With roughly 232 fighting ships actively in commission, the U.S. 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, the new $13 billion USS Gerald R Ford supercarrier. But hey, even the small ships in this gallery play some big roles in US military operations.
In this photo from April 2, Sgt. John Benivides leads a group of Marines in tactical movement drills aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49).
Published:Caption:Fox Van AllenPhoto:MC3 Zachary Eshleman/U.S. Navy
Technical research ship (Banner class)
There is only one ship from the Banner class still on the U.S. Navy's commissioned roster: the USS Pueblo (AGER-2).
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 U.S. custody.
The USS Pueblo itself, meanwhile, remains in North Korea as a tourist attraction.
Minesweeping ships in the Avenger class were a crucial part of American victory in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
The USS Sentry (MCM-3), 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.
Length: 224 feet
Displacement: 1,312 tons (full)
Published:Caption:Fox Van AllenPhoto:Chief Photographers Mate Johnny Bivera/U.S. Navy
Mines: Dangerous remnants of past wars
Mines continue to be a major hazard to the U.S. 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.
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 U.S. Navy has maintained the USS Constitution's commissioning for the purposes of historical demonstration and educational outreach.
First commissioned in 2004, the Virginia class of attack submarines is the U.S. 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.
Length: 377 feet
Displacement: 7,800 tons (full)
Published:Caption:Fox Van AllenPhoto:Ron Stern/U.S. Department of Defense
Littoral combat ships (Freedom class)
The USS Freedom (LCS-1), 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 November 2015, three Freedom-class ships were in active naval service and five more were under construction. 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)
Published:Caption:Fox Van AllenPhoto:MC1 James R. Evans/U.S. Navy
Littoral combat ships (Independence class)
The USS Independence (LCS-2) 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.
In 2019, ships of this class will be redesignated "Fast Frigates" by the U.S. 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)
Published:Caption:Fox Van AllenPhoto:Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class Nicholas Kontodiakos/U.S. Navy
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 (SSN-23) undergoes deperming 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.
Published:Caption:Fox Van AllenPhoto:Master Chief Mass Communication Specialist Jerry McLain/U.S. Navy
Destroyers (Arleigh Burke class)
Speedy and easy to maneuver, destroyers are frequently used by the U.S. Navy to help protect larger boats.
Destroyers in the Arleigh Burke class, such as the USS Dewey (DDG-105) 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)
Published:Caption:Fox Van AllenPhoto:MC2 John Philip Wagner, Jr./U.S. Navy
Ballistic missile submarine (Ohio class)
The Ohio class of submarine was designed, in the U.S. 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 (SLBMs).
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)
Published:Caption:Fox Van AllenPhoto:PH1 Roers/U.S. Department of Defense
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 (SSGN-726), 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).
Ticonderoga-class cruisers are large, multi-mission surface combatants. They are equipped with Aegis vertical launching systems and storage for 122 missiles.
Here, the USS Cape St. George launches a Tomahawk Land Attack Missile during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
Length: 567 feet
Displacement: 9,600 tons (full)
Published:Caption:Fox Van AllenPhoto:Intelligence Specialist 1st Kenneth Moll/U.S. Navy
Afloat forward staging base (Austin class)
The USS Ponce (AFSB-(I)-15), scheduled for decommissioning in 2012, was chosen to get new life as a test vessel for the U.S. Navy's new afloat forward staging base concept. 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 will be replaced with the USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB-3) sometime in 2016 or 2017.
Length: 570 feet
Displacement: 16,591 tons (full)
Published:Caption:Fox Van AllenPhoto:Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Raegen/U.S. Navy
USS Ponce's Laser Weapons System
The USS Ponce has been outfit with AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System, shown. It is authorized to channel blasts of energy (15-50 kW) at small aircraft and ships in self-defense, disabling their motors and sensor systems.
Later versions of this laser weapon will be powerful enough to destroy incoming missiles, the Navy plans.
The USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), 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 U.S. Navy's new electromagnetic rail gun tech.
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.
Submarine tenders are tasked with providing maintenance and logistical support for the United States' fleet of nuclear submarines.
Here, the USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) services the submarine USS Florida (SSGN-728) in Diego Garcia, a small atoll located in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Length: 644 feet
Displacement: 23,493 tons (full)
Published:Caption:Fox Van AllenPhoto:Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary A. Kreitzer/U.S. Navy
Expeditionary mobile base (Montford Point class)
The USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB-3) is the first of the U.S. Navy's expeditionary mobile bases, designed for low-intensity missions. The craft is scheduled to replace afloat forward staging base USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf by 2017.
Ships in the U.S. 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 (LPD-21), shown, was built using 7.5 short tons worth of steel recovered from the World Trade Center.
In this U.S. 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 (LPD-25).
Published:Caption:Fox Van AllenPhoto:MC1 Vladimir Ramos/U.S. Navy
Amphibious assault ship (Wasp class)
The Wasp-class variant of hybrid-drive amphibious assault ships, such as the USS Essex (LHD-2), is similar in size to their 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 (LCU) 1631 off the coast of Thailand.
Length: 847 feet
Displacement: 41,772 tons (full)
Published:Caption:Fox Van AllenPhoto:MCSN Kari R. Bergman/USS Essex (LHD 2)
Amphibious assault ship (America class)
The amphibious assault ships in the America class, such as the USS America (LHA-6) 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)
Published:Caption:Fox Van AllenPhoto:Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class John Scorza/U.S. Navy
Undergoing amphibious training
In this photo, a U.S. Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle has disembarked from the now-decommissioned USS Peleliu (LHA-5) for an infantry and amphibious training mission.
Published:Caption:Fox Van AllenPhoto:Journalist 2nd Class Zack Baddor/U.S. Navy
Aircraft carrier (Nimitz class)
According to the U.S. 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 its 50-year service life.
The USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) is the most recently commissioned (2009) -- and final -- ship in the Nimitz class.
Though not officially commissioned as of April 1, the Ford class of aircraft carriers will begin to replace the U.S. Navy's existing Nimitz-class fleet by the end of the year.
In this photo, artist Brian Murphy paints the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), the first of the Ford-class carriers, during its christening ceremony in November 2013.
Length: 1,092 feet
Displacement: 43,745 tons (full)
Published:Caption:Fox Van AllenPhoto:MC2 Aidan P. Campbell/U.S. Navy
The USS Gerald R. Ford sets sail
The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) 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.