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The Future of the U.S. Aircraft Carrier: Fearsome Warship or Expensive Target?

Over 70 years ago, U.S. Navy aircraft carriers supplanted battleships as preeminent warship with their ability to strike enemy warships or land targets hundreds of miles away. Since World War II, U.S. aircraft carriers and the carrier air wing have operated relatively unthreatened, providing unrivaled air support and power projection capability in every U.S. conflict. Recently, an increasing number of critics are predicting the end of the aircraft carrier era. They cite the growing threats from anti-ship missiles, such as China’s DF-21D “carrier killer”; the proliferation of increasingly quieter attack submarines; and advanced integrated air and missile defense capabilities. They also argue that current carrier strike fighter aircraft and their weapons lack sufficient range to engage targets in a denied/degraded environment. Aircraft carrier proponents argue that a modern U.S. supercarrier uniquely provides a globally deployable U.S. airfield that can rapidly respond to emergent crises and does not depend the approval of any host nation. While they acknowledge the increased threats to the carrier strike group and its air wing, they argue that introduction of the fifth generation F-35, long-range unmanned carrier-based tankers, advanced weapons and electronic warfare systems, and the employment of new operational tactics will enable the aircraft carrier to remain relevant for the foreseeable future. Can the new USS FORD-class aircraft carrier and a modernized carrier air wing provide effective sea-based power projection against near-peer competitors like Russia and China, should the U.S. Navy develop smaller aircraft carriers with new weapons systems and carrier aircraft to meet these 21st Century threats, or should the U.S. move on from the aircraft carrier?

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7/31/2020

Re-Designing the Marine Corps for Future War: Necessity or Madness?

General David H. Berger, Marine Corps Commandant, is aggressively pushing a dramatic redesign of the Corps for future war incorporating new missiles, advanced sensors, unmanned platforms, and hypervelocity weapons. HisForce Design 2030effort has drawn enthusiastic support from those who agree that the Corps must change to remain relevant on a more lethal battlefield. But it has generated an equally fervent amount of criticism from others who think the effort is overly focused on China—rendering the Corps irrelevant across a range of other potentially more likely scenarios. To achieve its vision, the Corps is doing away with tanks, reducing conventional artillery, shrinking units, and placing new demands on the Navy, already struggling to modernize its fleet. But it is adding anti-ship missiles, doubling-down on unmanned systems, and reenergizing a profound discussion about the importance of naval power.Will a redesigned Corps make it irrelevant for land operations against conventional militaries of larger state powers or irregular forces like terrorist groups? Or are General Berger’s designs essential to America’s future ability to conduct nearly any military operation in any theater against a host of potential enemies?Join us for an in-depth conversation about all of this with nationally recognized experts who hold informed opinions on both sides of this issue: Dr. Frank G. Hoffman, Lt. Col. USMCR (Ret.), Distinguished Research Fellow at the National Defense University, and Mark F. Cancian, Colonel, USMCR (Ret.), Senior Advisor, International Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies.