20 Feb, 2019 by Vishnu Aravind
Whenever one hears the term aircraft carrier, the first thing that comes to mind are the behemoth monster-sized naval aircraft carriers. These carriers have displacements of up to 1 lakh tonnes. They allow for positioning of aerial power at places far away from the nation's borders. This is vital for a nation to project power. Due to their strategic importance, carriers often move in what is known as a Carrier Battle Group (CBG), which comprises of a large number of escorts. You might remember how the carrier strike group centred around INS Vikrant effected a naval blockade of East Pakistan in the 1971 war. Air strikes were staged that were proven to be very effective in nullifying the naval assets off the shores of what is now Bangladesh.

INS Vikramaditya - Sailing in the ocean during trials



Radical Concept
A respectable aspect of the US Air Force (USAF) is its openness to new ideas and experimentation to come up with new weapon platforms to gain the upper hand in any confrontation. A huge number of experimental aircraft have been designed and tested by many agencies within the US. This Link lists a number of such planes.



The above video details the now declassified planning and efforts that went in to fructifying an aerial aircraft carrier. The advantages of such a thing is enormous. Such an aircraft carrier could be positioned in any theatre within hours compared to days for its sea-borne counterpart. However, the complexities involved make it not worthwhile.

But, an aerial aircraft carrier that can deploy a swarm of unmanned drones in to enemy territory seems plausible with present day technology with the advent of network-centric warfare. Such a platform has the potential to be used to overwhelm the enemy air defence network along with gathering huge amount of data. It is certain that such a technology is being developed by various nations. Who will be the first to bring forth the next game changer?

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