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The Ongoing Transformation of the Aircraft Carrier

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HIJMS Hosho, December 1922

My latest interjection into the endless aircraft carrier debate:

We should think “what is the utility of a large, flat-decked ship that can act as a platform for manned and unmanned aircraft and can move from location to location at high speed?” To risk an overbroad generalization, flat-decked aircraft carrying ships will have military utility for as long as range and mobility matter.  Faster ships with bigger decks and more power will always be better at range and mobility than slower, smaller vessels. And thus to great extent a super-carrier like the USS Gerald Ford is always going to be better at everything than a light carrier like JS Kaga, or USS America, or the future INS Vishal.  The question is whether Ford will be enough better at enough things to offset her considerably greater expense.

I get frustrated by a lot of aircraft carrier-themed conversations because they fail to specify the stakes. Yes, carriers are expensive; yes, they’re vulnerable; yes, they’re useful. The question isn’t “is there a future for the carrier,” but rather “how do future carriers balance utility against expense against vulnerability.” The answer may well not be CVN-78, but it’s almost certainly *some* kind of flat-decked ship capable of operating aerial vehicles.

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