Without the aircraft carrier, the US Military has no substantial edge over most countries. At a cost of $4.5 billion each, the ten nuclear powered Nimitz class carriers within our fleet, give Washington the ability to project its power to any coastal nation on the planet at a moments notice.
Without these vessels, the United States military would still be formidable, but it wouldn’t be the world-class offensive force that has dominated this planet since the end of the Cold War. There would be plenty of countries out there that our government would no longer be able to strike with impunity. Alternatively, there may be plenty of countries that can, or will soon be able to effectively counter our aircraft carriers.
At least, that’s what a national security think tank known as the Center for a New American Security seems to believe. They won’t come out and say it in plain English, but in a recent report they admitted that our aircraft carriers are basically obsolete. They simply don’t stack up to the defensive capabilities of countries like China…
The report, titled “Red Alert: The Growing Threat to U.S. Aircraft Carriers,” focuses on China’s burgeoning military posture in the Pacific and on a term that is starting to appear with increasing urgency in defense circles: anti-access/area denial, or A2/AD. The term A2/AD refers to a concept that has long existed in warfare: denying the enemy the ability to move around the battlefield. Currently A2/AD strategy is much the same as it was when moats were dug around castles, except that today’s moats are an integrated system of surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, submarines, surface ships and aircraft — all designed to push enemy forces as far away as possible from strategically important areas.
Or Russia for that matter.
The report highlights China’s capabilities because of its “emphasis on long-range anti-ship missile procurement.” This, coupled with its growing tech base, qualifies China as the “pacing threat” to the U.S. military. China, however, is not the sole architect of an A2/AD strategy designed to deter U.S. operations. In the Baltic, Russia’s naval base in Kaliningrad is known to house a sophisticated air defense network and anti-ship missiles. NATO commanders also have warned of Russian A2/AD buildup around Syria, as Russia has moved advanced surface-to-air missiles into its airbase there as well as a flotilla of ships with robust anti-air capabilities.
But it’s not just Russia and China that are developing these defenses. This is the wave of the future, and it makes a lot of sense from an economic standpoint. It only takes a large and diverse salvo of cheap missiles to overwhelm the defenses of a carrier and sink it, and that costs significantly less than any of our high-tech ships.
As other countries focus on creating sophisticated A2/AD bubbles by using new technology such as drones, advanced missiles and newer aircraft, the United States — by operating as it always has — is putting itself more at risk. According to the report, this is particularly relevant as carrier groups have reduced their long-range strike ability in favor of being able to fly more air missions but at shorter ranges.
“Operating the carrier in the face of increasingly lethal and precise munitions will thus require the United States to expose a multi-billion dollar asset to high levels of risk in the event of a conflict,” the report says. “An adversary with A2/AD capabilities would likely launch a saturation attack against the carrier from a variety of platforms and directions. Such an attack would be difficult — if not impossible — to defend against.”
The truth of the matter is that the aircraft carrier was the perfect weapon for dominating the seas during World War Two, and technically it could still do that. If the US Navy went toe to toe with the Chinese in the middle of the Pacific, our navy would wipe the floor with theirs. But that’s not going to happen.
Russia and China aren’t building vast naval fleets capable of projecting power to every nook and cranny of the globe. They have some offensive intentions and capabilities, as well as a few carriers of their own, but they’re mainly focusing on dominating their own back yards. They’ll venture out from time to time like Russia has done in Syria, but for now at least, they’re catering to their own regional spheres of influence.
And that strategy is clearly working. They put their time, resources, and efforts into creating cheap defensive weapons that can wreck our offensive weapons at a fraction of the cost that it took us to build them. They’re not going to come to us, they’ve made it impossible for us to go to them. And if that’s the case, then our carriers in their present form are now nothing more than multi-billion dollar boondoggles.
Again, this think tank won’t say it in plain English, but the idea of using aircraft carriers for offensive operations against conventional militaries, is basically obsolete. The closest they came to admitting it was in the conclusion of the report, where they stated that the US “must re-examine the relevance of the carrier and its air wing and explore innovative options for future operations and force structure. If the United States is to maintain its military superiority well into the future, it cannot afford to do otherwise.”
I guess it’s a good thing we won’t be building anymore of these expensive, cumbersome, and highly vulnerable ships anytime soon, right? Oh wait, nevermind.
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Contributed by Joshua Krause of The Daily Sheeple.
Joshua Krause is a reporter, writer and researcher at The Daily Sheeple. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and is a freelance writer and author. You can follow Joshua’s reports at Facebook or on his personal Twitter. Joshua’s website is Strange Danger .