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Encyclopedia > Nimitz Class
USS Nimitz in 1997

The Nimitz class supercarriers are the largest warships in the world. All of the ships in this class are nuclear-powered carrier vessels (CVN). These ships are numbered with consecutive hull numbers starting with CVN 68.

Nimitz (CVN-68), the lead ship of the class, was commissioned in 1975. As of 2004, George H. W. Bush (CVN-77), the tenth and last of the class, is being built by Northrop Grumman Newport News and will enter service in 2008. Bush will be the first transition ship to a new class of carriers (CVN-21) to start construction in 2007 and will incorporate new technologies including a new multi-function radar system, volume search radar and open architecture information network, and a significantly reduced crew requirement. Also to lower the costs some of the new technologies were incorporated into the Ronald Reagan, though not nearly as much that will be involved with the Bush.

Because of construction differences between the first three ships (Nimitz, Eisenhower and Vinson) and the latter seven (Theodore Roosevelt on), the latter ships are sometimes called Theodore Roosevelt-class aircraft carriers, though the US Navy officially holds no difference between the two groups.

By tonnage, the Nimitz class compose by far the largest class of carriers ever built. When Bush is completed, the ten ships of the class will total just under a million tons combined displacement.

Nimitz was the first to undergo its initial refueling during a 33-month Refueling Complex Overhaul at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia, in 1998.

General characteristics

  • Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding Company, Newport News, Virginia
  • Power Plant: Two A4W reactors, four shafts
  • Length: 333 m (1092 ft) overall
  • Flight Deck Width: 76.8 m (252 ft)
  • Beam: 41 m (134 ft)
  • Displacement: 98,500 tons full load, on par with current cruise ships though roughly 50% less than the largest in service and under construction
  • Speed: 30+ knots (56+ km/h) — in June 1999, the USN publicly released these trial speeds:
    • Nimitz: 31.5 knots (58.3 km/h)
    • Roosevelt: 31.3 knots (58.0 km/h)
    • Truman: 30.9 knots (57.2 km/h)
  • Aircraft: 85
    • Intended to operate fighter aircraft currently including the F/A-18_Hornet, EA-6B Prowler, E-2 Hawkeye, and S-3 Viking for many missions including self defense, land attack and maritime strike.
  • Cost: about US$4.5 billion each
  • Crew: Ship's Company: 3,200 — Air Wing: 2,480
  • Armament:
    • NATO Sea Sparrow launchers: two or three (depending on modification)
    • 20mm Phalanx CIWS mounts: Three on Nimitz and Eisenhower and four on Vinson and later ships of the class
    • RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile: Two on Nimitz and Reagan, will be refit to other ships as they return for RCOH.
  • Date Deployed: 3 May 1975 (Nimitz)


Nimitz-class aircraft carrier
Nimitz | Dwight D. Eisenhower | Carl Vinson | Theodore Roosevelt | Abraham Lincoln | George Washington | John C. Stennis | Harry S. Truman | Ronald Reagan | George H. W. Bush

List of aircraft carriers of the United States Navy

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