Military strategists have debated the utility of the Aircraft Carrier in the light of the latest developments in missile technology. Modern missiles with Russia and China can hit an aircraft carrier from many hundreds of miles. The US navy maintains 10 carriers of the Nimitz class which displace over 100,000 tons. These warships are a potent show of force with nearly 5000 men and women on board. It's almost like a mini township. The US navy won a great victory in the Pacific against the Imperial navy on the strength of its carrier force. The admirals are convinced that the carrier is the cornerstone of US navy power and hence have concentrated on developing a large carrier force.


The aircraft carrier is, however, extremely vulnerable, despite the ECM and on board anti-missile technology. Naval experts have not been able to answer as to what will happen in case a swarm of missiles is fired at the carrier. This is not a far-fetched scenario. In such an, attack the US would lose nearly 5000 men in one shot. Considering that almost 4000 men died fighting for a lost cause in Iraq in 8 years, the loss of 5000 men in one action is unacceptable from the military point of view. Each super carries costs almost $12 billion and loss of even one aircraft carrier can have a catastrophic effect. The Chinese and Russians are perfecting anti-ship missiles.

The battleship analogy

One is reminded of the fate of the battleship which was the cornerstone of naval warfare before WW II. During WWII, these massive warships were sitting ducks. They were extremely vulnerable to air attack and were sunk. The largest battleship ever built, the "Yamato," did nothing of note during the war and was finally sunk by US aircraft.

The 2 British battleships, including their most modern warship "Prince of Wales," sent to defend Singapore, were lost inside 2 hours after a Japanese air attack. The days of the battleship were over. The aircraft carrier is also similarly placed. It is too large a target and with the latest technology can be targeted from hundreds of miles away.

Despite the best anti-missile defenses, all it will need is one missile to break through.


The US navy continues its buildup of super aircraft carriers. No other country in the world has so many carriers. These behemoths are a great show of force in a limited engagement against an inferior enemy like Syria or Iraq. But their utility against a better-armed adversary with anti-ship missiles is suspect.