Naval Air: October 24, 2002


The carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) was commissioned in 1961, almost 40 years after the Langley entered service (1923). In the two decades after the Langley, the first U.S. carrier, went to sea, there were tremendous changes in carrier aviation. While the innovation slowed after World War II, it continued into the 1950s (jet aircraft, nuclear propelled carriers, SAMs). But in the ensuing 40 years there has been no particular innovation in carrier design. This has not been a problem because the carriers have proven useful, at least for the U.S. Navy (the only fleet to use large carriers.) Only the U.S. has a constant need to get air power to any corner of the planet in a hurry. But no navy has been able to give battle to the U.S. carrier force since 1945. The Soviets built new weapons and made plans to do so, but that war never occurred. Many naval planners worry that the next war will find carriers coming off second best to nuclear submarines and missiles. As in the past, we'll never know unless there's a war to test any new theories about how you give battle to aircraft carriers.


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