Military Wednesdays - History of the Supercarriers

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Wednesday, Apr 28 2010 by

Supercarrier is an unofficial descriptive term for the largest type of aircraft carrier, usually displacing over 70,000 long tons. In comparison, a few countries operate medium carriers of around 40,000 tons (such as Charles de Gaulle), whereas light carriers closer to 20,000 (such as HMS Illustrious) are more typical. Supercarriers are the largest warships ever built— indeed, only some oil tankers are longer and heavier ships of any kind.

The first ship to be described by The New York Times as a supercarrier was HMS Ark Royal in 1938; with a length of 685 ft and a displacement of 22,000 tons, it was designed to carry 72 aircraft.

HMS Ark Royal (R07) (Birds Eye)
HMS Ark Royal (R07)

In 1943 the superlative was transferred to the 45,000-ton carriers of the Midway class, as a step-up from the 27,000-ton Essex class. Three ships were built in this class.Both are now decommissioned.

USS Midway

USS Midway (San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum) (Birds Eye)
USS Midway (San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum)
Aircraft Carrier USS Midway (CV-41) (StreetView)
Aircraft Carrier USS Midway (CV-41)

USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42)

USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42) memorial (Google Maps)
USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42) memorial

USS Coral Sea (CV-44)

USS Coral Sea (CV-43) (Bing Maps)
USS Coral Sea (CV-43)
Anchor of the USS Coral Sea (CV-43) (StreetView)
Anchor of the USS Coral Sea (CV-43)

The post-war standard for supercarriers was set by the proposed USS United States (vener built) and USS Forrestal class. The Forrestal-class aircraft carriers were a four-ship class designed and built for the United States Navy in the 1950s.

There were four Forrestal-class ships built. All are now decommissioned.

USS USS Forrestal (CV-59) & USS Saratoga (CV-60)

USS Forrestal, USS Saratoga (Birds Eye)
USS Forrestal, USS Saratoga

USS Ranger (CV-61)

Aircraft Carrier USS Ranger (CVA-61) (Birds Eye)
Aircraft Carrier USS Ranger (CVA-61)

USS Independence (CV-62)

Aircraft Carrier USS Independence (CV-62) (Birds Eye)
Aircraft Carrier USS Independence (CV-62)

The Kitty Hawk-class supercarriers of the United States Navy were an incremental improvement on the Forrestal-class vessels. Four (or three depending on how you count them) ships of the class were built, all in the 1960s. All are now decommissioned.

Kitty Hawk (CV-63)

USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) (Google Maps)
USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63)

Constellation (CV-64)

Aircraft Carrier USS Constellation (CV-64) (Birds Eye)
Aircraft Carrier USS Constellation (CV-64)

America (CV-66)

USS America (Google Maps)
USS America

John F. Kennedy (CV-67) was originally scheduled to be the fouth Kitty Hawk-class carrier, but because she received so many modifications during construction that she formed her own ship class and is often listed as a single-class carrier.

John F. Kennedy (CV-67)

USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) (Birds Eye)
USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67)

Enterprise is a single-ship class, and is the second oldest vessel still in commission in the United States Navy.

Aircraft Carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) (Birds Eye)
Aircraft Carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65)

The Nimitz-class supercarriers are a class of ten nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in service with the United States Navy. With an overall length of 1,092 ft (333 m) and displacements of over 100,000 long tons, they are the largest capital ships in the world.

Nimitz (CVN-68)

Aircraft Carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) (StreetView)
Aircraft Carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68)
USS Nimitz (CVN-68) (Google Maps)
USS Nimitz (CVN-68)

Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69)

USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) (Bing Maps)
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69)

Carl Vinson (CVN-70)

USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) (Google Maps)
USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70)

Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71)

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) (Bing Maps)
USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71)

Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72)

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) (Google Maps)
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72)

George Washington (CVN-73)

USS George Washington (CVN-73) (Google Maps)
USS George Washington (CVN-73)

John C. Stennis (CVN-74)

Aircracft Carrier USS John Stennis (CVN-74) (Birds Eye)
Aircracft Carrier USS John Stennis (CVN-74)

Harry S. Truman (CVN-75)

Aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) (Birds Eye)
Aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75)

Ronald Reagan (CVN-76)

Aircraft Carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) (Bing Maps)
Aircraft Carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76)

George H.W. Bush (CVN-77)

USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) (Bing Maps)
USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77)