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Tour An Aircraft Carrier
Directory of Aircraft Carriers You Can Tour
Few classes of warship changed the way naval battles are fought more than the aircraft carrier. Touring an aircraft carrier is a thrilling experience that gives you a glimpse into life aboard one of these floating air bases and the history they made.
Here you will find information on aircraft carriers around the world that you can visit and tour.
Many aircraft carrier museums also include some of the aircraft that flew from them. These planes and helicopters are usually on display on the flight deck and/or the hangar deck.
What is an aircraft carrier?
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations. They have evolved from wooden vessels, used to deploy balloons, into nuclear powered warships that carry dozens of fixed and rotary wing aircraft.
USS Intrepid (CV-11)
Port: New York City, New York, USA
The USS Intrepid is an Essex class aircraft carrier commissioned in 1943. She served in World War II, the Vietnam War and was a recovery vessel for the Mercury 7 and Gemini 3 space missions. Intrepid was decommissioned in 1974 and opened as the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York in 1982. She is also home to the space shuttle Enterprise.
USS Midway (CV-41)
Port: San Diego, California, USA
The USS Midway was commissioned in 1945 after the end of World War II. She saw action in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm before being decommissioned in 1992. The Midway is now open to the public as a museum ship in San Diego, California, that includes 25 restored aircraft on display.
Have You Served On An Aircraft Carrier?
USS Yorktown (CV-10)
Port: Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, USA
The USS Yorktown was commissioned in 1943 and saw action in World War II and the Vietnam War. She also served as a recovery vessel for the Apollo 8 space mission. In 1975 the Yorktown began life as a museum ship just across the river from Charleston, South Carolina.
USS Hornet (CV-12)
Port: Alameda, California, USA
The USS Hornet was commissioned in November 1943 and saw heavy action in the forward areas of the Pacific theater in World War II. After modernization and reactivation in 1951, she served in the Vietnam War and was the primary recovery ship for the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 space missions. These were the first two lunar landing missions. The Hornet was decommissioned in 1970 and opened as a museum ship in 1998 in California.
The hit PBS series about life aboard the USS Nimitz. From the deck hands to the pilots to the ship's captain, this amazing series provides an intimate view into the lives of the men and women sailing aboard an active duty aircraft carrier.
I learned a lot about the highs and lows of life at sea watching this. The series has a great soundtrack, too.
USS Lexington (CV-16)
Port: Corpus Christi, Texas, USA
When finally decommissioned in 1991, the USS Lexington was the oldest working aircraft carrier in the US Navy. She survived torpedo and kamikaze attacks during World War II and the Japanese claimed to have sunk her four times. That reputation and her dark blue paint scheme earned her the nickname "The Blue Ghost". Lexington served primarily as a training carrier for naval aviators since 1962 based out of Pensacola. You can now tour the Lexington in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Aircraft Carriers For Kids
Help your kids (or grand kids) get interested in aircraft carriers and have fun at the same time. Introducing them to the ship with a book or toy before touring a real aircraft carrier will help them enjoy the experience aboard that much more.
This book is written at an easy to understand level for kids that will help them begin to learn about these great ships.
Help Keep An Aircraft Carrier Afloat
Most aircraft carrier museums are owned and maintained by non-profit organizations. These ships require a lot of work and money to restore and keep afloat.
Please remember that your admission ticket only covers a portion of these costs. There is usually a donation box on site or you can find donor information on the ship's website.
These organizations also depend on volunteers to help perform maintenance and/or guide tours. If you have experience working on ships or just want to help keep history alive, then consider volunteering. Check the website of the carrier you're interested in or ask when you visit for more information.
Port: Colaba Naval Dockyard, Mumbai, India
Originally launched by Great Britain in 1945 as HMS Hercules, the INS Vikrant was later sold to India and joined the Indian Navy in 1961. She saw action in the 1971 India-Pakistan War. Vikrant was decommissioned in 1997 and now serves as a museum, the only British built aircraft carrier to do so.
There's not much info available on touring INS Vikrant. From what I found she's only open to the public certain weeks of the year (November-December) and possibly on weekends. To get there you either have to enter the Naval Dockyard at the Tiger Gate or take a ferry from the Gateway of India.
An in depth look into the workings of the aircraft carrier and its impact on modern warfare. Authored by Tom Clancy, the master of writing about military hardware and strategy.
SCUBA Dive On An Aircraft Carrier
USS Oriskany (CV-34)
Port: Pensacola, Florida, USA
The USS Oriskany was commissioned in 1950 and saw action in the Korean War and Vietnam War. US Senator and former presidential candidate, John McCain, was based on the Oriskany when he was shot down and held as a POW during the Vietnam War.
The "Mighty-O" was decommissioned in 1976 and was almost scrapped during the 1990s. In 2006 she was stripped of environmentally hazardous materials and purposely sunk in the Gulf of Mexico to become the world's largest artificial reef. She is now a memorial to the men who bravely served on her as well as a popular attraction for fish and recreational SCUBA divers.
The ship sits upright on the bottom with the top of her smokestack at 80' and most of her island above 130'. Check out the links below for underwater pictures and more info on diving Oriskany.
- USS Oriskany on the Florida Panhandle Dive Trail
Pictures and video of the Oriskany at her final resting place along with wreck coordinates and links to other shipwrecks on the dive trail.
- USS Oriskany
MBT Divers was involved in the sinking of USS Oriskany and their site has lots of info about the ship and diving her.
USS Saratoga (CV-3)
Port: Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands
Construction of the USS Saratoga began as a battle cruiser but was later re-ordered as an aircraft carrier. In 1927, she became the second ever commissioned aircraft carrier in the US Navy. Saratoga saw significant action in the Pacific during World War II including the Guadalcanal Campaign and was awarded seven battle stars for her service.
Her last action was as a target in the nuclear test fleet during 1946 where she was sunk by underwater atomic test Baker.
Saratoga sits upright on the floor of the lagoon with her bridge at 40 feet and flight deck at 90 feet. The hangar is accessible at 125 feet and still contains the Helldiver bombers and bombs on board during the test.
You can find more info on diving the Saratoga and other nuclear test ships at the Bikini Atoll Dive Tourism site.
More Museum Ships...
After visiting an aircraft carrier or two, take a tour of other historic ships in port. Below are lists of different types of museum ships that you can tour.
Tour A Tall Ship
Ahoy! Here you'll find information on tall ships around the world that are open for the public to tour. All ships are grouped by region of the world...
Tour A Battleship
Battleships were once the most fearsome warships that sailed the seas. Today there are none left in commission but a handful of battleships remain preserved ...
Tour A Submarine
Stealthy and deadly, submarines have become a key element of naval warfare since World War I. Sailing these underwater ninjas requires a unique breed of sailor...
Aircraft Carrier Photo Credits
Except where otherwise noted, all aircraft carrier photos are used under Creative Commons from their respective owners.
USS Saratoga (CV-60) in the public domain at the US Naval Historical Center.
HMS Illustrious (R 06), USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) in the public domain at the United States Navy.
USS Intrepid used under Creative Commons from thinboyfatter.
USS Midway used under Creative Commons from Peter Kaminski.
USS Yorktown Ready Room used under Creative Commons from Mr. T in DC.
F14 on USS Hornet Flight Deck used under Creative Commons from vixyao.
USS Lexington used under Creative Commons from cliff1066TM.
USS Valley Forge (CVS-45) in the public domain at the US Naval Historical Center.
USS Oriskany in the public domain at the US Naval Historical Center.
USS Saratoga in the public domain at the US Naval Historical Center.
USS Saratoga sinking in the public domain at the US Naval Historical Center.
INS Vikrant used under Creative Commons from swapnil gaikar.
SV Minsk in the public domain at the US Department of Defense.
Have you toured or served on an aircraft carrier? What do you think of these mighty ships? Please leave a comment in the log book below.