Some weeks ago I wrote Carriers Of The Pacific, a comparison of the U.S. fleet vs. other countries, prompted by the U.S. “pivot to the east”.
One Chart Shows The Magnitude Of U.S. Naval Dominance provides an infographic that makes things crystal clear. Two thirds of all carriers belong to the U.S. Seven of the other twelve belong to our NATO allies, three of the others belong to nations with whom we have good diplomatic relations.
Thirty one carriers in good working order belong to NATO, three are in the hands of nations that have good relations with NATO, leaving just two in the hands of others. Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov is functional, China has not fully commissioned its sister ship, which they’ve named Liaoning.
Japan, also a U.S. ally, is currently building two ships they refer to as “helicopter destroyers”, vessels the U.S. navy would call assault ships. We have twelve of them in the 40,000 ton displacement range, Japan’s ships will be half that size.
During World War II the U.S. built 24 Essex class carriers, all of which survived the conflict, and two of our three Yorktown class ships were lost, leaving only our most decorated ship, U.S.S. Enterprise CV-6 to finish the war. We had 120 lesser ships, most numerous were the fifty Casablanca class escort carriers.
The Cold War has been over for twenty years. We have two thirds of the world’s aircraft carriers, three times more than all of our allies combined. Our only plausible geopolitical rivals have one operational carrier and one that is being slowly commissioned. Our finances, our environment, and our energy supplies can not support maintaining a fleet ready for two wars when we have no plausible geopolitical rival that could start a conflict where they would be required.
The United States has global commitments which we can and should honor, but continuing to maintain a massive fleet when there is no foreseeable purpose for it does not enhance our security, it takes resources away from preventative measures best executed by the State Department and USAID.
Phi Beta Iota: In 1992 Robert Steele, then the senior civilian co-founder of the US Marine Corps Intelligence Center, briefed the joint USN-USMC force structure working group on the need to go down from 13 or 14 carriers to 10 while shifting resources toward a more globally-distributed small ship Navy with a higher percentage of ships focused on littoral (brown water) operations. The response of the USN was to try to have Steele fired. The persistent lack of integrity across the services is a moral and intellectual cancer that is made worse by the allocation of funding without accountability. The USN, followed by the USAF, are the worst of the services in terms of lacking intelligence with integrity. Sadly, the US Army and USMC follow closely in their footsteps. INTEGRITY. Sun Tzu 101. Duh.
2013 Robert Steele Reflections on NATO 4.0 — Key Challenges AND Solutions [written for NATO ACT Innovation Hub]