50 Majestic Facts about Aircraft Carriers

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1Charles de Gaulle

French Aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is the only nuclear-powered carrier completed outside of the US Navy, and the only non-American carrier equipped with a catapult launch system.


2. As of May 2021, a total of 22 aircraft carriers are in service worldwide. Everyone outside of the USA and France has carriers that are diesel-electrics and use a ramp to loft aircraft.


3. As of May 2021, the USA has 11 active aircraft carriers (plus 9 helicopter carriers designated as "amphibious assault ships") , compared to the rest of the world’s combined 11 carriers. Till date, the USA has commissioned a total of 80 aircraft carriers. About 55 of these have been decommissioned, 2 are under construction, and 12 were never completed. In fact, America’s navy is larger, in tonnage, than the next 13 largest navies in the world combined. Its Coast Guard, if it was an independent force, would be the world’s 12th largest navy just by itself. Just the Coast Guard’s fleet of aircraft would constitute the world’s 14th largest Air Force. America also operates 99.8% of the world’s entire operational stealth aircraft. The amount of jet attack aircraft stationed just in the states of Florida and California would constitute the world’s third-largest Air Force.


4. One Nimitz-class aircraft carrier has more striking power than 75% of the world’s air forces. This stat may be sort of misleading, considering that most of the world doesn't even have a competent air force, to begin with. Air forces take a lot of money to build and maintain.


5. The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (Big E) was the longest warship ever built and weighed over 90,000 tons. Despite this, it was one of the fastest, due to having 8 separate nuclear reactors putting out a total of 280,000hp. No other carrier has more than two.


6USS Enterprise Fire

In 1969, a rocket loaded on a parked aircraft aboard the USS enterprise exploded which set off a massive blaze and additional explosions across the flight deck. The fires were brought under control relatively quickly, but 27 hands were lost and an additional 314 sailors were injured. Repairs were completed and the ship deployed just two months afterward.


7. Before China’s first indigenously constructed aircraft carrier entered service in 2019, China’s sole carrier was a retrofitted Ukrainian carrier from the Soviet Union that was originally supposed to be an off-shore casino. A Chinese businessman bought a non-functional aircraft carrier from Ukraine, allegedly to use it as a floating hotel/casino. It took more than 4 years to tow it to China. Later the Chinese government bought and modernized the carrier.


8. All U.S. aircraft carriers are Nuclear Powered, meaning they can continuously sail for up to 25 years without the need to refuel. They still have to be resupplied with food every two weeks. They also need to refuel their aviation fuel from time to time though researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are working on processes to make jet fuel from seawater.


9. There are 3 types of Aircraft carriers. CATOBAR - Catapult Assisted Take-Off Barrier Arrested Recovery. These are only used by the US Navy and France, although the Chinese are expected to build some. STOBAR - Short Take-Off Barrier Arrested Recovery. These are used by Russia, China, India. STOVL - Short Take-Off Vertical Landing. These are used by UK, Italy, Spain, Thailand, Japan, and South Korea will operate carriers in this configuration. The US also has 9 STOVL carriers (Wasp and America class ships).


10. The main purpose of an aircraft carrier is to project force. Each full US carrier (the Nimitz-class carriers) can carry something like 100 aircraft. When an aircraft carrier deploys, it takes a Carrier Strike Group (CSG), made up of several other warships and supply vessels. They are always escorted by at least one (sometimes two) attack submarine(s), guided missile cruisers, guided-missile destroyers, frigates and supply support ships.


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11USS George Washington Fire

In 2009, a smoldering cigarette caused fire to break out aboard USS George Washington. The fire raged on for 11 hours, causing $70 million worth of damage, yet it didn’t disable the ship.


12. USS Midway was one of the last internal combustion carriers used by the USA. It consumed about 100,000 gallons of fuel a day. Its ship and air-fuel tanks had the capacity to hold a total of 3.5 million gallons of fuel. At its most efficient speed of about 15 knots, it reached a fuel efficiency of about 20 feet per gallon.


13. The Queen christened the British Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth with a bottle of single malt Scotch whisky from the Bowmore distillery on the island of Islay instead of champagne because the ship had been built and launched in Scotland.


14. In 2002, while returning to the US, the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier stopped in Australia, where the sailors wore out the local sex workers to the point the brothel had to close down temporarily.


15. Aircraft Carriers are truly a floating city. Nimitz class carriers can easily house more than 6000 people. They have multiple galleys to eat in, a convenience store, various gyms, library, a barbershop, sleeping quarters, restrooms, hangar space for 100 aircraft, a laundry, recycling center, desalinization plants for freshwater, and a bank (to provide sailors with access to their cash to spend on shore leave in foreign ports).


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16USS Gerald R. Ford

The US navy's new class of aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford can accomplish 25% more aircraft launches per day than the Nimitz class and requires 25% fewer crew members. The Navy estimates it will save $4 billion in operating costs over a 50-year lifespan. It costs $7 million per day to operate the whole strike group.


17. A total of more than 200 aircraft carriers were built throughout World War 2. By 1943, the US pacific fleet alone was larger than all the warring powers’ navies combined.


18. Aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was deployed to Haiti after the 2010 Earthquake and it provided the island with 200,000 gallons a day of fresh drinking water from its desalination plants.


19. USS Long Beach was the only US Navy nuclear-powered ship that was not an aircraft carrier. Being a guided-missile cruiser, it was the world's first nuclear-powered surface combatant. During its operation, it was ultimately concluded that nuclear power was too expensive to use on anything other than carriers. It was decommissioned in 1995.


20. As of May 2021, Russia has only one aircraft carrier and none under construction. Unlike most western naval ships that use gas turbines or nuclear power, Admiral Kuznetsov is a conventionally powered ship that uses mazut as fuel, often leading to a visible trail of heavy black smoke. Russia does have five nuclear-powered ice breakers though with five more currently planned or under construction. They need these because it’s the only way they can get their navy out of the North Seas.


21Admiral Kuznetsov

Due to its unreliable power plant, Russia’s only aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is so unreliable that it has to be accompanied by a small fleet of tugboats whenever it is deployed.


22. Back in 1929-30, the aircraft carrier USS Lexington powered the city of Tacoma, Washington for a month. When drought conditions caused the water levels in Lake Cushman to fall below the intake level for the hydroelectric dam, the Navy sent Lady Lex from Bremerton and used cables to tie her into Tacoma's power grid. Lady Lex provided power through Christmas and New Year’s until melting snow had sufficiently replenished the lake.


23. In the 2005 war games, a Swedish submarine called HSMS Gotland was able to sneak through the sonar defenses of the US Navy Aircraft Carrier Ronald Reagan and its entire accompanying group, and (virtually) sank the US Aircraft carrier on its own and still got away without getting detected.


24. In 1942, as Japanese torpedoes slowly sank the U.S.S. Lexington, then the second-largest aircraft carrier in the Navy’s arsenal, the crew abandoned ship, but not before breaking into the freezer and eating all the ice cream.


25. During Korean War, General Lewis B. Puller tried to convince the Pentagon that ice cream was a “sissy food” and that troops would be tougher if indulged with beer and whiskey. Pentagon responded with an official statement ensuring soldiers were served ice cream a minimum of three times a week on aircraft carriers and other navy ships. Going back, ice cream not only bolstered the morale of US forces in Pacific during World War 2, it greatly demoralized the Japanese Senior Command to the point where they had no hope in winning the war. US Navy, seeing the importance of ice cream in raising the spirits of troops, converted a tanker to be able to produce thousands of gallons of ice cream so that it would always be available to troops. Japanese were appalled realizing that they were against an enemy so abundant in resources that they could “waste” such valuable fuel and manpower to provide their men with something so trivial as ice cream.

1 COMMENT

  1. Re #34: It’s not the size of the carrier that gives it ZIP codes, plural. Each deployable unit or overseas based unit in the United States military has its own ZIP code.

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