Aircraft carriers, also known as aircraft carriers, are warships with the primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as seagoing airbases. Aircraft carriers are typically the capital ships of a fleet, as they project air power worldwide without relying on local bases for staging aircraft operations. They have evolved over time, from wooden vessels carried hundreds of sailors to massive nuclear powered supercarriers which can carry thousands of personnel and dozens of fighter jets. Today, 10 nations operate more than 80 aircraft carriers around the world. Let’s take a look at them in no particular order: USS Gerald R.
#10 – Spain’s Principe de Asturias
Spain’s Principe de Asturias is a US Navy landing ship used to transport troops and helicopters. The vessel was named after the famous Admiral of Spanish naval forces, Manuel de Villavicencio. Built by Izar, a company now owned by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, Principe de Asturias was delivered to Spain on July 7th 1982 and made its maiden voyage on October 20th of that year. In 1993, it helped relocate the Universal Forum of Cultures to Seville from Casablanca and landed president Hosni Mubarak when he visited Spain. Between 1996-2001 it transported parts for Airbus’s long-range aircraft between Bayonne and Bordeaux as well as being used by other European customers.
#9 – United Kingdom’s HMS Queen Elizabeth
The HMS Queen Elizabeth is the first of two Royal Navy aircraft carriers. With a displacement of 70,600 tonnes and an overall length of 280 meters, it will be the largest warship ever built for the UK’s Royal Navy when complete. The HMS Queen Elizabeth will replace HMAS Canberra (one of several former US navy supercarriers transferred to Australian ownership) as well as becoming a new flagship for future operations. She will eventually be supported by one or more follow-on carriers; design work is currently underway to support this extension and improvement to her F-35C air wing with additional short take-off and vertical landing aircraft.
#8 – Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov
At around $1.8 billion and 118,000 tons, Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov is the world’s eighth largest aircraft carrier. The ship is named after Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Nikolai Kuznetsov and it was initially used by Russia’s Northern Fleet. It has since been decommissioned and given to the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet. In 2013, it underwent an extensive three-year modernization program costing an estimated $1 billion which has made it one of the most advanced Russian aircraft carriers.
#7 – United States’ Nimitz-class
At #7 on our list is the United States’ Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. These carriers are named after Navy admirals, which is why they are also sometimes referred to as CVANs or acronym of CVN, meaning that it is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The construction of these ships started back in 1973 and has been ongoing ever since. Currently, there are ten Nimitz-class carriers still active. Seven of them were built at Newport News Shipbuilding Company located in Virginia and three at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington state.
#6 – France’s Charles de Gaulle
France’s Charles de Gaulle is the world’s sixth largest aircraft carrier and was commissioned on March 26, 2001. It is designed to carry a crew of 1,200 and 24 fighter jets. This vessel has eight launchers for Atlantique 2 anti-ship missiles and 16 MBDA Aster missiles. Charles de Gaulle will be re-designed between 2019 and 2025 to serve as a carrier for France’s next generation fighter jet – Rafale M. The ship will receive more compact architecture with new engines, catapults, and enhanced surveillance capabilities.
#5 – China’s Liaoning
Named after Liaoning Province, Liaoning is a part of northeast China and borders North Korea. Its capital city is Shenyang. The province has an area of 175,400 square kilometers and had a population of 44 million people at the time of last count (2010). Historically it is known for coal mining, ironwork and salt production. The Chinese military’s first aircraft carrier was launched in 2012, making it one of four navies with an operational carrier. It was named CNS Liaoning. CNS stands for China Shipbuilding Corporation, which constructed the ship from 2008 to 2012 as its first foray into aircraft carriers.
#4 – Spain’s Juan Carlos I
Spanish aircraft carrier Juan Carlos I, also known as Prince of Asturias. One of only two conventionally powered aircraft carriers in operation outside of the United States and China, this ship can be used to operate STOVL (Short Take-Off Vertical Landing) fighter jets like Lockheed Martin’s F-35B Lightning II. This is achieved by connecting this aircraft carrier with a flight deck that is able to rotate horizontally at 90 degrees from its center axis. When not being used for military operations, Juan Carlos I is a training ship that can accommodate 1,754 passengers or 590 officers and 950 crew members. Construction on this naval vessel began back in 2009 and cost €1 billion EUR or $1.27 billion USD to complete so far!
#3 – India’s Vikramaditya
#3: The Indian Navy’s Vikramaditya (2009)
Served as Russia’s Admiral Gorshkov from 1987-2004. Renamed India’s INS Vikramaditya after $2.35 billion purchase. Can carry 30 heavy fighters, eight anti-submarine warfare helicopters, 14 transport and maritime surveillance aircrafts. Has two vertical take-off and landing decks for jump jets, as well as four launch tubes for P-11 Baterry Anti-Aircraft Missiles.
#2 – United States’ USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)
No list of aircraft carriers would be complete without including Japan’s newest vessel, the Hyuga class. This Japanese-built naval vessel is so large that it carries over 40 types of combat and transport helicopters and as many as nine vertical launch systems, which means it can fire numerous types of air-defense and surface-to-air missiles, cruise missiles, and anti-ship missiles at once. Though construction began in 2009 and was completed in 2012, due to budget cuts Japan opted not to add weapons such as Harpoon anti-ship missiles or Tomahawk land attack missiles – two things that could make it an even more formidable opponent. However, with their first new carrier set to enter service this year, plans are already underway for a second more advanced ship to follow suit.
#1 – Japan’s Hyuga class
The Hyuga class is an amphibious assault ship that belongs to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. The first vessel was commissioned in 1997, and construction of a new class of 17 vessels began in 2006. Ships measure 247 meters (816 feet) long and hold 600 personnel on board at full capacity. The Japanese carriers are equipped with 4 aircraft hangars and carry SH-60 helicopters for anti-submarine patrol as well as SH-60K helicopters for anti-ship warfare.