The Aircraft Carrier in the 21st Century

C Uday Bhaskar & Shishir Upadhyaya

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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 Some of its critics have labeled the carrier as an expensive relic of outdated World War II thinking with limited chances of survivability in the face of key threats like enhanced battlespace transparency, improved submarine capabilities,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.

C Uday Bhaskar & Shishir Upadhyaya C. Uday Bhaskar is the Director of the National Maritime Foundation(NMF), New Delhi. A widely acknowledged security analyst, he is Contributing Editor of the South Asia Monitor and a regular columnist with Reuters. He was appointed Member Secretary of the Government of India Task Force on Global Strategic Developments, the report of which was submitted to the Prime Minister of India. Cmde Bhaskar (Retd.) served in the Indian Navy for 37 years. He was the Deputy Director of the Institute for Defence Studies (IDSA) from 1996 till 2004, which he later headed till 2005.
A prolific writer, Cmde Bhaskar has edited several books on nuclear and international security issues. He is a regular contributor to several Indian and global journals. He also lectures at military colleges, including the Indian National Defence College.
Cdr Shishir Upadhyaya is a Research Fellow at NMF and Associate Editor of the NMF house journal Maritime Affairs. An internationally acknowledged expert on maritime security, he has presented several papers and conducted workshops on the subject at various fora in India and abroad.
Cdr Upadhyaya has served in a number of positions in various operational, training and command billets of the Indian Navy. He was Joint Director (Foreign Cooperation and Intelligence) at the Naval Headquarters, New Delhi, from 2005 to 2009, and was awarded the Chief of Naval Staff Commendation Medal for his work in 2007.
Cdr Upadhyaya holds dual Masters Degrees in Defence Strategy and Telecommunications and a PG Diploma in Shipping Management. He attended the Combined Intelligence Research and Analysis Course with the Australian Defence Force in 2007 and is an alumni of the prestigious SEAS 2010 Fellowship awarded by the US Department of State.



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