An aircraft carrier is the largest type of warship and is used to transport, operate, and maintain military aircraft.

The staff which support aircraft in the carrier can be divided into 2 groups.

Some "variable" staff are directly related to the aircraft operation like Pilots, the number of those staff is proportion to the number of aircraft.

On the other hand the number of the "fixed" staff is fixed, regardless the number of aircraft, like Air Traffic Control.

How many of the 2 different types of staffs are employed? To simplify the answer, please use the biggest Nimitz-class as example.

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Where do you draw the line between supporting aviation and not? Are the sailors who take care of moving and loading munitions for the aircraft supporting aviation? An aircraft carrier will have a number of cooks, for instance. Are those cooks supporting aviation when they feed the pilots, fuelers, etc...? Is the helmsman supporting aviation when he turns the carrier to align with the wind so aircraft can land? What about the reactor mechanic who keeps the lights on? $\endgroup$ Oct 1, 2015 at 17:00
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ The purpose of an aircraft carrier is to extend air power. Anybody onboard an aicraft carrier who does not support that purpose is not needed, and therefore does not exist. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Oct 1, 2015 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think taking the biggest aircraft carrier as an example is relevant. If you take the aircraft carrier with the minimum crew (surely it is not the biggest one), you'll result in the minimum staff needed to support military aircraft operations while in the middle of the ocean. I think it is mre relevant to compare several aircraft carrier taken into account the number of aircraft supported. $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    Oct 2, 2015 at 14:58

1 Answer 1


The ship's complement for a Nimitz class carrier is 3200. That is the crew required to maintain ship operations.

A further 2480 crew comprise the Air Wing - everyone needed to perform duties directly associated with flying activities, including maintenance, ordnance handling, emergencies, etc. It's treated as a separate entity because any one of ten Air Wings could be embarked on a carrier at any given time.

That is a total crew of 5680.

I couldn't find a breakdown of specific trades or ranks for either entity.

Source: Wikipedia

Note that the newer Gerald R. Ford class carriers make extensive use of automation, and so have several hundred fewer crew members in the ship's complement.

  • $\begingroup$ The Nimitz class can support (berth and transport while launching, retrieving, re-arming and refueling) a complement of 85-90 aircraft of mixed types, but typically deploys with more like 64 to have some space to tear aircraft apart for maintenance at sea. The exact minimum flight crew complement to operate all of these depends on exactly what the carrier has and how many are expected to be in the air at any given time. $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Oct 1, 2015 at 22:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The typical complement is three squadrons of 10-12 F/A-18s each (one or two crew, let's say 1.25 crew per plane as most serving Hornets are single-seaters), 4-6 EA-6B Prowlers (4 crew) or the same number of EA-18G Growlers (2 crew), 4-6 E-2 or C-2 cargo/AWACS (crew of 4 or 5), and 6-8 Seahawk ASW/rescue choppers (3-4 crew). Assuming the carrier has enough aircrew to empty the hanger on an offensive, with one spare crew for each to keep them flying, we're talking somewhere around 200 total aircrew; if they fly in 8 hour shifts like civilian pilots, 300. The rest are ground crew and command. $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Oct 1, 2015 at 22:22

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