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The carrier battle group (commonly abbreviated CVBG) is a concept that was developed during World War II. Before the 1940s, the primary fighting component of a navy was the battle line; the various battleships, cruisers, and destroyers that lined up to slug it out with an enemy fleet. At that time, aircraft carriers were included in the fleets of the world in support roles, supplemental to the battleships and dreadnoughts. However, the war between the Allies and the Empire of Japan in the Pacific Ocean changed the entire dynamic of naval warfare to one that centered around the aircraft carrier.

Japan focused on their carriers very early, using them as a significant part of their naval operations. The United States, however, still relied on the traditional doctrine of the battle line, up until December 7, 1941; the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In one day, a significant portion of the U.S. Pacific Fleet had been neutralized. Fortunately for the U.S., the Pacific Fleet's carriers were not in port at the time of the attack. Quickly, the order of battle was rearranged around the surviving aircraft carriers. Destroyers were now providing defensive screens for the aircraft carriers, rather than the battleships. The battleships themselves became escorts (though they were still powerful mobile artillery platforms for supporting amphibious operations). The carrier battlegroup was born.

Since the end of World War II, the United States Navy has organized itself around its aircraft carriers. The carrier battle group is a country's the most potent and commonly used method of projecting military force around the world. A number of countries have adopted the carrier battle group model, including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and France.

The U.S. Navy builds their carrier battle groups around a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. The force contains a collection of smaller ships that provide for the defense and support of the carrier and her air wings. A typical U.S. battle group might be comprised of the following:

  • One Nimitz class aircraft carrier
  • Two Ticonderoga class AEGIS cruisers
  • One Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer
  • One Spruance class destroyer
  • One Oliver Hazard Perry class guided missile frigate
  • Two Los Angeles Class attack submarines
  • One Supply class replenishment ship

    The aircraft carrier is literally at the center of the battle group, with the various other ships providing a defensive screen against any kind of attack. The Ticonderoga class Aegis cruisers form a barrier against enemy aircraft and incoming guided missiles, their AEGIS weapon system capable of tracking and bringing defensive fire to bear upon air targets. The Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyer, as well as the older Spruance class destroyer play a role in air defense, though they are also tasked with anti submarine warfare (ASW). The Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate and two Los Angeles class attack subs are also involved in ASW defense of the carrier. All ships in the battle group (except for supply and logistics ships) are flexibile enough to participate in different forms of combat, (anti-air, anti-surface, anti-submarine, ground support, strike), since no one is specialized to such an extent that they are only capable of one specific task.

    The carrier battle group has evolved into a very flexible part of American military and foreign policy. They provide an airbase in international waters, meaning that the U.S. does not need to jump through diplomatic hoops to secure an airbase. They are capable of acting in a benevolent manner, putting in at a friendly foreign port to improve relations and demonstrate America's commitment to defend whichever country. Also, the carrier battle group may be dispatched to a most unfriendly situation, such as when one was sent to Taiwan, when the People's Republic of China were performing sabre rattling military exercises in the Strait of Taiwan. Ultimately, the carrier battle group is an extremely flexible part of the U.S. military, allowing rapid deployment of massive amounts of firepower to nearly anywhere in the world.

    "When word of a crisis breaks out in Washington, it's no accident that the first question that comes to everyone's lips is: 'Where's the nearest carrier?'"
    President Bill Clinton (March 12, 1993) aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt
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