May 6, 2008

U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers

“…They provide US policymakers with 90,000 tons of deployable, difficult-to-ignore, cold-steel persuasion … At a time when it is increasingly difficult for the U.S. to gain permission from host nations to position aircraft and troops on their soil, carriers perform an indispensable role…”

A picture means different things to different people. To some, the image is merely a ship or ships, naval vessels, or a large chunks of steel and bitumen floating on water. Indeed there are others who would instantly think of the now hackneyed derogatory designation, Great Satan and its tools of evil.

Peter Brookes has a different interpretation. While considering the consequences of funding cuts that will see the U.S. carrier fleet drop from 12 in 2007 to 10 by 2012, he articulates an exceedingly accurate and correct narrative, of the sheer force and clout, as projected by the U.S. Navy carrier fleet.

“Carriers are … handy tools of (gunboat) diplomacy. They provide US policymakers with 90,000 tons of deployable, difficult-to-ignore, cold-steel persuasion, as evidenced by the recent deployment near Iran … Without firing a single shot, the presence of 4.5 acres of floating, sovereign US territory off the coast has given more than one foreign leader pause. At the onset of a crisis, the first words a president often utters are: "Where are the carriers?"

It seems there are not enough flattops to “meet current - and potential - wartime needs now” … because “budget is tight, programs are behind schedule and they're trying to avoid sinking the fleet's total of battle-force ships below today's 279 hulls.” Read more here

This is one of a string of articles appearing of late discussing the same question. Late in 2007, Robert D. Kaplan scribed an article aptly titled, America’s Elegant Decline where he points out that:

“During the Cold War, the 600-ship U.S Navy needed to be in only three places in force—the Atlantic and Pacific flanks of the Soviet Union and the Mediterranean; we sometimes subcontracted out less-important tropical sea-lanes to other free-world navies. Now we need to cover the Earth with less than half that number of ships.”

But I want to focus on aircraft carriers. Since the Second World War they became a powerful symbol of U.S. navy supremacy and superpower status by fulfilling a unique forward military presence role at the first signs of trouble in all regions of the globe.

At any given moment, there are at least three carriers cruising the world’s oceans, more often than not, in the Persian Gulf, The Mediterranean Sea and Pacific Ocean. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 the USS Eisenhower was in position in the Red Sea and within striking range of Iraq within a mere 48 hours!

At a time when it is increasingly difficult for the U.S. to gain permission from host nations to position aircraft and troops on their soil, carriers perform an indispensable role because international law dictates that they are sovereign U.S. territory eliminating the aforementioned need to gain authorization from other states. With most of the planets surface made up of oceans, they provide U.S. policymakers and military strategist’s great freedom to bring U.S. firepower and presence most nearly anywhere.

Writes Kaplan, “A great navy is like oxygen: You notice it only when it is gone. But the strength of a nation’s sea presence, more than any other indicator, has throughout history often been the best barometer of that nation’s power and prospects … In our day, carrier strike groups, floating in international waters only a few miles off enemy territory, require no visas or exit strategies
History has taught us valuable lessons about diminishing military power and its capacity to “embolden potential adversaries. More than one historically great naval power became a shadow of its former self - much to its detriment.”

Great nations who begin failing in the naval arena will sooner or later fall short as a world leader. The last thing we need in this, the 21st century, a moment in time when the American era will certainly be challenged, is a shrinking navy.


Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Well said.

I'm concerned about the urge that some of America's leaders seem to have, to treat the people who risk their lives to protect Americans (including members of Congress) like an enemy - or at least an atavistic parasite.

If the world were filled with nice people, who would respond in a civilized manner to those with different viewpoints, we wouldn't need armed forces.

We don't live in a world like that, so there will be a power around to maintain some sort of order.

I'd rather that the power be a nation that invented contemporary democracy, and which tolerates extreme differences of opinion within its own borders.

Particularly since the alternative seems to be a world where order is maintained by a patchwork of petty tyrants.

Rant over.

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

Great post Otto. The Carrier fleet of The United States is a tremendous stabalizing factor for the entire world. Send in a Carrier task force and any enemy or despot like Achmanutjob takes pause when he considers what he may be facing.

Couple of intersting stats about Carriers. Each Nimitz Class Carrier has more fire power than all but two Countries in the world. The US, (of course), and Great Britain.

Also when California was in the midst of their electricity crises several years ago one of the measures that was used to conserve energy and take much of the pressure ofthe California grid was using the Nuclear Power Plant on the USS Nimitz.

It was in refit at the San Diego Naval Base and they took the entire San Diego County off of the California elctric grid and used the Nimits Nuclear Plant to supply the power for the WHOLE COUNTY for several months while the Nimizt under went the refit.

That my friend is POWER!!

MK said...

And folks like B. Hussein Obama are yearning to cut more money from the armed forces and spend that on coddling all the parasites and on socializing America. And guess who is expanding their military and spending ever more on their armed forces, yep, you guessed it, Communist China.

These are folks who killed tens of millions of their own through their ideology, and we expect them to treat us better, just because we like buying our crap made there. Oh look a fleet of morbidly obese pigs sailing elegantly past.

The sad thing is that if you ask the average westerner, if you can distract them from American idol or Big Brother that is, most of us have little or no idea of the value of a powerful armed forces. It's a result of our irrational fear of weapons and controlled aggression.

Most of us really do think that all these warplanes, bombs, guns and nasty battleships are probably standing in the way of global peace and utopia. And if only we could just give them all up, our constantly misunderstood enemies are just yearning for follow our example.

I fear we will have to lose it all and have to plow the fields of our enemies for a long time before we wake up Otto, i hope i'm 100% wrong.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...


I agree that this is a frustrating time in history.

However, I'm not sure who the "Most of us" is ("Most of us really do think that all these warplanes, bombs, guns and nasty battleships are probably standing in the way of global peace and utopia.").

Is the "us" Australians?

Another point, and this I think is important.

You referred to "B. Hussein Obama". In context, that's a clear reference to Barack Hussein Obama, Jr., American presidential candidate.

The emphasis on "Hussein," however, is, in my opinion, regrettable. People with conservative and/or pro-American attitudes start out being labeled as xenophobic. It's not a good idea to live down to that label.

Yes, Mr. Obama's middle name really is "Hussein."

No, I do not believe Mr. Obama would be a good president for America.

But - that belief has nothing to do with his name. It's his voting record, and his core belief system that's now emerging in the campaign.

"It's no more reasonable to think that a Hussein is a tyrant-in-the-making, than it is to assume that a Schmidt wears black boots and marches the goose step, or that Johnsens and Stensruds are likely to lead a band of raiders down the Mississippi." (from "A Presidential Candidate Named Hussein? Get a Grip!" (February 28, 2008))

American said...


And a good rant it was. In our curent climate the alternative is unthinkable. An imbalance of power where the reigns are held by the USA, is the safest bet...

Ken Taylor:

I found the stats fascinating. That's a large dose of kilowatts! I like the second sentence in your first paragraph..Take heed "Achmanutjob"


I often wonder what it is, that makes many believe that "all these warplanes, bombs, guns and nasty battleships are probably standing in the way of global peace and utopia". Is that what they're taught at school? Silly question, for that's exactly what they are taught!

WomanHonorThyself said...

A great navy is like oxygen: You notice it only when it is gone...what a fabulous and telling quote Otto...thanks for sharing!..:)

Tapline said...

Otto, AS usual, an outstanding post. One of these babies is a floating city. i forget many personnel there are on one of them, but its in the thousands....stay well.....

MK said...

"Is the "us" Australians?"

Not all of us here, but a significant number of us think that way, look at our gun control laws and if you will ask Australians if they'd give up our socialized medicine and welfare and instead put that money into our security and expanding our armed forces and i think you'll know what i mean.

I'm also talking about Europe, other western countries and people in America, B. Hussein Obama has already stated he will be making significant cuts into military spending and he has a lot of support, surely his supporters know this.

And i say 'B. Hussein' not because i dislike him because of his race or his previous religion, but because it pisses off his supporters, i'm cheeky that way. :)

MK said...

"Is that what they're taught at school? Silly question, for that's exactly what they are taught!"

That's part of the reason, but in my experience, i know people who were never brought up in western society, who lived under the rule of the gun. They who know what the rest of the world is really like and should know better, yet they still choose the path of appeasement and insisting the baddies would go way if we just left them alone.

It baffles me to this day and probably will for a long time to come.

David Schantz said...

Great Post. A mobile air base right off shore gives a power crazed dictator something to think about before acting. Cutting our carrier numbers is a foolish mistake. One of our Nephews spent a few years on the Abe Lincoln. God bless everyone that is now serving or has served in the United States Military.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

TRUTH-PAIN said...

As an ex Navy man myself I speak both clinically and emotionally about a branch of service I hold dear. Yes the flattops are a stunning-looking forward force invaluable to projecting American might and policy, and yes they can race at 40 knots anywhere in the world and be at hot spots within days of any urgency. While I agree with your posting, I am also looking over the Technical horizon a little bit. The new classes of stealth carriers are a different animal altogether. They are smaller, faster, somewhat cheaper to maintain and operate, and (like the new Army configuration) are geared for speed, tactical strikes and subterfuge, rather than sheer visual might and large target footprint. I would hope the Pentagon and Congress see the logic in investing in the smaller "raptor" like qualities of newer hull technologies rather than the existing (though still effective) Dynosaur-ish qualities of these behemoths. Sure they still pack a punch..... but so did the Battleships at one point.

Great post as always Otto. Good to be reading your stuff after a much-needed break. Kudos!

American said...

No worries thank YOU for coming by...

Yes they are huge!

American said...

Mate, I know where your coming from and you are's obama's policies that concern us... and about your second point, I do not understand either, never will...Keep up the good fight!

American said...

Truth Pain:
Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I feel certain that the technological hull transition will take place, it's inevitable. Can you foresee the day when flat tops go the way of destroyers? If so, what time frame?