The United States’ aircraft carriers have always been an almost untouchable deterrent, steel behemoths capable of projecting the full weight of the U.S. military wherever they deploy. Yet while many militaries could never hope to match the U.S. carrier fleet in size and strength, countries such as China, Iran and Russia have spent recent years adjusting their forces and fielding equipment designed to counter one of the United States’ greatest military strengths.
A report published Monday by the Center for a New American Security, a D.C.-based think tank that focuses on national security, claims that the Navy’s carrier operations are at an inflection point. Faced with growing threats abroad, the United States can either “operate its carriers at ever-increasing ranges … or assume high levels of risk in both blood and treasure.”
The report, titled “Red Alert: The Growing Threat to U.S. Aircraft Carriers,” focuses on China’s burgeoning military posture in the Pacific and on a term that is starting to appear with increasing urgency in defense circles: anti-access/area denial, or A2/AD. The term A2/AD refers to a concept that has long existed in warfare: denying the enemy the ability to move around the battlefield. Currently A2/AD strategy is much the same as it was when moats were dug around castles, except that today’s moats are an integrated system of surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, submarines, surface ships and aircraft — all designed to push enemy forces as far away as possible from strategically important areas.
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