The U.S. Navy’s huge, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers — capital ships that have long dominated military planning and budgeting — are slowly becoming obsolete, weighed down by escalating costs, inefficiency and vulnerability to the latest enemy weapons.
But if the supercarrier is sinking, what could rise to take its place? Smaller, cheaper flattops; modified tanker ships; and missile-hauling submarines are three cheaper, more efficient and arguably more resilient options.
Navy Capt. Jerry Hendrix, an historian, analyst and futurist, caused a stir by making the case against the Navy’s cherished supercarrier fleet. Hendrix’s recent study “At What Cost a Carrier?” (.pdf), published by the D.C.-based Center for a New American Security, urges the Navy to begin drawing down its 10-11 Nimitz-class flattops and follow-on Ford-class vessels.