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October 31, 2012



Hi Tomi,

Interesting thoughts, but I have to add few things :

Aircraft carriers were very useful from the 40s to the mid 80s. They're still important now, but less, and I'll explain why.

Aircraft carriers are very expensive to operate : that's why France has only one, and that's why Russia is selling its last AC to India.

Talking about Russia : does Russia really need aircraft carriers ?

At first, Soviet Union was mildly interested in Aircraft carriers (to operate, a Soviet carrier would have to sail near Norway (NATO), Alaska (NATO) or Turkey (not NATO at that time, but US ally), making it vulnerable.

They also thought of an aircraft carrying ekranoplane... but SU collapsed by that time.

Now that Russia is stable again, the question can be asked again.

Russia is located on two continents, and meets a third one (America), so a Russian war plane can easily access any place on the Northern Hemisphere.

It also has ballistic missiles (like the US) that can either smash half of the planet, or get smaller targets (well let's say 1/4th of the planet).

That's not to mention long range supersonic bombers (ie TU-160, which are faster than most fighters/interceptors), submarines, and new supersonic torpedoes.

So despite the lack of AC, Russia's problem is definitely not the hardware... it's more the organization.

China ? They have plenty of war-hardware for neighbours, and the world economy as a weapon against the others.

What about the other countries ?
Face of war changed since WWII and Korea. In Vietnam, aircraft carriers certainly helped, but it obviously wasn't enough to win the war.

Same problem with Afghanistan; even with aircraft carriers, with the help of allied countries Americans can't successfully end the war (after 11 years !)

So what are the returns VS the investments of/on the aircraft carriers.

I too am fascinated by these titans (the only ones I could see were the Charles de Gaulle, and a US one in Honolulu)... but we have to face that in the mid term, they should disappear.

However as I'm a big dreamer, I'd like to see civilian aircraft carriers, which would help civilian aircraft to fly more economically. Who knows, maybe my dream will come true, or maybe aviation won't need it.


@Tomi "By every conceivable measure of military power, the US towers over the rest of the world. But most of all, when it comes to sea power, the navy, the US navy is more dominant of the seas today, than any naval superpower has ever been at their heyday."

Nokia also towered over all the competitors... and look what happened.

It only takes two years to destroy the most powerful force in the world... if the enemy only manages to convince the US to hire Stephen Elop as secretary of defense. ;)


foo : Using the Stephen Elop argument on this smartphone-business free article is quite unfair, however, I like it.

I think Elop will soon become a common expression :

"Kim Jong Il eloped North Korea"
"Iraq photos presented by Cheney were elops"
"SAAB was completely eloped by GM"

and so on...

Tom Gorr

US is still playing a big game still in international politics, and while the number of their ships in decreasing, the number of potential issues is growing. In that way, Romney is right. While your arsenal is stronger with relative firepower and more effective weapons systems, aircraft carriers are needed in greater numbers. If you need to sit in Mediterranean, in Indian Ocean, in the various hot spots of Pacific and possibly even have some guns for NATO operations elsewhere, you quickly run out of ships, no matter how strong they are. EIther US abandons some responsibilities and expects their NATO allies to take more active role, or they increase the navy.

Also, potentially in a war situation, one would do well not to forget that wars have never started without the surprise element. Even by crippling two aircraft carries by a surprise attack one could really put US scrambling to get its fleet together, time which is ill afforded in such a situation.

US sits on many regions where, while not the enemy, it is not welcome. Taiwan, obviously. North Korea. China, real sabre rattling here and likely the greatest chance for war here, if the Chinese bite. Mediterranean area. And India. On India, I am not entirely sure they like Diego Garcia in their backyard, and they do have regional super power aspirations. Its called the Indian Ocean after all. So in theory, while not an enemy, India is a real player when navies are thought about. Indian Ocean is more and more important for playing field in the international politics.

US has a lot of power still, especially in space and air weapons, and in navy, but is a big globe. What is big enough can change in a heart beat. It's happened before.

Tom Gorr

Also, I hear they have been a bit relaxed on the submarine R&D. The game 'find the enemy, do not let the enemy find you' is still the key to sinking shipping and cruise missile games with airfields and other military and economic targets. There has been some alarming cases of chinese subs geting to places without US knowing it.

Its a sub, is that a surprise, one might ask?

Yes. It is. US and brit attack boats played real war games during the cold war. CCCP boats would come to the Atlantic and the NATO boats had such capabilities that they could identify individual russian boats, they were like drunk bruglars trying to climb through a window with one hand. NATO boats claimed that they could sneak up on a whale and .... you know what, without it noticing it.

Stopping boomers, missile subs means you need to hear them, and know where they are, and this has always been something US excels in. Now, this field is being developed more and more. R&D is important, proper sub reservers as well.

Decreasing this branch in size, I, evan as a finn, find it a bit scary. Money has to be saved, but a super power cannot say that to have less is fine. Its perceived as a weakness, even if it is not so.

Tom Gorr

Gosh, I make as many posts as Tomi! Just to add, while having 11 aircraft carriers, usually few of them are being refitted and repaired, so in a potential opening shots for any war, there are few reserves to be had. As I said before, even US can be lured to a trap and get hurt.

Imagine if China wanted to do something drastic, like take the "northern resource area", as the japanese called the Siberia, to boost its economy, or hammer on some poor hapless neighbour that has made it impossible for it to achieve its economical growth, or in a situation where it's people are facing hunger and are getting upset with the leadership and they need to have an external enemy. Far away scenarios to be sure, and not really typically Chinese way of doing things, yet to do something like this, they would need to hurt anyone who can hurt or opposed them.

One could spawn some serious trouble with Taiwan, shoot down an airliner or shell the island, and US comes surging in as a cop, only to face a combined effort to sink or cripple the naval task force. They could or could not do so, if they were willing to lose planes and ships. That would leave the subs, which surely can shut down the sea lanes, but would leave the Chinese room to achieve their goals. US would curse the lack of reserves. They cannot leave Iran, and many ships are being refitted. While costly such thing could happen.

Just a silly scenario, but it is ever so that in peace it is popular to decrease the military, and people think surely their nation is not likely to be in war. And then comes the time, when you are in war, and people are asking that how is it possible that we have nothing to throw at them?


Basically the US miltary power is so out of scale compared with actual threat levels, that they just look paranoid to me. Countries spending money on health, science and education rather than miltary hardware will win in the long term.

One correction however: "The only times carriers lost in World War 2, were to aircraft attacking from other carriers or to stealthy attacks under water by submarines"

Mostly true, except for this:


@Tom Gorr "Just to add, while having 11 aircraft carriers, usually few of them are being refitted and repaired, so in a potential opening shots for any war, there are few reserves to be had. As I said before, even US can be lured to a trap and get hurt."

It's difficult to believe that the most powerful military in the world would be lured to a trap... eleven times!!!

Fool me once, shame on you... fool me twice... three times... eleven times?! If the American army was so incompetent, I don't think one additional carrier would be much useful.

"Imagine if China wanted to do something drastic, like take the "northern resource area", as the japanese called the Siberia, to boost its economy, or hammer on some poor hapless neighbour that has made it impossible for it to achieve its economical growth"

I may be terribly mistaken, but I don't see China using their army against the world.

In fact, I think the United States are much more dangerous for the safety of the world than China.

Tom Gorr

Sigh, no. Not eleven times, one time is enough to cripple a navy for a long time. Its similar to the idea that if you have 200 aircraft, and you lose 60, you might not be able to finish what you started. Or that you had aircraft that can control an air combat, radar plans say, 6 of them, and you lost two, your ability to control air battle with four would be severly compromised as some must rest, and still full fill all kinds of tactical scenarios. Losing some carriers designated to, lets say China, will create a hole in plans of combat which the other side is going to use. The question is that does US have a reserve force large enough to handle such a scenario. A war not started by them? A war that is likely starting with a surprise attack. As it should.

Losing even two, even temporarily, will swing the balance for a long time in any battle scenario. You cannot do everything all over the world. I think you don't really understand the logistics of these things. The question is, how fast can you replace a task force, and what suffers due to that? It's possible to reach goals if it takes weeks to summon a new, more cautious carrier force to the battle, with proper plans in place.

Surprise is always important.

I don't really wish to go into who is good, who is bad, though. Somehow, I would rather have US control the world than China. The latter is in so many ways different from European way of living and thinking, that I do not wish to see that.


A more interesting question than "Can anyone beat the USA in war" (not now) is to ask why Mitt Romney made such a stupid accusation on prime time TV?

My suspicion is pure desperation. To get the swing votes, Mitt follows Obama's policies almost to the letter. Mitt has so much difficulty differentiating himself that he is scraping the bottom of the barrel for anything that he would do differently.

Which brings him to policies he has little knowledge of. FEMA is another debacle in the same vine.

newbie reader

Sony Q3 smartphone sales 8.8 mil

Lenovo Q3 chinese smartphone sales 9 mil, huawei 8.5 mil
"third quarter of 2012 shipment volume for Chinese smartphone manufacturers was approximately 60 million units"
"The top three makers, Lenovo, Huawei and ZTE, accounted for over 40% of total shipments. Surpassing both Huawei’s 8.5 million and ZTE’s 7.5 million, Lenovo has taken the lead with 9 million shipments"

So, Nokia looks to be at most #10, after LG, Sony, Lenovo and Huawei

newbie reader

Also, Samsung is not as unshakable as it seems.

Google Nexus 4 specs: Quad Krait S4 pro, 330ppi screen

"at the price of $299 unlocked, the Google Nexus 4 is actually a top-end Android smartphone, priced at less than the entry-level Samsung Galaxy Ace 2"

"$299 Google Nexus 4 comes as a disaster for all Android smartphone manufacturers out there: why would you get a mid-end Android smartphone anymore when you can get the fastest Android smartphone in the world at an even price? And why get the Samsung Galaxy S3 now that you can spend almost half the money on a smartphone that is not only better spec-wise, but one that will be the first to receive future Android OS updates?"

Rui Romao

I enjoyed your post but let me say that most of the world probably thinks carriers groups are an overrated asset meant for large-scale engagements wich in practice we only see the US diving into. For most large countries one carrier group is probably already one too much. Consider how we saw in several NATO exercises diesel-electric subs ruining US navy day by simply ambushing carriers, and new techs such as the hypersoni anti-ship soviet missile... and consider how many smaller scale engagements are better server by amphibious landing docks wich are fairly common... plus there are so many ways to twart said groups just by being inventive... like using container freighters as transports with concealed weapon platforms, or sending diver teams to seed a strait floor with boxes that release mines under giving circunstances, or sending out balloons with short-lived batteries to cause electromagnetic bursts to screw gps and scramble radios locally and so on... so many possibilities...



I truly enjoyed your post. Having spent 9 years in the US Navy, 4 at USNA and 5 in the nuclear navy as a submarine officer on a LA class boat, I think you raise some valid points in your article. A couple of my own personal observations to add to this discussion. When it comes to aircraft carriers, they are excellent platforms for projecting power, but they are huge and costly targets. I can't tell you (literally) how many times we sunk US carriers during training exercises and got away clean. The submarine has significant acoustic advantages over surface ships, due to its ability to tactically operate more effectively (and silently) under the seas while avoiding the air-water interface issue. My boat was Top Torp for the Atlantic fleet and our captain, who was the youngest sub CO at the time, later became head of US submarine forces and is currently the 4 star running Naval Reactors (Rickover's old job). The guy knows how to drive a boat...and he really knows how to shoot. I qualified Gold Dolphins under this man...and it was by far the hardest 12 months of my life. In any event, we once had to conduct a shakedown exercise with a new ship called the USS Arleigh Burke, considered at that time to be the premier anti-submarine platform in the Surface Navy's arsenal. We "sunk" that boat so many times that the head of the exercise demanded we have our divers install a noise maker in one of our fwd ballast tanks so that the Burke could better hear us...for training purposes! Of course, they were able to track and target us with this artificial noise maker engaged. The Navy Times later wrote an article highlighting how the Burke was able to best us!!!! Our CO was livid.

Bottom line. I've taken plenty of LP periscope pics of carriers in the sub's cross-hairs. We had our ET's process plenty of these pics for use on X-mas cards that our wardroom often sent to the carrier CO's. We loved that tradition!

I do believe a critical mass of carriers is important for the US Navy to maintain, in terms of quickly projecting power in regional conflicts as well as to "show the flag". However, at a cost of 5+ Billion for the ship plus another 7++ billion for the carrier air wing + the 5000 highly trained personnel on board...that's a lot of national treasure to have floating (with a flashing target sign) in one place. Romney's calling for more than 10 of these platforms...which also requires a full complement of escort ships to complete the CTF. Such a huge investment could be quickly neutralized in any future war with a serious and well equipped adversary. The ROI for destroying a carrier, with known weapons platforms such as Surface to Surface missiles, Air to Surface missiles, Long Range Cruise Missiles, mines and of course exceptionally high.

IMHO, the US military would be better served if we ceased adding more carriers to the fleet, ended the ICBM program (in favor of SLBM's and Stealth delivery platforms like the B-2 w/stealth cruise missiles), and balanced the nuclear sub force with a complement of lower cost/highly effective modern diesel-electric boats. The DoD could save billions with such and approach and have a much more effective and survivable force. Too bad the congressman fronting company's like Lockheed-Martin and NGSB-NN would fight such and approach.

The problem for any approach that deviates from the status quo is that each platform needs volume for the unit costs and supply chain to remain viable. For instance, nuclear submarines need about 1.5 ships built per year to ensure the handful of strategic suppliers survive AND unit costs do not explode. This is why the LA class boats were put on a shorter 20 year decommissioning schedule. The DoD is also forced to pick winners that Congress demands...and let's face it...carriers = more jobs. In the end, we end up with a Naval Force that is has sacrificed combat effectiveness for political effectiveness.


I think this article proved Tomi frustrated that the Nokia BOD doesn't fired elop and need to see a psychiatry.



@Stoll89 "The problem for any approach that deviates from the status quo is that each platform needs volume for the unit costs and supply chain to remain viable. For instance, nuclear submarines need about 1.5 ships built per year to ensure the handful of strategic suppliers survive AND unit costs do not explode."

Very interesting point of view.

That could explain why the US must be engaged in so many wars!

newbie reader

> quickly projecting power

That is, bullying 3rd world countries for their oil and other natural resources. This is the real purpose of US (and french) carriers, not real war.

Chris Vail

Check out the SS-N-22 Sunburn (nuclear armed) cruise missile, which closes with its target (US aircraft carriers) at supersonic speeds. Great power includes great weakness.


To complement the points raised by Stoli89, the sarcastic judgment I have read a few times in articles written by military reformers (military people themselves) is that what the current US Navy is really equipped and organized to do is to fight the Imperial Japanese Navy should a time warp suddenly bring it back to the present.


> That is, bullying 3rd world countries for their oil and other natural resources. This is the real purpose of US (and french) carriers, not real war.

Actually, you are wrong here. The purpose of military is not war. It never was. The purpose of military is twofold:
1) Make sure that the state is more powerful than any other organization within to make sure nothing can compromise the state.
2) Help to reach political goals.

2) is the key. In the grand scheme of things, military only provides additional possibilities to reach political goals (in this case, "make sure no other country invades our country and establishs its own rule" is also a political goal).

The US uses military for power projection. If the US military would not do this, another country would (Russia, China). In geopolitics, there is no moral evaluation. There are only goals and ways to reach them.

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