Key point: Like the Soviet Union, Russia knows that aircraft carriers are force multipliers for the U.S. military.
In the event of World War II, the Soviet Union planned to go after the U.S. Navy’s fleet of aircraft carriers in a big way. The carriers were a flexible and powerful weapon that could operate at the peripheries of Soviet power, doing everything from supporting land operations to launching nuclear strikes. The Soviet Navy and Air Force built battlecruisers, cruisers, submarines and bombers armed with formidable anti-ship missiles to destroy these America’s carriers and ensure victory in Western Europe.
During the Cold War, the United States Navy maintained a large and robust carrier fleet. In 1984 it operated thirteen carriers, a mix of conventional and nuclear-powered ships with air wings upwards of 85 aircraft. The carrier of 1984 fielded a diverse air wing, including the F-14 Tomcat fleet interceptor, F/A-18 Hornet multirole fighter, A-6 Intruder bomber, A-7 Corsair attack aircraft, and a variety of anti-submarine and support planes.
One of the missions the Soviets feared the most was a multi-carrier surge into the Norwegian Sea, where they could threaten Soviet air and naval bases. From there carriers could stage air raids against military targets across the northwestern USSR, hampering the ability of Soviet forces to dominate the North Atlantic and beyond. Alternately they could attack Soviet ballistic missiles submarines operating in the so-called “bastion” in the Barents Sea. Soviet missile submarines, concentrated near the homeland for protection, would be hunted down and destroyed.