Best Defense

‘Proceedings’ braves fire from admirals as it reexamines the survivability of carriers

Congratulations to the editors of “Proceedings,” who once more waded into the debate over the future of the aircraft carrier.


Congratulations to the editors of Proceedings, who once more waded into the debate over the future of the aircraft carrier. It is hard to think of another platform that is so central to a military service and has been subjected to this sort of internal scrutiny. Can you imagine an Air Force-centric publication running an article titled, “Fighter aircraft: Meh”?

In an article in the May issue of Proceedings, Lt. Jeff Vandenengel, a Navy submariner, notes that, “A U.S. carrier has not been forced to defend itself against a credible enemy since the fighting around Okinawa in 1945.” As a result, he asserts, “Today, we simply do not know how the aircraft carrier would fare in modern combat.” When one eventually is sunk, he predicts, “there will be a great deal of evidence that will make its demise appear obvious in hindsight.”

In a sidebar (online, scroll down to see it), Lt. (j.g.) Travis Meyer calls on the Navy to think about other ways to deliver bombs and missiles to targets. “The Navy can deliver ordnance from a different set of delivery systems using its current platforms, but it chooses to favor a less efficient and most costly carrier-centric approach.”

I think both young officers are right. But even if I didn’t, I’d commend them, and the magazine, for having this important discussion.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at @tomricks1

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