The U.S. Navy's Aircraft Carrier Nightmare Is Completely Terrifying

Nimitz-Class Aircraft Carriers
July 14, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: U.S. NavyNavyMilitaryDefenseAircraft CarriersChinaRussia

The U.S. Navy's Aircraft Carrier Nightmare Is Completely Terrifying

The United States has relied on aircraft carriers as the cornerstone of its naval strategy since World War II. However, today's geopolitical landscape, with multiple state and non-state actors challenging U.S. dominance, demands a reassessment of this strategy.

 

Summary and Key Points: The United States has relied on aircraft carriers as the cornerstone of its naval strategy since World War II. However, today's geopolitical landscape, with multiple state and non-state actors challenging U.S. dominance, demands a reassessment of this strategy.

Nimitz-Class Aircraft Carrier

 

-The predictable deployment of aircraft carriers makes the U.S. vulnerable to advanced countermeasures developed by rivals like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

-These adversaries have created anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) systems, including hypersonic weapons and anti-ship missiles, that can neutralize or even destroy carriers.

-Therefore, America must rethink its naval strategy to remain effective in modern warfare.

U.S. Naval Strategy Faces New Threats from China and Russia

The United States has made the aircraft carrier the centerpiece of its naval strategy since the Second World War. For most of that time, this was a wise move by Washington. Few nations—even the old Soviet Union—could match America’s capabilities in aircraft carriers. Today, however, the world is increasingly hostile to the United States. 

What’s more, unlike the Cold War era, where there was one major challenger to American primacy and security, there are today at least two major great states challenging America’s dominance and multiple other medium-sized states, such as Iran or North Korea, seeking to undermine the American position. That’s to say nothing of the various non-state actors that have been threatening American security since the 9/11 attacks. 

America Needs to Rethink Its Naval War Strategy

What is needed today is a total rethink of the way that America fights—and wins—its wars. Because, since the end of the Cold War, the United States has not adapted very well to the environment. The way that it procures weapons and equipment and plans for wars is simply outmoded. Very often, political considerations and the desires of well-funded defense contractors seeking to enhance their bottom line (at the taxpayer’s expense) define the mission as opposed to the actual mission and understanding of the threat defining the weapon or the strategy. 

Hence, America’s obsession with expensive and cumbersome aircraft carriers. The United States has not only committed to this weapons platform, but it has become a cultural symbol. That is why the cult of flat tops has taken hold to such a degree that to even point out that great state rivals, such as China and Russia, as well as the proxies for these nations, such as Iran or North Korea, have developed highly effective countermeasures is considered unpatriotic or worse, heretical. But this fixation on the carrier as more than just a weapons platform, as a cultural icon, is precisely what makes it such a terrible weapon to rely upon.

America’s enemies, whether it be China—especially China—or Russia, or even their proxies, know exactly how the Americans will respond to their irredentism. It will involve the deployment of aircraft carriers. The one thing a military does not want to be in any conflict is predictable. This is especially true if rivals have built entire arsenals of weapons and tracking equipment specifically designed to stunt the potency—or to even destroy—the weapon system, such as an aircraft carrier, that everyone knows your side will deploy at the start of any engagement. 

The US Navy is Being Too Predictable

But the US has so heavily invested in the aircraft carrier as the centerpiece of their naval strategy, and the great power conflict we all fear seems to be closer than it has been in decades, meaning that the US is married to the flat top as its primary power projection weapon at sea.

Nimitz-Class Aircraft Carrier

Thus, Washington’s current war plans play right into China’s and Russia’s anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) strategies. If actual war erupts between the United States or any of its major rivals, these forces will do what they must to win the war—and that means going-for-broke and trying to sink US carriers before they can become a serious threat to their forces and interests. 

One way or another, thanks to the advent of hypersonic weapons and anti-ship missiles, such as China’s DF-21 series, American aircraft carriers will not be as effective against targets defended by these A2/AD systems. 

Nimitz-Class

China, Russia, Iran, and probably North Korea all have developed such countermeasures to one degree or another. America is speeding toward a reckoning at sea the likes of which it hasn’t experienced since the Second World War. 

About the Author 

Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life, and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy. Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.

All images are Creative Commons.