Are Aircraft Carriers Obsolete?

Are Aircraft Carriers Obsolete?

aircraft carriers obsolete
Photo By- Petty Officer 2nd Class Jackson Adkins, US Navy

Last updated on December 16th, 2022 at 10:34 am

Aircraft carriers have been a mainstay of modern navies since their introduction in the early 20th century by the British Royal Navy, today United States Navy boasts the largest number of carriers in the world. But with the advent of new technologies and the changing nature of warfare, some have asked the question: Are Aircraft Carriers obsolete?

The answer to this question is not a simple yes or no. While it is true that technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, aircraft carriers still provide a unique capability to project power and influence around the world. Aircraft carriers are still an important part of any navy’s fleet and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.

So in this article, we will explore the use and utility of aircraft carriers in the modern world, are aircraft carriers still important, and will aircraft carriers be redundant in the future.

First, let’s take a quick look at what an Aircraft Carrier is, and what are its uses!

An aircraft carrier is a large warship designed to launch, recover, and support aircraft operations at sea. Aircraft carriers project power and influence across the world’s oceans and are the centerpiece of any navy’s fleet. Aircraft carriers are equipped with various weapons, sensors, and communication systems, capable of carrying various aircraft, including fighter jets, bombers, helicopters, and UAVs.

Aircraft carriers are also used to support naval operations, such as anti-submarine warfare, mine warfare, and search and rescue operations. Aircraft carriers also provide a platform for air support to ground forces and can be used to conduct air strikes against enemy targets.

Now the question is if aircraft carriers are still important or not?

Despite the advent of new technologies, aircraft carriers are still important for several reasons.

Firstly, aircraft carriers provide a platform for air operations, allowing a navy to launch air strikes against enemy targets.

Secondly, aircraft carriers provide a platform for air support for ground troops, allowing a navy to provide air cover for ground operations.

Finally, aircraft carriers provide a means of rapid deployment, allowing a navy to deploy forces to distant locations rapidly.

So if aircraft carriers have so many uses, why does the question of them being obsolete keep coming up?

Well, many experts believe that carriers are indeed obsolete now and they have many reasons to believe so, some of those reasons are:

  • Aircraft carriers are seen as a significant risk in today’s world due to their big size and slow speed, which makes them easy targets for the high numbers of sophisticated weaponry, such as cruise missiles. These missiles are designed to evade countermeasures, so even with the use of anti-missile systems, the carriers are still vulnerable. As a result, if conflict arises, these ships have to move far away from shore, thus reducing their overall effectiveness.
  • The cost of aircraft carriers is very high – the Ford-class costs around $13 billion (excluding research and development), and the older Nimitz-class costs around $9 billion, so they are generally not used for smaller operations as it is more cost-effective to risk a smaller vessel in a situation where it wouldn’t be worth risking a whole carrier group.
  • The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones in naval aviation is becoming more and more important. Currently, aircraft carriers are designed to accommodate manned aircraft, but they could potentially be adapted to house UAVs. It is also possible to create smaller, more cost-effective, stealthy, and more efficient vessels that are specifically designed for UAV operations.
  • The operation of aircraft carriers requires a huge labor force – typically over 3000 sailors, meaning additional costs for salaries, pensions and other such benefits. Automation may be able to achieve the same military objectives with a much smaller staff and less expenditure.
are aircraft carriers obsolete
The U.S. Navy Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) and the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) underway in the Atlantic Ocean on 4 June 2020, marking the first time a Gerald R. Ford-class and a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier operated together underway.

So will the Aircraft Carriers be obsolete in the future?

It is clear that aircraft carriers are still a powerful and important tool in modern warfare. They are expensive to build and maintain, but they provide a unique capability to project air power over a wide area and are a crucial part of a nation’s naval force.

As technology advances, aircraft carriers may need to adapt and evolve to remain relevant, but they are unlikely to become obsolete anytime soon.

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