10 Largest Aircraft Carriers in the World

Largest Aircraft Carriers
Photo by Michael Afonso

Aircraft carriers have been the backbone of navies and air forces worldwide since World War II. They bring swift and mobile power wherever it’s needed with long-range accuracy.

As such, aircraft carriers are not only some of the most potent military ships in existence but also some of the largest vessels ever built. 

The ten largest aircraft carriers in the world all measure over 1,000 feet in length. They can carry dozens upon dozens of fighter jets and attack helicopters.

Table of Contents

1. United States – Gerald R. Ford-class

The most recent U.S. Navy carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, is one of the largest aircraft carriers. It is currently under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding. It will become operational in 2016. 

Although slightly smaller than its predecessors, at 1,106 feet, it still holds two CATOBAR decks that can launch 80 aircraft.

The new ship also boasts enhanced stealth capabilities and has a more minor radar signature than previous classes. It’s slated to cost $13 billion over its lifetime. 

Some lawmakers have criticized it as a waste of money due to budget overruns and several design flaws. Still, it promises to be one of the world’s most advanced carriers—don’t call it a supercarrier.

2. China – Type 001A

The Liaoning is China’s first and only aircraft carrier. This ship is an upgraded version of a Soviet-era design that was initially commissioned into service for Russia. The vessel has undergone extensive modernization in recent years.

This one of the largest aircraft carriers are equipped with over 30 Chinese fighter jets, including J-15s, based on Russian models. It can carry approximately 50 aircraft, including helicopters. 

The Liaoning is only used for training exercises, but China has said it plans to build four additional carriers for deployment by 2020. All will be named after provinces of China.

3. United Kingdom – Queen Elizabeth Class

These ships are about 12 decks high, each carrying up to 40 aircraft (a mix of helicopters and jets). Two runways allow for simultaneous takeoffs.

These carriers were officially commissioned into service with their respective navies (Royal Navy and Royal Air Force) in 2017.

They replace HMS Ark Royal and are far more capable than their predecessors. The first one is called HMS Queen Elizabeth. 

The second, HMS Prince of Wales, was introduced into service as soon as 2020. This class represents one of several largest aircraft carriers in naval aviation. It is something countries like China are trying to get ahead on.

4. Russia – Kuznetsov-class

The Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier Pyotr Velikiy is Russia’s sole operational aircraft carrier and its most significant. The ship displaces around 55,000 tons and can carry up to 50 fixed and rotary-wing aircraft.

It has seen combat in Syria and was previously a part of a Northern Fleet task force. It is currently assigned to Russia’s Pacific fleet, which serves as an aviation training platform.

Kuznetsov is still one of the world’s largest aircraft carriers despite its age. That isn’t saying much due to how far behind other countries are with their carriers.

5. France – Charles de Gaulle (R91)

Originally named Richelieu, after Admiral of France, Henri-François de Montmorency-Laval, Duc de Richelieu (1585–1642), construction began on December 1, 1993.

The project was instigated by President François Mitterrand and his Defense Minister at that time, Maxime Lamour. This ship is also known as La Royale or Le Grande Charles. 

On May 8, 2001, France formally placed her under the command of Captain Nicolas, who remains to date her only commander.

She is affectionately referred to as Lucky Lady. She made her maiden voyage from Toulon to Norfolk Naval Station on September 2, 2002.

6. India – INS Vikramaditya (R33)

INS Vikramaditya (previously Admiral Gorshkov) is a modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier built for the Indian Navy. Construction started in 1986 at Sevmash Shipyard, Russia, and was commissioned on November 16, 2013. It is named after Vikramaditya, a famous emperor of Ujjain (Ancient India). 

A total capacity, Vikramaditya carries 30 fixed-wing aircraft and 25 helicopters for 55. It has a crew complement of 1,400 sailors and officers. The ship displaces 44,500 tonnes and sails at 27 knots with its boilers operating at 550 °C.

7. Australia – HMAS Canberra (L02)

The HMAS Canberra is an air-warfare destroyer built for and operated by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The ship was laid down on February 8, 1996, launched on August 25, 1997, and commissioned into naval service on November 14, 1998. It was named after two other Australian warships.

Also, they were named after two of Australia’s Federal capital cities: Canberra, the Capital City of Australia, and Sydney, the Capital City of New South Wales.

As one of the largest aircraft carriers, it is equipped with facilities. This enables it to refuel and resupply other naval vessels that cannot return to port.

This capability was vital in Operation Southern Indian Ocean in 2003 when HMAS Anzac needed to be resupplied while operating more than 3,000 kilometers from its base near Perth at Fremantle.

8. Liaoning, China

Among the most significant aircraft carriers to be commissioned into service in China’s Liaoning. It has a total length of 305 m (1,000 ft) and a waterline length of 251 m (823 ft).

Its beam is 44 m (144 ft), with a displacement of about 65,000 tons. It can carry about 40 J-15 fighter jets, six anti-submarine warfare helicopters, and more than ten other aircraft types.

Also, it has three hangars for carrying naval attack craft and vertical takeoff/landing fighters. These include Z-18 anti-submarine warfare/search and rescue helicopters and Harbin Z-9C search/utility helicopters. All these are for amphibious assault operations.

9. Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia

This aircraft weighs over 100,000 tons and stretches nearly 1,000 feet from bow to stern. Admiral Kuznetsov is considered by many to be one of Russia’s largest aircraft carriers. 

Though it carries more aircraft than any other carrier on Earth, it has no catapult for launching them. This means planes have to rely on their power for takeoffs. That’s slowed its ability to deploy at sea and makes launches even riskier than they already are. 

Despite being more than 20 years old, Kuznetsov is still a viable part of Russia’s battle fleet. This is because of its nuclear-powered propulsion system. It allows it to travel hundreds of miles without refueling.

10. Cavour, Italy

INS Cavour is a landing helicopter dock currently assigned to NATO’s Standing Naval Force Mediterranean (STANAVFORMED). The Cavour joined STANAVFORMED on October 16, 2013, when it replaced its sister ship, HMS Ocean. 

Also, It participated in an exercise involving 25 countries and more than 45 ships, including U.S. naval ships from Carrier Strike Group 8. On May 17, 2014, INS Cavour started operations at NATO Standing Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) as part of Operation Active Endeavour.

Conclusion

These largest aircraft carriers are massive. There is no denying that. The number of sailors on each one is staggering, let alone all their weaponry and equipment. Considering how much space a ship needs to store supplies and fuel for running such a massive machine, you can begin to fathom just how incredible these ships are. 

Each of these massive warships plays an essential role in keeping countries safe worldwide. Their size will astound you!

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