How Many Carriers?
Recently the US Navy planned to retire one of the last of its oil-fired aircraft carriers, USS John F. Kennedy, to cut costs and utilize its 5000 plus crew elsewhere in the War on Terror. The plan was struck down by Congress, as well as Florida lobbyists reluctant to lose jobs a full Carrier Strike Group brings to the local economy. National Security and the usefulness of a 40 year old fossil-fueled warship had little to do with the decision.
The widespread use of new precision weapons since the 1991 Gulf War has convinced military strategist that the firepower of naval aircraft has increased dramatically. It took a prewar bomber 300 sorties using unguided dumb bombs to destroy a given target. Today’s PGM armed aircraft regularly perform one bomb, one-hit strikes.
So, if one navy fighter bomber can take the place of 300 old style planes, why do we still need 12 aircraft carriers which absorb massive resources that could be better used elsewhere? The answer is that Congress and the American public is loath to give up jobs, naval bases, and revenue the giant warships bring to the economy. This is in spite of the massive burden on the defense budget and the taxpayer, as well as their lessening importance in 21st Century irregular warfare.
A fleet of 6 to 8 carriers should be sufficient and ensure that 1 or 2 are forward deployed for any emergency. Add to this the 120 plus cruise missile firing ships and submarines the navy possesses which also duplicates the navy’s deep strike mission.