The official requirement is to have an 11-carrier fleet but the Navy has been operating with 10 since 2013 when the USS Enterprise was retired. The assistant Navy secretary for research, development and acquisition told the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower Subcommittee that “The Navy is operating at a deficit” when it comes to carriers.
Long deployments and the high pace of operations have taken their toll. The U.S. aircraft carrier fleet currently at sea is down to five, with none in the Middle East.
Currently, four of the Navy’s 10 carriers are in “deep maintenance” and a fifth, the USS George Washington, was headed back from South America for repairs, Stackley said. The result is that there are now “five carriers then that are carrying on the operating cycle,” he said.
Stackley and the three admirals who joined him in testifying said there was little hope in the Navy getting back up to 11 carriers before 2021, when the USS Gerald R. Ford is finally scheduled to come on line after lengthy construction delays and cost overruns.
“There’s no doubt that being at 10 carriers … is exacerbated by the fact that the Ford won’t be now deployable until ’21,” said Rear Admiral Thomas Moore, program executive officer for aircraft carriers. “The law says, you have to be 11 carriers, but it’s only measured by when we commission Ford … We’ll be in a period of 10 carriers here until about 2021.”
Does now seem like a good time to have only five aircraft carriers at sea and to not have at least one in the Middle East?