An aircraft carrier is a type of warship serving as a seagoing airbase. They are equipped with full-length flight decks, and they can recover aircraft as well as carry them, arm and deploy them. These ships are expensive to build but are critical assets and have seen a lot of improvements and developments in their structure since their inception in the early twentieth century. There isn’t a single definition of for an aircraft carrier as there are several variants of this type of vessel.
Table of Page Contents
- 10. HMS Queen Elizabeth- UK
- 9. Admiral Kuznetsov- Russia
- 8. INS Vikramaditya- India
- 7. Sao Paulo- Brazil
- 6. Juan Carlos I- Spain
- 5. Cavour (550)- Italy
- 4. USS America (LHA-6)- United States
- 3. Charles de Gaulle- France
- 2. Liaoning- China
- 1. Nimitz Class- United States
These are the top 10 largest aircraft carriers in the world in 2017.
10. HMS Queen Elizabeth- UK
The HMS Queen Elizabeth is scheduled to commission early this year and will be the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy. This ship will be capable of carrying up to forty aircraft and has been named after Queen Elizabeth II. It will be the lead ship of the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. The ship is not expected to be fully functional until the year 2020 and will not be fitted with catapults arrestor wires, unlike other large carriers, so it will only operate V/STOL aircraft.
The design of this carrier was to emphasize flexibility and will be suited for 250 Royal Marines and will be able to support them with attack helicopters and troop transports. This ship is the second Royal Navy vessel to bear the name HMS Queen Elizabeth. She will call HMNB Portsmouth home and will begin sea trials in March of this year.
9. Admiral Kuznetsov- Russia
The Admiral Kuznetsov is Russia’s only operational aircraft carrier. It ranked as the second largest carrier and was built by Black Sea Shipyard, which is the only manufacturer of their carriers. This ship is considered an aircraft cruiser as she carries missiles in Russian classification and serves as the flagship for the Russian Navy. Originally commissioned to be the lead ship of her class, she turned out to be the only other ship in the Russian Navy in this class. Varyag had been planned but never completed or commissioned and was eventually sold to the Republic of China.
Kuznetsov was named after the Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union and has a displacement of more than 40,000 tons but is able to reach more than 55,000 tons when at full military capacity. It had originally been named, Riga and then launched as, Leonid Brezhnev. The carrier went on to be renamed, Tbilisi when it embarked on its sea trials, and finally received the name of, Admiral Kuznetsov.
8. INS Vikramaditya- India
INS Vikramaditya entered into the Indian Navy for service in 2013. It has been named in honor or Vikramaditya who was a legendary first century BC emperor of Ujjain, India. This vessel was originally built as Baku and its first commission was in 1987. This carrier was with the Soviet and Russian Navies before they decommissioned it in 1996 as the expenses to keep her maintained were becoming too high. India purchased her in January 2004 after a lot of negotiations.
The INS Vikramaditya completed her successful sea trials in July 2013 and her aviation trials in September of 2013. In November of 2013, she was formally commissioned at a ceremony at Severodvinsk, Russia after extensive reconstruction efforts. She has a displacement of over 45,000 tons. This is a larger full load displacement than what she was originally designed for. She was re-fabricated with extensive re-cabling done to support new radars and sensors. The elevators were also upgraded, and two restraining stands were fitted to allow combat aircraft to reach full power before making a ski-jump take-off.
7. Sao Paulo- Brazil
The Sao Paulo is currently in service with the Brazilian Navy and was first commissioned in 1963 by the French Navy. It was transferred to Brazil in 2000 where she became the new flagship of the Brazilian Navy. The Sao Paulo was built in France between 1957 and 1960 where she served the French Navy as the Foch. Brazil purchased her for $12 million (US dollars) in 2000 without any aircraft being part of the price.
The Sao Paulo has a displacement of more than 24,000 tons but is able to reach more than 32,000 tons at full military capacity. In December of 2014, it was decided this ship could no longer continue service until 2039 which by then will make it an 80-year-old ship. This carrier has suffered from issues which make it impossible to operate for more than three months at a time before it requires more repairs and maintenance.
6. Juan Carlos I- Spain
The Juan Carlos I is considered a multi-purpose warship in the Spanish Navy and is similar in design to the American Wasp-class amphibious assault ship. This ship also has the addition of a ski jump and will be equipped with an AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft. It will be primarily used as a plane carrier and has been named in honor of the current King of Spain, Juan Carlos I. This new vessel will play a significant role in the fleet as it will be the platform that will also support the mobility of the Marines and strategic transport of ground troops.
The design of the Juan Carlos I was approved in September of 2003. Its flight deck is over 600 feet and has eight landing spots. This is the first ship in the Spanish Navy that will use diesel-electric propulsion which connects both types of diesel and the new technology gas turbine. The carrier will hold approximately 900 Navy personnel with their equipment and almost 1,200 soldiers.
5. Cavour (550)- Italy
The Cavour is an Italian carrier and the Italian Navy’s newest flagship. This ship has been named after Camillo Benso who was an Italian politician and statesman and was launched in July of 2004. The design of this carrier is to combine fixed wing V/STOL and helicopter air operations. It will also hold command and control operations and transport civil and military personnel along with heavy vehicles. The hanger on the Cavour can double as a vehicle hold and will fit up to 24 main battle tanks or a large number of lighter vehicles.
The Cavour has a displacement of more than 27,000 tons but is capable of more than 30,000 tons when at full capacity. The Italian Navy had planned to replace 16 of its Harriers with 15 Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II. The schedule was not definite, but they proposed to modify the Cavour to hold the F-35Bs by 2016. It was planned to support ten of the F-35Bs in the hanger, and six more parked on the deck.
4. USS America (LHA-6)- United States
The USS America is the fourth warship from the United States and will be the first amphibious assault ship for the U.S. Navy. Named for the country she supports, this ship was delivered in 2013 and replaced the USS Peleliu of the Tarawa class. Her role is to be the flagship of an expeditionary strike group or the amphibious group which will carry Marines from the expeditionary unit into battle. The design of the carrier is based on USS Makin Island so she does not have a well deck which will allow for more room for aviation facilities.
The USS America is an improved version of its model with well deck being removed it allows for an extended hangar deck with significantly wider bay areas which were fitted with an overhead crane for maintenance on aircraft. Other improvements completed include an onboard hospital, more aviation fuel capacity and more aviation support spaces.
3. Charles de Gaulle- France
The Charles de Gaulle is the flagship of the French Navy, and she also holds the title for the largest warship in Western Europe. She holds other titles including; the first French nuclear-powered surface vessel, first nuclear-powered carrier outside of the U.S., and the tenth French aircraft carrier. The ship has been named after Charles de Gaulle and French general and statesman. This warship is a CATOBAR-type carrier using 75 m C13.3 steam catapults at the bow and another at the front of the landing area. The ship has a displacement of more than 37,000 tons and can reach more than 42,000 tons at full capacity.
The characteristics of this carrier allow it operate American aircraft such as the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the C-2 Greyhound which operate from American carrier vessels. The Charles de Gaulle replaced the Foch in 2001 after the replacement was identified in the mid-1970s. In 1989 the hull was laid down, and the carrier was put into construction in 1994 which fell behind due to starved funding. It wasn’t until May of 2001 before is was commissioned.
2. Liaoning- China
The Liaoning is the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s first commissioned aircraft carrier. Classified as a training ship, the Liaoning was intended to make it possible for the Navy to practice with transport usage. This ship was originally the Admiral Kuznetsov in the Soviet Navy and launched their service in 1988. It was later renamed Varyag. The People’s Republic of China purchased the stripped hulk of the Vargag and towed it to the Dalian Shipyard in China. She was completely rebuilt and went through sea trials before being commissioned in 2012 and renamed the Liaoning.
The Liaoning is armed with Type 1030 CIWS, HQ-10 missiles, and anti-submarine warfare rocket launchers. It is capable of displacing more than 59,000 and is powered by steam turbine propulsion. The flight deck on this carrier can hold up to 50 aircraft which includes helicopters and fixed wing planes.
1. Nimitz Class- United States
The Nimitz Class has a displacement of 97,000 tons when fully loaded. This is the world’s largest aircraft carrier and the first in the class deployed in 1975. Each of the Nimitz Class carriers has been designed to stay in service for 50 years and need only one mid-life overhaul. Each of these ships is more than 20 stories above the water and can hold more than 3,000 of ship’s company, 500 crew members, and 1,500 air wing.
The ten carriers making up the Nimitz Class were all constructed at the Newport News Shipbuilding Company, and the lead one was commissioned in May of 1975. The tenth carrier in the Class was approved in January of 2009. These ships have all participated in a significant number of conflicts across the world including Iran, the Gulf War, and Afghanistan.
One of the biggest assets during wartime is the aircraft carriers. Since they have been put into use, these ships have made a significant impact for the defense of many countries. These are the top 10 largest aircraft carriers in the world and some that have made the biggest differences in their countries wartime strategies.