If you've read the HowStuffWorks article How Aircraft Carriers Work, then you know about many of the amazing features of aircraft carriers:
- They are 20 stories high and over 1,000 feet (305 m) long.
- They are powered by nuclear reactors rather than diesel engines or turbines.
- They house 6,000 crew members and 70 to 80 aircraft.
- They are constructed of about 1 billion individual pieces.
What this means is that an aircraft carrier is worth between $4 billion and $5 billion -- it is a substantial investment by itself. Plus, it is carrying a small town's worth of people as well as a billion dollars in aircraft.
Photo courtesy Department of Defense - Defense Visual Information Center
Nimitz battle group -- USS Nimitz aircraft carrier, guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal, and nuclear-powered submarine USS Annapolis -- in the North Persian Gulf during Operation Southern Watch. See Carrier Battle Groups in action.
In other words, an aircraft carrier is extremely valuable. And without protection, an aircraft carrier is extremely vulnerable. That's why aircraft carriers never leave home alone. They are always escorted by an extensive flotilla of other ships. The aircraft carrier plus the flotilla is known as the carrier battle group. A modern carrier battle group is nearly invincible.
In this article, you will learn about these powerful collections of military force and see why they have become so important to U.S. naval operations.