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Why Aircraft Carriers Still Rule the Oceans

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the dolphins-are-slow-to-innovate dept.

China 718

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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718 comments

Behold, our huge, mighty penises!! (5, Funny)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#41378809)

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

Re:Behold, our huge, mighty penises!! (3, Funny)

mister_playboy (1474163) | about 2 years ago | (#41378891)

That's right!

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

Re:Behold, our huge, mighty penises!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41378921)

Today: Aircraft carriers.
Tomorrow: A guy in a kayak menacingly holding up the latest-and-greatest cell phone.

Re:Behold, our huge, mighty penises!! (1)

thisisfutile (2640809) | about 2 years ago | (#41378949)

China's will no doubt be smaller than the rest.

Re:Behold, our huge, mighty penises!! (5, Insightful)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Behold, our huge, mighty penises!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379255)

You're right that would be a better show of strength, but then you have the type of foolishness perpetuated by the Obama administration where we essentially go around appologizing to our enemies inviting them to attack us. They know well that Obama would die at the hands of the enemy before he goes to war over anything. Our enemies know that too. See our foriegn embassies for evidence. So all of the posturing in the world isn't going to help when you've already shown your hand.

Re:Behold, our huge, mighty penises!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379301)

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.

Or, you can tell the fanatics shouting "Death!" "Can't we all just get along." while you grovel.

Worked well in Bengazi, didn't it?

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 where the last thing I'll ever see are the incoming anti-radar missiles coming to blow me up after everyone within 1000 km sees my active emitter.

You're an idiot.

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.

Umm, what if you're not launching a nuclear war? Ooops, that ship is USELESS.

Again, you're an idiot.

Re:Behold, our huge, mighty penises!! (4, Informative)

Razgorov Prikazka (1699498) | about 2 years ago | (#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! :-)

Re:Behold, our huge, mighty penises!! (4, Insightful)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 2 years ago | (#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."

Re:Behold, our huge, mighty penises!! (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 2 years ago | (#41379229)

"We have such small Penis!" "You American Penis is very big!" - South Park

Re:Behold, our huge, mighty penises!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379303)

why is parent a Flamebait? it's just what the summary says! parent should be Redundant or Captain Obvious or something, but Flamebait? TFA says

Carriers though still have a lot of uses.

and then lists the many uses:

they are a symbol of power that no missile or submarine below the surface can match yet

see? many uses! use no. 1: you can show your penis is longer than your neighbor's penis! no. 2: you can show your penis is longer... etc.

Carriers had their day (4, Funny)

Punko (784684) | about 2 years ago | (#41378893)

Carriers have been replaced. Now its Supercarriers and Titans. Carriers and dreadnoughts have had their roles reduced to ship transports and structure shoots.

Re:Carriers had their day (1)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about 2 years ago | (#41379033)

New Eden is calling, they need you to go mine Veldspar.

Re:Carriers had their day (1)

sarysa (1089739) | about 2 years ago | (#41379391)

Sounds like carriers have been replaced by, essentially, more modern carriers according to the wikipedia article for Supercarriers [wikipedia.org] . (can't find "Titan" anywhere except the name of one ship) The concept of the carrier will likely never disappear from warfare -- it's essentially a mobile base with minimally restrictive fuel requirements. It's better to launch our implements of destruction from a mobile base 50 miles offshore than some stationary, vulnerable island 500 miles away -- especially with the accuracy of modern computing.

Not sure about the thesis of the article, but... (5, Insightful)

sconeu (64226) | about 2 years ago | (#41378899)

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.

Re:Not sure about the thesis of the article, but.. (5, Informative)

SQLGuru (980662) | about 2 years ago | (#41378995)

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.

Re:Not sure about the thesis of the article, but.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379365)

Carriers are also:
* Mobile hospitals.
* Mobile power generation units.
* Mobile food services.
And I'm sure that people here can think of a few more. Carriers cannot be fully replaced.

Re:Not sure about the thesis of the article, but.. (1)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | about 2 years ago | (#41379371)

All true, and even more, the Carrier Strike Force can protect an entire contingent of Marines aboard landing ships from air/sea/sub attacks while they move into position to attack ground forces. Without the carrier, those transports would be shredded by even a small contingent of 1970s era attack jets.

This was the whole battle-of-Britain thing -- you can't invade someone by sea if you don't control the coastal airspace.

Re:Not sure about the thesis of the article, but.. (1)

Serious Callers Only (1022605) | about 2 years ago | (#41379399)

And when a carrier sinks, it takes that full array of armed forces with it. It would be interesting to see how long they last in a war between evenly matched sides where the carriers are vulnerable to air/missile attack.

Re:Not sure about the thesis of the article, but.. (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#41379139)

>>>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.

 

Re:Not sure about the thesis of the article, but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379273)

Cruise missiles, while useful, have trouble loitering over an area and providing CAS on demand, which is what air power is generally used for these days.

Re:Not sure about the thesis of the article, but.. (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#41379287)

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.

Re:Not sure about the thesis of the article, but.. (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#41379281)

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.

That's simple... (4, Interesting)

Mashiki (184564) | about 2 years ago | (#41378905)

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.

Re:That's simple... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379283)

You sir, are spewing garbage. Please cease, clean up the floor, and educate yourself before continuing on.

Re:That's simple... (1)

wiggles (30088) | about 2 years ago | (#41379315)

Sure about that? [foxnews.com]

Re:That's simple... (2)

firex726 (1188453) | about 2 years ago | (#41379291)

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.

Re:That's simple... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379355)

they work much better for disaster relief than a couple of cruisers

An air strike launched from a few carriers in the Mexican gulf would do wonders in New Orleans!

Uh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41378907)

...people now suggest super-sonic 'carrier-killer' missiles will make the carrier a relic of the past

Then people are freaking morons.

The ship in itself is insignificant; it's what the carrier carries that projects power. Carriers won't be going anywhere until we've managed to mobilize conventional airfields.

Hrmm, maybe if we put them on top of a giant ship...

Re:Uh... (2)

91degrees (207121) | about 2 years ago | (#41378993)

The thing is, if you have a weapon that can sink a carrier, the ship becomes pretty significant. A mobile airfield is useless if it's underwater.

Re:Uh... (2)

James McGuigan (852772) | about 2 years ago | (#41379093)

What we need is a submarine aircraft carrier!

Submarine aircraft carrier were real ... (3, Interesting)

perpenso (1613749) | about 2 years ago | (#41379239)

What we need is a submarine aircraft carrier!

The US had two or three at the end of WW2, surrendered by Imperial Japan. Incidentally there was a plan by Imperial Japan to use these to deliver plague infested fleas to the US west coast. These submarines were no joke. The US scuttled them when the Russians, an ally at the time, wanted to inspect them.

Re:Uh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379321)

Even in Supreme Commander, submersible aircraft carriers are still experimental.

Re:Uh... (1)

Local ID10T (790134) | about 2 years ago | (#41379179)

Which is why they are fielded as a part of a battlefleet.

You don't send a ship out alone. You send a battlefleet, consisting of a big, powerful, vulnerable ship, and an array of smaller ships that complement it's strengths, and serve to protect it vs known weaknesses.

Re:Uh... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#41379319)

The thesis of the missile pessimists is that there are no presently available or near future defenses against presently available or near future missiles...

Re:Uh... (2)

anubi (640541) | about 2 years ago | (#41379191)

I kinda see it like delivering atomic weapons by dirigible.

Not so easy to sink... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41378913)

To sink 'em, you gotta find 'em.

Most people who have never been literally in the middle of the ocean have no fucking idea how big it is.

Re:Not so easy to sink... (2)

Bigby (659157) | about 2 years ago | (#41379155)

And when you find them, which isn't really that hard with technology, you encounter a fleet of ships. Not just an aircraft carrier. A carrier, by itself, is VERY vulnerable. But its shortcomings are made up for with the countless destroyers, cruisers, submarines, and other ships accompanying it.

The only way you can attack the aircraft carrier is to surprise all of those ships. A supersonic missle would work on an aircraft carrier for the same reason it would work just about anywhere else. If you can't recognize it and react in time with a missle that can intercept a supersonic missle, then you can't stop it.

This is all beside the point. The main purpose of an aircraft carrier is to be multi-purpose. It is a mobile city. Think of a cruise ship with a whole lot more technology and capabilities. It drives on nuclear power, launches air and land vehicles, launches some weapons, carries people, medical/food supplies, etc...

For the 21st Century, an idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41378929)

Let's combine our love of the military, and our love of space, and create space based carriers. Why make your jet take off from the ocean, when you can launch it from space? And what country wouldn't love the power to park your space carrier between another country's capital city and the Sun?

Re:For the 21st Century, an idea (1)

Duhavid (677874) | about 2 years ago | (#41379065)

And thus was created the first battle star.

Force projection, not a symbol of power (5, Insightful)

AntiBasic (83586) | about 2 years ago | (#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

Money is the weapon. (0)

roman_mir (125474) | about 2 years ago | (#41378945)

The carriers are expensive, they are expensive to build but they very expensive to operate. Carriers are the modern version of the ancient Roman armies marching and fighting for years at a time.

Just like those armies could not be sustained by the dying economy of the ancient empire, same will be true of these aircraft carriers. They are too expensive and that will be the weapon that will take them down. Not missiles, not submarines - money.

Re:Money is the weapon. (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41379053)

They are too expensive and that will be the weapon that will take them down. Not missiles, not submarines - money.

One tangential "money" issue is 1000 suicide boaters in a simultaneous attack is cheaper than one carrier. Carriers are really freaking expensive. That doesn't work well in the middle of an ocean, but near the shore of the Persian gulf, maybe...

Re:Money is the weapon. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379279)

First, they don't need to go all that close to the shore. Their airplanes have sufficient range that they can stay far enough away to have warning of attacks from shore-based enemies.

Second, they don't sail by themselves - they are part of a battlegroup with a number of attendant cruisers, destroyers and submarines which provide significant protection against both shore-based and other sources of attack.

Re:Money is the weapon. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379329)

1000 suicide boaters in a simultaneous attack is cheaper than one carrier.

How expensive is the redeployment cost of a 1000 suicide boats? Oh wait...

Their vulnerability is not demonstrated (1)

anorlunda (311253) | about 2 years ago | (#41378965)

Billy Mitchell demonstrated the vulnerability of modern warships in 1921. Although the vulnerability of carriers seems to be a matter of common sense, to my knowledge there is no carrier Billy Mitchell yet.

Re:Their vulnerability is not demonstrated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379087)

He simply staged sinking a stationary, defenseless ship. And that he did badly. Billy was no genius and shouldn't be hearlded as one.

Re:Their vulnerability is not demonstrated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379103)

All the weaknesses of a carrier are tied to a single vector: aircraft

If you can get close enough and damage the flight deck or break the ships back you terminate it's function in one operation.

Aircraft is also a carriers strength, so, good luck with that.

Re:Their vulnerability is not demonstrated (3, Interesting)

boner (27505) | about 2 years ago | (#41379137)

US carriers have been routinely sunk by canadian, australian, dutch and english subs. As another commentator mentioned, aircraft carriers are great for projecting power against an inferior enemy, not as much when facing a sophisticated foe.

Re:Their vulnerability is not demonstrated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379317)

Do those exercises include the sub actually getting away, or are they always operating as if on a suicide mission?

Re:Their vulnerability is not demonstrated (2)

pkinetics (549289) | about 2 years ago | (#41379171)

Seeing as how Mitchell embarrassed the Naval brass, beating them at their own game, the Navy would never give him recognition.

However, the Army and the Air Force, and the AF owes him a huge amount, have made numerous recognition of him.

Per Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Mitchell [wikipedia.org]

Re:Their vulnerability is not demonstrated (4, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#41379265)

Billy Mitchell demonstrated the vulnerability of modern warships in 1921.

And then went on to become the first person to ever achieve a perfect score [wikipedia.org] in Pac-Man.

Re:Their vulnerability is not demonstrated (3, Insightful)

Comrade Ogilvy (1719488) | about 2 years ago | (#41379323)

Akagi.

The vulnerability of carriers has been proven. A very long reach may allow them to outclass other surface ships in a duel, but they are still just very long armed boxers with glass jaws. We know what happens when carriers meet carriers. We expect must the same when surface-based craft hunt carriers.

In today's world there are many weapon systems that can match the long reach of a carrier, although it is (so far) unproven how accurately they can target a ship 400-600 miles out to sea. Targeting will inevitably improve, and then it becomes a matter of numbers where the missiles are cheap going up against an expensive carrier.

The US can do a lot more for vastly less money with 4 supercarriers and 10 pocket carriers designed for helicopters and UAVs than 11 supercarriers. And we still get the prestige of the supercarriers.

So what replaces them? (3, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | about 2 years ago | (#41378977)

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.

Re:So what replaces them? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379037)

Orbital Ion Cannons.

But they have to get the voice in the control system right.

"Ion Cannon Charging" I grew up with EVA saying that just as much as "Nuclear Lauch Detected."

Re:So what replaces them? (1)

littlewink (996298) | about 2 years ago | (#41379161)

They don't need replacement. They _are_ obsolete. There will be a first time when a nuke-tipped cruise missile obliterates a carrier and it won't be pretty. But that's what it takes to wake up the Navy where, as usual, they're always "fighting the previous war."

Re:So what replaces them? (4, Insightful)

Koreantoast (527520) | about 2 years ago | (#41379217)

If people start lobbing nuclear weapons around, then it's a completely different war, and if anyone has any experience using nuclear weapons, it's the United States.

Re:So what replaces them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379411)

You are aware aircraft carriers have multiple layers of defense and NEVER travel without its battlegroup consisting of dozens of other ships, each of which have their own set of defenses to add to the network. Radar, sonar, anti missle, anti aircraft, aircraft...Hell, they have gun systems capable of tracking and shooting down airborne threats the size of mortars. As new threats progress, these systems will only get better

In short--Its never obsolete to have a portable city with enouogh firepower to turn small countries into parking lots. As new threats to carriers develop, carrier defenses will develop with it. At this point they are just too useful to scrap the idea.

Re:So what replaces them? (1)

Duhavid (677874) | about 2 years ago | (#41379193)

"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."

Maybe true today ( I would argue Taiwan would already be in Chinese hands, and probably many of the other islands in the Pacific China has been laying claim to ).
Not necessarily true tomorrow. China has been acting more aggressively ( we can leave the right/wrong-ness of that out for the moment ) in the Pacific of late.
It is my considered opinion that the reason they have not just grabbed them is that the United States does have the ability to act in this arena.

I expect they will acquire more naval assets, and be even more aggressive in the future.

Re:So what replaces them? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#41379375)

I would suspect that some of the work in in-air refuelling, along with the less technological jockeying for airbase rights in assorted allies, neutrals, and frenemies, is driven by the desire to still have an air force that works without carriers...

Aside from that, though, the answer may be "Just because it's obsolete doesn't mean that a replacement is available".

Re:So what replaces them? (1)

Comrade Ogilvy (1719488) | about 2 years ago | (#41379415)

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.

A supercarrier can be replaced by a pocket carrier designed for UAVs, at a fraction of the cost. The UAVs can fly even longer distances, can have decent autopilots, the human pilots can be switched out when tired, and it is even theoretically possible to re-fuel in air.

Is a UAV really as good as a F-18 at all missions? Of course, not. But UAVs are better at the more common missions, and they are vastly cheaper both in terms of money and the political calculations around losing a human pilot.

Theater differentiation (1)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#41378981)

Carriers might not be useful for an attack on China or Russia, who have large land-masses, an active air-defense system, and several thousand cheap missiles to launch at a carrier or its air wing.

However, against an adversary with only a couple hundred missiles in their arsenal they are likely to be in service for another hundred years, as there is nothing even remotely on the horizon (no pun intended) to replace them for long range missions.

Carriers replacing battle ships brought a whole new concept.
The only new concept around these days is Drones.

But until a massive scale-up occurs, the drone payload is pitifully small, their self defense capability totally absent, and you still have to launch them from somewhere. Drones are more likely to be launched from carriers than they are to replace carriers.

Re:Theater differentiation (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | about 2 years ago | (#41379075)

Yep, If you need to invade Greneda, an AC is the perfect answer ;-)

I should point out that speed in water is proportional to length at waterline so you might want to put your drones on a very big ship (eg airgraft carrier)

Re:Theater differentiation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379285)

Supercarriers might be replaced by smaller carriers (on the scale of Amphibious assault ships) with drone combat wings over time - you might be able to launch 4x as many drones off a supercarrier, but it is probably easier to manage them with several smaller ships instead if you don't need as massive a flight deck. That said, it is rather nice to be able to position three carriers to deter Iran rather than rely on finding countries in the middle east that are safe and friendly enough to let us base 300 fighters out of their country.

Sunk? (5, Insightful)

Spazmania (174582) | about 2 years ago | (#41378987)

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.

Re:Sunk? (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 2 years ago | (#41379113)

"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."

Better, it let's you park an airfield several hundred miles off their border and project airpower using its own tankers.

Re:Sunk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379167)

Easy way to deal with it. ICBM. After the boost stage, even if there is no payload, the kinetic force hitting the carrier will ensure it will be underwater quite shortly.

If an Aussie high school student can launch one, it doesn't take much for a hostile power to do the same.

Re:Sunk? (1)

Duhavid (677874) | about 2 years ago | (#41379263)

Personally, I don't think that the day of the Carrier is at an end, but you do realize that your attitude is the same one used to defend building and relying on Battleships back in the day? If there is a new something out there, we need to start down that road and figure it out.

Re:Sunk? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379327)

It is quite rare to come that close to hostile territory - an escorting destroyer might come that close to shore, but the carrier itself will stay well out to sea to conduct flight ops - it is surrounded by the rest of the carrier battle group to protect it from missiles and other threats and needs defensive depth to make use of those defenses.

Symbol of Power? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41378991)

Or a symbol fiscal inefficiency?

Submarines (1)

swb (14022) | about 2 years ago | (#41379005)

I thought a submarine with a bunch of nuclear cruise missiles was a pretty intimidating item, provided you've got the brass to use 'em.

Re:Submarines (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#41379413)

It is, but you can put even more nuclear bombers on a carrier.

Author obviously knows nothing about the Navy (5, Informative)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about 2 years ago | (#41379009)

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.

Re:Author obviously knows nothing about the Navy (3, Insightful)

trybywrench (584843) | about 2 years ago | (#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

Re:Author obviously knows nothing about the Navy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379333)

They do know.

Apparently, the "not much" which can probably get there, includes pretty much every post-1970 Soviet-made ballistic missile (older models lacking sufficient accuracy for a conventional warhead while newer ones have a circular error of 5..7 meters) and most naval cruise missiles with a hypersonic terminal flight stage.

Let's be real. In a shooting war with capable opponents, those ships are sitting ducks (of course, so is the rest of the planet). Aircraft carriers don't need to survive that kind of a war. They are for limited-intensity conflicts, for overpowering targets with low offensive capability.

R2D2 beats missles. (1)

TigerPlish (174064) | about 2 years ago | (#41379039)

Or more properly, Phalanx CIWS does. R2D2 is just a nickname, owing to what the radar section looks like.

It was designed specifically to deal with supersonic hi-G maneuvering anti-ship missiles.

The future weapon to fear is the railgun. How are we (or anyone) going to defend against that? Forcefields? I can't think of any kind of armor that will stand up to a railgun.

Missiles.. how quaint.

Re:R2D2 beats missles. (4, Funny)

phrackwulf (589741) | about 2 years ago | (#41379157)

Localized hypersonic sound pulse emission combined with teraflop level calculation for precision targetting to disperse a concentrated aerosolized polymer matrix mist loaded with synthetic diamond.

I think anyway.

Re:R2D2 beats missles. (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | about 2 years ago | (#41379395)

I was under the impression that Phalanx is only "guaranteed" against subsonic missiles, but super+ are a crap-shoot at best

far away wars not as easy (1)

axehind (518047) | about 2 years ago | (#41379045)

In my opinion, the U.S. could not have waged some of the wars they have in the last 60 years without aircraft carriers.

Aircraft carriers? Bah! (3, Insightful)

Godai (104143) | about 2 years ago | (#41379047)

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

The Submariners simply call them targets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379067)

They might as well put giant bulls eyes on them.

Not going away as part of a battle group (1)

sapgau (413511) | about 2 years ago | (#41379091)

By itself aircraft carriers look like an easy target but they do not travel alone, they form part of a Carrier battle group [wikipedia.org] . So you have to go undetected through a submarine and a few frigates to get near them. Not everything is related to costs if you can't replace it.

Re:Not going away as part of a battle group (1)

eddy (18759) | about 2 years ago | (#41379305)

>So you have to go undetected through a submarine and a few frigates to get near them.

Which from my understanding has been done [wikipedia.org] , or at least, AIP submarines were considered threat enough that the US Navy needed 2 years to play with one.

How many do we need? (4, Insightful)

AllanL5 (814677) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Aircraft carriers have always been vulnerable (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about 2 years ago | (#41379111)

... 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 ...

Aircraft carriers have always been vulnerable to submarines and aircraft. These new missiles are modern analogs to the dive bombers, torpedo bombers and kamikazes of the past. While the offensive weaponry has improved, so has the defensive. Computers and radars have replaced the manually operated guns. Supersonic missile meet supersonic interceptor missile, wall of lead/steel from a computer/radar controlled gatling gun, etc. It is not a given that a modern carrier is any more vulnerable to modern missiles than WW2 era carriers were vulnerable to enemy aircraft.

Also note that with in-air refueling modern aircraft carriers can launch a strike from a much greater distance, thereby reducing its vulnerability.

So it's a floating parade. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41379163)

they are a symbol of power that no missile or submarine below the surface can match yet. Except those nuclear submarines and missles could sink them or do farm more indiscriminate damage if asked to. They are huge and project a lot of power don't get me wrong, but they are projecting power against regions of the world that are pretty much technologically still in the pre-1950s. The wouldn't seem so powerful if a bunch of relatively cheap missles were to sink them in an actual conflict. We've seen US strategy against foreign military now for a few decades of kill the air bases & rule the sky. Carriers would be target #1 in a conflict with any nation that has the capability to target them and turn them into very expensive high tech reefs.

Zone of Control (1)

Venner (59051) | about 2 years ago | (#41379219)

I wish I could find the reference, but an article I read not too long ago noted that a single fully-deployed modern nuclear-powered supercarrier (including logistcal support like AWACS, etc) stationed in the middle of the US eastern seaboard had an effective zone of control that stretched from Halifax to Havana. That's just impressive, and a good reason the navies would like to keep them around as a symbol of power.

Battleships became obsolete because they were designed only for surface-to-surface combat and bombardment, and were vulnerable from above (and below). I suspect aircraft carriers are more adaptable; among other things, nascent computer-guided railguns (large and small) will probably help against future incoming ballistic dangers.

"created during World War I" ??? (2)

Virtucon (127420) | about 2 years ago | (#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!

Re:"created during World War I" ??? (1)

Pop69 (700500) | about 2 years ago | (#41379397)

You didn't even get the date of the armistice correct. Makes everything else you said lack credibility

Flexibility (1)

phrackwulf (589741) | about 2 years ago | (#41379245)

Nope, the real tactical importance of a Carrier Battlegroup is flexibility. If I can survive the first shot, the second, third, fourth and fifth will be mine and any conventional enemy knows that. We want to park the largest number of options as close to the likely theater as possible because I can't predict what is going to happen. Modern warfare is too complex for that.

US should have fewer carriers (1)

Dan667 (564390) | about 2 years ago | (#41379331)

Does the US really need 11 carriers and to build several more? Nope.

Too expensive? Outsource them to China! (2)

amirishere (2651929) | about 2 years ago | (#41379347)

Its done with mobile phones, why not with aircraft carriers? You can get 10 for the price of one! *

*Leather case not included.

Being able to attack something... (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | about 2 years ago | (#41379361)

... isn't the same as being able to replace it.

Just as tanks and helicopters don't preclude the necessity of infantry, missile batteries do not preclude the necessity of being able to occupy territory.

Really the China tag? (1)

amirishere (2651929) | about 2 years ago | (#41379373)

Why not also an India tag?

HUH? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#41379419)

" Some, though, have called the carrier a 21st-century version of a battleship — high on looks and weapons but vulnerable to modern weapons."

Sorry but battleships like the IOWA are immune to all modern weapons other than a space based particle beam or a Nuclear weapon. Even the most feared" Exocet missile will do no damage to the IOWA and it's almost 13 inch thick steel armor.

"The Iowas' armor scheme was modeled on that of the preceding South Dakota class, and designed to give a zone of immunity against fire from 16-inch/45-caliber guns between 18,000 and 30,000 yards (16,000 and 27,000 m) away. The magazines and engine rooms were protected by an armored belt 12.2 inches (310 mm) thick, which sloped to give an effective vertical thickness of 13.5 inches (340 mm). Their armor was not sufficient to protect against guns equivalent to their own 16-inch/50-caliber guns" What is shot out of the big guns is far FAR more powerful than any anti ship missle in the US or any other fleet's armory.

Upgrade a battleship with modern anti aircraft systems and a single IOWA class battleship would utterly destroy most nations entire navy fleet before it was taken down. Unless Japan brings back the Yamato, that one was HUGE with 46cm guns that was basically shooting a school bus full of explosives at the enemy.

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