In today's U.S. Navy there is only two kinds of aircraft carrier, helicopter carriers and supercarriers. Supercarriers that are operated by the U.S. Navy are extremely expense, generally costing around 4.5 billion dollars each, because of that the Navy cannot afford to build a great deal of carriers. Especially since the future Gerald R. Ford-class are going to cost around 9 billion dollars each. The problem is further aggravated by the fact that U.S. Navy carriers are in high demand around the world (Japan, Libya, etc...).
The solution I propose is to use a high/low mix for aircraft carriers. A high/low mix is a combination of a more complicated, costly or larger piece of equipment operating in tandem with a less complicated, costly and smaller piece of equipment, examples of this are the F-15/F-16 mix or the future F-22/F-35 mix. Since supercarriers cost so much why not replace 5 of the 11 in use to day with 10 or 12 medium carriers about the size of the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers. Queen Elizabeth-class carriers have a tonnage of around 72,000 tons, an air wing of 40 aircraft and a top speed of 25+ knots. The cost of the Queen Elizabeth-class has risen due to the decision to convert the carriers from STOVL to CATOBAR and is estimated to top 6.2 billion pounds ($10.2 billion dollars). I am not proposing to purchase carriers from the U.K. but, simply to build a class of carriers about that size.
This class would have a displacement of 60,000 to 70,000 tons and an air wing of 50-60 aircraft, a mix of F-35Cs, 4-6 E-2D Hawkeyes and a dozen or so helicopters. The main focus of this class would be simply sea control, with a limited ASW mission, basically a modern CVL.
The advantages of this idea is that more carriers would be available at a cheaper cost compared to the supercarriers already is use today. Another advantage is that this proposed class of carriers doesn't necessarily have to be nuclear powered and thus does not need special facilities for refueling like standard nuclear powered carriers.
This proposal is just an idea but, it holds the solution to the increasing demand for U.S. carriers around the world.
Photo Credit: U.S. Navy