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Aircraft Carriers - CVN

Last updated: 12 Nov 2021

Aircraft carriers are the centerpiece of America's Naval forces – the most adaptable and survivable airfields in the world. On any given day, Sailors aboard an aircraft carrier and its air wing come to the fight trained and equipped across a full range of missions. They are ready to control the sea, conduct strikes, and maneuver across the electromagnetic spectrum and cyberspace. No other naval force fields a commensurate range and depth of combat capabilities. 

Aircraft carriers continue 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 Nimitz and Gerald R. Ford-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), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) have all completed their refueling complex overhauls (RCOH) at Newport News, Virginia, with USS George Washington (CVN 73) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) currently in Refueling Complex Overhaul.

The lead ship of the next generation of aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) was delivered in 2017 as the force structure replacement for USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which was inactivated in 2012.

Gerald R. Ford-class

The Gerald R. Ford-class is the replacement for Enterprise and Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. The lead ship, USS 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 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.

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) completed Full Ship Shock Trials (FSST) in August 2021, after finishing an 18-month Post Delivery Test and Trials (PDT&T) period and Combat Systems Ship’s Qualification Trials (CSSQT) in mid-April with exceptional performance.  During PDT&T, the ship completed all required testing, accomplished work ahead of plan, improved system reliability for new technologies and served as the east coast platform for conducting pilot carrier qualifications for over 400 newly qualified and re-qualifying pilots. 

Over 8,100 launches/arrestments have been conducted using the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) since delivery. The ship is now completing its inaugural Planned Incremental Availability (PIA) and will be available for fleet tasking in 2022. Improvements aboard CVN 78 will be carried forward to the next carriers of the class: John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), Enterprise (CVN 80) and Doris Miller (CVN 81). Each ship in the class will save nearly $4 billion in total ownership costs during its 50-year service life, compared to the Nimitz-class.

The Ford -class is designed to operate effectively with almost 600 fewer crew members than a Nimitz-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 reduce watch standing and maintenance workload for the crew.

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) 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 embarked 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 directed 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 aircraft carrier fleet as relevant for Cold War needs as it is during today’s era of great power competition. The Gerald R. Ford-class 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
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), San Diego, California
USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), Bremerton, Washington  
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72),  San Diego, California
USS George Washington (CVN 73), Newport News, Virginia
USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), Newport News, 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
Builder: Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Virginia
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)
PCU Enterprise (CVN 80)
PCU Doris Miller (CVN 81)

Point of Contact
Naval Sea Systems Command
Office of Corporate Communications

Washington, D.C. 20376

(202) 781-4123


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