Aircraft Carriers - CVN

Last updated: 17 Sep 2020

Aircraft carriers are the centerpiece of America's Naval forces. On any given day, aircraft carriers exercise the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Navigation Directions of Warfighting First, Being Ready and Operating Forward.  

The aircraft carrier continues to be the centerpiece of the forces necessary for operating forward. In times of crisis, the first question leaders ask is: "Where are the carriers?" Often the presence of an aircraft carrier has deterred potential adversaries from striking against U.S. interests. Aircraft carriers support and operate aircraft that engage in attacks on airborne, afloat, and ashore targets that threaten free use of the sea and engage in sustained power projection operations in support of U.S. and coalition forces. The aircraft carrier and its strike group also engage in maritime security operations to interdict threats to merchant shipping and prevent the use of the seas for terrorism and piracy. Aircraft carriers also provide unique capabilities for disaster response and humanitarian assistance. The embarked carrier air wing provides helicopters for direct support and C4I assets to support them and ensure aid is routed quickly and safely. The 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers are the largest warships in the world, each designed for an approximately 50-year service life with just a single mid-life refueling. USS Nimitz (CVN 68), USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) have all completed their refueling complex overhauls (RCOH) at Newport News, Virginia, with USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) having commenced RCOH in 2013. The next generation of aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford-class (CVN 78) was ordered in September 2008 and is slated to be delivered in 2017 as the force structure replacement for USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which inactivated in 2012.

Gerald R. Ford-class
The Gerald R. Ford-class is the future aircraft carrier replacement class for Enterprise and Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. The lead ship, Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), was commissioned in 2017. The Gerald R. Ford-class will be the premier forward asset for crisis response and early decisive striking power in a major combat operation. Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers and carrier strike groups will provide the core capabilities of forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, maritime security and humanitarian assistance. The class brings improved warfighting capability, quality of life improvements for our Sailors and reduced total ownership costs.

Improvements aboard Ford will be carried forward to the next two carriers of the FORD Class: John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) and Enterprise (CVN 80). Each ship in the new class will save nearly $4 billion in total ownership costs during its 50-year service life, compared to the NIMITZ-class. The CVN 78 is designed to operate effectively with almost 700 fewer crew members than a CVN 68-class ship. Improvements in the ship design will also allow the embarked air wing to operate with fewer personnel. New technologies and ship design features are expected to reduce watch standing and maintenance workload for the crew. Gerald R. Ford is the first aircraft carrier designed with all electric utilities, eliminating steam service lines from the ship, reducing maintenance requirements and improving corrosion control. The new A1B reactor, Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), and Dual Band Radar (DBR) all offer enhanced capability with reduced manning. The Gerald R. Ford-class is designed to maximize the striking power of the embarked carrier air wing. The ship's systems and configuration are optimized to maximize the sortie generation rate (SGR) of attached strike aircraft, resulting in a 33 percent increase in SGR over the Nimitz- class. The ship's configuration and electrical generating plant are designed to accommodate new systems, including direct energy weapons, during its 50-year service life. The Gerald R. Ford-class builds upon the Navy's legacy of aircraft carrier innovation, stretching back to the first aircraft carrier, USS Langley (CV-1) and continuing to the present day. The introduction of jet aircraft, angled decks and nuclear power were all innovations that kept the fleet as relevant for Cold War needs as it is today. Gerald R. Ford continues the aircraft carrier history of innovation and adaptability that will enable her to serve our country for decades to come.

General Characteristics, Nimitz class
Builder: Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding Co., Newport News, Virginia
Date Deployed: May 3, 1975 (USS Nimitz)
Unit Cost: About $8.5 billion in constant year FY 12 dollars
Propulsion: Two nuclear reactors, four shafts
Length: 1,092 feet (332.85 meters)
Beam: 134 feet (40.84 meters); Flight Deck Width: 252 feet (76.8 meters)
Displacement: Approximately 97,000 tons (87,996.9 metric tons) full load
Speed: 30+ knots (34.5+ miles per hour)
Crew: Ship's Company: 3,000-3,200, air wing: 1,500, other: 500
Armament: Multiple NATO Sea Sparrow, Phalanx CIWS and Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) mounts
Aircraft: Approximately 60+
USS Nimitz (CVN 68), Bremerton, Washington
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), Norfolk, Virginia
USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Bremerton, Washington
USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), San Diego, California
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), Newport News, Virginia
USS George Washington (CVN 73), Norfolk, Virginia
USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), Norfolk, Virginia
USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), Norfolk, Virginia
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), Yokosuka, Japan
USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), Norfolk, Virginia

General Characteristics, Gerald R. Ford class
Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Virginia
Propulsion: Two nuclear reactors, four shafts
Length: 1,092 feet
Beam: 134 feet, Flight Deck Width: 256 feet
Displacement: approximately 100,000 long tons full load
Speed: 30+ knots (34.5+ miles per hour)
Crew: 4,539 (ship, air wing and staff)
Armament: Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, Rolling Airframe Missile, CIWS
Aircraft: 75+
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), Norfolk, Virginia
PCU John F. Kennedy (CVN 79)

Point of Contact
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