- Nimitz Class Page
SPECIFICATIONS PHOTOGRAPHS (Click on the pictures for an enlarged photo)

Designation: CVN
Length: 1092 ft
Width: 252 ft
Beam: 134 ft
Displacement: 102,000 tons
Propulsion: 2 A4W Nuclear Reactors,
4 shafts
Speed: 30+ knots
Crew: 5,984 (includes air crew)
Airwing: 85 fixed, rotary
- 2 X 8 NATO Sea Sparrow SAM (all)
- 2 x 21 RAM System SAM (all)
- 3 X 20mm Phalanx CIWS (CVN:71-75)
Elevators: 4
Catapaults: 4
Ships in class: 10
CVN-68 USS Nimitz
CVN-69 USS Dwight D. Eisenhower
CVN-70 USS Carl Vinson
CVN-71 USS Theodore Roosevelt
CVN-72 USS Abraham Lincoln
CVN-73 USS George Washington
CVN-74 USS John C. Stennis
CVN-75 USS Harry S. Truman
CVN-76 USS Ronald Reagan
CVN-77 George HW Bush
The Nimitz class aircraft carriers are the largest warships ever built (until the new Ford Class carriers are commissioned). They are the mainstay of the US Navy's power projection and sea lane protetction capabilities. Each of these vessels carries an airwing that is larger and more powerful than many nation's complete air force. By having the resources, the experience, and the capability to build and operate ten of these vessels in class (where each vessel is surrounded by an extensive force of other surface and sub-surface combatants that make up each Carrier Strike Group (CSG), usually conssisting of at least one Ticonderoga Aegis Cruiser, two to three Arleigh Burke Class Aegis Destroyers, and one US Nuclear attach submarine), the United States remains the unchallenged, dominant sea force on earth.

The initial vessel, and namesake of the class, the USS Nimitz, CVN-68, was launched May 13, 1972 and commissioned May 3, 1975. As the first in class, with all the new features, she took some time to go through trials and get all worked up ready for commission. After that they would commission quicker, usually two or less years, except the last in class, which was a transilitional carrier to the next new class. Since the time the Nimitz was commissioned, nine more have been built, with the latest being the USS Gerogre H.W. Bush (after the 41st President of the United states) which was launched October 9, 2006 and commissioned January 10, 2009, 27 months later.

All ten ships are powered by two A4W nuclear reactors, kept in separate compartments. They power four shafts and produce a maximum speed well in excess of 30 knots (56 km/h) and maximum power of 260,000 bhp (190 MW). The nuclear reactor's fission produces heat which is used to super heat pressurized water. The pressure then powers four General electric turbines which are shared by the two reactors. The turbines power the four propellers, each with a diameter of 25 feet (7.6 m) and a weighing over 66,000 pounds (30 tons) each. Two large rudders, 29 feet (8.8 m) high and 22 feet (6.7 m) long, and each weighing 110,000 pounds (50 tons) are used to control and direct the vessels. The last two Nimitz-class ships (USS Ronald Reagan and USS George H.W. Bush) also have bulbous bows which help improve speed and fuel efficiency by reducing hydrodynamic drag.As a result of the use of nuclear power, the ships are capable of operating continuously for over 20 years without refueling and are predicted to have a service life of over 50 or more years.

Carrier Air Wing:
When one of the Nimitz class carriers deploy to sea, it embarks one of ten Carrier Air Wings (CVW). The carriers can accommodate u to 90 or more aircraft of different types, but the current embarked airwing are typically from 50-64 aircraft. Although the air wings are integrated into the operation of whichever carrier they are deployed to,at the same time, within the US NAvy, they are considered a separate military unit. Along with the aircrew themselves (pilots, radar operators, co-pilots, electorinic officers, etc.), the air wings also consist of support personnel who do the maintenance, ordnance handling and emergency procedures. Each person on the flight deck wears color-coded clothing to make their role easily identifiable.

A typical modern Nimitz carrier air wing would include one squardron of 12–14 F/A-18E or F Super Hornets, two squadrons of 10–12 F/A-18C Hornets, with one of these often provided by the U.S. Marine Corps (VMFA), 4–6 EA-6B Prowlers for electronic warfare (which will soon transition to the EF-18 Growlers), 4–6 E-2C/D Hawkeyes used for airborne early warning, 2-4 C-2 Greyhounds used for logistics; and a Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron of 6–8 SH-60F & HH-60H Seahawks. Thi makes for an airwing of from 48-62 aircraft.

Carrier Weapon Systems and Self Defense:
In addition to the aircraft carried on the carrier, some of which are always operating to defend the carrier, the vessels carry defensive weapons and equipment for direct use against missiles and hostile aircraft. Originally the wepaons consisted of three or four NATO RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missile launchers designed for defense against aircraft and anti-ship missiles as well as either three or four 20 mm Phalanx CIWS missile defense cannon. However, more recently, as the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) system proved extremely effective against aircraft and missiles at short range, the weapons fit has changed. Currently CVN-68 and CVN-69, and CVN76 and CVN-77 are defended by two NATO Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) launchers with eght missiles each which are medium to short range protection., and two RAM Missile launchers, each with 21 missiles which are very good for short range protection. CVN-71, the USS Roosevelt is protected by two NATO ESSM launchers, two RAM missile launchers, and two Phalanx 20mm Gatlin Gu Close in Weapons sSystems (CIWS). CVN-72 through CVN-75 are all protected by two NATO ESSM launchers, two RAM launchers, and three Phalanx CIWS.

Since USS Theodore Roosevelt, the carriers have been constructed with 2.5 in (64 mm) Kevlar armor over vital spaces, and earlier ships have been retrofitted with it: Nimitz in 1983–1984, Eisenhower from 1985–1987 and Vinson in 1989.

Electronic ountermeasures that the vessles use include four Sippican SRBOC (super rapid bloom off-board chaff) six-barrel MK36 decoy launchers, which deploy infrared flares and chaff to disrupt the sensors of incoming missiles, an SSTDS torpedo defense system; and an AN/SLQ-25 Nixie torpedo countermeasures system. The carriers also use Raytheon AN/SLQ-32(V) electronic warfare systems to detect and disrupt hostile radar signals. Electronics warfare aircraft like the EA-6B Prowler or EF-18 GRowler are also used to disrupt enemy radars and other sensors.

Flight Deck and Hangar:
The flight deck on the Nimitz class carriers is 4 1/2 acres in size and is canted at a nine degree agle. This allows for aircraft to be launched and recovered simultaneously. This angle was reduced slightly in the Nimitz class when compared to earlier carriers in order to improve the air flow around the carrier.

There are four steam catapults which are used to launch fixed-wing aircraft, and four arrestor wires (Nimitz through Truman) are used for recovery. This is why these carriers (like all other US Carriers) are called CATOBAR, which means Catapult assisted Take-off and Barrier assisted Recovery of aircraft. The two newest carriers, Reagan and Bush, only have three arrestor wires each, as the fourth was used so infrequently it was deemed unnecessary. The CATOBAR arrangement allows for faster launching and recovery as well as a much wider range of aircraft that can be used on board compared with smaller aircraft carriers, most of which are either STOBAR (Short take off, Barrier Assisted Recovery) or STOVL (Short take-off, Vertical Landing) arrangements.

The ship's aircraft operations are controlled by the air boss on the bridge. Four large elevators transport aircraft between the flight deck and the hangar space below. The hangar bay is 684 ft. long, 108 ft wide and 25 ft 7 inches tall. It is divided into three bays by thick steel doors designed to restrict the spread of fire. Aircraft are stored here in rough weather and in order to conduct repairs and miantenance on the aircraft.

The Carrier Strike Group: When an aircraft carrier is deployed, it takes a group of vessels wit it which are used to protect the carrier, reprovision it (and the other vessels), and to conduct operations in conjunction with the mission of the carrier and its overall group. The entoire group of vessels is called the Carrier Strike group (CSG). With aNimitz carrier this group usually consists of one replensishment vessel from the Military Sea Lift Command (MSC) and at least one frigate or destroyer to escort that vessel, and then at least one (sometimes two) Ticonderoga Class Aegis Cruiser, two or three Arleigh Burk Class AEGIS destroyers, and one or two Nuclear attack submarines. The other vessels in the Strike Group provide additional defensive and offensive capabilities, such as long range Tomahawk missiles or the Aegis Combat System with its Standard Missiles used for long and ledium range defense against aircraft and misisles, and the helos and Anti-Submarine Warfare weapons and missiles of the cruisers, destoyers and submarines to protect the carrier agaoinst enemy submarines.

So, in addition to the well over 5,000 personnel who are aboard the carrier itself, each of the cruisers and destroyers (of which there can be from 4 to six of) will carry upwards of 2,000 other personnel, in addition to the nearly one thosuand personnel on the submarine, the replenshment ship and its escort. This totals well over 8,000 and potentially 9,000 personnel in a typical carrier strike group. And the US usually has four or more of these strike groups deployed at any given time around the world. The precise numbers and type of vessels accompanying these carriers in their CSGs will vary depending on the objectives of the mission for which each individual CSG is deployed.

Transitional Carrier to new Ford Class:
The final Nimitz carrier, CVN-77, USS George H.W. Bush, CVN-77 actually represents a transformation step in US carrier development. In connection with her christening, the USS Kitty Hawk, CV-63 was retired from service. Many new features have been added to the USS Geroge HW Bush, CVN-77, leading to the more complete transformation represented by CVN-78, the GErald Ford Class for the 21st Century, which will replace the USS Enterprise, CVN-65, America's first nuclear powered aircraft carrier in 2013. Among the inovations contemplated are:

  • A much more effecient nuclear reactor system providing three times more power.
  • Electromagnetic aircraft launch and recovery replacing current steam catapaults and current arrestor systems.
  • A redesigned, more effecient, and more stealthy island.
  • More auomated systems, providing for reduced manpower requirements and more efficient aircraft weapons handling, battle management, and damage control operations.
  • Potential exotic defensive weapons systems operating off of the increased electrical power.
  • 20% more sortie capability for the embarjed airwing.
  • 25% more operational availability of the carrier.
With these innovations, and the many others that will be developed into the new carrier, the US Navy is making a direct statement that its 21st century, next-generation carrier fleet will continue to have as its centerpiece large-deck, nuclear-powered vessels that can project power and protect sea lanes anywhere in the world, at any time.
USS Nimitz, CVN-68 (Comm. 5/3/1975)

USS Dwight Eisenhower, CVN-69 (Comm. 10/18/1977)

USS Carl Vinson, CVN-70 (Comm. 3/13/1982)

USS Theodore Roosevelt, CVN-71 (Comm. 10/25/1986)

USS Abraham Lincoln, CVN-72 (Comm. 11/11/1989)

USS George Washington, CVN-73 (Comm. 7/4/1992)

USS John Stennis, CVN-74 (Comm. 12/9/1995)

USS Harry Truman, CVN-75 (Comm. 7/25/1998)

USS Ronald Reagan, CVN-76 (Comm. 7/12/2003)

USS Geroge H.W. Bush, CVN-77 (Comm. 1/10/2009)

Nimitz Class Flight and Carrier Operations

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Last Update : 2-JULY-2012
Jeff Head is an engineering consultant with many years experience in the power, defense, and computer industries. He currently works for the federal government helping maintain and protect regional infrastructure. He is a member of the U.S. Naval Institute, and is also the author of a self-published and best-selling series of military techno-thrillers called the Dragon's Fury that projects a fictional third world war arising out of current events. You can learn more about that series by clicking on the pictures of the novel covers below:


Copyright © 2005-2012 by Jeff Head


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