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A Carrier is a general starship classification, with warships of different sub-classifications within the UNSC and Covenant fleets. Such a vessel is formally defined as "a large warship carrying fighters equipped with flight decks for takeoffs and landings". There are likely to be multiple classes of carrier within this general designation.
The general combat role of a carrier in combat is to deploy starfighters, such as Seraphs or Longswords. They also possess their own shipboard weapons in addition to starfighters, to protect themselves in combat when their fighters are unable to defend them. In planetary occupation missions, carriers are mobile deployers of ground forces to subjugate an enemy planet, launching dropships and top-cover fighters.
The navies of the UNSC and the Covenant had different classifications of carriers. For example, the Covenant sported carriers, assault carriers, and supercarriers. Assault Carriers were on the scale of five kilometers long, giving a scale of the keel length of carrier-type warships.