The mission of sea-based air has shifted from countering Cold War, blue water threats to supporting land forces dependent on air-delivered weapons, logistics and ISR for their survival and offensive punch. The Navy's role has shifted to the littoral, where the large deck carrier is potentially at risk from enemy weapons of increasing sophistication. Yet aircraft carrier design has not substantially advanced during the past forty years. Despite major advances in ship design, shipboard technology, aircraft concepts and cost reduction schemes, major shifts in Navy missions, personnel shortages and the rise of joint CONOPS, the new Nimitz class carrier of today is essentially the same ship it was forty years ago. Today's new platform must incorporate the best thinking about future CONOPS, threats, weapons systems and reduced cost if it is to remain effective in the unpredictable, rapidly changing world of the twenty- first century. The Navy should seek the best future sea-based air system to guard against the collapse that doomed capital ships of the past The Navy must aggressively seek new ideas for vehicles that support sea-based air power. Transforming today's carrier force into the most effective, most affordable sea-based air system possible is mandatory for the Navy. This report examines the future of the aircraft carrier. The Task Force considered the aircraft carrier's role, status, technology and environment. It strongly recommends that the Navy aggressively pursue new sea-based air system concepts as it replaces its aging carrier fleet.
Defense Science Board Reports http://www.acq.osd.mil/dsb/reports.htm