Aircraft carriers are large naval warships or deck carriers designed to be a seagoing airbase. They are massive, well equipped war machines capable of launching military operations, strikes and appropriate military actions within striking distance. It deploys and recovers aircraft and allows the navy to manifest its air power from and within great distances not dependent on local land bases for conducting aircraft operations and maneuvers.
Aircraft carriers are usually categorized by its configuration and by its functions. Quite a number of them operate as anti-submarine warfare carriers, escort carriers, helicopter carriers, light aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships. Other functions are within the three main configurations in the Navy, namely the Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery, Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery and the Short Take-Off Vertical Landing. To get a clear picture of these require an actual visit to a real aircraft carrier. The famous naval carrier USS Hornet now decommissioned, and serving as a museum, offers an elaborate tour of a carrier so that tourists can experience being on a ship firsthand. It is almost 900 ft in length, with an extreme width of 192 ft, a Draft of 29 ft, a full load displacement of 40,000 tons. Its height, top of mast is 190 ft and keel to top of the mast is 229 ft. Its original cost was $69 million.
For a civilian to visit an aircraft carrier, the first option would be to find or join a group tour or an excursion, which offers an ocular visit to carriers. A memorial tour of a naval carrier is often made available to tourists or local enthusiasts in many travel and touring agencies. Second, with the proper identifications and for a considerable fee, one can be a member of a foundation. One such foundation is the Aircraft Carrier Hornet Foundation. Thirdly, if you are a member of a museum group, you get to join carrier tours for free or for a low fee. Fees are reasonable enough, ranging from $5.00 to $14.00 for general admission.
The USS Hornet museum is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily and allows tourists and guests to investigate parts of the vessel. The museum can even provide a tour map for self-guided tours. Docents are available to lead the tour and to answer questions relating to the ship. Tour tips are also provided, such as maps, orientation videos, historical catalogues and brochures for one’s full appreciation of the ship as well as to impart safety guidelines for one’s enjoyment of the tour.
Oftentimes, strict precautions are implemented during the tour. For instance, one should keep minors accompanied by adults at all times. Guests are advised to wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers. Pets are strictly not allowed. Guests are also informed of posted precautions at all ladders, low overheads and knee-knockers. Signs that say “Do not run or touch control and switches,” are all over, to constantly remind visitors that it is an operational vessel.
Nowadays, the navy has 11 carrier strike groups, where 10 are operationally based within American waters, and one is deployed in Japan. A strike group today has a complement of one aircraft carrier, two guided missile cruisers, two anti-aircraft warships and two anti-submarine destroyers or Frigates. Its sole purpose is to maintain the balance of power in the assigned region.
One need not really join the navy to get a piece of the action in on these massive warships, you can sign up and be a tourist. Now that you know how to visit an aircraft carrier, start looking for local aircraft carriers to visit!