Forrestal class aircraft carrier

USS Forrestal (CV-59)

Class overview
Name: Forrestal-class aircraft carrier
Builders: New York Navy Yard

Newport News Shipbuilding

Operators: United States Navy
Preceded by: Midway class aircraft carrier and United States class aircraft carrier
Succeeded by: Kitty Hawk class aircraft carrier
In commission: 1 October 1955 – Present
Completed: 4
Laid up: 4
General characteristics
Displacement: 60,000 tons

1,070 ft (330 m)

990 ft (300 m) waterline

Beam: 129 ft 4 in (39.42 m) waterline
Draft: 35 ft 9 in (10.90 m)
Propulsion: Steam turbines

280,000 shp

Speed: 34 knots (63 km/h)
Complement: 4,378

Original armament:

  • 8 × 5 in/54 caliber Mark 42 guns

Refit armament:

  • 3 × 8 cell NATO Sea Sparrow Mark 29 missile launcher launchers
  • 3 × 20 mm Phalanx CIWS Mark 15 guns
Aircraft carried: Up to 90
Aviation facilities: 326 × 77 m flight deck

The Forrestal-class aircraft carrier supercarriers is a four-ship class designed and built for the United States Navy in the 1950s. It was the second class of so-called supercarriers, combining high tonnage, deck-edge elevators and an angled deck. The first ship was commissioned in 1955, the last recommissioned in 1998. It forms a large aircraft carrier battle group in the U.S. Navy.


The Forrestal class was the second completed class of "supercarriers" of the Navy, so called because of their then-extraordinarily high tonnage (75,000 tons, 25% larger than the post-World War II-era Midway class aircraft carrier but smaller than the Soviet Union's Project 1143,7 Ulyanovsk's 90,000 tons), full integration of the angled deck (USS Forrestal (CV-59) and USS Saratoga (CV-60) were laid down as axial deck carriers and converted to angled deck ships while under construction; USS Ranger (CV-61) and USS Independence (CV-62) were laid down as angled deck ships and had various minor improvements compared to the first two), a very large island and most importantly their extremely strong air wing (80–100 jet aircraft, compared to 65–75 for the Midway class and fewer than 50 for the Essex class aircraft carrier). Compared to the Midway class, the Forrestals were 100 feet (30 m) longer and nearly 20 feet (6 m) wider abeam, resulting in a far more stable and comfortable aircraft platform even in very rough weather. When commissioned, the Forrestal class ships had the roomiest hangar decks and largest flight decks of any carrier ever built. Because of their immense size they were built to a new, deep-hulled design that incorporated the armored flight deck into the hull (previous American design practice was to design the flight deck as superstructure). This was a very similar structural design as used on British Illustrious class aircraft carrier, and grew out of the requirement for such a very large carrier, because carrying the strength deck at the flight deck level produced a stronger and lighter hull. The Midway class ships sat very low in the water and were poor sea boats through their long careers; they were very wet forward and their aviation characteristics were poor. The deeper Forrestal hull allowed the ships more freeboard and better seakeeping. The Forrestal-class carriers, like the Midway class that preceded it, were designed with armored flight decks.

Forrestal-class ships were the first examples of supercarriers and thus not quite a perfected design; their elevators in particular were poorly arranged for aircraft handling. The portside elevator, a relic of the original axial-deck design, was almost completely useless, as it was located at the fore end of the angled deck, in the landing path as well as the launch path of aircraft from the #3 and #4 catapults. The subsequent Kitty Hawk class aircraft carrier moved the portside elevator to the aft end of the angle and reversed the position of the island and the second starboard elevator, vastly improving aircraft handling. The sponson-mounted guns suffered from poor range and complicated firing arcs, and were located in very wet and thus nearly useless positions in the bow and stern; they were removed after only a few years and replaced by missiles and close-in weapon systems (CIWS). In Forrestal, the aft guns lasted until the fire in 1967, then were removed and eventually replaced by missiles in the mid-70s.

The original design of the Forrestal class ships would have had a very small, retractable island; this design had numerous problems (the mechanism to raise and lower the island was never perfected before the angled deck was added to the design) and smoke fouling of the deck was expected to be a severe problem due to lack of adequate venting. The redesign to an angled deck allowed a very large island, much larger than on previous carriers, giving unprecedented flexibility and control in air operations.

Ships in classEdit

Keel laid Launched Commissioned Recommissioned Status
USS Forrestal (CV-59) 1952 July 1954 December 1955 October 1993 September In service
USS Saratoga (CV-60) 1952 December. 1955 October 1956 April 1994 August In service
USS Ranger (CV-61) 1954 August 1956 September 1957 August 1993 July In service
USS Independence (CV-62) 1955 July 1958 June 1959 January 1998 September In service