The aircraft carrier in the 21st century continues to remain the most conspicuous symbol of anation’s maritime power. While, the number of carrier operating navies has risen from just three at the end of World War II to nine in the 21st century, the total number of carriers – in the same period – has declined from over 150 to less than 25 aircraft carriers. These citadels of maritime power are operated by a few select countries which include Brazil, France, India, Italy, Russia, Spain, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. China is expected to become the 10th member of this elite club shortly.
Even though the aircraft carrier has proved to be a powerful and credible instrument of state policy, it has always remained at the centre of controversy and debate over its employability and substantive advantage over lower-cost alternatives, in the evolving battlespace environment. Some of its critics have labeled the carrier as an expensive relic of outdated World War II thinking with limited chances of survivability in the face of key threats like enhanced battlespace transparency, improved submarine capabilities, better anti-ship missiles and the hazard from long-range shore-based strike aircraft to aircraft carriers at sea.
This book provides a comprehensive overview of the ongoing debate over the continuing relevance, roles, missions and viability of aircraft carriers in the modern environment. It also includes an instructive perspective from the various carrier operating navies of the world and internationally acknowledged experts in the field over the continued salience of the carrier in the 21st century.
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