Aircraft Carriers vs. Submarines: The Future of Naval Power

Ford-Class Aircraft Carrier

Aircraft Carriers vs. Submarines: The Future of Naval Power

The history of naval warfare has seen a continuous battle for supremacy between aircraft carriers and submarines, two of the most formidable types of warships.


In combat, aircraft carriers are faster than submarines, and have a group of escorts (often including a submarine) intended for self defense. Carriers can also launch aircraft capable of detecting and attacking submarines at range, although the availability of these aircraft has waned since the end of the Cold War. For their part, submarines can strike carriers at ever greater distance with cruise missiles, and can increasingly utilize targeting data provided by offboard sensors to find their prey.

Last Salvo

Submarines will remain relevant weapons of war as long as the sea offers a barrier to detection and to the use of weapons. Aircraft carriers will remain relevant as long as its useful to have mobile airfields. As both of these conditions seem likely to hold for the foreseeable future, carrier captains and sub skippers will still need to worry a great deal about one another.


About the Author: Dr. Robert Farley 

Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to TNI, teaches at the University of Kentucky.