The U.S. Navy has the largest and most powerful aircraft carriers on Earth, for sure. But what about other countries like Russia, China, India, and others? Yes, quite a few nations around the globe have some powerful aircraft carriers that could do some serious damage if forced to sail off into war:
Aircraft carriers are some of the largest warships today.
There are 47 aircraft carriers currently in active service in the world — all of which are operated by just 14 countries. Aircraft carriers are considered the “most valuable” naval asset, tasked with not just war operations but guarding territorial waters, per a 2020 report from the Joint Air Power Competence Centre.
Five countries — US, China, UK, France and India — operate 10 of the world’s largest aircraft carriers in terms of displacement. According to naval architect Harry Alexander Karanassos, displacement refers to the mass of water displaced by a ship.
Take a look at these massive warships — the units and classes are arranged in ascending order according to their displacement.
10. Charles De Gaulle (France)
It operates dozens of aircraft, including 40 Dassault Rafale M fighters, Super Etendard Modernise aircraft, and Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeyes, per the foreign policy site The National Interest.
9. INS Vikramaditya (India)
The INS Vikramaditya is a Soviet-made aircraft carrier that was commissioned by the Indian Navy in 2013, per the navy’s official website. The warship is regarded as the current flagship of the navy, and was purchased from Russia for $2.35 billion.
It operates over 30 aircraft, including the Mikoyan MiG-29K multi-role fighters and Kamov Ka-31 and KA-28 helicopters.
8. INS Vikrant (India)
Built by Cochin Shipyard Limited, the INS Vikrant is the first-ever aircraft carrier constructed in India. Launched in 2013, the ship’s construction cost over $3.5 billion and was originally scheduled for commissioning in 2018 but was delayed due to the pandemic.
The INS Vikrant has a projected displacement of 45,000 tons which will make it the Indian Navy’s largest aircraft carrier, superseding the INS Vikramaditya. It measures 860 feet in length and 194 feet in height and can accommodate a crew of 1,645.
Local media describe the INS Vikrant as an “elite” warship. The aircraft carrier is slated to operate MiG-29K fighter jets, Kamov-31 helicopters, and Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk helicopters once commissioned in September, per local news site India Times.
7. Liaoning, Type 001 (China)
Liaoning operates armaments that include the Chinese-made Type 1130 rotary cannon and HQ-10 surface-to-air missiles. It also operates a maximum of 36 aircraft, including the Shenyang J-15, Changhe Z-18F/J and Harbin Z-9.
6. Admiral Kuznetsov (Russia)
Admiral Kuznetsov was built by Nikolayev South during the Soviet era. First commissioned in 1991, the aircraft carrier is currently the only unit operated by the Russian Navy. As of June, Admiral Kuznetsov is undergoing a refit, per the wire agency Reuters.
Admiral Kuznetsov operates armament ranging from Soviet-made AK-630 guns to P-700 Granit anti-cruise missiles.
5. Shandong, Type 002 (China)
Shandong was built by Dalian Shipbuilding Industry in 2018. The aircraft carrier, which is also known as Type 002, was commissioned in 2019. While Shandong is the first Chinese-made aircraft carrier, it is a variant of the Soviet-built Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier.
The warship measures around 1,033 feet, and has a full-load displacement of 70,000 tons.
It operates similar armaments and aircraft to the Liaoning aircraft carrier: Type 1130 rotary cannon and HQ-10 suface-to-air missiles, in addition to the Shenyang J-15, Changhe Z-18F/J and Harbin Z-9 aircraft.
4. HMS Queen Elizabeth-class (UK)
HMS Queen Elizabeth is a class that comprises of two aircraft carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and the HMS Prince of Wales. The lead ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, was commissioned in 2017. The class was built by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance and cost around £3.8 billion to construct per unit.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is fitted with armament that includes the Phalanx close-in weapon system and US-made M134 miniguns. It can carry more than 65 aircraft, which include the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet and the Boeing Chinook helicopter.
3. Fujian, Type 003 (China)
Fujian is China’s largest and most advanced aircraft carrier. Launched in June, the warship, also known as Type 003, was built by China State Shipbuilding Corporation. Fujian has yet to be commissioned.
Zhou Chenming, a researcher at Beijing-based think tank Yuan Wang said it would take around 18 months of testing before Fujian is combat-ready, per the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post.
The warship measures around 984 feet in length and has a displacement of 80,000 tons.
Fujian is fitted with catapults that can launch “larger and heavier aircraft,” according to the Hong Kong-based news site Asia Times. The aircraft carrier is tasked with reinforcing Chinese presence on the eastern side of Taiwan, the publication reported, citing local naval strategists.
2. Nimitz-class (US)
There are 10 aircraft carriers that belong to the Nimitz-class. All were built by Newport News Shipbuilding. The first aircraft carrier in the class, USS Nimitz, was commissioned in 1975 but is due to be decommissioned in 2025.
The warships can carry up to 82 aircraft, which include McDonnell Douglas Hornet fighter jets and Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye aircraft. It also operates armament that includes the Phalanx Mk-15 close-in weapon system.
1. Gerald R. Ford-class (US)
With a total of 10 planned aircraft carriers, the Gerald R. Ford-class is regarded as the US Navy’s warships of the future. The USS Gerald R. Ford, the first aircraft carrier to be built, was commissioned in 2017. The research and development of the class cost $37.3 billion, and the construction of each unit cost almost $13 billion.
The USS Gerald R. Ford is fitted with various surface-to-air missiles, including the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow and the RIM-116, and M2 machine guns. It can carry more than 75 aircraft, which include the Lockheed Martin F-35 and Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter jets, and Sikorsky MH-60R helicopters.
Marielle Descalsota is a photojournalist and the junior visual features reporter at Insider’s Singapore bureau (where this first appeared), where she covers travel, lifestyle, and deep dives on Asia. She first joined the bureau as a visual features fellow in 2022. She graduated with a BA (Hons) in English literature and communications from the Nanyang Technological University in 2021. She currently pursues a Master’s degree at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.