 knots.
INS Vikramaditya: India
Translated to mean “brave as the Sun” and named after a famous emperor, the INS Vikramaditya is a modified Kiev-class carrier. India acquired it from Russia in 2004 for $2.35 billion and it was commissioned into service in 2013. The carrier has a displacement of 44,5000 tons and a relatively short flight deck measuring 264 meters long and 60 meters wide.
It can carry up to 30 aircraft and its weaponry includes anti-ship missiles, guided bombs and rockets, and air-to-air missiles. The ship is powered by eight turbo-pressurized boilers and four geared steam turbines.
USS John C. Stennis: United States
Docked at the Naval Base Kitsap in Washington, the carrier is named after former Senator John Stennis and is commonly referred to as “Johnny Reb.” Commissioned in 1995, it served in Operation Enduring Freedom as well as pirate hunting in the Persian Gulf.
With a flight deck of 333 meters and able to carry 90 aircraft, 3,200 sailors and 2,480 airmen, it’s an impressive carrier. So remarkable in fact, that it was featured in numerous different Transformers films.
Guiseppe Garibaldi: Italy
Italy’s first aircraft carrier, the Giuseppe Garibaldi was commissioned in 1985 and specializes in carrying Harrier II fighters and AgustaWestland EH101 helicopters. So far, it has been used in combat air operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Libya.
During the first year of the War in Afghanistan, the planes housed on the Garibaldi carried out 288 missions, dropping 160 guided missiles during the NATO Libya mission. However, the carrier isn’t as large as most United States ships, with a flight deck of only 180 meters and carrying under 1,000 personnel. However, it is fast with four gas turbines and six diesel generators.
Queen Elizabeth Class: United Kingdom
The largest aircraft carriers in the British Navy are known as the Queen Elizabeth Class. The first of her kind is the HMS Queen Elizabeth which began testing in 2017 and is anticipated to be put to use by 2020. The second of its class, the HMS Prince of Whales, is expected to be put into service in 2023.
Only needing a small crew of 679 to operate, they are two of the most technologically advanced carriers in the world. They are powered by two Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbines and four diesel generators.
Admiral Kuznetsov: Russia
Surprisingly, the Russian Navy only has one aircraft carrier. The Admiral Kuznetsov can carry Su-25UTG/UBP STOVL and Su-33, MiG-29K fighters, including 27LD32 and Ka-27 PLO helicopters. It can also hold 1,960 crewmen, 40 flagstaffs, and 626 air group.
The carrier has no shortage of weaponry either and is equipt with AK-630 AA guns, CADS-N-1 Kashtan CIWS, RBU-12000 UDAV-1 ASW rocket launchers, and P-700 Granit anti-ship cruise missiles. It was first launched in 1985 and was fully operational by 1995.
Much like Russia, China only has one aircraft carrier known as Liaoning(16). Interestingly, the carrier was initially deployed as part of the Admiral Kuznetsov Class for the Soviet Union. Yet, in 1998, the Hong Kong-based Chong Lot Travel Agency bought the carrier with plans to convert it into a casino, although it never happened.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it was brought back to Ukraine and then bought once again by China’s Navy to serve as an aircraft carrier. Put into service in 2012, it can hold around 50 aircraft and is powered by steam turbine propulsion.
Charles de Gaulle (R91): France
Regarded as the flagship of the French Navy and the largest in Western Europe, the Charles de Gaulle is the only nuclear-powered carrier not owned by the United States Navy. It can fit 40 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters such as Rafale M, Super Étendard, E-2C Hawkeye, SA365 Dauphin, EC725 Caracal, and AS532 Cougar.
It has a full-load displacement of 42,000 tons and houses 1,350 crewmen and 600 airmen. Being nuclear-powered it can reach a speed of 27 knots.
São Paulo (A12): Brazil
Decommissioned in 2017, the São Paulo was a Clemenceau-Class aircraft that was in service with the Brazilian Navy. Originally, it was commissioned by the French Navy as Foch but traded hands to Brazil in 2000. Unfortunately, the ship had some service issues and never went more than three months without needing repairs.
The flight deck could handle 39 aircraft including fixed-wing, fighters, and helicopters. The ship was propelled by six boilers which allowed it to reach 32 knots.
Cavour (550): Italy
Launched in 2004, the Cavour is the flagship of the Italian Navy, designed to carry out fixed-wing and helicopter air operations, as well as transporting military, civil personnel, and heavy vehicles. Its hangar can hold up to 24 main battle tanks and some extra light vehicles.
It has a load displacement of 30,000 tons with a flight deck that’s 323.6 meters long and 34.5 meters wide. The carrier also has an extensive defense system which includes short-range defense weapons, as well as guns and decoy launchers.
INS Viraat: India
Initially, the INS Viraat was commissioned to the British Royal Navy under the name HMS Hermes in 1959. However, it was later sold to India in 1986, making it India’s oldest aircraft carrier. Viiraat translates to mean “Giant.” The aircraft carrier sailed for its last time in 2016 from Mumbai to Kochi.
At the moment, there is a discussion of the carrier being turned into a museum. The ship can carry up to 30 of a variety of aircraft and is powered by a steam turbine which allows it to reach a speed of 28 knots.
The USS George H.W. Bush: United States
The USS George H.W. Bush is nicknamed “The Avenger” after the plane that H.W. Bush flew during World War II. The ship was delivered in May 2009 and served during Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq and in 2014 was the first to launch air strikes against ISIS.
The carrier displaces over 100,000 tons and the flight deck measures 333 meters in length. Powered by nuclear reactors, she can operate for more than 20 years without refueling and can reach speeds well over 30 knots.
The USS Ronald Reagan: United States
Currently stationed at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, the USS Ronald Reagan was commissioned and ready for action in the Persian Gulf by 2006. It served during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, as well as provided aid after the 2011 earthquake in Japan.
It has the capacity to house 90 aircraft as well as 3,200 sailors and 2,480 airmen. The ship is powered by 2 Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors on top of 4 steam turbines.
USS Harry S. Truman: United States
Also known as the “Truman,” “HST,” or “Lone Warrior,” the USS Truman was first launched in 1996 and was part of the enforcement squad for the no-fly zone over Bosnia. It then went on to serve during Operation Southern Watch and flew 1,300 sorties during Iraqi Freedom.
As tall as a 24-story building, the ship’s flight deck is 333 meters long and can carry 90 various types of aircraft. Using A4W nuclear reactors, the ship can travel over 3 million miles before refueling. It also helps that it has four five-bladed propellors that weigh 66,220 pounds each.
HTMS Chakri Naruebet: Thailand
A bit on the smaller side than some other carriers, the HTMS Chakri Naruebet is Thailand’s only aircraft carrier. Commissioned in 1997, it spends most of its time docked, although it has been deployed on a series of disaster relief missions.
It is frequently used as transportation for the Royal Family of Thailand yet the navy still trains with it once a month. With a flight deck of only 600 feet, it can carry 4 to 6 S-70B Seahawk helicopters and up to 675 soldiers.
USS George Washington: United States
Commissioned in 1992, the USS George Washington served in the Persian Gulf in 2000 and provided airspace defense after the September 11 attacks in 2001. The ship was also involved in Operation Southern Watch and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Since it is currently stationed in Yokosuka, Japan, the US Navy created a 200-page manga to help explain what an aircraft carrier is to the Japanese people. It’s a large carrier that can handle 90 aircraft, has a flight deck of 330 meters, and houses around 5,680 individuals. It is powered by two Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors, and four steam turbines.
USS Abraham Lincoln: United States
Nicknamed “Abe,” the USS Abraham Lincoln was first used for relief services in the Philippines after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991. It helped get over 45,000 people off of the island and is also the first aircraft carrier to fully integrate female airmen.
The ship has the ability to carry 90 aircraft and over 5,500 personnel, returning to active duty after four years of refueling and adjustments. It is also the same carrier that President George W. Bush gave his speech in front of the “Mission Accomplished ” accomplished banner.
USS Carl Vinson: United States
The USS Carl Vinson is named after the former congressman from Georgia who was in office during World War II and brought the Departments of War and the Navy into a a single Department of Defense.
Also referred to “The Gold Eagle,” “Starship Vinson,” and the “Battlestar,” it was the aircraft carrier that deposited Osama bin Laden’s body at seas and has even hosted NCAA basketball games. Carrying up to 90 planes, the ship was used to battle ISIS in 2013 with its planes dropping over 230 tons on bombs on ISIS positions.
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower: United States
Also known as “Mighty Ike,” the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower served during the operation Eagle Claw during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Commissioned in 1977, it secured Iraqi airspace in 2003 and went through the Suez Canal during Desert Storm.
After some time, the ship and its aircraft were put to use again to fight against ISIS, dropping over 1,100 bombs in Iraq and Syria. Currently, the ship is docked at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia.