10 most advanced military aircraft carriers in service today

We must start by saying that aircraft carriers are – by far – the largest military vessels of history. When it comes to naval warfare, for centuries navies have developed and built different designs of ships. But, with the birth of airplanes, many wanted a combination of these two. This is where the concept of an aircraft carrier was born. Many steps had to be taken for us to have these types of aircraft carriers in the 21st century.



The first ships of this type looked nothing like what we see today. The newest and most modern aircraft carriers can carry the deadliest carrier-based fighters, the most useful helicopters and the most advanced drones on the planet. The strong characteristics of each aircraft carrier are its size, its displacement, its planes and its weapon systems. Based on this, let’s see which are the most powerful transporters on the planet!

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ten Chakri Naruebet

This Thai carrier was the first owned by a Southeast Asian nation. Chakri Naruevet can carry up to 30 fixed planes and helicopters. Some options available are the AV-8S attack aircraft, S-70B, Seahawk, Sea King and CH-47 Chinook helicopters.

As for defensive armament, we don’t have much to say. The original plan’s 8 VLS cells for Sea Sparrow missiles and four Vulcan Phalanx close-in combat weapon systems were never added to the carrier.

9 Cavour

Cavour has been the flagship of the Italian Navy since 2008, when it began service. The light aircraft carrier can carry more than 20 planes and helicopters, although there are only limited options available. For fixed-wing aircraft, there is only the Boeing V-8B Harrier II Plus. But, Italy wanted V/STOL aircraft from the start and that is why the country is considering acquiring F-35Bs to replace its current air fleet.

The design of the ships allows it to transfer tanks and other vehicles, as well as hundreds of marines (up to 325).

8 Sao Paulo

With a displacement of 34,000 tons, the Brazilian aircraft carrier became the largest ship in the Brazilian Navy in 2000, when it began serving the South American country. From 1963 to 2000, the French Navy owned the ship.

The aircraft carrier can carry up to 40 planes and helicopters, but they are currently only used for training. Don’t expect much from the ship’s offensive weapons.

seven Vikramaditya

Vikramaditya is the Indian Navy’s only light aircraft carrier. In fact, this is a refitted Soviet-class cruiser kyiv. Vikramaditya only started serving in the Indian Army in 2014.

The light aircraft carrier can launch up to 30 aircraft and helicopters, while available options consist of MiG-29KU and MiG-29KUB fighters, Sea Harrier attack aircraft and helicopters like the Ka-31.

6 Charles de Gaulle

The French flagship Charles de Gaulle could not miss the list. It is the only nuclear-powered carrier outside the United States.

Its air fleet can include up to 40 planes and helicopters. The versatile fighters are of course the excellent French Rafale, a characteristic that makes the aircraft carrier formidable and deadly. There are also early warning aircraft like the E-2C Hawkeye and helicopters like the AS 322 Cougar on deck.

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5 queen elizabeth

Two Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers have been produced, with the first delivery expected to take place in 2009.

The ships have a displacement of 65,000 tons, a length of 930 feet and can carry up to 40 aircraft. Even though the British ships have similar dimensions to the Chinese and Russian aircraft carriers, the latter two only operate air superiority on their deck. On the contrary, the UK operates the F-35B multi-role fighters.

Defense armament is limited to a Phalanx close-in weapon system and 30mm naval guns.


4 shandong

Varyag is the second ship of the Soviet Kuznetsov class, which was delivered to Ukraine in 1985. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the ship’s production stopped and the ship was sold to China. The aircraft carrier, after many changes, began serving the Chinese Navy in 2012. The new designation was Liaoning.

In 2019, another aircraft carrier of the same class began serving the Chinese Navy with the designation Shandong. The specific ship is the only one that was produced within Chinese borders.

Thus, the Shandong has a displacement of 64,000 tons, a length of 1,033 feet and can carry 44 aircraft. A typical option is the J-15 air superiority fighter.

The aircraft carrier is armed with short-range defensive weapons.

3 Kuznetsov class

Admiral Kuznetsov began serving in the Russian Navy in 1991. Although smaller than US aircraft carriers, it carries powerful defensive weapons.

The carrier has a displacement of 60,000 tons, a length of 1,000 feet and can carry up to 40 aircraft.

The ship carries defensive weapons, such as guided cruise missiles, giving it the ability to engage surface, underwater, and air targets.

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2 Improved Nimitz class

A total of ten super-carriers of this class were built: 3 Nimitz ships and 7 upgraded Nimitz ships.

These nuclear aircraft carriers have a displacement of 100,000 tons, a length of 1,090 feet and can carry up to 80 aircraft. Typical air fleet options are F/A-18E/F Super Hornet multi-role fighters, F/A-18C Hornet attack aircraft, and more. Under standard conditions, the upgraded Nimitz operates with 60 aircraft and helicopters, but if the situation requires additional aircraft, the ship can accommodate up to 130 F/A-18 Hornets.

These carriers have automatic defense systems that can work against anti-ship guided cruise missiles.


1 Ford-class

The Ford class is the successor to the Nimitz class of US Navy aircraft carriers. They are the largest military ships that have been built.

The ships are the same size and displacement as Nimitz but have more automatic and advanced systems. Each aircraft carrier has enough space for 85 aircraft, such as the F-35B/C and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet multi-role fighter, EA-18G electronic warfare, MH-60R naval helicopters and MH-60S, and more.

It is interesting and at the same time a little funny that an aircraft carrier of this class is more powerful than entire air forces. The Ford-class defense weapon consists of 16 advanced Sea Sparrow missiles for each ship. These weapons are used against fast and agile incoming anti-ship missiles. In addition to this, there are two launchers with 21 rolling cell missiles which are also used against anti-ship missiles (short range). Finally, these ships are equipped with 20mm Phalanx close combat weapon systems.

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