Defense & National Security

Where Aircraft Carriers Were For Iraq War

On April 12, 2003, as Iraqi forces abandoned Mosul, the last major Iraqi city they held, and U.S. Marines closed on Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit, the U.S. had six of its twelve active aircraft carriers deployed in the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean in connection with the war.

The Nimitz had just arrived in the Gulf to relieve the Abraham Lincoln.

Five more carriers were back in the states for maintenance.

Only one, the Carl Vinson, was in the Pacific.

***

American carrier battle groups constantly prowl the seas, ready to intervene-or intimidate-in conflicts at all times. They usually carry around 80 planes. Aircraft carriers are unable to defend themselves effectively from enemy attack, so they never travel alone. A typical Carrier Strike Group consists of:

  • One carrier. All but two of America’s carriers are nuclear-powered.
  • Two guided-missile cruisers with Tomahawk missiles.
  • One guided-missile destroyer with anti-air warfare capability.
  • One destroyer primarily for combating submarines.
  • One frigate, also for combating submarines.
  • Two attack submarines.
  • One combined ammunition, oiler, and supply ship.
  • The Carrier Strike Group is often accompanied by an Amphibious Ready Group with more ships and helicopters designed to place hundreds or thousands of U.S. Marines ashore quickly.

    Carrier
    Home Port
    Personnel
    Aircraft
    Date Commissioned
    Nuclear-powered
    Location circa April 12, 2003
    Kitty Hawk Yokosuka, Japan
    5,500
    75+
    4-29-1961
    No
    Persian Gulf
    Constellation San Diego, Calif.
    5,500
    85
    10-27-1961
    No
    Persian Gulf
    Enterprise Norfolk, Va.
    5,830
    85
    11-25-1961
    Yes
    Newport News, Va.
    John F. Kennedy Mayport, Fla.
    5,600
    85
    9-7-1968
    No
    Mayport, Fla.
    Nimitz San Diego, Calif.
    6,000
    85
    5-3-1975
    Yes
    Persian Gulf
    Dwight D. Eisenhower Norfolk, Va.
    6,287
    75
    10-18-1977
    Yes
    Newport News, Va.
    Carl Vinson Bremerton, Wash.
    5,680
    85
    3-13-1982
    Yes
    Pacific near Okinawa
    Theodore Roosevelt Norfolk, Va.
    5,680
    85
    10-25-1986
    Yes
    Eastern Mediterranean
    Abraham Lincoln Everett, Wash.
    5,500
    85
    11-11-1989
    Yes
    Persian Gulf (headed home)
    George Washington Norfolk, Va.
    5,680
    85
    7-4-1992
    Yes
    Norfolk, Va.
    John C. Stennis San Diego, Calif.
    5,000
    80+
    12-9-1995
    Yes
    San Diego, Calif.
    Harry S. Truman Norfolk, Va.
    5,680
    80+
    7-25-1998
    Yes
    Eastern Mediterranean
    Ronald Reagan San Diego, Calif.
    6,000
    80+
    7-12-2003
    Yes
    Not yet in service


    Sign Up