An aircraft carrier is a warship capable of landing and launching planes, and equipped to service these planes and their crews. The planes take off from and land on a floating runway, or flight deck, that causes the ship to be called a "flattop." It is this flight deck that makes the ship an aircraft carrier. The United States Navy was the pioneer in the creation of the aircraft carrier. The first time an airplane ever took off from a warship was on November 14, 1910, when a plane of the United States Navy took off from a platform on the bow of the cruiser Birmingham. On January 18, 1911, the battleship Pennsylvania built on its stern a platform so large that it was able not only to launch a plane but also to land one.
In 1922, the United States built its first warship exclusively for the purpose of carrying and flying aircraft-the first real air¬craft carrier, in basic design not much different from the aircraft carriers of today. It was the United States Ship Langley. By 1944 the aircraft carrier had be¬come the first-line ship of every navy, for both offensive and defensive purposes. The Navy had been reorganized around the carrier. After five hundred years and more, the battleship was no longer the most important warship of the fleet.
In 1952, there were four general classes of aircraft carrier in operation, and two new carriers of a super-class were being built. Of the aircraft carriers already afloat, the classes were: CVBs, the largest class, such as the Midway and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt. These have a displacement of about 60,000 tons, or about the same as a large battleship. The flight deck is about 900 feet long and 113 feet wide. The top speed is 34 knots. CVs, the next largest class, such as the Boxer and the Valley Forge. These have a displacement of about 40,000 tons, and are almost as long as the largest carriers, but the flight deck is narrower, about 800 feet by 93 feet. The speed is about the same, 34 knots. The CVLs, with a flight deck 620 feet by 76 feet, a speed of about 33 knots, and a displacement of 10,000 to 15,000 tons. The CVEs, the smallest of the carriers, known as the "jeep" carriers.
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