The mighty aircraft carriers of the world – Taking war to the doorsteps of the enemies.

Aircraft carriers of the world

Towering more than 20 decks in height and cutting through the sea waters, these vessels are the ultimate power projection assets any military can operate under its command. Deep penetration fighter jets and an array of fixed rotary aircraft on-board enable it to take the war right to the doorsteps of the enemies. These are literally floating airfields and cities in the middle of the vast oceans. The presence of a single aircraft carrier group can change the outcome of any conflict.

The roots of carrier borne operations is tangled with the US and Japanese navy. Flat-top carriers were introduced by the British in the late 1920’s.  During the course of World War II, the design and capabilities of the aircraft carriers changed drastically. The real capabilities of these machines were realized by the US navy when they launched surprise long range bomb raids over the Japanese. Realizing the strategic importance of these vessels world powers have been actively inducting them to their inventories. Only a select few nations, today operate aircraft carriers under their command.

INS Vikramaditya of the Indian Navy.
INS Vikramaditya of the Indian Navy.

Indian Navy

Under the command of Indian navy are the aircraft carriers ‘INS Vikramaditya and INS Viraat.’ India is the only nation besides America to be operating more than a single carrier. The carriers of the Indian navy are vested with the responsibility of protecting the broad and far-flung Indian interests in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

INS VIKRAMADITYA

Displacing over 45,000 tonnes, measuring 930+ feet in length and scaling more than 20 decks make INS Vikramaditya one of the world’s biggest aircraft carrier. The vessel was a Kiev-class cruiser under the Soviet Union and was imported after sustained improvements.  The vessel was converted to a 13-degree ski-jump enabled carrier for the Indian navy. Powered by diesel-electric engines the carrier can traverse up to 25,000 kilometres. Backbone to all air-borne operations of Vikky is the MiG–29 K fighter aircraft.

On-board the carrier are advanced radar and sensor systems that can keep a 360-degree vigil. The carrier also houses the deadly Barak 1 SAM systems to counter any aerial targets. These missiles can obliterate aerial targets within 12 kilometres off the carrier. The SAM systems are complimented by AK 630 CIWS systems to neutralize any targets that break the Barak fort.

Aircraft – MiG 29 K.

Making Vikramaditya potent are the ‘MiG–29K or the Fulcrums’. These aircraft are multi-role carrier borne deep strike fighter aircraft. Powered by two ‘Klimov RD-33 after burner engines’ which produces 88.3 kN of power, the aircraft can attain speeds up to 2,200 kilometres. The aircraft has a range of 2000 kilometres.

The aircraft has 13 hard points which enable it to carry air-air, air-ground and anti-shipping missiles. The extended eyes of the carrier are the MiG 29 KUB – an AWACS variant of the MiG–29 aircraft. Extremely powerful radar systems, and encrypted data links on-board this aircraft help the crew maintain a vigil in their area of operation. Data links help create a secured network for forming Aerial Early Warning (AEW) coverage over the carrier.

Rotary Wing – Kamov Ka -31 and 26 Helicopters.

The Ka -31 helicopters are the primary AEW platform of the carrier. It can detect an aircraft and surface target from as far as 150 and 200 kilometres away respectively. It can track 30-40 targets simultaneously. Dedicated and secured data-link enables the chopper to transfer target data over multiple platforms.

The Ka–28 is in-charge of all Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Search And Rescue (SAR) operations. The copter can carry loads up to 4000 tonnes and has a range of 1000 kilometres.

INS Vikramaditya will be the sole carrier for the Indian Navy after INS Viraat retires in 2016. The carrier has come as a massive boost to India navy’s operational capability in the IOR. India is the only nation to be operating a carrier in the Asian region besides US navy under its Pacific command.

A MiG - 29K fighter aircraft taking off from Goa.
A MiG – 29K fighter aircraft taking off from Goa.

Carrier Specification.

Name – INS VIKRAMADITYA

Pennant Number – R 33

Home Port – INS Kadamba, Karwar

Displacement – 45,000 tonnes

Length – 930 feet and scales almost 20 decks in height.

Propulsion – 8 Diesel engines.

Top Speed and Range – 56 kilometres/ 25,000 kilometres.

Weaponry Systems – Barak 1 SAM System and AK – 630 CIWS.

Aircraft Carrier – MiG 29K multi-role fighter aircraft.

Aircraft Range – 2000 kilometres.

Hard points – 13.

Helicopters – Kamov Ka – 31 for AEW role. Ka – 28 for ASW and SAR missions.

 

INS Viraat

Viraat is the oldest carrier serving any armed force. It was formerly a ‘Centaur-class carrier’ with the Britain navy. The carrier was commissioned to the force in May 1987. The carrier displaces 23,000 tonnes and measures 743 feet in length and is almost 14 stories in height. Diesel engines enable the carrier to attain speeds up to 52 kilometres. The carrier has a range of 11,000 kilometres.

Aircraft – Harrier Jump Jet.

The air-borne operations of the carrier are carried out by ‘British Aerospace Harrier jump jets’. The carrier is enabled with a 12-degree ski-jump to launch these aircraft. Powered by a ‘Rolls-Royce Pegasus turbo-fan’ engine, the aircraft can attain speeds up to 1200 kilometres. The aircraft has a combat range of around 1000 kilometres. It also has a total of 9-hardpoints and can carry an array of weaponry systems.

INS Viraat; Source - Net.
INS Viraat; Source – Net.

Rotary Wing – Westland Sea Kind, Dhruv and Chetak Helicopters.

The Sea King is charged with all ASW operations of the carrier. The copter is equipped with homing torpedoes to neutralize any lurking threats around the carrier. Dhruv and Chetak helicopters are deployed for all SAR missions.

Viraat having served the Indian navy for almost 3 decades is retiring from active service in 2016. The carrier in the future will be converted to a museum and will be housed in the ‘City of Destiny’ – Vishakhapatnam.

Sea Harrier of the Indian Navy; Source - Net.
Sea Harrier of the Indian Navy; Source – Net.

Carrier Specification.

Name – INS VIRAAT

Pennant Number – R 22

Home Port – Mumbai.

Displacement – 23,000 tonnes

Length – 743 feet.

Propulsion – Steam turbines.

Top Speed and Range – 52 kilometres/ 11,000 kilometres.

Weaponry Systems – Barak 1 SAM System and AK – 630 CIWS.

Aircraft Carrier – Sea Harrier.

Aircraft Range – 1,000 kilometres.

Hard points – 5.

Helicopters – Kamov Ka – 31 for AEWS role. Ka – 28 for ASW and SAR missions.

 

United States Navy – Nimitz Class Carrier

The US Navy operates ten gigantic Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. These carriers displacing 1,00,000 tonnes are the ultimate piece of power projection. The carriers are powered by nuclear reactors. Nimitz-class carriers are rightly classified as super carriers. The carrier can carry up to 90 aircraft.

Aircraft – Boeing F/A – 18 Super Hornet

The Boeing manufactured F – 18 Hornets are perhaps the most reliable and lethal carrier-borne fighter aircraft. The fighters were designed and developed as a replacement for the legendry F-14 Tomcats.

The F-18 Hornet is a twin engine powered multi-role carrier borne fighter jet. The Hornet entered service in 1999. The aircraft is charged with air-superiority and fleet defense interceptor roles. The aircraft has undergone time-bound modernization programs which have enabled it to compete against the latest aircraft. The aircraft in the future will be replaced by the F-35C stealth enabled fifth generation fighter aircraft.

Nimitz-Class super carrier; Source - Net.
Nimitz-Class super carrier; Source – Net.

The aircraft is powered by two GE manufactured F414 turbofan engines. Producing grossly 125 kN of power these engines can accelerate the aircraft up to 2,000 kilometres of speed. The aircraft has a combat range of 750+ kilometres and can neutralize aerial, ground and surface targets. The aircraft has 11 hardpoints and these enables the aircraft to carry missiles, rockets and bombs to complete its intended mission.

AEW and Replenishment/Logistics Aircraft.

The Northrop Grumman developed E-2 Hawkeye aircraft serve as the Aerial Early Warning (AEW) aircraft. Developed and conceived in 1960’s, the Hawkeye’s are the extended eyes and ears of the carrier group. The aircraft is powered by two turbo-prop engines and have a range of more than 2,000 kilometres. The aircraft can take on long endurance missions lasting as long as 6 hours.

The aircraft is equipped with a highly advanced radar system. These radar systems can track almost 2,000 targets simultaneously. The radar can guide up to 100 aircraft involved in air-air and air-surface bombing missions.

F-18 E Super Hornet aircraft taking off; Source - Net.
F-18 E Super Hornet aircraft taking off; Source – Net.

Replenishing and supplementing the aircraft carrier when at sea are the Grumman C-2 Greyhound aircraft. The aircraft is tasked with the crucial task of supplying the deployed carriers with critical mechanical spare and replacement parts. The aircraft can carry up to 4,500 kilograms of cargo. The aircraft has a range of 2,500 kilometres and also helps the carrier group in evacuating critically ill crew at times of need. These aircraft are the key for keeping the carrier and her wings striking at the enemies.

The carriers also have Sikorsky Seahawk helicopters. These multi-role choppers are in-charge of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Search And Rescue (SAR) missions. Apart from these missions, the choppers are also used to replenish the aircraft carrier and her battle group when involved in at-sea replenishment.

Carrier Specification.

Name – Nimitz-class ‘Super Carriers’

Pennant Number – A total of 10 aircraft carriers built.

Displacement – 1,00,000 tonnes

Length – 1,092 feet and scales almost 26 decks in height.

Propulsion – 2 nuclear reactors. Supplemented by gas turbine engines.

Top Speed and Range – 56 kilometres. Unprecedented given the nuclear fuel used.

Weaponry Systems – Sea Sparrow Missiles and Phalanx CIWS.

Aircraft Carrier – F-18 Super Hornets. E-2 C/D Hawkeye AEW aircraft. C-2 Greyhound Logistics supply aircraft.

Aircraft Range –F-18 with a combat range of 750 kilometres.

Hard points – 11.

Helicopters –Sikorsky Seahawk helicopters for ASW and SAR missions.

 

French Navy – Carrier Charles De Gaulle.

Charles De Gaulle, a nuclear powered carrier is the flagship of the French navy. The carrier was built by DCNS and displaces around 42,500 tonnes. It is powered by two nuclear reactors that produce a whopping 300 MWt of power. This enables the carrier to achieve speeds up to 50 kilometres.

Aircraft – Rafale – M and Super Etendard.

Backbone to the carrier operations is the advanced Dassualt built Rafale – M multi-role fighter jet. These aircraft are powered by twin Snecma manufactured turbofan engines. These engines can produce a maximum power of 152 kN and enable the jet to achieve speeds up to 1,900 kilometres. The aircraft has a disputed combat radius of 1,750+ kilometres. This enables the aircraft to take part in deep penetration bombing runs deep into enemy territory. The aircraft is equipped with a total of 13 hardpoints. The aircraft can carry an array of weaponry systems and thus acts as a major force multiplier.

Charles De Gaulle of the French Navy; Source - Net.
Charles De Gaulle of the French Navy; Source – Net.

Operating alongside the Rafale’s are the Dassault built Super Etendard carrier borne fighter jet. The aircraft is powered by a single turbofan engine which produces about 50 kN of power. The aircraft has a combat radius of 850 kilometres and can fly at speeds of 1,400 kilometres. The aircraft has six hardpoints and can carry up to 3 tonnes of weaponry systems.

Helicopters – Eurocopter Dauphin, EC725 and Cougar.

The carrier’s rotary wing is formed around three Eurocopter manufactured multi-mission helicopters. The EC725 and AS365 are charged with the Search And Rescue (SAR) missions undertaken by the aircraft carrier. The logistics support copter of the carrier is the AS532 Cougar. This copter can carry up to 20 troops and about one tonne of supplies. The copter has a range of 600 kilometres.

A Rafale-M fighter aircraft taking off from the carrier.
A Rafale-M fighter aircraft taking off from the carrier.

Carrier Specification

Name – Charles De Gaulle

Pennant Number – R 91

Home Port – Toulon,France

Displacement – 42,500 tonnes

Length – 858 feet and scales almost 18 decks in height.

Propulsion – 2 nuclear powered reactors producing almost 352 kN power.

Top Speed and Range – 50 kilometres/ Unhindered.

Weaponry Systems –MBDA Aster-15 SAM and Mistral missiles.

Aircraft Carrier – Rafale – M and Super Etendard multi-role fighter aircraft.

Aircraft Range – Rafale – M – 1,750+ kilometres/ Etendard – 1,400 kilometres.

Hard points – Rafale (13) and Etendard (6).

Helicopters – Multi-role Eurocopter Dauphin, EC725 and Cougar choppers.

Russian Navy

Under the command of the Russian Navy is the 56,000 tonne — Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov aircraft carrier. The carrier is a conventional powered vessel and features a 13-degree Ski-jump to launch aircraft. The carrier is powered by diesel engines and has range of 16,000 kilometres. The carrier can carry 41 aircraft and helicopters. Unique to the carrier is its capability to carry the feared long range Granit Anti-Shipping Missile.

The lone carrier of the Russian Navy.
The lone carrier of the Russian Navy.

Aircraft – Sukhoi Su -33.

The air wing of the carrier is based around the Sukhoi Su – 33 carrier borne fighter jet. The aircraft is developed from the Su – 27 aircraft but features a strengthened under-carriage and foldable wings. This ingenious technology of foldable wings saves crucial space on-board carriers.  The aircraft is powered by twin AL-31 afterburning turbo-fan engines. These engines producing 150 kN of power can accelerate the aircraft up to 2,300 kilometres.

The aircraft is equipped with twelve hardpoints and these enable the aircraft to take part in multi-mission roles. Having a range of more than 3000 kilometres, the aircraft can take the war right to the doors of the enemies. The aircraft in the future will be replaced by MiG – 29K aircraft.

Sukhoi Su-33 of the Russian Navy.
Sukhoi Su-33 of the Russian Navy.

Helicopters – Kamov Ka – 27.

The Ka–27 is in-charge of all Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Search And Rescue (SAR) operations taken up by the carrier. The chopper has a range of 1,000 kilometres.

Carrier Specification.

Name – Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov.

Home Port – Mediterranean Fleet.

Displacement – 56,000 tonnes.

Length – 1,000 feet and scales almost 20 decks in height.

Propulsion – 8 diesel powered steam driven turbines.

Top Speed and Range – 52 kilometres/ 16,000 kilometres.

Weaponry Systems – P-700 Granit SSM, 3K95 Kinzhal SAM and Kastan CIWS.

Aircraft Carrier – Sukhoi Su -33 aircraft.

Aircraft Range – 3000 kilometres.

Hard points – 13.

Helicopters – Kamov Ka – 27 for ASW and SAR missions.

Brazilian Navy – Carrier NAe Sao Paulo.

One of the latest operators of a carrier is the Brazilian Navy who acquired a former Clemenceau-class carrier from the French Navy. The carrier displacing 24,000 tonnes was inducted to the force in November 2000. The carrier features a CATOBOR design to launch aircraft and is capable of carrying up to 40 aircraft. The carrier is charged with protecting the Brazilian coasts and her EEZ.

Aircraft – Douglas A-4 SeaHawk

The air-wing of the carrier is formed around the US developed Douglas A-4 Seahawk fighter jets. These aircraft were introduced in 1956 and the Brazilians acquired these jets from Kuwait. The aircraft is powered by a single ‘Pratt & Witney turbojet engine’ which produces 40 kN of power. The aircraft can attain speeds of 1,050 kilometres and has a combat range of 1,100 kilometres. Having 5 hardpoints the aircraft can carry rockets, missiles and bombs. The aircraft is primarily being used for training purpose. The carrier may in the future carry Rafale jets.

The Brazilian Navy aircraft carrier. Source - Net
The Brazilian Navy aircraft carrier. Source – Net

Helicopters – Eurocopter AS532 Cougar, AS350 and AS355.

Centric to rotary operations are the Eurocopter designed AS532 Cougar helicopters. This copter can carry up to 20 troops and about one tonne of supplies. The copter has a range of 600 kilometres. The carrier also operates AS350 and AS255 light helicopters which are powered by twin engines. The Sikorsky SH-3 helicopters are in-charge of the ASW missions.

A-4 Douglas aircraft. Source - Net.
A-4 Douglas aircraft. Source – Net.

Carrier Specification.

Name – Carrier NAe Sao Paulo.

Home Port – Rio de Janeiro.

Displacement –25,000 tonnes.

Length – 869 feet and scales almost 16 decks in height.

Propulsion – Diesel powered 4 – steam driven turbines.

Top Speed and Range – 59 kilometres/ 13,000 kilometres.

Weaponry Systems –Crotale EDIR system.

Aircraft Carrier – A-4 Skyhawks acquired from Kuwait.

Aircraft Range – 1,050 kilometres.

Hard points – 5.

Helicopters – Eurocopter AS352 Cougar, AS350, AS255 and Sikorsky SH-3 helicopters.

 

Italian Navy – Carrier Cavour

The 27,000 tonne carrier is the largest unit of the Italian Navy. Measuring over 800 feet, the carrier is a shot-in-the-arm for the protection of Italy’s coast and her extended assets. The carrier can effectively be designated as a Landing Dock Helicopter (LHD) vessel. The carrier can operate Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) aircraft.

Aircraft – AV-8B Harrier II.

The Harrier’s are single engine powered ground attack aircraft. These aircraft have been deployed in ground-attack and reconnaissance roles. The aircraft is powered by a Rolls Royce turbofan engine which produces about 105 kN of power. The aircraft can attain speeds up to 1,100 kilometres. The aircraft has a combat radius of 550 kilometres. Six external hardpoints allow the aircraft to carry an array of weaponry systems.

Carrier Cavour. Net - Source.
Carrier Cavour. Net – Source.

Helicopters – Agusta Westland AW101

The Italian Navy operates around twenty AW101 multi-utility choppers. These aircraft are used to replenish the carrier when at sea. The choppers have also been fitted out with the latest systems to take part in ASuW, ASW and AEW missions. The choppers can also be used in MedEvac missions. The choppers have space for about 30 fully armed troops and can carry a payload of about 4 tonnes.

A Harrier Jump jet. Source - Net.
A Harrier Jump jet. Source – Net.

Carrier Specification

Name – Carrier Cavour.

Home Port – La Spezia.

Displacement –27,000 tonnes.

Length – 800 feet and scales almost 18 decks in height.

Propulsion – Gas turbine driven vesssel.

Top Speed and Range – 52 kilometres/ 13,000 kilometres.

Weaponry Systems –MBDA Aster-15 SAM systems and Oerlikon Contraves AAA guns.

Aircraft Carrier – AV-8b Harrier II jets.

Aircraft Range – 550 kilometres.

Hard points – 6.

Helicopters – Augusta Westland AW101.

 

Spanish Navy – Carrier Juan Carlos

Juan Carlos is one of the latest additions to the Spanish Navy. These vessels are designated as amphibious assault ships. Carrying a fleet of Harrier jets these vessel can mount aerial attacks. This enables the vessel to operate as an aircraft carrier and thus multiplies the strike capability. Having enormous deck space the vessels can be major support when mounting sea-borne beach assaults. The vessel can accommodate about 1,000 soldiers along with 50 battle tanks when deployed in this role. It is powered by a diesel engine and has a range of around 17,000 kilometres.

Aircraft – AV-8B Harrier II

The Harrier’s are single engine powered ground attack aircraft. These aircraft have been deployed in ground-attack and reconnaissance roles. The aircraft is powered by a Rolls Royce turbofan engine which produces about 105 kN of power. The aircraft can attain speeds up to 1,100 kilometres. The aircraft has a combat radius of 550 kilometres. Six external hardpoints allow the aircraft to carry an array of weaponry systems.

Juan Carlos aircraft carrier. Source - Net.
Juan Carlos aircraft carrier. Source – Net.

Rotary Wing – NH90 Helicopter

The NH90 is an exclusive naval chopper developed by the NATO nations. The chopper is classified as NATO frigate helicopter. It features an advanced four-channel fly-by wire technology.  The chopper can carry up to 20 troops or in MedEvac roles can carry 12 stretchers. The chopper can also hoist loads up to 4 tonnes. It can further be fitted out with homing torpedoes and rockets to counter any lurking submarines.

Harrier jump jet. Source - Net.
Harrier jump jet. Source – Net.

Carrier Specification

Name – Carrier Juan Carlos.

Home Port – Naval Station Rota.

Displacement –26,000 tonnes.

Length – 750 feet and scales almost 15 decks in height.

Propulsion – Gas turbine driven vesssel.

Top Speed and Range – 39 kilometres/ 17,000 kilometres.

Aircraft Carrier – AV-8B Harrier II jets.

Aircraft Range – 550 kilometres.

Hard points – 6.

Helicopters – NH90.

 

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