The U.S. Navy (and to be frank, the whole U.S. military) is living in a state of total denial. In the next great powers war, or perhaps even in a conflict with a mid-tier power like Iran, at least one of our aircraft carriers will sink to the bottom of the sea. That means thousands of lives could be lost—and there would be very little we could do to stop it.
We need to get used to a very simple reality: the decades-old age of the aircraft carrier, that great symbol of U.S. power projection, has now passed. We can deny the evidence that is right before our eyes, but innovations in anti-ship missiles over many decades—combined with advanced but short-range carrier-based U.S. fighter aircraft and missile defenses that can be easily defeated—have conspired to doom one of the most powerful weapons ever devised.
If the aircraft carrier is a symbol, an expression of U.S. military dominance stretching from World War II to today, then there's another symbol that perfectly encapsulates its demise: China's DF-21D, what many experts describe as a "carrier-killer" ballistic missile.