As U.S. naval aviation celebrates its milestone 100th anniversary in 2011 and basks in all the well-deserved accolades, potential dangers lurk on the horizon. Reports of China’s “new” aircraft carrier finally getting under way for sea trials as well as that nation’s emerging area-denial capability in the form of the DF-21 antiship ballistic missile (ASBM) have set off alarm bells. Closer to home, there are those who believe we have more than enough carrier capability to face down any global threats or who advocate for smaller, cheaper flattops. And don’t forget the folks wielding the budget ax who could “kill” more carriers than a rain of ASBMs.
But is any of this new for aviators? Over the past century, naval aviation has weathered many a storm. From the early doubters who saw no utility in aircraft, through the fight for carriers in the 1930s, the great triumph at Midway, the post-World War II “revolt of the admirals,” the birth of the supercarrier, and operations in Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and the war on terrorism, the community has bested all comers.