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Why Aircraft Carriers Still Rule the Oceans 718

Posted by Soulskill
from the dolphins-are-slow-to-innovate dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Despite being created during World War I, the modern carrier has evolved to be the pinnacle of modern warfare's best and most visible symbols of power. Nothing says 'show the flag' more than a carrier off an enemy's coast. Some, though, have called the carrier a 21st-century version of a battleship — high on looks and weapons but vulnerable to modern weapons. Critics note air-power killed the battleship; people now suggest super-sonic 'carrier-killer' missiles will make the carrier a relic of the past. With their cost in the billions of dollars, some point to killing off carriers as an obvious cost saving measure. Carriers though still have a lot of uses. Many navies, like India and China, are adding them to their arsenal, and they are still feared by many. While carriers might be old, they are a symbol of power that no missile or submarine below the surface can match yet."
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Why Aircraft Carriers Still Rule the Oceans

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:22PM (#41378809)

    Our penises are #1! All others are #2 or lower! Tremble before them, everyone else!

    • by mister_playboy (1474163) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:27PM (#41378891)

      That's right!

      Most of you don't even have one penis, whereas we have 11 [wikipedia.org]! /sarcasm

    • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:38PM (#41379043)

      Yes. Aircraft carriers == countries grandstanding about how big & strong they are. Politicians like Romney brag about "showing strength to discourage attack" and the voters eat it up.

      Of course a better projection of power instead of obsolete battleships or airplane carriers would be the Arsenal Ship I worked on in the 90s. It was filled with nothing but self-guided missiles & required very minimal staffing. Just enough to watch the radar and load targeting solutions. Nothing says "power" like a ship that can launch 500 nuclear-tipped tomahawks in less than ten minutes. Or a barrage of ship-to-air missiles to shoot aircraft carrier attacks from the sky.

      • by Razgorov Prikazka (1699498) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:59PM (#41379369)
        > Yes. Aircraft carriers == countries grandstanding about how big & strong they are

        And the other way around. Countries that have a carrier, big. A carrier is a toy for the big guy's because it needs a whole squadron around it to protect the carrier and for all your other naval activities a different fleet has to be operational.
        It is a ship that is a big target in the best of times and a big, cumbersome, slow moving, blind (there is a visual and radar blindspot with a mile radius around it) and hopelessly lacking manoeuvrability all the other times. In order to have one floating around, one needs at least a handful of frigates (all of them equipped with a helicopter) , a minesweeper or two, one auxiliary ship and preferably a submarine or two and a hospital ship.
        And yes you can try with less ships around it being dedicated to your airstripship... like the Argentinians tried in 1982... and failed...

        Nice maritime topic by the way, with International talk-like-a-pirate-day tomorrow and all! How considerate! :-)
        • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @07:10PM (#41380927)

          A carrier is a toy for the big guy's because it needs a whole squadron around it to protect the carrier

          Modern navies are centered around carriers, and 90% of the fleet's firepower is devoted to defending the carriers. If you eliminate the carriers, you also eliminate most the need for a navy. The only thing that is left is the gators (amphibious ships) and subs. As for the subs, SSBNs [wikipedia.org] are even more obsolete than carriers. There has been no justification of them since the introduction of SLCMs [wikipedia.org] decades ago.

          Huge special interests are opposed to elimination of carriers. Don't expect it to happen anytime soon.

          • by geekoid (135745)

            Becasue those aircraft can fly around the world and target? NO, there is still a strategic and tactical need for them. Even when they use them to launch drones.

          • by SplashMyBandit (1543257) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @08:01PM (#41381459)

            You forget, 90% of the fleet's firepower comes from carriers (in the USN at least). The four squadrons of SuperHornets plus helos and EA-6 (or Hornet G) on each carrier can perform all sorts of missions (land/naval strike, interdiction, recon, CAS, BARCAP, sweep, SEAD/DEAD. elint, ew, SAR, anti-sub, etc etc) and they can do it thousands of kilometers from the fleet.

            As far back as the 60s the US thought that perhaps carriers were obsolete and too expensive and should be gotten rid of. However, the various wars and skirmishes (eg El Dorado Canyon/Libya) have shown the US time and again that the carrier strike group is still unparalleled in mission range, variety, striking power and capability. Hence, the US has 12/13 (depending on the rate of building) and lots of other countries want them too. The UK also though of getting rid of its carriers but fortunately they were around when the Argentinians occupied the Falkland Islands. Without a carrier the UK would have had zero chance of restoring sovereignty to the Falkland Islanders (who govern themselves but cannot defend themselves).

            However, on Slashdot the uninformed start with purile "penis" comparisons as if US defense policy was based on this (prestige follies happen in banana republics like Chavez's Venezuala or Qadaffi's Libya - but not in the US; the US follies are based on the economic benefits of the military-industrial complex in each State, but not braggadoccio as the posters suggest).

            Aircraft carriers are an important part of global power projection. Without a carrier you simply cannot enforce your will around the World (unopposed aircraft can defeat all ships and submarines; if you don't have a carrier to counter this then your Navy is useless - which is why the Russian and Chinese Navies have carriers mostly tasked with protecting their fleets).

            nb: with regard to carrier killing missiles. The US purchased advanced hypersonic Russian missiles and tested/developed defenses against them. Work is ongoing on improved versions of the Standard Missile against ballistic missiles like the DongFeng 'carrier killers' and lasers are being tested against Brahmos and other hypersonic sea skimming missiles. As a result the greatest threat to carriers is not missiles, it is submarines (especially those with Air-Independent-Propulsion, that are very difficult to detect). A torpedo from a submarine also contains a far greater payload than missiles (this includes nuclear tipped torpedoes, Soviet attack subs were issued with two nuke as carriers are so valuable [because they are so powerful] that bagging one was worth the risk of escalation).

            So, the manhood insults about navies may be cheap lurlz but show considerable ignorance about modern military affairs and why there is so much activity around developing both naval aviation and counter-carrier capabilities.

      • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:01PM (#41379401)

        Or just allow for assassinations again.

        "We're not bombing civilians anymore. Fuck with us and we'll murder you in your sleep. One of your guards will have a price. A million US to poison your coffee? 500 million? At some point, they'll crack and you'll die. Quickly, painlessly, and then you're over."

      • by Shotgun (30919) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:04PM (#41379447)

        A better solution is a ship full of drones. Nothing says power like, "We just killed each and every one of your war-mongering generals. Please feel free to loot and pillage your weaker neighbor." Which is what tends to happens when an uneducated populace is released from their war-mongering generals, and something we have the habit of doing. But, only after we have supported the war-mongering generals for a few years.

        • by lgw (121541) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:49PM (#41380033) Journal

          How is "a ship full of drones" not an "aircraft carrier", again? They already carry drones, you know.

          Decentralizing the big CVA into several smaller ships might help, or might not, that's a very technical subject. Either way you staill have a carrier group that will operate much like today's carrier groups, but perhaps without the symbol of strength.

          But ships that just fire missiles, not drones with a camera and some loiter time, are no substitute for a carrier group. There hasn't been a high-intensity naval conflict for nearly 70 years. Without the ability to observe the target, and attempt to warn the target off if appropriate, it's not a weapon for modern times,

          • by sumdumass (711423)

            The advantage of Aircraft carriers is more to the mobility of them then any naval battle usage. It's the same reason why we put ICBMs on subs. The aircraft carrier can move to range of where a strategic air base is needed and we can assert air superiority in a combat field without ever needing to violate some other country's sovereignty or secure land within the combat zones.

            They do have some drawbacks like the massive amounts of support and protection they require. But this is nothing compared to setting

            • by Hadlock (143607)

              Aircraft carriers are good for up to, what, 80% of a fighter's useful combat range? 1000 miles from shore perhaps? They're probably very good at what they do until someone uses one of the new "carrier ballistic missiles" with a 2500 mile range that everyone is developing. Supposedly China has had 1200 mile capability for a decade and recently rolled out their 2500 mile range model for operational duty. It won't reach quite to Hawaii, but it's a pretty big aerial/carrier denial tool. Then again, it's not a p

      • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:48PM (#41380029)

        And once you run out of non nuclear missiles how are you going to bomb ground targets?

        Carriers don't rule the oceans. Submarines and missile cruisers rule the oceans. Carriers rule the land near oceans, they are portable airpower, which makes them more cost effective than missile boats for air support and air superiority roles.

        Big ships are just platforms. If you put large very heavy guns in them they become of significantly lower versatility - you need to completely rebuild the ship to have something without the guns. Aircraft carriers are as versatile as the aircraft you put on them. Need helicopters to support a naval invasion? Use a carrier. Need airborne surveilance and control? use a carrier. Need some combination of air superiority and ground attack? Use a carrier. In this sense a carrier is just a specific variant of big ship, that happens to be more versatile than the previous two iterations ('pre-dreadnought' battleships that were a mish mash of guns, post dreadnought 'big gun' battleships).

        Granted, it depends very much on the type of war you have to fight. But that's the problem. Your 500 nuclear tipped tomahawks is a job for war no one is fighting at the moment. You're not going to nuke Damascus or Tehran to get Assad or the Ayatollahs out of power (in fact using nuclear weapons in this case would be almost diametrically opposed to that goal).

        Also, it's not like navies are composed entirely of aircraft carriers. The US has about 50 in total, of nearly 300, and carriers (especially the big ones) are hard to make in a hurry, so you tend to be top heavy and have a disproportionately large inventory of large assets - if it turns out you need 50 destroyers by the end of next year 50 shipyards could probably pull that off, if you need 5 aircraft carriers by the end of next year it isn't going to happen. The Royal navy has 80 ish ships, of which two are supposed to be full blown aircraft carriers, a heli carrier and then some 'landing ships' which are like half heli carriers. With that diverse collection of assets some can be carriers, some can be 'arsenal' ships, some can be all sorts of different things, until you know what war you're fighting it's a matter of being reasonably prepared for whatever.

        Carrier operations off pakistan for example, related to Afghanistan, are because Diego Gracia (which doesn't actually belong to the yanks) is the nearest US allied base, and it's in the middle of nowhere. Ok for staging disaster relief and nuclear weapons, not so good for ground support in north western afghanistan. And as we just saw the hard way, aircraft based on the ground in theatre can get blown up.

        One of the lessons sept 11 should have taught americans is that their notions of 'power' are outdated and whimsically useless, you could have nuked Kabul or Riyadh into the ground in retaliation but what would that have gotten you? Capabilities matter, but being capable of doing something useless doesn't translate into power, and sure, a boat with 500 missiles can hit 500 targets - if you're lucky - but those missiles take a long time to go from off shore to wherever you need them, even if they land in the right place the thing you want destroyed might not be there, or might be too well fortified against the size of missile you can launch. They aren't useless by any means, but they aren't a panacea, nor are carrier based assets.

        Anyone who you could seriously want to nuke can nuke back (russia, china, north korea, pakistan), and if they can't nuke you they can at least kill millions of your allies. MAD sort of implies *mutually* after all. And anyone else you don't really want to nuke because you're more likely to get something out of conventional overthrow of the government.

  • by Punko (784684) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:27PM (#41378893)
    Carriers have been replaced. Now its Supercarriers and Titans. Carriers and dreadnoughts have had their roles reduced to ship transports and structure shoots.
  • by sconeu (64226) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:28PM (#41378899) Homepage Journal

    Part of the reason that carriers remain relevant is that, while they do have their own weapons, their MAIN weaponry is the planes that they carry. And it's easier to upgrade those planes (subject to limitations such as the elevators, etc...) than it would have been to upgrade a BB's weaponry.

    • by SQLGuru (980662) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:34PM (#41378995) Journal

      This.

      A carrier can hit you hard with missles/guns. Or a carrier can hit you fast by launching jets. A carrier is a portable full array of armed forces (land, sea, and air).

      That's why they aren't battleships.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      >>>their MAIN weaponry is the planes that they carry

      Better yet: Just eliminate the men and the planes. They take-up too much room. Replace them with self-guided missiles that don't need to eat or sleep. You can carry thousands of them in the space of an aircraft carrier and project power as quickly as you press a button. No need to wait for waking-up the men, fueling the planes, moving them into position, et cetera. Missiles are ready near-instantly.

       

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:53PM (#41379287) Homepage

        Better yet: Just eliminate the men and the planes. They take-up too much room. Replace them with self-guided missiles that don't need to eat or sleep. You can carry thousands of them in the space of an aircraft carrier and project power as quickly as you press a button. No need to wait for waking-up the men, fueling the planes, moving them into position, et cetera. Missiles are ready near-instantly.

        "Skynet was originally installed by the military to control the national arsenal on August 4, 1997, at which time it began learning at a geometric rate. On August 29, it gained self-awareness[1], and the panicking operators, realizing the extent of its abilities, tried to deactivate it...."

        The rest is an instructional video.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:53PM (#41379281) Journal

      Part of the reason that carriers remain relevant is that, while they do have their own weapons, their MAIN weaponry is the planes that they carry. And it's easier to upgrade those planes (subject to limitations such as the elevators, etc...) than it would have been to upgrade a BB's weaponry.

      It probably also helps them remain relevant that nobody has let a single one get any closer to something dangerous than they absolutely had to since the second world war... The concern is not so much that aircraft carriers are not powerful; but that they are so questionably survivable in the face of today's more sophisticated missiles that there may or may not be an aircraft carrier to come back to within the time it takes for the aircraft to go out and back.

      They are better than battleships for beating up on hilariously outmatched little countries, since their range is longer; but that, along with saber rattling, is all they've been used for for quite some time.

      • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:40PM (#41379943)

        They are better than battleships for beating up on hilariously outmatched little countries, since their range is longer; but that, along with saber rattling, is all they've been used for for quite some time.
         
        That's what all US military technology has been used for for quite some time. Last I checked we haven't gone to war with China or Russia recently, and the rest of the world (not counting our allies) is pretty much made up of hilariously outmatched little countries.

      • by techno-vampire (666512) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @08:40PM (#41381775) Homepage
        It probably also helps them remain relevant that nobody has let a single one get any closer to something dangerous than they absolutely had to since the second world war.

        True. Very, very true. And, in WWII, the main dangerous thing they got close to was other carriers. After the Battle of the Coral Sea it was clear that whoever got off the first strike would probably win, which is why the Japanese were in such a hurry to change the loads on their planes at Midway and got caught with their pants down.
  • That's simple... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki&gmail,com> on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:28PM (#41378905) Homepage

    Because we haven't got railguns yet to slap onto battleships. We'll almost contently see the return of it in our lifetime. When it does happen you can be sure you'll see cruisers with small versions if they can get away with it. But you'll see very worlds military building battleships with those suckers as soon as they think they can.

      But let's be honest, despite what the article says, there's a few other reasons besides power projection. Pirates, shipping lane protection, and they work much better for disaster relief than a couple of cruisers. The capacity just isn't there. But a carrier is a city onto itself. Besides, it's hard to get a small aircraft that does tactical attacks halfway across the world to take out a pirate base. Bombers sure, but by the time it's in the air they could have scuttled.

    • by firex726 (1188453)

      When was the last time we needed a battleship?

      The last credible war we fought involving the Navy was WWII; Korea, Vietnam and now the Middle East don't have much in the way of fleets. Since then it's been more about show and transport. Sure we still go after the occasional pirate or smuggler but using a full on battleship against a guy in a speed boat seems a bit overkill; hell a nuke would probably be cheaper and just as effective.

    • by gl4ss (559668) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:05PM (#41379469) Homepage Journal

      when was the last time a carrier was used against an enemy which had battleships? since ww2 pacific campaign when was the last time aircraft carriers were even used in battle against anyone with comparable fleet? . falklands war is the exception and even there the carrier groups didn't go head to head.

      the modern aircraft carriers aren't meant for fleet vs. fleet warfare, that's not their purpose. they're floating islands not meant to be even anywhere near where they could be shot. for now most important thing why they rule the oceans is that they come with a big ass fleet with them and they're useful for launch bases on adversaries who can't project their firepower thousand kilometers away(where it sits).

    • Here is the gotcha:

      Railguns are line of sight.

      The railgun specified at the Fox News link is 4500 to 5000 mph/7000 fps, or they cover a mile in a second.

      Meaning any object more than about 5 miles away is over the horizon, and the tragetory is too flat to hit it.

      So instead of a 35 mile range by lobbing it at about 38 degrees, you now have a 5 mile range.

      Way too close for comfort.

  • by AntiBasic (83586) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:30PM (#41378941)

    Aircraft carriers are force projection, not a symbol of power. It's incredibly useful to have a bouyant, nuclear city able to go where it's told to.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_projection

    • by trout007 (975317) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @06:49PM (#41380757)

      Everyone is missing the point. The real strategic purpose of a carrier is that they are so big, expensive, and have so many sailors on board that to actually sink one is basically asking for all out war. It's the same reason we have 30k troops in SK. It's not like they could stop a North Korean invasion. It has been calculated that 30k troops being killed would be enought to convice Americans to start a nuclear war.

      It's basically like going all in playing poker. Parking a carrier no matter how vulnerable is going all in and asking your opponent how bad they want to win.

  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:33PM (#41378977) Homepage Journal
    If aircraft carriers are obsolete, what is going to replace them? Submarines can't project force outside of the water except to launch a limited number of missiles. Sub Carriers were tried by the Japanese in WWII, but were never especially practical. If your planes have to fly across three countries to get to their destination from the nearest airbase they aren't going to be able to offer much support.

    Doesn't it seem more likely that people who run carriers will instead look to develop ways of stopping those supersonic missiles? That is the general idea behind the carrier battlegroup already. The carrier is in the middle projecting force, and everybody else is there making sure it stays safe. Besides, the kind of enemies that the Navy is fighting today are the ones that have ramshackle fishing boats and maybe an RPG to scare freighter captains with, not highly technological nation states. The nations they fight are the kind that don't even have a Navy and the only missile danger is losing fighter planes to SAMs.
    • Submersible drone launch platforms with a mix of flying and torpedo drones. The ship, itself a drone, will most likely travel just deep enough to avoid detection. Sonar stealth tech will help with that to some degree.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Sub Carriers were tried by the Japanese in WWII, but were never especially practical.

      If you're carrying drones, it might be a lot more practical. You can fire them vertically with a steam launcher, not having to worry about killing a pilot with G forces. Land them in the water and recover them with a crane.

      Doesn't it seem more likely that people who run carriers will instead look to develop ways of stopping those supersonic missiles?

      I keep hearing about military laser equipment getting bigger, I figured they'd be coming out with laser point defense, and maybe coming up with a fancier CIWS, maybe with some tiny caseless ammo since in a naval context you have a cooling mass available. (I read that there are still issue

  • Sunk? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:34PM (#41378987) Homepage

    Which carrier has been sunk by a super-sonic 'carrier-killer' missile? Let's wait until a carrier is actually killed before declaring the end of its day.

    A carrier lets you park a military city 10 miles off just about anyone's border just about any time you want to. Until something either replaces that function or ends its utility the carrier will persist.

  • by Sparticus789 (2625955) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:35PM (#41379009) Journal

    It's not just about the Carrier. Having a Carrier says "Our nation/military is so strong, we can put 6,000 people on a boat and blow up your country from 300 miles away."

    The Carriers of today are not the Battleships of WWI. Carriers have multiple defense systems like CIWS (shoots 3,000+ RPM) and Sea Sparrow missiles. A Carrier Group will have some sort of Aegis defense mechanism on board a few ships as well. Not to mention the aircraft complement of 50+. Throw in an E-2C and not much will get within 100 miles of that Carrier.

    • by trybywrench (584843) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:44PM (#41379159)
      Not only are carriers sufficiently armed and escorted themselves, sinking one does not win a war. In fact, sinking a carrier is such an overt act of war it guarantees the doom of the attacking government.

      them> yay we sunk a carrier
      them> what's that sound? it's a thousand inbound tomahawks? ....hm
      • by mjwx (966435) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @11:39PM (#41382935)

        Not only are carriers sufficiently armed and escorted themselves, sinking one does not win a war. In fact, sinking a carrier is such an overt act of war it guarantees the doom of the attacking government.

        Actually you'd need to think twice about that.

        If you're considering sinking a carrier, you're already at war or at least at a war game.

        Secondly, you don't need to sink a carrier, you just need to damage it or nullify it's ability to project power (I.E. if you can control the airspace outside the missile cruisers range, carrier is useless, the escorts will need to engage your forces on your terms).

        Thridly, carriers are incredibly vulnerable. A slightly damaged flight deck will completely knock the carrier out of commission. At the very least that's leaving the combat area to effect repairs, more likely it's back to a friendly base to effect repairs. That's for the entire carrier group. Carriers seem effective because they've only fought opponents who cant strike back for the last 60 years.

        In WWII carriers were quite vulnerable even with all their escorts and the best weapons of the day. Kamikaze and Torpedo attacks did huge amounts of damage. What made the US carriers effective is that the US could repair and replace them faster than the Japanese could replace submarines and Kamikaze pilots. A modern example, if I fire $100 million worth of drones, missiles and manned aircraft and succeed in knocking a $4.5 billion carrier out of the fight that is a victory unless you have over 450 times the manufacturing and economic capacity as me. War is as much about economics as it is about weapons and strategy.

        British and Australian Submarines routinely damage or destroy US carriers in war games.

        We'll see traditional aircraft carriers go the way of battleships in the future as they get replaced by destroyer and submarine sized variants that can deploy a larger number of drones.

  • by Godai (104143) * on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:38PM (#41379047)

    Why are we even talking about the aircraft carrier when we should be out building helicarriers! [wikipedia.org]

  • by AllanL5 (814677) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:41PM (#41379105)
    Okay, so I've served on a carrier. But seriously, do we NEED 12 carrier battle groups? Mind you, a typical battle group isn't just the carrier -- it's the carrier, plus a few destroyers, plus a few fast-frigates, plus an attack sub or two. Not to mention the 120 planes in the squadrons -- attack, fighter, AWACS, anti-submarine.

    Surely 10 groups is enough. Perhaps even 8.
  • by Virtucon (127420) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:49PM (#41379223)

    Somebody needs a damn history lesson!

    The airships were launched and serviced by ships before World War I however sea planes launched by a cable and retrieved by the same, were used by the Japanese in World War I in 1914, hardly an aircraft carrier but only in the literal sense. Navies around the world used sea planes with battle ship fleets as well but these usually were cabled to the water line the same way.

    In 1911, the French had the first Seaplane tender [wikipedia.org] So was that an aircraft carrier? Well it carried aircraft but you couldn't launch or retrieve them without a crane.

    World War I was from July 28, 1914 to November 11, 1914. In the US we celebrate November 11 as Veterans Day.

    It wasn't until the 1920s that they had flat top experiments which is distinctly different from everything before it. You couldn't have dedicated fighters and sea planes were damn slow compared to some of the land based aircraft at the time.

    So how the hell do you say that Aircraft Carriers were created in World War I is beyond me!

    Now, get off my lawn!

  • by FlyingGuy (989135) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {yuggniylf}> on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:06PM (#41379479)

    of an AC is about 10 minutes in an open ocean battle, and we have not seen one of those since the Falkland Islands and that was a skirmish compared with WW-II where the fleets met at sea and slugged it out. The AC's job is to deploy its aircraft and hopefully still be there to recover them to rearm and refuel them and relaunch.

    Skip ahead to today. The only country that can put a significant fleet to sea is the United States. Yes Russia has an AC, the Brits have one, the Chinese as well, but we are the only country that has many of them, for what its worth.

    There is NO FLEET on the ocean today that can withstand a concerted attack by the Unites States Submarine Force. The Modern US nuclear Submarine is for all intents and purposes invisible and undetectable until it is way past too late. They have the ability to deploy standoff weapons such as the harpoon missile ( 50 mile range ) that are fire and forget. Torpedo's that you don't even want to be in the same ocean with if you are a target ( MK-48 ) that will break a ship in half ( an AC might take 2 ).

    Against an opponent that has no naval presence or serious anti-ship missile program or serious Air Combat capability, an AC is for all intents and purposes untouchable. Against the USN? Not a chance in hell.

  • by mkraft (200694) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:07PM (#41379485)

    Yes, by itself a carrier doesn't have a lot of defensive capabilities . That's why carriers travel in fleets which include cruisers, destroyers and subs which are designed to defend the carrier in addition to providing additional offensive capability. Carriers never go anywhere without backup.

  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:51PM (#41380063) Homepage Journal

    The problem is, like people who naysayed torpedo boats in WW II, the replacement for aircraft carriers is NOT submarines or battleships.

    It's the 21st Century.

    The replacement is small mobile destroyers with racks of armed and unarmed drones, operating in task forces.

    The fact that the current brass can't grok that, does not mean they are right. Just ask Canada which provided more actual combat equipment in Libya to take out the dictator from just a few small ships than all the planes we launched from Italy did.

    Change is Change. It isn't "like" what happened before.

    (caveat - I was only a Sergeant with a SECRET clearance who ended up in a HQ unit after doing counter-terrorism and other ops)

  • by Livius (318358) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @11:14PM (#41382797)

    Maybe because they're air bases that are mobile.

  • by Herve5 (879674) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @03:20AM (#41383995)

    Not so long ago, back in times when a single country still could afford to develop original things (like the vertical-takeoff-landing Harriers), the Brits seriously considered a submarine carrier.
    I remember one could even land crafts while the sub was almost entierely underwater, but the elevated landing spot (which was a mast in fact)...

  • by Rexdude (747457) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @06:01AM (#41384735)

    Gary Brecher aka the War Nerd, on aircraft carriers [exiledonline.com], and why they're an obsolete idea.

  • by gelfling (6534) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @08:24AM (#41385459) Homepage Journal

    Carries more attack and warfighting aircraft than most nations. And we have nearly a dozen of them. Also if you want 4.5 acres of sovereign US territory anywhere in the world in a few days, call the Navy and they send it.

  • by MrKaos (858439) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @08:35AM (#41385553) Journal
    Any one who has any doubts about that should investigate the story of the Aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne colliding with a destroyer and sinking it [wikipedia.org], all 82 crew were lost. The aircraft carrier was damaged but made it home.

    nuff said really

  • by minstrelmike (1602771) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @12:57PM (#41389093)
    Agree. MANNED AIRCRAFT Carriers are a relic. Not a single one of them could survive an attack by a swarm of drones.
    That means drone carriers might be immensely useful.

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