Supercarrier

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, a typical supercarrier, and , a light   on a joint patrol. The Stennis is much larger in every dimension.
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USS John C. Stennis, a typical supercarrier, and HMS Illustrious, a light V/STOL aircraft carrier on a joint patrol. The Stennis is much larger in every dimension.
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CDG_Enterprise.jpg
USS Enterprise, a supercarrier, and conventional size aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle

A supercarrier is a word sometimes used to describe a form of aircraft carrier, with no official meaning. It is generally considered to be 75,000 tons or greater in displacement — most countries operate carriers with a displacement of less than 40,000 tons (such as Charles de Gaulle), and more often closer to 15,000 (such as HMS Illustrious.)

The 81,000 ton USS Forrestal was the first operational supercarrier, though United States would have been in service earlier, had it been completed; its cancellation triggered the "Revolt of the Admirals." United States would have had a nuclear strategic bombing role, rather than the multipurpose role that all subsequent supercarriers have had, carrying tactical aircraft only for defense. The 72,000 ton armored Japanese carrier Shinano of the World War II era was almost heavy enough to be considered a supercarrier, but lacked several defining features, such as catapults, arrestor cables, and angled flight decks, and also did not possess the sheer size of modern supercarriers. Because of the angled deck and large deck area, supercarriers can have a far larger island than conventional carriers, greatly improving both their aviation capabilities and their capability as flagships.

The U.S. Navy is currently the only major sea power, and all completed supercarriers are American, of which the 100,000 ton Nimitz class is the most prolific. However the governments of the United Kingdom and France have both approved plans to build several new large carriers for their navies. The Thales Group has been commissioned to build both country's ships, which will be 50-60,000 tons, still significantly smaller than the American Nimitz class, but large enough to be considered supercarriers. They are scheduled to become operational between 2012 and 2015. For more information, see Royal Navy CVF programme and Future French aircraft carriers. Adionionally, in the 1980s the Soviet Union began construction of Ulyanovsk, an 85,000 ton nuclear carrier comparable in size to earlier American supercarriers. Ulyanovsk was 40% complete when cancelled (along with a follow-on vessel) due to lack of funding after the end of the Cold War in 1991.

Supercarrier classes

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