Summer Quarterly 2017
The Pentagon likes to say it has 10 aircraft carriers, the 10 Nimitz-class “super carriers” that displace 100,000 tons, and carry up to 6,000 people. But it actually has nineteen.
The 19 carriers are not for deterrence or defense, considering Russia, China, Brazil, India, France and Thailand each have exactly one. Italy and Spain have two each, but they’re NATO allies.
Not counted by the Pentagon are its Tarawa-class carriers with 2,800 people onboard. Three football fields long, and 20 stories high, the Tarawa ships “have the general profile of an aircraft carrier,” as the website GlobalSecurity.org notes. They carry 35 fighter aircraft, including Harrier fighter jets, Harrier jump jets, helicopters, reconnaissance aircraft and thousands of tons of langing vehicles for invasions.
The eight other giant carriers are 45,000-ton Wasp-class behemoths, known instead as “amphibious assault ships” that the Navy calls “the largest amphibious ships in the world.” They launch helicopters, jump jets, hovercraft, landing craft and assault vehicles, and carry up to 2000 Marines. Used for waging war “forward…from the sea,” and “assault by air,” each of the eight Wasps have a 600-bed hospital.
Two of the newest carriers—the $3.5 billion USS America and USS Tripoli—are “considerably larger than recent aircraft-carrying ships constructed for the Korean, Japanese, and Australian navies,” according to Robert Farley of the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School. The America-class will carry up to 20 Marine Corps F-35B fighter jets, plus Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, and helicopter gunships.
Not satisfied with a 19-to-one advantage, the Navy is sea testing the biggest carrier on Earth, the Gerald R. Ford, a 100,000-ton, $10 billion giant that has a crew of 4,300 and carries a fleet of 90 aircraft.