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The War Nerd December 11, 2002
U Sank My Carrier!
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
Page 3 of 3
What the battleship was in 1941, the aircraft carrier is now: a big, proud, expensive...sitting duck.Aircraft carriers came out of WW II looking powerful, but that was before microchips. Now, when an enemy tanker can fire 60 self-guiding cruise missiles from hundreds of miles away, no carrier will survive its first real battle.

Carriers are not only the biggest and most expensive ships ever built--they're the most vulnerable. Because even one serious cruise-missile hit means the carrier can't launch its planes, its best weapons. They will sink to the bottom with their crews, not having fired a shot.

That was the real lesson of Millennium Challenge II. And that's what has the Navy so furious at van Riper: he blew their cover. He showed all the hicks back home that the carrier battle fleet can be sunk by "small planes and boats." As weapons become smaller and deadlier, big targets just won't survive.

The signs have been there all along. In the Falklands War, the Argentine Air Force, which ain't exactly the A Team, managed to shred the British fleet, coming in low and fast to launch the Exocets. And they did all this hundreds of miles off their coast, with no land-based systems to help.

If the Argentines could do that with 1980 technology, think what the Chinese, Iranians or North Koreans could do in 2003 against a city-size floating target like a US carrier.

If your local library has copies of Jane's Weapons Systems, check out the anti-ship missile section. The top of the line in standard weaponry might still be the old US Harpoon, but you don't need anything that fancy. Anti-ship missiles are easy to make and use, because surface ships are very slow, have huge radar signatures, and can't dodge.

We may be lucky a little while longer, as long as we take on losers like Iraq. But what about Iran? The Iranians aren't cowardly slaves like the Iraqis. They're smart, they're dedicated, and they hate us like poison. Imagine how many "small aircraft and boats" there are along the Iranian coastline. Imagine every one of those craft stuffed full of explosives and turned into kamikazes. Now add all the anti-ship missiles the Iranians have been able to buy on the open market. If you really want to get scared, add a nuke or two.

Suppose the Iranians use van Riper's method: send everything at once, from every ship, plane and boat they've got, directly at the carrier. Give the Navy the benefit of the doubt and say they get 90% of the incoming missiles. You still end up with a dead carrier.

Now try shifting the scenario to a US-China fight off Taiwan. The Chinese have it all: subs, planes, anti-ship missiles-Hell, they SELL that stuff to other countries! I'll say it plain: no American carrier would last five minutes in a full-scale naval battle off China.

Let's go back to that objection some of you are probably raising: "The Navy must've thought of all that!" Oh yeah? Why didn't the British think of it in 1940? There was plenty of evidence that battleships were nothing but giant coffins. They just decided not to think about it.

That's what the US Navy does now. There are careers here, big money, tradition. There's always been a surface navy; so there's always got to BE one. That's about as far as their reasoning gets.

One day we'll wake up to a second Pearl Harbor. Maybe not this year--fighting a joke like Saddam, the US Navy can probably getting away with sending its carriers into the Persian Gulf. But if Iran gets involved, those carriers won't last one day. If they ever approach the Chinese coast in wartime, they'll just vanish. If a carrier-based group steams anywhere near the North Korean coast...well, there won't even be enough left to make a good dive-site.

And the sickest part is that the admirals and the captains and the contractors all know it. Goddamn. Maybe we deserve what's gonna happen to us. Only thing is, it won't be the brass who die. It'll be the poor trusting kids on those carriers who'll die, the poor suckers who thought they'd get free training and a world tour, or even get the chance to "defend America." They'll die not even believing what's happening to them as the whole giant hulk starts cracking up and sliding into the water.

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Gary Brecher
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Email Gary at, but, more importantly, buy his book.

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Save The eXile: The War Nerd Calls Mayday
The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

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