Nuclear aircraft carriers are enormous ships capable of traveling the world indefinitely. Indeed, the ships feature relatively large flight-decks capable of launching and landing fixed-wing aircraft, typically fighters.
At 1,123 ft. (342 m.) the USS Enterprise is an enormous ship. In contrast, only oil supertankers are larger.
The Enterprise supported 4,600 service members. First launched Sept. 24, 1960, Enterprise remained in service until December 1, 2012. The ship featured eight nuclear reactors. However, future US carriers, and most other countries, never built more than two reactors per ship. The ship cost $451 million USD (about $4 billion in 2019 dollars).
The Enterprise’ first mission was recovering astronaut John Glenn, the first American in orbit. Her second mission was the Cuban blockade, leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis. By 1964, the Enterprise was sailing with two other nuclear-powered ships around the world as a display of American firepower.
Enterprise fought extensively during the early Vietnam War, launching countless airstrikes. On Dec. 3, 1965, she launched a record 165 sorties in one day. Eventually, the ship was sent elsewhere for refitting and other missions. However, she returned to Vietnam in 1971, towards the end of the war. Additionally, Enterprise also fought in both the first and second Iraq War, as well as in Afghanistan and countless other American skirmishes.
Surprisingly, the nuclear aircraft carrier was designed and launched after the nuclear submarine, a more complex weapon. At the present time, many countries have nuclear aircraft carriers. The portable airfields circle the globe endlessly, sailing from one conflict to another.