Richard A. Bitzinger
They won’t disappear like the battleship anytime soon.
The aircraft carrier is the weapon whose obituary is constantly being written, but which also refuses to die. Twenty years ago, during the height of the “revolution in military affairs” craze, the aircraft carrier was written off as a dinosaur.
In a projected future where warfare was all about being small, stealthy, and fast, an 80,000-ton carrier was seen as too big and too cumbersome, while its function could be replaced by missiles and precision-guided weapons. Moreover, aircraft carriers were considered to be just “cruise missile magnets” — modern-day cannon fodder in the new 21st-century battlespace.
And yet more and more countries — particularly in Asia — are discovering the potential value of aircraft carriers. China and India are currently the only Asian countries operating large fixed-wing carriers, but they may soon be joined by new players, particularly Japan and South Korea (and perhaps others).
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China launches first ‘home-made’ carrier
China recently launched its first completely domestically built aircraft carrier, the Type-001A. Displacing 70,000 tons fully loaded, and capable of carrying up to 48 aircraft, the Type-001A is a marked improvement over China’s first carrier, the Liaoning (the refurbished ex-Soviet Varyag).