Currently, the U.S. has 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers that help the nation to project global power.

During World War II, the U.S. had a staggering 151 carriers, though they pale in comparison to today’s carriers, such as the Bismarck Sea that was just one-tenth the size of the Ford class.

The U.S. Has 11 Aircraft Carriers in Service

Currently, the U.S. has 11 aircraft carriers, which is the largest of any country in the world.

The U.S. has 10 Nimitz class aircraft carriers and 1 Ford class carrier.

  1. The USS Gerald R. Ford
  2. The USS Nimitz
  3. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower
  4. The USS Carl Vinson
  5. The USS Theodore Roosevelt
  6. The USS Abraham Lincoln
  7. The USS George Washington
  8. The USS John C. Stennis
  9. The USS Harry S. Truman
  10. The USS Ronald Reagan
  11. The USS George H.W. Bush.

The Nimitz class aircraft carriers are all 332.8 m or 1,091.86ft long, and the USS Gerald Ford is 337 m (1,106 ft) long.

Related: How Long is an Aircraft Carrier?

The U.S. Had A Lot More Aircraft Carriers in World War II

During World War II, the U.S. had 151 carriers.

12 aircraft carriers were sunk by the enemy, including five fleet carriers, a seaplane tender and six escort carriers

What Was the First U.S. Aircraft Carrier?

Commissioned in March 1922, the USS Langley (CV-1) was the United States’ first aircraft carrier.

The USS Langley measured 542 ft long, and had a displacement of 12,900 tons.

16 U.S. Aircraft Carriers Have Been Sunk

16 U.S. aircraft carriers have been sunk, from the USS Langley on 27th February 1942, to the USS Oriskany that was purposefully sunk to be used an artificial reef.

The last aircraft carrier to be sunk in combat was the Bismarck Sea in February 1945, that was sunk by two Japanese kamikaze aircraft during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

There Are 25 Aircraft Carriers Worldwide

In 2023, there are 25 total active aircraft carriers in the world, used by 11 countries.

  • Brazil:  Brazil has 1 aircraft carrier – the Atlântico.
  • China: China has 2 aircraft carriers – Lioning and Shandong.
  • France: France has 1 aircraft carrier: – The Charles de Gaulle .
  • India: India has 1 aircraft carrier – The INS Vikramaditya.
  • Italy: Italy has 2 aircraft carriers – The Cavour and the Giuseppe Garibaldi.
  • Japan: Japan has 2 aircraft carriers – The JS Izumo and the JS Kaga .
  • Russia: Russia has 1 aircraft carrier – The Admiral Kuznestsov.
  • Spain: Spain has 1 aircraft carrier – The Juan Carlos I.
  • Thailand: Thailand has 1 aircraft carrier – The HTMS Chakri Naruebet.
  • UK: The UK has 2 aircraft carriers – The HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.
  • USA: The United States has 11 aircraft carriers, the largest of any country in the world. The US has 10 Nimitz class aircraft carriers and 1 Ford class carrier. 

The USS Gerald R.Ford is the Largest and Most Expensive Aircraft Carrier

The USS Gerald R.Ford, which is the first Ford-class aircraft carrier, is the most expensive U.S. aircraft carrier, and most expensive aircraft carrier ever built.

The Congressional Research Service estimates the aircraft carrier costs $13.3 billion.

However, the cost of the entire program for building this aircraft, including research and development costs, likely reached close to $37 billion. 

In contrast, the world’s cheapest aircraft carrier is the HTMS Chakri Naruebet, which cost the Thai Navy approximately $336 million to build. 

The USS Gerald Ford is also the world’s largest aircraft carrier. Once fully loaded, it has a total displacement of 100,000 tonnes.

The Italian Navy’s Giuseppe Garibaldi is the world’s smallest aircraft carrier. It “only” weighs 27,000 tonnes.

Aircraft Carriers Don’t Come Cheap

Cost to Build

The average aircraft carrier costs between $5 billion to $10 billion to build.

The exact cost can depend on the carrier’s intended role, size, type, and the country manufacturing it.

Cost to Operate

The average annual operating cost of an aircraft carrier is $1.18 billion.

This results in an average daily operational cost of between $6 million to $8 million, depending on the carrier’s configuration and number of military personnel. 

Cost to Maintain

An aircraft carrier can cost between $2 to $4 billion per 32 month maintenance cycle.

While the maintenance cost of aircraft carriers is not publicly disclosed, it likely varies according to the carrier’s size and complexity.

Does the U.S. Really Need All Those Aircraft Carriers?

As of late 2021, the United States Air Force (USAF) has 5,217 active aircraft, comfortably making it the largest air fleet in the world.

Perhaps surprisingly, the U.S. Navy has the second-largest air fleet in the world, with 3,700 aircraft.

Therefore, the U.S. definitely needs and makes use of their aircraft carriers.

Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.

Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.

Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.