The names of commissioned ships of the United States Navy all start with USS, meaning 'United States Ship'. Non-commissioned, civilian-manned vessels of the U.S. Navy have names that begin with USNS, standing for 'United States Naval Ship'. A letter-based hull classification symbol is used to designate a vessel's type. The names of ships are selected by the Secretary of the Navy. The names are that of states, cities, towns, important persons, important locations, famous battles, fish, and ideals. Usually, different types of ships have names originated from different types of sources.
Modern cruisers, destroyers and frigates are called Surface combatants and act mainly as escorts for aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, auxiliaries and civilian craft, but the largest ones have gained a land attack role through the use of cruise missiles and a population defense role through Missile defense.
U.S. Navy supercarrierUSS Nimitz on November 3, 2003. Approximately forty-six aircraft can be counted on her deck.
The ability of putting most nations within striking distance of U.S. air power make aircraft carriers the cornerstones of US forward deployment and deterrence strategy. Multiple carriers are deployed around the world to provide military presence, respond quickly to crises, and participate in joint exercises with allied forces; this has led the Navy to refer to their Nimitz-class carriers as "4.5 acres of sovereign and mobile American territory". Former President Bill Clinton summed up the importance of the aircraft carrier by stating that "when word of crisis breaks out in Washington, it's no accident the first question that comes to everyone's lips is: where is the nearest carrier?" The power and operational flexibility of a carrier lie in the aircraft of its carrier air wing. Made up of both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, a carrier air wing is able to perform over 150 strike missions at once, hitting over 700 targets a day. Carrier air wings also protect friendly forces, conduct electronic warfare, assist in special operations, and carry out search and rescue missions. The carriers themselves, in addition to enabling airborne operations, serve as command platforms for large battle groups or multinational task forces. U.S. Navy aircraft carriers can also host aircraft from other nations' navies; the French Navy's Rafale has operated, during naval exercises, from U.S. Navy flight decks.
Amphibious assault ships carry Marines and are the platforms for Marine aircraft. They project power as aircraft carriers do, allowing the military to strike targets from a distance. Amphibious assault ships superficially resemble aircraft carriers except without an angled flight deck.
An amphibious transport dock, also called a landing platform/dock (LPD), is an amphibious warfare ship, a warship that embarks, transports, and lands elements of a landing force for expeditionary warfare missions. Several navies currently operate this kind of ship. The ships are generally designed to transport troops into a war zone by sea, primarily using landing craft, although invariably they also have the capability to operate transport helicopters.
There are two major types of submarines, ballistic and attack. Ballistic submarines have the single strategic mission of nuclear deterrence by being hidden launching-platforms for nuclear ICBMs. Attack submarines have tactical missions, including controlling naval and shipping activity, serving as cruise missile-launching platforms, and intelligence-gathering.
The destroyer evolved from the need of navies to counter a new ship which made a devastating debut in the 1891 Chilean Civil War and in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894. This was the swift, small torpedo boat that could dash in close to the larger ships, loose their torpedoes and dash away. The world's navies recognized the need for a counter weapon, and so the torpedo boat destroyer—later just "destroyer"—was born. Modern destroyers have evolved greatly from this initial role; some are arguably the primary surface combatants of their fleets.
Frigates (according to the modern classification of U.S. navy warships) are smaller ships than destroyers. They are designed primarily to protect other ships (such as merchant convoys), and perform some Anti-Submarine Warfare duties. They are of more limited scope than destroyers, but are also more cost-efficient.
A littoral combat ship (LCS) is a type of relatively small surface vessel intended for operations in the littoral zone (close to shore). It is "envisioned to be a networked, agile, stealthy surface combatant capable of defeating anti-access and asymmetric threats in the littorals."
The U.S. Navy has operated a number of vessels important to both United States and world naval history:
USS Constitution, nicknamed "Old Ironsides", is the only surviving vessel of the original six frigates authorized by Congress in the Naval Act of 1794, which established the United States Navy. It served with distinction in the War of 1812, singlehandedly defeating a number of powerful enemy warships, and is currently docked in Charlestown, Massachusetts, as the oldest commissioned warship afloat.
USS Monitor and CSS Virginia are together known for participating in the first engagement between two steam-powered ironclads, known as the Battle of Hampton Roads, on 9 March 1862. The Monitor was the first ironclad built by the U.S. Navy and its design introduced the rotating gun turret to naval warfare.
USS Alligator was the first submarine built by the U.S. Navy. The submarine sank in 1863 while being towed during a storm and never saw combat. Though not technically a U.S. Navy vessel, H.L. Hunley (from the same war and era) was the first successful combat submarine.
USS Maine (ACR-1) In January 1898, the Maine was sent from Key West, Florida, to Havana, Cuba, to protect U.S. interests during a time of local insurrection and civil disturbances. Three weeks later, on February 15 at 9:40 p.m., an explosion on board the Maine occurred in the Havana Harbor. The explosion was a precipitating cause of the Spanish-American War that began in April 1898.
USS Panay (PR-5) was a river gunboat that was sunk by Japanese aircraft on 12 December 1937 while she was anchored in the Yangtze River outside Nanking (now known as Nanjing), China. Japan and the United States were not at war at the time. The Japanese claimed that they did not see the American flags painted on the deck of the gunboat, apologized, and paid an indemnity. Nevertheless, the attack, and the subsequent Allison incident in Nanking, caused U.S. opinion to turn against the Japanese.
USS Long Island (CVE-1) was commissioned on 2 June 1941 as the first of 122 escort carriers built by United States shipyards during World Wars Two. Escort carriers were typically smaller, shorter, slower, cheaper, and more quickly built than fleet carriers, and also carried fewer planes. They however made huge contributions to winning the war through escorting convoys, providing air support to ground troops, transporting aircraft, and forming the core of hunter-killer groups which sought out and sank enemy submarines.
USS Ruben James (DD-245) was a Clemson-classdestroyer was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine in a case of mistaken identity, during the period of neutrality five weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor entered the United States into World War Two. Many consider it the first United States Navy ship sunk by hostile action in the European theater of World War II. The ship's sinking provoked a furious outburst in the United States, especially when Germany refused to apologize, instead countering that the destroyer was operating in what Germany considered to be a war zone and had suffered the consequences
USS Arizona (BB-39) was a Pennsylvania-classbattleship, best known for her cataclysmic and dramatic sinking, with the loss of 1,177 lives, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the event that brought about U.S. involvement in World War II. The USS Arizona Memorial is constructed over the shattered hull, which still contains the remains of most of the crew. It is commonly—but incorrectly—believed that Arizona remains perpetually in commission, likely because naval vessels entering Pearl Harbor render honors to the remains of the vessel.
USS Enterprise (CV-6), a Yorktown-classaircraft carrier, was the most engaged and decorated U.S. warship in World War II, involved in five of the six major carrier-versus-carrier battles of the Pacific Theater, as well as a host of minor engagements, and earning 20 of 22 possible battle stars. She was the only ship outside the British Royal Navy to earn the Admiralty Pennant, the highest award of the British, in the more than 400 years since its creation.
USS Essex (CV-9) was an aircraft carrier and the lead ship of the twenty four-ship Essex class. The Essex class was the twentieth century's most numerous class of capital ships, was the backbone of the U.S. Navy's combat strength during World War Two from mid-1943 on, and (along with the addition of the three Midway class carriers just after the war) continued to be the heart of U.S. Naval strength until the 1960s and 1970s.
USS Indianapolis (CA-35), a Portland-classcruiser, was sunk on 30 July 1945 by the Imperial Japanese Navy, leading to the worst loss of life at sea in U.S. Navy history. Approximately 300 sailors of the listed crew of 1,196 died in the attack itself, but of the 880 who survived after, only 316 men lived to be rescued. The men survived four days after suffering from a lack of food, dehydration, exposure, and shark attacks (as referenced in the movie Jaws).
USS Missouri (BB-63), an Iowa-classbattleship, was the site of the surrender of the Empire of Japan which ended World War II. She was also the last battleship built by the United States. In 1955, she was decommissioned and assigned to the inactive reserve fleet (the "Mothball Fleet"), but reactivated and modernized in 1984 as part of the 600-ship Navy plan, and fought in the 1991 Gulf War. Decommissioned in 1995, she was the last actively serving battleship in the world. She was donated to the USS Missouri Memorial Association in 1998 and became a museum ship at Pearl Harbor, moored facing the USS Arizona.
USS Nautilus (SSN-571), a submarine commissioned in 1954, was the world's first nuclear-powered ship. It demonstrated its capabilities by traveling 62,562 miles (100,684 km), more than half of which was submerged, in two years before having to refuel while breaking the record for longest submerged voyage, as well as being the first submarine to transit submerged under the North Pole in 1958.
USS Liberty (AGTR-5) was an intelligence gathering ship attacked by Israeli jet fighter planes and motor torpedo boats on June 8, 1967, during the Six-Day War while in international waters off the Sinai Peninsula.
USS Long Beach (CGN-9) was the first nuclear-powered surface warship in the world when she was commissioned in 1961 and signaled a new era of United States naval weaponry by being the first large ship in the Navy to have guided missiles as its main battery.
USS Stark (FFG-31) was struck on May 17, 1987 by two Exocet antiship missiles fired from an Iraqi Mirage F1 fighter during the Iran–Iraq War becoming the victim of the only successful anti-ship missile attack on a U.S. Navy warship.
USS Cole (DDG-67) On 12 October 2000, while at anchor in Aden, Yemen, the Cole was attacked by Al-Qaeda suicide bombers, who sailed a small boat near the destroyer and detonated explosive charges. The blast created a hole in the port side of the ship about 40 feet (12 m) in diameter, killing 17 crew members and injuring 39.
USS Greeneville (SSN-772) is a Los Angeles-classsubmarine that, on 9 February 2001, precipitated international controversy when she struck the Japanese fishery high school training ship Ehime Maru (えひめ丸) off the coast of Oahu, causing the fishing boat to sink in less than ten minutes with the death of nine crew members. The Greeneville was conducting a practice emergency main ballast tank blow as a demonstration to civilian visitors.