The US Navy is the most powerful group of ships, carriers, and sailors on Earth.
The Navy is older than the US – founded in 1775 as the Continental Navy – and is currently made up of 430 ships and submarines. It’s been involved in more than 10 major wars, and combat has taken the Navy all over the world.
The surface fleet is made up of 16 different classes of vessels, and includes amphibious assault ships, aircraft carriers, command ships, mine sweepers, destroyers, littoral combat ships, and more.
We put together a list of all the types of surface ships in service with the US Navy:
GERALD R. FORD-CLASS AIRCRAFT CARRIER
The Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier is the newest carrier in the US fleet, and the intended replacement for the Nimitz-class.
The ship is 1,106 ft long and can carry more than 75 aircraft. The Ford-class carriers are intended to have a large compliment of F-35Cs, but delays in their development have put their deployment on hold.
The ship has a number of new technologies, like the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, which is intended to replace the current steam-powered launch system on current aircraft carriers. As the Navy’s newest carrier, new weapons may be added to the ship in the coming years, including lasers.
One carrier is in active service, with another two under construction and two on order.
The Zumwalt-class destroyer is the newest class of ship in service with the US Navy, and is intended to serve as a multi-mission stealth ship.
The focus of the Zumwalt is supposed to be surface warfare and naval gunfire support. However, the rounds required for its Advanced Gun System were judged too expensive (ranging from $800,000 to $1 million for a single round), making them inoperable.
The Navy announced in March that it was planning on arming the Zumwalt with a suite of new missiles that can be used for anti-air, anti-surface, and ballistic-missile defense.
AMERICA-CLASS AMPHIBIOUS ASSAULT SHIP
The America-class amphibious assault ship was built to replace the aging Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship. Unlike other ships in its role, the first two America-class vessels have no well deck.
The ship can carry a number of different aircraft, like the F-35B, AV-8B Harrier II, V-22 Osprey, and the AH-1Z Viper.
Eleven America-class ships are planned, with one in service, one awaiting sea trials, and another under construction.
FREEDOM-CLASS LITTORAL COMBAT SHIP
The Freedom-class littoral combat ship (LCS) is one of two littoral combat ships that are in service with the US Navy. LCS are capable of operating in the littoral zone, an area of the water close to the shore.
The LCS concept has been heavily criticized and complained about in the past, but the Navy’splans to equip the ships with different mission modules gives them a promising future.
They were designed to excel in three potential combat scenarios – anti-submarine warfare, mine clearing, and fending off small fast attack craft, like the ones used by Iran and Houthi rebels in Yemen.
There are currently five active Freedom-class LCS, with another seven on the way. A larger version of the Freedom-class has also been selected by Saudi Arabia to be its next frigate.
INDEPENDENCE-CLASS LITTORAL COMBAT SHIP
The Independence-class littoral combat ship is the second of the two LCS. Like its Freedom-class counterpart, the Independence-class will be equipped with new modules for certain missions.
They are unique because of their trimaran design, which gives it multiple hulls. Like the Freedom-class, they can carry one MH-60R/S Seahawk helicopter, or two MQ-8B Fire Scouts
There are currently six Independence LCS in active service, with seven more under construction.
SAN ANTONIO-CLASS AMPHIBIOUS TRANSPORT DOCK
The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock is intended to carry hundreds of Marines, vehicles, and equipment for amphibious operations. They also hold carry two MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft for aerial insertions.
The ships have undergone a number of problems. The Department of Defense issued a report in 2010 that they could only operate “in a benign environment,” and not in combat situations.
There are currently 11 San Antonio-class ships in service, with two more on the way.
WHIDBEY ISLAND-CLASS DOCK LANDING SHIP
The Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship is intended to transport Marines and their vehicles for amphibious operations. They can carry up to four launch air-cushioned landing craft, the massive hovercrafts that Marines use to carry tanks and vehicles to shore.
The Whidbey Island-class has been in service since 1985, and can carry up to 500 troops.
HARPERS FERRY-CLASS DOCK LANDING SHIP
The Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship is a modified version of the Whidbey Island-class. It’s primarily used to carry cargo like munitions, spare parts, and medical equipment.
As a result, it can only carry two launch air-cushioned landing craft.
It can still carry up to 500 troops, the same as the Whidbey Island-class.
CYCLONE-CLASS PATROL SHIP
Cyclone-class patrol ships are in service with both the US and Philippine Navies. Four ships were loaned to the US Coast Guard for four years, but were returned to the Navy in 2011.
The Cyclones are capable of operating in the littoral zone and are intended for coastal patrol, maritime interdiction, and surveillance. They are also intended to support Navy Seals conduct operations, and as such are assigned to the Naval Special Warfare Command.
Today, 10 of the Navy’s 13 Cyclone’s are deployed in the Persian Gulf to monitor Iran, with the remaining three stationed in Florida.
ARLEIGH BURKE-CLASS DESTROYER
With over 60 in active service, Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers make up the backbone of the US fleet. They are intended to be multi-mission ships, able to carry out anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-submarine roles.
Each destroyer has one Mark 45 gun, but the real firepower are its missiles – up to 96 of which can fit in its vertical launchers.
The usual missiles include Tomahawks, RIM-66s, SeaSparrows, RIM-174s, and Harpoons. Twenty-five Arleigh Burke class destroyers are also equipped with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System.
WASP-CLASS AMPHIBIOUS ASSAULT SHIP
The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship is a Landing Helicopter Dock that assists in amphibious operations. They can carry a massive 1,800 Marine detachment, as well as landing crafts, armored vehicles, and helicopters.
They can also carry AV-8B Harrier IIs and F-35Bs – aircraft that are capable of vertical take-off and landing. Eight ships are currently in active service.
AVENGER-CLASS MINE COUNTERMEASURES SHIP
The Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship is a class of ships dedicated to clearing mines in important waters.
They have no large armaments, having only two .50 caliber machine guns on her deck.
The Ticonderoga-class cruiser is a guided missile cruiser that has been in service with the US Navy since 1978. They are multi-role ships, with armaments that allow them to serve anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-submarine roles, and are intended to be escort ships for aircraft carriers.
Ticonderoga-class ships make up the second-largest component in the US Navy behind the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, with 22 active ships (though some are no longer in fighting roles).
NIMITZ-CLASS AIRCRAFT CARRIER
First laid down in 1975, the Nimitz-class carrier was built to replace the Kitty Hawk and Enterprise classes, and has been the backbone of the US Navy’s aircraft carrier fleet since the 1980s, with 10 currently in service.
The Nimitz-class carrier is manned by a crew of around 5,000 when it has a full air wing, and can carry 85-90 aircraft.
Nimitz-class carries have become a symbol of American might, having been deployed to conduct missions all over the world.
BLUE RIDGE-CLASS COMMAND SHIP
Blue Ridge-class command ships are intended to provide the command structure for fleet commanders and other high-ranking officers overseeing large deployments.
There are currently two Blue Ridge-class command ships, USS Blue Ridge and USS Mount Whitney. USS Blue Ridge is currently the oldest deployable warship of the US Navy, having served as far back as the Vietnam War.
USS Constitution is the US Navy’s oldest vessel, and the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel still capable of sailing. Constitution is the second of the original six frigates first built for the US Navy.
Constitution is nicknamed “Old Ironsides,” because of a battle fought against HMS Guerriere during the War of 1812. British cannonballs reportedly bounced off its hull during the fight, causing one sailor to yell, “Huzza, her sides are made of iron!”
In its 58 years of active service, Constitution fought in three wars (the Quasi War, the Barbary Wars, and the War of 1812) and won 33 battles without a single loss. Constitution also sailed around the world, and was a symbol of America’s early power.
The ship is currently a museum ship, and is stationed at Boston Harbor.