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An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project airpower worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations. They have evolved from wooden vessels used to deploy balloons into nuclear-powered warships that carry dozens of fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. Aircraft carriers are typically the capital ship of a fleet, and are extremely expensive to build and important to protect. Of the ten nations that possess an aircraft carrier, eight possess only one. Twenty aircraft carriers are currently active throughout the world with the U.S. Navy operating 10 as of February 2013 though some of these nations no longer have carrier-capable aircraft in inventory and have repurposed these ships. (via Freebase)