Nimitz-class aircraft carrier

The Nimitz-class supercarriers are a class of ten nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in service with the United States Navy. The lead ship of the class is named for World War II United States Pacific Fleet commander Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the U.S. Navy's last fleet admiral. With an overall length of 1,092 ft (333 m) and full-load displacements of over 100,000 long tons, they have been the largest warships built and in service, although they are being eclipsed by the upcoming Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers. Instead of the gas turbines or diesel-electric systems used for propulsion on many modern warships, the carriers use two A4W pressurized water reactors which drive four propeller shafts and can produce a maximum speed of over 30 knots (56 km/h) and maximum power of around 260,000 shp (190 MW). As a result of the use of nuclear power, the ships are capable of operating for over 20 years without refueling and are predicted to have a service life of over 50 years. They are categorized as nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and are numbered with consecutive hull numbers between CVN-68 and CVN-77.

All ten carriers were constructed by Newport News Shipbuilding Company in Virginia. USS Nimitz, the lead ship of the class, was commissioned on 3 May 1975, and USS George H.W. Bush, the tenth and last of the class, was commissioned on 10 January 2009. Since the 1970s, Nimitz-class carriers have participated in many conflicts and operations across the world, including Operation Eagle Claw in Iran, the Gulf War, and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The angled flight decks of the carriers use a CATOBAR arrangement to operate aircraft, with steam catapults and arrestor wires for launch and recovery. As well as speeding up flight deck operations, this allows for a much wider variety of aircraft than with the STOVL arrangement used on smaller carriers. An embarked carrier air wing consisting of up to around 90 aircraft is normally deployed on board. After the retirement of the F-14 Tomcat, the air wings' strike fighters are primarily F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornets and F/A-18A+ and F/A-18C Hornets. In addition to their aircraft, the vessels carry short-range defensive weaponry for anti-aircraft warfare and missile defense.


Nimitz-class aircraft carrier
Class Ship
Type Aircraft Carrier
Manufacturer Newport News Shipbuilding
Production Period 1963 - 2009
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1975
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
United States of America 1975 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Newport News Shipbuilding 1963 2009 10 View

The Nimitz-class aircraft carriers were ordered to supplement the aircraft carriers of the Kitty Hawk class and Enterprise class, maintaining the strength and capability of the U.S. Navy after the older carriers were decommissioned. The ships were designed to be improvements on previous U.S. aircraft carriers, in particular the Enterprise and Forrestal-class supercarriers, although the arrangement of the ships is relatively similar to that of the Kitty Hawk class. Among other design improvements, the two reactors on Nimitz-class carriers take up less space than the eight reactors used on Enterprise. Along with a more generally improved design, this means that Nimitz-class carriers can carry 90% more aviation fuel and 50% more ordnance when compared to the Forrestal class.

The U.S. Navy has stated that the carriers could withstand three times the damage sustained by the Essex class inflicted by Japanese air attacks during World War II. The hangars on the ships are divided into three fire bays by thick steel doors that are designed to restrict the spread of fire. This addition has been present on U.S. aircraft carriers since World War II, after the fires caused by Kamikaze attacks.

The first ships were designed around the time of the Vietnam War, and certain aspects of the design were influenced by operations there. To a certain extent, the carrier operations in Vietnam demonstrated the need for increased capabilities of aircraft carriers over their survivability, as they were used to send sorties into the war and were therefore less subject to attack. As a result of this experience, Nimitz carriers were designed with larger stores of aviation fuel and larger magazines in relation to previous carriers, although this was partly as a result of increased space available by the new design of the ships' propulsion systems.

A major purpose of the ships was initially to support the U.S. military during the Cold War, and they were designed with capabilities for that role, including using nuclear power instead of oil for greater endurance when deployed in blue water, and the ability to make adjustments to the carriers' weapons systems on the basis of new intelligence and technological developments. They were initially categorized only as attack carriers, but ships have been constructed with anti-submarine capabilities since USS Carl Vinson. As a result, the ships and their aircraft are now able to participate in a wide range of operations, which can include sea and air blockades, mine laying, and missile strikes on land, air and sea.

Because of a design flaw, ships of this class have inherent lists to starboard when under combat loads that exceed the capability of their list control systems. The problem appears to be especially prevalent on some of the more modern vessels. This problem has been previously rectified by using damage control voids for ballast, but a solution using solid ballast which does not affect the ship's survivability has been proposed.

Ships in Class

Ship Hull Number Laid down Launched Commissioned Refuel, Overhaul Homeport
Nimitz subclass
Nimitz CVN-68 22 June 1968 13 May 1972 3 May 1975 1998–2001 Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California
Naval Station Everett, Everett, Washington(2011)
Dwight D. Eisenhower
(ex-Eisenhower)
CVN-69 15 August 1970 11 October 1975 18 October 1977 2001–2005 Naval Station Norfolk, Norfolk, Virginia
Carl Vinson CVN-70 11 October 1975 15 March 1980 13 March 1982 2005–2009 Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California
Theodore Roosevelt subclass
Theodore Roosevelt CVN-71 31 October 1981 27 October 1984 25 October 1986 2009–2013 Naval Station Norfolk, Norfolk, Virginia
Abraham Lincoln CVN-72 3 November 1984 13 February 1988 11 November 1989 2013– Naval Station Everett, Everett, Washington
Naval Station Norfolk, Norfolk, Virginia (2011)
George Washington CVN-73 25 August 1986 21 July 1990 4 July 1992
Yokosuka Naval Base, Yokosuka, Japan
John C. Stennis CVN-74 13 March 1991 11 November 1993 9 December 1995
Naval Base Kitsap, Bremerton, Washington
Harry S. Truman
(ex-United States)
CVN-75 29 November 1993 7 September 1996 25 July 1998
Naval Station Norfolk, Norfolk, Virginia
Ronald Reagan subclass
Ronald Reagan CVN-76 12 February 1998 4 March 2001 12 July 2003
Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California
George H.W. Bush CVN-77 6 September 2003 9 October 2006 10 January 2009
Naval Station Norfolk, Norfolk, Virginia

1975–1989

One of the first major operations in which the ships were involved was Operation Eagle Claw launched by USS Nimitz in 1980 after she had deployed to the Indian Ocean in response to the taking of hostages in the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Although initially part of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Eisenhower relieved Nimitz in this operation after her service in the Mediterranean Sea. Nimitz conducted a Freedom of Navigation exercise alongside the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal in August 1981 in the Gulf of Sidra, near Libya. During this exercise, two of the ship's F-14 Tomcats shot down two Libyan aircraft in what became known as the Gulf of Sidra incident. In 1987, Vinson participated in the first U.S. carrier deployment in the Bering Sea, and Nimitz provided security during the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul.

1990–2000

The two most significant deployments the Nimitz class was involved in during the 1990s were the Gulf War and its aftermath, and Operation Southern Watch in southern Iraq. All active vessels were engaged in both of these to some extent, with Operation Southern Watch continuing until 2003. However, most carriers in operation in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm played supporting roles, with only Roosevelt playing an active part in combat operations. Throughout the 1990s and more recently, Nimitz-class carriers have been deployed as part of humanitarian missions. While deployed in the Gulf War, Lincoln was diverted to the Indian Ocean to participate alongside 22 other ships in Operation Fiery Vigil, evacuating civilians following the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo on Luzon Island in the Philippines. In October 1993, Lincoln deployed to Somalia to assist UN humanitarian operations there, spending four weeks flying patrols over the area around Mogadishu while supporting U.S. troops during Operation Restore Hope. The same ship also participated in Operation Vigilant Sentinel in the Persian Gulf in 1995. Roosevelt flew patrols in support of the Kurds over northern Iraq as part of Operation Provide Comfort in 1991. In 1996, George Washington played a peacekeeping role in Operation Decisive Endeavor in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1999, Roosevelt was called to the Ionian Sea to support Operation Allied Force alongside other NATO militaries.

2001–present

Harry S. Truman's maiden deployment was in November 2000. The carrier's air wing flew 869 combat sorties in support of Operation Southern Watch, including a strike on Iraqi air defense sites on 16 February 2001, in response to Iraqi surface-to-air missile fire against United Nations coalition forces.

After the 11 September attacks, Carl Vinson and Theodore Roosevelt were among the first warships to participate in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Carl Vinson sailed towards the Persian Gulf intending to support Operation Southern Watch in July 2001. This changed in response to the attacks, and the ship changed course to travel towards the North Arabian Sea, where she launched the first airstrikes in support of the operation on 7 October 2001. Following the attacks, John C. Stennis and George Washington participated in Operation Noble Eagle, carrying out homeland security operations off the West Coast of the United States. All active ships have been involved to some extent in Iraq and Afghanistan since that time. This included the invasion in 2003, as well as providing subsequent support for Operation Iraqi Freedom since then.

The carriers have also provided aid after natural disasters; in 2005, Abraham Lincoln supported Operation Unified Assistance in Indonesia after the December 2004 tsunami, and Truman provided aid after Hurricane Katrina later in 2005. The Reagan Carrier Strike Group performed humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in the Philippines in June 2008 after Typhoon Fengshen, which killed hundreds from the central island regions and the main island of Luzon.[65] In January 2010 Vinson operated off Haiti, providing aid and drinking water to earthquake survivors as part of the U.S. led Operation Unified Response, alongside other major warships and hospital ship Comfort. In 2013, the USS Nimitz and other Nimitz class carriers are near Syria.

Name: Nimitz-class aircraft carrier
Builders: Newport News Shipbuilding Company
Operators:  United States Navy
Preceded by: Kitty Hawk class and
Enterprise class
Succeeded by: Gerald R. Ford class
Subclasses: Theodore Roosevelt class and
Ronald Reagan class
In commission: 3 May 1975
Planned: 10
Completed: 10
Active: 10
General characteristics
Type: Aircraft carrier
Displacement: 100,000 to 104,600 long tons (101,600–106,300 t)
Length: Overall: 1,092 feet (332.8 m)
Waterline: 1,040 feet (317.0 m)
Beam: Overall: 252 ft (76.8 m)
Waterline: 134 ft (40.8 m)
Draft: Maximum navigational: 37 ft (11.3 m)
Limit: 41 ft (12.5 m)
Propulsion: 2 × Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors
4 × steam turbines
4 × shafts
260,000 shp (194 MW)
Speed: 30+ knots (56+ km/h; 35+ mph)
Range: Unlimited distance; 20-25 years
Complement: Ship's company: 3,200
Air wing: 2,480
Sensors and
processing systems:
AN/SPS-48E 3-D air search radar
AN/SPS-49(V)5 2-D air search radar
AN/SPQ-9B target acquisition radar
AN/SPN-46 air traffic control radars
AN/SPN-43C air traffic control radar
AN/SPN-41 landing aid radars
4 × Mk 91 NSSM guidance systems
4 × Mk 95 radars
Electronic warfare
& decoys:
SLQ-32A(V)4 Countermeasures suite
SLQ-25A Nixie torpedo countermeasures
Armament: 16–24 × RIM-7 Sea Sparrow or NATO Sea Sparrow missiles
3 or 4 × Phalanx CIWSs or RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles
Armor: 2.5 in (64 mm) Kevlar over vital spaces
Aircraft carried: 85–90 fixed wing and helicopters

End notes