Tuesday, September 04, 2007

5 Reasons the Aircraft Carrier is Obsolete

For over 60 years the attack aircraft carrier with her deck load of fighters and bombers has dominated the oceans, as well as the minds of naval strategists. According to this article, the world's major naval powers are gearing up for a new carrier race, unseen since World War 2, but it may be money and resources wasted. Here's why the modern flattop's dominance of the sea may be running out of steam:

1). The Shkval torpedo-This Russian weapon utilizes super-cavitation technology giving it an astounding underwater speed of 200 knots. The Navy has stated “Fitted with a nuclear warhead, Shkval could obliterate entire US naval battle groups and abruptly blow a hole in the USA’s carrier based air superiority doctrine”. Iran is said to possess a version called the "Hoot".

2). Wake Homing torpedoes-Last year, says the Washington Times, the Chinese discovered a weakness in the underwater structure of our modern carriers, which can be taken advantage of by using wake homing torpedoes designed by the Russians.

3). Air Independent Submarines-Modern diesel subs, of the kind built by Germany, France, and Russia are sold around the world and come equipped with new AIP technology allowing them to remain undetected for weeks. Such weapons can easily come into the possession of rogue states such as Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela, and perhaps already are. Diesel boats are also far quieter than nuclear subs, and there are more than 400 built or building in the world today.

4). Less vulnerable platforms duplicate the carrier's mission. Forward presence (showing the flag), close air support for ground troops, and anti-sub and anti-surface warfare is currently spread around the armed services. US destroyers currently make their presence known in all the worlds hot spots and can attack targets at long range using cruise missiles. Long-range bombers and vertol plans like the Harrier support the troops, the latter from light carriers. Submarines and helicopter-equipped destroyers and frigates take care of the submarine problem.

5) The cost. Modern super carriers generally price at about $6 billion each, but this is only the beginning. There is also an equally costly air wing to consider (about 90 planes at $50 million each for the US ships), plus 3-5 escorts ships and at least 1 attack submarine at $2 billion each for protection, plus 6000 crewmen, and $300 million per year on upkeep. And they wonder why our fleet has sunk from 600 ships to less than half since the last decade!

As we have seen, the escort ships are currently duplicating the carriers' mission, which may make future strategists question why an expensive "mothership" is needed for today's warfare.