The Watering Hole, Monday, March 25, 2013: Are We Getting Carried Away?

Do you know how many aircraft carriers the United States has? Would it surprise you to know the answer is ten? Would it surprise you even more to know that under U.S. law, the military is required to maintain eleven aircraft carriers (and their associated vessels)? That’s right, eleven. And just to put that in some kind of perspective, no other country has more than one aircraft carrier. We’ll get our eleventh one, a new class of carrier, in about four more years.

From an article published by Raw Story,

“After 100 years, the carrier is rapidly approaching the end of its useful strategic life,” wrote Captain Henry Hendrix in a report published this month by the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think-tank with close ties to President Barack Obama’s administration.

Changes in naval warfare mean that carriers “may not be able to move close enough to targets to operate effectively or survive in an era of satellite imagery and long-range precision strike missiles,” Hendrix wrote.

With huge cuts in defense spending inevitable (either because of the sequestration or because everyone on the planet will be dead), the cost of these humongous vessels is under greater scrutiny.

The new carrier carries a prohibitive price tag of $13.6 billion, double the cost of the last aircraft carrier. And that does not count the $4.7 billion spent on research and development for the new class of carriers.

It costs about $6.5 million a day to operate a single carrier strike group, which includes five other warships, an attack submarine, an air wing of 80 fighters and helicopters, and a crew of 6,700.

But not everyone agrees that we should get rid of the carriers.

Pete Daly, a retired vice admiral who once commanded the USS Nimitz carrier strike group, defended the ships as a vital element of US military might.

To hit deeply buried targets, fighter jets flying off a carrier were more effective than Tomahawk missiles, and knocking out a super carrier is “very, very hard,” said Daly, now head of the US Naval Institute.

This is a conversation Americans need to have. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us know absolutely nothing about the US Navy, or the difference between a ship and a boat, or why the Seven Seas need eleven aircraft carriers to patrol them. One thing is for sure: We can’t afford to keep paying the enormous costs of running these things. A new way of thinking is needed. Luckily for me I’m exactly the wrong kind of person for the job. I can’t even swim.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss our over-bloated military or anything else that comes to mind.