Well done David. This is a thoughtful article, written with care a deliberation. You've touched on the main benefits and concerns of the modern carrier...and, equally impressive, have refrained from the hubris of assuming an answer to the questions that truly can't be answered today. I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks.
Rusty Harris
Great article! The battleship era died with WW2, or, more importantly, Pearl Harbor. The carrier, is like having an entire air group, that you can place anywhere in the world. Not just the aircraft carrier, but the entire strike & support group. Carrier, subs, destroyers etc.
What happened to giving short and simple names to ships like "USS Enterprise" etc? "USS Ford" would not be more practical than "USS Gerald R Ford"? I wonder if there are also ships with 4 word names with Jr/Sr in the end.
For the most part, these are normally called targets. Only against an inferior enemy are they effective. And really only the US has multiple carriers and the ships to sail with them and the ability to protect them. The future will be far smaller trimaran 450' ones with 2-4 runways and lots of hanger space at 30% of the weight, cost. And as 3 hulls, can take a lot of damage, if needed. The big thing is a small nuke that does the cruise, house power with excess going to make synfuels for aircraft and flank speed. Fact is all our ships need a major upgrade to increase power projection at 30% of the present price. And get 2-3x as many ships as far smaller, lighter, faster. It's happening in the submarine field that need to get innovation to the surface fleet vessel, weapon designs. For instance a 24'' low pressure gun could boost a 30 mile missile into a 300 mile one for just 10% more..
I remember reading articles that stated, in no uncertain terms, that if an actual shooting war started against countries that had long range cruise missiles then the biggest, juiciest, targets would be aircraft carriers. Torpedoes and smart-mines would make short work of them too. They are big, slow, and hard to miss. That's why the Russians didn't bother with them much. They are also incredibly expensive to run. Sea dinosaurs in other words.
"Some countries only have one carrier that previously served in a foreign navy, are armed with a handful of obsolete aircraft, and rarely set to sea. " -- That's exactly the situation of Brazil's Navy with its carrier NAe Sao Paulo (A-12), former FS Foch, a Clemenceau class carrier bought from France to replace its predecessor NAeL Minas Gerais (A-11), former HMS Vengeance (Colossus class). Both ships were never fully operational, besides being always target of scepticism about their functionality to Brazil's armada. Very recently, Brazil's Navy have finally decided to retire the Sao Paulo, once the ship would still needs too much work (and financial resources...) to achieve operational status again...
Douglas Bennett Rogers
The main advantage of a nuclear ship for the Navy is that it starts in seconds. If a ballistic missile launch is detected, you have about 15 minutes. An oil fired steam ship has to sit in port half a day building up a head of steam. This is probably why the Queen Elizabeth is part diesel.
Very good read. Thanks for the effort in putting this together!
The article stops well short of exposing how vulnerable modern Aircraft Carriers really are.
..................Google this report.
Report: Chinese Develop Special "Kill Weapon" to Destroy U.S. Aircraft Carriers
Advanced missile poses substantial new threat for U.S. Navy
U. S. Naval Institute March 31, 2009
With tensions already rising due to the Chinese navy becoming more aggressive in asserting its territorial claims in the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy seems to have yet another reason to be deeply concerned.
After years of conjecture, details have begun to emerge of a "kill weapon" developed by the Chinese to target and destroy U.S. aircraft carriers.
First posted on a Chinese blog viewed as credible by military analysts and then translated by the naval affairs blog Information Dissemination, a recent report provides a description of an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) that can strike carriers and other U.S. vessels at a range of 2000km.
The range of the modified Dong Feng 21 missile is significant in that it covers the areas that are likely hot zones for future confrontations between U.S. and Chinese surface forces.
The size of the missile enables it to carry a warhead big enough to inflict significant damage on a large vessel, providing the Chinese the capability of destroying a U.S. supercarrier in one strike.
Because the missile employs a complex guidance system, low radar signature and a maneuverability that makes its flight path unpredictable, the odds that it can evade tracking systems to reach its target are increased. It is estimated that the missile can travel at mach 10 and reach its maximum range of 2000km in less than 12 minutes.
Supporting the missile is a network of satellites, radar and unmanned aerial vehicles that can locate U.S. ships and then guide the weapon, enabling it to hit moving targets.
As analyst Raymond Pritchett notes in a post on the U.S. Naval Institute blog:
"The Navy's reaction is telling, because it essentially equals a radical change in direction based on information that has created a panic inside the bubble. For a major military service to panic due to a new weapon system, clearly a mission kill weapon system, either suggests the threat is legitimate or the leadership of the Navy is legitimately unqualified. There really aren't many gray spaces in evaluating the reaction by the Navy…the data tends to support the legitimacy of the threat."
This is a nice article. However, it begins with at least a couple of errors. First, the Bismark was not a "pocket" battleship. The Bismark was a full-size battleship; and a large one at that. The Graf Spree was a "pocket" battleship, a cruiser sized ship with the guns of a battleship. Next, the first carrier vs carrier battle that was totally fought with aircraft and the opponents never coming to visual or gunnery range was the battle of the Coral Sea. It preceded Midway by about one month. The Japs believed they had sunk the Yorktown during Coral Sea.