Since their introduction in the early 20th century, aircraft carriers have become essential components of the naval forces of many countries around the world. Due to the technological advancements and arrival of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) many experts believe that aircraft carriers are becoming obsolete. But the truth is that aircraft carriers are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future!
Today, we will explore 10 reasons why are aircraft carriers important and why they will continue to be important in the coming years!
1. Offensive Capabilities
Aircraft carriers provide a navy with the ability to carry out offensive operations, such as bombing raids, from the sea. The latest super carrier of the US Navy, USS Gerald R Ford, is fitted with destructive weapons like Surface-to-air missiles (2 × RIM-162 ESSM launchers 2 × RIM-116 RAM) , different type of machine guns (3 × Phalanx CIWS, 4 × Mk 38 25 mm Machine Gun Systems, 4 × M2 .50 Cal. (12.7 mm) machine guns), and is capable of carrying 75+ aircraft, more than any other carrier in the world.
Can we attain same kind of offensive capabilities with any present day UAVs? So far, no!
2. Defensive Capabilities
Those who are against aircraft carriers will always give you reasons like they are vulnerable to attacks, they are difficult to defend, but they will never tell you about the defending capabilities of a carrier. An aircraft carrier not only provide a navy with the ability to defend against air threats, such as hostile aircraft or missiles, before they can reach their intended target, but they are also very capable of defending themselves, thanks to the technological advancement.
The latest Gerald-class carriers comes with many advance defense system and sensors onboard, which gives them an extra edge over the enemies!
3. Power Projection
Aircraft carriers allow a country to project military power across vast distances, giving them a strategic advantage over their enemies. They can be used to send a message of strength and resolve, and can be used to show support for allies (like the US did for Taiwan against China), and can also be used to deter hostile nations from taking aggressive action.
4. Increased Air Support
Aircraft carriers provide a major advantage in terms of air support. Aircraft carriers can easily launch and recover aircraft at sea, allowing them to provide air support anywhere in the world. This is invaluable for both offensive and defensive operations. Aircraft carriers can also provide air support for ground forces, allowing them to quickly respond to threats even on a foreign land.
Aircraft carriers can carry a variety of different aircraft, giving them the ability to carry out a wide range of missions, literally anywhere in the world. They can move quickly to most advantageous positions during an operation as they are one of the fastest large surface vessels in the world.
6. Interdiction of Maritime Trafficking
Aircraft carriers are also used to interdict maritime trafficking. They can detect and intercept ships carrying illegal goods or weapons (recently U.S. Navy seized 1.1 Million Rounds of Illegal Ammunition in Gulf of Oman) , and can be used to provide support for law enforcement operations. This makes them an invaluable tool in the fight against organized crime and terrorism.
7. Intelligence Gathering
Aircraft carriers can also be used for intelligence gathering. They can deploy reconnaissance aircraft to gather information on enemy forces and can be used to provide electronic surveillance. This can provide valuable insight into the enemy’s capabilities and intentions, thereby protecting the country proactively!
8. Nearly Impossible To Sink
This might surprise you, as according to many experts (of course those who are in favor of a lighter navy), due to their huge size, the aircraft carriers are more vulnerable to attacks, but the fact is that it is this humongous size which makes them more safe. Confused? Well due to the vast size, the United States carriers have numerous water-tight compartments, and additional armoring into major onboard systems. So even if a weapon hits a carrier, the damage will be limited.
9. Unlimited Range
The latest Gerald-class carriers, and the older Nimitz-class carriers have virtually unlimited range, all thanks to the nuclear-powered propulsion. This means, that in case of a war or an operation, even if the fuel supply ships of the US Navy are intercepted or destroyed, the carriers will continue to perform their duties, as they can generate their own power. Only thing to consider is that these carriers will still need to stop for replenishment of provisions for the crew, if that is enough, there is no stopping for them!
10. Humanitarian Aid
Aircraft carriers can also be used for humanitarian aid operations, Yes, you heard it right! They can be used to quickly deliver aid to disaster-stricken areas and can provide air support to aid workers.
Aircraft carriers have been used many times for such missions in the past, like in 2004, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) departed Hong Kong in response to a powerful earthquake and tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia killing more than 250,000 people. During Operation Unified Assistance, U.S. forces airlifted on a daily basis an average of 522,000 pounds of food, water, and other critical supplies during the 47-day operation. Six years later, USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), six amphibious vessels, and more than a dozen escorts responded to the 2010 Haiti earthquake that leveled the capital city Port-au-Prince.
Aircraft carriers are a powerful symbol of national strength and have been an essential part of the modern navy since the early 20th century. From their ability to provide air support to their role in humanitarian aid, aircraft carriers are truly indispensable, and that is why even with latest technological advancements, aircraft carriers are here to stay for a long time!