Will Aircraft Carriers Remain Useful in Future Wars?

Will Aircraft Carriers Remain Useful in Future Wars?

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has shown himself to be a student of modern warfare, says a former adviser to both Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Gen. David Petraeus.

But at a time of rapid advances in military and technological capabilities, “let’s hope he’s a student of the mid-20th century history as well, because the interwar period is going to have a lot of warnings and lessons” for the U.S. as it winds down in Afghanistan, said Mark Jacobson, now a fellow with The German Marshall Fund of the United States.

World War I convinced world military leaders that the future of combat was battleships, trench warfare and getting around trench warfare, he said.

“They were totally dismissive of aircraft, totally dismissive of strategic bombing and absolutely dismissive of the aircraft carrier,” Jacobson told DodBuzz. But World War II validated air war and the carrier.

Everyone agrees that cyber war capabilities are important, but Jacobson says the Pentagon is still trying to figure out what to do with it. Meanwhile, adversaries are constantly learning to work around U.S. strengths.

“But the services don’t change,” he said. “I’m not sure all the service chiefs get this yet … Are we focusing on new types of destroyers? Is anybody willing to question the existence of aircraft carriers? If you look at history this may be the battleship all over again.”

They will have some use in particular situations and environments, he said, but a carrier will never deploy anywhere it does not have absolute air domination and in some cases it would simply not have that.

“It won’t be a useful weapon in the Taiwan Straits, and it may not be one 15 years from now, depending on how many nations have hypersonic missiles,” he said.

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Carriers, while there are still low-intensity conflicts is relatively uncontested waters, will remain useful.

However, an increasing number of defense analysts are coming to believe that the time of the super-carrier is passing us by, and that the US should consider building more small-deck carriers along the lines of LHA’s or LHD’s.

I’d like to see construction of more small deck carriers to get better overall coverage, while retaining some number of large deck carriers for the more intense trouble spots.

I tend to agree with you. I would however add that the end of the super carrier will need to coincide with the dominance of the unmanned combat aircraft. These systems tend to be physically smaller and therefore can be integrated into small decks easier. Additionally, distributing the capability makes it less of a target to the “carrier killer” AShMs that the Chinese and Russians are focusing on developing.

This article seems to assume that the self-defensive capabilities of carriers and escort vessels will remain stagnant as our potential adversaries make advances. I suspect that this is a false assumption.

I tend to agree because most countries of the world can’t afford a super carrier, but an LHA & LHD is all they need. That’s why your seeing a lot of countries looking for an LHA & LHD than a conventional carrier.

The elephant will always be too big to hide behind a tree.

Your right because no one ever thought about being attacked by high speed missiles before that use a ballistic trajectory.

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Yes that’s right contrary to nearly every promise of the last 40 years nothing will work correctly the US and its allies have built to stop these threats.

Every time the “experts” haul out this “Sudden” realization its proven to be BS. It always seems to assume that a massive set of really, really unlikely circumstances lead to a carrier being alone and unprotected. It also ignores all of the strengths of the carrier.

Ship vs Ship warfare is largely over. Now is the time of fleets. Multiple over lapping complimentary strengths canceling out each others weaknesses.

I also agree with the three of you. An LHA and LHD would be considered just normal carriers in other smaller navies. But not in the U.S. Navy. More to the point is cost. I have for awhile thought that in the age of shrinking budgets and austerity it would be easier to to build America-Class amphibious assault ships which have a cost of $3.4 billion per ship (and are about the same size as the fixed wing aircraft carriers of France and India) as compared to the Ford-Class super carriers which have a cost of just over $9 billion per ship. You could put out more ships for the same cost and build them with a more modular design. Some could be more air wing focused while some are more focused towards actual amphibious assault with Marines.

There will come a time when we will be unable to forward deploy a supercarrier simply because they are to valuable (cost and number of crew) to risk it being sunk. England had much the same problem in WWI. It was hesitant to deploy it’s large home fleet of new dreadnaughts and battle cruisers because of their cost and large crew. The one time England did deploy the Home Fleet, they had a number of the large ships sunk at the battle of Jutland. Some battle cruisers and dreadnaughts went down with all hands aboard. That hurts when you have a crew of several thousand. We are almost at that point with supercarriers..

I agree with all here. The big super carriers are huge targets that if hit will cause enormous casualties and loss of many critical pieces of equipment. As others are saying maybe something more on line like the Brit’s had? Small carriers with ski jumps? The new joint stike fighter which is VSTOL could utilize these easily and you don’t need to arresting cable for the controlled crashes (landings). ASW can be handled by Helo’s. Instead of three super carriers maybe have 5 of the smaller ones? Plus as others state the LHD’s and LHA’s coulr provide additional VSTOl aircraft support.

Small unmanned underwater carriers are the future.maybe.

Indeed, and then the carrier advocates are simply hoping they can nail the attacker dead before attacker can close the range. In WW2 carriers could do this, but the submarine or golden dive-bomb occasionally got through, and perhaps tomorrow the anti-ship missile will get through.

But in terms of alternatives…it’s hard to beat a carrier.

So long as the fleet operates together, or that independent action is deemed un-necessary, or perhaps too dangerous.

I suppose drones will allow for ISR over the horizon, such that a fleet’s striking power can be consolidated (just as scout aircraft allowed for coverage of greater ocean surface area, versus employing scouting vessels).

Sure, but there’s a minimum size for a vessel to be well-rounded.

In terms of tonnage, it’s two LHA-6’s for every Ford (or maybe three). Using maximum capacity numbers, it’s 35 aircraft, but hard to say what combinations are possible (e.g, is it 35 of a certain type of helicopter, but only 20 JSF-B?). If 35 JSF-B, that would be 105 JSF-B’s on three Americas, versus a single Ford that would probably carry 75 typically, and presumably less than a hundred at maximum. In practice, the maximum numbers are made at some kind of tradeoff. It is likely the Fords will hold 60–70 aircraft, and the Americas will do 20 JSF-B tops (but are much more likely to hold 10–15 JSF-B as part of a multi-role loadout).

In terms of aircraft, an LHA-6 will only be able to deploy STO and VTO aircraft, a Ford can kick off catapultables. Will helicopters and JSF-B be better than helicopters, JSF-C and Super Hornets (plus Hawkeyes and COD aircraft…though if V-22 replaces the C-2 at COD this will be moot).

However, if the navy runs short on funds and tries to compensate by going with understrength air wings on very big carriers, then this is the worst of both worlds: large aircraft carriers, but not playing to the strengths of large aircraft carriers.

If the navy runs out of funds, what they might do is retire a Nim instead of refueling, and then accept delivery of a Ford instead as a way of gracefully shrinking the number of carriers without spending money that doesn’t exist on upgrades and then retiring them shortly afterwards (especially since the Fords have a reactor lifetime beyond the hull lifetime, meaning zero refuels).

How can anyone call an LHA/LHD a small deck carrier? All of our carriers are right around 1000 feet and an LHA/LHD is right around 840 feet. To me a small deck carrier would be around the size of the ones Japan and Korea are building.

Reducing the size of a CVN is not a new idea. Closer scrutiny will reveal that in reducing size, the sortie rate decreases much faster than size, and the size decreases faster than cost.

Worse, a signifcantly cheaper carrier with a smaller deck likely also removes the CATOBAR capability, which imposes an inability to launch and recover heavier aircraft, reducing the fuel load and armament payload, reducing range and capability.

CVNs do more than launch and recover aircraft, and the USN enjoys signifcant economies of scale in placing capability other than aviation on that platform.

They will remain useful if we actually go to war to win

It’s essentially like taking an air force base and shrinking its footprint. Smaller bases mean less aircraft. Smaller runways mean lighter aircraft, up to a point where capability rapidly shrinks at a rate faster than shrinking the footprint of the airbase.

Long range strike platforms combined with long-range interceptors and a lot of subs, that’s what we need.
Maybe China will sell us the J-20 so that we have again a real air superiorty fighter, not the slow F-35.
For a 20 billion USD supercarrier you get 10 Virginia attack subs or 40 B-1b bombers. Plus we need new ICBMs to improve our crumbling nuclear deterrence.
If we are playing to loose, we will loose.

The age of the Super Carrier is far from over. It is move and counter move. What happens when carriers soon deploy UCAS aircraft that launch hypersonic missiles both sea and land attach at 3 times the range of the present F-18E/F. A UCAS at present has a range of 1,200 miles, combined with a long range hypersonic missile or even present day long range weapons that is some very powerful fire power.
The only enemy that could take down a carrier is China, possibly. However everyone assumes here that the Carrier battle group will be without support. Asia is littered with bases which can provide land based air cover let alone field ABM systems which will negate any long range missiles attacks on ships prior to them even closing within range of the fleet defences.
Do you really think the USN will send only one Carrier Battle Group or that those groups will not be strengthened with extra escorts and subs. What is the defensive fire power of 3 or 4 carrier battle groups with supporting land based air power and missile defences. Japanese navy will integrate and provide a huge boost to firepower and defensive capabilities, let alone allies such as Australia, Singapore and perhaps South Korea.
China would have a hard time beating Japans navy let alone taking on the combined fleets of Japan/USA and other allies, it would be an easier victory for the US and its allies.
I do however agree, build more Virginia Subs, but with the extra module for more cruise missiles. Up construction to 3 per year. Those subs by itself is enough to deal with the PLA navy, no need to send much else.

USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), last in the Nimitz class, commissioned in 2009, cost $6.2B.

Are you suggesting that follow-on ships in the Ford class will cost $20B each?

Yes, if they can get the first strike wave off. And if the carriers can be protected longer.… Perhaps we should consider numerous smaller “jeep type carriers” instead of a large target.

With satellites, the are only two types of ships, SSN’s & targets.

I contest the premise. Why did the US and Japan have so many aircraft carriers at the start of WW2 if the leaders were so dismissive? The main problem we have with current carriers is the aircraft on them, specifically the lack of range and endruance in the FA-18 (particularly the A-D). The E/F is better, but still not at Grumman 1980’s level. A moving target, even a big one, is still hard to find and hit if you have enough sea-space to hide in, and aircraft range is what gives the aircraft carrier the space to evade.

The problem is that as a carrier gets smaller and smaller they become less and less efficient. Not only that the aircraft they can launch become smaller and get less and less range. Something maybe about the size of the midway but no smaller. And really sense the ship itself is smaller its going to be far easier to kill. A modern US super carrier is expected to take around ASM hits to destroy it a smaller vessel would likely only take 1.

Large carriers are perfect launches for promotion to flag rate. Smaller ships aren’t, so they don’t get built.

The insane cost of the DDG-1K and Ford class are both tied to acquisition and R&D cost. The follow vessels will be much cheaper. And considering a Ford can carry up to 90 attack aircraft that can be mixed to needs and also just changed out when better aircraft come out…Oh and lets not forget the E-2.

And no B-1b built today would be well over a billion dollars. The virginia’s is true but there is also the fact that a Carrier represents Presence that can be seen and felt.

The Strike force does need long range aircraft but that isn’t something that counts against a carrier.

They will be around in some form in the future. Maybe not as big.

I actually don’t think so. I wonder who is going to serve on these carriers with reduced pension (COLA) benefits for career military people. Maybe, the draft will come back?

And he hits the nail on the head…we’ll done sir!


What is a Ford carrier with 90 Superhornets to do against the PAKFA T-50 or the J-20. It will be sunk my friend.
Give me 30 LRS-B instead. China will squash us as if we never even existed.

I actually don’t think so. I wonder who is going to serve on these carriers with reduced pension (COLA) benefits for career military people. Maybe

Well here’s the real deal folks. In the case of of a real shooing war in the Pacific, the land bases will be the first hit and they will be flattened within the first 20 minutes of a major conflict. So all we will have left would be the carriers

The Chinese will try to target the carriers but they won’t be successful. But If they were able to target one with lots of luck, and send a ASBM on it’s way, it would be assumed to be nuclear tipped and we will respond in kind. China knows this very well. The only chance China has against a CBG is a mass conventional attack but we know how to defend the carriers well and their ships won’t even get within firing range due to our subs.

I like carriers, but that’s subjective and personal.
I’ve read quite a few articles on analysts etc regarding large aircraft carriers. I’m no military expert, so I wouldn’t know, but I get the distinct feeling that the Pentagon doesn’t really want to change it’s posture, even if it were to be doubting their usefulness itself. When you have multiple instances of foreign subs getting ‘locks’ on your aircraft carriers, you have to also question their survivability. German subs, swedish subs, chinese subs (probably some other countries as well) had their periscope aimed at the aircraft carriers without the USN noticing. In war that means a carrier sunk.

On the other hand of course, the US only wars with sub-par nations, and as such, carriers are of course a GREAT strike capability, just park it in front of their seas and bomb the cr ap out of them. Not to pee on the US, but tier 1 nations never fight each other, it’s always proxy wars (don’t drag ww1 and 2 into this).

“Will Aircraft Carriers Remain Useful in Future Wars?”

A complex question. Consider merely the financial side of the question.

Currently, the construction cost of the Ford class CVN is exploding.

At the same time, the Navy are buying in to the F-35C, whose costs are also exploding.

So there will not be enough carriers to fill the requirements of the fleet, and there will not be air wings sufficient to fill the decks of what carriers there are.

That’s entirely separate from the question of whether the carriers, or the air wings they embark, will be survivable in combat in the 2020s time frame. They may not be.

Here’s how to answer the question: “Will large carriers still be viable in 21st century warfare?”

It’s not hard, and I’ll give you a hint, this guy Jacobson from the article is embarrassingly wrong…

1. Re-examine what a carrier essentially does (militarily and politically).
2. Determine what 21st century warfare (at least as we can safely predict today) will consist of, as significantly changed from today or the past 60 years since WW2.
3. Conclude whether the function of a carrier will still be needed and if so, furthermore, if it will be compatible in a 21st century global military environment.

So let’s quickly knock these out.

1. A carrier extends air superiority globally. Air superiority, and the subsequent advantages you can leverage over the battlefield via airpower, is 100% necessary to winning a large scale conflict, or even smaller regional one (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghan, etc). I can draw up a couple of simple equations that prove why this range extension is so enormous and thus essential to modern warfare:
No carriers:
Homeland airports plus theater fielded airbases + aircraft range = small fraction of global surface area.
With carriers:
All airbases + all surface area covered by international or allied waters worldwide + aircraft range = vast majority of world surface area.
With of course surface area representing the area of effect achievable by an average particular aircraft. This difference is gargantuan, it means everything, it cannot be overstated. Therefore, enough said about #1.

2. In the 21st century we can definitely expect to see a steep increase in sophistication and deployment in the following areas:
UAV drones of all sizes and capabilities, eventually able to replace entire air forces
Area denial weaponry such as smart missiles of all types
Swarm weaponry, which will in its most deadly form combine swarms of smaller UAVs releasing swarms of smaller smart missiles
Electromagnetic mass drivers (rain guns)
Lasers as a missile deterrent
Electronic warfare including far more accurate long range target acquisition, jamming and softkill devices
Stealth and sensor evasion
Cyber-warfare as a vital and necessary arena of contest, not an optional nor a fringe one
Synchronized combined arms involving multiple branches will prove necessary in most operations.

3. Assuming the above to be true or a next-best version of what might be true in the decades to come, carriers will still retain the enormous force and area-of-effect multipliers they provide, but they will be threatened by mainly 3 new categories: increasing enemy intel capability to detect and track enemy naval units globally; smart missiles; and UAVs. Of considerable threat would be a combination of the last two, meaning especially designed anti-naval-fleet UAV swarms deployed en masse armed with swarms of smart missiles.

Here’s the crux to the whole argument then: If a major power who fields carriers in a threat environment as just described can develop and deploy enough effective counter-missile and counter-UAV defenses, which we are developing and will most certainly be fielding, then the advantages gained by fielding carriers– as clearly proved in the equations back in #1– will still hold true. Meaning that you will still need carriers to win a conflict wherever you are, and no superpower would opt not to build and deploy them knowing the other side has them, despite even catastrophic risks to one or a few of those prized units.

So no, carriers are absolutely not going anywhere for the majority of the foreseeable 21st century, period. They may change a little, in the numbers, size or variety they are deployed as, though without straying too far from the proven formula of simply putting enough of them out there to cover every major theater with a slight overlap, but overall they’re here to stay.

There is no argument here. This “question” is actually a non-argument, it’s a baseless question.

*rail guns

Perhaps that’s true for cannon fodder on the ground, but when was the last time a US navy ship member got killed due to enemy action? I can only remember some terrorist attacks 10 years ago, but the last time is ww2 I guess? Perhaps some in Korea? There aren’t much safer positions during ‘war’ than in the Navy. This goes for any Western navy. Combating somali pirates from a Destroyer isn’t that dangerous. So those suger coated ‘benefits’ were mostly to bring you boys to patrol Baghdad and Zabul, not the ‘waters’.

The advantages that a Carrier offers our military are too great just to write off and dismiss. Granted I do believe that the current Nimitz Class and Ford Class are big targets, but I would not get rid of them. I believe we should do everything we can to increase its offensive and defensive capabilities. I do believe that the current F-18s and even F-35s are inadequate to protect the carrier, maybe that wasn’t their original purpose but since we got rid of the F-14s they have to step up to the plate. Maybe a new version of the F-14 would help, more attack subs, super-destroyers, etc.

There is something to be said for this approach, but have we really done the cost tradeoff analysis to tell us whether more smaller carriers is cheaper than fewer large carriers. So much of the fleet is dedicated to protecting the carrier, so what does this entail from a system of systems perspective ?

Erm…This is definitely being worked on. My Masters thesis was on this topic. At the NAVAL Postgraduate School. Four years ago. *facepalm. One need only search on “anti-ship cruise missile defense” on Google or any other major search engine to discover a wealth of knowledge on the topic. Mr. Jacobson is sadly disconnected from current information.

It’s a matter of comparison; you have the overall length about right but you forget the width; a CVN runs about 250 feet while LHA/LHD types are about 140 and do not have the angled deck.…..this makes them ‘small deck’.

Now, if you could only make the air force base mobile. A smaller base closer to the target can still put more ON target more often than a fixed land base X number of miles away. Also, in an age when a single seat aircraft can deliver a larger load of ordanance than most WW II heavy bombers, do it at a supersonic speed, and then double as a fighter/interceptor; the term ‘lighter aircraft’ doesn’t quite have the meaning it used to.

Boy oh boy, did you ever hit the nail on the head. I wonder if we will ever go to war to win and totally defeat an enemy as we did in WW2 which seems to me to be the last one we actually completed the mission. What ever happened to us as a country? My God we have been involved in a little piss ant county like Afghanistan and once again allowed sanctuary to an enemy force killing our soldiers with the ability of the aggressors to go into Pakistan and hole up.

It’s quite possible that one day VTOLs will deliver satisfactory speed and firepower for the grunt, and when that day happens the size of the carrier flight deck will change accordingly. There’s still some constraints based on number of aircraft embarked and stores that will determine storage space and volume of the vessel.

After all, a vessel designed to launch just one JSF still needs a space to store the aircraft, some runway and catapult apparatus to launch, plus stores for the one aircraft. It goes up from this base level of capacity.

Aircraft sizes have been going up since WW2, as you correctly note. Jets allowed for faster aircraft and allowed for bigger loads. The first “heavy aircraft” of the jet age (Vigilante and Skywarrior/B-66 Destroyer) are a little heavier than today’s Super Hornet.

The US had seven (7) aircraft carriers in commission at the start of WWII; the Japanese didn’t have many more; had the ‘leaders’ not been so dismissive, the famous “ESSEX” class CV would have started down the building ways in the mid-30’s. I agree with you re the aircraft; the F/A-18 is good but rapidly aging and, were it not for so many years of supremacy over all the worlds competition, would be long gone. I DON’T see the F-35 as much of a replacement. I also agree about the ‘moving target’ concept but have to add that it really isn’t necessary to sink a CVN.……it she can’t fly aircraft due to damage, she becomes a huge hole in the water eating up other assets.

Oh, that will be neat.….a $6 billion ship manned by draftees

Yeah, that’s why we build them.…..

In actuality, it was Germany that kept it’s battleships and battle cruisers in port for fear of losing them. The High Seas Fleet could only sortie for a fleet action if approved by the kaiser, personally. Britain’s Grand Fleet, based at Scapa Flow and Rosyth, frequently swept the North Sea, hoping to catch out the High Seas Fleet. It happened only once, at Jutland, which was a tactical draw but a strategic defeat for the Germans since they failed to destroy the British Fleet and break the blockade. The High Seas Fleet attempted no other action after that. They were ordered out in the last days of the war, but the crews, declining to participate in a Gotterdamerung, mutinied.

Yes, and Pearl Harbor can’t be bombed by carrier launched aircraft, etc. Amazing how you feel the Chinese can so easily flattten all our bases in 20 minutes but will be unable to harm the aircraft carriers.….if they flatten Yokosuka, there is a very good chance that alone will take one CVN out of the mix as I’m pretty sure they are smart enough to plan such an attack for when our Japan-based carrier is in homeport.…just how many CVN’s do you think we have available in West Pac at any given time? As for attacking a CVBG.….last time I looked, the Chinese had a few submarines of their own.….how close do you think they need to be to launch a massive strike with cruise missiles.….only one or two need to get past our defenses to do the trick.

Everything you say is, as I see it, correct but I think you overlooked one little thing. All the threats that a CVN could face in the forseeable future can possibly be dealt with and overcome by the carrier and it’s protective battle group; can we load the same technology on the aircraft that have to carry out it’s mission? A super protected ship that can only launch aircraft for a single, one-way mission soon becomes a liability even though it may have zero damage. Just a thought.

Technology wins wars and always advances to unbelievable results. However, sometimes a low tech older system can do a better job when it is unexpected. The more advanced something gets the easier it is to gum up the works.
Long range missiles, hypersonic anything is great but what about the short range close in fights. Remember the Battle star in Star Wars. It could wipe out a planet, destroy targets at long ranges, but when attacked close in it failed to defend itself. To win or defend you MUST be able to attack and defend at ALL ranges.

The next big step will be in lasers, phasers, and defensive force fields. advances in cloaking are moving faster and will make a true surprise attack possible.

As I recall my history, the British battlecruisers were lost due to a design defect in the class.

Perhaps you should imagine yourself in an SSN with a modern ASW force out for your blood; and perhaps you miss the whole point altogether?

“.…. Not to pee on the US.….” Strange, but that’s all I see in your comments.

This discussion remindes me of the “The day of the Tank is gone” conversations in the 60’s and then the 73 Arab Israeli war started and disproved that. Defensive weapons will negate threats and mission paramiters will change but until Hypersonic planes that can get people on target in minutes are invented the Super Carrier willl play an important role.

Every ship, large or small, is spring loaded to sink to the bottom when it is hit by a missile from space; headed straight down its conning tower. This was pointed out in a Pentagon report back in the 70s. Nothing new about that. Some day it will be proven right.

F/A-XX & UCLASS will give new life to the carrier as will improvements in BMD.

Unfortunately F-35C is lacks the legs and internal payload capability to truly transform CV strike. F-35C also lacks the ability to defend large areas of sky for defensive counter air due to it’s lack of speed and payload. It is also not an air dominance platform so the Navy will still have to rely on the handful of Air Force F-22s for that. Of course there is still a large risk that the tailhook “fix” may not work and the whole F-35C will have been a huge waste of time and money.

Naval Aviation needs to wake up and figure out what it wants to be in 2025–2030 because it needs to take action NOW if it needs to change.

Your suggestion of smaller carriers harks back to Adm. Zumwalt days of 1969 — 1974 when he wanted a “sea control” ship ala a small carrier. It proved to be ineffective and a waste of money. Small carriers inevitably need to be replaced by larger ones. Note pre– and post– WW II efforts as well as the aforementioned one. If more carriers are needed, build them! It seems that every end of war reveals the same questionable efforts by “wonks”. Maybe one day “Star Trek” technology will render obsolete all of our present weapons. Let’s not throw away what works until another proven solution is at hand. DARPA keeps on working; I like that.

All those diesel electric subs you mention better be in the right place at the right time because there is no diesel electric made that’s going to shadow a surface force. They don’t have the speed or range.

I’m not a big fan of all or nothing. I don’t see CVGs going anywhere. I do agree their utility and true upgrades over the years have been about what is sitting on their decks for aircraft and the munitions those aircraft carry. Longer range on both counts helps to side step anti access and sub threats.

I do think we could rebalance the fleet make up quite easily. Drop to 9 CVGs and you still maintain the ability to fwd deploy one group in Japan and have 2 at sea. The cost savings would help greatly in getting SSN and SSBNx procurement where it needs to be. It would allow for the commissioning of a follow on SSGN model when the converted Ohios retire and there is no real way to overstate the benefits of the SSGN.

People tend to have short term memories. The carrier and the CBG faced a much much larger threat during the USSR days when we had to face down dozens of Backfire bombers each firing 4 Sunburn missiles and they had the second best submarine force in the world and somehow we never get into with them simple because they knew they would lose eventually after a bloody fight. We developed tactics and weapons to deal with the threat then and now the threat is only a fraction of what it was all those years ago.

Now some are saying the Chinese Navy is a threat, especially their submarine force. Are you serious, the Chinese sub force would be like High Schoolers facing down NFL players-not even fair

Lastly. we need to consider the fact that we probably won’t have many carriers left ANYWHERE the way we are going with the budget and all, but we won’t have any Pacific bases left either if China puts in a surprise attack, so all we would have in the Pacific would be the carriers at sea and the rest of our Naval forces.

Everyone here is worried about how the Chinese might get to the carrier, but the Chinese are not stressing over this, they know their chances are slim, they are stressing over our submarine force will basically sink every ship they got.

Finally, the thing everyone needs to remember, is that in war you will take loses, even luck and circumstances will go against the very best platforms and people at times. Even our vaulted, M1A1 tanks F-22, B-1 and Naval ships will be taken out-that’s just the nature of war. Nothing is completely invulnerable. It’s all a matter of degrees. Some things are hard targets like the carriers and other things are soft targets like land bases and such. Statistically speaking, we will lose a lot more soft target than hard targets. So, if the carrier is deemed to be vulnerable then everything else we got is several times more vulnerable so we might as well pack up and go home.

Next in the series of stupid articles, “Is the US submarine force relevant anymore.” followed by “Are US soldiers in danger of getting hurt during combat?”

“It’s just nuclear supercavitating torpedoes, nuclear ALCM’s, nuclear anti-ship missiles…we’ll reduce the probability of them getting close to the fleet until a single golden BB wipes out the carrier”

We are never going to war with China or anyone else. It’s too expensive, and could ruin a perfect socio-economic system in which the rich get richer all over the world.

China own trillions in US debt. They would never endanger this. We may have some skirmishes, perhaps over the South China Sea, in order to justify massive military spending, but that’s it.

Which is why your seeing an emerging market for LHA, LHD carriers. I suspect in the next 15 to 20 years, an LHA, LHD will be more popular for countries who want a helicopter carrier or a STOL/VSTOL carrier.

The problem with all of these arguments is that we are still buying our spare parts from China. And these spare parts have proven to be defective. So how effective can these carriers be if they and their aircraft are using these spare parts from China?

I’d have to wonder why a simple, non-abusive response to this comment was “deleted by the administrator’? I guess they don’t want any disagreement with your views Big-Dean.….…

I thinkthe USN will send whatever they have when and if the balloon goes up in the China Sea area, and, if the “balloon” going up includes pre-emptive strikes on places like Yokosuka and finds the CVN sitting in home-port.…it may not be much. We only have a finite number of CVN’s and not all are available when we’d like them to be.…
You speak of 3 or 4 CVGB’s, do YOU really think we will be able to muster that many up on short notice; the numbers are shrinking. It has become quite fashionable to underestimate the PLA Navy but anyone who has been paying attention knows it’s not the same outfit it was ten years ago.

Maybe but I think you’re discounting the effectiveness of late generation sea skimming missiles and ballistic “carrier killer” missiles. All it takes is one or two hits and it’s done, either the carrier is out of action or will be pulled back to a safe but less effective range.

Your metaphor doesn’t cover the lessor capability of aircraft. Smaller carriers are limited to the type of aircraft they can launch and what’s on those planes (fuel/ordnance).

Satellites in low Earth orbit may be among the first casualties in a big fight with a peer level adversary.

Most satellites are in LEO orbits. There is also some debris in LEO orbits. Since objects in LEO orbit encounter some atmospheric drag, LEO orbits are self cleaning given enough time. When debris strikes a satellite in high speed collision, the debris can cause significant damage to the satellite, and resulting ablation creates more debris. In 1978, NASA’s Donald J. Kessler postulated that if those ablative collisions were to occur at sufficient rate, the process could cascade, destroying all satelites in low Earth orbit. So to destroy all satellites in LEO, you need only destroy a quantity sufficient to initiate the Kessler effect.

In 2007 the the PRC’s PLA destroyed one of their weather satellites in LEO, demonstrating their ability to do so.

A strategy that relies upon those satellites for success is not a good strategy against peer level adversary.

I think you touched on this, but specifically there is the matter of sortie generation between the two carrier classes. When you factor in maintenance and amount of fuel and ordnance you can carry there is a critical mass requirement for the carrier to be effective over a long-term mission. We all know a Nimitz can sit there for weeks and put enough planes in the air to keep fighting a war, but I’m not sure if an America-class has the same endurance. Anyone know?

Seems like subs are our best bet. They can engage other subs, surface combatants, and strike land targets with cruise missiles. We should keep on the leading edge in sub technology, deploy plenty of them, and develop advanced cruise missiles for them. The cost to do this would be a fraction of the cost for all the ships, aircraft, and thousands of personnel (pay, benefits, retirement costs) for each carrier battle group. Air supremacy will still need to be achieved, however. Perhaps a much smaller number of carriers employing unmanned combat aircraft combined with anti-air surface ships and land based air power could accomplish that when needed.

The true upgrades to carriers has always been what flies off their decks and what those aircraft carry. Big or small carrier is actually irrelevant. More small groups still require the same escorts and we don’t have the surface combatants or subs to support that approach. To spend the money to get there pretty much wipes out cost savings associated with the price of smaller carriers.

If you want carriers to stay relevant strike radius needs to be increased. The F35 was not what the USN needed. What it needed was something with legs and payload. In conjunction, new stand off munitions with multiple targeting capability and greater range.



Critics say our carrier Navy is outdated and obsolete. Some lawmakers have proposed major cuts in our current fleet of 11 aircraft carriers battle groups. They say they are too big, too vulnerable, and too expensive for modern warfare.
These charges are belied by the facts and by our military response to the terrorist attacks of September 11. Aircraft carriers have been the point of the spear of our air power since World War II. Carrier-based fighters and bombers shouldered a heavy burden in Korea and Vietnam.
Aircraft carriers played a decisive role in the success of coalition forces in the Gulf War and NATO forces in Bosnia. For over a half century with their mobility and standoff capabilities, aircraft carriers have been a vital component of our foreign policy in the deterrence of aggression.

Aircraft carriers provide mobile airfields that are not dependent on the cooperation of other nations. Carrier aircraft fly shorter and more frequent missions than bombers based in Missouri that circle the globe to drop their bombs.
No American aircraft carrier has been attacked by enemy forces since World War II. Since the 1940’s, no carrier has been sunk or even damaged by the enemy. Their defenses are formidable.
A carrier task force has multiple defenses: combat air patrol— the F-18 Super Hornets that patrol an envelope well beyond enemy missile range; cruisers and destroyers armed with deadly surface to air missiles to guard the carrier from attack; the carrier’s own missile and Gatling gun defense systems. Formidable, if not impregnable defenses.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should prompt reconsideration of any radical overhaul and restructuring of our naval air force. Aircraft carriers have once again proven themselves to be the crown jewel of our nation’s air power. They have played an indispensable role in the battle against Taliban and al Qaeda forces.
The impressive showing of our aircraft carrier forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are compelling evidence of their importance to our national security. This is proof positive of the strategic importance of the first question asked routinely by our commander-in-chief during a foreign crisis: “Where are the carriers?”
Anywhere you want them to be, sir!

CVN with a complement of 90+ a/c provides the world’s only forward deployable 50+ fighter and attack tactical a/c on short notice with full logistics support. Aside from the humanitarian relief/ support with the assorted other a/c aboard, no other vessel has the a/c capacity to enforce the requirements of the US govt.
Many other organizations, upset with jealousy try to subvert the multiple roles achieved by the CVN but without the endurance or capacity. As to the horrid hypersonic missle bogey man that surfaces from time to time, …not yet. The command structure of the CVN are not going to allow the CVN to be attacked or “cornered” like the silly Taiwan strait scenario. No US president is going to command a suicide CVN action, 5,000+ sailors. I support the development of the LHA by the USMC because, there are more than one potential type of conflict that can involve the US forces, and because no self respecting CVN captain will allow a F-35B to litter their precious flight deck. enjoy :)

Wasn’t this theory of cascading satellite debris the initial plot of the movie, Gravity?

The best place to attack an aircraft carrier is in port. Think of those WW1 and WW2 armed cruisers. Secretly outfitted supply ships entering friendly ports right before the war starts. A fully loaded and fueled tanker or container ship wouldn’t even draw attention. Drop down sides with short range cruise missiles. Pop, pop. Scratch one flatotop, as the saying goes! Think a smart adversary is ever going to let an American carrier leave port?

Duh, technology didn’t win in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sorry, Gerald. We lost in Iraq. All we did was arm two sides in a 1,300 year old religious civil war. And we lost in Afghanistan. Men who can make their own rifles beat the most powerful military the world has ever seen four times in a row. Britain twice, Russia once and now the United States. We would have had the same impact using biplanes and pickup trucks.

We don’t do all-out, unlimited war any more because no one would put up with it. Carriers are too expensive and the U.S. is technically bankrupt. Let Japan, South Korea and Taiwan pay the full cost of their own security. They’re wealthy countries taking us for a ride while they kill off our car industry.

What about Dogger Bank?

Dogger Bank predates Jutland.

I wonder if Dogger Bank and other small actions caused the Kaiser to become increasingly over-cautious about the use of his ships; though so cautious that he probably exacerbated the strategic defeat of Germany.

The British lost 3 of nine battlecruisers committed to Jutland, plus armored cruisers and destroyers. No dreadnaughts lost, or pre-dreadnaughts.

We’d still have to protect smaller carriers. I’m not sure that we would devote less to protect mini-carriers if we had more of them…perhaps it would mean requiring even more surface combatants?

fyi shipfixr, I’ve been hit by that “deleted by administrator” many a time, there’s no rhyme nor reason for it

I have not seen that film, so cannot speak to your question about it.

But regarding the Kessler effect, it would seem likely that some (Norks for example) might develop weapons intended to enable them to initiate the Kessler effect. The vulnerability of satellites is known and has motivated efforts in developing alternatives.

The j-20 is a terrible jet that is all bark and no bite. A cheap Chinese copy of our technology. It is easy outclassed by the f-35 and even the super hornets.

From the G2mil blog: The links don’t copy, but that video is a great.

Jun 24, 2012 — Sinking Our Aircraft Carriers

Here is a great, short video clip from a movie that shows what would happen if our admirals send an aircraft carrier near China in a future war. Our Navy pretends that it can shoot down incoming ballistic missiles with its SM-3 missiles, but those only work in tests where the missile launch time and flight path are known. In a real war, China would launch two dozen anti-ship ballistic missiles at the same time, with different guidance systems: heat seeking, radar emission seeking, radio wave emission seeking, radar image seeking, image contrast seeking, and even video controlled. By the time the SM-3s are launched, the ballistic missiles would be zooming downward at Mach 5 and our Navy would be lucky to hit any of them head on. A single hit would explode an aircraft carrier filled with aviation fuel, missiles, and bombs, alongside 6000 sailors.

One hit below deck and the ship blows up like an ammo ship — killing everyone! Or carriers may be sunk by a single lurking submarine, or a volley of long-range cruise missiles, or any commercial ship whose captain decides to ram a carrier in a harbor, which would cause fires and likely set off that floating power keg. Recall what happened in 1967 when the accidental firing a small rocket that didn’t even explode started a fire on the USS Forrestal. It set off explosions that killed 134 sailors and destroyed 21 aircraft as crews fought to save the ship from itself.

Aircraft carriers are useful, but not for sea control. They must hide until aircraft and submarines clear the seas of enemy subs and destroy enemy long-range missile sites and airbases. Then they can escort amphibious groups to support an invasion. They are also useful against poor defenseless nations, which the USA often attack. However, we don’t need 11 supercarriers, in addition to the 10 large carriers used by the Marines, which are larger than our World II carriers. I’d shrink to 8 supercarriers next year, pulling the one from Japan and two from Norfolk. This solves all our Navy’s funding problems and preserves the rest of the fleet. Pulling back the super-carrier from Yokosuka and amphibious carrier from Sasebo, Japan is common sense, because it’s foolish to berth a carrier for most of the year within range of Chinese and even North Korean missiles that can use simple GPS to destroy them sitting pierside.

If our admirals foolishly send carriers to secure the Western Pacific in time of war, they will suffer the fate of the mighty British battleship HMS Prince of Wales along with the heavy cruiser HMS Repulse when they sailed from Singapore to confront the Japanese Navy at the beginning of World War II. As their respected admiral executed World War I era tactics for a great ship battle, his first class warships were attacked by a swarm of pesky land-based aircraft, and quickly sunk! This may be the fate of some of our mighty supercarriers, as one retired U.S. Navy officer warned. So why do admirals insist on keeping 11 ultra-expensive supercarriers, the same number that we had when the Soviet navy roamed the seas? Fred Reed offers the best explanation of this madness.

We had 15 carrier battle groups back when the Soviets were around. And an almost 600 ship Navy.

All of those huge anti-ship missiles the Soviets fielded (some of which could carry nuclear warheads were supposed to mean the end of the carrier as well. It hasn’t. Thankfully that war never happened but countermeasures were developed to the threat. Carrier battle groups were covered by F-14s and E-2s which were to intercept those bombers well away from the ships. The destroyers and cruisers escorting the carriers continually had their missiles and sensors upgraded, leading to the potent Aegis system.

The threat posed by these Chinese ballistic missiles is a dangerous one, but certainly not one that can’t be countered, if we are willing to invest in new technologies, ships, and weapons systems. SM-3 is a good start but more capable missiles will likely be required. That probably means we need larger VLS cells among other things. Directed energy weapons (lasers) can eventually mature into a ballistic missile defense role as well.

Perhaps it is time to dust off plans for anti-satellite weapons as well. Blind them and the threat of such missiles is reduced.

Good point, except that what you’re describing– a one-way mission fighter (no human pilot needed)- is basically another name for a missile. Even if this “missile” launched other missiles from it’s bays and pods midair, well, then maybe it’s a cluster missile or a smart missile, but again, still the same.

So then in that scenario carriers stay put until remote warfare (via missiles) clears the skies for air superiority to commence, at which point it becomes safe for traditional two-way mission recoverable aircraft to operate. Until that point is reached, those fighters can still provide recon and air superiority over local or secured territory, especially for the fleet they’re based out of.

And even if it never becomes safe for offensive air missions, would you want to be the navy with no air support when the enemy finally breaks your area of denial defenses and their own air squadrons are bearing down on your capitals?

No matter which way you slice it, the big C is still essential.

Obviously — and you end up rethinking what a battle group is and does. But the main point is whether it is better and safer to keep fewer eggs in more baskets. The great naval tactician Wayne Hughes postulates that naval warfare has a lesser degree of friction than land warfare. All the basic principles of war — Mass, Maneuver, Offensive, Surprise, — apply at sea, but at higher velocity and greater potential for catastrophic damage.

you will be shocked when it goes into production. look for Mach 3, 2000 mile combat radius, 300 mile range AAMs with Aesa. The F-35 will be taken apart before it even knows what hit it. Plus China plans to build thousands of J-20s.

SM-3 is capable of taking out satellites.

On the other hand, some say our lawmakers are out of date and have proposed major cuts to their pay, pensions, and perks. I like their way of thinking better :~D

For anyone saying that carriers are vulnerable, just remember the Yorktown. The fortitude of the ship, her crew, and her repair crews should be enough to testify to the contrary.

I don’t understand why the Navy has not developed an air launched missile that is capable of engaging ballistic missiles. This would drastically reduce the threats to a naval ship because of its mobility.
Navy ships currently because of the cooperative engagement capability will be able to handle most threat incurred by ballistic missiles but it only takes one hit from an ASBM to take out a ship

It remains to be seen, if and how reliably, an F-35C might catch a cross deck pendant with arresting hook while the deck pitches and rolls in adverse higher sea state conditions. If arrested recovery is reliable only in fair weather, then Navy won’t buy many F-35C.

F-35C arresting hook location and installation geometry (subject matter well described in MIL-A-18717) is a risky radical deviation from successful modern designs.

The arresting hook that failed to work in early testing on F-35C was the same hook that has worked well on the F/A-18, but F-35C locates that hook much closer to the main gear, and uses a shorter hook arm with much less trail angle. Changing F-35C to reposition the attachment point of the arm further rearward would require a major redesign of the aircraft structure. And changing to use a longer hook for increased trail angle would compromise stealth unless the rear of the aircraft is redesigned to mask the longer hook.

They are trying to improve hook bounce damping, and are tweaking the hook opening, and while both may help, what seems more likely to be needed are increased trail angle and increased separation distance between main gear and arresting hook. Much remains to be seen.

Not to be a skunk at the wedding, but has anyone considered the implications of China’s recent higher profile in the South China Sea, or of fast patrol boats anywhere in the world armed with Chinese surface to surface missile technology? Are we stumbling toward a confrontation somewhere in the world within the next decade?

It also seems to me that carrier survivability depends rather importantly on the willingness of opponents not to go nuclear. The last time I heard, the West is still having quite an argument with Iran over that issue, and other Islamist states like Pakistan already have access to nuclear weapons. I suspect it may be only a matter of time until we see a full naval task force vanish in a flash of unbearable light.

The future of the US Navy may feature smaller catamaran carriers capable of supercavitation and with more computer control to reduce the crew size, the new high-speed carriers would launch F-35B via magnetic catapults and be armed with a nuclear powered high energy laser for aerial defense.

When I was a kid, I thought the whole Navy would go to jeep carrier size vessels, so their exposure to atomic attack would be spread out. But that never happened of course. And the Navy’s strategy with huge super-carriers has paid off. Why? Efficiency. He who has the most efficient operation will not lose in the future either. The Naval carrier battle group was the only way to protect the flat top and project power. Sometimes you don’t even need to show up. The world news always goes into a tizzy when there is even mention of a carrier group near a place of contention. We don’t have too many nations falling all over them selves to provide land based air strips, and we really shouldn’t rely on them. I wonder how much Subic Bay cost before they shut it down? I wonder how much money they saved now that they don’t have to prop that up? (although Philippine nerves about China’s military expansion have us back on base for now)

I look at it this way — I still see no weapon that can sufficiently threaten the carrier group. After seeing that ship armed laser test blow away a UAV, and land based lasers shoot down artillery rounds, I just changed my mind once again about whether we could project power without losing it all. Quite frankly the only credible threat would be a spaced based weapon that could see the battle group in real time. So that puts us back to star wars if that happens. Anti-ballistic missile science has become so successful I just can’t see a credible threat. Hell they even shot a satellite down with one of our Naval ships not that long ago.

At any rate it would bring forth a huge star wars space race, and everybody knows that would be a losing proposition, except I’m not sure if it would be the US. When you look at the huge cost against a well designed star wars defense, it would cost more to attack such a defense than to maintain it. On the other hand they don’t make a good offensive system — so no country should object to them except Russia of course, because that would de-nut their nuclear triad.

The carrier’s best asset is its fighters as a protective umbrella. Seems like that gets lost on many who look at strategy here. Once you get that group within range of a deadly missile carrier, which would have the long range capability for the first attack; that would be the main worry for a land based enemy of the US. Of course, submarines already have that capability — but if the strategy is to put boots on the ground some where, we are back to the Naval task force, and the carrier battle group. I am not talking about nuclear war tactics, other wise our nuclear triad would do ALL the fighting(God forbid!) I really wonder if carriers would survive that God awful scenario. The one positive for that, is the enemy would have to waste nuclear assets attacking a far flung and spread out US presence, and would have fewer weapons to target US population centers. That is about all the advantage that would have; if you could call it that, though!

Naw, they’ll be robots! This new carrier coming out is supposed to be able to do more with fewer personnel — but we were told that about the new littoral ships too, and we all know how that is turning out! :)

We lost more on the Forrestal from one accident than we did from the whole Viet-Nam war, and Korea!

If carriers could launch and retrieve without the (reflective) flat deck that even a STOL/VTOL carrier requires…or if active radar-canceling systems (like the noise-canceling systems in luxury cars) worked…or if it was possible to project duplicate radar reflections conforming to the profile anticipated from a carrier about 1,000 feet above the surface…or true rapid-firing laser/maser systems that could destroy an incoming missile with a 1-millisecond or less duration pulse existed…

And (the Boolean kind) if we hadn’t have given our most significant potential adversary our industrial infrastructure/arsenal, our technology, and its means of manufacture so that we are guaranteed that they can afford to build missiles in sufficient quantities to barrage-fire them…and (Boolean, again) we had no reason to believe that they could hit, say, the moon or small targets like orbiting satellites…

Carriers will be useful for brush wars forever…but for global conflicts? I think I would also work on survival suits that were tough, fireproof, could take shrapnel hits, float independently, and carried some small armaments for sailors and naval aviators. And the Marine complement, of course.

Yes the Chinese have some very noisy submarines. Maybe if they modernize with some of the new air independent propulsion subs, then I’d be nervous. But they’d have to do picket duty, because of limited range. AIP is advancing very rapidly, so now we aren’t the only silent service in town! AIP designs from Germany, are considered even more sound suppressed than our nuclear boomers.

Lasers’ll knockem out — seen the new test footage?

here we go again, whatever billions to build a carrier, billions to pay some one to scrap it. kinda like the old battleships, they had there time and it left, thanks to mr. regan who re-commsioned 6 or 7 of them and 1 two dollar missle or an rpg could sink them with all on board. billions for an air force jet that still cant fly. who is running the show up there in washington or is it in the water? most of the 532 have not been in the military or played battleship game board as a child, know that with todays rpg’s etc. you can sink “my” battleship, better yet carrier. oh, dont forget, lets cut the pay of the military retiree, honor, country, and where is gen mac at?

Well one thing about it — even if the JSF shows itself as not a good long range attack aircraft, the F-35C vertical take off variant, can simply leave and go to the smaller decks, that don’t even have to be a carrier at all, until the threat is over, and could still provide task force air cover, in a pinch. If it isn’t a good dog fighter, we will have to pray the on board missiles will make up for that.

I can’t understand the heat blast problems for decks on the Lightning II when we have space age ceramics that are totally heat resistant. If it can take re-entry at 11,000 mph, I’d think it would make good deck plating! Doh!

The carrier is a magnificent machine and a great deterrent. As long as carriers can protect themselves from the enemy, they will remain a force for many years to come.

You are high, 2000 combat radius?? You are completely stoned.

The future is obvious, the next aircraft carriers wont sail on the oceans. And I would hope that we started building them yesterday.
Until then take some container ships in hand and see what you can do with them.

Geez, military planners at it again. The WWI remark isn’t really valid here; the fighter planes of that era were not regarded as main battle weapons, and much were considered a cute toy, if that. They certainly didn’t have the bombing and shooting capabilities they would come to in the next 20 years. And no-one had any idea they could be flown off the deck of a ship! That didn’t come for another 20+ years either. So it’s understandable they thought that armored battleships were the thing. And they spent SO much money on them!

Another example of the planners getting everything backasswards was the design of the F4 Phantom .… dogfighting and guns were a thing of the past, missiles will do it! The Vietnamese Migs nearly handed our heads on a plate, the kill ratio of F4 to Mig was about 2.5 to 1. That means they almost won the air war! I think the kill ratio of the P40 to any of the German fighters was like 15 to 1, it couldn’t be beat. I note that all of the US fighters since have had guns along with the missiles. The air craft carriers cannot be allowed to go the way of the F4, we will not be able to build ourselves out of that yawning hole; the next war will be over before that!

I worry not about China and its platforms… US has a platform not even yet made public… It is why, we, behind closed doors, laugh at their hand-me-down carrier… It won’t be fingers that will touch it… It only takes seconds… By-By– Carrier…

The smaller carriers still have to be protected, but part of the idea of a growing number of defense analysts, is that by building more smaller carriers, we could also increase the number of ARG’s.

Granted, if you’re going to reduce the number of large-deck carriers, and increase the number of small deck carriers (and ARG’s or ESG), then you still need escorts. A full ESG includes an LHD, LPD, LSD, a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, and an SSN (along with an Orion, for ASW).

Do we anticipate a lot of situations where a few LHA’s can do the job without requiring a carrier nearby? I guess this would require experimentation with the LHA-6’s to see how much doesn’t need a full CVN.

missiles are getting better range and accuracy each day, remember the Falkland war. ANY installation can be taken out, even downtown DC ! all ships and aircraft are expendable when it comes to the protection of our core nation. carriers are the answer to closing bases overseas, they also put the money back into the pockets of those that paid for the equipment when at a USA facility. the British were the first ones to put a carrier to use and things have not changed much, in the quantity, they will have only one carrier with USA produced a/c. carriers are an advanced, complete, trained, armed and ready 24/7 big time threat to any conflict. they are also vulnerable, the same as land bases, to destruction as any target can be. a carrier is still the “BAD BOY” to the world and can control any section of the world with it’s group, even completely destroy an enemy stronghold. the answer to the problem is to close all bases not on USA soil and build more of the carrier groups. more is terrifying to the enemy and will keep the enemies at bay for enough time to get job done with what always will be the answer to aggression “infantry” infantry is the grand finale and needs to be kept up to strength and readiness for any situation in addition to the carriers battle group. the carrier is not going away BUT the battle group will change to lots of missal ships or even protection domes.

They’re very costly for the sake of mobile capability. An airbase, or showing up at an airbase hosted by someone else is always cheaper; but will be a target on Day Zero.

Given the future threat and that is China — the US still still needs large deck carrier. It just need lots more of much longer leg capability bombers…

Carriers means invading/blockading. Hypersonic missiles (HM) being tested now can keep a CBG about 1000 mi from shore, farther away in the future, so long as there are no direct energy weapons on board (e.g., FEL). The Navy has tested (is still testing?) a FEL: it is is big and unwieldy. If its packaging can be made smaller, it may probably neutralize HM during their terminal phase, or in ‘other’ ways.
There is more than one way to skin the cat. As a commenter was saying, it is move and countermove.
Still a little difficult to predict the future accurately… it is not predetermined.

Don’t forget the Song class sub that surfaced 5 miles from the Kitty Hawk.

It’s very possible that they could. Smaller crews equal less space needed for their supplies and less space for crew activities. UCAVs will equal less fuel and storage space needed. SDBs and other UCAV friendly munitions mean less space is needed for ordinance. If you go with an electromagnetic catapult or none at all you also save a lot of space. Modern ship systems will also save a lot of space when replacing older bulkier technologies.

You’re talking out of your anus. They don’t have the propulsion technology. They won’t be building thousands of them either. You’re making a lot of assumptions about a plane from a nation that has no recent history of an effective, never mind bleeding edge, military industrial complex.

That was the only single boat of that line that made it to the original specifications. They will need a lot of luck to get our whole fleet with one sub. Besides the fact that our sensing technology has been constantly improving, and that a diesel electric like the Song class still has to come up for air. If we are looking for snorkelers, they will be killed, I can be assured of that.

Where does congress and Chuck Hagel think the people come from that serve in any form of the military? If they keep cutting the pay and benefits of the lower echelons of the service who are they going to get to serve.. Everybody knows Congressmen’ and Politicians children rarely have to serve. My comment to congress and secretary Hagel is cut your own pay and benefits for life before you start cutting the military pay and benefits. If you were students of history which repeats itself remember what happened to the Roman Empire when it started
Voting itself material possessions it didn’t deserve. Clean your own house first before you go after the common soldier?

we are playing to lose. We cancelled the F-22 because we were told that China is 20 years away from building a stealth fighter. China, Russia and India and even Syria have supersonic anti-ship missiles. Our harpoons can be shot down with a baby gun. We build Littoral Combat Ships for 800 mill/piece and they even don’t have antiship missiles and can be taken out by an Iranian missile boat. We rely on the 40 yo Minuteman missile which is falling apart for nuclear deterrence while China is building new ICBMs with 10 MIRVs. The next man on the moon will be Chinese, not American. But then we have Obamacare, LOL.

Lets play the game.

–China is not going to have 1000s of J20s, and the ones they do have will not go mach 3 with a 2000 mile combat radius.

–Those supersonic anti ship cruise missiles have a pretty short range.

–The USN is well on its way to adapting the JASSM-ER to an anti ship role.

–The LCS are pieces of crap, but the whole Iranian threat is such an overblown load of hysterics it’s ridiculous.

–Let em build a bunch of nukes, pretty much a waste of money.

–The next man on the moon may be Chinese. The first 12 were Americans, hope 13 isn’t an unlucky number for them.

We will be ok, relax.

Dude, u need to fact check before running off at the mouth. The fire on the USS Forrestal killed 134 men. I know cause I was there. Thats a lot less than what was killed in the Viet-Nam war.

Same old recurring attack on US carrier fleet the other services, icluding the USMC and the Navy’s own shoes and bubbleheads, that surface about every 18 months since I was an aviator ensign in 1977.…
At one time it was Bear/badger bombers with AS-4 Kitchen missiles, then C-class SSNs with SSN-9 missiles and now its “Hypersonic” missiles… Hype alright.

Since the most significant Naval battle of the 20th century, Midway, the US Navy has always centered it’s startegy on the big deck carrier. Without it we are nothing but a rag-tag, second tier Navy, ala “The Sand Pebbles”.… Ask yourselves why the PRC, Russia and now India covet their own carriers and race to complete one? It must be obvious to them…

IMO, the anti-carrier mantra folks for some reason want us to be a Sand Pebbles Navy instead of Mr. Adams “Wall of Wood” that has kept this continent free from invasion for two centuries.


Well, there are certainly parts of the world that are less dangerous than others. And a smaller deck carrier (such as an LHA) could certainly do the job of showing the flag, while still indicating a lot of interest on the part of the USA.

And given the strike capabilities of GPS guided munitions the aircraft can carry, plus the load of missiles on the accompanying CG, DDG’s, FFG’s, and/or SSN’s: and you’ve got a LOT of offensive/destructive capability.

Well, it is not 1969 anymore. We also won WWII, yet our ICBMs and our nuclear deterrence are still falling apart which is why a future adversary may not be afraid of a first strike. Our B-52 bombers qualify for AARP membership and soon for Medicare. The JASSM-ER is slow, about 550 MPH and can be defeated. A Mach4 Chinese cruise missile with thousands built already on the other hand is difficult to destroy. China: playing to win.
US: playing to be pushed off the world stage.
Did you know that if we ever had to defend Taiwan we had to borrow the money from China to to it? Dream on.

I’d like to know how the JASSM is sure to be defeated when not even one has been fired in combat yet. Incidentally we will have thousands of them and TLAMs as well.

Are you really serious about first strike? Why in the F would anyone but a complete stark raving F-ing lunatic order a strategic first strike?

I would never sign off on defending Taiwan. I’d arm the Taiwanese for real and let the Chinese slit their own damn throat pulling that stunt.

In the NAVY! Sorry! I always ASSUME people know what I’m talking about but it always make an ASS out of U & ME!

The high cost you are seeing for the initial Ford class carrier is disproportionate to the cost once the R&D costs are amortized across 10 carriers. This phenomenon has always overlooked by the current crop of congressional budget committees. It seems that a lot of the young staffers who typically get in an uproar over costs have not lived through a genuinely large program buy. Whether it is/was an F-4 program — which was not curtailed early in the Phantom program and huge numbers of them were made and when the Marines, Navy and Air Force got done buying, huge numbers of them were sold to interested nations. The cost per copy came waaaay down. Heck, there are still lefy overs that are now being shot up in the QF-4 program. I believe there are still countries out there flying them in operational sorties.

The same is true with the Nimitz Class carriers. The R&D costs were amortized over the whole class and the cost per copy was relatively normalized in then-year dollars.

Part of the reason why the JSF program is looking like spending out of control is that again it was planned to be a huge buy with the R&D costs being amortized — except the congressional sub-committee young-ens are cutting the buy thereby having fewer numbers to amortize the R&D with.

Smaller carriers could indeed be valuable assets in combat — just as coveys of UAS’s will be valuable assets. Imagine a covey of UAS’s being controlled by an E-2D or a JSF; what a weapons system of systems that would be.

However, carriers will bring a tremendous power to bear on our adversaries that cannot be underestimated.

Oh and when the rail guns, lasers and other directed energy weapons mature, the hypersonic “carrier killers” missiles will become less and less of a threat. The hypersonic torpedoes are the ones we need to be worrying about.

The R&D argument is valid and invalid at the same time. The F-35s have flyaway cost approximately $150M for the A variant, and over $200M for the B/C variant. JSF is hugely over-priced without considering the R&D. So the argument of not counting R&D cost will make everything cheap is simply invalid. E.x. Zumwalt Class DDG cost over $3B to build, without taking R&D into consideration.

Obviously we cannot factor in R&D every time, I agree with you on that. R&D is one of the only way to make technological advances, so we can’t simply say R&D is costing too much. Besides, technologies developed as a result of the JSF program can be used/shared towards other projects. E.x. The troubled helmet-mounted display, which can be easily applied to other aircraft designs.

I am in favor of LHD size aircraft carriers, not amphibious assault ships. One of the main issues of V/STOL aircraft is the limited range and payload, also cost. Personally I “hate” the F-35 death trap, as it is simply over-expensive. Unfortunately with the retirement of Harriers, there is no alternative besides the F-35s. The military publicly confirmed that each F-35 will have a life-cycle cost approximately $600M, which is significantly more than the $160M of F-18 E/F (varies depending on source).

I would prefer 40,000 tons carrier with CATOBAR configuration, while making extra provision for amphibious operation. Basically instead of modifying LHD/LHA to accommodate fighters, have carriers modified for amphibious operation.

I don’t think size is the main problem, but rather choice of propulsion. According to 1990 GAO report, life cycle cost of nuclear powered carrier cost twice as much compared to conventional powered. The procurement cost and the midlife refuel cost is so high that it is somewhat unacceptable. On the other hand, CVN does not provide game-changing power, unlike submarines, so realistically the need does not exist.

I also like the idea of a CVV, which was a medium sized CATOBAR design that was proposed in the mid to late 1970s. Even back then people like Admiral Zumwalt recognised the need for a hi-lo carrier mix due to the high costs of CVNs. Now if the EMALs and AAG can work as advertised, then CVVs can be made to be gas-turbine-powered. And the compactness of the EMALs compared to the C-13 steam catapults would free up even more space on the small ships.

I agree with the strike radius needing to be increased. IIRC the U.S. Navy tried that with the A-12. Apparently is was supposed to have a combat radius close to 1000NM. Perhaps with the advent of the EMALs and AAG (if they can work reliably) the USN can revisit the idea of a true long-range replacement for the A-6 intruder.

There is a precedent for VSTOL planes operating with CATOBAR aircraft: The last cruise of USS F. D. Roosevelt and Carrier Air Wing Nineteen. IIRC VF-51 and VF-111 deployed with F-4Ns, having had to dump the Js they were just issued with (6 aircraft each) because the Rosie for some reason could not operate the J model Phantom. VA-153, VA-155 and VA-215 deployed with A-7Bs, while VMA-231 deployed with AV-8As. Though the deployment showed integration of VSTOL planes with CVWs was possible, it was never repeated.

Maybe not one.…but the jungle has many trees. Besides the USN has already proven it can hide carriers in the face of intensive surveillance (ie Fleet Ex 83)

You need to find the carrier first before you can sink her. And it’s a big ocean. You will need the extensive surveillance capabilities of the Soviet Navy back in its hey day (SOSS/RORSAT, AGIs, subs and the AV-MF) and even then they had trouble. And who is to say the US won’t shoot down enemy satellites in event of war?

The thing with warmongers is they’re the first to call everyone to arms but the absolute last to put on a uniform. It is useless to argue with myopic coward-lunatics like this superraptor dude.

Offensive technology is always easier to develop compared to defensive technology. It’s much easier and cheaper to design a weapon to destroy a carrier than it is to design countermeasures to those weapons. It’s easier to design new weapons to destroy tanks than it is to design a tank that is protected from those weapons.

If someone fires 100s of cruise missiles at a CVBG AEGIS won’t stop them all… and 100s of cruise missiles simply don’t cost that much.

In a potential cold war gone hot it was doctrine that carriers would not survive in the North Sea unless they operated in 3–4 CVN groups. The Backfire threat was not overblown and it was no secret that CVBGs were quite vulnerable to it in areas like the north sea


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