RENO (NNS) -- Critics of the Navy's aircraft carrier who claim that its time has come and gone - that it's too vulnerable, that it doesn't have a role moving forward - couldn't be more wrong.
That's according to Capt. Craig Clapperton, who extolled the virtues of the carrier during the Sept. 7 opening panel discussion of the 61st annual Tailhook Convention, where the theme was "The Year of the Supercarrier."
"If carriers are going away, then why are our near-peers, allies and competitors trying to build carriers?" Clapperton said.
Recounting engagements while he was the commanding officer of USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), Clapperton called the supercarrier a great source of power projection that can provide support across every sort of mission, whether it's disaster relief or security operations.
"And it can do it the way no other platform can, for a period of time that no other platform can," he added.
Carriers and their air wings provide a balance of forward presence and surge capability to conduct warfighting and peacetime operations around the globe in support of national priorities. The U.S. currently has 10 Nimitz-class supercarriers, and in July commissioned the lead ship of the first new carrier class in more than 40 years, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).
Moderating the Tailhook panel was Rear Adm. Michael Wettlaufer, who over the course of his career has commanded the "Dambusters" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 195, USS Denver (LPD 9), and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Wettlaufer will soon assume command of Carrier Strike Group 3 at Naval Base Kitsap in Washington.
Wettlaufer introduced the panel discussion as a chance to explore the recent history of what he called "the major warfighting weapon system of our Navy." The Navy's carrier strike group exerts a powerful political influence internationally, he said, keeping the sea lanes open and maintaining the economic viability of the U.S. and its allies.
Also speaking on the panel was Capt. Doug Verissimo, commanding officer of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Verissimo praised the legislative efforts of the namesake of the supercarrier he commands, congressman Carl Vinson, known as the father of the two ocean navy and a staunch advocate for maintaining power in the maritime domain.
Vinson served on the House Naval Affairs Committee following WWI and through WWII, after which the committee merged with the House Armed Services Committee. If it weren't for Vinson and his naval expansion legislation, Verissimo said, the Navy wouldn't even have a Forrestal-class aircraft carrier.
"After World War II, there was a debate that nukes would solve the world's problems, that we wouldn't need to have any other weapons, because those fabulous [nuclear weapons] would take care of it all," Verissimo said.
With the capability of the aircraft carrier, Verissimo said, military and civilian leaders have the maritime strength to provide for a greater range of decision-making, allowing them to either "defuse or inflame" a situation depending on the goal.
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