United States Navy ships

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The names of commissioned ships of the United States Navy all start with USS, meaning 'United States Ship'. Non-commissioned, civilian-manned vessels of the U.S. Navy have names that begin with USNS, standing for 'United States Naval Ship'. A letter-based hull classification symbol is used to designate a vessel's type. The names of ships are selected by the Secretary of the Navy. The names are that of states, cities, towns, important persons, important locations, famous battles, fish, and ideals. Usually, different types of ships have names originated from different types of sources.

Modern aircraft carriers and submarines use nuclear reactors for power. See United States Naval reactor for information on classification schemes and the history of nuclear-powered vessels.

Modern cruisers, destroyers and frigates are called Surface combatants and act mainly as escorts for aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, auxiliaries and civilian craft, but the largest ones have gained a land attack role through the use of cruise missiles and a population defense role through Missile defense.

See List of ships of the United States Navy for a more complete listing of ships past and present.

Aircraft carriers[edit]

U.S. Navy supercarrier USS Nimitz on November 3, 2003. Approximately forty-six aircraft can be counted on her deck.

The ability to put most nations within striking distance of U.S. air power makes aircraft carriers the cornerstone of US forward deployment and deterrence strategy.[1] Multiple carriers are deployed around the world to provide military presence, respond quickly to crises, and participate in joint exercises with allied forces;[2] this has led the Navy to refer to their Nimitz-class carriers as "4.5 acres of sovereign and mobile American territory".[3] Former President Bill Clinton summed up the importance of the aircraft carrier by stating that "when word of crisis breaks out in Washington, it's no accident the first question that comes to everyone's lips is: where is the nearest carrier?"[4] The power and operational flexibility of a carrier lie in the aircraft of its carrier air wing. Made up of both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, a carrier air wing is able to perform over 150 strike missions at once, hitting over 700 targets a day.[5] Carrier air wings also protect friendly forces, conduct electronic warfare, assist in special operations, and carry out search and rescue missions. The carriers themselves, in addition to enabling airborne operations, serve as command platforms for large battle groups or multinational task forces. U.S. Navy aircraft carriers can also host aircraft from other nations' navies; the French Navy's Rafale has operated, during naval exercises, from U.S. Navy flight decks.[6]

Following below is a list of all carriers (and their homeports) on active duty or under construction as of 10 January 2009. For a list of all carriers see List of aircraft carriers of the United States Navy and List of escort aircraft carriers of the United States Navy.

Enterprise class (Six originally planned, only one ever constructed)

Nimitz class (10 ships)

Ford Class (Two under construction, Two more planned)

Amphibious assault ships[edit]

U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3)

Amphibious assault ships carry Marines and are the platforms for Marine aircraft. They project power as aircraft carriers do, allowing the military to strike targets from a distance. Amphibious assault ships superficially resemble aircraft carriers except without an angled flight deck.

Amphibious Transport Docks[edit]

U.S. Navy Amphibious Transport Dock, USS San Antonio (LPD-17)

An amphibious transport dock, also called a landing platform/dock (LPD), is an amphibious warfare ship, a warship that embarks, transports, and lands elements of a landing force for expeditionary warfare missions.[8] Several navies currently operate this kind of ship. The ships are generally designed to transport troops into a war zone by sea, primarily using landing craft, although invariably they also have the capability to operate transport helicopters.

Dock Landing Ships[edit]

Dock landing ships are similar to amphibious transport dock ships, but lack hangar facilities to store and service embarked aircraft.

U.S. Navy Dock Landing Ship, USS Ashland (LSD-48)


USS Virginia, an attack submarine

There are two major types of submarines, ballistic and attack. Ballistic submarines have the single strategic mission of nuclear deterrence by being hidden launching-platforms for nuclear ICBMs. Attack submarines have tactical missions, including controlling naval and shipping activity, serving as cruise missile-launching platforms, and intelligence-gathering.

  • Los Angeles class (42 in commission) – attack submarines
  • Seawolf class (3 in commission) – attack submarines
  • Virginia class (8 in commission, 2 under construction, 12 ordered, 8 more planned) – attack submarines
  • Ohio class (18 in commission) – 14 ballistic missile submarines, 4 guided missile submarines


USS Port Royal, a Ticonderoga class-cruiser.

These current guided-missile cruisers are very versatile and powerful, with capabilities for air warfare (AAW), surface warfare (SSW), and anti-submarine warfare (ASW).


A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer, USS Lassen

The destroyer evolved from the need of navies to counter a new ship which made a devastating debut in the 1891 Chilean Civil War and in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894. This was the swift, small torpedo boat that could dash in close to the larger ships, loose their torpedoes and dash away. The world's navies recognized the need for a counter weapon, and so the torpedo boat destroyer—later just "destroyer"—was born. Modern destroyers have evolved greatly from this initial role; some are arguably the primary surface combatants of their fleets.

  • Arleigh Burke class (62 in commission, 1 launched, 4 under contract, 75 planned) [9]
  • Zumwalt class (1 under construction, 1 ordered, 1 more planned) – designed as multi-mission ships with a focus on land attack.


Frigates (according to the modern classification of U.S. navy warships) are smaller ships than destroyers. They are designed primarily to protect other ships (such as merchant convoys), and perform some Anti-Submarine Warfare duties. They are of more limited scope than destroyers, but are also more cost-efficient. The last remaining ships of this class will be decommissioned by the end of 2015.

On January 15, 2015 the U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced that ships the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) classes that would be built in the future would be re-classified as "frigates". This would apply only to the future variations of these ships. Current ships will retain the LCS classification unless and until they are upgraded to the standards of the newer ships.[10]

Littoral combat ship[edit]

USS Freedom (LCS-1) Freedom-class
Littoral Combat Ship
USS Independence (LCS-2) Independence-class
Littoral Combat Ship
Main article: Littoral combat ship

A littoral combat ship (LCS) is a type of relatively small surface vessel intended for operations in the littoral zone (close to shore). It is "envisioned to be a networked, agile, stealthy surface combatant capable of defeating anti-access and asymmetric threats in the littorals."[11]

Future and retrofitted versions of these two classes will be classified as frigates as of Jan 15, 2015

Patrol Ships[edit]

Mine Countermeasures Ships[edit]

A U.S. Navy Mine Countermeasures Ship, USS Avenger (MCM-1)

Historically significant vessels[edit]

The U.S. Navy has operated a number of vessels important to both United States and world naval history:

USS Batfish (SS-310) , a Balao-class submarine holds the record for sinking 3 Japanese submarines within 5 days during WW2.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Why the carriers?". Official United States Navy website. Retrieved 7 March 2007.
  2. ^ "Fact file - Aircraft Carriers". United States Navy. Retrieved 7 March 2007.
  3. ^ "World Wide Aircraft Carriers". globalSecurity.org. Retrieved 12 November 2006.
  4. ^ The US Navy Aircraft Carriers. Official U.S. Navy Website. Retrieved 20 August 2006.
  5. ^ "Carrier Design". GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved 8 April 2006.
  6. ^ French Sailors Experience Flight Operations Aboard Roosevelt, US Navy Press Release, 22 July 2008, navy.mil
  7. ^ "Amphibious Assault Ship USS America (LHA 6) Commissioned into U.S. Navy". October 12, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Northrop wins contract add-on for 10th LPD-class amphibious transport dock ship". The Mississippi Press. 30 April 2010. 
  9. ^ "US Navy Orders Up To 10 Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers". June 5, 2013. 
  10. ^ Shalal, Andrea. "U.S. Navy says renaming LCS ships as frigates". Reuters. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  12. ^ "U.S. Navy to Commission Independence class Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado (LCS 4)". April 3, 2014. 
  13. ^ Tucker, Spencer. Stephen Decatur: A Life Most Bold and Daring. Naval Institute Press; 2005. ISBN 978-1-55750-999-4. p. xi.
  14. ^ "SSN-571 Nautilus." GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved 20 July 2006.
  15. ^ "What is the biggest warship ever built?". Royal Museums Greenwich. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 
  16. ^ "U.S. sub hits Japanese fishing vessel, 10 missing". CNN. February 9, 2001. [dead link]