With 11 carriers, the Navy can maintain an average of 3.5 carriers deployed, according to retired Vice Adm. Peter Daly, who commanded a carrier strike group. The average is higher than three because when one carrier is relieving another in an area of operations, there are more than three carriers at sea.
But with a 10-carrier fleet, that average number of carriers deployed drops to about 3.0, and there are times when fewer than three carriers are at sea, Daly said. With nine carriers, the deployment average drops to 2.5. Going down to eight would make it difficult to keep even two carriers deployed, according to Daly.