WASHINGTON — More than half of the nation’s aircraft carriers are not currently ready for deployment, as the massive ships sit off the Virginia coastline in various states of repair or testing.
The U.S. Navy has 11 aircraft carriers, more than any other nation. Six of them are currently docked off the Virginia coast and only one is ready to deploy. Another is undergoing maintenance on the Pacific coast. The hulking warships serve as mobile airbases at sea and can allow U.S. forces to fly into areas swiftly, without a complicated process of getting permission to set up on land in neighboring nations.
The carriers are supposed to be on a three-year schedule that rotates deployment, scheduled maintenance and repair, so that some carriers are always in strategic places at sea and others are ready for deployment, if a fast response is needed for a global problem.
Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, a Navy veteran who represents Virginia’s 2nd congressional district in Hampton Roads, sees some of the carriers in base when she checks in on the Norfolk waterfront in her district. Luria is concerned the Navy is not keeping up with its schedule for the aircraft carriers.
“We have not been able to generate the deployable forces one would expect,” Luria said in an interview Friday with the Mercury. “You have 11 carriers, six of them are on the East Coast and only one can deploy and it is deploying late, I don’t think that is generating good deployment capability or surge capability to respond where we need to respond around the world.”
The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.