By Fang Xiaozhi
According to news published on the website of the U.S. NAVAL INSTITUTE, the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier battle group of the US Navy carried out overseas operations lately, but as the carrier’s power system was still being repaired, the carrier-centered battle group had to leave it and its aircraft fleet alone, and make combat deployments independently, becoming the first “carrier formation” without a carrier in the history of American navy.
At present, the US Navy has 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers and one Ford-class aircraft carrier, amounting to over half of all aircraft carriers in the world and with absolute advantage in the composition and strength of carrier formations.
Moreover, the US is the only country whose aircraft carriers are all nuclear-powered, which forms a gigantic “generation gap” over other countries. Thus makes the US a “maritime hegemon” in real sense.
However, although it possesses the world’s largest naval force, it has to carry out onerous combat and war preparedness missions on the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and in the Middle East as its interests are spreading all over the world, and the missions are of complicated and diverse types for that matter. Therefore, the US navy faces the contradiction between too large a scope of military operations and relatively insufficient vessels.
For instance, the US 7th Fleet had constant collisions in the past two years due to excessive missions, which exhausted the front-line officers and soldiers and resulted in poor management. Besides, many American vessels have various malfunctions and a high failure rate because of consistent overwork.
According to recent statistics of the US military, 1/3 of its vessels in America are under maintenance while over half of the rest often have to return midway to the shipyard for repair because of problems.
That the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier battle group had to independently make overseas deployments while the central carrier was under maintenance once again revealed the US navy’s inability to match its ambition despite its appearance of strength, and this has seriously affected its ability to effectively perform combat missions.
Going forward, as the global strategic environment changes, the US navy will face challenges both internally and externally due to a wide range of factors, such as the implementation of America’s national strategy, the tolerance of “America first” by its allies and partners, the impact on US naval construction imposed by domestic reform in terms of public support and capital, and the struggle for resources by different military services. All these will probably undermine the global superiority of US navy.
Moreover, it stubbornly sticks to the “hegemony” mindset and is used to throwing its weight around on the oceans and expanding its maritime hegemony without restraint, which is sure to court more thorny issues in the future, thus further sharpening the contradiction between maintaining national hegemony and declining national strength.
(The author is a researcher at the BRI Institute of Strategy and International Security, Fudan University)