With little notice, the U.S. Navy is undergoing a paradigm shift. For the last 60 years of the 20th century and into the 21st century, the aircraft carrier has been the cornerstone of U.S. naval power and, in many respects, the measure of naval capabilities. While carriers still are impressive warships, the basic situation is changing with regard to them, and dramatically so, for five reasons:
Costs—absolute and relative. The carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), now under construction, will cost an estimated $12 to $16 billion; the next carrier, the planned CVN-79, will cost almost the same. The national (and Navy) fiscal situation cannot afford these costs for a single warship—no matter how capable—at four- or five-year intervals.