Key Point: Aircraft carriers' main job is not to penetrate A2/AD systems, and "obsolete" ships are still useful for decades.
The United States has decided to spend many billions of dollars on the CVN-78 (“Ford”) class of aircraft carriers to replace the venerable Nimitz class. The latter has served the U.S. Navy since 1975, with the last ship (USS George H. W. Bush) entering service in 2009. The Fords could be in service, in one configuration or another, until the end of the 21st century.
Just as the U.S. government has determined to make this investment, numerous analysts have argued that the increasing lethality of anti-access/area denial systems (especially China’s, but also Russia and Iran) has made the aircraft carrier obsolete. If so, investing in a class of ships intended to serve for 90 years might look like a colossal waste of money.
As with any difficult debate, we should take time to define our terms, and clarify the stakes. The anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) systems around the world may indeed curb the effectiveness of the Ford class, but the U.S. will still find uses for this ships.