The Quadrennial Defense Review is just getting under way. It’s a big-picture look at long-term plans and is conducted every four years. One of the many things that will be discussed, according to this Stars and Stripes story, is the forward basing of a second aircraft carrier in the Pacific.
Currently, the only forward-based carrier is the KITTY HAWK in Japan. Officials are looking at both Hawaii and Guam as options for a second carrier based away from the continental US. Forward basing cuts travel time if a carrier is needed immediately in the event of trouble, and it cuts travel time to and back from base in the event of extended duty in a trouble zone.
Another situation discussed in the article is the case of the non-nuclear carriers. The KITTY HAWK and the JOHN F KENNEDY are the two remaining non-nuclear carriers in the US fleet and are the next two scheduled to be deactivated, the JFK’s decommissioning having been moved up in the latest defense budget as the Navy goes from 12 carriers to 11.
The Japanese, for understandable reasons, aren’t very willing to base nuclear-powered ships in their ports. The Navy is going to have a dilemma when there are only nuclear-powered flat tops left.
For what it’s worth, Murdoc thinks forward-basing another carrier is a good move but going down to 11 carriers is a mistake.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention some time back that the USS BELLEAU WOOD, an LHA assault ship, will be retired next year instead of in 2007 as planned. I see this as sort of salt in the “down to 11 carriers” wound.
Although not carriers, the LHA assault ships are more carrier than nearly anyone else on the planet can muster. Although the BELLEAU WOOD will be going out next year, it’s place will be taken by the MAKIN ISLAND, the first of the next generation of LHD assault ships. For more info on the MAKIN ISLAND, see Global Security.