Are aircraft carriers now too vulnerable to be useful?

Since the announcement of launch of the French New Generation Aircraft Carrier program by the President of the Republic, many voices were raised to question the relevance of such an investment, in particular in the face of the threat posed now by anti-ship missiles hypersonic at long range, like the 3M22 Tzirkon Russian, or DF26 Chinese. According to them, and according to others especially in the United States, such mastodons of the seas are easily located, and therefore constitute the targets of choice for new enemy anti-ship missiles. However, a factual and objective analysis of the capabilities offered by aircraft carriers, as well as of the reality of the actual threat, could offer a very different reading of the situation.

The threat of long-range hypersonic missiles

A missile is said to be hypersonic when its speed exceeds the Mach 5 threshold, causing, among other things, various phenomena such as the creation of a plasma on the contact faces of the missile. Above all, no anti-missile system can, today, be effective in intercepting such a missile. Several programs have been launched around the world to have such missiles, both in the field of land target strikes and ship strikes, and in particular large units, such as aircraft carriers. China has thus had two ballistic missiles for several years presented to have certain anti-ship capabilities, the DF21D with a range of 1500 km, and the DF26 with a range of 4000 km. The semi-ballistic trajectory of the missile suggests that the re-entered vehicle is indeed maintaining hypersonic speed. A new missiles, airborne this time, and derived from DF17 so-ground missile, has been observed this year in China. Equipped with a hypersonic glider, it could be a new anti-ship missile.

Chinese DF26 missiles follow a ballistic trajectory and maintain hypersonic speed until impact

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