The on-again/off-again debate regarding the future of the aircraft carrier has been reanimated. The approximate causal factor is the proliferation of long-range precision-guided ballistic and cruise missiles. In response to the threat, the Department of Defense (DoD) has sought to develop new operating concepts and capabilities to improve both the lethality and survivability of its forces. A key element of the new approach is the deployment of so-called stand-in forces. There is no better stand-in capability than a Carrier Strike Group (CSG). The CSG is really a “stand-in/stand-out” force. Moreover, the CSG disposes of enormous firepower in the carrier air wing and the accompanying warships. Over nearly a century, the carrier airwing has evolved to maintain the premier role of the CSG as an instrument of military power. The carrier airwing continues to evolve with the introduction of new capabilities such as the F-35C, CMV-22B, and soon, the MQ-25A unmanned aerial tanker. I have written more about the future of the CSG and the carrier airwing here.
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