At several billion dollars apiece they’re expensive, and in response to today’s conflicts they’re often seen as obsolete, but aircraft carriers are being produced today at numbers not seen since World War II.
The latest generation of carriers in the United States Navy is called the Nimitz Class, after the five-star naval admiral Chester Nimitz, and is powered by a small nuclear reactor allowing it to go 20 years without re-fueling. The ship has a service life of about 50 years, carries a crew of over 5,000, and is incredibly expensive to maintain.
Nuclear powered carriers have long been the domain of the United States Navy, which has 11 in its fleet, but according to a report on Fox, countries around the world are adding carriers to their fleet in unprecedented numbers.
Britain, France and Russia, as well as, Brazil, India and China are all increasing their fleets carrier presence. The French carrier Charles de Gaulle has been elemental in France’s recent Libyan campaign:
The whole idea is about being able to project power,” said Rear Adm. Philippe Coindreau, commander of the French navy task force that has led the air strikes on Libya since March 22.
An aircraft carrier is perfectly suited to these kinds of conflicts, and this ship demonstrates it every day,” he said in an interview aboard the French carrier Charles de Gaulle, which has been launching daily raids against Moammar Gaddafi’s forces since the international intervention in the Libyan conflict began.
These new carriers will help countries not looking to become superpowers, project their power within their own regions.
The number of carriers worldwide is impossible to establish as ships of various sizes perform various capabilities similar to a full-size carrier.
The United States continues to set the bar for fully capable carriers, however, and will induct the Gerald R. Ford, the lead ship in a new class of supercarriers in 2015.
The cost is expected to reach about $9 billion.
These new carrier contracts go to to established shipbuilders in their home countries. In the U.S. Newport News Shipbuilding Company (NNS), a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman (NOC), produces the ships and Westinghouse the nuclear reactors; in Britain, Babcock’s Appledore shipyard is one of five yards tapped for production of the hulls. The design and build in the UK is overseen by Aircraft Carrier Alliance (AKA).
These contracts then filter down to thousands of subcontractors.