Enormous supercarriers like the carrier Gerald R. Ford may be the future of the Navy's fleet, but Congress doesn't want the Navy to leave smaller, light aircraft carriers behind too hastily, reports Popular Mechanics.
The Senate Armed Services Committee designated $30 million in its version of the proposed 2018 National Defense Authorization Act — released last week — to create a "preliminary design" for a light aircraft carrier, says Popular Mechanics.
For decades, the Navy has focused on churning out large supercarriers — like the Ford which will be commissioned later this month — because they can carry more aircraft and hold more fuel, says Popular Mechanics. However, they can be expensive and have experienced their share of issues during construction. The Ford cost $13 billion to build and was supposed to be commissioned two years ago.
As a result, John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has become a strong advocate for switching gears to lighter and smaller aircraft carriers, according to his white paper on defense in January.
"The goal should be a future fleet and air wing comprised of larger numbers of smaller and relatively cheaper systems that can operate in denied environments, rather than smaller numbers of larger and more expensive systems that our adversaries can increasingly locate and target," he wrote.
Though still in the early planning stages, the light aircraft carriers would likely be a modified version of the America-class amphibious assault ship, according to the U.S. Naval Institute.
The U.S. Navy has not fielded a light aircraft carrier since the carrier Midway was retired in 1992, according to Popular Mechanics. McCain says that he hopes the next generation of light aircraft carriers will be commissioned by the mid-2030s.