The United States' fighting ships, from smallest to largest
Know your fighting ships!
With roughly 295 deployable fighting ships, the Navy's fleet is the biggest and most powerful in the world. For your viewing pleasure, we've lined them all up in order from the smallest to the largest, including the the latest aircraft carrier class. But hey, even the small ships in this gallery play some big roles in US military operations.
Updated on March 25, 2020 with the latest number of fighting ships available for deployment, and updated pictures throughout.
Technical research ship (Banner class)
There is only one ship from the Banner class still on the Navy's commissioned roster: the USS Pueblo.
The spy ship was captured by North Korean forces on January 23, 1968 while it was on a surveillance mission off the country's coast. Its 83-member crew was held (and tortured) for 11 months before being released into American custody.
The USS Pueblo itself, meanwhile, remains in North Korea as a tourist attraction.
Length: 177 feet
Displacement: 895 tons (full)
USS Pueblo, 1967
This is how the USS Pueblo appeared in 1967, months before its capture.
Patrol ships (Cyclone class)
Small ships such as the USS Shamal are tasked with coastal patrol and surveillance. They are armed with machine guns and auto grenade launchers.
Here's the USS Shamal, seen departing Florida's Naval Station Mayport on Aug. 29, 2019, in preparation for Hurricane Dorian.
Length: 179 feet
Displacement: 380 tons (full)
Protecting oil routes
Here's another patrol ship, the USS Hurricane (foreground).
In late 2019, the Hurricane fired Griffin missiles in the Arabian Gulf, part of a demonstration of how these small ships might defend oil transport vessels there.
Length: 179 feet
Displacement: 380 tons (full)
Mine countermeasures ships (Avenger class)
Minesweeping ships in the Avenger class were a crucial part of American victory in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Here, Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Pioneer enters a channel off of the coast of Japan in October 2019.
Length: 224 feet
Displacement: 1,312 tons (full)
The USS Sentry, shown here on the Hudson River in 2002, and other Avenger-class ships are built primarily of wood, with an external coating of glass-reinforced plastic. This reduces the ship's magnetic signature and better protects it against mine blasts.
Mines: Dangerous remnants of past wars
Mines continue to be a major hazard to the Naval fleet, even in times of relative peace. In 1988, the USS Samuel B. Roberts was nearly sunk by an Iranian mine in the Persian Gulf. Iraqi mines, meanwhile, caused significant damage to the USS Princeton and USS Tripoli during the first Gulf War.
Classic frigate (USS Constitution)
The oldest ship in the Navy's fleet by far, the 219-year-old USS Constitution, is a three-mast frigate ordered and named by President George Washington. It earned its nickname "Old Ironsides" during the War of 1812, when it survived a barrage of fire from the HMS Guerriere.
Rather than decommission the ship, the Navy has maintained the USS Constitution's commissioning for the purposes of historical demonstration and educational outreach.
Length: 305 feet
Displacement: 1,900 tons (full)
A marvel of 18th-century engineering
The USS Constitution is currently berthed at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Massachusetts.
The ship got a major restoration and was returned to the water on 23 July 2017.
Attack submarine (Los Angeles class)
With roughly 40 currently commissioned, the Los Angeles-class of attack submarines are the backbone of America's submersible fleet.
Here, the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Topeka moors in its home port in Guam following a deployment in December 2019.
Length: 360 feet
Displacement: 6,900 tons (full)
These nuclear-powered subs have a maximum operating depth of 650 feet, and are equipped to fire MK48 torpedoes.
The USS Santa Fe is one of 30 Los Angeles-class submarines with the capability of launching Tomahawk vertical (non-nuclear) missiles.
Attack submarine (Virginia class)
First commissioned in 2004, the Virginia class of attack submarines is the Navy's planned replacement for the older (1976) Los Angeles-class fleet.
It features a number of innovations over the older design, including pump-jet propulsion (as opposed to bladed propellers), photonic sensors (as opposed to traditional periscopes) and improved sonar.
Here, sailors on the Virginia-class USS Minnesota stand topside with Santa Claus as they pull into homeport in Groton, Connecticut, in December 2019.
Length: 377 feet
Displacement: 7,800 tons (full)
The hottest subs
The Virginia class features a number of innovations over the older design, including pump-jet propulsion (as opposed to bladed propellers), photonic sensors (as opposed to traditional periscopes) and improved sonar.
In February 2020, the the Virginia class USS Colorado returned from a maiden deployment to its homeport Groton, Connecticut.
Littoral combat ships (Freedom class)
The USS Freedom, designed by Lockheed Martin and commissioned in 2008, is the first of a class of small, multipurpose ships that operate in the littoral zone -- that is, close to shore.
As of October 2019, nine Freedom-class ships had been commissioned. The ships are equipped with a BAE Systems Mk 110 57 mm gun (400 rounds in turret), an Mk 49 launcher with 21 surface-to-air missiles and four .50-inch machine guns.
Length: 387.6 feet
Displacement: 3,400 tons (full)
Littoral combat ships (Independence class)
The USS Independence is a variant of littoral combat ship built by Austal USA (General Dynamics). Like its Freedom-class cousin, the Independence is outfitted with surface-to-air missiles and machine guns.
Starting in 2019, ships of this class were expected to be redesignated as "Fast Frigates" by the Navy, and outfitted with upgraded armor and weaponry. Freedom-class littoral combat ships will be upgraded, as well.
Length: 418.6 feet
Displacement: 3,100 tons (full)
Attack submarine (Seawolf class)
The "quiet, fast, and well-armed" submersibles in the Seawolf class were designed to replace the aging Los Angeles-class fleet of submarines. But its high cost ($3 billion to $3.5 billion each) and the end of the Cold War led to the Seawolf program's cancellation after just three submarines were built.
In this picture, the USS Jimmy Carter undergoes de-perming in the Magnetic Silencing Facility at Naval Base Kitsap. The process will reduce the ship's electromagnetic signature, better protecting it from enemy detection and mines.
Length*: 453 feet
Displacement: 12,158 tons (full)
*Note: This is the length of the USS Jimmy Carter, which is slightly larger than the other ships in its class.
Destroyers (Arleigh Burke class)
Speedy and easy to maneuver, destroyers are frequently used by the Navy to help protect larger boats.
Destroyers in the Arleigh Burke class, such as the USS Dewey shown, were the first to be built around the Aegis automated weapons system. Aegis's powerful radar tech can track more than 100 targets simultaneously and counter short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.
Length: 509 feet
Displacement: 9,700 tons (full)
Trials in the gulf
In February 2020, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer Pre-Commissioning Unit Delbert Black conducted trials in the Gulf of Mexico.
Ballistic missile submarine (Ohio class)
The Ohio class of submarine was designed, in the Navy's own words, as an "undetectable launch platform for intercontinental missiles." Indeed, each ballistic missile submarine in the Ohio class, such as the USS Rhode Island (shown), carries 24 Trident II nuclear missiles.
Each Trident II missile contains eight W88 warheads, all capable of individual targeting. W88 warheads have a yield of 475 kilotons -- nearly 30 times more powerful than the atomic blast that leveled Hiroshima in World War II.
Length: 560 feet
Displacement: 18,750 tons (full)
As seen off the coast of San Diego in February 2020, an unarmed Trident II missile launches from the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Maine.
The test launch marks 177 successful missile launches of the Trident II strategic weapon system.
Guided missile submarine (Ohio class)
The United States has entered into a number of nuclear arms reduction treaties with Russia since commissioning the first Ohio-class submarine in 1981. Four Ohio-class submarines have since been stripped of their nuclear payload to comply.
The USS Ohio, shown undergoing said SSGN conversion in Bremerton, Washington in 2004, now holds 154 non-nuclear Tomahawk missiles instead. The sub can also carry other equipment, such as unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).
Length: 560 feet
Displacement: 18,750 tons (full)
This is what the end of the world looks like
Here, the USS West Virginia launches a Trident II D-5 ballistic missile during a test exercise.
Cruisers (Ticonderoga class)
Ticonderoga-class cruisers are large, multi-mission surface combatants. They are equipped with Aegis vertical launching systems and storage for 122 missiles.
Seen in March 2020, the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS San Jacinto (foreground) helps conduct operations in the Mediterranean Sea as part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group.
Length: 567 feet
Displacement: 9,600 tons (full)
Testing the waters
A convoy is led by the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf. This February 2020 exercise tested the vessels' abilities to safely cross the Atlantic while testing new ways of conducting a convoy.
Action in the Middle East
Here, the USS Cape St. George launches a Tomahawk Land Attack Missile during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
Afloat forward staging base (Austin class)
The USS Ponce, decommissioned in 2017, was expected to be dismantled in coming years. The ship served as a launching pad for minesweeping MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters during 2013 mine-clearance exercises in the Persian Gulf.
The USS Ponce was replaced with the USNS Lewis B. Puller in the Persian Gulf in 2017.
Length: 570 feet
Displacement: 16,591 tons (full)
Dock landing ships (Harpers Ferry class)
Dock landing ships, such as the USS Harpers Ferry (shown), primarily transport other amphibious vehicles and their crews into hostile areas. It also supports helicopter landings.
Note: The Whidbey Island class of dock landing ship is identical in length, though it does have a slightly different weapons arrangement.
Length: 609 feet
Displacement: 16,708 tons (full)
Destroyers (Zumwalt class)
The USS Zumwalt, the first of the Zumwalt class of destroyers, is a next-generation stealth ship designed for surface warfare, anti-aircraft warfare, and naval gunfire support. It features an all-electric integrated power system, state-of-the-art automated sonar, and powerful on-board weapons. Future ships in the Zumwalt class, meanwhile, will test the Navy's new electromagnetic rail gun tech.
You can get a closer look at the Navy's next-generation combat ship here on CNET.
Length: 610 feet
Displacement: 15,656 tons (full)
The Zumwalt, pierside
The guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt sits pierside in Pearl Harbor during an April 2019 port visit.
The next generation of destruction
Zumwalt-class ships are loaded with long-range land attack projectiles (shown here in an artist's rendering). The rocket-mounted warheads have a range of 83 nautical miles and an accuracy of 50 meters.
The Lyndon B. Johnson Zumwalt-class ship may soon get an electromagnetic railgun weapon as well.
Amphibious command ship (Blue Ridge class)
Originally designed for large amphibious invasions, ships in the older Blue Ridge class are currently being used as floating headquarters.
The USS Mount Whitney, seen here in Souda Bay, Crete, serves as the command and control ship for the Commander Joint Command Lisbon and the Commander Striking Force NATO.
Length: 634 feet
Displacement: 18,874 tons (full)
Working the Pacific
An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter flies by USS Blue Ridge, the 7th Fleet flagship, during March 2020 search and rescue training. Blue Ridge is the oldest operational ship in the Navy and, as 7th Fleet command ship, works to foster relationships with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region.
Submarine tenders (Emory S. Land class)
Submarine tenders are tasked with providing maintenance and logistical support for the United States' fleet of nuclear submarines.
Here, the USS Emory S. Land services the submarine USS Florida in Diego Garcia, a small atoll located in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Length: 644 feet
Displacement: 23,493 tons (full)
Expeditionary mobile base (Montford Point class)
The USNS Lewis B. Puller is the first of the Navy's expeditionary mobile bases, designed for low-intensity missions.
Length: 764 feet
Displacement: 87,000 tons (full)
USNS Montford Point, a launching point
In this photo, USNS Montford Point serves as a launching point for a landing craft air cushion transporting a logistic vehicle system replacement to shore.
Amphibious transport dock (San Antonio class)
Ships in the Navy's San Antonio class serve as transport for land vehicles and Marines in war zones. The ships can also serve as a launching or landing pad for CH-53E Super Stallion, MV-22B Osprey, CH-46 Sea Knight, AH-1 SeaCobra, and UH-1 Iroquois helicopters.
The USS New York, shown, was built using 7.5 short tons worth of steel recovered from the World Trade Center.
Length: 684 feet
Displacement: 24,900 tons (full)
Against the sunset
The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay, seen here in March 2020, participates in a security cooperation exercise in the Indo-Pacific region.
In this Navy photo, Marines in the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion watch the return of amphibious assault vehicles in the well deck of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Somerset.
Amphibious assault ship (Wasp class)
The Wasp-class variant of hybrid-drive amphibious assault ships, such as the USS Essex, is similar in size to its America-class cousins. Unlike the America class, however, Wasp-class ships feature a well deck as shown.
Here, the USS Essex performs a stern-gate marriage with Landing Craft Utility off the coast of Thailand.
Length: 847 feet
Displacement: 41,772 tons (full)
In this scene from February 2020, the crew of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima assemble to form the number 75, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the iconic raising of the flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Amphibious assault ship (America class)
The amphibious assault ships in the America class, such as the USS America shown, support quick-reaction Marine expeditionary units.
These ships lack a lower well deck to launch sea vehicles, instead focusing on carrying aircraft. The USS America carries MV-22B Osprey troop carrier helicopters, AV-8B Harrier II ground-attack jump jets, and F-35B Lightning II stealth multi-role fighters, among others.
Length: 844 feet
Displacement: 43,745 tons (full)
Undergoing amphibious training
In this photo, a Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle has disembarked from the now-decommissioned USS Peleliu for an infantry and amphibious training mission.
Aircraft carrier (Nimitz class)
According to the Navy, aircraft carriers "support and operate aircraft that engage in attacks on airborne, afloat, and ashore targets that threaten the free use of the sea." Each of the 10 active carriers in the Nimitz class are nuclear powered, and will refuel only once during a 50-year service life.
The USS George H.W. Bush is the most recently commissioned (2009) -- and final -- ship in the Nimitz class.
Length: 1,092 feet
Displacement: 97,000 tons (full)
Aircraft carrier (Ford class)
This is it, the biggest of the big ships.
The Ford class of aircraft carriers are expected to eventually replace the Navy's Nimitz-class fleet. The first, the Gerald R. Ford, was commissioned in 2017. Here it is October 2019, conducting sea trials.
Length: 1,092 feet
Displacement: 43,745 tons (full)
The USS Gerald R. Ford sets sail
The USS Gerald R. Ford is the most technologically advanced warship ever built, with advanced arresting gear, automation systems, stealth features, the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missile system and an electromagnetic aircraft launch system that replaces traditional steam catapults.
The new design allows the USS Gerald R. Ford to dispatch units 25 percent faster than Nimitz-class carriers. This tech doesn't come cheap, however -- the $13 billion ship has suffered from massive cost overruns.
The next member of the Ford class, the John F. Kennedy, is expected to begin its service sometime in 2020.
You can get a closer look at the new high-tech Ford class of carrier right here on CNET.