The Aircraft Carrier – No Longer the White Elephant in the Room


Ever since the dawning of the nuclear age, pundits have long claimed that the aircraft carrier has seen its due, a product of a bygone era that is no longer capable of defending itself against a litany of threats.  If that were indeed true, then perhaps someone should discuss these conclusions with the Peoples Republic of China, Japan, India and Thailand, all of whom now posses an aircraft carrier of one sort or another.

While China is utilizing its first carrier, more-or-less, as a training platform and testbed for future aircraft designs such as the Shenyang J-31, they are currently building a more straightforward design, which includes the use of a catapult system and angled flight decks, and slated to get underway before 2020.

Other countries in the Pacific Rim and southern Asia are also seeking to expand their own capabilities despite the cost of building and operating a carrier. Like China, India has purchased an older Soviet Union-era aircraft carrier to serve as their operational fleet air arm, while quietly developing their own indigenous fleet of  aircraft-carrying warships. Likewise, Japan, still prevented in part by its constitution to project power overseas, can transition its pair of carriers from carrying helicopters to US-made F-35B joint strike fighters.

Thailand still remains a bit of a mystery in the aircraft carrier equation, possessing a smaller and less capable warship bereft of any aircraft, due, in large part, to funding shortfalls. And, with Russia continuing to flex its muscles and threaten its neighbors around the world, it is perhaps only a matter of time before they get back into the aircraft carrier game with an entirely new design.

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