Sunday, December 6, 2015

Aircraft Carriers

An aircraft carrier is a warship that serves as a seagoing airbase, equipped with a full-length flight deck and facilities for carrying, arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft. Typically, it is the capital ship of a fleet, as it allows a naval force to project air power worldwide without depending on local bases for staging aircraft operations. Aircraft carriers are expensive to build and are critical assets. Aircraft carriers have evolved from converted cruisers to nuclear-powered warships that carry numerous fighter planes, strike aircraft, helicopters, and other types of aircraft.

There is no single definition of an "aircraft carrier", and modern navies use several variants of the type. These variants are sometimes categorized as sub-types of aircraft carriers, and sometimes as distinct types of naval aviation-capable ships.  Aircraft carriers may be classified according to the type of aircraft they carry and their operational assignments. Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, former head of the Royal Navy, has said that "To put it simply, countries that aspire to strategic international influence have aircraft carriers".

Carriers have evolved since their inception in the early twentieth century from wooden vessels used to deploy balloons to nuclear-powered warships that carry dozens of aircraft, including fighter jets and helicopters. As of 6 December 2015, there are thirty-seven active aircraft carriers in the world within twelve navies. The United States Navy has 10 large nuclear-powered carriers (known as supercarriers, carrying up to 90 aircraft each), the largest carriers in the world; the total deckspace is over twice that of all other nations' combined. As well as the supercarrier fleet, the US Navy has nine amphibious assault ships used primarily for helicopters (sometimes called helicopter carriers); these can also carry up to 25 fighter jets, and in some cases, are as large as some other nations' fixed-wing carriers.

Aircraft Carriers in Service

Most navies operate only one or two aircraft carriers, if any. The USA is a notable exception, with 10 super carriers and 9 amphibious assault ships in service.

A total of 20 fleet carriers are in active service with ten navies. Additionally, the navies of Australia, Brazil, China, France, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Thailand and the United States also operate ships capable of carrying and operating multiple helicopters and STOVL aircraft.

  • CATOBAR [catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery] types are operated by Brazil, France and especially the USA, which has ten in service.
  • STOBAR [short take off but assisted recovery] type are operated by China, India and Russia.
  • STOVL [short take-off, vertical landing] types are operated by India, Italy, Spain and the USA.

Among helicopter-only types:

  • ASW [anti-submarine warfare] ships are operated by Japan.
  • An offshore helicopter support ship is operated by Thailand.
  • Amphibious assault ships are operated by France, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and especially the USA, which has nine in service.

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