14 March 2017

News Story: Aircraft Carrier - The Nation’s Trump Card Reborn


The usefulness of the aircraft carrier, long the centerpiece of American naval power in the world, was in serious question, even by me, one year ago. Chronic underfunding, poor strategic assumptions and bad acquisition decisions had left the carrier defensively unprotected and offensively underpowered as its airwing both shrank in size and striking range.

President Trump’s election and his public commitment to a 350-ship Navy as well as his explicit call for a twelfth carrier, effectively truncates these concerns, bringing the promise of additional capabilities that will ensure the safety and effectiveness of the carrier.

Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2AD) weapons highlight the need to increase the range of the carrier’s aircraft to keep the flattops relevant. In an era marked by flat defense budgets and a dwindling carrier fleet, down from 15 in 1991 to 10 today, the carrier simply didn’t have enough defense around it, with escort ships falling from eight (two cruisers, two destroyers, two frigates and two fast attack submarines) to six and even two (a cruiser and destroyer) in some cases. Also, the carrier’s offensive power, in the form of its embarked airwing, has shrunk from a Cold War compliment of 85 aircraft with an average combat range of 908 miles to a modern compliment of 62 aircraft with a range of 496 miles. These characteristics threaten to deny the carrier an effective role in a high-end fight against a rising power like China or established regional powers like Russia or Iran. Had these conditions of fiscal restraint and quantitative decline persisted, then it would have eventually been necessary to move on to another approach to maritime power more in keeping with nation’s trend towards a passive strategic vision as promoted by the Obama administration. However, the election of Donald Trump signaled a domestic rejection of these “lead from behind” policies and conveyed the need to reassess the viability of the carrier.

Read the full story at BreakingDefense