Why are aircraft carriers still being considered very important? Why are China and India working hard to get them?
Jitender Aggarwal, Qurious Quoran
I would call them Range extenders and that's the reason they are considered backbone of any Navy and termed as Force multipliers.
What is an Aircraft Carrier ?
At its most basic level, an aircraft carrier is simply a ship outfitted with a flight deck -- a runway area for launching and landing airplanes. This concept dates back almost as far as airplanes themselves. Within 10 years of the Wright Brothers' historic 1903 flight, the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany were launching test flights from platforms attached to cruisers. The experiments proved largely successful, and the various naval forces started adapting existing warships for this purpose. The new carriers allowed military forces to transport short-range aircraft all over the world.
While the ship itself isn't especially useful as a weapon, the air power it transports can make the difference between victory and defeat.
One of the major obstacles of using air power in war is getting the planes to their destination. To maintain an air base in a foreign region, Any nation has to make special arrangements with a host country, and then has to abide by that country's rules, which may change over time. Needless to say, this can be extremely difficult in some parts of the world.
Under International Freedom of Navigation laws, aircraft carriers and other warships are recognized as sovereign territories in almost all of the ocean. As long as a ship doesn't get too close to any nation's coast, the crew can carry on just like they're back home. So, while the Indian military would have to make special arrangements with a foreign nation to set up a land military base, it can freely move a carrier battle group (an assembly of an aircraft carrier and six to eight other warships) all over the globe, just as if it were a little piece of the India. Bombers, fighters and other aircraft can fly a variety of missions into enemy territory, and then return to the relatively safe home base of the carrier group. In most cases, the Navy can continually replenish (resupply) the carrier group, allowing it to maintain its position indefinitely.
Their role at various points in History
1.Carriers didn't play a huge role in World War I, but they were central to the air combat of World War II. For example, the Japanese launched the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor from aircraft carriers.
2.During the Indo Pak 1971 war, India deployed INS Vikrant against Pakistan from its station in the Andaman Islands for operation against Pakistani forces in the East (present Bangladesh). Hawker Sea Hawks from the carrier successfully choked the Chittagong harbour and put it out of service.
3.During the 2003 invasion of Iraq U.S. aircraft carriers served as the primary base of American air power. Even without the ability to place significant numbers of aircraft in Middle Eastern airbases, the United States was capable of carrying out significant air attacks from carrier-based squadrons. Recently, U.S. aircraft carriers such as the Ronald Reagan provided air support for counter-insurgency operations in Iraq.
4.US Aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, was used for carrying out the operation to kill Osama-Bin-Laden.
Aircraft carriers help project power and essential for "blue water" capabilities [essentially able to fight war anywhere on earth]. Fighter and Bomber planes have limited range and have to refuel somewhere. The aircraft carrier makes it possible to have the refueling very close to the target attack & thereby enabling the planes to quickly come back to the base and go for multiple attacks.
It takes a large cache of planes and helicopters than can then attack any land within a few hundred miles of a waterbody. For instance, if US wants to attack New Zealand for some reason, it will primarily rely on its aircraft carrier to carry its bombers and fighter planes to the Tasman sea from where the target will be overwhelmed.
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The USS Nimitz class supercarriers can run at 55 km/h and able to run without refueling for 20 years [powered by nuclear reactors]. It can carry 6000 soldiers, 90 planes besides numerous missiles like the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile that can blow up most incoming missiles & other flying bodies. All, but a handful of nations, will fold fighting just this one carrier.
The aircraft carrier is like your military base floating on the world's oceans ready to take on any nation. These can also be used for defensive purposes by escorting merchant navies or providing support to your ground troops fighting on the land.
Regarding missile attacks, aircraft carriers are heavily protected by the surrounding ships and will use a combination of anti-missiles to deflect or destroy an incoming missile.
Don't underestimate a nuclear carrier.
Onkar Thakur, Armchair Defence Analyst
Balaji Viswanathan has already covered the strategic advantages of having an aircraft carrier so I would concentrate on the other aspect of your question - wouldn't one missile to its hull destroy it?
Most people have a misconception about aircraft carriers. When they hear that X nation has moved its aircraft carrier to Y location, the image that comes to their mind is this
But the reality is completely different. What they are actually dealing with is an armada, a carrier battle group.
Aircraft carriers do not operate alone, they operate in unison with a no of auxiliary vessels. A carrier battle group generally consists of an aircraft carrier in the center and is surrounded by 5-10 support vessels like destroyers, frigates, minesweepers, etc. A fleet tanker is also provided in order to extend the range of the flotilla.
Add to that, squadrons of fighter jets and attack helicopters operating from the deck of the vessels. Also most navies send their submarines to trail the flotilla. And not to forget, all these ships are equipped with state of the art anti-aircraft guns, anti-ship missiles and cruise missiles for ground attack.
So basically, if you try to attack via the aerial route, the AAA guns and fighter aircraft will take care of you. For surface attack, you have to deal with the attack crafts and the bombers operating from the deck of the carrier. As far as submarines are concerned, every ship is equipped with depth charges and the flotilla generally consists of a submarine too, so the chances of sneaking in quietly and attacking the carrier in next to nil.
Plus aircraft carriers and other ships are also equipped with anti-ship carrier missiles, so the risk of damage from anti-ship missiles is also nullified. If you still think that you can get past all these defences and strike the carrier, well, then
Jay Arron, I publish strategy games
Countries with island territories generally need an aircraft carrier for the following reasons:
1) In the event of a disaster, a carrier is like a floating city that can be parked right off shore. Being able to launch lots of helicopters is critical if rescuers and relief supplies cannot reach citizens by road. It is true that you can fly in relief supplies. However, these supplies will be stuck at the airport for days if roads are blocked or gasoline is in short supply. It will take over a week to airlift in the personnel and equipment to mount a major relief effort. At top speed, a carrier can cover 500 miles in a day, so it can be on site within 24 hours. Upon arrival, its helicopters will be ready to ferry the wounded to a fully staffed and functional hospital. The helicopters can also move relief supplies from transport ships to isolated parts of the mainland. You really cannot beat a carrier for disaster response.
2) Carrier based aircraft are necessary to protect an invasion fleet and provide close air support, should the country wish to liberate an island from a hostile invader. The UK could not have taken back the Falklands without its carriers.
India's Andaman Islands are quite far from the Indian mainland and occupy a strategically important position in the Indian Ocean. For these reasons, carriers have always been, and will continue to be a critical part of India's navy.
Dan Rosenthal, OIF I/II vet, Infantry/RSTA. Many would; fewer could; I did.
It's the only way to project force over a long distance. There are 21 aircraft carriers in active service worldwide. 10 of these belong to the U.S. (this is not counting helicopter carriers). The next closest is Italy, with two, and India with two (though one is a converted Kiev-class carrier, which is a carrier/cruiser hybrid). Everyone else has but one. Having even a single carrier puts you in a very exclusive club and gives you military options you would never otherwise have.
Basundhar Roy, studied at Manipal University
Aircraft carriers made their name as a class of ship in the pacific theatre during world war 2 . It was carrier ships that allowed Japan to launch the devastating raid on Pearl Harbor , it was sinking of their 4 carriers 6 month later during the battle of midway that effectively sealed Japan's fate . They never recovered from the shock and were on the back foot since then .
This introduction is necessary to make my point , carriers are high risk high reward assets. And of real use only at distance where you land based aircrafts cannot reach . High risk high reward because if undetected , they can allow you to launch devastating air strikes but in this age unlike 1941 , carriers can be detected and tracked right from the dock and can be taken away by a salvo of missiles or a stealthy undetectable nuclear submarine that is camping right by the dock . Once sunk , it inflicts a brutal shock to the enemies moral as well as his ability to conduct warfare . When a carrier goes down , it takes down with it thousands of life as well as very costly airplanes .
As such , I have been curious for some time why a traditionally defensive nation like India will need 3 carrier ships(As opposed to say 2 ). We don't suffer from imperialistic tendencies , one can argue they can be be used in case of conflict against China but if we look past the rhetoric that plagues India-China conflict debate, it is highly unlikely either will attack the other and if god forbid the conflict escalates to a level where assets such as carriers are involved , it will be the ballistic missiles with convetional/nuclear warhead that will make the difference , not a bunch of airplanes 200 km from the shore .
They are only of practical use against weaker nations in far away theatres not possessing the capability to effectively engage and sink a carrier ship - can be done by surface skimming cruise missiles , airplanes or submarines . There is a reason that asides from US who are engaged in conflict in mutiple theatres against weak enemies devoid of any counter capability , very few actually have these assets in numbers . Even Russia has only one and it is a relic . They are not of much strategic use in defence due to their associated vulnerability . Even partial damage which is very relatively easy to inflict(one well aimed bomb will render the runway defunct even if the ship remains afloat and capable of self propulsion ) , they have to return or worse tugged back to dock for repairs .
Akshay Jain, Engineer | Entrepreneur.
I am sure there might be many Quorans expert on the Indian Navy and also navy in general.
Nonetheless I would like to give you the answer.
An Aircraft carrier is a moving Air Base that you can carry around the world and use it to protect your interests.
As India and China climb the ladder on the World stage their Navies are bound to upgrade to protect the interests of their respective countries.
Also, interestingly India and China are going to have many disputes in the sea (oil resources all across the indian ocean to South China Sea) and maintaining a Blue-water navy is important.
Hope this helps.
Akshay Kini, Software Engineer, History lover, Finance counter?
An aircraft carrier is "Sovereign Territory" in any ocean of this world (international waters).
Under international Freedom of Navigation laws, aircraft carriers and other warships are recognized as sovereign territories in almost all of the ocean. As long as a ship doesn't get too close to any nation's coast, the crew can carry on just like they're back home.
So, on an Aircraft Carrier, and the airspace above it, YOUR countries laws apply.
If those poor Italian Marines who shot the Kerala Fishermen were on top of an Aircraft Carrier: Indian courts would have NO jurisdiction.
David Waedemon, electrical engineer
44% of the world's population live withing 150km of the ocean.
Having a carrier allows you to deploy a military presence close to most of the world without having to invade a country.
Loring Chien, Knows a bit about airplanes
Much of the worlds population and power is located within a few hundred miles of the oceans. With terratorial rights only going out a few miles if you have a carrier task force you can put an complete air base within reach of most strategic places on earth. This what they call projection of power.
Richard I. Polis, Entrepreneur/Consultant
Aircraft carriers are about the only way to project power rapidly.
It is important if your potential opponent is does not have the ability to neutralize carriers. Most countries do not.