Despite a huge military budget, the United States currently has no combat-reading carrier group at sea. All aircraft carriers are under repair. As a result, the first of them will not be able to leave the dock until the first quarter of 2020. This suggests that the hegemon is no longer able to maintain the military machine it created earlier.
The American Navy is traditionally considered the strongest in the world. The unrivalled nature of its combat power is based on the presence of 11 strike carriers. This is more than in all other countries of the world combined. On these grounds the United States projected absolute force on any point in the world ocean and coastal zone. Now the foundation of American naval power has broken.
The existing carrier fleet allowed the United States to keep three strike groups on six-month duty at sea. Three more were undergoing minor scheduled repairs at this time to replace those now at sea. The remaining five could undergo different degrees of major servicing, up to serious modernisation, based on the possibility of returning at least two of them to service in no more than four months. I.e., the US Navy could expect to have 8 aircraft carriers out of 11 at hand if necessary.
The system seemed to keep running like a clock until it was the turn of Harry S. Truman CVN-75 to go to sea. It was supposed to be on half-year duty in the summer, but almost immediately after leaving the port it was forced to return due to detected critical electrical wiring problems.
There was no ship available to replace the ship that had left the fleet. The US didn’t have any combat-ready aircraft carriers. From the 11 available pennants, one – CVN-69 D. Eisenhower, which has just undergone one and a half years of maintenance, was conditionally ready, but its air group will not reach combat readiness until the first quarter of 2020.
Theoretically speaking, the Yokosuka-based CVN-76 Ronald Reagan can still be considered as ready for hypothetical combat, but it has just finished semi-annual duty and also needs scheduled service.
Uncle Sam has no more carriers. The irony of what is happening is that from the eight vessels, the CVN-68 Nimitz, the oldest available, was the closest to being ready for combat. It entered service in 1975. After major repairs, the ship is undergoing a program of state tests.
Whereas its more modern brethren are either undergoing a refuelling and complex overhaul procedure lasting two years, such as George Washington CVN-73, or are being prepared for this procedure, such as John C. Stennis CVN-73. Or even worse, they are being prepared for dry docking (docking planned incremental availability procedure), which generally precedes the refuelling and complex overhaul procedure, such as CVN-77 George H.W. Bush.
The rest did not pass the comprehensive pre-deployment exercise (composite training unit exercise procedure), broke down, and are now being fixed in ports. From these, the CVN-70 Carl Vinson is the closest to completion. In theory, it can return to service around June-July 2020.
Thus, at the moment the American fleet is not capable. If the task of nuclear deterrence is carried out by its underwater missiles, it has nothing to do with the usual fighting. The US maritime strategy is critically based on the obligation to have absolute superiority in the strike power of carrier-based aircraft, which is the main tool for destroying targets. Deck-based cruise and anti-ship missiles serve only as a second-line auxiliary tool.
And now suddenly it turned out that on paper America in terms of aircraft carriers dominates the whole world like an elephant over a turtle, but in fact it simply can’t send anyone to duty at sea. And all because the richest country in the world is simply running out of money.
It costs about $5-9 billion to build an aircraft carrier. Plus up to 5 billion is required for the aircraft. Then every 10 years it is necessary to spend about 3 billion on overhaul and modernisation of the ship and about 1.5 billion on similar work with aircraft. And so, according to trivialities, the maintenance of the crew alone costs $120 million a year. One flight hour of the F-18 deck fighter jet, according to open sources, costs at least $16,000. The average annual flight of the deck air group reaches 3,000 hours.
The total maintenance of each aircraft carrier requires at least $200-250 million per year. Against the background of $716 billion that is the total size of the US’ 2019 military budget, these figures seem small, but judging by the practical results, the hegemon is no longer able to maintain the military machine it created earlier.
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