Carriers in the World

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A growing number of navies find aircraft carriers as viable platforms for projecting national power – now there are nine countries that have aircraft carriers in support: Brazil, France, India, Italy, Russia, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom and the USA. It’s intriguing that the People’s Liberation Army – Naval (PLAN)- in China doesn’t yet really have a carrier in support, though this is expected to change in the not too distant future. The complete number of carriers in service globally is now twenty two, with half of the fleet being in US service. At least eight countries have new carriers in the concept, design, purchased used and refurbishing or construct stages. Spain has been successful selling its’Principe de Asturias’ layout to many navies, and China, Japan and India are creating a carrier construct capacity – in China’s case, even a nuclear powered platform for the new generation planes. The US F35D carrier version – a STVOL configuration – can only increase demand for carriers among’western’ countries.

Many strategists see the aircraft carrier as a keystone of military doctrine, regardless of the substantial concentration of power and investment (both political and financial) in what is an extremely visible and, arguably vulnerable target.

It spans 11 time zones – nearly halfway across the world. With a fleet of modern land-based aircraft and efficient missile technology, it may arguably project its power without the need for a massive carrier fleet, at least in the northern hemisphere.

A floating, self-propelled airbase, although not capable of managing large transport planes like the C130 Hercules. This definition is usually taken to include any boat capable of managing fixed wing fighter/bomber aircraft, of which there are many types.

Supercarrier: these are generally higher than 50,000 tons loaded displacement, usually nuclear powered, and able to handle fast jets

Fleet Carrier: mid size typically 20,000 tons upward, oil/steam, gas turbine as well as gas powered, the’average’ size in a country’s fleet.

Light Aircraft Carrier: smaller compared to the fleet carrier.

As can be seen, this method of classifying navy aircraft carriers is subjective to a country’s fleet configuration. The French might well explain the Charles de Gaulle as a supercarrier – steam catapults, nuclear powered, but is it really a supercarrier compared to, say, US aircraft carriers like the US Nimitz Class George W Bush, of almost 100,000 tons displacement and carrying well over 100 fixed wing aircraft?

Carrier Configurations

CATOBAR: catapult launch of fixed wing aircraft but detained recovery.

STOBAR: Short take off but detained recovery. Presently, these have been utilizing the UK Sea Harrier VTOL aircraft in STOVL mode with a’ski jump’ launch.

Much like STOBAR, but vertical landing. Less attractive on account of the excess fuel (equals less armament load) required for the landing stage, and flight deck damage issues because of its down led exhaust jet through landing.

Operational Capability Development takes a whole lot of money and time. Second-hand carriers and infrastructure requirements can be purchased or hired. A new branch of naval operations must be set up. This isn’t trivialA major job – training institutions need to be installed and managed, replenishment, logistics and repair operations need to be established, as an instance, and even an entire career structure for officers and ratings.

A nation must develop its strategic and strategic policies to efficiently operate and present its own carriers in keeping with its national strategic goals in a credible manner.

Even the fundamentals – setting the 24 x 7 operational tempo of conducting a carrier need to be developed, implemented and rehearsed exhaustively if the installation of a carrier force is to be credible – poor weather night launches and landing, crew rescue procedures, anti-submarine steps, re-arming and weapons handling, coordinated carrier protection – the list is extensive. Some nations cooperate in this respect. For example Brazil is helping China to develop its operational capacity in exchange for technological aid in the fields of nuclear power and defence electronics.

The future of this carrier is assured. The arrival of a new generation of STOVL aircraft, and the development of India and China to the severe carrier club (with Pakistan also making noises) means that prior to the mid 21st century, the company arms race will be quickening and world tonnage rising.

Britain is building larger carriers – the Queen Elizabeth Class supercarrier. These new UK aircraft carriers will be nearly 3 times the size of the preceding generation;’cast-off’ carriers are increasingly being purchased by smaller countries, so the operational global tonnage is likely to increase – average annual new construct tonnage is greater than scrappage; the US is building a new generation – The Gerald R Ford Class. Countries that have an operational aircraft carrier never relinquish that capacity.

Electromagnetic launch systems – easier, lighter, stronger than steam catapults are being designed. These will have the ability to launch unmanned aircraft at G forces that human pilots couldn’t tolerate. Aerial battles fought by unmanned airplanes flown by carrier-based (or even land-based) jocks via secure data connection are a real chance before the end of the century.

New carrier-busting missiles like the Chinese Dong Feng 21D (NATO CSS 5 Mod-4) will result in improved defensive technology developments.

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