30 of the Most Impressive U.S. Navy Warships
The United States Navy is responsible for operating some of the most extraordinary ships to sail the open seas. Many of these technological marvels are rife with fascinating features and history. Climb aboard their decks and let’s explore these remarkable vessels.
High-speed littoral combat ship (USS Independence LCS-2)
Speed may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a ship that weighs 3,104 metric tons when full, but the USS Independence can move when she wants to. With a maximum speed of 44 knots, she’s proven herself in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC).
The USS Independence suffered several setbacks while being built, including a gas turbine leak and corrosion caused by faulty electric insulation. She’s fixed now, however, and mostly resides at her port in San Diego. The USS Independence holds an array of weaponry, including AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, a Bofors 57 mm L/70 naval artillery gun, and RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile launcher.
One of the biggest U.S. Supercarriers (USS Gerald R. Ford CVN-78): Part 1
When the United States Navy bid farewell to the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) after 51 years of service, the largest warship in history took her place. Northrop Grumman constructed the 100,000-long-ton vessel. Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations called her a “technological marvel. She will carry unmanned aircraft, joint strike fighters, and she will deploy lasers.”
First launched in 2013 and commissioned in 2017, the Navy expects to deploy the USS Gerald R. Ford in 2022, where they will put its upgraded radar technology and software to use. The Navy estimates the improvements, when compared to the Nimitz class of supercarriers, will shave $4 billion off of operating costs throughout its estimated 50-year lifespan.
The lead submarine tender (USS Emory S. Land AS-39)
The USS Emory S. Land provides supplies and services for U.S. military submarines. When a submarine requires repair, there are machine shops and spare parts stored on the large vessel to take care of the problem. The USS Emory S. Land AS-39 also provides medical, dental, and mail distribution services out at sea.
The “tireless worker of the sea,” she was first launched in 1977, calling many ports all over the world her home. Since 2015, she’s been based out of Guam. Since she was commissioned in 1979, the USS Emory S. Land AS-39 has earned four Meritorious Unit Commendations.
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) Part 2
Costing approximately $13.027 billion to build, CVN-78 is the most expensive warship built to date. It’s equipped with AN/SPY-3 and AN/SPY-4 active electronically scanned array multi-function radar. The newly designed Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) replaces effective, yet outdated steam catapult systems that have been used since the 1950s.
She’s got two RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) launchers and two RIM-162 ESSM to take on aerial threats, as well as three Phalanx close-in weapon systems and four .50 caliber machine guns. Clearly, this beast of a warship is well protected. The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is powered by two A1B nuclear reactors.
Destroyer ship (USS Kidd DDG-100)
You may recognize part of this impressive destroyer from the 2009 film, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (the ship fires at Devastator during the film’s climactic battle). Equipped with Tomahawk missiles and anti-submarine weaponry, DDG-100 is ready for battle with any threat — planes, submarines, ships, even Decepticons.
The USS Kidd suffered damage and flooding during Hurricane Katrina, which caused her commissioning to be pushed back to June 9, 2007. The warship has been involved in several high-profile operations, including the search for the missing Malaysian flight and the rescue of an Iranian fishing boat that was captured by Somalian pirates.
USS Ohio (SSGN-726)
There are 18 Ohio-class submarines in the U.S. Navy. 14 of these are equipped with ballistic missiles, while the other four have been fitted to launch guided missiles. The lead boat of the Ohio class (SSGN-726) was originally set to be retired in 2002 when it and three of its sister ships were converted to launch guided missiles.
The sub carries seven Tomahawk missiles in each of its 22 torpedo tubes. Nicknamed the “First and Finest,” the SSGN-726 became the first sub to have a female U.S. Navy officer qualify for service on a Navy submarine in 2011. The submarine can last 60 days at sea with sufficient food and supplies.
Nuclear attack submarine (Seawolf-class Attack Submarine SSN)
The most expensive U.S. attack submarine to date, out of 29 planned Seawolves, only three were built — each cost $3 billion. The Seawolf-class subs can last indefinitely at sea, only limited by the amount of food and supplies brought along.
Instead of replacing the Los Angeles-class as was intended, the Seawolf became an extra class of submarines, with the Victoria-class replacing Los Angeles instead. These rare beasts house eight torpedo tubes, each capable of launching Tomahawk land attack missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and Mk 48 guided torpedoes. She’s capable of traveling as far as needed and can be deadly silent traveling at speeds of 20 knots.
USS America (LHA-6)
The first America-class warship, the LHA-6 replaced the USS Peleliu (LHA-5) of the Tarawa-class ships. The vessel functions as the flagship of an amphibious ready group or expeditionary strike group, bringing small air-ground task forces into battle with support from helicopter gunships.
The LHA-6 ports in San Diego. She was first launched on June 4, 2012, and commissioned on Oct. 11, 2014. The America-class ships had to be designed to withstand the extra heat generated by F-35B’s engine exhaust during takeoff. Not everyone is a fan of America’s design, complaining that since she lacks the ability to launch amphibious assault vehicles, she’s not as flexible as some of its predecessors. The Navy only built one other ship based on the design — the USS Tripoli (LHA-7).
Transport dock ship (USS Somerset LPD-25)
San Antonio-class vessels replaced Austin-class amphibious transport dock ships. First launched on April 12, 2012, the Somerset was named after Somerset County, Pennsylvania, the place where heroic passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 forced the airplane to crash in a field, stopping the hijacked plane from reaching the White House.
The 25,000-ton ship carries two 30 millimeter-Bushmaster II cannons and two Rolling Airframe Missile launchers and is manned by a crew of 800. Her home port is in San Diego, California. LPD-25 was the last ship built at the Avondale Shipyard, a shipyard that had been used by the Navy since 1938.
Ghost Boat – super-cavitating stealth ship
Responding to a U.S. Navy exercise that proved a large swarm of small boats could decimate even the most fortified battleships, a private company began working on a potential solution. The stealthy boat, appropriately named Ghost, is a small ship capable of carrying an impressive cache of various weapons.
Its supercavitating design enables it to cut through the water smoothly and quickly, while its small size makes it difficult to detect on most radar systems. As it travels, the ship creates a bubble of gas around it to reduce drag. This process is known as cavitation. The U.S. Navy liked the design and attempted to buy the patents from Juliet Marine Systems. When the CEO refused, the Navy put an order of secrecy on the company to prevent other countries (even friendly ones) from getting their hands on the technology. A legal battle ensued — one that will likely last a while.
Aircraft carrier (USS Enterprise CVN-65)
This decommissioned aircraft carrier has a lot of history. Commissioned on Nov. 25, 1961, the Enterprise was dispatched just months later during the Cuban missile crisis. The Enterprise helped form a blockade preventing Soviet military supplies to Cuba. An MK-32 Zuni rocket accidentally exploded on her hull in 1969, causing many casualties and damage to the ship.
In addition to Vietnam, Korean war operations, the Enterprise also launched attacks on Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan and participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Armament on the Enterprise included three NATO Sea Sparrow launchers, three Phalanx close-in weapon system mounts, and two RAM launchers. The CVN-65’s last reactor was defueled on Dec. 2016, and the ship was decommissioned on Feb. 3, 2017.
Multipurpose amphibious ship (USS Wasp LHD-1)
The leader of the Wasp-class, the LHD-1 is equipped to accommodate an assortment of military vehicles for amphibious air-ground assaults. Amphibious assaults are regarded as the most complex of military maneuvers for the extensive amount of coordination they require. This ship is definitely suited to lead its class, as it is outfitted with some very modern weapons.
The USS Wasp is equipped with two RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile launchers, two RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missile launchers, three Phalanx close-in weapon systems, four chain guns, and four .50 caliber Mk 38 chain guns. In addition to all this artillery, the Wasp is equipped to provide medical attention to up to 600 casualties. The versatile vessel was commissioned on July 29, 1989.
Supercarrier (USS George H. W. Bush CVN-77)
Built by Northrop Grumman, this 100,000-ton warship is one of the largest in the world. The USS George H. W. Bush can go 20 years without refueling. Differing from other ships in the Nimitz class, its bulbous bow design improved hull efficiency by giving her more buoyancy toward the forward end.
In addition to improvements made on the flight deck that reduce its radar signature, the CVN-77 also features updates to the Nimitz design that improve the efficiency of refueling aircrafts and its ability to deflect jet blasts. The supercarrier is armored with two Mk 29 ESSM launchers, two RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles, and three Phalanx close-in weapon systems.
Aircraft carrier (USS Midway CV-41)
Once the largest ship in the world, this decommissioned aircraft carrier is now a museum. You can climb aboard the deck in San Diego. It makes sense she was converted into a museum — a lot of history took place aboard the Midway. She was first laid down on Sept. 10, 1945 — eight days after the Japanese surrendered, ending World War II. She participated in practically every United States military conflict since then.
On one dramatic occasion during the Vietnam war, a South Vietnamese pilot escaped Con Son Island and heavy ground fire in the dead of night with his wife and children. Unable to contact the Midway through radio, he passed overhead and dropped a handwritten note onto the deck. The note begged the crew to clear a landing path for him. The Midway crew quickly complied — and Major Buang-Ly, his wife, and five children were rescued.
USS Los Angeles SSN-688
Decommissioned in 2011, this attack submarine boasts the longest length of service when compared to any other sub in the United States Navy. A versatile attack vessel, she was equipped to handle undersea, surface, and strike warfare, as well as intelligence operations, and mining operations among other capabilities.
In her 34 years of service, she received a total of nine Meritorious Unit Citations and one Navy Unit Commendation. She was armed with Mark 48 torpedoes, Harpoon missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles. Sadly, she was sent to the Navy’s Ship-Submarine Recycling Program where she was taken apart and recycled in 2012.
Virginia-class attack submarine (SSN-774)
Replacing the Los Angeles-class subs, the new Virginia nuclear-powered attack submarines are especially equipped for coastal attacks. Her design is quite unique: A Photonics Mast Program freed up more room for the control room. Digital ship and ballast controls and a pressure chamber to deploy SEALs while submerged set the Virginia further apart from other subs.
Anticipating a long life for the Virginia-class subs, the SSN-774 has 13 twins — with 24 more planned. She’s armed with vertical launch tubes and Mk-48 torpedoes BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles. More technological advancements include: photonics sensors, modular masts, rescue equipment, and a payload module.
USS Ticonderoga (DDG/CG-47)
The lead ship of the Ticonderoga-class, the CG-47 is a highly decorated ship. The decommissioned cruiser has received two Secretary of the Navy Letters of Commendation and a Chief of Naval Operations Letter of Commendation in addition to multiple Meritorious Unit Awards, medals, and ribbons. The ship was named after the Battle of Ticonderoga in the American Revolutionary War. Ticonderoga is Iroquois for “the joining of two waterways.”
First designed as a destroyer (DDG-47) , she was converted to a cruiser (CG-47) before being laid down. She was equipped with a vast array of torpedoes, surface-to-air missiles, submarine missiles, harpoon missiles, close-in weapons systems, and machine guns. Decommissioned in 2004, she’s been stricken and set to be disposed of in the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Philadelphia.
USS Freedom (LCS-1)
A littoral combat ship, the Freedom-class ships are smaller than the Independence making them faster and more maneuverable for anti-mine and anti-submarine warfare, as opposed to combat with large warships. She’s been plagued by many problems during her short time at sea, including 17 cracks and multiple engine failures.
Other complaints include design flaws with the Mk 110 57 millimeter gun which vibrates violently when fired, making it inaccurate and problematic in combat scenarios. Despite her setbacks, she’s proved herself in successful humanitarian missions and a recent rough sea test in 2015 demonstrated her structural integrity. Her home port is in San Diego.
USS Chief (MCM-14)
There are currently 14 of Avenger-class mine countermeasure ships in the U.S. Navy. One of these is the USS Chief (MCM-14), which is armed with a mine neutralization system and two .50 caliber machine guns. The ship is specially designed to withstand dangerous mine explosions, with wood construction coated in plastic sheathing.
Because of the precise nature of mine countermeasure operations, the USS Chief has to be highly maneuverable as it detects and sweeps mines with sonar and video systems. It’s also equipped with a mine detonating device that enables mines to be neutralized remotely. The Avengers-class ships are the largest minesweepers in the U.S. Navy.
USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49)
The lead ship of the Harpers Ferry docking class of ships, this impressive vessel is named after Harpers Ferry in West Virginia — an important strategic location in the Civil War. LSD-49 has participated in several humanitarian efforts, including the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tōhoku.
As part of the “Amphibious Group 1” of Navy ships, Harpers Ferry can deliver amphibious vehicles and launch air support into battle. She’s equipped with two 20-millimeter Phalanx close-in weapons systems, two Rolling Airframe Missile launchers, two 25-millimeter Mk 38 rapid-fire cannons, and six 12.7 millimeter M2HB machine guns. Her motto is “First in Freedom.”
USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51)
Able to avoid detection by anti-ship missiles, this stealthy ship is truly “Fast and Feared.” She’s participated in numerous operations since she was first commissioned in July 1991. The Arleigh Burke has participated in numerous military combat operations around the world and anti-piracy missions in Somalia.
Fitted with a modified version of the Aegis system, she can launch, track, and evade missiles at the same time. Her Collective Protection system enables her to operate smoothly in highly dangerous environments — undeterred by chemical, radioactive, or even biological threats. Her home port is located at the Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia.
USS Turner Joy (DD-951)
One of 18 U.S. Navy Forest Sherman-class destroyers, the Turner Joy was first launched on May 5, 1958. Now she spends her days berthed at Bremerton Washington as a military museum. She was involved in the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which Navy ships reported being attacked. The incident initiated American involvement in the Vietnam War.
She was armored with two mark 10/11 hedgehogs (anti-submarine projectors), six Mark 32 torpedo tubes, .three 54 caliber dual purpose Mk 42 guns, and four Mark 33 anti-aircraft guns. Her motto is “Esse Quam Videri,” which translates to “To be rather than to seem.”
USS Peleliu (LHA-5)
Named after the Battle of Peleliu (Operation Stalemate II), a battle against the Japanese in World War II, the USS Peleliu is an amphibious assault ship from the Tarawa class of the U.S. Navy. She currently sits in reserve in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The Peleliu has participated in several historic events. These include providing humanitarian aid during the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco, the crisis in East Timor, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi freedom. She’s equipped with two Rolling Airframe Missile launchers, five 12.7 millimeter machine guns, two Phalanx close-in weapons systems, and four 25 millimeter Mk 38 Bushmaster gun mounts.
USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413)
Now for a sad story. The USS Samuel B. Roberts was sunk by Japanese forces near the end of World War II. The destroyer escort fought hard, however, landing a torpedo hit and machine-gun fire on larger Japanese warships. She helped propel the U.S. Navy to an unlikely victory at the Battle of Samar.
Though she sunk only months after her launch, she played a vital part in the war by preventing Japanese forces from claiming the Island of Samar, an important strategic position. When the ship finally sank, the 120 survivors had to cling to rafts while floating in the ocean for 50 hours.
USS Santa Fe (SSN-763)
Another Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine, the Santa Fe was first launched on Dec. 12, 1992, and commissioned on Jan. 8 1994. She’s traveled the world, particularly the Far East, making stops in Phuket, Thailand, Singapore, Guam, and India. During an especially eventful six-month deployment to the western Pacific, the USS Santa Fe performed four operations that were highly crucial to national security.
The directly enhanced the U.S. Navy’s fleet by preparing the battle-space for coming operations. For their tenacity and diligence in the face of challenging circumstances, her crew was awarded the COMSUBRON 7 Battle “E” Award and a Navy Unit Commendation from the Secretary of the Navy.
USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000)
The USS Zumwalt is the leader of the Zumwalt class of the U.S. Navy. A guided-missile destroyer, she nearly didn’t survive an expedition through the Panama Canal when she sprung a leak and struck the walls of the Canal. Thinking quickly, the crew had to pull her to her across the canal using tugboats.
She’s a unique destroyer, equipped with multi-mission capabilities instead of the standard deepwater specialization that applies to most other warships of her kind. For one, she’s able to mount ground attacks, hitting targets from up to 83 miles away. She’s equipped to handle all kinds of missiles, including Tomahawk land attack missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC anti-submarine missiles. Few targets are safe from the USS Zumwalt.
USS Hurricane (PC-3)
Coastal patrol ships are tasked with the important task of interdiction surveillance, a vital part of counterterrorism efforts. Obviously, they are also designed to protect and patrol the coastline. The USS Hurricane was launched on June 6, 1992, and patrolled the Haitian coast in efforts to restore order during political turmoil following the overthrow of the Haitian president in May 1994.
The Cyclone-class ships are able to operate in shallow waters where other ships are unable to reach, making them invaluable to the Navy following the September 11 attacks. The USS Hurricane is equipped with two Mk 38 Bushmaster chain guns, six FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, two 12.7 millimeter caliber machine guns, and two 40 millimeter Mk 19 grenade launchers to bring “The Hurt and the Pain.”
USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3)
The USS Lewis B. Puller is an Expeditionary Mobile Base, the first of its kind. She provides the valuable duty of supporting aircraft that can enter more dangerous combat zones. It can carry Up to 4 CH-53 heavy-lift transport helicopters and is armed with 12 .50 caliber machine guns.
She was first launched on Nov. 6, 2014, and commissioned nearly three years later at Al Hidd, Bahrain. She’s the first Navy ship to be commissioned outside the United States. Unlike other warships, she has no home base and will take care of maintenance, repairs, and refueling all while out at sea.
USS Ponce (LPD-15)
This amphibious docking transport ship, named for the city of Ponce, Puerto Rico was first launched on May 20, 1970. 14 years later, she was badly damaged while attempting to move an assault craft to Radio Island. It didn’t hold her back for long — she was part of peacekeeping missions following the Beirut barracks bombings.
She later served the U.S. Navy during both Operation Desert Storm and the 2003 war in Iraq. Though she was set to be decommissioned in 2012, she was given a new purpose in her last years of active service when she was converted to serve as a base for mine-sweeping Sea Dragon helicopters in 2012. The USS Ponce also served as the base for testing new Laser Weapons System before being decommissioned in 2017.