If there’s one ship that is iconic of the United States Navy’s dominance of the ocean, it is the Nimitz-class supercarrier. These vessels, the first of which entered service in 1975, are yuge (to use the parlance of the present commander-in-chief). They’re also quite fast and have plenty of endurance, thanks to the use of nuclear reactors.
Their primary weapon isn’t a gun or a missile — it’s up to 90 aircraft. When the Nimitz first set sail, the F-14 Tomcat was the top-of-the-line fighter. Today, a mix of F/A-18C Hornets and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets are carried on board, and many Nimitz-class ships will operate F-35 Lightnings in the years to come.
The Nimitz-class carriers just missed the Vietnam War. Its participation in the failed 1980 hostage rescue mission in Iran was the class’s baptism by fire. The Nimitz also starred in the 1980 action-adventure film, The Final Countdown, in which it was sent back in time to just before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
USS Nimitz (CVN 68), the first of ten ships of its class,
In 1981, the carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) took part in freedom of navigation exercises in the Gulf of Sidra. During these exercises, Libya got a little bold and sent two Su-22 Fitters out to sea to pick a fight with two Tomcats and lost. Throughout the Cold War, Nimitz-class ships helped hold the line against all potential threats.
A F/A-18 Hornet is launched from the carrier USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75).
In 1990, the Eisenhower was one of two carriers that responded to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. While the Eisenhower did not launch combat missions, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) did. The Nimitz-class remained in production even as the post-Cold War saw America’s carrier force shrink from 15 to 11. The Eisenhower was also used to help move an Army brigade for a potential invasion of Haiti in 1994.
Not only does the United States have more aircraft carriers than any other country, they have the most powerful, dwarfing vessels like HMS Illustrious.
Since then, Nimitz-class carriers have taken part in operations over Iraq, the Balkans, and as part of the Global War on Terror. The United States built ten of these ships. These seafaring behemoths displace over 100,000 tons, have a top speed of over 30 knots, and have a crew and air wing that totals over 5,800 personnel.
Learn more about one of these massive vessels that serve as both a crucial component and symbol of American naval power in the video below.
Note: Contrary to the video title, USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) is the seventh carrier of the Nimitz class.