What Does the Future Hold for the U.S. Navy’s Aircraft Carriers?

Susan Ford Bales, daughter of former President Gerald R. Ford, christens the Navy's newest nuclear powered aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, Newport News, Va., Nov. 9, 2013 (AP photo by Steve Helber).
Susan Ford Bales, daughter of former President Gerald R. Ford, christens the Navy's newest nuclear powered aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, Newport News, Va., Nov. 9, 2013 (AP photo by Steve Helber).
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To advocates, they are 90,000 tons of American sovereignty, deployable anywhere on the globe to project power decisively and at will. In crises, presidents ask, Where are the aircraft carriers? But to critics, they are hugely expensive and increasingly vulnerable monuments to a naval age gone by. They represent the past, not the future, of naval power. Recently, this debate flared up again in the United States as prospective adversaries, like Russia and China, build long-range weapons and create anti-access and area-denial environments. Does the U.S. need aircraft carriers, and, if so, how many? The answer, not surprisingly, is complicated. […]

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