The Ford Class Carrier
America continued to prove itself as a military powerhouse on Saturday, as President Trump commissioned the USS Gerald R Ford-the largest warship ever built. The USS Gerald R. Ford is the first in a line of 10 of her class, meant to replace the aging Nimitz class carriers, which have been in service for over 40 years.
The carriers have a large price tag attached to them-around 16 billion dollars a piece, which makes them some of the most expensive weapons of war in human history. The carriers sport fancy technology as well-electromagnetic catapults to launch planes, new nuclear reactors and electrical functions, 600 less crew than the Nimitz class, and better radar. Nevertheless, there are still major problems. The carrier’s launch was delayed by two years, and was priced well above the expectations for Congress.
The harsh reality of large aircraft carriers is that they are somewhat useless for modern warfare. They are immense, expensive, sitting ducks when alone, and can be easily taken out by a hypersonic missile. As a result, a typical US aircraft carrier needs a variety of ships around it, including cruisers, destroyers, and submarines, to be protected from outside threats. This is extremely expensive, and limits the flexibility of the US Navy. Valuable naval assets, during times of war, would be tied up protecting US carriers. Carrier based fighter jets, meanwhile, are out ranged by anti-ship missiles. In order to attack a land based target, the carrier would need to move within range of enemy anti-ship missiles.
American aircraft carriers would only be useful during a large, prolonged naval war, with a formidable foe. This is not the case in the 21st century. The US navy is vastly superior to every other navy on the planet, even without its supercarriers. While it can be argued that these supercarriers provide a deterrent against naval warfare, and are thus needed, the reality of the 21st century is that no two countries want to fight a prolonged war due to globalization. Additionally, many simulations have demonstrated that the carriers can be sunk with relative ease. Submarines can easily sneak up on aircraft carriers undetected. An Iranian swarm of speedboats could also sink a lone carrier, meaning that a carrier battle group is required when passing through the vital strait of Hormuz.
The US navy is still built for the 20th century, but it needs to move towards the 21st century. The reality is that supercarriers are not suited towards modern naval warfare, nor are they suited to the national debt.