...one carrier. Both of which are about half the size of a Nimitz-class carrier.
Now I will be the first to admit that aircraft carriers give America an unparalleled advantage in force projection, allowing over a hundred fighters, strike aircraft, helicopters and AWACS planes to operate nearly anywhere in the world. Yet, as surface combatants, they face threats ranging from speedboat swarms, to portable anti-ship missiles, ballistic missiles, submarines, and other asymetric threats. And at a cost of $20 billion to man and equip, there's doubt that a cash-strapped America can afford to purchase more.
There's also the question of the competition. China and Russia can only manage to put a light carrier to sea. Says Kenneth Payne of Kings of War:
The Varyag was China’s attempt to play by the big boys rules. It’s a status symbol that says, ‘we’ve arrived’. Or that was the aim. In fact, that won’t cut it, because whichever way you squint at it, it’s still a reverse engineered Soviet hand-me-down. Or an upgraded Macao casino. Regardless of its capabilities, proper respect will have to wait till China has designed and built one themselves from the keel up (and that’s from a native of a country currently hard at work on a French designed carrier).
Naval aviators--what do you think? Does this latest batch of carriers pose a threat? What threats should the Navy be concentrating on?
Bonus: Don't let the Russians or Chinese see this--they might close the carrier gap.
Edit: Karaka Pend beat me to this one, too.