Comparison of Aircraft Carriers

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It is actually very hard to target an aircraft carrier, the reason being follows:

* Due to earth being a globe, heli mounted radar (which is typical best-case scenario for aircraft carrier-less fleet) has a limitation of 200km (slightly higher than 110 nm) range. Only soviets and US had capability of satellite guided cruise missiles which has a range of ~500km. Missiles are only good when you maintain a radar lock, so it really depends on detection of the aircraft carrier (to be continued later).

* Typical carrier air group range is 600km+. And that is based on F/A-18E/F, which is considered short-legged than F-14 or F-35C. With air-refueling (typical practice), That range is easily extended by a few hundred km. And now we start to consider aircraft based missile range. LRASM has a range of 300 mi or ~600km, if memory serves. So carriers have an easily doubled range (possibly tripled) than non-carrier based anti-ship missiles. (barring ASBM).

* Now that we mentioned ASBM, let’s consider how does it fare. For ballistic missiles range is less an issue, the bottleneck is detection. It’s actually very hard to spot a fleet thousands of kilo meters away. Tactical satellites have very short window of availability and very long period, like available for 2min in a 30 min+ cycle. And even if you happen to catch the correct grid, infrared is not reliable due to atmosphere, and radio detection can be countered by maintaining EMCON. That leaves visual, and [visual detection is quite hard in itself](http://96.0.120.63/aero/data/attachment/forum/201304/08/001107oo9ii9fok2q212uk.jpg). You’ll need to maintain a matrix of satellites and quite powerful graphic processing algorithm+computing power. Satellites can be shot down by a foe determined to escalate. If you have no backup plans, that makes ASBM a fragile plan.

* Now consider UAV. They can easily have thousands of km in range and can be designed to be stealthy. This is particularly bad news for land-based players, since land based launch sites and air force bases are easily identified (they don’t move). In today’s warfare can’t hide means can’t survive.

Tl;dr: carrier have very long range, which makes them hard to detect, which makes them better protected than fleets without carrier or land based air force.

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