Mighty Giants of the Sea – Ten Of The Most Massive Warships In The World – In Pictures

Ships have ruled the seas long before aircraft were created and even though technology has developed other methods of warfare, a country’s navy continues to be an important element of any military force. The navy protects the waters in the vicinity of a country and help to support other military arms including aircraft carriers, vehicle and tank cruisers, and supply ships.

Throughout history, the bigger the ship, the better according to military chiefs, so when the British Navy launched the HMS Dreadnaught over 100 years ago, military commanders around the world scrabbled to develop ships of the same scale.

Today, 100,000 tonne aircraft carriers have become the norm, but here are some of the world’s biggest warships.

Brazilian Modified-Clemenceau Class

World’s biggest warships
Sao Paulo carrier. By netmarine.net CC BY-SA 3.0

Brazilian Modified-Clemenceau Class – borne out of the French Clemenceau class aircraft carrier, the Brazilian Navy bought it in 2000 for US$12 million. It was renamed the São Paulo and underwent extensive renovations. The ship can now carry 39 aircraft.


Chinese Modified-Admiral Kuznetsov Class

World’s biggest warships
Varyag under tow in the Bosphorus through İstanbul.

Chinese Modified-Admiral Kuznetsov Class – acquired from Russia, the PLAN Liaoning is a modified Admiral Kuznetsov and was China’s first aircraft carrier. China had announced that it was to be used for private purposes as a casino, but this was a cover story revealed when the Chinese Navy commissioned the vessel in 2012 and renamed it the Liaoning. It is armed defensively and can carry around 30 aircraft and is mainly used for training.

French Charles de Gaulle Class

World’s biggest warships
Charles De Gaulle nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

French Charles de Gaulle Class – the first French nuclear powered ship and the only one operational outside of the US Navy, it was launched in 2001 for around US $4billion. It can hold 40 aircraft and sail for more than 20 years before it needs to be refuelled. It has suffered problems with construction and maintenance, but once fixed the carrier has taken part in missions all over the world including Afghanistan.

Indian Modified-Kiev Class

Aerial view of INS Vikramaditya. Photo Credit.
Aerial view of INS Vikramaditya. By Parmar-ajn CC BY-SA 4.0

Indian Modified-Kiev Class – one of two aircraft carriers in the Indian Navy, the INS Vikramaditya began life as a Soviet 1980s ship. The Indian Navy purchased the ship for US$2.35 billion, in a deal that Russia offered to make renovations for the Indians before it handed the ship over. It was transformed into a full aircraft carrier and commissioned in 2013, capable of carrying 36 aircraft.

Japanese Izumo Class

World’s biggest warships
JS Izumo just after her launch. By Dragoner JP – CC BY-SA 3.0

Japanese Izumo Class – only one of its kind has ever been built, but Japan intends to build another. It is a helicopter carrier and is capable of hunting down enemy submarines to destroy. It carries a maximum of 14 helicopters along with 400 soldiers and vehicles. It costs around US$1.2 billion it is armed with only defensive weaponry due to the Japanese constitution created after World War Two.

Russian Kirov Class

World’s biggest warships
Admiral Ushakov (ex-Kirov), lead ship of the class.

Russian Kirov Class – a nuclear powered battle-cruiser made for offensive operations, there were four Kirovs built during the 1980s, said to be worth around US$2 billion each. Only one remains operational, the other three are undergoing renovation works.

Russian Admiral Kuznetsov Class

World’s biggest warships
An overhead view of Admiral Kuznetsov.

Russian Admiral Kuznetsov Class – a heavy aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov Class is also fitted with both offensive and defensive weaponry such as anti-ship and anti-submarine missiles. There is only one Admiral Kuznetsov remaining as others were sold to China. Built in 1990, it is the only full aircraft carrier in the Russian Navy, holding around 30 aircraft.

US Wasp Class

World’s biggest warships
A CH-53E Super Stallion lifting pallets off USS Bataan.

US Wasp Class – eight Wasp Class ships were built specifically to support ground troops fighting in hostile territory. Costing around US$750 million each, they held over 1000 crew and could carry almost 2000 US Marines as well as vehicles and helicopters, The Richest reports.

US America Class

World’s biggest warships
USS Bataan of the US Navy.

US America Class – an amphibious assault ship, the USS America was the first to be built for around US$3.4 billion. They were built bigger than the Wasp Class so that they could take bigger aircraft onboard.

US Nimitz Class

World’s biggest warships
USS Nimitz (CVN-68), a US Navy aircraft carrier. Photo is from after her 1999-2001 refit.

US Nimitz Class – at over 1000 feet the Nimitz Class aircraft carriers are the world’s biggest warships. Costing around US$4.5 billion each, they are also the most expensive. Ten of the 100,000 tonne carriers can hold up to 90 aircraft and are fitted with anti-aircraft guns and missiles.  They are expected to serve for 50 years. However, the US is already developing its successor in the Gerald R. Ford Class, which will be even bigger and is expected to cost around US$12 billion.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE