Types Of Navy Ships

Hospital Ship USNS Mercy
Hospital Ship USNS Mercy. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy

The Navy has a large variety of ships in the fleet. The most well know types are the aircraft carriers, submarines and destroyers. The Navy operates world-wide from many bases. The large ships - aircraft carrier groups, submarines and destroyers travel around the world. Smaller ships such as the Littoral Combat Ship are based near their place of operations.

Aircraft Carriers

Aircraft carriers carry fighter aircraft and have runways allowing the aircraft to take off and land.

A carrier has about 80 aircraft on board – a powerful force when deployed. All current aircraft carriers are nuclear powered. The US's aircraft carriers are the best in the world, carry the most planes and operate more efficiently than any other countries carriers.


Submarines travel underwater and carry an array of weapons on board. Submarines are stealthy Navy assets for attacking enemy ships and missile deployment. A submarine may stay underwater, on patrol for six months.

Guided Missile Cruisers

The Navy has 22 guided missile cruisers which carry Tomahawk, Harpoon and other missiles and are designed to provide defense against enemy aircraft and missiles.


Destroyers are designed to provide land attack capability as well as air, water surface and submarine defense capabilities. There are 57 destroyers currently in use and 6 more under construction. Destroyers have massive weapons including missiles, large diameter guns and small diameter weapons.

The newest destroyer is the DDG-1000 which is currently under construction. The DDG-1000 is designed to have a minimal crew while delivering a huge amount of power where ever deployed.


Frigates are smaller offensive weapons carrying a 76 mm gun, Phalanx close-in weapon and torpedoes. Frigates are used for counterdrug operations and provide defensive capabilities when escorting other ships.

Littoral Combat Ships (LCS)

The Littoral Combat Ships are a new breed of Navy ships providing multi-mission capability. The LCS can change from mine hunting, unmanned boat and helicopter platforms, special operations warfare and reconnaissance practicaly overnight. The Littoral Combat Ships are designed to use a minimum number of crew to lower the operating cross.

Amphibious Assault Ships

The amphibious assault ships provide the means for putting Marines on shore using helicopters and landing craft. Their primary purpose is facilitating Marine transport via helicopters so they have a large landing deck. The amphibious assault ships carry Marines, their equipment and armored vehicles.

Amphibious Transport Dock Ships

Amphibious transport dock ships are used to carry Marines and landing craft for land assaults. These ships primary focus is landing craft based attacks.


Dock Landing Ships

Dock landing ships are a variation on the amphibious transport dock ships. These ships carry landing craft plus maintenance and refueling capability.


Miscellaneous Ship Types

Special purpose ships include command ships, coastal patrol boats, mine countermeasures ships, submarine tenders, joint high-speed vessel, Sea Fighter, submersibles, sailing frigate USS Constitution, oceanographic survey ships and surveillance ships.

The USS Constitution is the oldest ship in the US Navy and used for display and during flotillas.

Small Boats

Small boats are used for a variety of tasks including river operations, special operations craft, patrol boats, rigid hull inflatable boats, survey boats and landing craft.

Support Ships

Support ships provide the necessary provisions that keep the Navy operating. There are combat stores (supplies, food, repair parts, mail, etc) ships, ammunition ships, fast combat support ship, cargo and pre-positioned supply ships, rescue and salvage, tankers, tug boats and hospital ships. The two Navy hospital ships are truely floating hospitals with emergency rooms, operating rooms, beds for recovering people, nurses, doctors and dentists. These ships are used during wartime and for major natural disasters.

The Navy employs a wide variety of ships, each with its own purpose and responsibilities. The Navy has hundreds of ships from small ones to huge aircraft carriers.