For several years now, the US Navy has struggled to define a strategic plan to modernize its fleet and maintain the ascendancy over the Chinese fleet in full transformation. Many avenues have been proposed in order to meet the very important needs in a constrained budgetary context, including the replacement of part of the Ford-class Super Aircraft Carriers which must replace the no less imposing Nimitz currently in service, by lighter aircraft carriers with conventional propulsion, intended to intervene where the power of a Ford was not required. This approach was also integrated into the ephemeral Navy 2045 plan presented by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper a few days before the defeat of Donald Trump in the Presidential elections, which provided, among other things, to replace 4 Ford-class aircraft carriers with as many lighter aircraft carriers, and above all less expensive.
However, this plan did not survive the change of administration in Washington, and today the US Navy must present a new Plan in order to respond to the Chinese challenge, and especially to compensate for the announced withdrawal of a significant number of ships in the years to come, such as the Los Angeles-class attack submarines, the Ticonderoga cruisers, or the early Arleigh Burke destroyers. At the same time, President Biden has already indicated that the US defense budget will not be expected to grow significantly in the years to come, or even to offset inflation. Under these conditions, the principle of the light aircraft carrier could represent an alternative of choice for the US Navy. But according to Rear Admiral Gregory Harris, who commands the Air Warfare division of the US Navy, this choice would be far from being as relevant as it seems.
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