In his Oct. 1 op-ed column, “Our Navy, our destiny,” George F. Will gave space to the argument that the aircraft carrier is dead. Reports of this death, however, to paraphrase Mark Twain, are greatly exaggerated. Since the advent of U.S. naval aviation in the past century, critics have contended that these precious warships are vulnerable to enemy planes, submarines, surface combatants and, lately, to China’s “anti-carrier” missiles. The U.S. Navy lost a number of aircraft carriers to Japanese weapons systems in World War II, including kamikaze planes. Nonetheless, U.S. and British carriers proved central to the destruction of the Japanese navy and to the eventual defeat of Japan. Enemy forces confined to remote spits of land in the Pacific, akin to China’s current reef-mounted air strips in the South China Sea, stood no chance against air attacks launched from fast-moving, stealthy carrier task forces.
The multiple layers of air, surface, subsurface and electronic defenses surrounding these floating airfields either deterred enemy forces from attacking or neutralized them during the wars in Korea and Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm and the Cold War. Periodic calls for a larger, less expensive fleet of small ships, such as the “high-low mix” debate of the 1970s, have always come up short when considered against the versatility, survivability and centralized combat power of the aircraft carrier. Indeed, if the leaders in Beijing now consider these ships vulnerable, why are they refurbishing an old Russian ship and reportedly building their own aircraft carrier?
Edward J. Marolda, Montclair, Va.