Why build more aircraft carriers?

The Day of Infamy turns me toward thinking about the Navy, Our Navy, and what it needs for the future. I know some of the regulars here are swabbies.

Battleship USS West Virginia sunk and burning at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In background is the battleship USS Tennessee.

Going into WWII, the modern navy needed battleships, even though Billy Mitchell had already proved the massive battlewagons were vulnerable to attacks from the air.

Enter the aircraft carriers, which carried the battle to the enemy in the Pacific. I guess everyone is still onboard.

But — I think the day of the aircraft carrier has passed. They are huge, they are expensive and they are magnets for missiles and drones. They are terribly vulnerable.

In an age of missiles, they are no longer needed to bring U.S. fire power close to enemy shores. Submarines do a better job, at less cost.

As you know, “fighter pilots” fly drones in the Mideast from air bases in the States. They don’t need to fly off a carrier to fight, so why do we need the carriers?

Missiles give us more bang for a smaller buck. Or am I missing something important here?

21 thoughts on “Why build more aircraft carriers?”

  1. Back in Vietnam, they began designing planes, and they left off guns. They had hardpoints for missles and bombs, but guns were left off, because missles were the future. The problem was, everyone else was still using guns. Our military was thinking so far into the future, that they forgot about the reality of the present day. The guys on the front had to convince the people up top to re-arm their state of the art fighters with just simple guns (usually in the form of gun pods). Just because we are thinking of the future, old weapons still have a place in the military. Where missles are effective, the aircraft carriers can provide a mobile base, able to provide an physical presence, reminding people that there are people watching. Its just like putting a police car in a troubled area, even though there might be cameras watching.

    I’ll say this whilst I drag out my soap box.(maybe for Christmas I’ll get wheels for the box) Jeremy just made many good points.
    Pallie and bloggers,
    Both of these guys make good points, but Stu missed …..pun intended….the BOAT !
    Way back when, as in we bought our friendship in other countries, we had military bases all over the world. One by one, we shut most of them down for any number of bad reasons. We still have bases in England, Germany, Turkey and Itly. (Italy for the nons. Italia for the brothers and “Azuri” for the die hards).
    From these locals, we can do a lot of damage after a hop into the middle east. Problem is, at M-1or 2, it takes awhile. Whereas, being a swabbie, a carrier sitting in the creek, down the road from Lybia or anyone else – you’re looking at minutes vs hour(s). The Navy can hit you with several dozen fighter bombers while the air Force is scrambling. For a more full richer effect, the guided missile cruiser that is supporting that flat top can, with pin point accuracy send a lot of bad people to the promise land.
    Yea pallie, a billion or so will get you a decent mid size model. Then a crew of 3,000 plus the air wing of 150 A/C and 1500 personnel. Then of course, carriers go no where by themselves. The cast of characters include surface and “sub”surface ships. You could be looking at a dozen ships.
    BTW. VietNam. Bad subject, but….. The powers to be, would send in bombers without escort. DUH !!! The USAF was all wired and ready to go, as was the USMC and the USN. The ground pounders were told to sit there and take it, for the most part. Our (sic) beloved military and civilian leaders chose not to fight the war, but to cuddle the North Vietnamese, together with the Chinese and Russians. ( first hand knowledge). Not a good subject…..

      1. HAPPY SUNDAY !!!
        I am certainly not the authority, ‘specially since on the Nam period. But ! Todays’ radar, etc, is tracking at 500 miles out. Back in WW II, it was closer to two feet. For lack of a civilian name, our aircraft have the capability of going invisible to tracking devices. Sorry to say, military secrets are the worse kept, so by now, the other side has something to “search”.
        Jeremy made mention of A/c without weapons in Nam. The only “legitimate” A/c bare, were the C-40s and smaller that were spotters. Even transport carried some protection.
        I know of one jet that was stripped of guns and extra gas tanks and cameras were added. I used to joke that they tickled the carbs and it could break M-1. That would come in handy when you’re down low, taking pictures and all hell broke loose. There was a very early version of a “cloaking” device making lousy radar useless. The sound was still there. As far as I know, there were only two of these toys. One went swimming in the Gulf.
        that’s what I heard

  3. Missiles and other unmanned weapons need to come from somewhere. If they aren’t coming from a carrier, then they have to come from bases. The further they have to travel, 1) the longer it will take for them to arrive on target and 2) the larger fuel load they will require which will decrease the payload.

    UAVs are no where near close to competing against MIGs. If you don’t have air superiority from the top down then you will not win in the modern battle space.

    Our aircraft carriers service as a deterrent against our enemies and also against the enemies of our allies. Tyrants throughout history have changed their plans because an American carrier was within striking distance.

    1. They come from submarines or missile frigates, or land. The Iranians are bragging their silkworm missiles will take out any carrier in the Hormuz straight. I believe them.

      1. Once again Stu, believe me. Sure anything made can be unmade. BOOM ! They have to get through the curtain. About that time, We will have a huge fireball where Iran used to be.

  4. Some interesting observations. It used to be assumed that battles were won at sea. However, most current wars are civil wars characterized by power imbalances between opposing forces. The weaker side resorts to unconventional means such as guerrilla warfare or terror tactics. They fight on land, sometimes with military aircraft assistance. The primary function of the modern navy is to exploit its control of the seaways in order to project an image of military might.
    My father was assigned to the USS Independence, an aircraft carrier that got torpedoed by the Japanese near New Guinea. A former lifeguard, my old man survived because he managed to swim to the New Guinea coast.
    Dad’s war stories were scary so I enlisted in the Army.

  5. still HAPPY SATURDAY !!!
    in my haste, and getting side tracked, I left out a whole lot. Definitely first, 7 December 1941 . May we never forget the loss of lives and the injured on this most fateful day.
    Pallie wrongfully thinks that aircraft carriers are vulnerable . If you think that Israel has a “iron umbrella”, then “you aint seen nothing, yet” ! When a fleet is ” on duty”, aircraft are constantly flying, looking observing, warning. Back in the day,”Willie Fulls” were miles out looking for the bad guy. If you think of ripples in the water, that’s pretty much the same desired effect of protection given to the fleet. Layers or rings of defense, make penetration almost impossible. Conversely, in the attack mode, waves of offense are coming from several different directions from many different modes.
    Please don’t confuse our military with that of the past. Our people, when on duty, leave nothing to chance. Constant training and readiness makes us the best. Big difference between a volunteer military that fights for the love of your country, and that of the other guy, who was asked to join up because there’s at gun aimed at his back.
    just say’n’
    I’ll relinquish the soap box to the next blogger.

    1. Pallie, you are fighting the last war. The rings of fighter planes can’t protect AC against missiles. Iron Dome is not perfect and it is stationary. Trying to shoot down a missile with a missile under combat conditions is still beyond us.

      1. Pallie,
        We already established that I’m a dinosaur. Please don’t believe everything (else) that you read. We are constantly upgrading our offensive and defensive weapons. We’ve been shooting everything down that we aim at. The question at that time would be, do we have enough missiles to take down everyone of their missiles? Not for nothing. Worse case scenario, If we ran out of missiles, or one broke through, We would have another Naval Hero as he (she) got in front of it.
        BTW. The word umbrella is very correct here. Think of your cover in the rain. You walk, it moves. The attack group moves, so goes the umbrella.
        been there

  6. Besides all the great answers to your question above, Stu, I’ll add two more: (1) they keep people employed (that’s your tax dollars at work), and (2) they are a show of force, which, while you may disagree, has some real meaning.
    From all I can see of the answers above, so far, I think you’ve been outnumbered this time in the disagreement department.

    1. Keep people working is a nonstarter. Don’t build things that have no purpose. As to projecting power, I feel they project vulnerability. Just my opinion.

    1. barely HAPPY SATURDAY !!!
      Pallie could do a blog on catastrophes, in particular, conflagrations. You, being the resident expert, could educate us civilians.

  7. A carrier (and its protective fleet of ships and submarines) is a visible reminder to the bad guys, “We are here and we are ready to say ‘enough.’ ”

    Interesting reminder: on December 7th, 1941, the Japanese managed to launch a destructive fleet of planes to attack Pearl Harbor…from aircraft carriers. And several months later, the USA reminded Japan that it was vulnerable by launching Jimmy Doolittle and his fleet of planes to attack Tokyo…from an aircraft carrier.

    Sic vis pacem, para bellum.

  8. Stu – from all the responses I’m seeing, it appears we will all have to respectfully agree to disagree with you on this particular topic.

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