What if the US Navy ditches expensive Super Carriers in favor of smaller carriers? The navy has to decide if shifting to smaller carriers is worth the savings that come with tradeoffs in the upcoming power competition, when capabilities will matter a lot.
On one side is a smaller cheaper force that will come with fewer capabilities, which will compromise US forces. Already heavily armed PLA and Russia are getting big for more punch on the battlefield.
One argument for a smaller mobile naval force is that it's less of a target. True, but how can they go toe to toe if there would be less substantive air support for US forces.
Ships like the Nimitz class and the Ford class offer incomparable offensive power for one nation. Smaller carriers will be more but do not have the firepower on the same level.
Why is it such a big deal?
Big carriers have more to offer in capabilities but are smaller that will affect how much military power can be brought down. If in any case, the US Navy ditches expensive supercarriers that precludes the need to ask support from airbases, reported the National Interest.
For example, carriers of the Nimitz can carry at least 50-plus aircraft with interceptors, support planes, and others on board. The more planes translate to more projected firepower plus more support ships in a carrier strike group. Here are some examples of proposed carrier designs for the Navy.
The CVN-8X is a lesser version of the new 100,000-ton Ford-class carriers, but the nuclear reactor cannot be replaced. Its service life is finite, but will still have three of its four catapults still installed.
Another one is the 70,000-ton CVN LX that is similar to Forrestal ships in the 50s, a throwback. Powered by hybrid nuclear-conventional engines, only one reactor not two. It has a considerable airwing, but better than Nimitz class carriers. It's slow and more vulnerable with fewer sorties for its planes. This carrier will not be as capable as the ones in service, noted Yahoo News.
Next is the CV LX at 43,000-tons similar to American amphibious assault ships with no catapults on board. About 25 F-35Bs with 50 sorties only, not recon and electronic warfare aircraft, will need support. A sitting duck with no air superiority, and is not as capable as current Nimitz class carriers.
It's the smallest kind, the CV EX which is a mere 20,000-tons that is powered conventionally with only six to ten short take-off aircraft on its flight deck which is very diminutive. It comes cheap too at $2.5 billion per ship, but it takes four to be worth operating said RAND.
It shows the problem with everything smaller and is limited in operation to participate in.
What does RAND say?
Research and Development Corporation (RAND) is not favorable to any alternative for choices to replace the supercarrier when it comes to the price tag. One requirement to operate an F-35C is a catapult and arresting wires, but smaller ships like the America class will have jump jets like F-35B or helicopters, cited Flipboard.
A tradeoff is lacking the ability to use E-2 radar aircraft or EA-18 electronic warfare planes, that makes smaller carrier less than capable, according to Brad Martin. He is an ex-navy officer and a RAND researcher, saying the platform did not offer any advantage.
Related article: Light Carrier Studies Show Advantages They Have for the US Navy