As unmanned aircraft don't need to meet requirements regarding G-force limits on takeoff and landing, I'm sure it would be possible to shrink carriers.
When I say serious, I mean countries with proven nuclear capabilities. Not "limited war" with lesser proxy state dictator adversaries, already bludgeoned by economic sanctions.
And, when I say nuclear tipped warheads, I mean as many as it takes to kill the vessel. Any sane military strategist is going to hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and hit the carrier either until it sinks or until everyone onboard and within ten miles is dead.
Even if it takes a solid month of nuclear attacks to starve the crew to death, and melt the deck into slag.
There aren't enough Nimitz class aircraft carriers in the world, NOT to use such tactics.
EDIT: reading the articles, no mention is made of nuclear tipped anti-ship missiles. Probably because it's the article wouldn't be worth writing, if they openly acknowledged that angle, and thus would not generate ad revenue.
I would argue that future conflicts are either proxy conflicts against less equipped forces (see Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, conflicts with limited, focused objectives (Secure a piece of ground that is critical, say the Straits of Hormuz), and existential conflict that results in nuclear war.
If it gets to the point that we are in "actual conflict" that is existential (meaning in this case specifically American survival depends on it) with a "modern nation" (I'm assuming you're talking about somebody that has nuclear weapons and a relatively developed nation state - say, China, Russia?) it would be difficult to avoid considering nuclear weapons.
As a result, Aircraft Carriers might be the weapon we continue to use most as a practical matter, with our strategic arsenal backstop still in place.
Probably doomsaying, but it's difficult to see it shaking out another way. I'm not saying we go straight to warheads, but anything more than testing each side in a way that leads to a negotiation likely escalates quickly.
These are called "ISR" (intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance) platforms and among the forces afloat these could be the E-2C, SH-60B, "other aircraft," and drones.
"How long does it takes for weapons to arrive?"
Is mach 3.5 fast enough for you?
Within those few hours however those carrier groups could deal a good bit of damage. That threat of force is an effective tool in maintaining the peace and keeping the world stage from getting too exciting. This tool is even more applicable with regard to organisations or states that lack the capacity to effectively engage the US Navy with even a slim chance of standing their ground.
> Within those few hours however those carrier groups could deal a good bit of damage.
I just don't buy this argument.
1. As you admit, carriers are really only good against poor nations. But lots of ships are good against poor nations: patrol boats, destroyers, etc. These other ships are _way_ less expensive to build and operate.
Ultimately, air power just isn't very useful against most of the US's modern adversaries. Yes - air power can destroy targets, but that just doesn't seem to have much of a long term positive political effect.
2. I'm not convinced that carriers can do much damage in a suicide strike. Non-NATO countries have been very busy over the last few decades creating really good SAMs. The S-400 is a great example of this - much more effective than the patriot. Russia has been pretty aggressive about giving their military systems a chance to be tested in combat zones.
I'm sure someone will talk about 5th gen fighters and how great their stealth is. Maybe. But the SAMs are getting much better at penetrating that stealth by using sophisticated integrated anti-air systems, and by using a broad spectrum of radar. They may not be there yet, but in 10-15 years? It's at least an open question.
3. I don't think they'd get even 1 hour. The modern space race has widely dispersed the technology for creating ballistic missiles. There is no effective defense against them.
2. SAMs are pretty much useless for the foreseeable future against stealth fighters. Until that's resolved, carriers and airpower will reign supreme.
3. You're vastly overestimating ASBMs, the corresponding targeting systems, and underestimating how the US will handle them.
I assume carriers aren't required to remain operational perpetually. They are instrumental to ensure the attacker has enough air power to support an invasion and once they gain a foothold then air operations are shifted to airfields.
This is just to increase the range of carrier based aircraft. Avoid putting carriers too much in the harm's way.
The lack of a dedicated carrier-based tanker aircraft is an unusual anomaly that's being worked around at great cost by pressing FA/18E/F aircraft into service as part-time tankers.
At its core, this will fix a regression in capability vs. unlocking significant new capability.
Diplomatic relations with questionable regimes for the purpose of securing runways and supply lines for aerial refueling tankers will almost always be cheaper--in terms of both cash and international reputation--than building carriers (including the carrier-group support craft), training Navy crews, and deploying the carrier fleets to the desired operating theaters.
A carrier-launched refueling drone is not a cure-all. It fills a specific mission niche better than the existing alternatives.
The Super Hornet has filled in the tactical tanker role the Navy lost with the retirement of these older tankers. The problem with using the Super Hornet as a tanker is that on typical missions a fifth of the air wing is dedicated to the tanker role, which consumes aircraft fatigue life expectancy much more quickly than other missions.
In 2016 a fleet-experienced naval flight officer said, “The Navy has painted itself into a corner with Super Hornet tankers. The mission eats up fatigue life at a ridiculous rate, and there is something really, really stupid about using your most capable strike platform as a tanker.” Because “classic” Hornets, through the FA-18D, did not carry a “buddy store” refueling pack, later-model Hornets are required. But the tanker mission badly eroded the Super Hornet’s six thousand-hour airframe life, further reducing availability, since FA-18Es typically spend 25 percent of their time tanking.
It was intended to be a strike drone, but wait, let's flip the project halfway through into an intelligence drone. You know what? f*ck it, let's flip it into a refuelling drone.
The project history is a sinuous cautionary tale of scope creep and descoping.
In startup language you might say the team "pivoted"?
I'm not saying that's what happened here as bureaucracy often causes these nightmares, but it's possible there were a lot of good intentions / approaches at play as well.
After that it will be "What if we put a Wescam Ball and AESA array on an MQ-25?" At that point the E-2D program will be in jeopardy.
They do that already to make target drones out of old aircraft:
It doesn't seem big enough to hold much fuel.
Shame on those who made it.
1. My life (and more so, the life of many around me) has greatly suffered from the operation of military bodies.
2. Those technologies could have, instead, been developed in civilian spaces, had the world, especially the great powers, not been so militarized. We might have had some difference in emphasis in what technologies get developed faster of course.
Oh, that's even better than that other quote of yours:
"If two irreconcilable elements are struggling with each other, the solution lies in force. There has never been any other solution in history, and there never will be."
Eh, Mr. Mussolini ?