United States – Aircraft Carrier Fleet
10 CATOBAR carriers: Nimitz class: ten 101,000 ton nuclear-powered supercarriers, the first of which was commissioned in 1975. A Nimitz-class carrier is powered by two nuclear reactors providing steam to four steam turbines and is 1,092 feet (333 m) long. The decommissioned supercarrier Kitty Hawk is being held in reserve until the first of the new Gerald R. Ford class comes into service in 2016.
Nine Amphibious assault ships:
- America class a class of 45,000 ton amphibious assault ships, although the lead ship in this class does not have a well deck. One ship in service out of a planned 12 ships. Ships of this class can have a secondary mission as a light carrier with 20 AV-8B Harrier II, and in the future the F-35B Lightning II aircraft after unloading their Marine expeditionary unit.
- Wasp class a class of eight 41,000 ton amphibious assault ships, members of this class have been used in wartime in their secondary mission as light carriers with 20 to 25 AV-8Bs after unloading their Marine expeditionary unit.
The current US fleet of Nimitz-class carriers will be followed into service (and in some cases replaced) by the Gerald R. Ford class. It is expected that the ships will be more automated in an effort to reduce the amount of funding required to maintain and operate the vessels. The main new features are implementation of Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) (which replace the old steam catapults) and unmanned aerial vehicles.
With the deactivation of USS Enterprise in December 2012, the U.S. fleet comprises 10 supercarriers. The House Armed Services Seapower subcommittee on 24 July 2007, recommended seven or maybe eight new carriers (one every four years). However, the debate has deepened over budgeting for the $12–14.5 billion (plus $12 billion for development and research) for the 100,000 ton Gerald R. Ford-class carrier (estimated service 2016) compared to the smaller $2 billion 45,000 ton America-class amphibious assault ships, which are able to deploy squadrons of F-35Bs. The first of this class, USS America, is now in active service with another, USS Tripoli, under construction and 9 more are planned