What Do You Know About American Aircraft Carriers?



By: Bambi Turner

6 Min Quiz

Image: Stocktrek Images / Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Do you know the difference between a Nimitz class and a Gerald R. Ford class ship? Know how many men and women are needed to operate the world's biggest aircraft carriers, or how fast these mammoth ships can travel? Test your knowledge of American aircraft carriers with this quiz!

It's hard to believe that aircraft carriers are a relatively modern invention. At the dawn of the 20th century, the battleship ruled the seas. These ships were plated with iron and armed to the gills with firepower, resulting in some truly devastating naval battles. Yet just a century later, battleships are obsolete, replaced by aircraft carriers. As the events of World War I and II proved, the battles of the future will be fought -- and won -- in the air, rather than in the water. That means the most effective military ships these days must not only transport sailors and firepower, but also carry entire fleets of planes, including the pilots, maintenance crews and other support staff needed to care for the most cutting-edge planes ever built. This allows the U.S. to launch planes from international waters, eliminating the delays and political negotiations associated with taking off or landing a plane in a foreign nation. Think you know everything there is to know about America's aircraft carriers? Take our quiz to find out!

Roughly how many aircraft is a Nimitz class supercarrier designed to transport?

America owns 11 of the 41 nuclear-powered supercarriers operating in the world in 2018. Ten of the 11 belong to the Nimitz class, and are designed to carry around 100 aircraft and 6,000 crew members.


Which hull classification symbol is used on American aircraft carriers?

The U.S. Navy uses CV as the hull classification symbol for aircraft carriers. Variations on this symbol include CVA for attack carriers, CVN for nuclear carriers and CVL for light carriers.


What year was the USS Nimitz -- the lead ship of the Nimitz class -- commissioned?

The USS Nimitz was one of the largest and most advanced aircraft carriers in the world when she was commissioned on May 3, 1975. She was still operating in 2019, and nine more ships have been built in this class using a similar design since the '70s.


Which figure was the USS Nimitz named for?

Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz served as the Admiral for the Pacific Fleet during WWII. After he died in 1966, the Navy decided to honor his legacy and contributions by naming the Nimitz class of ships after him.


How long is the USS Nimitz?

Built at at cost of a billion dollars in 1975 dollars, the USS Nimitz measures 1,092 feet long and has a displacement just over 100,000 tons. She's nicknamed Old Salt, and her motto is "Teamwork, a Tradition."


What power source is used on the USS Nimitz and her sister ships?

The Nimitz and other ships in her class utilize two nuclear reactors as their primary source of energy. This nuclear power allows Nimitz to travel 31.5 knots, or 36.2 miles per hour.


What is the anticipated lifespan of Nimitz class ships?

The Nimitz class ships have an expected life of 50 years. That means that the USS Nimitz herself, commissioned in 1975, is due for replacement in the 2020s.


What class of aircraft carriers did the U.S. Navy approve to replace the Nimitz class?

The USS Gerald R. Ford is a supercarrier commissioned in July 2017. Designed to replace the Nimitz class, it is the first ship in the Gerald R. Ford class and is named for 38th president -- and Navy vet -- Gerald Ford.


One of the biggest changes between Nimitz and Ford supercarriers is the switch from steam-powered catapult launchers to this type of plane launching technology.

Nimitz class ships rely on a steam-powered catapult system to launch aircraft. The introduction of the Gerald R. Ford class of ships brought the use of an electromagnetic launch system to replace the more dated technology. Swapping to this new technology means more control over planes as they make their way into the skies.


Which city was selected as the homeport for the Gerald R. Ford when she was first commissioned?

Norfolk is the homeport for more supercarriers than any other U.S. city. The Gerald R. Ford and many Nimitz class ships are situated in this Virginia port town.


This second ship in the Gerald R. Ford class was named for the 35th U.S. President.

Laid down in 2015, the USS John F. Kennedy is the second ship built in the Gerald R. Ford class, and features a similar design. Named after the 35th president, the ship shares its named with another aircraft carrier, CV-67, which was in operation from 1968 to 2007.


Which of these is NOT one of the three subclasses of Nimitz ships?

While Nimitz class ships all feature similar designs, they are divided into subclasses based on certain upgrades and features. These include the Nimitz, Roosevelt and Reagan subclasses, of which Roosevelt is the largest with five vessels.


This final ship in the Nimitz class is named for the 41st president.

Commissioned in 2009, the USS George H.W. Bush was the final Nimitz class aircraft carrier built by the Navy. Its nickname is Avenger, and it goes by the motto "Freedom at Work."


Which president did not get a Nimitz class carrier named in his honor?

Of the 10 Nimitz class ships, seven are named for U.S. presidents. They include Eisenhower, Roosevelt, Lincoln, Washington, Truman, Reagan and Bush Sr.


Planes launched from this carrier were responsible for some of the first strikes in Operation Enduring Freedom.

The U.S. launched Operation Enduring Freedom against Afghanistan shortly after the 9/11 attacks. The USS Carl Vinson was sent to the Arabian Sea, and some of the first airstrikes in the operation were launched from the carrier.


Which American aircraft carrier was sent to the Gulf of Mexico to support rebuilding and rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina?

Nimitz class carrier USS Harry S. Truman was stationed at Norfolk when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. The Truman rushed to the New Orleans area so her crew could support the local citizens. In 2016, the vessel was deployed for eight months in a battle against ISIL.


Osama bin Laden's body was buried at sea from the decks of this Nimitz class carrier.

The USS Carl Vinson made headlines in 2011 when the body of Osama bin Laden was buried at sea from her decks. Later that year, the vessel hosted the first NCAA game ever played on an aircraft carrier.


The USS Theodore Roosevelt takes its nickname from a quote by this president, who said, "Speak softly and carry...."

Roosevelt was known for the idea of big stick diplomacy. It's no surprise then, that the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier goes by the nickname "The Big Stick."


This ship was the site of George W. Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech in 2003.

In 2003, then-President George W. Bush stood on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared that the U.S. had prevailed against its Iraqi enemies. At the time, a banner displayed behind Bush on the vessel declared "Mission Accomplished." Bush's speech and the banner have been the source of much criticism since that time, because 2003 was just the beginning of the warfare between the U.S. and insurgents in Iraq.


The USS Nimitz took part in Operation Eagle Claw, an attempt to rescue hostages in this nation.

In 1980, the U.S. launched Operation Eagle Claw/Operation Evening Light in an attempt to rescue dozens of Americans taken hostage at the Iranian embassy. Eight of the choppers used in the mission launched from the deck of the USS Nimitz.


What disaster was the USS George Washington involved in during May 2008?

On May 22, 2008 a fire broke out aboard the USS George Washington as the crew sailed from South America to San Diego. Three dozen sailors were injured and the boat suffered $70 million in damage. The cause of the fire? A sailor smoking in an off-limits area.


Commissioned in 1995, the USS John C. Stennis was named for a longtime ...

John C. Stennis represented Mississippi for 42 years in the U.S. Senate. The USS John C. Stennis, commissioned in 1995, relies on its motto "Look ahead."


What slogan can be found on the battle flag of the USS Harry S. Truman?

The battle flag on the USS Harry S. Truman features a pair of crossed cannons and the slogan "Give 'em Hell." The words come from Truman's own 1948 re-election campaign.


This aircraft carrier was the first to be named for a U.S. president who was still living at the time.

Christened in 2001 and commissioned in 2003, the USS Ronald Reagan was the first carrier named for a living president. Her motto is "Peace through strength," and her nickname is The Gipper, of course.


What is the CATOBAR system on a supercarrier used for?

CATOBAR, or catapult-assisted takeoff barrier arrested recovery is a technology used to launch aircraft on major carrier vessels. Standard on the Nimitz class ships, it includes a steam-powered launcher and a system of wires for "catching" the plane and slowing it as it lands.


When did the U.S. commission the USS Langley -- the Navy's first aircraft carrier?

Originally known as the USS Jupiter, the USS Langley was commissioned in 1913. She used turbo-electric technology, which was cutting edge at the time, and was designed to carry 36 planes.


The Navy ordered 24 ships in this carrier class to be built in the 1940s.

The 1940s were a busy time for American aircraft carriers thanks to WWII, The Navy ordered 24 Essex class carriers during the decade, each of which was capable of carrying as many as 100 aircraft.


Which American aircraft carrier picked up the Apollo 11 astronauts as they landed back on Earth?

The USS Hornet picked up the Apollo 11 astronauts as they descended back to Earth in 1969. The deck of this Essex class ship was marked with the men's first footprints back on Earth.


What is the name of the class of light carriers built by the US during WWII?

The Navy ordered nine Independence class carriers during the period around WWII. Each measured 622 feet long and could carry up to 30 aircraft.


This was the only Independence class carrier to be destroyed, after a 1943 attack.

The Navy operated nine Independence class carriers during the 1940s. Just one, the USS Princeton, was lost after a 1943 air attack while stationed near the Philippines.


This class of 1940s aircraft carriers could hold as many as 130 aircraft.

The Navy ordered three Midway class carriers in the mid-1940s, and these ships were designed to carry as many as 130 planes. The flagship, the USS Midway, now serves as a museum in San Diego.


The USS Wright was a light duty carrier from the '40s that belonged to this class of vessels.

The Saipen class of carriers was completed after WWII, and served as a light duty alternative to larger aircraft carriers of the period. The two ships in the class -- USS Saipen and USS Wright -- could each carry just over 40 aircraft.


Commissioned in 1965, this was the first U.S. Navy supercarrier ever built.

Named for Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, the USS Forrestal became the nation's first supercarrier. She was one of four ships in her class, and designed to carry 85 planes and 5,000 sailors.


This class of carriers replaced the older Forrestal class in the 1960s, and included vessels like the USS America and USS John F. Kennedy.

The four ships in the Kitty Hawk class of supercarriers were commissioned between 1961 and 1968. In addition to the lead ship, the class included the USS America, John F. Kennedy and Constellation.


The USS Enterprise, commissioned in 1961, was the first ship in the world with this feature.

The USS Enterprise supercarrier was the very first vessel on Earth to incorporate nuclear power. The ship was in service from the 1960s all the way through Operation Iraqi Freedom, and was the only ship built in her class.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!