Are aircraft carriers needed anymore?

Are Aircraft carriers usefull anymore or just sitting ducks for missiles and subs.?

Considering that they are the centerpiece of the dominant military on the planet, I think the answer is self-evident.

If you think they are “sitting ducks” for anything you need to read up.

While not much of an OP, I’ll attempt to answer anyway. I think the last major rethinking of warfare, especially naval warfare, was in WWII. The carriers reigned supreme, especially in the Pacific, and pretty much relegated the big battleships to the scrap heap. Air superiority is currently a major part of warfare (and an area in which America is basically unmatched) and today’s tactics call for fast communication between ground troops and air support to allow either missiles or planes to take out large masses of enemy troops. This only works if the air support is near the battle at the time, meaning you either have to have an airstrip or a carrier somewhere nearby. As for a blue-water navy, no other country can boast one the size of America’s, and the composition of a modern carrier group makes it very difficult for anything to sneak up within striking range.

Yes, carriers are userful, and yes, they are needed, and no, they arent sitting ducks for either subs or missiles, though they are vulnerable. Carriers are usually at the center of any carrier tast group, and the most protected asset in the fleet.


Yes ,AC might look nice and scary but so far we have not seen reall war yet.
Over last 50 or so years US fougth only weak and hugely inferior enemies with no navy what so ever.
If there will be conventional conflict bettwen USA and China or Russia, Carriers have no chance staying afloat.
In my oppinion Aircraft Carriers are great at one thing, intimmidating other countries.

Alone? They’re extremely vulnerable to just about anything and everything because they’re very focused on one thing: maintaining and launching fighters. But the key point is this: they are rarely, if ever, alone at sea. As others have mentioned, aircraft carriers are the centerpieces for large taskforces designed to have overlapping strengths that can counter any type of threat thrown against it. Subs would find it very difficult to penetrate the screen thrown up around the carrier by its own group of attack subs, destroyers, etc.

Carriers were around during WWII and were vitally important during the Pacific campaign. Does WWII qualify as a real war? I don’t understand why you think a carrier has no chance of staying afloat. A carrier is surrounded by an entire taskforce comprised of various escorts and even a sub or two. They have defenses designed to protect themselves from enemy aircraft, ships, and even missiles.

You’re right about carriers being great at intimidating others but why is that? Because carriers represent the ability to project real military power over vast distances.


As has been pointed out, carriers were instrumental in WWII…a ‘real’ war by any definition. They also were instrumental in Korea and Vietnam…and even in the Gulf Wars. You see, carriers are all about projecting power…air power. You sound like the same Air Force smucks after WWII saying that there was no longer any need for naval air power, they had it covered. Problem is, the Air Force can’t really move around or project power like the Navy can.

As to your assertion that in a conflict between the US and China or US and Russia our carriers would have ‘no chance of staying afloat’, what exactly do you base that on? Going nuclear?? Well, certainly if the war goes nuclear, having carrier’s would be a moot point, no doubt. However, if it remained conventional, what exactly are you thinking would sink them all?? Russia’s/China’s vast navy? Their air force? Their vast submarine force?? The Navy would be instrumental in a conflict (which is HIGHLY unlikely btw) with either China or Russia, as it would be are primary instrument of projecting air power, especially initially.

You got one thing right though…carriers ARE good at “intimmidating other countries”. Why do you suppose that is though?


Carriers are more important now than they ever were, because the nature of the threats against the U.S. Trouble spots can flare up anywhere - India/Pakistan, Taiwan, North Korea, the Persian Gulf, South America, even Europe. Carriers give the U.S. the ability to project power just about anywhere in the world on very short notice, without requiring the cooperation of other nations.

Carriers are very valuable even in peacetime. They help maintain the peace by giving the U.S. a way to show force and provide deterrents to aggression. When China starts making threatening noises against Taiwan, the U.S. can float a couple of carrier groups into the region and calm things down. When North Korea starts acting belligerant, the U.S. can float a few carriers into the region and let it be known that aggression can be met instantly with everything up to and including nuclear weapons.

Without carriers, the U.S. would be stuck with having to maintain many more land bases throughout the world, and areas that did not have good coverage would be increasingly vulnerable to tyrants.

A carrier group is exceedingly powerful. It can pack a bigger wallop by itself than the entire militaries of many nations.

For what it’s worth Gary Brecher, the War Nerd, thinks that carriers are in the same position now as battleships were in the 1940s: big showy strategic weapons that wouldn’t survive a day against a foe with a decent supply of anti-ship missiles.


But until that fateful day we need them for the reasons cited above- having mobile air bases is just too darn convenient.

Hrmm. Ol’ Gary is a damned fool if ever there was one. His ability to wave off pesky reality and come to the damned wrong conclusion is amazing. Just read his 9/11 musings to get a measure of that one. But anyhoo…

We have faced an enemy with a large supply of ‘guided anti-ship missles’: The Japanese kamikaze raids. What is a kamikaze but a manually guided cruise missile? Off Okinawa, some 1,900 were launched at the fleet, sinking 34 smaller ships. (No fleet carriers.)

Not to say that a carrier is unsinkable or anything like that. But I think that people tend to overstate the threat to them, and understate the capability of a CVBG to defend itself.

And as has been stated, yes, we need them. At some point in my life, we will no longer have carriers as we know them, I would bet. UAVs and cruise missles will take over. But it will take obsolescence to get rid of American carriers, not the ‘Peoples Liberation Navy’ or some other collection of barely-seaworthy Osa knockoffs.

It’s actually “The Peoples Liberation Army Navy.”

Make yer own damn punchline.

Likely the only thing that’s going to make the carrier obsolete will be some kind of ultra-mega advance in aeronautics that allows a scramjet fighter/interceptor to take off from a base in the U.S., reach Mach 15 or so and go suborbital, get to any trouble spot on Earth in two hours or less, blow the hell out of something, and return home.

As long as a fighter plane remains the best, fastest, most flexible weapons platform around, some means of getting them close to the action will be necessary. Until you have planes with sufficiently high speed and range that they may as well launch from home, the carriers remain critical.

How, exactly, does the OP expect any nation on Earth to successfully attack an Amerian carrier, anyway? There might be a slim chance of a kamikaze boat attack while the carrier is in port (as in the USS Cole), but if a modern-military nation went after a carrier with missiles and torpedoes and whatnot, and managed to sink it, they’d face (possibly nuclear) reprisal from the various subs and missile silos. As has been stated, the carriers are not alone. There is plenty of muscle around and behind each one.

Ok, fight my ignorance on this one. How many carriers does the US have which are deployed?

I’ve read too much Tom Clancy.

There are currently four carriers deployed - Enterprise, Kennedy, Kitty Hawk, and John C. Stennis.

Four carriers are down for maintenance, the Lincoln is on training exercises, and three carriers are in home port after having finished a tour (the Ronald Reagan, Washington and Truman).

From the USN. We have 12, with another Nimitz-class being built. There used to be a handy-dandy website that showed you where they were, but I don’t think the Navy maintains that anymore.

Where are the Carriers?

Terrific reference site, bookmark it.

I thought we floated seven groups near China earlier this year. Was this before they all went home or into maintenance?

Half and half; Some carriers were heading home and diverted to participate, some were fresh from port, and participated. Testing a new ‘surge’ doctrine, that would keep some ships in port more, ready to ‘surge’ when needed.

With in the air refueling systems ,aircrafts can easilly be based in USA and when
needed they can fly and do their job thousands of kilometers away .
Bombing of Libya during Reagan era is one example.