Naval Air: November 4, 2002


The Department of Defense wanted to cancel navy plans to keep building 90,000 ton, nuclear powered carriers. But the success of carrier operations in Afghanistan gave the navy a powerful argument which they used to good effect when lobbying Congress. The air force had been making a lot of noise about how it's long range bombers could attack any place on the planet. But Afghanistan demonstrated that the carriers could always get there first and could do more than the long range bombers. So now the navy is going to get the money to build more big carriers. The Department of Defense reformers wanted to build smaller carriers, and rely more on unpiloted aircraft (UAVs), and vertical take off bombers (like the new F-35). But the combat UAVs and F-35 are unproven and won't arrive until the end of the decade anyway. So the navy is going to get one or two new big carriers. What the navy is angling for now is a new hull design and they want to start building it in 2007. The Department of Defense had proposed a new, $10 billion carrier to start in construction in 2007, but using a hull based on the current Nimitz class carriers. In 2009, the new hull design, costing $11 billion, would start building. Both designs would contain a lot of labor saving equipment, cutting the crew size from 5,000 to 4,200 and lots of new gadgets in general. The navy would still have just twelve large carriers, with older ones being retired as the new ones entered service. But these might be the last of the giant carriers, as the new missiles and unpiloted bombers and fighters will eventually make their presence felt. 


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