5 Things You Don’t Know: U.S. Aircraft Carriers

Newly hosted by Benari Poulten, a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. In this episode, we reveal five intriguing facts about U.S. aircraft carriers.

They are the centerpiece of America’s naval force, capable of projecting power across vast expanses of the globe.

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This is Five Things You Don’t Know About US Aircraft Carriers.

Fact One: While underway, Nimitz-class carriers are capable of carrying up to approximately 90 combat aircraft. While that may not seem like that many, considering the US military’s total number of aircraft is just under 14,000, it is astronomical in comparison to the majority of the world’s nations.

In fact, more than half the countries in the world have less than 90 aircraft in their entire air force. So, just one Nimitz-class carrier has more air power than the majority of nations have in their whole arsenal.

Fact Two: While many of us can easily picture the aircraft carriers of World War II engaging in epic battles in the Pacific, it’s amazing to think that two – the USS Sable and the USS Wolverine – were actually stationed on the Great Lakes as training ships.

Originally built as commercial paddle steamers, both the Sable and the Wolverine were purchased by the US Navy in 1942 and converted into carriers. Home ported at Navy Pier in Chicago, they were part of what was called the “Cornbelt Fleet” of training vessels.

While they weren’t technically warships because they lacked a hangar deck, elevators and armament, they were extremely valuable in helping pilots practice takeoffs and landings in realistic conditions.

As a matter of fact, the two ships together trained more than 17,800 pilots. And one of the flyers to qualify on the Sable was none other than future president George H. W. Bush.

Fact Three: Known as “TR” or the “Big Stick” by most folks in the Navy, the USS Theodore Roosevelt CVN-71 is the fourth Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

Her keel was laid down on October 31st 1981, at Newport News, Virginia. But unlike all carriers before her, the Theodore Roosevelt was the first aircraft carrier to be assembled through modular construction – which essentially worked by pre-building large sections, hoisting them into place using a huge gantry crane, and then welding them together.

This process shaved an amazing 16 months off the Theodore Roosevelt’s construction timeline, and proved so effective that every aircraft carrier since her has been built using the same method.

Fact Four: During World War II, the United State Navy lost a total of twelve carriers to enemy action. Of these losses, five had names that would fight on as new carriers later in the war.

These ships include our nations first carrier, the USS Langley CV-1, which was crippled by Japanese dive-bombers off the coast of Java in 1942. A second Langley, CVL-27, was commissioned in 1943 and took part in attacks on the Marshall Islands and Okinawa.

During the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942, the USS Lexington CV-2 was sunk by a Japanese torpedo. It later came back as CV-16, which was commissioned in February 1943 and saw extensive action during the Battle of the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf.

In June 1942, the USS Yorktown CV-5 was sunk at the Battle of Midway. That ship’s name lived on as the USS Yorktown CV-10, which was commissioned in the spring of 1943 and helped launch raids on islands such as Tarawa.

The USS Wasp CV-7 was sunk shortly after the Battle of Guadalcanal in the summer of 1942. Its namesake, CV-18, was commissioned in November 1943 and participated in the attack on Okinawa.

And finally, the USS Hornet CV-8 was fatally wounded during the Battle of Santa Cruz in October 1942. The Hornet was later resurrected as CV-12, commissioned in November 1943. That ship participated in raids on Tinian, Saipan, Guam and Iwo Jima.

Fact Five: For more than forty years, the United States has operated the largest aircraft carriers in the world.

Our Nimitz-class supercarriers – the first of which was commissioned in early 1975 – have an overall length of 1,092 feet and a full load displacement of approximately 97,000 tons. They tower an impressive 20 stories above the water, and have a flight deck that’s 4.5 acres big.

But as massive as these warships are, our newest supercarriers – the Gerald R. Ford class – are even slightly larger. While these mega-ships have the same overall length of 1,092 feet, their full load displacement is about 100,000 tons – or about 3,000 tons more than the Nimitz-class.


Air Charter

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