Comparing carriers

British Aircraft Carriers Are Cheap (Or Are They?)

Washington Park Prophet on the aircraft carrier issue.

Substituting a larger number of Wasp/British carrier type ships, for a plan to maintain the status quo in the U.S. Navy is one issue being seriously considered by Congress. Building two, three or even four smaller “Harrier carriers” would be cheaper than building one full sized American CVN carrier, and the STOVL version of the F-35 called the F-35B which the smaller carriers would carry, is also projected to be less expensive than the simpler F-35C version designed for CVNs.

For what it’s worth, I’ve long been a fan of the light “Harrier carrier” concept, and I’d maybe even be willing to trade a big carrier for a couple of light ones. Maybe.

Go read.


  1. The linked article made sense until the end. I understand that the cost per onboard aircraft is probably on of the big issues. I would think that it would take a lot more personnel to crew 4 light carriers versus one super carrier. That’s one excuse the Navy was using to try to scrap the battleships. How is the F-35B STOVL version of the F-35 cheaper than the F-35C designed for the full-sized carriers? That makes no sense at all. Is the F-35B less capable?

  2. What about the ASW, AWACS, Refuelers, light transport, and ECW planes are they going to go helicopter (limited range) or all VSTOL. The US super carriers are floating air bases with full capabilities of such. VSTOL’s just cant match the conventional systems in wide range of abilities even the F-35 can’t do it all. Don’t forget the British were nearly broken over an Argentinean air force with a handful of exorcets and they had their carrier escorts in theater. Not to mention like Murdoc mentioned the cost of all the extra sailors to get the same number of air assets in theater is going backwards. More men less actual tip of the spear power ability. The escort carriers advantage is numbers and ability to be in many places at once 1 super just cant be in multiple places at the same time. However as long as we keep enough supers to cover the theaters we will always have near by capable firepower (not piece meal) and a surge ability for major combat. Speaking of surge those conventional carriers even thou smaller are slower than our nuclear supers. Dont forget the British were nearly broken over a Argentinian air force with a handful of excorcets and they had their carrier escorts in theater. I like being on top lets try to stay that way.

  3. M, Don’t we have these already, in the form of the Tarawa class Marine assault ships? They have a half-dozen AV-8s, mebbe another half-dozen Super Cobras, and other rotor lift to taste. Oh, and a battalion of Marines.

  4. Last months Proceedings has a study on this very issue(pg 22 ‘Better Big and (B(u)Y the Dozen). It runs in similar lines as C-Low. It also brought up an issue not talked about at washpark: safety. The big decks are just flat out safer to fly off of than little ones. ANyways, the Proceedings article is something that brings up the other side.

  5. Bram, just to address your specific questions, first on the issue of crew: A Nimitz class carrier has a crew of about 5900 people (ship’s crew and air crew combined). A Wasp class ship has a 1146 member crew in addition to 1893 Marines. Something on the order of 600 Marines are probably air crew, most of them are probably not (carried aircraft require on average about 20-30 crew each). Thus, the crew of a Wasp class vessel configured simply to be a mini-carrier instead of a full fledged troop ship, would probably be about 1750. By comparison, an Invincible class British VSTOL carrier has a crew of 1089. The combined air and ship’s crew for an Italian Harrier carrier (exclusive of their version of non-air crew Marines) is about 880. Spain’s Harrier carrier has a crew of 764. France’s Charles De Gaulle (which is intermediate in aircraft capacity) has a crew of 1950 exclusive of troops, which is still a third of the crew of a Nimitz. India’s VSTOL carrier has a crew of 1550. Thailand’s Harrier carrier has a crew of 601. Brazil’s Sao Paulo carrier (transferred from France) has a crew of 1800-1900. Even Russia’s Kuznetsov Supercarrier has a crew of 2,586, about half of that of an American Nimitz class carrier. All crew data from here for sake of consistency. Thus, you could staff at least three (and maybe four) mini-carriers with the same number of crew it takes to staff one supercarrier, a lower ship acquisition cost, a comparable aircraft cost per aircraft. Global Security pegs the costs at: ‘Current program estimates peg the recurring JSF unit flyaway costs at $37 million for the Air Force conventional takeoff and landing variant, $46 million for the Marine Corps short takeoff vertical landing variant and $48 million for the Navy carrier version, in 2002 dollars.’ I relied on this as my source. Wikipedia relying upon the Asia Pacific Defence Reporter, September 2005, pegs the cost at $45 million U.S. for F-35A, $60 million U.S. for the F-35B and $55 million U.S. for the F-35C. The F-35C is a somewhat larger and more robust plane than the other two which is why it is more expensive. Apparently, cost overruns have disproportionately run up the F-35B costs in the last couple of years. Still, certainly, aircraft price is not a big factor in the small v. large debate.

  6. I think this would be very much a waste of resources- if anything we should build one larger carrier rather than two smaller ones. We already have enough carriers that we can be in many places at once- what matters more is the strike range of aircraft and the number of sorties per unit time. In addition larger aircraft carrier can land more type of aircraft- like c-130s and other non-vtol types. If manage to get two for the price of one, its still a false ecomomy because we would need many more ships to accompany it. If they operate in the same battle group, its not a good value then either, becaue we could have more capablity for the same price. Bigger carriers are the way to go because you can ultimately launch bigger heavier aircraft, and more of them from father away. From a tactical perspective this extra range, is usually much more usefully because it means you can be out of range of more of the enemy’s weapons, and have more chance to dectect them before they get close. Also, having more AC mean more econmies of scale for the Navy’s current aircraft. A escort carrier is going to miss out on great/useful aircraft like the greyhound, the F-18 E/F, and other large fixed wing aircraft.

  7. To C-Low and ry, I want to make clear that I am laying out the facts, rather than advocating one way or the other. Are three Harrier carriers a better deal than one CVN? It depends. The law of decreasing marginal utility applies. The first time you substitute three HCs are one CVN it might be a good move. But, it might not be a good move to replace the entire fleet with them. C-Low notes the issue of support aircraft, and I simply note that is every other country in the world but Russia can figure out how to run a supercarrier, so can the U.S. I suspect you would use helicopters for ASW and light transport (and use HCs only in low submarine threat environments), and that you would use a VSTOL ECW plane (probably just one per ship). Rather than using refuelers, you might settle for less range. As for AWACS, one would follow the practice of other small carrier nations. The idea would be to project power in places like the coasts of Africa and Latin American, the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranian Sea and perhaps SW Asia, to free up conventional carriers for places like East Asia where a large scale conflict seems more plausible. Geeklethal is, of course, right, that we do have these ships already in the form of Tarawa and Wasp class ships. But, military planners, and to an even greater extent Congress and the public are scarcely aware of them and tend to think of these ships as glorified troop transports rather than as Harrier carriers, despite their capabilities. One option would be to design the LHA(R) to be a pure Harrier carrier, gutting the capacity of the Tarawa to carry equipment and vehicles for ground troops, to transport Marines and to carry landing craft in favor of a design that would maximize the number of F-35Bs it could carry (consistent with requirements for other support aircraft for those F-35Bs). Thus, one might have, eventually, 8 mixed role Wasps, and 4 mini-carrier LHA(R)s. This, in turn, might make you feel more comfortable with a 10 CVN fleet, and this could also free up funds to consider several ships to support the Marines in some new class, rather than simply trying to duplicate the status quo. For example, one might design an ‘Assembly Ship’ designed to transport Marine ground force equipment to the theater, while receiving the actual Marines only a couple of days before they deploy, rather than providing a full fledged floating barracks for them for several months en route — freeing up more space for gear and sparing Marines the monotony of long ocean voyages. Alternately, one might design a ship designed to carry half a dozen or so small gunboats which are basically a mobile howitzer or MLRS or M1 Abrahms tank merged with an LCM landing craft (but designed for that purpose from the ground up), to provide close to shore fire support for Marines in an amphibious assault at a lower cost and with less technological risk than the DD(X).

  8. Steve, it is my understanding that C-130s do not land on existing CVN carriers (which are the largest in the world). The C-2 Greyhound (small capacity cargo plane), the AV-8B Harrier, the F-14 Tomcat (a heavier fighter), the F-18 Hornet (a lighter but more modern fighter), the A-6 an attack plane, (and the E-6 ECW plane based upon it), the E-2 Hawkeye (a mini AWACS), and the S-3 Viking (originally ASW and now ‘sea control’) are the fixed wing only planes used in carrier service in recent times (add the V-22 transport if you consider it a fixed wing plane). The proposed F-35B and F-35C fighters would also be capable of being used on carriers. A small number of attempts have been made to land C-130s on carriers, and it could be considered in lieu of a crash landing, but they are too big to land routinely on even an American CVN and I am not aware of any plan to make a next generation CVN large enough to accomodate a C-130. Air Force planes like the A-10, F-15, F-16 and F-22 are small enough, but lack a tailhook, do not have a wing profile designed to fit neatly on a carrier deck, and are not reinforced in the areas that would face particular stresses in a carrier landing. Again, an emergency landing might be possible, but that isn’t designed that way.

  9. Yea, the C-130, that was test landed on the USS Forrestal, had a wingspan that far exceeded the foul line. The whole flight deck has to be empty. And for take off… But anyways…I still think the US’s main focus and should continue to be the punch of the Super-carrier. But having said that, we have proven with our Amphib’s that smaller ‘carriers’ with VTOL, and helo’s can pack a punch too. I would like to see the USN try two smaller escort carriers because othe coming use of UAV’s around the time of deployment of the JSF. UAV’s with lighter takeoff weights (x-45 is about 15k dry)could mean they could share some deck space and add some dimension to a CVE. I think of the Leyte Gulf Taffy 3 situation where a carrier group needs to manuever and attack a threat while leaving a CVE to provide support to troops ashore. CVE’s would have shorter legs because of VTOL/helo/UAV’s but that would be expected to provide CAS in littoral waters. Just as a trivia note: WWII Essex carriers could launch 18,000lb planes port and starboard out of thier foward hangar bay!! Athwartships hangar HYDRAULIC catapults were on 11 US carriers. Hornet retained hers through WWII. I bring this up because smaller UAVS could in theory meet these lighter launch weights that a f-18 or JSF could not. Shorter non steam, electric cats on smaller CVE’s shooting UAV’s is interesting….if for nothing else discussion. USN though usually goes with proven tech, and I doubt we will ever see CVE’s, let alone with new $$$ cat systems with arresting gear for UAV’s.

  10. oh, No worries, I wasn’t trying to run you down or anything. Just trying to show the other side(you know, two points of view to the argument). If we had our druthers, I think all of us would push for a mix of L ships and Big Decks. THe L-Ships can get closer to shore, less time between launch and performing something like a CAS mission, and other things a BD can(and vice versa). BUt given that we have a restraint(Congress) I tend to agree more with the Proceedings argument is all.

  11. This might be a viable solution IF we were able to maintain the full functionality of a current carrier. The only way I could see that happening is if every plane on the carrier were replaced with UAV’s. Even if a UAV was comparable in weight to its manned predicessor, they could use higher G forces for launch and recovery. So, If the R&D budget for the CVN21 were instead invested in developing ALL of those UAV’s and a small conventionally powered carrier, would that be a good trade? If a CVN built today is designed to operate for 50-60 years, will they be operating manned fighters at the end of their life anyway?

  12. Does anyone know, offhand, the relative costs of a Tarawa and a CVN? Since Netcentric usurped my role of bringing uavs into any discussion, I am left with little to say. But I will go on anyway. The Assembly ship mentioned above is a good idea, though I have always liked the JMOB idea. The joint, mobile, offshore base would be a sectional vessel – in four or five parts that would link up to form very long runway – long enough for most anything short of a 747. Underneath would be vast warehouses, and capability to perform efficient cargo processing. Ships and aircraft could bring supplies in, which could then be loaded into landing craft, C130s and other tactical type transports for dispersal to theater. If cutting a carrier or two would get us that, it would remove a huge bottleneck in our logistics, and enable us to park a fully functional airport/seaport anywhere in the world that we want, and not have to worry about basing/overflight restrictions from recalcitrant third worl dictators. And back to the uavs, they really are the wave of the future. Smaller, dispersable CVEs designed to fly manned stovl strike craft like the F35 and flocks of surveillance, interceptor and strike uavs from a short deck would be a real addition to our flexibility and our striking power. The need to maintain very, very large carriers is predicated on the idea that there will be people in the aircraft flying off the deck. This is by no means guaranteed. Since the proposed ucavs are on average 1/3 the size of a naval fighter plane, it stands to reason that a smaller carrier would be more than adequate for a smaller airplane. Removing the pilot from the loop increases performance thanks both to weight savings and not having a need to restrain performance to deal with the pilots need not to black out from g. A strike uav loaded with ground strike ordinance will (eventually) be at least as effective as an bug in terms of getting bombs on target – probably more so since they can be sent into more hostile environments than a manned plane. More Tarawa based carriers would lay the groundwork for a transition to naval combat uavs.

  13. ohwilleke- yes you are right out about the aircraft. While the F-14 and F-18 are on their way out- the larger F-18 E/F, and the others you mention- the E-6, A-2, and the S-3 Viking offer a order of magnitude more capability than small carriers. The ‘mini-awac’s ‘as you say is just one the major advantages. I can’t stress enough that the usefullness of the midsize airplanes- they offer *in-flight refueling, *easier/farther range liason/small payload, *a immense radar range ship-borne ones can not hope of competing with (the awacs). *Not to mention that there are many sub-roles like ECM, etc. As for the C-130- yes your are dead on that it is not part of normal operation and I was wrong to couche it as such. It does illustrate the peak capability though in a emergency- and the the potential for a even larger AC. here is the c-130 on the forrestal- larger overview also links to landing a U-2 on one! Smaller escort carriers stand on there own merits for certain jobs, but they are nowhere near larger AC in terms of total warfighting capability. A single larger one, one even larger than than the current class could be even more usefull- something less ambitious than say seabase could even has its place. However, the economies of scale of just producing more of the existing designs (and more of the types that fly on them) is hard to overcome. If we need more ships for they type of jobs tarawa does- so be it. However, I think its a mistake to think escort carriers, even 2 or 3 for 1 offers more usefull a capability than then a single larger one- and the types of aircraft it can carry.

  14. Meant to link to this- Seabase. In my casual arm-chair analyst opinion, the way to go for sea-power projection.

  15. The whole thing is too far fetched!!! Lets say you build 3 Light Carriers instead on a new CVN. Thats 3 carriers with less operational capability combined than one CVN. Youll need to send 6 carriers off the coast of China instead of 2 if the situation becomes hostile. And a ship is a ship, big or small. You just tripled your maintenence and overhaul costs. You also sacrificed sea based AWACS, refueling capabilities. As well as: TADA! Operational tempo. 10 airplanes with 10 pilots (on one light carrier) will not be able to keep up with 50 airplanes and pilots on a CVN. You can operate heavier aircraft at longer ranges with a CVN, and have far more capability. There is a reason the USN is strong, and its because the CVNs really pack a punch. If the US ever does anything like this, you can bet we’ll turn out like the British.

  16. I’d be interested to see a straightforward comparison of the two. Price, planes, types of planes, crew and maintenance. We’ve got some of that here, but not all. And I’m too swamped at the moment to dig it up. Murdoc, you’ve got free time, why don’t you do some research and analysis?

  17. I wanted to agree with Scrip00. It takes a whole airbase (a carrier) to keep a CAP, AWACS, refueling, and still have an attack wing ready to go. In the other directions, I thought the mega carrier idea had merit- The mega carrier can be thought of as 4 or 5 oil platforms in a row. picture 2 masive pontoons- under the water supporting a platform 75 feet above it, 2500 feet long, and wide enough for a c130 to land on. hanger decks just beneath… and cruising along at 10 knots… since we are doing long term commitments like Iraq, having a full on fixed wing capable US airbase off the shore whould give us more capabilities then even a cvn.

  18. I like the smaller carriers they have their place but they just cannot match the abilities the super carriers bring. Simply a big carrier can do everything a little carrier can but not the other way around. Those big super carriers are huge an exorcet even if it hits is minor, and it would take multiple torpedoes or silkworm missiles to put one out of action. Short a nuke tipped one but then that’s the red line and does any nation not MAD want to go their with the US. As long as we keep enough carriers to have one near theater and more close enough to surge in time to participate the big carriers are the way to go. The reason other world powers don’t have super carriers instead go with the smaller escort style carriers is money. When your choice is 1 or 2 very effective platforms or 4 or 8 less effective it is simple choice. Better to have some power projection out their all the time than let your enemy just wait for your maintenance cycle to move. Not to mention no one else tries to compete with the US military especially Navy, Air Force because we are so ahead it isn’t worth trying. The more we let our overwhelming edge slip the more other nations will actually move to challenge US in that department. Today why waste money on 2 super carriers when the US has got 11 or even 10 (2 or more in their theater and more ready to surge) but when they see possibility they will spend that money and we will then be in an arms race (once invested they wont just give up they will keep up). I like UAV’s but I don’t think they will be the silver bullets many think. UAV’s have a lot of vulnerabilities not just being a computer with a predictable program, like the Com Net needed, bandwidth, and such. You drop our network and all of those UAV’s just circle around in their loop and run out of gas. They do got huge potential like Steve mentioned no G limits hell man you could reinforce the nose and front wings and fire these babies off any ship nearly, catching them in a net like the Hunters during GW1 off battleships (landing gear and hook weight could trade for the reinforced front). Another major huge advantage I have heard no one mention is this, we don’t fly our old Vietnam, Korea, hell WW2 planes because no pilot is going to go for that. But UAV who cares everyone you build today you got for time (like those old dumb bombs in storage) hard target who cares bust out the old Vietnam obsolete UAV’s send em out you lose half all big deal keep the new top notch ones for the big war. After a couple of generations with the proper storage we will have a huge stock of kamikaze planes if nothing else. Attrition will be our friend for once in our history. Non-steam catapults ideas for the future ‘Electromagnetic Catapults and Advanced Arresting Gear that support future airing configurations including unmanned air vehicles.’ On the Mega super carrier I don’t know it would be like having a portable Guam in ability (amazing) and the Sea base idea is close, not a oil rig but pretty close with ships tied together (I like the oil rig idea). I heard somewhere that we were going to build a floating full size airstrip off Okinawa to cut down on air base noice. But in the end I think it would put the US in the smaller nations issue with super carriers, how many could we build? 1, 2, 3 ?

  19. The thing is, the new Brit CVF is more like a CVN than a ‘Harrier Carrier’, being 65K ton, not 50K, and looking to operate approx 40 a/c with an operational tempo to match. The Brits (and the French) are looking to move *up* from dinky carriers, not stay the same. Why do you think that is? They’re not nukes, but only because they can’t afford them, not that it wasn’t desired. Do you really think if the Brits and the French could swing it they’d happily trade a couple CVF’s for CVN, or even the JFK? Hey, maybe we could make ’em a deal, let the Brits refirb the JFK….

  20. It would seem to me that replacing a carrier with x number of smaller carriers with equivalent fighter numbers also increase strain on the USNs logistical capabilities. And to increase the logistical support by funding new ships would seem to negate any funding advantages of the smaller carriers.

  21. A couple of side bar comments from the peanut gallery. The light carrier concept is already under development. The LHA(R) IMO – while the LHA(R) has a lot going for it. The CVN’s have a much greater capasity to maintain flight operations then the amphibs. Machine shops, fuel & munitions, storage and so. As a practical matter, the Navy will do everything in its power to kill any concept of replacing the big carriers with light carriers. To many sacred cows get gored in that fight. This light vs heavy carrier issue is being fueled by a few congressmen looking to help out their shipyards. With respect to vulnerability – once you get a ship in the 800 foot plus range, with thin armor and light weapons… both are equally vulnerable mission kill damage, with the CVN having a much greater absolute capasity to take damage pior to sinking. With respect to ‘mega carrier’ concept. The inital proving ground is in Okinawa where the marines are building an offshore helopad. The ‘mega carrier’ or semi-mobile modular base concept has been floated around for a number of years. One of the competing ideas was to convert the Kitty Hawk into that role. Over all there is not a great push to build them. With the comming of hypervelocity missiles and or planes you are going to see some serious arguements about how the Navy needs its new supercarriers. [ they are going to be the only ship with enough power generation to power some the more exotic weapons that can defend against the hyperballistics.)

  22. If you’re going to play this game as a cost issue, you should make Robert McNamara SecDef again. a. CVNs haven’t sailed with 5,900 people for years. As air wings shrank, so have air wing billets. b. If you have a Wasp with 10 aircraft, how many are available for strike missions? Answer: zero. They are all tied up in fleet air defense and boy don’t you wish you had a bigger boat with more aircraft now. c. STOVL aircraft are inherently poorer performing than conventional aircraft. You loose at least half your strike range and can’t augment with tankers because you don’t have any. So if you are in a real fight having to hold off 2-300 miles until the defense get rolled back, the best you can do if you’re lucky is spit on the beach. A CVN is a city-state with it’s own air force and its own navy. Each CVN packs more punch than most countries’ entire defense forces. That’s worth the cost.

  23. Cost is damn important, MacNamara or not. And it is one of the best reasons to believe the super-carriers are a good deal. While the DOD is not always rational, the admirals have to justify their expenditures against the other services in front of congress. They remember the admirals’ revolt in the early fifties and are not eager to repeat it. If there were a more cost effective solution, I suspect pressure for it would be building. Power plant seems to be a key issue. The French and Brits probably wanted to nuke their carrier, but couldn’t. The French did try to build a nuclear carrier in the de Gaulle and the reactor issues were a large portion of why it is an albatross. I am also not convinced that life cycle costs including maintenance and personnel are as break even as implied here. There are certain fixed costs per hull and I’m not sure you can make up for it in volume. The one thing that is going to make things interesting is the UCAV. How many CVN-21’s will be built?

  24. While small escort carriers would be a good fit for small ucavs, the flip side is that you could put an assload of ucavs on a bigger carrier. Which would allow CVNs to pack an even more lethal punch. Even an escort carrier is a big target, and the difference between a big target and a bigger target is not all that significant in an age of brilliant weaponry. The only real advantage for escort carriers is flexibility and redundancy. If two or three jeep carriers could equal the firepower of a CVN at comparable cost and crew requirements – they could be many places at once where a CVN simply can’t, which gives commanders more options in deploying forces. Also, if a missile or torpedo does get through the defenses and sinks or irreparably damages a carrier, with the escort carriers you lose 1/3 of your offensive power rather than all of it. I think that UCAVs could, in the future, provide enough firepower in a small space to make escort carriers a feasible option. But right now, probably not.

  25. Before WW2 we built 3 smaller Yorktown class carriers rather than more Lexington ‘supercarriers’. During war time conditions it proved barely ‘just enough’.

  26. The only real advantage for escort carriers is flexibility and redundancy. If two or three jeep carriers could equal the firepower of a CVN at comparable cost and crew requirements – they could be many places at once where a CVN simply can’t, which gives commanders more options in deploying forces. No, it doesnt work that way. If you split them up to 3 different locations, that means you only have 1/3d the firepower and capability going all over the place. Decreasing overall effectiveness.

  27. skrip, not exactly. If you have three smaller threats – you can cover them all. If you have one big one, you put them all in the same place. Once supercarrier can only cover one place, regardless of the need. You have the same firepower, just more options on how to deploy. Instead of 0 or 3, you can apply 0, 1, 2, or 3 units of naval airpower. That’s two extra options, man! More if you count variations like 2 here, 1 there, and adding in the supercarriers we already have. If all you have is a hammer, all problems look like nails. If you have a wide variety of hammers, all problems still look nails, but you can pick the brad hammer, the claw hammer, or the 24lb sledge.

  28. Personally, I’ve always been overly enamored of the Voltron concept. You have Wasp-sized flight decks that can patrol and show the flag in quantity, and when needed, form into a really friggin’ large flight deck that can handle anything up to AF transports and almost takes a nuke to sink. Of course, you have to build a considerable number to have enough available. However, my understanding is that it’s too expensive. Has this changed in recent years? Or, if you want to get really cartoonish (literally), turn a Walrus into a flying UAV carrier. But that’s another thread.

  29. As others have said here a STOV/L capable carrier has a lot of limitations, one the fighters it carries rarely can carry the same payload as a conventional catapult capable carrier (or in our case a super carrier). On top of that you would need 2 ships most likely to get the same numbers of aircraft plus more than likely the same capability of sortie rate, which in turn makes the manpower savings a bit moot if they’re saving half the manpower of a super carrier. Toss on you’re going to lose AWACS and Hawkeye capability if you go with a ski-jump solution or don’t have a cat system to launch the aircraft and you end up with a lot of disadvantages. The one major selling point of the Wasp class is that of an fast assault carrier in support of marine ops. This is something it does extremely well and especially in situations where a supercarrier is overkill.

  30. just to clarify about the mega carrier concept- it doesnt come apart- Im picturing having 2-3 in addition to 8 or 9 new cvn. Its a floating airbase. When you have operations in Iraq, you position one off the shore, cruising around at its 10 knot speed… and station 200 or 400 airforce planes onboard… as for the deployment issues- there are only one or two major hotspots. the rest can be covered with our cvns. the advantage is that the megacarrier can stay on station for years at a time, and have a surge capacity- they dont need a dedicated airwing when operations are not in progress.

  31. Arron see this website for an overview of the mobile base concept.