In continuing the discussion of naval supremacy and the current emphasis on aircraft carriers in U.S. Navy doctrine, the cost and potential cost of having an aircraft carrier destroyed by enemy action cannot be ignored.
To replace any of the current aircraft carriers would cost upwards of $14 billion (the projected cost of the Ford-class carrier currently under construction) and would take many years to complete. Additionally, the loss of over 5,000 sailors and marines would be a bitter pill for the American public to swallow. In comparison, the U.S. lost a total of 4,490 service members during the Iraq War running from 2003 through 2015.
The impact of that many losses in one incident cannot be stressed enough.
Unfortunately, it would have to be faced if the Navy was forced to deploy to a region that had the capability of targeting and destroying American carriers. As long as we are fighting countries that have little area denial capabilities – such as Syria, Iraq, Iran and most of this country’s potential foes – the hazard to the carriers can be minimized, but as soon as we face an opponent that can challenge us, the carrier becomes an unacceptable risk.
Fortunately, naval officers are looking at the problem and working on solutions. Many of them are radical, but with the change in the way that naval wars will be fought in the future, radical changes may be necessary.
If wars to control the seas and ensure that ships with material and troops can take the war to the enemy are no longer to be fought – can anyone really see a way the United States could invade China? – then the weapons that were conceived and built to fight that war need to be retired or redesigned to encompass the realities of current and future warfare.
In a war with China, for example, the most effective assets the United States Navy could employ are submarines. In addition to attack submarines to destroy China’s naval assets, guided missile submarines fitted out with cruise missiles could attack China’s military and industrial base. The SSGN version of the Ohio-class submarine carries 154 tomahawk cruise missiles and is one of, if not the, quietest submarines in the world. Designed and built for stealth and survivability, the Ohio’s are potentially the Navy’s most potent naval force in the South China Sea.
Naval doctrine of sea control rose from World War II and could be adapted to the realities of the Cold War. The current climate that emphasizes littoral warfare over high seas warfare puts the aircraft carrier at a distinct disadvantage. Submarines could go where carriers cannot and even though the loss of an SSN or SSGN would be a personal and financial tragedy, it would be anywhere near as bad as the loss that a nuclear aircraft carrier would represent.
This is the second in a series of articles talking about the changing environment of naval strategy.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.