How Many Planes Are on an Aircraft Carrier?

How Many Planes Are on an Aircraft Carrier?
Photo by Michael Afonso

You’ve probably heard that aircraft carriers carry hundreds of planes. The exact number of airplanes on an aircraft carrier depends on the type of ship and the design, but it’s always less than you might expect!


Navy airmen want to know how many planes are on an aircraft carrier because it’s one of the most common questions they get from family and friends while serving their enlistment.

This article will look at how many planes are on an aircraft carrier and what factors affect that number?

About Today’s Aircraft Carriers

You can deploy a carrier alone or with a strike group of surface ships, submarines, and aircraft. A total of roughly 130 aircraft and helicopters (from more than one service) are typically embarked aboard a carrier.

And in times of crisis, that number can increase to as many as 200. So how many planes are parked aboard each flattop? As it turns out, it depends on several factors.

The type of flight operations being conducted affects how many aircraft can fly from each carrier. A F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter jet takes up twice as much space as a C-2 Greyhound transport plane.

The amphibious ship launches also play a role in determining how many planes are on an aircraft carrier.

Statistics about Current and Future U.S. Carriers

The total number of planes on a carrier is about 72. Depending on the page, there are three squadrons of fighter jets and one or two squadrons for multi-purpose aircraft. 

For example, during World War II, USS Saratoga carried three fighter squadrons and one torpedo squadron. Currently, the ships use conventional flight decks, but CVN 21 will be Nimitz class carriers (CVA/CVAN).

They will be nuclear-powered aircraft carriers with a hull classification symbol CVN. So, how many planes are on an aircraft carrier?

How many planes are on an aircraft carrier: various aircraft carriers

 We will look at all three on order from them and examine what each brings to their fleet.

The USS Gerald R. Ford

How many planes are on an aircraft carrier? For  Gerald R. Ford, it could carry more than 75 aircraft at once. It is a 1,106-foot-long, 100-foot-wide behemoth and hosts more than 4,500 sailors and Marines (along with their families). It will have 5,280 berths—3,090 of which are permanent. It also requires a crew of more than 4,600 people.

Furthermore, the ship is comparable in size to four Nimitz-class carriers put together. It has two nuclear reactors that produce a combined 300 megawatts of electricity to power it.

The USS Gerald R. Ford could keep up with 33 Cessna 172s in flight! Each new carrier will weigh about 100 million pounds when completed.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier

How many planes are on an aircraft carrier? The HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier can carry up to 10 aircraft per trip from the storage area to the flight deck.

It also will feature two (count them, two) lifts, each capable of transporting a pair of F-35B fighter jets weighing 20 tons.

A 25-jet squadron will use one charge for its maintenance cycles, and another will handle combat-ready aircraft. 

Though no current plans exist for 24/7 operations aboard British carriers, it is conceivable that these small ships could maintain a 10-aircraft presence for most of their time at sea.

Nimitz-class Aircraft Carrier

How many planes are on an aircraft carrier? Each Nimitz-class aircraft carrier has three complete decks and 4.5 acres of the flight deck. It has enough room for 60 aircraft, plus four more on-call in storage. 

While other ship types have many small compartments, each Nimitz-class carrier has only three relatively large hangars, one below deck and two above.

The hangar below is used for mid-life repairs; when a plane needs some TLC after several years at sea, it gets fitted for the duty. 

Lastly, the uppermost hangar is reserved for ready aircraft; flight-ready aircraft during normal operations take up most of these spots.

Charles de Gaulle Aircraft Carrier

How many planes are on an aircraft carrier? Charles de Gaulle Aircraft Carrier has enough room for 50 aircraft. The features include: Displacement – 42,700 tonnes; Length overall – 305.9 m; Overall beam – 36.8 m; Draught at full load – 8.5 m; Propulsion – 2 shaft turbo-diesel, 80 MW (107,000 hp); Speed – 29 knots (35 mph) Range 6,000 nautical miles at 15 knots or 12,500 nautical miles at 20 knots

Comparing Aircraft Carriers Around The World

Now that you know how many planes are on an aircraft carrier, comparing aircraft carriers worldwide is also important.

Twenty aircraft carriers are active in service in ten different countries, most of which operate various other types of ships. Only two can be considered supercarriers — long-distance warships larger than any other class. 

The United States has 10, including their nuclear-powered vessel, expected to serve for 50 years. The Royal Navy is responsible for all but one of these examples, with HMS Queen Elizabeth soon to join their ranks.

Not only does Great Britain have more than twice as many aircraft carriers as any other country in active service, but they have quite a few more under construction!


If you’re itching for an incredible thrill, enlist in the U.S. Navy. You’ll need more than just smarts and motivation—you’ll need nerves of steel.

You’ll become part of one of humanity’s most enduring stories and know how many planes are on an aircraft carrier. Whether you want to save money or meet adventure head-on—there is no place like a carrier air wing!

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