In a recent article in Proceedings, defense analyst Daniel Goure articulated a vision of aircraft carriers equipped with unmanned reconnaissance-strike drones, which, with mid-air refueling, could fly far longer and farther than jets with a human crew. Assuming the Navy could work out the considerable threats to their communications links (a problem the Air Force must also solve), drones could keep aircraft carriers in the fight even if they had been pushed back by anti-ship missiles. The Navy’s carrier drone program is very active and well ahead of the Air Force’s new bomber program. But even that success could backfire for carriers. If the Navy can perfect long-range drone missions, why not intercontinental drone missions? And if that’s the case, a land base would work just fine.
Robert Haddick, in Shipping Out for Foreign Policy. I found the article an interesting read on the possible eclipse of the aircraft carrier, due to long-range anti-ship missiles.
The article also reminded me of a 2002 naval exercise, where swarms of small, fast boats sank sixteen major warships.
(I found that article in a link in Foreign Policy’s interview with Michael Peck, entitled Aircraft Carriers In Space, which is also worth reading. Thanks, Simon.)