In times of crisis, especially in naval warfare, one of the first questions authorities ask is the whereabouts of the aircraft carriers, as it is arguably considered the most valuable sea-based asset. Why? It serves as a pillar of power, providing all necessary operational capabilities and tactical air power on a global scale. Simply put, deploying such assets as soon as conflict arises, or even before tensions break into an ugly skirmish, could significantly change the course of whatever brewing crisis.

Superpowers such as the British and American navies have maintained aircraft carriers as far back as the early 1900s. However, its significance in sea warfare was not highlighted until Imperial Japan pulled off its elaborate surprise attack on Pearl Harbor midway through World War II. Its success in the grim offensive demonstrated the vessel’s potential and has become an important centerpiece in fleet formations.

Today, the US Navy has 11 CATOBAR (Catapulted Assisted Taken Off Barrier Arrested Recovery) aircraft carriers deployed across the globe to protect against any threats that jeopardize the free use of the sea, as well as to immediately respond to crises faced by its allies located, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. Its primary roles include multi-mission attack and Anti-submarine warfare (ASW). Ten of the 11 vessels are under the venerable Nimitz-class aircraft carriers that have been serving the Navy since its lead ship was first commissioned in 1975. It preceded now-decommissioned supercarrier classes Kitty Hawk (CV-63 to 67) and Enterprise (CVN-65).

These ten nuclear-powered vessels under the Nimitz class were the largest warships ever built in the world until the USS Gerald R Ford (CVN-78) commissioning in 2017, and each ship has a service lifespan of up to 50 years with one mid-life refueling.