Special Report

America's 15 Planes that Fly on Aircraft Carriers Today

usnavy / Flickr

The age of the aircraft carrier began in World War II and has persisted through the modern age. Carriers hosting a multitude of aircraft claim dominance over hundreds of miles of the ocean. While these carriers may not be as well armed as a destroyer, the payload that their aircraft carry more than make up for this, ensuring projection of military power over vast distances. (These are the 7 world powers with aircraft carriers.)

The U.S. Navy’s air power, distributed across the oceans on its nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, plays a key role in maintaining dominance and global security. Currently, the Navy uses a mix of modernized carrier-based aircraft, and here is a look at that arsenal.

To determine the planes that fly on American aircraft carriers today, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from Military Factory, an online database of military vehicles, aircraft, arms, and more. We included only aircraft currently in service by the U.S. military, as vetted by various sources. The list is ordered alphabetically. Supplemental information on the year each aircraft entered service, its production run, crew size, manufacturer, top speed, and variants came from Military Factory.

Arguably, the most advanced carrier-based aircraft is the F-35C Lightning II. This fifth generation multirole stealth fighter can penetrate air defenses, successfully carry out precision strikes on ground targets, and provide unparalleled air supremacy. Its ability to land vertically makes it ideal for carriers. (Here are 12 stealth planes used by global superpowers.)

The multirole, carrier-borne F/A-18 Super Hornet provides the backbone to naval airpower, with its precision-guided weapons. Designed with a reduced radar signature and greater range than its predecessor, today it is the most common fighter on U.S. Navy aircraft carrier flight decks. However, Boeing reportedly plans to stop production of the aircraft in 2025, and the Super Hornet will be replaced by the F-35 and the Navy’s upcoming sixth-generation fighter.

The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye fills the airborne early warning role on carriers. This aircraft features advanced avionics and sensors that provide a 360-degree view of the battlefield, acting as an airborne tactical air controller and a surveillance platform, proving critical for fleet defense.

One of the other main entries on this list is the CMV-22 Osprey, which plays a role in mid-air refueling and cargo transport. It offers long-range tiltrotor capabilities, which enables it to deliver critical logistics support to the carrier strike groups.

Noticeably, the most active aircraft in service on this list are fighter jets, which make up most of the fleet. Helicopters and transports make up most of the remainder as they fill more logistical roles for moving troops and cargo on and off the carriers.

This diverse array of carrier-based aircraft gives the U.S. Navy the flexibility, responsiveness, and strategic depth demanded in the 21st century’s complex operational environment. 

Click here to see the American planes that fly on aircraft carriers today.

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

AV-8B Harrier II
> Aircraft in active service: 99
> Year entered service: 1985
> Crew: 1
> Manufacturer: Boeing, BAE Systems
> Top speed: 665 mph
> Variants: TAV-8B (two-seat trainer), AV-8B (Harrier II Night Attack)

Bell AH-1 SuperCobra
> Aircraft in active service: 159
> Year entered service: 1971
> Crew: 2
> Manufacturer: Bell
> Top speed: 173 mph
> Variants: AH-1J (SeaCobra), AH-1Z (Viper)

Source: viper-zero / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey
> Aircraft in active service: 360
> Year entered service: 2007
> Crew: 3
> Manufacturer: Bell, Boeing
> Top speed: 316 mph
> Variants: V-22 (base series), CMV-22B (long-ranged V-22 model)

Source: viper-zero / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Bell UH-1Y Venom
> Aircraft in active service: 129
> Year entered service: 2009
> Crew: 1
> Manufacturer: Bell
> Top speed: 190 mph
> Variants: Bell UH-1 Huey, Bell UH-1Y Venom

Source: usairforce / Flickr

Boeing EA-18G Growler
> Aircraft in active service: 152
> Year entered service: 2009
> Crew: 2
> Manufacturer: Boeing
> Top speed: 1181 mph
> Variants: EA-18G (base series), Block II

Source: Stocktrek Images / Stocktrek Images via Getty Images

CH-47 Chinook
> Aircraft in active service: 513
> Year entered service: 1962
> Crew: 3
> Manufacturer: Boeing
> Top speed: 180 mph
> Variants: CH-47A (base model), MH-47D (special operations model)

E-2D Hawkeye
> Aircraft in active service: 73
> Year entered service: 2014
> Crew: 5
> Manufacturer: Northrop Grumman
> Top speed: 404 mph
> Variants: Hawkeye, Advanced Hawkeye

Source: JohnnyPowell / E+ via Getty Images

F/A-18 Hornet
> Aircraft in active service: 236
> Year entered service: 1983
> Crew: 1 or 2
> Manufacturer: Boeing
> Top speed: 1190 mph
> Variants: F/A-18D (two-seat model), F/A-18E (Super Hornet)

F/A-18 Super Hornet
> Aircraft in active service: 547
> Year entered service: 1999
> Crew: 1 or 2
> Manufacturer: Boeing
> Top speed: 1187 mph
> Variants: F/A-18E (single-seat model), F/A-18E/F (Advanced Super Hornet)

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

F-35 Lightning II
> Aircraft in active service: 162
> Year entered service: 2016
> Crew: 1
> Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin
> Top speed: 1199 mph
> Variants: F-35A (conventional), F-35B (STOVL), F-35C (carrier-based)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Grumman C-2 Greyhound
> Aircraft in active service: 30
> Year entered service: 1967
> Crew: 4
> Manufacturer: Northrop Grumman
> Top speed: 331 mph
> Variants: C-2A (initial production model)

Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion
> Aircraft in active service: 140
> Year entered service: 1966
> Crew: 3
> Manufacturer: Sikorsky Aircraft
> Top speed: 196 mph
> Variants: CH-53A (base model), VH-53D (VIP transport)

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr

Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion
> Aircraft in active service: 35
> Year entered service: 1981
> Crew: 5
> Manufacturer: Sikorsky Aircraft
> Top speed: 196 mph
> Variants: CH-53K (King Stallion), MH-53E (Sea Dragon)

Source: guvendemir / iStock via Getty Images

Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk
> Aircraft in active service: 493
> Year entered service: 1979
> Crew: 2
> Manufacturer: Sikorsky Aircraft
> Top speed: 183 mph
> Variants: MH-60 (Knighthawk), SH-60 (Seahawk)

Source: usnavy / Flickr

T-45 Goshawk
> Aircraft in active service: 189
> Year entered service: 1991
> Crew: 2
> Manufacturer: BAE Systems, Boeing
> Top speed: 645 mph
> Variants: T-45A (base trainer), T-45C (current standardized Goshawk)

Sponsored: Tips for Investing

A financial advisor can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of investment properties. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Investing in real estate can diversify your portfolio. But expanding your horizons may add additional costs. If you’re an investor looking to minimize expenses, consider checking out online brokerages. They often offer low investment fees, helping you maximize your profit.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us?
Contact the 24/7 Wall St. editorial team.