Future Aircraft Carrier Options

by Bradley Martin, Michael McMahon

Although the integrated carrier air wing is the actual component of sea-based tactical aviation delivering warfighting capability for power projection, the individual air wings require aviation support for launch and recovery at tactical distances, fuel and flight crew replenishment, maintenance, and other sustainment. The aircraft carrier and embarked crew provide this support.

Some are concerned that continuing the current carrier program imposes high acquisition cost and might unduly affect the whole of the Navy shipbuilding budget. The Senate Armed Services Committee noted that alternatives could be developed for less cost and potentially with sufficient capability. This led to a request for the Navy to examine lower-cost alternatives.

This report is a shorter version of a classified, restricted-distribution report provided to the Navy in July 2016. Neither report is of a formal analysis of alternatives or detailed engineering study, nor is either a requirement document. It is an exploration of possible alternatives for further consideration to potentially replace the legacy force as it begins reaching expected service life in decades to come. The variants analyzed are possible alternatives and do not represent recommendations for a specific future course of action.