Why on Earth Are We Still Building Aircraft Carriers?

This forum contains affiliate links to products on Amazon and eBay. More information in Terms and rules

I don’t want to be on the side that doesn’t have them.
Aircraft carriers still provide mobile airfields that are arguably more survivable than static facilities. Even if carriers are at risk in specific high-intensity combat scenarios, they remain effective in dozens of other conceivable military operations.

A modern carrier is several acres of mobile sovereign territory with an airport for over 90 modern warplanes that can be projected to anywhere in over half of the world's surface.

The US currently has 11 supercarriers in service and will have 12 in 2024. We should keep it that way.
 
Last edited:
Aircraft carriers still provide mobile airfields that are arguably more survivable than static facilities. Even if carriers are at risk in specific high-intensity combat scenarios, they remain effective in dozens of other conceivable military operations.

A modern carrier is several acres of mobile sovereign territory with an airport for over 90 modern warplanes that can be projected to anywhere in over half of the world's surface.

The US currently has 11 supercarriers in service and will have 12 in 2024. We should keep it that way.
While the USN currently has 11 nuclear powered super carriers (10 Nimitz class and 1 Ford class) at any one time there is usually at least 1 undergoing Refuelling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH), a process that takes them out of service for at least 4 years at a time.

The George Washington CVN-73 started her RCOH in Aug 2017, and has only returned to sea again last month to run post refit trials. She is expected to become fully operational again in 2024.

The John C Stennis CVN-74 began her RCOH in May 2021 and will not be back in service until at least 2025, and probably later, given delays in earlier ships.

Given the regular round of refits and work ups and the number of available air wings (see below) there are never 11 or even 10 available at one time. One ship, currently the CVN-76 Ronald Reagan, has its Home Port at Yokosuka, Japan. 4 are based on the US west coast and 4 on the east coast.

Getting CVN-78 Gerald R Ford operational has proved a lengthy task. First of a new class, Ford commissioned in July 2017, and was packed with new technology - new EMALS catapults, new arrester gear, new weapon elevators as well as new radars, which have provided many headaches. She has only begun her first fully operational deployment in 2023.

As for the new Ford class the completion dates are currently expected to be:-
CVN-79 John F Kennedy - as of March 2023 her delivery date has been pushed back from 2024 to 2025.
CVN-80 Enterprise - expected completion 2028
CVN-81 Doris Miller - expected completion 2032.

Meanwhile CVN-68 Nimitz is scheduled to be taken out of service in FY25 I.e. between 1 Oct 2024 and 30 Sept 2025, just as the Kennedy enters service.

More importantly, there are currently only 9 Carrier Air Wings (5 in the Pacific and 4 in the Atlantic) plus what is known as a Tactical Support Wing (previously a Reserve Carrier Air Wing) which is responsible for operational and training support of the main CVW. Only 2 of its 5 squadrons fly carrier capable aircraft unlike in the old days when the Reserve Wings could be carrier deployed in an emergency. CVW-5 is based at MCAS Iwakuni in Japan for the Ronald Reagan.

So the number of US carriers will never rise above 9 in service at one time.

You can follow their movements here.

Edit:- Nimitz first commissioned in May 1975 and had her RCOH between 1998 and 2001. So she will be 50 by the time she leaves service, with John F Kennedy as her replacement.

Eisenhower first commissioned in Oct 1977 and had her RCOH between 1995 and 1998. Her replacement will be the Enterprise around 2028/29, when she will be 50+ years old.

Vinson first commissioned in March 1982 and had her RCOH between 2005 and 2009. She will be 50 in 2032 just as the Doris Miller is scheduled to join the fleet.

The next oldest is the Theodore Roosevelt first commissioned in Oct 1986 and given her RCOH between 2009 and 2013.
 
Last edited:
A modern carrier is several acres of mobile sovereign territory with an airport for over 90 modern warplanes that can be projected to anywhere in over half of the world's surface.
I believe the usual CAG nowadays is about sixty fixed-wing aircraft plus rotaries. I think 90 warplanes would necessitate taking squadrons from other carriers.


The current U.S. Navy carrier air wing consists:
  • Four Strike Fighter (VFA) Squadrons, with ten or twelve F/A-18E/F Super Hornets each, or three Super Hornet Squadrons and one ten aircraft squadron of F-35C Lightning IIs (over forty strike fighters total).
  • One Electronic Attack (VAQ) Squadron, made up of seven EA-18G Growlers.
  • One Carrier Airborne Early Warning (VAW) Squadron, with four E-2C Hawkeyes or five E-2D "Advanced" Hawkeyes
  • One Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) Squadron of eight MH-60S Seahawks
  • One Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) Squadron of eleven MH-60R Seahawks, 3–5 of which are typically based in detachments on other ships of the carrier strike group.
  • A Fleet Logistics Support (VRC) Squadron Detachment of two C-2A Greyhounds. In 2021 the new CMV-22B Osprey of newly established Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission (VRM) squadron detachments began to replace the C-2A Greyhounds.
 
Last edited:
As for the new Ford class the completion dates are currently expected to be:-
CVN-79 John F Kennedy - as of March 2023 her delivery date has been pushed back from 2024 to 2025.
CVN-80 Enterprise - expected completion 2028
CVN-81 Doris Miller - expected completion 2032.
The next oldest is the Theodore Roosevelt first commissioned in Oct 1986 and given her RCOH between 2009 and 2013.
Unnamed CVN-82 has been ordered and will be laid down in 2027, launched in 2032, and commissioned in 2036, and will replace Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71).
 
Unnamed CVN-82 has been ordered and will be laid down in 2027, launched in 2032, and commissioned in 2036, and will replace Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71).
No. CVN-82 has NOT been ordered so far as I can tell.

At present the USN is undertaking studies as to its future carrier requirements and considering options for a fleet of 8-12 CVN with a lower figure being augmented by a new class of light carrier. Do I expect it to be at the lower end? No. The arguments keep coming up every decade or so and the decision always comes down in favour of the big deck.

Looking at the FY24 USN budget request, there seems to be funding for the three ships currently on order / under construction i.e. CVN-79, 80 and 81. But the budget request, while it includes funding for 9 new vessels, does not include any funding for a new carrier.

First steel for CVN-80 Enterprise occurred in 2017 but she was not laid down until Aug 2022. First steel was cut for CVN-81 Doris Miller back in Aug 2021, but the ship has not yet been laid down. That is expected early in 2026 after the floating out of the Enterprise. A limiting factor is that Newport News is the only CVN builder and only has one dock for that purpose. So Wikis proposed laying down date of 2027 for CVN-82 seems optimistic.

So at the moment it seems that the USN hopes to order more Ford class and is considering a double order for CVN-82 & 83, just as it did with CVN-80 & 81, in the hope of producing cost savings.

FY24 Budget request article of 13 March 2023 details here

Congressional Research Paper updated to 27 March 2023 on the CVN programme. Note from the summary that one of the points for Congress to consider is Carrier procurement after CVN-81.
 
It would depend on the level of damage and desired/required repairs, and the threat level.

There are around 23 shipyards in the forward areas that could 'easily' handle temporary repairs on a US CVN, and about 12 shipyards that could handle more serious damage - though damage that required gutting the ship would limit the available yards to a half-dozen or so.

Taiwan (Kaohsiung)
South Korea (Gunsan, Daewoo-Geoje, Samsung-Geoje, Jinhae, Hyundai-Samho, Hyundai-Ulsan, Tongyeong)
Japan (Aichi, Koyo, Manugami, Sakaide, Koyage, Chiba, Ariake, Toyota, Okayama, Sasebo, Tadotsu)
Singapore (Tuas & Benoi)
Phillipines (Subic Bay & Cebu)

A few of the above have more than one dry dock of the required size, and there are at least 3 floating dry dock capable of handling a CVN.

Further afield we have:

Germany (Kiel)
Finland (Tuku)
France (Saint-Nazaire, Brest, Marseille)
Italy (Naples & Livorno)
Netherlands (Rotterdam)
Portugal (Setubal)
Romania (Daewoo-Mangalia)
Spain (Cadiz)
Ireland (Belfast)
UK (Able-Teeside)
US (Newport News & Philadelphia)

All of the above have been surveyed for possible use in repairs of US CVNs. A few would require temporary caissons/dikes to be used to extend the length, but the contingency is already in place.
 
Last edited:
Assuming a carrier take a critical but not fatal hit off Taiwan. Where does it go for repair?
I posted this a while back with details of available US dry docks. It includes Pearl Harbour and Puget Sound.

 
Hey EwanS,

So you know if the Navy considers any of the dry docks at Pearl Harbor capable of being used for below the waterline repairs [on a CVN]? Just curious.

[edit added]
 
Last edited:
A carrier does not sail alone but as part of a task force comprising escorts, combat support ship and at least an attack sub.
 
This is my proposal for future units and names and commissioning dates :)

CVN-82 Yorktown . . . Ford . . . 2036
CVN-83 Saratoga . . . Ford . . . 2040
CVN-84 Lexington . . . Ford . . . 2044
CVN-85 Hornet . . . Ford . . . 2048
Back in Feb 2023 the USNI asked the same question and got a whole range of answers including the above, plus former presidents, politicians, war heroes, those associated with the early USN or naval aviation. Some however seem to have forgotten / didn’t know that there already is a USS America in the fleet (LHA-6 commissioned Oct 2014) and a Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6 commissioned 1998).

Personally, I like USS Crazy Horse! It would tick a lot of the PC boxes in today’s world!;)

I see that the name selected for LHA-9 commemorated a much more recent battle from the war in Iraq. uSS Fallujah.

Just so long as we don’t end up with them named after any of the last 5 Presidents.

Edit:- I forgot that BHR ((LHA-6) has been decommissioned and is being scrapped after her disastrous fire in 2020.
 
Last edited:
Back in Feb 2023 the USNI asked the same question and got a whole range of answers including the above, plus former presidents, politicians, war heroes, those associated with the early USN or naval aviation. Some however seem to have forgotten / didn’t know that there already is a USS America in the fleet (LHA-6 commissioned Oct 2014) and a Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6 commissioned 1998).
I really don't like the naming of carriers after people.

I would like to see the navy going back to the original scheme -- famous sailing ships and famous battles.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Back