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Cities at Sea: How Aircraft Carriers Work

Cities at Sea: How Aircraft Carriers Work

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one of the first 200 to sign up at A single aircraft carrier is enough to markedly
change the level of a nation’s military might. These ships are one of the strongest single
assets a military can have. In general, under international law, aircraft
carriers can legally position themselves up to 14 miles or 22 kilometers from any country’s
coast. Clearly, the strategic influence of being
able to place a military airbase just miles from any coast in the world is enormous especially
given that 80% of the world’s population lives within 60 miles or 100 kilometers from
the ocean. While plenty of military vessels are capable
of launching helicopters, there are just 19 aircraft carriers worldwide currently in service
capable of launching fixed-wing airplanes. China, Thailand, India, Russia, and France
each have one; Italy has two; and the US has the eleven largest in the world. These largest carriers require over 6,000
people to operate and often stay deployed for up to a year. They are fully fledged cities at sea. The most advanced aircraft carriers like the
French Navy’s Charles de Gaulle are capable of launching an aircraft every 30 seconds. That means that, for a brief period, when
launching aircraft at its maximum rate, the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle becomes
busier than Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. To be able to achieve such a capability on
a moving ship is no easy feat. While the operation of these vessels gives
militaries enormous strategic advantage, they also represent one of their greatest operational
challenges. An aircraft carrier’s offensive weapon is
its aircraft. Onboard, carriers tend to only have a small
number of defensive weapons such as surface-to-air missiles and machine guns. But of course, just like any powerful military
asset, these carriers are big targets. It is for this reason that carriers never
travel alone while on deployment. While the exact composition can change depending
on the mission, the carrier strike groups American carriers travel with are typically
made up of a guided missile cruiser equipped with tomahawk missiles, two guided missile
destroyers, an attack submarine, and a supply ship. An aircraft carrier is the flagship of this
strike group meaning that, in it’s command area, it not only has a bridge and air traffic
control center, it also has a flag bridge where an admiral commands the entire strike
group. Each of the group’s ships serve some combination
of offensive and defensive roles. The only exception is the supply ship. Most aircraft carriers don’t need regular
refueling. All eleven American carriers and the French
one are nuclear powered meaning they can sail an unlimited distance for twenty-five years
without refueling. Even conventionally powered aircraft carriers
like the UK’s HMS Queen Elizabeth can travel up to 12,000 miles or 18,000 kilometers without
refueling making the need for stops infrequent. While an American or French carrier could
hypothetically sail nonstop for years or even decades, what they can’t do is carry enough
food, which is always needed, and aviation fuel, which is needed for combat operations,
to stay at sea for more than a few weeks at a time. It would be inefficient and place the carriers
in a position of vulnerability to have to visit a port every few weeks to restock especially
during combat operations so they don’t—they restock while at sea. The supply ships that move as part of the
strike group will sail off to a nearby port to take on fuel, ammunition, food, and mail,
sail back to the strike group, then match speed and maneuver alongside the carrier. From there the two ships will shoot lines
across to each other. These lines are used to pull hoses over to
the carrier which are used to transfer aviation fuel. To transfer solid supplies, there are two
methods. The first is attaching pallets to dollies
that wheel cargo across to the carrier like a zipline. The second method, which is considered simpler
yet more dangerous, is using helicopters to pick up pallets from the resupply ship and
flying them over to the carrier. These transfers bring both crucial supplies
like food and some less crucial items like mail but this isn’t the only way mail arrives
on American aircraft carriers. Each carrier actually has a mailing address
just like any building in the US. For example, this is the USS Gerald R. Ford’s
address. Families of sailors can send mail to these
addresses in the same way that they would to to any other and, in fact, it costs the
exact same as a shipment to any other US address—even if the ship is on the other side of the world. Sailors can even order packages online to
their ship. Expedited mail often makes it from an address
in the US to a carrier sailing somewhere around the world in just ten days. Having this speed requires more frequent deliveries
than those of the logistics ships but conveniently, carriers are airports at sea. American carriers currently use a fleet of
C-2 Greyhound’s as cargo aircraft providing a high-frequency, often daily connection between
carriers and shore. When cruising in the South China Sea, for
example, as the USS Ronald Reagan did in November, 2018, mail might be sent to Singapore via
conventional means. A C-2 Greyhound would then fly from the ship
to Singapore, pick up the mail, and fly back to the ship. As carriers sail around the world, the pick-up
points of the C-2 Greyhounds are continuously shifted to nearby friendly nations. While mail does wonders for increasing crew
morale, that’s actually the lowest priority cargo for the C-2 Greyhounds. The aircraft are integral for bringing on
spare parts for all the carrier’s aircraft and transporting VIP’s, press, and other
individuals to and from the carriers. This C-2 Greyhound is about the same size
as an Embraer 145—a civilian aircraft capable of carrying 50 people—so it’s not tiny. The longest aircraft carrier in the world,
which also happens to be the newest, is the USS Gerald R. Ford but even she is only 1,106
feet or 337 meters long. With commercial airports, a runway of 5,000
feet or 1,500 meters, like the one at London City Airport in London, is considered short
while large airports like London Heathrow will have runaways longer than 10,000 feet
or 3,000 meters. So how do C-2 Greyhounds and other aircraft
on carriers deal with having runways of only 1,100 feet or 330 meters long? They don’t. They take off with just 325 feet or 99 meters
of space. All US and French carriers use a system of
catapults to get aircraft up to takeoff speed within three to four seconds. This allows these carriers to launch decently
sized aircraft, like the C-2 Greyhound, with their relatively short decks. Other carriers, like the Chinese and Indian
ones, don’t have catapults so they can only launch lighter, shorter range aircraft capable
of taking off with a very short runway. Both these two types of carriers have arrestor
wires that aircraft catch on landing to decelerate with the short distance given. Every other aircraft carrier out there can
only operate with aircraft capable of vertical landing. What takes place on the flight deck is carefully
choreographed chaos. On American carriers, everyone’s job is
easily identifiable by the color shirt they wear. Yellow shirts deal with navigating aircraft
around the deck. Blue shirts are assistants to yellow shirts
driving tugs, operating elevators, delivering messages, and more. Red shirts do all the handling and mounting
of ammunition. Purple shirts manage aircraft fueling. Green shirts are worn by a few different groups
including catapult crews, maintenance personnel, cargo handlers, and more. White shirts are also worn by a mix of personnel
including those helping aircraft land, working as medical personnel, and more. And lastly, brown shirts are worn by plane
captains who are not those that fly the aircraft—they’re individually in charge of overseeing all work
for getting an aircraft ready for flight. The flight deck is a dangerous place given
its small size. It’s so small that all the carrier’s aircraft
can’t fit on it but of course just below the flight deck is the hangar. A large carrier can carry up to 100 aircraft
so massive elevators bring aircraft from the flight deck to the hangar for storage when
not in use. About 6,000 people work and live aboard each
American carrier. 3,200 of them have jobs relating to running
the ship itself. That includes everything from working in the
engine room, maintaining the nuclear reactor, cleaning the decks, to actually working up
in the bridge commanding the ship. Many of these jobs are below deck and, since
all the above deck space is used for flight operations, many onboard can go weeks without
seeing sunlight. 2,500 other personnel are part of the carrier’s
air wing. If this was an airbase on land, these would
be everyone working there including air traffic controllers, aircraft mechanics, fuelers,
pilots, and more. The few hundred remaining personnel work assorted
other jobs. In terms of personal space, enlisted personnel,
the vast majority of those onboard, only get a single bunk in a room with sometimes more
than a hundred others. Higher ranked individuals, though, of course
have more spacious accommodations. As long-term homes for thousands of people,
these ships also have a few small luxuries like stores, gyms, barber shops, lounges and
more but space is at a premium when 6,000 people are packed into one floating hull and
the mission is paramount. Since their heyday in World War Two, some
have started to question the place aircraft carriers have in modern warfare. Every operating country aside from the US
tend to, at any given moment, have their ships either in combat, in training, or at home. The US tends to use its carriers for a forth
function—power projection. At any given moment, there is almost certainly
an American carrier cruising somewhere in the world. In fact, January 2017 was the first time since
World War Two that there was not an American aircraft carrier on deployment. Even if there wasn’t an aircraft carrier
on deployment, they’re fast. They have a top speed of 35 miles or 56 kilometers
per hour meaning that a Norfolk, Virginia based carrier could get to the Middle East
in just a week. In the Pacific, the US has an even greater
advantage since it has the USS Ronald Reagan based in Yokosuka, Japan from where it could
reach the shores of North Korea, for example, in just 29 hours. American carriers spend plenty of time just
cruising around the world’s oceans reminding other country’s of the US military’s power. For example, the USS Ronald Reagan returned
from a four-month deployment from August to December 2018 during which it saw zero combat. It spent much of the time cruising around
the South China Sea—an area in which China is attempting to assert military control much
to the US’ displeasure. Elsewhere in Asia, American carriers also
regularly make visits to the Korean peninsula to remind North Korea of their presence. This reached a peak in November 2017 as tensions
with North Korea reached a peak when three American carriers loomed near the Korean shores. With their enormous power, though, aircraft
carriers represent an enormous target especially in the era of stealthy drones and precise
missiles. The sinking of a single US aircraft carrier
could result in more American military deaths than the entire Iraq war in addition to the
loss of tens of billions of dollars in military assets. While no aircraft carrier of any nation has
been sunk since World War Two, it’s potentially more possible than one would think. US carriers regularly participate in war games
where combat conditions are simulated with allies. There have been two concerning incidents in
2005 and 2015 where Swedish and French submarines, respectively, have “won” the games against
US carriers. What this means is that the two country’s
submarines approached close enough to the carriers where they could have, if they were
an enemy in real combat, launched torpedoes and potentially sank the carriers. This, in essence, proves that aircraft carriers,
with all their defense, are not as unsinkable as some may say. Meanwhile, the US has already received the
first of ten in a new class of carriers while China, India, and the UK each have carriers
under construction so, despite their possible obsolescence, we can be sure that the aircraft
carrier won’t be leaving the world’s oceans anytime soon. I have a logic question for you. Suppose there are two doors and the first
has a sign on it saying, “If this door is safe, the other door is deadly.” If that sign is false, what do you know about
the doors? Which are deadly and which are safe? Take a moment to think about it and, if you
figure out the answer, leave it in the comments. This is a question from’s logic
quiz which teaches you analytical skills through logical puzzles. That’s just one of many superbly designed
courses on Brilliant through which you can learn about dozens of topics including group
theory, multivariable calculus, statistics, number theory, machine learning, and more. They’re experts on teaching scary, complicated
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their fundamental principles. Get started learning with Brilliant for free
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100 comments on “Cities at Sea: How Aircraft Carriers Work

  1. Quick correction, the speed for the aircraftcarrier is in excess of 35 knots. Not 35 knots exactly. Basically, the US Navy doesn't want how fast our ship is to be common knowledge.


  3. since the carrier is so well-protected it can't be destroyed, what if the enemy targets the supply ship? then the carrier's combat effectiveness will be drastically reduced.

  4. GREAT VIDEO – smells like Freedom, and I certainly wouldn't want one of these parked off my continental coast! I love them, and payed for them. GOD BLESS THE USA! P. Trump – 20 more years!

  5. America: Lets spend 160 billion building aircraft carriers and 50 bn a year to maintain them.
    Russia: Lets spend 40million on 12 missiles doing Mach 12 that are guaranteed to sink them all.
    America whispers to itself:ooops we fxxxed up there.

  6. The actual top speed of an aircraft carrier is classified information. The government would never publicly claim such information. I know because I worked on one!

  7. The amount of money wasted on these things is mind blowing! Shame the problems that could be solved if the same resources were spent on them.

  8. Us can't fight far away countries like Pakistan india iran or else because they are far away for there off shore and they dont know the others waters of the country

  9. The solution to the problem on the Brilliant ad:
    Let p denote that "door 1 is safe" and q denote that "door 2 is safe". Then, the statement translates to "p –> not q", which according to conditional equivalence laws, equates to "not p or not q". Since the sign is false, "not (not p or not q)" holds true. Applying De Morgan's Law and Double Negation Law, we have that "p and q" is true, i.e. both door 1 and door 2 are safe.

  10. The design of the Aircraft carrier is that of the aggressor, hence this is why you see other nations with only one or a few carriers, they are designed to be an aggressive hostile force, its design by nature is not of a defense. In essence this is a bully ship.

  11. Jeff-
    Well done. I thoroughly enjoyed this production. I'm an old bubblehead, serving aboard the USS William H Bates(SSN-680) in the torpedo gang. I notice there are still torpedoes, in a torpedo room, but no more torpedomen…they're all missile techs?? My brother lived in Wilmington for many years and I have great memories of going to see Charlie the alligator at Battleship North Carolina!
    Thanks again.

  12. We dont know if either doors are safe, all we know is if we find out at leadt 1 of them we can guess the other one. It states "IF this door is safe, the other door is deadly." That does not in any way describe if either door is safe or not. It just states if this one is safe the other is not, probably vice versa. Thank you for reading.

  13. Flath Earth Supporters : "Hey, you see that VTOL aircraft right?! Why don't the crash any objects behind them while going vertical take off."

  14. I think both doors are safe, but technically it could be both safe or both deadly because it says the sign is false. That could mean the door is safe, but the other door ISNT deadly, or it could mean the door is not safe and the other door is not deadly. Except the latter option isnt listed therefore the correct answer is both doors are safe

  15. In 1995 Pakistan airforce mirages successfully completed a bombing drill against USS Abraham Lincoln. They didn't even saw them coming

  16. its kind of ridiculous that the army still gives officers special treatment over the regular soldier. Its like a class system we carried over from the 1700s where officers were part of the upper class and soldiers were seen as the refuse of the civilian population. I wonder if its just better accommodations that they get, or if they get better food and other privileges on top of that. I don't get the reasoning behind that, because it seems like a sure fire way to create resentment of officers by the regular soldiers.

  17. No, they don't require over 6k people to operate. Last I checked the Nimitz was at 4800.
    Nonetheless, they're some big ass ships

  18. Maybe all this weight (water displacement) is causing the land to be swallowed by the sea. Maybe it's not global warming at all! Lol

  19. About the question at the end of the video:
    – The statement is: If this door is safe then the other door is deadly
    – The statement is false, which means Door 1 is safe AND door 2 is NOT deadly.
    -> So both doors are fine.

    Think of it like this:
    – I make a statement: If I win the lottery, I'll give you 1 million dollars. The only way this statement is false, as in, you can prove that I'm a lying bastard is: I actually WON the lottery and DON'T give you anything.
    – So in this case, when the door statement is false: The door is safe and also the other door is not deadly.

  20. Aircraft carriers are a relic of World War 2. Their only purpose in life is to protect ARAMCO's oil.
    They can be sunk from a missile attack and they are a huge waste of money.
    We can get all the power and fuel we need from batteries and hydrogen. Aircraft carriers need to
    be dry-docked and their parts used for useful things.

  21. If Julius Caesar could die and go to heaven I'm sure it would be aboard a Nuclear powered US Aircraft Carrier. Logistics heaven. And also, what happens to everyone's turds?

  22. Here is the complete answer to the door question: These are the possible states of the doors: (State 1: Door1(Safe), Door2(Safe)), (State 2: Door1(Deadly), Door2(Safe)), (State 3: Door1(Safe), Door2(Deadly)), and (State 4: Door1(Deadly), Door2(Deadly). The question was if you know the statement is false, then what do you know about the doors. Well there is only one possible state where "if Door 1 safe, then door 2 deadly" would be false, i.e. (Door1(Safe), Door2(Safe)). If you're in state 3 then the statement wouldn't be false. If you're in states 2 or 4, then you wouldn't know the statement is false. So if you know the statement is false, then both doors are safe because you can only be in state 1.

  23. In the 60s had the Dutch Navy the smallest aircraftcarrier the R81 the HMS Karel Doorman.1 kattapul.its amazin to be on board from that little ship.mine Dad was a Mariner i was visiting the USS John.c.Stennis and Oktober in 1998. in San Diego.Amazing wat a ship.super!!!!!!! i am a Member from the Royal Dutch Airforce Asosation.the 16 days trip was the 50th anyversery from the K.N.V.O.L.

  24. You forgot to mention that Aircraft Carriers are accompanied by attack submarines which are not acknowledged publicly.

  25. Lol mail arriving in 10 days while on deployment? Maybe mission critical but personal shit will take weeeeeks to get to the boat. That 2 day amazon prime perk, nah more like 3-4 weeks even when you’re in port

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