How difficult is to design and build aircraft carriers

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India’s new generation aircraft carrier “INS Vikrant” is in the final stage of sea trials, and it will be commissioned by the end of the year. The Cochin Shipyard Limited and the Indian Navy had already completed the Basin Trials of the aircraft carrier and after this, the Indian navy will receive its second aircraft carrier and first homemade aircraft carrier. The debate over the design of the Vikrant aircraft carrier has always been the focus of heated discussions among netizens. Because of its complicated design, long term construction, and high cost, aircraft carriers can only be played by a few countries, and it is the country’s comprehensive national strength that is tested.

INS Vikrant

The overall design of the aircraft carrier is a process of continuous optimization. First, a top-level design is required. The life cycle of an aircraft carrier will reach 40-50 years, costing billions of dollars, involving hundreds of industrial sectors, and long-term planning of aircraft carrier projects must be carried out at the national level. Then carry out the conceptual design, determine the overall technical scheme, and finally carry out the detailed scheme design.

An aircraft carrier is a highly technically intensive and complex system equipment that can be divided into multiple subsystems. The subsystems are interconnected and restricted to each other to form an organic whole. The overall design of the aircraft carrier needs to comprehensively consider various factors, reconcile the conflicts of various systems, and realize the coordination of the functions and operational capabilities of each system. 

The combat effectiveness of aircraft carriers comes from carrier-based aircraft, which usually include fighters, anti-submarine aircraft, early warning aircraft, electronic countermeasures aircraft, helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles. They can perform early warning, reconnaissance, patrol, escort, mine-laying, mine clearance and vertical landing tasks. Carrier-based aircraft operations or aviation support-related systems are the focus of the design of aircraft carriers, and priority must be given to ensuring the supply and dispatch of carrier-based aircraft.

The materials on the U.S. aircraft carrier are transferred to the interior through the elevator

In order to meet the needs of personnel, carrier-based aircraft, defensive weapons and related systems, aircraft carriers need to be equipped with a large amount of food, ammunition, spare parts and other materials. The huge amount of materials puts forward high requirements on the material support environment of aircraft carriers, especially to ensure dangerous goods such as fuel and aviation ammunition. 

us aircraft carrier

The overall design of the aircraft carrier needs to fully consider the safety of the storage areas for the above items and the protection against attacks. The conventionally powered Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier can carry nearly 10,000 tons of naval fuel, more than 5,000 tons of aviation fuel, and 1,800 tons of ammunition, and can sustain high-intensity operations for about 10 days. Since the nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carrier does not need to carry ship fuel, it can carry more than 9,000 tons of aviation fuel and 3,000 tons of ammunition, and the continuous combat time is extended to 15 days. 

Both the fuel oil tank and the ammunition compartment are arranged below the waterline. The fuel oil tank is generally arranged in the outer compartment, which can buffer the impact of the explosion to a certain extent. The ammunition compartment is generally divided into two front and rear, with heavy armor protection.

The powerful assault capability of the aircraft carrier is inseparable from all kinds of ammunition

The hangar is a place for storing and maintaining carrier-based aircraft. It needs to occupy the height of 3-4 decks. It adopts a column-free structure with a length of more than 200 meters. It also has a large opening to facilitate the entry and exit of the carrier-based aircraft. The structure is designed There are very high requirements. In order to prevent accidents, it is necessary to install fire isolation doors and automatic fire protection facilities in the hangar. The surrounding cabins are generally arranged as service cabins such as spare parts warehouses and machining cabins.


The most notable feature of the aircraft carrier is the large flight deck. The design of the flight deck will directly affect the take-off and landing efficiency of the carrier-based aircraft. Modern aircraft carriers are designed with angled decks, and the choice of angle is very important, which directly affects the size and shape of the three major areas: take-off area, landing area and parking area. 

Under the premise of ensuring the same number of carrier-based aircraft arrangements, too large and too small angles are detrimental to the take-off and landing of carrier-based aircraft. When the tilt is small, the difficulty of landing is reduced, but it is very detrimental to the go-around, take-off and landing of the carrier-based aircraft at the same time, and safe shutdown. 

The carrier-based aircraft on the angled deck is susceptible to the wake of the carrier-based aircraft preparing to eject and take off. At the same time, a small oblique angle will result in a smaller port side parking area, which will affect the number of aircraft on board. When the oblique angle is large, the crosswind received by the carrier-based aircraft during the landing operation will be greater, the safety of the landing operation will be affected, and the difficulty of landing will increase. On the other hand, for the landing runway of the same length, the greater the angle, the greater the width of the flight deck, and the greater the difficulty of the construction process.

The angled deck of the Ford-class aircraft carrier is tilted about 9°
When the aircraft carrier changes its home port, the large deck can also help the crew move.

The aircraft carrier is currently the largest war weapon of mankind, and its complexity tests the comprehensive strength of a country. I believe that in the near future, China’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier will gallop on the ocean.

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