Photo courtesy Department of Defense - Defense Visual Information Center
Left: Nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise
Right: USS Sacramento support ship, USS Reid frigate
Because aircraft carriers are so valuable, because they are so powerful and because they are so few in number (the U.S. has only 12 of them, with two under construction [ref]), they are very obvious targets for enemy forces. Aircraft carriers are also huge and impossible to hide. They are vulnerable from several different angles:
- The enemy can attack from the sea with boats equipped with long-range cannons and cruise missiles.
- The enemy can attack from underwater with submarines, mines and torpedoes.
- The enemy can attack from the air with airplanes, bombs and missiles.
The carrier battle group is responsible, therefore, for protecting the aircraft carrier at the center of the group.