The Most Powerful Warships of the United States Navy

The United States has the strongest Navy in the world, and under current plans, should reach its goal of maintaining 300 ships in its force by 2034: retiring 244 ships and purchasing 264 more. Although the U.S. Naval budget has fluctuated over the decades depending on war time and approval from Congress, the Navy has maintained an impressive fleet of ships to meet all of the military’s maritime needs. This list includes the largest and most powerful ships in the world, including missile destroyers and attack submarines. The amount of weapons and aircraft these ships can handle is nothing short of incredible.

USS Independence (LCS-2)

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Nicholas Kontodiakos/U.S. Navy via Getty Images
Nicholas Kontodiakos/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

The USS Independence LCS-2 has been a part of the U.S. Navy fleet since 2009. This combat ship is equipped to find and destroy mines, hunt down submarines, and engage in battle with small boats.

The USS Independence has a large flight deck, hangar, and mission bay. The ship carries AGM-114L Hellfire missiles, BAE Systems Mk 110 57 mm gun, .50 cal (12.7 mm) guns, and Raytheon SeaRAM CIWS. The USS Independence resides in her homeport Naval Base in San Diego, assigned to the Littoral Combat Ship Squadron One.

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78)

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Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano/U.S. Navy via Getty Images
Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

The USS Gerald R. Ford is expected to leave on her first deployment around 2022. This efficient ship joined the U.S. Navy fleet in 2017 and is the world’s largest aircraft carrier. The Gerald R. Ford is equipped with state-of-the-art radar technology, including an AN/SPY-3 and AN/SPY-4.

The Gerald R. Ford also features Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System that has the ability to launch 25% more aircraft per day than the Nimitz class, and requires 24% fewer crew members, saving the Navy an estimated $4 billion in operating costs over 50 years. This ship is stacked with surface-to-air missiles, RIM-162 ESSM launchers and M2.50 Cal. (12.7 mm) machine guns.

USS Emory S. Land (AS-39)

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Chris Riley/Times-Herald
Chris Riley/Times-Herald

The purpose and design of the USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) is to tend to US Navy submarines that need supplies and equipment repair. This ship is basically a floating city, with 53 specialized shops onboard for food, electricity, water, medical, dental, legal services, as well as plenty of parts and equipment.

This ship has received numerous awards for her service, including eight Battle Efficiency Awards, four Meritorious Unit Commendations, the Navy Expeditionary Medal, and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. When the USS Emory S. Land isn’t deployed, she’s at her homeport in Apra Harbor, Guam.

The US Navy Is Contemplating The Ghost Boat

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Instagram/jimevans2010
Instagram/jimevans2010

Gregory Sancroff, the CEO of Juliet Marine Systems designed the Ghost boat with hopes that the U.S. Navy will buy it from the company. The boat is designed to answer back if a large fleet of fast, small attack boats were to target the U.S. Navy in an area like the Middle East.

The Ghost is designed to minimize drag for quicker speed and is able to carry a variety of weapons to engage in an attack. The Navy doesn’t have plans to purchase the Ghost yet — Sancroff decided to build the boat in anticipation of the U.S. military needing this type of boat in the near future, after the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.

Seawolf-class Attack Submarine SSN

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Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Seawolf class submarines cost a reported $3 billion to build, designed to combat advanced Soviet ballistic missile submarines. The U.S. Navy had originally planned on building 29 units, but after the Cold War ended, they reduced the attack submarine budget dramatically, and only three were built.

Seawolf submarines stand apart from the rest, as they are larger, faster, and quieter than the Los Angeles-class submarines.They are also equipped to carry twice as many torpedo tubes and plenty more weapons, including 50 Tomahawk land attack missiles and eight torpedo tubes. Submerged, this sub can carry 9,138 tons with a speed of 35 knots.

USS America (LHA-6)

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FRANCESCO DEGASPERI/AFP/Getty Images
FRANCESCO DEGASPERI/AFP/Getty Images

The USS America (LHA-6) was delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2014, replacing the Peleliu. This ship carries part of a Marine expeditionary unit, with a mission to carry the unit into battle and then bring them back to shore. The USS America has carried the AV-8B Harrier II, MV-22B Osprey, F-35B Lightning II, CH-53K Super Stallion, UH-1Y Venom, AH-1Z Viper, and MH-60S Knighthawk.

So far, the ship has conducted joint exercises with regional allies that include Colombia, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Chile, and Peru. These exercises improve security and communications operations, as well as mission planning activities and medical asset coordination.

USS Enterprise (CVN-65)

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Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The USS Enterprise (CVN-65) was decommissioned in February of 2017, and although it wasn’t perfect, deserves a place on this list. The design of this ship was changed due to budget cuts, leaving out the intended RIM-2 Terrier missile launchers. However, this ship has played an important role for the U.S. Navy and is the longest naval vessel ever built, at 1,123 feet.

The Enterprise was dispatched to assist in creating a blockade during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and has also deployed to the Mediterranean and Vietnam. The ship also participated in one of the largest shows of force around North Korea after they shot down an American Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star that was on patrol.

USS Midway (CV-41)

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U.S. Navy Photo by David Levy/Getty Images
U.S. Navy Photo by David Levy/Getty Images

The USS Midway (CV-41) served as the Persian Gulf flagship in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, played an active role in the Vietnam War, and was once the largest ship in the world. The USS Midway was commissioned a week after the end of World War II and was decommissioned in April of 1992.

Commissioned in 1945, the Midway made the first MIG kills in the Vietnam War, and led the last air-to-air victory of the conflict. Today the ship acts as a museum at its final resting place at Navy pier in San Diego.

USS Kidd (DDG-100)

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CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Pictured here is the USS Kidd (DDG-993) but it’s the ship’s successor, the USS Kidd (DDG-100) that makes the list of most powerful U.S. Navy ships. This is the third USS Kidd, named after Rear admiral Isaac C. Kidd, who was aboard the Arizona when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred.

Part of the Destroyer Squadron 9 of Carrier Strike Group 3, the ship is equipped with Tomahawk missiles and anti-submarine weaponry. The USS Kidd was apart of the search for the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. When not deployed, the ship is located at Naval Station Everett, 25 miles north of Seattle.

USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49)

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David Greedy/Getty Images
David Greedy/Getty Images

Based in San Diego, California, USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49) is the lead ship of her class of landing ship dock for the U.S. Navy. The ship has support humanitarian efforts in the Pangasinan province of the Philippines, disaster relief after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, and in the recovery efforts of the sunken Republic of Korea Navy ship ROKS Cheonan.

The USS Harpers Ferry can reach over 20 knots and can house 22 officers and 397 enlisted men. It’s armed with two 25 mm Mk 38 rapid-fire cannons, two 20 mm Phalanx CIWS mounts, two Rolling Airframe Missile launchers, and six 0.5 in M2HB machine guns.

USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51)

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CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

The USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) is a guided missile destroyer at the top of its class. The vessel is equipped with stealth technology for evading anti-ship missiles and a downgraded version of the Aegis combat system which simultaneously launches, tracks and evades missiles.

The exterior of the ship is made entirely of steel for superior protection and durability. The Collective Protection System makes it safe for the ship to enter environments that are contaminated by chemicals or radiological material. In 2003, the ship fired Tomahawk missile strikes against targets in Iraq and in 2014 it fired Tomahawk missiles on targets in Syria during the military intervention against ISIS.

USS Ohio (SSGN-726)

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Dave Fliesen/U.S. Navy via Getty Images
Dave Fliesen/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

The USS Ohio (SSGN-726) is at the top of her class of nuclear-powered missile submarines. In 2002, there were plans to retire the submarine, but instead, the U.S. Navy decided to modify the USS Ohio and her sister submarines to SSGNs, conventional missile submarines.

In each of its 22 torpedo tubes, this sub carries seven Tomahawk missiles. When the submarine was delivered to the U.S. Navy in October 1981, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover commented that the Ohio should, “strike fear in the hearts of our enemies.” This sub can travel a reported 25 knots submerged and go 60 days without requiring further food or supplies.

USS Wasp (LHD-1)

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Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The USS Wasp (LDH-1) is a U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship, and the tenth ship to carry the name. This ship can manage any of the Navy or Marine Corps helicopters and is able to perform some of the most complex military maneuvers.

Its well dock spans 12,000 square-feet with two aircraft elevators for the hangar bay and flight deck. The USS Wasp holds 1,075 crew members and 2,200 embarked troops, and has provided medical assistance to 600 causalities. This ship is ready to go with the ability to hold six AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft or six F-35B Lightning II stealth strike-fighters. It can carry 12 MV-22B Osprey assault support tiltrotor and 4 CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-life helicopters.

USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77)

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Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin J. Steinberg//U.S. Navy via Getty Images
Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin J. Steinberg//U.S. Navy via Getty Images

The USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) is a super-carrier, named after the 41st President of the United States who was a naval aviator during World War II. The super-carrier is armed with three Phalanx close-in weapon systems, two Mk 29 ESSM launchers, and two RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles.

One of the world’s largest warships, the super-carrier spans 1,092 feet and displaces over 100,000 tons. It features a bulbous bow design to improve hull efficiency and curved edges on the flight deck to decrease radar signature. The USS George H.W. Bush has an updated aviation fuel storage and distribution system, semi-automated refueling, navigation system upgrades, and armored windows.

USS Somerset (LPD-25)

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Matt Jonas/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
Matt Jonas/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

The USS Somerset is the fourth Navy vessel to be named in honor of victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Passengers of the United Airlines Flight 93 fought the terrorists and prevented the airplane from crashing at its intended site. Instead, it crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

Approximately 22 tons of steel were used in the design of the USS Somerset, which were sourced from a crane that stood near Flight 93’s crash site. She was the last Navy ship to depart from the Avondale Ship Yard before it closed, and is stationed at its homeport in San Diego when she’s not out on deployment.

USS Providence (SSN-719)

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Jeremy Farr/Contributor
Jeremy Farr/Contributor

Commissioned in July of 1985, the USS Providence (SSN-719) was the first Los Angeles class submarine to be equipped with the Tomahawk missile from the VLS system using its combat system CCS MK1.

The submarine holds 12 officers and 98 enlisted, with BQQ-10 passive sonar, BQS-15 detecting and ranging sonar and BYG-1 fire control. It’s also equipped for defense with Tomahawk land attack missile block with a range of 1,700 nautical miles and Harpoon anti-surface ship missile with a range of 70 nautical miles.

USS Virginia (SSN-774)

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Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The USS Virginia (SSN-774) is a nuclear-powered attack submarine specifically designed for coastal attacks. One unique feature of this sub is its pressure chamber which allows SEALs to deploy while the submarine is still submerged.

The USS Virginia can reach up to 25 knots and is equipped with vertical launch tubes that can fire Mk-48 torpedoes BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles. This sub was commissioned in October of 2004 and served in support of the Global War on Terrorism in 2005.

USS Ticonderoga (DDG/CG-47)

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photo by DOD
photo by DOD

The USS Ticonderoga (DDG/CG-47) is a guided missile cruiser of the U.S. Navy that boasts the latest technology in tracking and engaging multiple aircraft targets. There are five U.S. Navy ships with the name Ticonderoga, named after the Ticonderoga (CV-14) that was nearly sunk during World War II.

This cruiser was commissioned in 1983 and decommissioned in 2004. The Navy offered the ship to be used as a museum, but as of now there aren’t any sites available to take her in.

USS Freedom (LCS-1)

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JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images
JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images

The USS Freedom (LCS-1) belongs to the littoral combat ships class. This vessel is designed for shallow water missions, including mine-sweeping and humanitarian relief. The USS Freedom has excellent maneuverability and speed but is not designed to take on large warships.

Although Freedom has successfully assisted in missions such as delivering relief supplies to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, it’s been plagued with design flaws and engine failures that put this vessel on the low end of the list. However, it did complete rough water trials in March 2015, to prove that the ship is structurally sound and ready for deployment.

USS Chief (MCM-14)

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U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 1st Class Lynn Andrews/Wikimedia
U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 1st Class Lynn Andrews/Wikimedia

The USS Chief (MCM-14) was named to honor the service and tradition of the Chief Petty Officers of the U.S. Navy. This ship was built as an Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship based in Sasebo, Japan, as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The ship is equipped with a mine neutralization system and two .50 caliber machine guns. It’s built for maneuverability and to withstand any dangerous mine explosions it may incur.