Although many people consider the aircraft carrier to be a major part of the United States Navy, the future of these giant ships looks murky.
With more countries developing ways to sink an aircraft carrier, while also producing fighter jets that can take-off and land more efficiently, the massive, and expensive aircraft carrier might soon become a thing of the past.
In recent years, the Navy has been pushed further into open seas. Aircraft carriers have become less effective as they travel further away from shore. The closer an aircraft carrier gets to the enemy, the more vulnerable that it becomes. While aircraft carriers can be targeted from virtually anywhere, they are easy targets at closer ranges.
Naval expert Jerry Hendrix explained, “This push back would limit the service's ability to project power and thus undermine the credibility of the United States."
Today, the military is more focused on working on short-range light attack aircraft, instead of deep-striking longer range technologies that are associated with aircraft carriers. Since the United States can send forces to virtually any part of the ocean, the country doesn’t need deep-striking capabilities as much as it used to.
Additionally, the widespread usage of anti-ship missiles make aircraft carriers risky, since they are large targets, and they can essentially be shot from anywhere in the world. In today’s military game, they’re like sitting ducks.
During the last 70 years, the Pentagon has spent a massive amount of money to expand and upgrade the military’s aircraft carriers and their associated airplanes. Each individual costs about $12 billion. These aircraft carriers allow the United States to maintain a military presence throughout the world. Keeping a traditional aircraft carrier operating is one of the most expensive costs in the entire military.
However, it’s not like the aircraft carrier will disappear overnight. It is still the best way to have virtually a fully-stocked base in the middle of the ocean, which can be incredibly useful.
Navy spokesperson Commander William Marks explained, “A carrier is the only maritime force capable of executing the full range of military operations necessary to protect our national interests. The Navy remains committed to maintaining a carrier force, and associated carrier air wings, that provide unparalleled responsiveness and flexibility to operational commanders across the full range of military options."
The Navy is also developing ways to protect its aircraft carriers, as smaller, more agile ships have been fitted with anti-missile systems to protect carriers from attacks. These anti-missile systems can work from hundreds of miles away.
Defense expert Dakota Wood believes that the aircraft carrier still has a long life ahead of it.
He said, “Any argument that aircraft carriers are no longer viable is premature. I think aircraft carriers will exist in their current form for several more years.”
So while aircraft carriers might be somewhat falling out of favor, it looks like they might still be around for quite some time.