|USS Enterprise - Gone in 2012|
|USS Roosevelt Undergoing RF/COH|
Reagan 2003 interval = 5 yrs
Bush 2009 interval = 6 yrs
Ford 2015? interval = 6 yrs?
The Navy has gone to a five year construction schedule with talk of seven years. What does this do to future carrier force numbers? Again, using a nominal 50 year life, a 5 year schedule equates to a force of 10 carriers while a 6 year schedule equals 8 carriers and a 7 year schedule yields a force of 7 carriers.
It's quite likely that the long term carrier force is going to be 9 (8+1) in the moderately near future and 8 (7+1) beyond that.
What's the point of all this discussion? Well, if you believe the studies that defined a requirement of 12-15, we are well below that requirement and are going to drop even further. A drop to 8-9 carriers from a requirement of 12-15 is enormous. Either the studies are outdated and need to be revised or the carrier force is in the midst of a crisis. Personally, with the likelihood of conflict with China, I'd be more comfortable with a force closer to 15.
Is there, then, a crisis? I believe so. But if so, where is the crisis mentality from Navy leadership? Where are protests and outcries from Navy Flag ranks? Where is the modern Revolt of the Admirals? Why aren't Admirals resigning in protest over this threat to national security?
So what is the official Navy view? Well, voluntarily dropping the force to 9 for the next few to several years and stretching out new construction to a 5-7 year cycle says that the Navy is comfortable with a force of around 8-9 carriers. Navy leadership seems unconcerned. This, and the comments from SecNav and CNO, lead me to believe that the Navy has no coherent strategy, has not realistically wargamed a conflict with China, and is playing fast and loose with national security.
It is possible to make a valid and logical argument against the carrier and many people have done so. It is possible, I suppose, that Navy leadership has internally decided that carriers, while useful for the foreseeable future, are not the answer in a war with China and are pursuing other routes. If so, they're not talking about it and I can't see an alternate route reflected in the procurement programs.
For the time being, I believe carriers are vital to our national security, there is a crisis of numbers in the carrier force, and Navy leadership is abdicating its responsibility.