How Many Aircraft Carriers Do You Need?

The United States is not only broke, but $13 trillion in debt. And the elephant in the room? Military spending.

Of course we need to support the troops, secure our country, prepare for defense, but give me a break — how many freakin’ aircraft carriers do we need? Our friends in the United Kingdom have 4. Our old nemesis Russia has 1. India, Spain, France, Brazil — they each have 1, too.

So, again, how many aircraft carriers does the U.S really need to fund?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but this I can say without a doubt: We don’t need 22!

That’s right, the United States blows billions keeping 22 aircraft carriers afloat:

America has about twice as many aircraft carriers as the rest of humanity combined, and America’s aircraft carriers are substantially larger than almost all the other’s aircraft carriers. The Navy likes to call the big Nimitz class carriers “4.5 acres of sovereign and mobile American territory” — all two dozen American carriers of all classes add up to about 70 acres of deck space. Deckspace is probably a good measure of combat power. The rest of the world’s carriers have about 15 acres of deck space, one fifth that of America’s.

(Be sure to check out the graphic deck size comparison graphic at the bottom of the link above…sometimes words are not enough.)

Seventy acres of deckspace compared to the rest of the world’s fifteen acres…I’d say we won. Game over. Quit playing already.

So, how much could we save if we got rid of half of those carriers and cut back to, you know, only a little over twice the total aircraft-carrier deck space of every other nation on earth combined?

First find the cost of one aircraft carrier:

•Construction Costs – $4.5 billion
•Mid life overhaul Costs – $2.3 billion
•Operating and Support Costs – $14 billion
•Other Costs – $1 billion
•Total Average Cost – $22 billion each

Multiply by eleven: $242 billion.

But that’s peanuts. The next generation of U.S. carriers already being built have a construction cost alone of $14 billion.

Because four and a half times the deck space of the rest of the world’s aircraft carriers is not enough.

Because, for these U.S. defense contractors a trillion dollars a year isn’t enough.

Because the peasants in your country who don’t make bullets aren’t broke enough.

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10 Responses to How Many Aircraft Carriers Do You Need?

  1. Xman says:

    We need one for every Admiral that wants one and for every spot on the globe that has a population we need to bully, so we can take their stuff for less than market rate.

  2. pelmo says:

    Joe and Xman don’t answer the knock on the door, because it will be Homeland Security, who will be dragging you away for being Anti American.

    Don’t you realize to be a true American you have to play the MINE IS BIGGER THEN YOURS game. Look at the new homes they build, giant SUV’s, TV’s, food and drinks.

    Xman you are correct as these over grown kids we call Admirals and Generals need all those toys to play with so they can bully other nations.

    Imagine if that money was spent on education and our infrastructure the again I am dreaming something like that could happen.

  3. GetReal says:

    I hope you realize that we do not have 22 aircraft carriers, the number currently in commission is more like 11- and that our geographic situation and extensive global obligations would necessitate more carriers than other countries have. The UK has four, but they are tiny. Carriers are likely the best bang for our buck, as far as military spending goes!

  4. Navy Commander says:

    GetReal – I think the math includes the LHA/LHD class helicopter carriers for the Marines. I’m an O-5 (about to be an O-6) in the Navy (and a pilot/former squadron CO), and I agree with the article. Our Admiralty does not think strategically (neither does our Congress or Administration – and they never have regardless of who sits in the White House). The odds of war with a nation-state like China are tiny (enough for a Navy of six carriers to cover, especially considering coalition powers – two carriers per coast and two in yards). Also, most of the carrier flight operations are conducted to do carrier flight operations (i.e. just to do them – training for qualificaitons/currency, a cut in the numbers of aircraft/pilots would reduce the flight time load requirements). These operations are disguised by names such as “maritime intradiction operations” but boiled down are nothing more than training hours. Fixed wing strike aircraft aren’t really doing much these days; and then for what very little they do, nothing necessary from a carrier (even with Libya, considering the accessibility of places like Italy for land based operations). Regarding the LHA/LHD role in Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief as well as the fact that most wars today will be fought against non-nation-state entities (fourth generational/irregular) with helcopters, the number of helicopter carriers should be greater than fixed wing carriers (they’re cheaper to operate too since no catapult/arresting gear). But people fail to realize the Navy is actually run by a disprortionate number of, you guessed it, F-14/F-18 Admirals. If you don’t believe me – look it up yourself. In fact, they just approved maintaining a big bonus for fighter jocks, touting retention; however, there are no retention issues (the airlines aren’t hiring and even if you could get a job with them, the pay sucks). But, I digress – more wasteful spending. I’d love to make it to Admiral and help change this, but because I want to, I won’t get that far – also, it’s really up to the HASC/SASC. Write your congressmen TODAY and lobby others to do the same! Somebody, primarily an F-18 guy, will try to argue otherwise, and I would love to show him/her numbers (and even qual matrices) to prove my point. Also, attempt to discuss strategy and diplomacy with these guys (or anything “joint” operational) – they don’t get it. Sad but true, they are wasting your taxpayer money.

  5. Andrew says:

    This is a great article. It is ridiculous that in a time of economic hardship 51% of the Federal budget is going to Military spending. Then the Corporations get between 10-15% in subsidies and these jerks have the nerve to complain about teacher’s pensions. You could pay each teach a thousand time over with that kind of money, and that is no exaggeration, you could probably pay them even more than that.

    I have taken action with my own blog too, check it out if you want:

    Keep up the good informative articles.

  6. Name says:

    The U.S. had 11 carriers. There are only 20 in the world maybe 21 if China is really developing one. Its not a matter of how much it cost to operate, but how much how much you like freedom. They’re an invasion shield that allows them to not have to put an airstrip where your house should be. It would be appreciated if this was written on more factual basis and not so much on a biased bases.

  7. JoeC says:

    As Navy Commander noted above, this includes some helicopter carriers that are on the borderline of what might be considered aircraft carriers in the 21st century. STILL, the US has 11 full-fledged carriers and the next closest country has 2. And it IS a matter of how much they cost to operate and build, because that money could instead be spent on education, infrastructure, social security, and a host of other things. It is NOT about freedom, as there are already 101 air force bases in the US (no need to put an airstrip on my lawn) and just to be safe, there are an additional 86 Air National Guard stations. That’s just in the US…we have other air force bases around the world in Italy, Germany, Japan, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Qatar… What this is about is keeping the Military Industrial Complex gravy train rolling on my dime.

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  9. Rivco500 says:

    At the very least we could go down to 8 carriers and keep the other three in a state of active reserve which is still much less expensive than keeping them active…

  10. Bob says:

    Everyone here is fooling themselves. What the citizens require from our military and our country we shoul dhave more aircraft carriers. Lets really look at what we commit our 21 aircraft carriers to do:
    1) Deploy to hot spots around the world in order to rescue U.S. citizens when a crises happens. (LPD, LHDs, CVNs, etc)
    2) Deploy to disaster areas for support ranging from Hospital care to finding lost people / pets. Remember Sandy? (LPDs, LHDs, etc)
    3) The Carriers need to be refueled, repaired, trainined, and maintained (All Carriers).
    4) There is a very long lead time to replace an aircraft carrier – only 1 facility in the U.S. that can build a Nimitz class or larger aircraft carier. (All carriers).

    The question you should be asking yourself is how involved in the world do we really want to be? Did NYC like having an aircraft carrier there to help with recovery? If you are in Africa and an uprising happens would you be happy that there is an aircraft carrier wround or that the Air Force has a base in Germany? Any less amount of aircraft carriers we have now you get into situations that the Navy could not respond to some of those situations. Don’t count on a fighter jet or bomber from Germany to get you out of a war torn country (Go Marines!). I am nto trying to be gloom and doom here – these are the real choices that we as Americans have to make. For the most part, our country has decided that Air Craft Carriers are what we need.

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