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An aircraft carrier is a warship that serves as a seagoing airbase, equipped with a full-length flight deck and facilities for carrying, arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft. Typically, it is the capital ship of a fleet, as it allows a naval force to project air power worldwide without depending on local bases for staging aircraft operations. Carriers have evolved since their inception in the early twentieth century from wooden vessels used to deploy balloons to nuclear-powered warships that carry numerous fighters, strike aircraft, helicopters, and other types of aircraft. While heavier aircraft such as fixed-wing gunships and bombers have been launched from aircraft carriers, it is currently not possible to land them. By its diplomatic and tactical power, its mobility, its autonomy and the variety of its means, the aircraft carrier is often the centerpiece of modern combat fleets. Tactically or even strategically, it replaced the battleship in the role of flagship of a fleet. One of its great advantages is that, by sailing in international waters, it does not interfere with any territorial sovereignty and thus obviates the need for overflight authorizations from third-party countries, reduces the times and transit distances of aircraft and therefore significantly increase the time of availability on the combat zone.

There is no single definition of an "aircraft carrier", and modern navies use several variants of the type. These variants are sometimes categorized as sub-types of aircraft carriers, and sometimes as distinct types of naval aviation-capable ships. Aircraft carriers may be classified according to the type of aircraft they carry and their operational assignments. Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, RN, former First Sea Lord (head) of the Royal Navy, has said, "To put it simply, countries that aspire to strategic international influence have aircraft carriers." Henry Kissinger, while United States Secretary of State, also said: "An aircraft carrier is 100,000 tons of diplomacy."

As of January 2021, there are 43 active aircraft carriers in the world operated by fourteen navies. The United States Navy has 11 large nuclear-powered fleet carriers—carrying around 80 fighter jets each—the largest carriers in the world; the total combined deck space is over twice that of all other nations combined. As well as the aircraft carrier fleet, the U.S. Navy has nine amphibious assault ships used primarily for helicopters, although these also carry up to 20 vertical or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) fighter jets and are similar in size to medium-sized fleet carriers. The United Kingdom and China each operate two aircraft carriers. France, India, and Russia each operate a single medium-size carrier with a capacity of 30 to 60 fighter jets. Italy operates two light fleet carriers and Spain operates one. Helicopter carriers are operated by Japan (4, two of which are being converted to operate V/STOL fighters), France (3), Australia (2), Egypt (2), South Korea (1), Thailand (1) and Brazil (1). Future aircraft carriers are under construction or in planning by Brazil, China, France, India, Russia, South Korea and the US.

Aircraft carrier Media

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USS Lexington

USS Lexington

Records Relating to Publications

The Fighting Lady: The Lady and the Sea

The Fighting Lady: The Lady and the Sea

1945 ARC Identifier 12834 / Local Identifier 80-MC-5298. This film is a military documentary told from the point of view of the crew of the aircraft carrier the Fighting Lady -- a pseudonym for the Yorktown. Sc... more

Photograph of Lieutenant Commander Gerald R. Ford, Jr., Showing His Parents a Map of the Pacific Theater after Returning from Active Duty

Photograph of Lieutenant Commander Gerald R. Ford, Jr., Showing His Pa...

This photograph depicts Lt. Commander Gerald Ford, Jr., showing his parents Dorothy Gardner Ford and Gerald R. Ford, Sr., a map of the Pacific Theater at their home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is indicating t... more

Sinking of the USS Saratoga after the Baker Day Explosion over Bikini Lagoon

Sinking of the USS Saratoga after the Baker Day Explosion over Bikini ...

Original caption: Deep Six for the Sara -- Gamely flashing the Big Three on her flight deck until the last, the gallant old aircraft carrier Saratoga is shown here just before she slid beneath the radio active ... more

CVA 20  Bennington [19-NN-CVA 20  Bennington-158194]

CVA 20 Bennington [19-NN-CVA 20 Bennington-158194]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 20  Bennington [19-NN-CVA 20  Bennington-152107]

CVA 20 Bennington [19-NN-CVA 20 Bennington-152107]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 19  Hancock

CVA 19 Hancock

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 19  Hancock

CVA 19 Hancock

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 19  Hancock

CVA 19 Hancock

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 19  Hancock

CVA 19 Hancock

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 39  Champion

CVA 39 Champion

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 33  Kearsarge [19-NN-CVA 33  Kearsarge-146688]

CVA 33 Kearsarge [19-NN-CVA 33 Kearsarge-146688]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 31

CVA 31

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 31

CVA 31

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 21  Boxer

CVA 21 Boxer

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 21  Boxer

CVA 21 Boxer

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 21  Boxer

CVA 21 Boxer

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 21  Boxer

CVA 21 Boxer

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 21  Boxer

CVA 21 Boxer

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 20  Bennington [19-NN-CVA 20  Bennington-158196]

CVA 20 Bennington [19-NN-CVA 20 Bennington-158196]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 20  Bennington [19-NN-CVA 20  Bennington-158197]

CVA 20 Bennington [19-NN-CVA 20 Bennington-158197]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 61  Ranger

CVA 61 Ranger

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 60  Saratoga

CVA 60 Saratoga

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 59  Forrestal [19-NN-CVA 59  Forrestal-148060]

CVA 59 Forrestal [19-NN-CVA 59 Forrestal-148060]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 60  Saratoga

CVA 60 Saratoga

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 61  Ranger

CVA 61 Ranger

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 61  Ranger

CVA 61 Ranger

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 19  Hancock

CVA 19 Hancock

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 10  Yorktown

CVA 10 Yorktown

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 10  Yorktown

CVA 10 Yorktown

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 10  Yorktown

CVA 10 Yorktown

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 9  Essex

CVA 9 Essex

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CV 33  Keasarge

CV 33 Keasarge

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CV 9  Essex

CV 9 Essex

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CV 33  Keasarge

CV 33 Keasarge

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 39  Champion

CVA 39 Champion

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 39  Lake Champlain [19-NN-CVA 39  Lake Champlain-141235]

CVA 39 Lake Champlain [19-NN-CVA 39 Lake Champlain-141235]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 39  Champion

CVA 39 Champion

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 39  Lake Champlain [19-NN-CVA 39  Lake Champlain-141236]

CVA 39 Lake Champlain [19-NN-CVA 39 Lake Champlain-141236]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 39  Champion

CVA 39 Champion

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 39  Lake Champlain [19-NN-CVA 39  Lake Champlain-141463]

CVA 39 Lake Champlain [19-NN-CVA 39 Lake Champlain-141463]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 39  Lake Champlain [19-NN-CVA 39  Lake Champlain-141466]

CVA 39 Lake Champlain [19-NN-CVA 39 Lake Champlain-141466]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 38  Shangri

CVA 38 Shangri

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 38  Shangri

CVA 38 Shangri

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 14 Ticonderoga [19-NN-CVA 14 Ticonderoga-341A-9]

CVA 14 Ticonderoga [19-NN-CVA 14 Ticonderoga-341A-9]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 14 Ticonderoga [19-NN-CVA 14 Ticonderoga-341A-2]

CVA 14 Ticonderoga [19-NN-CVA 14 Ticonderoga-341A-2]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 14 Ticonderoga [19-NN-CVA 14 Ticonderoga-341A-1]

CVA 14 Ticonderoga [19-NN-CVA 14 Ticonderoga-341A-1]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 12 Hornet

CVA 12 Hornet

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 14 Ticonderoga [19-NN-CVA 14 Ticonderoga-165178]

CVA 14 Ticonderoga [19-NN-CVA 14 Ticonderoga-165178]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 14 Ticonderoga [19-NN-CVA 14 Ticonderoga-165172]

CVA 14 Ticonderoga [19-NN-CVA 14 Ticonderoga-165172]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 33  Kearsarge [19-NN-CVA 33  Kearsarge-150126]

CVA 33 Kearsarge [19-NN-CVA 33 Kearsarge-150126]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 33  Kearsarge [19-NN-CVA 33  Kearsarge-150127]

CVA 33 Kearsarge [19-NN-CVA 33 Kearsarge-150127]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 61  Ranger

CVA 61 Ranger

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 59  Forrestal [19-NN-CVA 59  Forrestal-148058]

CVA 59 Forrestal [19-NN-CVA 59 Forrestal-148058]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 43  Coral Sea [19-NN-CVA 43  Coral Sea-159602]

CVA 43 Coral Sea [19-NN-CVA 43 Coral Sea-159602]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 43  Coral Sea [19-NN-CVA 43  Coral Sea-158497]

CVA 43 Coral Sea [19-NN-CVA 43 Coral Sea-158497]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 45  Valley Forge [19-NN-CVA 45  Valley Forge-142687]

CVA 45 Valley Forge [19-NN-CVA 45 Valley Forge-142687]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 43  Coral Sea [19-NN-CVA 43  Coral Sea-159603]

CVA 43 Coral Sea [19-NN-CVA 43 Coral Sea-159603]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 43  Coral Sea [19-NN-CVA 43  Coral Sea-161029]

CVA 43 Coral Sea [19-NN-CVA 43 Coral Sea-161029]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 43  Coral Sea [19-NN-CVA 43  Coral Sea-159601]

CVA 43 Coral Sea [19-NN-CVA 43 Coral Sea-159601]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CV 31  Bonne Homme Richard [19-NN-CV 31  Bonne Homme Richard-136765]

CV 31 Bonne Homme Richard [19-NN-CV 31 Bonne Homme Richard-136765]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CV 18

CV 18

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 16  Lexington [19-NN-CVA 16  Lexington-154482]

CVA 16 Lexington [19-NN-CVA 16 Lexington-154482]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 16  Lexington [19-NN-CVA 16  Lexington-154397]

CVA 16 Lexington [19-NN-CVA 16 Lexington-154397]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 16  Lexington [19-NN-CVA 16  Lexington-145469]

CVA 16 Lexington [19-NN-CVA 16 Lexington-145469]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 16  Lexington [19-NN-CVA 16  Lexington-154474]

CVA 16 Lexington [19-NN-CVA 16 Lexington-154474]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 42  Franklin D. Roosevelt [19-NN-CVA 42  Franklin D. Roosevelt-155786]
CVA 42  Franklin D. Roosevelt [19-NN-CVA 42  Franklin D. Roosevelt-155268]
CVA 42  Franklin D. Roosevelt [19-NN-CVA 42  Franklin D. Roosevelt-155266]
CVA 41  Midway

CVA 41 Midway

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 41  Midway

CVA 41 Midway

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 41  Midway

CVA 41 Midway

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 41  Midway

CVA 41 Midway

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 41  Midway

CVA 41 Midway

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 41  Midway

CVA 41 Midway

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 41  Midway

CVA 41 Midway

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 38  Shangri

CVA 38 Shangri

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 34 Oriskany

CVA 34 Oriskany

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 34 Oriskany

CVA 34 Oriskany

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 36  Antietam

CVA 36 Antietam

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 34 Oriskany

CVA 34 Oriskany

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 34 Oriskany

CVA 34 Oriskany

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 34 Oriskany

CVA 34 Oriskany

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 34 Oriskany

CVA 34 Oriskany

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 34 Oriskany

CVA 34 Oriskany

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 33  Kearsarge [19-NN-CVA 33  Kearsarge-146692]

CVA 33 Kearsarge [19-NN-CVA 33 Kearsarge-146692]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 33  Kearsarge [19-NN-CVA 33  Kearsarge-146691]

CVA 33 Kearsarge [19-NN-CVA 33 Kearsarge-146691]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 33  Kearsarge [19-NN-CVA 33  Kearsarge-146690]

CVA 33 Kearsarge [19-NN-CVA 33 Kearsarge-146690]

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 41  Midway

CVA 41 Midway

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 41  Midway

CVA 41 Midway

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 41  Midway

CVA 41 Midway

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 41  Midway

CVA 41 Midway

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 41  Midway

CVA 41 Midway

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 41  Midway

CVA 41 Midway

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 41  Midway

CVA 41 Midway

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVA 41  Midway

CVA 41 Midway

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVE-106  Block Island

CVE-106 Block Island

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVE-106  Block Island

CVE-106 Block Island

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVE-106  Block Island

CVE-106 Block Island

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

CVE-106  Block Island

CVE-106 Block Island

Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Naval Vessels

U.S. National Archives

The objects in this collection are from The U.S. National Archives. The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) was established in 1934 by President Franklin Roosevelt. NARA keeps those Federal records that are judged to have continuing value—about 2 to 5 percent of those generated in any given year. There are approximately 10 billion pages of textual records; 12 million maps, charts, and architectural and engineering drawings; 25 million still photographs and graphics; 24 million aerial photographs; 300,000 reels of motion picture film; 400,000 video and sound recordings; and 133 terabytes of electronic data. All of these materials are preserved because they are important to the workings of Government, have long-term research worth, or provide information of value to citizens.

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