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The aircraft carrier continues to be the centerpiece of the forces necessary for forward presence. Whenever there has been a crisis, the first question has been: "Where are the carriers?" 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 operations in support of other forces.

Aircraft carriers are deployed worldwide in support of U.S. interests and commitments. They can respond to global crises in ways ranging from peacetime presence to full-scale war. Together with their on-board air wings, the carriers have vital roles across the full spectrum of conflict.

The Nimitz-class carriers, nine operational and one under construction, are the largest warships in the world. USS Nimitz (CVN 68) was the first to undergo its initial refueling during a 33-month Refueling Complex Overhaul at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va., in 1998. The next generation of carrier, the GERALD R. FORD Class (the lead ship hull number will be CVN 78), is programmed to start construction in 2007 and is slated to be delivered in 2015 to replace USS Enterprise (CVN 65). CVN 79 is programmed to begin construction in 2012 and to be placed in commission in 2018. 


The Carrier Mission is:

  • To provide a credible, sustainable, independent forward presence and conventional deterrence in peacetime
  • To operate as the cornerstone of joint/allied maritime expeditionary forces in times of crisis
  • To operate and support aircraft attacks on enemies, protect friendly forces and engage in sustained independent operations in war


  • Powered by two nuclear reactors that can operate for more than 20 years without refueling
  • Expected to operate as Navy warship for about 50 years
  • Typical Nimitz-class ship carries 80-plus combat aircraft
  • Three two-inch diameter arresting wires on the deck bring an airplane going 150 miles per hour to a stop in less than 400 feet



General Characteristics, Nimitz Class

  • Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding Co., Newport News, VA.
  • Date Deployed: May 3, 1975 (USS Nimitz).
  • Unit Cost: About $4.5 billion each.
  • 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).



  • Towers 20 stories above the waterline with a 4.5-acre flight deck
  • 1,092 feet long: nearly as long as the Empire State Building is tall
  • Four bronze propellers, each 21 feet across and weighing more than 30 tons
  • Steering accomplished by two rudders, each 29 feet by 22 feet and weighing 50 tons