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Top 10 Aircraft Carriers


   Which is the best aircraft carrier in the world? Which is the greatest modern aircraft carrier and why? Our Top 10 analysis is based on the combined score of size, displacement, airwing, offensive and defensive weapons and other features.

   This list also includes aircraft carriers, that are currently under construction, but will enter service within the next couple of years.

   Currently top 10 deadliest aircraft carriers in the world are these:


Top 10 aircraft carriers

Nr.1 Ford class (USA)



Displacement: 100 000 t

Length: 335 m

85 aircraft

   The Ford class is a successor to the Nimitz class. These are the largest and most powerful warships ever built. First aircraft carrier of the class is expected to be commissioned with the US Navy in 2017. It is expected that a total of 9-10 new Ford class aircraft carriers will be built. These will replace the Nimitz and Improved Nimitz class warships. The Ford class aircraft carriers will be the mainstay of the US Navy's power projection throughout the 21st century.

   Hull design of the Ford class is similar to that of the Nimitz class. The new aircraft carriers have a smaller, redesigned and more stealthy island. The new aircraft carriers have the same displacement as the previous Nimitz class, but are fitted with more automated and efficient systems.

   Each of these vessels will carry an airwing that will include 85 fixed-wing aircraft, VSTOL aircraft, helicopters, or unmanned aerial vehicles. These will include F-35B/C and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet multi-role fighters, EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, E-2D Advanced Hawkeye early warning aircraft, MH-60R and MH-60S naval helicopters. It is larger and more powerful force than complete air force of many nations. By operating these aircraft carriers United States will remain unchallenged sea force on earth throughout the 21st century.

   Defensive weapons of the Ford class include two launchers with 16 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM) each. These missiles are used against incoming high-speed, maneuveing anti-ship missiles. It also has two launchers with 21 Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) that are also used against anti-ship missiles at close range. Also there are four 20 mm Phalanx close-in weapon systems.



Best aircraft carrier

Nr.2 Improved Nimitz class (USA)



Displacement: 100 000 t

Length: 332 m

80 aircraft

   A total of 10 of these supercarriers were built, including 3 Nimitz class ships and 7 Improved Nimitz class ships. These have been the largest warships built and in service.

   These nuclear-powered aircraft carriers can carry about 80 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. These ships operate F/A-18E/F Super Hornets multi-role fighters, F/A-18C Hornets ground attack aircraft, EA-6B Prowlers electronic warfare aircraft, E-2C Hawkeye early warning aircraft, C-2 Greyhound transport aircraft and various helicopters for utility, transport and anti-submarine warfare operations.

   These supercarriers typically operate over 60 aircraft and helicopters. However surge capacity is 130 F/A-18 Hornets.

   These supercarriers have automated self-defence systems against anti-ship cruise missiles by integrating and co-coordinating the ship's weapon and electronic warfare systems.

   In the forthcomming decades all of these vessels are due to be replaced by the new Ford class aircraft carriers.



Best aircraft carriers

Nr.3 Kuznetsov (Russia)



Displacement: 60 000 t

Length: 305 m

40 aircraft

   The Admiral Kuznetsov was commissioned with the Russian Navy in 1991. It is smaller than American supercarriers, but carries powerful offensive weapons.

   The lack of catapults precludes launching aircraft with heavy strike loads, and the air superiority orientation of the air wing is apparent. This warship carries about 40 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, including Su-33 carrier-based air superiority fighters and various versions of Ka-27 helicopter. There is also a twin-seat Su-25UTG aircraft used for pilot training.

   The Admiral Kuznetsov is a heavy aviation cruiser rather than just an aircraft carrier. It carries a number of offensive weapons typically associated with guided missile cruisers. The carrier itself is capable of engaging surface, subsurface and airborne targets.

   This ship is conventionally propelled with oil-fired boilers rather than nuclear reactor.

   Service of the Admiral Kuznetsov in the Russian Navy is plagued with various accidents and plane crashes. There are problems with the ship's propulsion system. Russia definitely struggles maintaining its only aircraft carrier and keeping it operational. There are no immediate plans in Russia to construct successor for this ship.

   Since 2018 this Russian aircraft carrier is being repaired, refurbished and upgraded in order to extend its service life. It is expected to return to service in 2021.

   Unfinished hull of the second ship of the class was acquired by the Chinese navy. It was refitted with modern outfit and commissioned in service with the Chinese navy in 2012 as the Liaoning.



Top ten aircraft carriers

Nr.4 Shandong (China)



Displacement: ~64 000 t

Length: 315 m

44 aircraft

   The Varyag was a second ship of the Kuznetsov class. It was laid down in 1985 in Ukraine and launched in 1988. However after collapse of the Soviet Union funding for the ship construction stopped. Eventually unfinished hull was sold to China where it was restored and refitted. This aircraft carrier was commissioned with the China's navy in 2012 as the Liaoning. It was one of the most ambitions Chinese naval programmes.

   In 2017 another aircraft carrier of this class was launched in China. It was built to improved Type 001A project. It was commissioned in 2019 as the Shandong. It is the first aircraft carrier ever manufactured in China.

   The Shandong can carry up to 44 fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. It operates a mix of Chinese J-15 air superiority fighters, Z-8 naval helicopters and Russian Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopters.

   This Chinese carrier is fitted only with short-range defensive weapons. It represent a significant shift in the balance of naval power in the area.



Top 10 aircraft carriers

Nr.5 Queen Elizabeth class (United Kingdom)



Displacement: 65 000 t

Length: 284 m

40 aircraft

   Two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers were ordered by the Royal Navy. The first of the class, HMS Queen Elizabeth, was laid down in 2009. It became operational in 2017.

   The sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales was laid down in 2011 and launched in 2017. It is planned to be commissioned with the Royal Navy in 2020. These new aircraft carriers are the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy.

   The Queen Elizabeth class carriers are be much more capable comparing with the previous Invincible class light aircraft carriers. These can carry over 40 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.

   The Queen Elizabeth class carriers have broadly similar dimensions and displacement to the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov and Chinese Liaoning. The Russian and Chinese carriers operate air superiority fighters, while the Queen Elizabeth class ships will carry lighter but stealthy F-35B stealthy multi-role fighters with STOVL capability. These fighters will perform air defense, ground attack and reconnaissance missions. Also there is a mix of CH-47 Chinook, Merlin and AW159 (previously knonwn as Lynx Wildcat) helicopters for utility and anti-submarine warfare roles.

   Defensive weapons are limited to Phalanx close-in weapon systems to counter airborne threats and 30 mm naval guns to counter seaborne threats.



Nr.6 Charles de Gaulle (France)



Displacement: 41 000 t

Length: 262 m

40 aircraft

   It is a relatively modern nuclear-powered warship. It was commissioned with the French Navy in 2001. Currently it is the flagship of the French Navy. It is the only nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, built outside United States.

   The Charled de Gaulle can carry over 40 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. It can operate over 30 navalized Rafale multi-role fighters. Also there are E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft as well as SA 365F Dauphin or AS 322 Cougar helicopters.

   Second ship of the class was planned but never ordered due to lack of funding.



World top ten aircraft carieers

Nr.7 Vikramaditya (India)



Displacement: 45 000 t

Length: 273 m

30 aircraft

   The Indian Navy Vikramaditya light aircraft carrier is a modified and refitted former Kiev class aviation cruiser. For the Russia Navy it was too expensive to operate these aviation cruisers on a post-Cold War budget. Eventually one of the Ships was sold to India.

   In 2004 an agreement was signed with Russia for the sale of this ship to India. It was commissioned to service with the Indian Navy in 2014. It will replace the ageing Viraat aircraft carrier.

   The INS Vikramaditya can operate about 30 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters including MiG-29KU and MiG-29KUB carrier-based multi-role fighters, Sea Harrier  STOVL ground attack aircraft, HAL Dhruv utility helicopters helicopters and Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopters. Maximum capacity is 30 aircraft and 6 helicopters.

   The INS Vikramaditya lost some offensive heavy weapons of the Admiral Gorshkov, carried at the bow. Currently it is armed only with short-range air defense weapons.



Largest aircraft carriers

Nr.8 Sao Paulo (Brazil)



Displacement: 34 000 t

Length: 265 m

40 aircraft

   The Sao Paulo is a Clemenceau class aircraft carrier. It was originally commissioned with the French Navy in 1963 as the Foch. The ship was sold to Brazil in 2000 where it became the new flagship of Brazilian Navy.

   The Sao Paulo can carry a mix of up to 40 aircraft and helicopters. However this aircraft carrier currently serves mainly for pilots training. Its offensive capability is limited.

   Airwing of this aircraft carrier is rather weak. Its main interceptor and attack aircraft is the A-4KU Skyhawk. These aircraft carry AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles and free-fall bombs. These ageing aircraft have only a limited anti-shipping and ground attack capability and can not match modern air superiority fighters and ground attack aircraft.



Top 10 aircraft carriers

Nr.9 Cavour (Italy)



Displacement: 27 000 t

Length: 244 m

20 aircraft

   The Cavour light aircraft carrier was commissioned in 2008. Currently it is a new flagship of the Italian Navy.

   This modern warship was designed to operate V/STOL aircraft, helicopters and serve as a command center. The Cavour can also transport military personnel and vehicles.

   The Cavour can carry over 20 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Currently it operates Boeing V-8B Harrier II Plus ground attack aircraft. In the near future these will be replaced by the new Lockheed Martin F-35Bs.

   For utility, anti-submarine warfare and airborne surveillance roles this light aircraft carrier operates EH-101, NH-90 and SH-3D helicopters.

   This light aircraft carrier has amphibious assault capability. It can transport main battle tanks and amphibious assault vehicles in its aircraft hangar. Also it accommodates a regiment of 325 marines.



Top aircraft carriers

Nr.10 Chakri Naruebet (Thailand)



Displacement: 11 500 t

Length: 182 m

30 aircraft

   The Chakri Narue light aircraft carrier was built in Spain. It was commissioned with the Royal Thai Navy in 1997. It is the first aircraft carrier to be operated by a country in Southeast Asia.

   It has an airwing of about 30 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. These include AV-8S Matador ground attack aircraft and S-70B Seahawk, Sea King or CH-47 Chinook helicopters for anti-submarine wearfare, utility and transport missions.

   However the Chakri Naruebet lacks defensive weapons. The planned primary anti-aircraft armament including an 8-cell VLS launcher for Sea Sparrow missiles and four Vulcan Phalanx CIWS mountings have not been installed. This vessel is protected just by Mistral short-range infra-red homing missiles.

   The Chakri Naruebet makes few operational sorties, and when it does put to sea it is usually to carry members of the Thai Royal family. The vessel is therefore to be regarded less as a V/STOL amphibious warfare capable carrier and more as the most expensive royal yacht afloat.


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