Aircraft carriers are the pinnacle of modern offensive warfare. Although many countries in the world operate the huge metal and concrete beasts, it is the US that maintains the largest ever inventory with more than 11 full-sized carriers available at its disposal as well as ten smaller ones. The sheer size of their aircraft carrier fleet is evident from the fact that none of the other countries like Russia and even China have even come close to making a single super-carrier like the nuclear-powered Nimitz Class, ten of which are owned by the US Navy. They can carry 90+ aircraft and are deployed throughout the world. The closest competitor is Russia, and it has only two small- sized carriers so it cannot dictate its might in every corner of the globe which the US can do, very effectively.
But what is it about these floating airfields that make them special and a source of terror and intimidation in the eyes of countless enemies around the world? Surely a single well-placed missile would sink it to the unfathomable depths of the oceans along with billions and billions of dollars of weapons and aircraft. Maybe I am not the one to answer all these questions, and a Naval officer may be able to explain it better, but I know for sure that in the past 70 years, not even a single aircraft carrier has been sunk and it hasn’t faced major damage as well. This shows there are systems and defensive capabilities at work that keep them safe from attacks. Also, a carrier never operates alone as it has satellites, aircrafts, armed vessels and even submarines at its disposal to neutralize any threat both from air, ground and water. The decision of the US Navy to acquire latest Gerald Ford Class carriers shows us how they will help the US in future conflicts and Foreign Policy implementation.
Recently, Business Insider’s Robert Johnson made a photography trip to the USS Eisenhower several years ago and made a compilation of rare pics that show the might of the carrier and the entire military community living inside the lumbering beast. Once a ship’s nuclear core has been turned on, it doesn’t run out of fuel for fifty years and after that it is decommissioned.
The deck of the carrier as seen from a chopper. It is the oldest aircraft carrier in the US inventory and is slated to remain in service till 2025.
The Navy has ten supercarriers under its command right now, and most of them can carry more than 90 aircraft with thousands of personnel onboard. It also operates thousands of aircraft in total and has more than 5,000 pilots alone. The ground crew and the Marines are in also present in large numbers.
This picture from “Vulture’s Row” shows a fully armed F/A-18 preparing to take-off from the carrier.
On a closer look, we that this particular plane belongs to the Marine Corps as the fast response part of American Armed Forces maintains its own aircraft onboard the carriers in addition to Navy.
The short length of the runway presents several challenges for the Lieutenant, but he has been trained well and off he goes into the air
Now the previous aircraft launched from the floating base are back and now they will attempt to land on the small strip.
The use of tail hooks slows down the aircraft, and it manages to stop in the length of the runway.
Carrier landings are difficult even in the bright sunlight and midday.
Now our aircraft has caught the cable and came to a halt.
Since we can never be sure about the kind of damage the F-18 might have faced, the ground crew inspects each and every portion of the jet looking for cracks and loose parts.
The plane is also disarmed from all the ordinance by the armament crew, and it is to be stored deep below the deck to be used again. All aircraft are not doing operations are completely void of weapons as an SOP.
Both these Aim-9X missiles and MK 82 bombs are a part of standard weapons load.
Since the deck is head-splitting noisy, the ground crew have to communicate with each other using highly choreographed movements that seem funny at times.
Although it is all their routine, it doesn’t stop getting safer for them as they have to inspect and take a close look at all parts of the plane.
The launch is carried out by launch catapults that provide a burst of speed.
With the help of the launch catapult, the 15-ton F-18 becomes a part of the skies in no time.
A flight of stairs lead to the hangar deck where all sorts of planes are present.
The planes are in various states of repair and overhauling. It is a never-ending process as the operational requirements need planes in the air 24/7.
Since it is a sheltered space, sailors exercise here to stay in shape for their tough carrier-centric fitness tests.
Above the hangar is the flight deck control room that still uses an old-school Ouija board to keep a visual track of what is happening outside.
The various aircraft are color-coded for various purposes and even show their armament.
The control deck and radar on the carrier require many hands.
This unique warship and its operations attract much media attention so the Captain of the ship is giving interviews to CNN and ABC.
But, the work on the flight deck never stops. Some maintenance work requires the tail of the plane hanging off from the edge of the ship. This is where the ship will spend the night, and work will begin in the morning.
The control room of the Admiral is a command and control center like no other. From here, the commander can control other vessels in his fleet including the Eisenhower without interference and disturbance from outside.
The ship’s 7-11 is a small commissary cum departmental store. The sailors can grab snacks from here, and the photographers get to enjoy the American consumerism once again.
Retail goods brought on from the Docking Naples, Italy are also available for purchase.
You can even buy a range of expensive Italian bikes. But, where will you drive them?
These gloves to be used on the flight deck may fare better in sales than bikes as they are an everyday use item here for pilots and groundsmen alike.
There is no shortage of weird stuff available for sale here.
Hell, there is also a Starbucks where sailors trained in the art of coffee-making ply their trade and serve thousands of coffee-maniac crews all day long.
Despite all the utilities on board, crew members still have to use the phone booths for calling their relatives and loved ones. There is no Wi-Fi or any other kind of connectivity.
Here we introduce you to the signalling crew members.
They are responsible for lighting up the Christmas tree if the pilot’s approach is right.
But, even their Christmas tree cannot guarantee a safe landing so this safety chute protects the signalling officers from harm in case an incoming plane gets out of control.
A missile battery looking on towards the skies show how heavily armed this thing is.
The military presence provides safeguards for the oil route through the Strai of Hormuz. More than 90 percent of World’s Oil trade passes through this strait.
[via Business Insider]