Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier

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Product Type:

Aircraft Carrier

Using Service (US):


Program Status:

Undergoing major refueling overhauls.

Prime Contractors:

Newport News Shipbuilding
(Huntington Ingalls Industries)

The CVN-68 USS Nimitz Aircraft Carrier

About the Nimitz Class Carrier:

The Nimitz Class aircraft carriers are the largest warships ever built. With over 6,000 personnel (including aircrew), the up to 106,600 metric ton Nimitz Class carriers are 1,092 feet long (332.8 m), 132 feet (40 m) wide (at waterline), and draw 37 feet (11.3 m) of water fully loaded. The flight deck is equipped with four aircraft elevators and four aircraft catapults and can support up to 90 aircraft through fourteen days of continuous combat operations. The class and lead ship was named after Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. All ten Nimitz Class carriers were built in Virginia by Newport News Shipbuilding (Huntington Ingalls Industries).

All Nimitz Class carriers are powered by two Westinghouse A4W nuclear pressurized water reactors driving four General Electric steam turbines and four shafts. Maximum power produced is 260,000 shp (190 MW). Using nuclear power, the ships are capable of operating for over 20 years without ever refueling. Carriers were designed for an approximately 50-year service life with one mid-life refueling. USS Nimitz (CVN-68) through USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) have all completed their Refueling Complex Overhauls and returned to the fleet. USS George Washington (CVN-73) is scheduled to complete its overhaul in August 2021.

The Nimitz Class was constructed to supplement and eventually replace Kitty Hawk Class carriers and USS Enterprise (CVN-65). The lead ship of the class, USS Nimitz, was commissioned on May 3, 1975 (keel laid down June 22, 1968) while USS George H.W. Bush, the tenth and last of the class, was commissioned on January 10, 2009. The final Nimitz Class carrier, USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), was designed as a "transition ship" to the Ford Class. CVN-77 incorporates new technologies including improved propeller and bulbous bow designs, a reduced radar signature + electronic and environmental upgrades. The CVN-77 has a crew of only 3,300 compared to 5,000-6,275 for other ships in the class.

The Nimitz Class carriers use a CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery) system where aircraft are launched using catapult-assisted take off + stopped during the recovery phase (landing) by arresting wires.

Sensors onboard the Nimitz Class include the AN/SPS-48E/G 3D air search radar from Exelis (now part of Harris Corporation); the Raytheon AN/SPS-49(V)5 long-range air surveillance radar; Northrop Grumman AN/SPQ-9B Anti-Ship Missile Defense (ASMD) multimode X-band pulse Doppler radar; Northrop Grumman/Norden Systems AN/SPS-67(V) search and surveillance radar; AN/SPN-46(V)3 Precision Approach Landing System (PALS); AN/SPN-43C Carrier Air Traffic Control (CATC) radar system; and the Telephonics AN/SPN-41A Instrument Carrier Landing System (ICLS); four Mk 91 NSSM guidance systems; and four Mk 95 radars. Also, Nimitz Class carriers are equipped with the AN/SQQ-34C(V)2 Carrier Tactical Support Center (CV-TSC). This system supports embarked USW/SuW (Under Sea Warfare/Surface Warfare) aircraft by providing support for mission planning, preflight data insertion, mission briefing, in-flight data exchange, data processing, data analysis, and post flight analysis.

U.S. Navy aircraft carriers operate in carrier strike groups (CSGs), an operational formation composed of roughly 7,500 personnel, an aircraft carrier, one or more AEGIS cruisers, a DDG 51 destroyer squadron of at least two destroyers, and a carrier air wing of 60 to 70 aircraft. Occasionally, a carrier strike group also includes submarines, attached logistics ships, and a supply ship.


The strike fighters in operation on the Nimitz Class carriers are F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and F/A-18 Hornets. The typical carrier air wing has 12x F/A-18E Super Hornet; 12x F/A-18F Super Hornet; 20x F/A-18 Hornet;
5x EA-18G Growler or 4x EA-6B Growler (retired); 4x E-2C/D Hawkeye; 4x SH-60F or MH-60R Seahawk; and 2x HH-60 or MH-60S Seahawk
+ a number of C-2A Greyhound cargo aircraft.

Armament/Ship Self-Defense:

Nimitz Class carriers are equipped with three or four Raytheon Mk 15 Phalanx 20mm Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS). The Phalanx has a firing rate of 3,000 rounds per minute and a range of 0.9 miles (1.5 km). More recently build carriers are armed with two Raytheon Guided Missile Launching System (GMLS) Mk 29 eight-cell launchers for RIM-7P Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles and RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM). Other carriers are equipped with two Mk 57 NATO Sea Sparrow Missile System (NSSMS) launchers. Carriers are also equipped with two Raytheon Mk 49 RAM launching systems with 21x RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles each. RAM provides short-range defense against incoming anti-ship missiles. Countermeasures onboard include the Raytheon AN/SLQ-32(V) shipboard electronic warfare system, which provides electronic support and countermeasure protection; and the AN/SLQ-25 NIXIE torpedo countermeasures transmitting set.


The primary mission of the CVN 68 Class aircraft carrier is to provide a seagoing airbase capability. This entails deploying and recovering aircraft. Aircraft carriers allow the Navy to project airpower worldwide without the need for local bases.

FY 2020 & FY 2021 - DoD Nimitz Program:

This data is available in Forecast International's U.S. Defense Budget Forecast, a comprehensive analytical database containing historical and forecast budget figures, year-to-year funding comparisons, congressional budget markups, program justification documents, and much more.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Exelis (Harris Corp.), Raytheon,
Northrop Grumman, and Rand Corporation.

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