The 7 World Powers With Aircraft Carriers, Ranked

Beginning in the 19th century, the battleship was the symbol of a nation’s naval strength. These vessels displaced tens of thousands of tons, bore massive guns, and were cloaked with the thickest armor. But their day in the sun was brief, eclipsed by the introduction of aircraft carriers between the world wars. (These are the largest ships in the U.S. Navy fleet.)

To determine the countries with the most aircraft carriers, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed defense statistics website GlobalFirepower’s Aircraft Carrier Fleet Strength by Country (2023) dataset (with information about 145 countries’ militaries). We ranked countries by the number of aircraft carriers they have in service. Data on notable aircraft carriers in each country’s arsenal and on carriers in development came from Military Factory. Data on total military spending and military spending as a percentage of gross domestic product came from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Military Expenditure Database.

Col. Billy Mitchell, a strong advocate of airpower, demonstrated the vulnerability of the battleship by sinking the German battleship Ostfriesland in 1921. The Navy took notice and began building aircraft carriers. 

It was America’s good fortune that its carriers were out at sea when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. Those carriers bore the attack planes that routed the Imperial Japanese Navy at Midway six months later.

The United States inherited the mantle of the world’s most powerful navy from the Royal Navy (U.K.)  after World War II. Today, its 11 aircraft carriers are more than the next five nations combined. After the U.S., China has the most aircraft carriers. Here are the most common ships and submarines in China’s navy.

Click here to see the 6 other world powers with aircraft carriers.

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