Anyways, I wanted to put down some information for you. Currently, the US has:
11 Aircraft Carriers*, of which there are:
- 10 Nimitz Class with a unit cost of 4.5 billion dollars**, and a crew of 5,680 people
- 1 Enterprise Class with a crew of 5,830 and a unit of (I can only find this on wiki, and it claims 550 or 650 million)
9 Amphibious Assault Ships, of which there are:
- 8 Wasp Class with a crew (and compliment) of 3,108 and a unit cost of 750 million dollars
- 1 Tarawa Class with a compliment of 1,065 and a unit cost of 250 million dollars (also included in that link is that a 15 year upkeep is 1 billion)
8 Amphibious Transport Docks, between:
- 5 San Antonio class, with a crew of 363 for normal operations, 699 for landing operations, up to 800 and a unit cost of 800 million dollars.
- 3 Austin and Cleveland Class with a unit cost of 235-419 million dollars, and a crew of 1,320
12 Dock Landing Ships between:
- 8 Whidbey Island Class with a crew of 815-917 and a unit cost of 300 million dollars
- 4 Harpers Ferry Class with a crew of 809-908, and a cost of 300 million dollars.
22 Cruisers, all Ticonderoga Class, with a unit cost of 1 billion dollars, and a crew of 364
60 Destroyers, all Arleigh Burke Class with a crew of 276 and a unit cost of 100 million dollars.
27 Frigates, all Oliver Hazard Perry Class with a crew of 215 and I cann't find the cost
75 Submarines between:
- 8 Virginia Class with a crew of 132, with a unit cost of 2.15 billion
- 3 Seawolf Class with a crew of 140, with a unit cost of 2.8 billion dollars.
- Los Angeles Class with a crew of 143 with a unit cost of 900 million dollars.
As well as various other ships which fill roles such as supply and medic ship, which I'm having a hard time finding much info on
* For reference, there are 20 currently active Aircraft Carriers, the UK has two, and seven other countries have one each.
** I'm not sure if this number includes the cost of the aircraft and the supplies needed to maintain those aircraft, or if this number represents just the cost of the Carrier itself. Likewise, the costs for the other ships included may or may not include the cost of maintaining the ship and it's crew.
Now, Because Aircraft Carriers are as expensive as they are never used alone, but always a part of a Carrier Battle Group, which has normally two Missile Cruisers, two destroyers, a Frigate, two submarines, and a supply ship of some kind, but can have up to 15 ships depending on the operation.
Here's a fun thought for you: Iraq could have won the war. How? Well, let me explain to you. See, there was this thing called the Millennium Challenge 2002 leading up to the invasion of Iraq, which was partly physical operations (mostly pre-invasion work ups) and computer simulations meant to test our war fighting doctrine (I wont get into that). On the "Red" side representing Iraq was retired US Marine Lt General Van Ripper. What happened was a US Aircraft Carrier group consisting of over a dozen ships started hanging out outside the Persian Gulf and noticed a lot of private aircraft and boats just buzzing around, with no objective or path. After awhile they gave up looking for a pattern, and issued a warning to Van Ripper to surrender or else. Van Ripper called this his go-ahead order, and used a coded message in the Call to Prayer, which told his forces to attack. Suddenly, a salvo of anti-ship missiles from air, ship, and land smacked into the Carrier group, more anti-ship missiles kept coming, and suicide runs from private air and naval craft packed to the gills with explosives slammed into the ships (and aircraft did this into Middle East Airfields). In all, only 2 ships survived. Estimated lose: 20,000 Sailors and Marines, and hundreds of trillion dollars. Opps. But the fun came after the sinking of a trillion US dollars, when the Americans stamped their feet a few times started shouting, and said "nu uh, it didn't count, because my fingers were crossed!" And then they refloated their Navy, and pretended like nothing happened. And preceded to order the Iraqis to move their installations so that the US can carry out it's landing operations. And if that makes any fucking sense to you, you're either smarter or more insane then I am.
And these theoretical actions weren't unique: They're striking similar to what happened when al Qaeda attacked the USS Cole. But, the US side still said it was unrealistic thing to prepare for. Not unlike 9/11. Also not unlike the Falklands war, where the Argentinian Navy sank or severely damaged numerous British ships with a mix of Subs, land based aircraft and anti-ship missiles.
Now, you may be thinking (naively) to yourself "well, I'm sure the Navy already thought of that". Maybe they did, maybe they didn't. Don't forget, the British lost 9,000 troops (more then twice the total Japanese killed and wounded) and had 80,000 captured, when the Japanese only hit with 36,000 troops during the Battle of Singapore in WWII. This was heavily because they didn't have nearly the same air or anti-air capabilities of the Japanese during the battle.
And it just keeps getting worse. A possible solution is to keep ships outside of the range of Anti-Ship Missiles, smack the sites with missiles fired from US ships, and launch landing craft. Issues: The latest and greatest landing craft is the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) with a range of 25 miles, while ASMs can have a range up to 75 miles. As far as I'm aware, the longest ranged ship born weapon the US has is the RIM-66 Standard, with a range of up to 90 NM. So, a ship borne missile can just hit a land based missile. But, that assumes the Carrier Group actually knows where the ASMs are. If I was North Korean General, I would probably hide my ASMs inside of buildings near the coast. As the Navy gets close (and maybe takes out dummy ASM instillations near the coast) I'd wait until they were maybe 30 or 40 miles away. Too close to escape, too far to launch landing craft.
Now, the Navy has thought about these. For example, there is chaff systems to give the ASMs something else to go for. Which is only really a problem if you have the missile wired to hit the biggest blurb in the ocean. There are also specialized Surface to Air Missiles worked into Anti-Missile-Missiles (say that out loud and it sounds like you got a studder), specialized Anti-Aircraft Guns, and Close-in Weapon Systems meant to automatically target in and hit ASMs with 30 mill rounds. The problem is that AMMs are expensive as crap, and not perfect systems. They do fail. AA guns and CWS have short range and have to be able to actually the missile. That doesn't work since modern ASM intentionally make eratic movements in the last few thousand kilometers to deal with that. And they can only hit one at a time. And the expected kill range of CWS is still close enough to the ship to cause damage to essential areas. And the last system is electronic interference. Which can be defeated by wire guided missiles, or locking in GPS coordinates of the target ship before firing and then having the missile simply continue on it's trajectory until it hits something. And the GPS system is what is used by American Smart Bombs. Infact doing that, along with erratic end movements will pretty well defeat each of these methods.
The moral of the story is simple: There's a reason why a US Submarine Commander once said "The Navy has two kinds of ships: subs, and targets"
Here some additional thoughts based on reading this article, where China demonstrated their UAVs by destroying a Carrier Group in a simulation, not unlike what happened in the Millennium Challenge.
First of all, China not only has Recon and low altitude strike craft, but they're currently developing medium and high altitude long endurance recon and strike craft, with a range of up to 2,000 kilometers. Unlike our UAVs that are propeller driven, the Chinese UAVs (like the WJ600) has a jet engine, meaning it can almost definitely go faster then our UAVs, and can probably hold out against US manned craft. And here's a nice quote from the article (remember, Israel is the second largest developers of UAVs, behind the US):
'They suggested, too, that China had been helped by Israel, which sold China antiradar drones in the 1990s—to the fury of the Pentagon, which has since blocked the Israelis from providing upgrades.'
Oh, and Chinese Submarines can apparently get withing 1,000 ft of a Carrier group completely unnoticed.