Earlier this month, the USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG) returned to Norfolk from an eight-month deployment, a cruise extended a month to meet strike requirements in Operation Inherent Resolve against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). As “extended” tours become the norm across the fleet, it is yet another reminder that aircraft carrier demand continues to outmatch supply. The question is whether this latest warning will be enough to change plans and redirect investments.
I'm up for changing plans and redirecting investments, but not to ramp up our carrier numbers. I'm more worried about a mineshaft gap, really.
In the long run, big deck carriers just aren't survivable in the face of network-centric warfare (or distributed lethality or the strategic cloud or whatever it will be called in a decade).
Of course, carrier air wings are still quite useful against enemies without naval strike capabilities. So I would never decommission the carriers we have.
But why do we need aircraft carriers operating in the Persian Gulf (and that's another pet peeve of mine) when we have allies with plenty of land air bases within range of ISIL targets?
Why can't we save our carrier deployments by dispatching carrier air wings to land bases in CENTCOM to launch those strikes?
And that's glossing over the issue of whether the Air Force needs help from the Navy to carry out ground support missions.
Really, wouldn't it be better if our carriers focused more on air defense over a strike group and naval strike to gain sea control rather than bombing land targets, which is pretty much the reason we have an Air Force?
A carrier gap doesn't have to mean an air power gap unless we insist that air power can only be deployed on carriers.