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    Home未分类The Grand Aspirations and Ultimate Decline of the USS United States Supercarrier

    The Grand Aspirations and Ultimate Decline of the USS United States Supercarrier

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    The proposed nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS United States (CVA-58) was a symbol of post-WWII American naval ambition, a behemoth intended to carry Air Force nuclear bombers far into enemy territory.

    Designed in an era when nuclear warfare redefined military strategies, the project aimed to revolutionize the Navy’s capabilities. However, the supercarrier faced insurmountable challenges, including inter-service rivalry and engineering complications.

    These obstacles eventually led to its abrupt cancellation, igniting a historical dispute known as the “Admiral’s Revolt.”

    The concept behind the USS United States was simple yet unprecedented: a ship so large that it could host an airwing of nuclear bombers. It was designed to keep potential enemies at bay by launching aircraft from a safe distance, avoiding the range of enemy anti-ship missiles.

    U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command arrive in the Cayman Islands aboard two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters ready to support the humanitarian-aid and disaster relief effort to Haiti in response to Hurricane” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    However, despite its futuristic vision, the USS United States encountered fierce opposition, particularly from the Air Force, which resented the Navy’s incursion into its nuclear monopoly.

    The carrier’s engineering posed significant challenges. For the first time, a nuclear reactor would power an aircraft carrier, requiring a complete redesign of the deck to support larger aircraft. The size of the nuclear bombers meant they could not be housed below decks, demanding a much larger flight deck than any existing carrier.

    060618-N-8492C-276 Pacific Ocean (June 18, 2006) – The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), foreground, USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), center, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) and their associated carrier strike groups steam in formation while 17 aircraft from the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps fly over them during a joint photo exercise (PHOTOEX) while preparing for exercise Valiant Shield 2006. Valiant Shield focuses on integrated joint training among U.S. military forces, enabling real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces and in detecting, locating, tracking and engaging units at sea, in the air, on land and cyberspace in response to a range of mission areas. U.S. Navy photo by Chief PhotographerÕs Mate Todd P. Cichonowicz (RELEASED)

    Moreover, to fit the bombers’ expansive wingspans, designers planned to eliminate the traditional “island,” moving command operations to a separate ship—a controversial decision that would alter how the carrier was run.

    Aerial view. The aircraft carrier accompanied by a squad ships. Space for text.
    Photo by Евгений Федоров on Adobe Stock

    These issues, coupled with concerns about command control and emissions management, clouded the project’s feasibility. The lack of an onboard command island was a crucial point of contention.

    FALL OF SAIGON 1975 – Operation Frequent Wind – Aircraft Carrier USS Hancock CVA-19” by manhhai is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    As one source states, “The island…serves as a vertical funnel duct for emissions…ensuring that the carrier itself was not posing a visibility challenge for pilots seeking to land their birds on this boat.”

    USS Carl Vinson | CVN 70 | Nimitz-Class Aircraft Carrier | United States Navy (USN) | Hong Kong | China” by Christian Junker | Photography is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Political dynamics played a significant role in the carrier’s demise. After a change in administration, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson, who strongly advocated for defense budget cuts, canceled the project just five days after the keel-laying ceremony in 1949.

    Yokosuka Kanagawa Pref, Japan - 2021 Aug 28 : USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier operated by the United States Navy maneuvering in Yokosuka Bay.
    Photo by Daisuke.S on Adobe Stock

    This decision led to the resignation of Navy Secretary John Sullivan and sparked outrage among Navy leaders, culminating in the “Admiral’s Revolt.”

    Lockheed P-38 Lightning of the 475th Fighter group, Lingayen Airstrip, Luzon, Philippines. Aug. 25, 1945” by J. Tewell is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    The Navy’s quest for the USS United States was viewed as an attempt to match the Air Force’s strategic nuclear capabilities, a move seen as redundant and overly expensive.

    As one Navy critic put it, “The Navy went over-the-top with its design and insistence that the United States become the most important warship never made.”

    Ironically, the Korean War would soon highlight the value of conventional forces and aircraft carriers, albeit the Navy was fortunate that the supercarrier project was canceled. Technological advances quickly made the envisioned heavy bombers obsolete.

    In hindsight, the USS United States represented a grand vision that, due to a mix of strategic miscalculations and bureaucratic hurdles, never sailed the seas.

    Relevant articles:
     
    USS United States: The Aircraft Carrier Designed to Launch Bombers, The National Interest
     – USS United States: The Nuclear Bomber Aircraft Carrier That Never Sailed, The National Interest
     – USS United States: The Supercarrier That Started Beef Between the Air Force and Navy, autoevolution

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