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The Carrier Debate: From 1922 to Now

The Carrier Debate: From 1922 to Now

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USS George Washington (CVN-73) in 2001.

USS George Washington (CVN-73) in 2001.

Even years before its launch, the U.S. Navy’s new class of ships — the aircraft carrier — was dismissed by some critics as an exorbitantly expensive folly that was already obsolete due to advances in modern warfare.

Although this argument has often been levied at USS Gerald R Ford (CVN-78) currently under construction, it was also said about the nation’s first purpose-built carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) in the early 1930s. In the century since the Navy first started experimenting with shipboard takeoffs and landings, analysts have debated the merits versus the weaknesses of aircraft carriers.

Detractors maintain that carriers are too costly and too vulnerable, while proponents have held that the big flattops have consistently proven their worth and will remain the key to sea power well into the future. This battle over carriers has been raging in the pages of the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine for decades: Read More