Aircraft Carrier (Medium)


The Aircraft Carrier (Medium) (CVV)[nb 1] was an American design for a conventional-powered (i.e. non-nuclear-powered) aircraft carrier proposed in the 1970s. It was to be smaller and cheaper than the contemporary nuclear-powered Nimitz class. A single example was planned, but was not built, with further Nimitz-class carriers built instead.

Artist's impression of CVV design (1978)
Class overview
NameAircraft Carrier (Medium) (CVV)
BuildersNever built
OperatorsUnited States Navy
Cost$1.5 billion USD 1979 dollars (est.) $8.2 billion USD 2017 dollars (est.)
General characteristics [1]
TypeAircraft carrier
  • 52,200 tons (standard)
  • 62,427 tons (full load)
  • 912 ft (278 m) (waterline)
  • 923 ft (281 m) (overall)
  • 126 ft (38 m) (waterline)
  • 256.5 ft (78.2 m) (flight deck)
Draft34 ft (10 m)
PropulsionSteam turbines, two shafts, 100,000 shp (75,000 kW)
Speed27–29 kn (50–54 km/h)
Range8,000 mi (13,000 km)
Complement3,400–3,900 (including air wing)
Sensors and
processing systems
Armament2 × 20-mm Phalanx CIWS mounts
Aircraft carried55–65

Development and designEdit

In the early 1970s, the United States Navy, following the doctrine of Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt for larger numbers of smaller and cheaper ships, initiated design studies for a "minimum-cost" carrier of 50,000–60,000 tons. The new design was planned to be much cheaper than nuclear-powered carriers (a cost target of $550 million was set in 1972[4]) but still be suitable for replacing the aging Midway-class aircraft carriers.[5][6][nb 2] But work on the project (designated T-CBL) was stopped when the US Congress made statements encouraging all major warships to be nuclear-powered, and in 1976 an order was placed for a fourth nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.[4][6]

Later that year, however, US President Gerald Ford cancelled the order for the fourth Nimitz, stating that instead, two CVVs (medium-sized, conventional-powered carriers which were expected to mainly operate V/STOL aircraft) would be built. The existing T-CBL design formed the basis for the new CVV, this being of the required size, while also capable of operating all existing conventional carrier aircraft (this proved important, as the hoped-for supersonic V/STOL fighters did not come to fruition).[4][6]

The CVV carried a smaller airgroup than existing supercarriers (i.e. about 60 compared with about 90 for the nuclear-powered Nimitz class or the conventional-powered Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carriers) and had two steam catapults rather than four, and three arrestor cables instead of four. The CVV also had a less powerful power plant, with steam turbines fed by six boilers generating 100,000 shaft horsepower (75,000 kW) in a two-shaft arrangement, compared with the 280,000 shaft horsepower (210,000 kW) delivered to four shafts of the larger carriers, giving a speed of 28 knots (52 km/h) compared with over 31 knots (57 km/h).[7][8] While slower than earlier carriers, this was still sufficiently fast to keep up with carrier task forces.[1] Not all of the design features in the CVV were less capable than earlier carriers, however, as the carrier was planned to have improved protection for the ship's magazines and to be protected against under-keel explosions.[9]

The Carter administration from 1977 onwards continued with the CVV program, by now expected to cost $1.5 billion per ship compared to $2.4 billion for a Nimitz, vetoing congressional attempts to vote $2 billion towards construction of a fourth Nimitz, although plans for a second CVV were abandoned.[10] When it was realized that a repeat of USS John F. Kennedy, the last conventionally powered large carrier to be built would only cost about $100 million more than the CVV, while being much more capable, the Navy and the Secretary of Defense Harold Brown recommended that a repeat John F. Kennedy be included in the 1980 shipbuilding program instead of the CVV, but this was rejected by Carter, partly based on the lower life-cycle costs of the smaller ship with its smaller airwing.[1][11]

A fourth Nimitz-class vessel, USS Theodore Roosevelt was authorized in the FY 81 budget, however, and the election of Ronald Reagan meant that defense budgets were no longer strained, meaning an end to the CVV.[12]


  1. ^ Alternatively, Vari-Purpose Carrier[3]
  2. ^ At the same time, Zumwalt proposed the 14,000 ton Sea Control Ship, equipped with V/STOL aircraft and helicopters to replace the Essex-class ASW carriers.[4]


  1. ^ a b c Moore 1979, p. 674.
  2. ^ Gardiner and Chumbley 1995, p. 574.
  3. ^ "The Vari-Purpose Carrier (CVV)". DTC Online. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d Friedman p324.
  5. ^ Friedman pp. 323–324.
  6. ^ a b c Naval Aviation News, July 1979, p. 8.
  7. ^ Naval Aviation News July 1979, pp. 11–12.
  8. ^ Moore 1979, pp. 674, 675, 678.
  9. ^ Gardiner and Chumbley 1995, p. 575.
  10. ^ Moore 1979, pp. 674–675.
  11. ^ Naval Aviation News July 1979, p. 10.
  12. ^ Gardiner and Chumbley 1995, p. 551.


  • "CVV" (PDF). Naval Aviation News: 8–13. July 1979. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 August 2010.
  • Friedman, Norman (1983). U.S. Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland, USA: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-739-5.
  • Gardiner, Robert; Chumbley, Stephen (1995). Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1947–1995. Annapolis, Maryland, USA: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-132-7.
  • Moore, John (1979). Jane's Fighting Ships 1979–80. London: Macdonald and Jane's. ISBN 0-354-00587-1.