Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Do We Still Need Aircraft Carriers?

 

08_uss_nimitz_cvn_68Have you seen Mr. Jerry Hendrix’s writing against aircraft carriers in National Review? I’m a sucker for speeches against the sophisticated, so I took the time to read the 2,700-word piece. Then I found this reply by Mr. Seth Cropsey, whose work I read as often as I can, and Mr. Hendrix’s rejoinder.

These capable, honored men are quarrelling about the status of the aircraft carrier in American strategy. World War II, the Cold War, and the coming Chinese war are the past and imagined political conflicts in which the aircraft carrier features prominently.

The argument against the dominance of the aircraft carrier among American arms is this: The technology is becoming outdated; the use of the weapon is thus reduced; and it is politically compromised–Americans could not deal with the news that one or two were sunk with some ten thousand men returning in ten thousand coffins decorated with flags. War around China makes carriers next to useless, in short. Taiwan is lost.

The argument in favor is that the air-wing needs radical changes, but that’s how it’s always been. Carriers get better, and aircraft changes to fit the requirements of the next war. The carrier is the center of a sophisticated form of warfare: Cyber-warfare, and attacks on satellites and command and control centers, prepare the fog of war in which carrier groups move forward to strike at carefully chosen targets before they move on so as to remain more or less invulnerable.

A carrier in its war making is rather like God–mysterious.

What do you gents and ladies think about the carrier’s future and the possibility of war in China?

Do you think the carrier has a future aside from the Chicom threat? Does it make sense to have a carrier fleet without thinking about the coming war? Does it make sense to bet on the carrier fleet if you do think war is coming?

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  1. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Of course it does, nothing says we care more than a US aircraft carrier task force sitting outside your harbor.

    Basically a carrier and its task force is a forward base of operations. Not much different than any military camp or base. If you can convince people that we do not need bases except on US soil then you can claim there is no need for an aircraft carrier and its task force.

    • #1
    • May 12, 2015, at 8:49 AM PDT
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  2. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Fake John Galt:Of course it does, nothing says we care more than a US aircraft carrier task force sitting outside your harbor.

    Basically a carrier and its task force is a forward base of operations. Not much different than any military camp or base. If you can convince people that we do not need bases except on US soil then you can claim there is no need for an aircraft carrier and its task force.

    People who like American carriers–I would say, East Asian politicians God has not seen fit to make Chinese–like them because they fear China. If you have enemies who want to swallow you whole & try to digest you for a few centuries, the carrier fleet is your best friend; your only friend, really. But if you do not see things that way–it’s annoying & a waste of money.

    Then, too, the carrier fleet is less & less impressive around China. Do you think Taiwan is really defensible anymore? Mr. Clinton pulled a stunt sending two carriers into Formosa. Would that work anymore?

    • #2
    • May 12, 2015, at 8:54 AM PDT
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  3. donald todd Inactive

    The best question is whether we can protect the carrier. There was an article about a flight of Air Force F22s, stealth attack aircraft, which went after the F/A18s flown by the Navy off of carrier decks. The F22s were unseen until they decided to prey on the F/A18s.

    If the Chinese have stealth attack aircraft, they will be able to identify the F/A18s and remove them from Combat Air Patrol status to destroyed status. The carriers will be sitting ducks, unless we’ve figured out how to stealth carriers, and I don’t believe that we have.

    Not everyone we face is able to sneak up on the F/A18s, which are very good fourth-generation jet fighters, but the countries which can produce stealth fighters are those most likely to engage a carrier strike force.

    Perhaps if a carrier-based version of the F22 is available and can be deployed for carrier-based Combat Air Patrols, it would even things out nicely.

    • #3
    • May 12, 2015, at 8:57 AM PDT
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  4. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Titus Techera:

    Fake John Galt:Of course it does, nothing says we care more than a US aircraft carrier task force sitting outside your harbor.

    Basically a carrier and its task force is a forward base of operations. Not much different than any military camp or base. If you can convince people that we do not need bases except on US soil then you can claim there is no need for an aircraft carrier and its task force.

    People who like American carriers–I would say, East Asian politicians God has not seen fit to make Chinese–like them because they fear China. If you have enemies who want to swallow you whole & try to digest you for a few centuries, the carrier fleet is your best friend; your only friend, really. But if you do not see things that way–it’s annoying & a waste of money.

    Then, too, the carrier fleet is less & less impressive around China. Do you think Taiwan is really defensible anymore? Mr. Clinton pulled a stunt sending two carriers into Formosa. Would that work anymore?

    I have never thought that Taiwan was defensible. We will never defend Taiwan, only go to war over it. If you go to war, you are going to need carriers.

    • #4
    • May 12, 2015, at 9:02 AM PDT
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  5. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    donald todd:The best question is whether we can protect the carrier. There was an article about a flight of Air Force F22s, stealth attack aircraft, which went after the F/A18s flown by the Navy off of carrier decks. The F22s were unseen until they decided to prey on the F/A18s.

    Yeah. I think carriers cannot really wage war on the enemy’s shores. They might defend Japan if they can dodge enough missiles launched from China. Around Japan, American subs & task forces can defend them. But how can they go near China?

    How possibly could they defend Taiwan or South Korea?

    As for the new jets–I cannot find any believable praise of the F35; was not the F22 cancelled by people who apparently did not know what they were doing, may the good Lord forgive them?

    • #5
    • May 12, 2015, at 9:05 AM PDT
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  6. Sabrdance Member

    I may have additional comments alter, but just as a start, I remember -vaguely -the Falklands War, where everyone talked about the dangers of the Exocet missile, and how that was going to doom the Royal Navy in the war.

    They hit 3 ships. HMS Sheffield, HMS Glamorgan, and Atlantic Conveyor.

    And I also remember that our vaunted cruise missile stocks get shot through very quickly when we actually start operations. This is, I presume, true of our enemies, too.

    Which is to say, in wars, ships sink. I will trade 2 destroyers and a container transport in order to position a carrier to launch attacks, and those attacks will continue long after the Chinese and the US Navy are out of cruise missiles.

    • #6
    • May 12, 2015, at 9:24 AM PDT
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  7. No Caesar Thatcher
    No Caesar Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Carriers will always be needed. They will be modified as developments demand, and supplemented by other platforms for power projection. But they will never go away. When it comes to war-making I cannot think of a single weapon that goes away. It may become less important, but its still in the arsenal. The lowly bayonet is an excellent example, the modern evolution of both the close quarters edged weapon and the pike.

    • #7
    • May 12, 2015, at 9:30 AM PDT
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  8. Probable Cause Inactive

    donald todd:The best question is whether we can protect the carrier.

    I have the same question. As I understand it, China is following an area denial strategy w.r.t. the sea space between the mainland and the first ring islands. They are taking advantage of the fact that it’s cheap for them to station tactical missiles on some rock outcropping, vs. us spending billions to send & protect carriers.

    Wouldn’t it be cheaper and easier to base our aircraft in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines? Those “carriers” are rather hard to sink.

    • #8
    • May 12, 2015, at 9:38 AM PDT
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  9. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Sabrdance:And I also remember that our vaunted cruise missile stocks get shot through very quickly when we actually start operations. This is, I presume, true of our enemies, too.

    Indeed. But China has deep pockets few others have & a regime incredibly focused on the military. Certainly, all the missiles are far less expensive than a carrier.

    Then, too, technological advance is a question–at different moments, a new offense or defense dominates war-making. Are missiles better than missile defenses now? There is a rare possibility of devising a carrier-killer tactic. There is danger in every mile closer to enemy shores.

    Carriers have never fought an enemy power except at sea. Their aircraft cannot compete with land-based aircraft in range or deployment. They have never fought a land power developing a blue water navy–then again, China has never had a blue water navy until now.

    • #9
    • May 12, 2015, at 9:39 AM PDT
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  10. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Probable Cause:

    donald todd:The best question is whether we can protect the carrier.

    I have the same question. As I understand it, China is following an area denial strategy w.r.t. the sea space between the mainland and the first ring islands. They are taking advantage of the fact that it’s cheap for them to station tactical missiles on some rock outcropping, vs. us spending billions to send & protect carriers.

    Wouldn’t it be cheaper and easier to base our aircraft in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines? Those “carriers” are rather hard to sink.

    The problem is strategic. You are proposing preparing for the Chinese war. That would be difficult to sell to the American people; difficult, too, to sell to the various Asian nations. You’d have to get them to put a lot of money in armaments, to add a military class in some cases, & to cooperate. Who’s more hated than the Japanese? Maybe China is feared more than Japan is hated, however…

    • #10
    • May 12, 2015, at 9:48 AM PDT
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  11. Eric Hines Inactive

    Fake John Galt:Of course it does, nothing says we care more than a US aircraft carrier task force sitting outside your harbor.

    Basically a carrier and its task force is a forward base of operations. Not much different than any military camp or base. If you can convince people that we do not need bases except on US soil then you can claim there is no need for an aircraft carrier and its task force.

    It’s important to identify the target sets against which a carrier, and its accompanying fleet, are intended to operate–political, as well as military.

    Carriers are targets, just like battleships, especially so in the other guy’s harbor where they can’t even maneuver. Nor are they any more survivable than those battleships. That’s why so much of a carrier’s air arm, and so much of that accompanying fleet, are devoted to “fleet” (read: “carrier”) defense and not to offensive operations.

    The rest of the carrier’s air arm–and the defense part, when the carrier’s CO thinks it’s in a position to go all in on offense–can only project power, or deliver actual ordnance (a necessity for power to be projected any other time), a couple of hundred miles inshore, or give cruise missiles a couple of hundred miles extra range. That boost to a cruise missile’s range, by the way, is a light sneeze compared to what cruise missile carriers like B-52s and B-2s can deliver.

    Carrier fleets are highly useful against point targets–islands, enemy fleets, merchant shipping–but they’re useless against land masses like the PRC. Of course, recovering those islands may well become necessary with the way this administration is responding to the PRC’s occupation of the East and South China Seas. And since PLA doctrine sees the “first island chain” (the islands rimming those two seas, which include the Philippines, Japan, and Malaysia) in much the same way 1930s Japan viewed its first island chain plus SEAas a barrier to be occupied in order to protect shipping, now for the PRC–such island recovery operations may well be necessary, just as they were in WWII.

    In a fight with the PRC, though, once the seas have been swept clear–a task in which carrier fleets would be useful but not critical–and the islands recovered, those carriers and their escorts would have limited missions, indeed.

    Eric Hines

    • #11
    • May 12, 2015, at 10:04 AM PDT
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  12. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    An interesting link–thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    My (superficial) first thoughts are that Hendrix is setting up a few false dichotomies, conflating a few categories, and suggesting an inevitability to his argument that isn’t really there.

    1) “Defense hawks argue for a massive investment to maintain the United States’ position as the world’s strongest power. Fiscal hawks argue for innovative improvements in efficiency.” I doubt even the sharpest-taloned hawk would argue against innovative improvements in efficiency. 

    2) From “efficiency’s the way to go” to “no aircraft carriers?” Seems a few steps are missing in that argument.

    3) “It would take an existential threat to the homeland to convince leaders to introduce carriers into a high-threat environment.” That may be true, but why is that an argument against carriers? (It would take an existential threat to my person to convince me to shoot someone, but that hardly means it’s a bad idea for me to have the ability to do it.)

    4) “For this reason, the modern carrier violates a core principle of war: Never introduce an element that you cannot afford to lose. There can be no indispensable person or platform in war, for as soon as that element is identified, the enemy will risk everything to destroy it, and in that moment a war can be lost.” So what are we going to do about, say, San Francisco and New York? We have many elements we can’t afford to lose. What he’s arguing in effect is that our strategy for defending things that don’t seem all that important to Americans can’t be predicated on carriers–this is a political and strategic argument, not an argument about the necessity of carriers to naval warfare.

    (Whoops! I was about to go on and on at length, then it occurred to me to click on the second link. I should have saved time and read it first. What they said.)

    • #12
    • May 12, 2015, at 10:06 AM PDT
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  13. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Titus Techera:

    Yeah. I think carriers cannot really wage war on the enemy’s shores. They might defend Japan if they can dodge enough missiles launched from China. Around Japan, American subs & task forces can defend them. But how can they go near China?

    How possibly could they defend Taiwan or South Korea?

    Carriers are not defensive weapons, they are offensive weapons.

    Or perhaps more accurately, they are instruments of power projection.

    • #13
    • May 12, 2015, at 10:09 AM PDT
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  14. Probable Cause Inactive

    Titus Techera:The problem is strategic. You are proposing preparing for the Chinese war. That would be difficult to sell to the American people; difficult, too, to sell to the various Asian nations. You’d have to get them to put a lot of money in armaments, to add a military class in some cases, & to cooperate. Who’s more hated than the Japanese? Maybe China is feared more than Japan is hated, however…

    Technically, I am proposing peace through strength.

    Some years ago, the Obama administration said we were “pivoting to Asia.” What does that mean, if not preparing to oppose Chinese aggression? If you ask the American people who our enemies are, wouldn’t China be near the top of the list? Sell? Aren’t they already sold?

    Furthermore, I am not asking the American people to spend more. I am suggesting that we can get more bang for the buck with the money we have, if we build air bases in the right locations.

    • #14
    • May 12, 2015, at 10:18 AM PDT
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  15. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Probable Cause:

    Titus Techera:The problem is strategic. You are proposing preparing for the Chinese war. That would be difficult to sell to the American people; difficult, too, to sell to the various Asian nations. You’d have to get them to put a lot of money in armaments, to add a military class in some cases, & to cooperate. Who’s more hated than the Japanese? Maybe China is feared more than Japan is hated, however…

    Technically, I am proposing peace through strength.

    Some years ago, the Obama administration said we were “pivoting to Asia.” What does that mean, if not preparing to oppose Chinese aggression? If you ask the American people who our enemies are, wouldn’t China be near the top of the list? Sell? Aren’t they already sold?

    Obviously, the pivot was not a fortunate phrase or doctrine. I’m not sure it’s more or less unfortunate that it was not executed than that it was declared…

    As for the selling–I’m really not sure whether the American people would support such a program.

    Furthermore, I am not asking the American people to spend more. I am suggesting that we can get more bang for the buck with the money we have, if we build air bases in the right locations.

    This is a good point. This does not require more money–it requires allies to spend more money on their own defense inasmuch as they feel threatened by China.

    • #15
    • May 12, 2015, at 10:22 AM PDT
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  16. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Claire Berlinski:An interesting link–thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    Glad to attract your eye, Miss Claire. As for your denouement–whoops is no doubt the sign of an independent mind.

    I agree that Mr. Hendrix does not make a serious enough argument. Perhaps because he is wrong. I am glad someone tried, though, because it can deflect attention from my sympathy with his position. I also fear that carriers would be politically hard to use in a real war. I want people to talk in full knowledge that modern carrier doctrine has not been tested. Do people know a carrier’s aircraft are very much at a disadvantage against land-based aircraft?

    I am impressed with the man’s restatement of Clausewitz: You identify the enemy’s center of gravity & concentrate force there. This reminds all of us that defending carriers is really difficult now & that it has to be talked about as seriously as possible for those of us who are not experts. I am too new to Ricochet to know how many times the coming war with China has been debated–& wisely dismissed–but it seems like it’s worth examining whether & how carriers would be useful in the seas around China.

    I fear to say, finally, SanFran is not unlosable. Happily, America is great. She would survive the loss. One does not decide where the enemy will strike except by strengthening or failing to strengthen defenses.

    • #16
    • May 12, 2015, at 10:32 AM PDT
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  17. Probable Cause Inactive

    Given that the Chinese have nukes, I see the maneuvering between them and us as more akin to a grand, cold-war game of chess rather than an outright hot war. So I don’t see us losing SF to them*, or us invading the Chinese mainland.

    Side note: in my view, China’s biggest weakness is all the oil they currently import through the sea lanes of the Indian Ocean.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_of_Pearls_(Indian_Ocean)

    * The North Korean threat is another story.

    • #17
    • May 12, 2015, at 11:45 AM PDT
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  18. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Probable Cause:Given that the Chinese have nukes, I see the maneuvering between them and us as more akin to a grand, cold-war game of chess rather than an outright hot war. So I don’t see us losing SF to them*, or us invading the Chinese mainland.

    That means–if war breaks out–Taiwan is already lost. Maybe. How about South Korea? Seems like it… You could defend Japan…

    Side note: in my view, China’s biggest weakness is all the oil they currently import through the sea lanes of the Indian Ocean.

    This is indeed a big deal. But of course America should go further: Immediately impose a secondary embargo.

    • #18
    • May 12, 2015, at 12:23 PM PDT
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  19. donald todd Inactive

    Probable Cause: #8 “Wouldn’t it be cheaper and easier to base our aircraft in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines? Those “carriers” are rather hard to sink.”

    We have Air Force bases in Korea and Japan. We used to have both Air Force and Naval bases (Subic Bay) in the Philippines, but I believe that both are closed.

    I have to believe that Formosa, 110 miles from the Chinese mainland, might be a difficult place to plant an American flag, other than the embassy. It was Nixon who marginalized Taiwan in favor of Beijing. None of Nixon’s successors have gone back to re-establish that relationship as it once was.

    • #19
    • May 12, 2015, at 12:38 PM PDT
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  20. donald todd Inactive

    Titus Techera: #10 “Who’s more hated than the Japanese?”

    I am sure that there is residual hatred of the Japanese by the Chinese and the Koreans but it has been 70 years since the Japanese managed to make themselves the enemies of everyone. If someone is using that excuse, they are ginning up a position.

    I don’t believe that many Americans harbor the resentment that once existed here.

    My impression is that the Japanese self-defense forces work well with their American counterparts. I would also believe that North Korea is a significant threat to South Korea in a way that Japan is not. I’d not believe that South Korea is working on a defense against a Japanese invasion.

    • #20
    • May 12, 2015, at 12:48 PM PDT
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  21. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    donald todd:Titus Techera: #10 “Who’s more hated than the Japanese?”

    I am sure that there is residual hatred of the Japanese by the Chinese and the Koreans but it has been 70 years since the Japanese managed to make themselves the enemies of everyone. If someone is using that excuse, they are ginning up a position.

    People & peoples who are not Americans have longer memories.

    I don’t believe that many Americans harbor the resentment that once existed here.

    Agreed.

    My impression is that the Japanese self-defense forces work well with their American counterparts. I would also believe that North Korea is a significant threat to South Korea in a way that Japan is not. I’d not believe that South Korea is working on a defense against a Japanese invasion.

    South Korea is not working on anti-Japanese defense–but it is not working at a pro-Japanese anything. The recent visits by PM Abe to the shinto shrine where Japanese war dead are interred–not all of them stand-up fellows–have drawn quite a rebuke in Korea & elsewhere.

    Japanese arms are a mere nothing. A change of the constitution is required for a real military service. In the meanwhile, the PM is reinterpreting the constitution America gave his forebears…

    • #21
    • May 12, 2015, at 1:15 PM PDT
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  22. Robert McReynolds Inactive

    Carriers are a mainstay of the US Navy and they should be. What needs to be reassessed is how we construct carrier strike groups. The purpose of Cruisers and Destroyers is to protect the carrier from other surface ships and to some extent planes. However, there is a much better and more cost effective way to accomplish this. We should downsize the “small boy” surface fleet and start using subs in the escort/protection role for carriers. Subs have all the advantages that surface ships don’t have, mainly stealth. The only gap I see in this strategy would be replacing the supreme advantage that the Aegis system gives us, but then that is what technological innovation is all about right? Doing this would allow us to sell to regional partners such as the Gulf Arab states the hulls of our smaller surface vessels, starting with Frigates. I would recommend that we keep the LHDs and LHAs as well because they can serve a very strategic purpose like transporting large numbers of Marines. The nature of sea warfare has changed from what it was in WWII and so should the complexion of our fleet. Subs can serve a much larger role than what they do now.

    • #22
    • May 12, 2015, at 1:32 PM PDT
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  23. Mendel Member
    Mendel Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    What I wonder in these types of discussions is how anyone of us can make a well-informed opinion.

    The key pieces to this question are unknowable, untested hypotheticals: how would a war with China actually play out? Are the Chinese capabilities really as good as we think they might be? Or even better? Or much worse when push comes to shove? And are our (untested in major battle) carrier defenses as good as we predict them to be?

    Nobody can answer those questions with certainty. And the few people who have the most reliable information on these questions should not and will not open their mouths about it in public.

    The fallacy of this issue – like global warming – is that there is so much data available in the public sphere that we all feel like we can become experts based on the depth of discussions we can carry forth. But like global warming, the actual decisive factors are beyond anyone’s ken, and especially that of laymen like us.

    In other words, it may be a worthwhile and entertaining intellectual exercise, but none of us has a better chance of being right than a coin toss.

    • #23
    • May 12, 2015, at 1:51 PM PDT
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  24. Mendel Member
    Mendel Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Postscript: my <$0.02:

    Keep the carriers for power projection against two-bit despots, but don’t count on them being useful against an industrialized adversity. Opinion worth what you paid for it.

    • #24
    • May 12, 2015, at 1:52 PM PDT
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  25. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Robert McReynolds:Carriers are a mainstay of the US Navy and they should be. What needs to be reassessed is how we construct carrier strike groups. The purpose of Cruisers and Destroyers is to protect the carrier from other surface ships and to some extent planes.

    Subs have all the advantages that surface ships don’t have, mainly stealth. The only gap I see in this strategy would be replacing the supreme advantage that the Aegis system gives us, but then that is what technological innovation is all about right?

    I would say, the great threat in China–or do you see any other likely use for carriers in this generation?–is a barrage of missiles. Aegis will not be enough. As for the business with technology: Rail guns seem to you like an achievement likely to make the difference?

    The nature of sea warfare has changed from what it was in WWII and so should the complexion of our fleet. Subs can serve a much larger role than what they do now.

    Indeed, America has not fought real war on the seas in three generations almost. But what you need carriers to be able to do depends on the enemy you want to exterminate. If it is China, the problem is how to get near the shore, how to deal with anti-access / area-denial tactics & technologies.

    • #25
    • May 12, 2015, at 1:56 PM PDT
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  26. Salvatore Padula Inactive

    I actually think the biggest difficulty in assessing this question is that, as there have been no major naval engagements since the second world war, no one (professional naval officers included) has more than a theoretical idea of what it will be like. Prior to WWI there was a similar technological advancement with the development of the dreadnought battleship. Prior to the war navies throughout the world practiced gunnery only out to about 6,000 yards. Most of the major naval engagements took place at double that range.

    • #26
    • May 12, 2015, at 2:26 PM PDT
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  27. Douglas Inactive

    People have been saying aircraft carriers are just big targets as far back as the 30’s, when Billy Mitchell claimed that they (and all surface ships) were obsolete thanks to land based airpower. The Japanese put that theory to the ultimate test with kamikazes. We still have carriers. Usually, you hear this stuff from the submarine guys, who like to show off still photos of Carriers in their periscope sights. But submariners fear few things more than the sudden sound of pinging from dipping sonar, as the anti-sub choppers from that carrier (and destroyers) are relaying your position to their fleet. The hunter very quickly becomes the hunted below.

    Ships are really no different than any other vehicle of war in that, if you’re going to put them in danger, you’d better be prepared to protect them as well as use them on offense. For every new silver bullet that supposedly spells the end of navies, navies always respond with countermeasures. BTW, these predictions of obsolescence also includes Marines as a component of seapower. Omar Bradley insisted that there’d never be another major amphibious operation post-WWII, and so the Marines could become a naval constabulary force again (with their funding, of course, poured into army and air force budgets). Five years later, MacArthur saved the embattled Army forces at Inchon with a Marine landing. You never heard much about the obsolescence of amphibious infantry after that.

    • #27
    • May 12, 2015, at 2:31 PM PDT
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  28. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Salvatore Padula:I actually think the biggest difficulty in assessing this question is that, as there have been no major naval engagements since the second world war, no one (professional naval officers included) has more than a theoretical idea of what it will be like. Prior to WWI there was a similar technological advancement with the development of the dreadnought battleship. Prior to the war navies throughout the world practiced gunnery only out to about 6,000 yards. Most of the major naval engagements took place at double that range.

    Yes, this is precisely why I am anxious that more talk is required on the matter. I do not think the discussion can abstract from what enemy is to be fought, however. The big change I see is that there will not be a sea battle with airwings searching for each other’s carriers. The problem is how to fight around China,.

    Douglas:People have been saying aircraft carriers are just big targets as far back as the 30′s, when Billy Mitchell claimed that they (and all surface ships) were obsolete thanks to land based airpower. The Japanese put that theory to the ultimate test with kamikazes. We still have carriers.

    The carriers are still around, but WWII is the last time they fought. It is no great achievement to have survived because no comparable battle has been fought since. & land-based weaponry is the threat–kudos to Billy Mitchell, why ever did they court martial the man!

    • #28
    • May 12, 2015, at 2:41 PM PDT
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  29. Stad Thatcher

    The short answer is “hell yes, and we need many more.”

    This applies to a lot of our other ships, and other weapons systems as well (keep the A-10, dang it!).

    Projection of power is the name of the game, and cruise missiles or drones alone won’t do it.

    • #29
    • May 12, 2015, at 3:01 PM PDT
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  30. Douglas Inactive

    Titus Techera:

    The carriers are still around, but WWII is the last time they fought. It is no great achievement to have survived because no comparable battle has been fought since. & land-based weaponry is the threat–kudos to Billy Mitchell, why ever did they court martial the man!

    They fight all the time, just against land targets. It’s just that no one else builds carriers like ours because they can’t afford it. And who has successfully attacked a carrier from land since WWII?

    As for Mitchell, he was court-martialed because he was insubordinate to a point that couldn’t be ignored, with Caesar-like tendencies and a habit of self-promotion. And he wasn’t all that original in his thinking. He mainly cribbed his ideas from Giulio Douhet.

    • #30
    • May 12, 2015, at 3:27 PM PDT
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