USA aircraft carriers definition means France has only other aircraft carrier

A 45,000 ton ship with a large, horizontal flight deck and up to 20 F-35B Joint Strike Fighters sure does look like an aircraft carrier. However, the USA does not want to count such carriers as aircraft carriers.

So they are defined as not being an aircraft carrier able to control an area of the sea because

* they are not nuclear powered so the planes have to share fuel with the ship
* they do not have a launch catapult so they cannot launch the anti-electronics warfare planes (although such planes could launch from land or someplace else to support the 40,000 ton carrier

An aircraft carrier is more than a ship that carries airplanes. In order to effectively employ naval aviation for power projection, an aircraft carrier and its embarked air wing must be thought of as a single combat system. This is a question of fleet design, and it is an important one. To take advantage of the carrier’s mobility (compared to airfields ashore), the design of this system requires that it be able to operate far from land-based support for at least limited amounts of time in contested environments. The design must also account for the wide range of offensive missions required of carriers, especially as “blue water” surface and submarine threats to naval forces improve.

These definitions mean that not only are the eleven “amphibious assault ships” are not aircraft carriers but only one other aircraft carrier is currently in service. The french have one nuclear powered aircraft carrier with a catapult for launching anti-electronics warfare planes. The sixteen others do not count.

This amphibious assault ship for the US marines apparently only looks like an aircraft carrier

Charles de Gaulle (R91) is the flagship of the French Navy (Marine Nationale) and the largest Western European warship currently in commission (although the two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers currently being built for the Royal Navy are significantly larger).

The 70,000 ton Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers that are coming in 2016 and 2018 will also not have nuclear powered propulsion.

India could build a 65000 ton aircraft carrier for 2025.

The US 100,000 ton supercarries

The US Navy also has a justification for why eleven aircraft carrier groups are not enough.

The best way to demonstrate why we need eleven aircraft carriers is to look at a recent typical day in the Navy. On that day, two carriers were deployed to the Middle East. Another carrier was under way to relieve one of those deployed carriers. Two carriers were underway near the coast of the United States conducting training. One carrier had just returned from deployment and was in a post-cruise stand-down period. Two were in-port for light maintenance and were conducting shore-based training events. Two were in various stages of a heavy maintenance period, and one was in a Refueling Complex Over-Haul (RCOH) period. So let’s add it up — two deployed, one on its way, two underway for training, one in post deployment stand-down, two in-port for light maintenance/training, two in heavy maintenance and one in RCOH equals eleven total aircraft carriers. While on any given day these numbers may be somewhat different, the fact remains that the aircraft carrier fleet is kept busy with operational requirements, training, and maintenance.

SOURCES – wikipedia, forbes, Realclear Defense