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Nuclear-powered aircraft carriers are more effective than conventionally-powered carriers for two basic reasons.
One, nuclear power provides more energy for catapults and sensors than fossil fuel; and two, the lack of fossil fuels onboard also frees up a lot of space for more missiles and bombs.
But there are only two countries in the world with nuclear-powered aircraft carriers: the United States and France.
France has one nuclear-powered carrier, the Charles de Gaulle. The US has a fleet of 11 nuclear-powered carriers, including two different classes, the Nimitz and Gerald R. Ford classes.
But the Ford-class only has one commissioned carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, and it has yet to see combat, while the USS Nimitz was commissioned in 1975, and has seen plenty.
The Charles de Gaulle, which was commissioned in 2001, has also seen combat for over a decade.
So we've compared the tried-and-trusted Nimitz and Charles de Gaulle classes to see how they stack up.
And there's a clear winner — take a look.
The first big difference between the CDG and Nimitz-class carriers are the nuclear reactors.
The USS Eisenhower (left) transits the Mediterranean Sea alongside the Charles de Gaulle (right) in 2016. US Navy
Nimitz-class carriers have two A4W nuclear reactors, each of which provide 550 Megawatts of energy, whereas the CDG has two K15 reactors, each providing only 150 Megawatts.
Not only are Nimitz-class carriers faster than the CDG (about 34-plus mph versus about 31 mph), but they also need to be refueledabout once every 50 years, whereas the CDG needs to be refueled every seven years.
Another big difference is size.
The USS Eisenhower (top) transits the Mediterranean Sea with the Charles de Gaulle (bottom) while conducting operations in support of US national security interests in Europe. US Navy
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Nimitz-class carriers are about 1,092 feet long, while the CDG is about 858 feet long, which gives the Nimitz more room to stage and load airplanes for missions. Nimitz-class carriers also have about a 97,000 ton displacement, while the CDG has a 42,000 ton displacement.
This is why Nimitz-class carriers can carry more than 75 aircraft, such as F/A-18 Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers, and more.
The USS Nimitz sailed about 150 miles north of the island of Oahu during the RIMPAC Naval exercises off Hawaii in 2012. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Whereas the CDG can carry a maximum of 40 aircraft, such as Dassault Rafales, Dauphins, and more.
Rafale and Super Etendards fighter jets are parked prior to a mission aboard France's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier sailing in the Gulf on January 28, 2016. Reuters
However, both the CDG and Nimitz-class carries use Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery launch systems, which means the jets are catapulted forward during takeoff and recovered by snagging a wire with the tailhooks mounted under their planes when landing. CATOBAR launch systems are the most advanced in the world.
As for defensive weapons, Nimitz-class carriers generally carry about three eight-cell NATO Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile launchers. They also carry Rolling Airframe Missiles and about three or four Phalanx close-in weapons systems. These weapons are used to intercept incoming missiles or airplanes.
A RIM-7P NATO Sea Sparrow Missile launches from Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln during an exercise. US Navy
The CDG, on the other hand, has four eight-cell Sylver launchers that fire Aster 15 surface-to-air-missiles, two six-cell Sadral short-range missile launchers that fire Mistral anti-aircraft and anti-missile missiles. It also has eight Giat 20F2 20 mm cannons.
Two Sylver long-range missile launchers on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.Wikimedia Commons
Both Nimitz-class carriers and the CDG have seen their fair share of combat, especially the former.
The USS Eisenhower transits the Mediterranean Sea alongside the Charles de Gaulle in 2016. US Navy
The Nimitz-class has served in every US war since Vietnam, with its planes launching missions in Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. The USS Nimitz, the lead ship in the class, first saw action during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979.
The CDG was deployed to the Indian Ocean during Operation Enduring Freedom and the initial liberation of Afghanistan. It also took part in the United Nations' no-fly zone over Libya in 2011, flying 1,350 sorties during that war.
More recently, de Gaulle was involved in France's contribution to the air campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, codenamed Opération Chammal in France.
This article originally appeared onBusiness Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
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