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Aircraft Carrier Transformations Pt 2

January 26, 2010

Future USN Small Carrier-via Shipbucket click for clarity.

Best of the Best 

Looking at the three carrier navies of Britain, America, and India, we can devise what is the best and worst  platform for deploying manned naval airpower, if it is still relevant in the era of guided missiles and combat drones. 

  1. America builds very large hulls but cannot afford enough planes to fully complement them.
  2. The number of planes is less relevant seeing the power of precision weapons and low maintenance naval strike planes, so logically the tonnage of the carrier hulls should decrease not increase!
  3. Britain builds extremely large and costly ski-jump carriers fitted only for V/STOL planes. The lack of CATOBAR means she loses the enhanced capabilities of catapult planes like extra range and payload, and negates the primary benefits of V/STOL to operate from a smaller, less cost prohibitive platform.
  4. India will build a 50,000 ton “indigenous aircraft carrier” with CATOBAR and aircraft wings not too different from the larger, more expensive Anglo-American ships.

For the cost of a single $10 billion Ford class aircraft carrier, up to three 50,000 ton catapult equipped flattops could be purchased, if you start at a price of $3 billion or even two for $4.5 billion each. Their airwing would only be slightly smaller, 30 warplanes than ships we currently deploy at twice the size. This is a negligible figure if PGMs armed aircraft in modern warfare, as Strategypage.com tells us: 

 The success of smart bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan has also made it clear that fewer aircraft will be needed in the future. 

American carriers have reduced the number of planes deployed on the Nimitz and her sisters, but still insist on only large decks. Yet this reduction in the number of aircraft is negligible considering the availability of modern naval aircraft like the excellent F/A-18 and its superior successor the Super Hornet. According to the Federation of American Scientists

Reliability and ease of maintenance were emphasized in its design, and F/A-18s have consistently flown three times more hours without failure than other Navy tactical aircraft, while requiring half the maintenance time. 

And Wikipedia notes: 

Some early jet fighters required 50 man-hours of work by a ground crew for every hour the aircraft was in the air; later models substantially reduced this to allow faster turn-around times and more sorties in a day. Some modern military aircraft only require 10 man-hours of work per hour of flight time, and others are even more efficient. 

Conclusions

Both PGMs and enhanced aircraft maintainability are recent phenomenas of the end of the Cold War which the Navy fails to grasp the potential. They have already taken advantage of these factors to purchase fewer planes, but have failed to conduct an equal transformation in the type of ships they build. Because of reluctance to match hulls with new capability, we will continue to see reductions in the number of large hulls, with these very exquisite ships carrying far fewer aircraft complements than their potential. 

In other words, the Navy is forcing obsolescence on large decks by ignoring cost saving, power enhancing new technology. This apparent bias against light carriers stems from the erroneous idea that small decks is synonymous with “less capable”. The CVL is not less capable as we see, but a logical response to modern advancements in technology. Even more logical is the growing acknowledgment that in the precision age fewer aircraft can perform more missions than ever before.

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44 Comments leave one →
  1. February 4, 2010 7:43 am

    The proposed STO carrier came in at 30,000 -40,000 Tonnes ,had a 3-6 degree ski jump to decrease take off and would have normal arresting gear for landings meaning F/A -18E’s,E-2c/d , EF-18G Growlers could all be carried as well ASW Helio and aircraft.The compliment came in at 28-32 aircraft depending on the mix .
    This at least embarks all available CV Aircraft ,but you loose operational capability,no high intensity strikes like Iraqi Freedom or Desert Storm.I always thought it was a great alternative to a pure V/Stol CV.
    To retain capability for high temp ops the airgroup and size would have to expand to 40-55 Aircraft about 45,000 – 60,000 Tonnes ,more in line with thhe old CVV design which obviously needs to be improved ,but is not a bad starting point.

  2. January 28, 2010 9:11 am

    Hello Alex Mk.2,

    I think you could build such a ship for a little over $3,000 Million:

    http://grandlogistics.blogspot.com/2009/11/queen-elizabeth-class-aircraft-carriers.html

    tangosix.

  3. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 27, 2010 10:06 pm

    Thanks Alex!

  4. Alex Mk.2 permalink
    January 27, 2010 6:25 pm

    IMO today the ideal Cat&Trap carrier is one that is the optimum size for two full length 90m cats… take into account that there will be a angled deck of just over 200m so no less than 280m will suffice which is why I’ve always said QE class is a move in the right direction, the biggest problem is the fact that she has no cats or traps!

    Now! QE type vessels would’ve done the USN a world of good, not only as a Nimitz replacement but as an alternative to America class, Large enough vessel with a small enough crew to support a VERY large EMF(no well deck, more space for accommodation), with enough space for a sizeable rotary landing detatchment and the equipment(cats) to end USMCs love affair with V/STOL (I know this is ignoring the higher sortie rates) and when the situation doesn’t call for amphibious operations load up the fighters into your specialised strike carrier, all makes for a much more flexible Navy…

    Argue about numbers but 16-18 seems fair to me! as for price, rough estimate would be $4.5bn max for initial units.

    PS: this is very much a marmite concept, there’s no sitting on the fence you either think it’s stupid or love it!

    – Alex.

  5. Michael permalink
    January 27, 2010 2:14 pm

    Scott B,
    Thanks for that update I had completely missed that one,I wonder though if this is just diplomacy at work.
    ‘Subject on which we are not related any more to the British’
    Now we all know the French natural antipathy to anything of foriegn origin especially within it’s armed forces.
    We also know that the French suggested that they in conjunction with the British build three carriers,ostensibly to keep down the costs.
    In typical French style,although Britain had done all the design work they wanted the majority of the build to be carried out in France with them as the lead partner,nothing surprising there then.
    This was obviously not acceptable even to our liberal U.K. government so that was a non starter.
    Now we have the above statement,of which I would be very sceptical and if and when they do go ahead with the build of pa2 I would love to see if it is an original French design, I think not.
    After all, their experience with the CDG has hardly been an outstanding success for the French shipbuilding industry.
    As for building another nuclear carrier, wouldn’t they have to design a reactor for it from scratch as I was given to understand the CDG’s is one used by their nuclear subs and is completely unsuitable for carriers.
    No. I think this is just a political face saving gesture on behalf of France and her national pride.

  6. Scott B. permalink
    January 27, 2010 8:51 am

    Michael said : “As far as I am aware they still are basing their future PA2 on the British design.”

    During a parliament hearing in October 2009, the French CNO openly stated that the PA2 project was no longer connected with the British CVF program.

    Here is the paragraph from the aforementioned hearing (emphasis added) :

    In French :

    “Les incidents que nous avons connus cette année démontrent, s’il en était besoin, la nécessité d’un second porte-avions, sujet sur lequel nous ne sommes plus liés aux Britanniques. Nous travaillons avec les industriels pour définir des solutions aussi économiques innovantes et efficaces que possible en raisonnant en coûts complets pendant toute la durée de vie du bateau. Nous verrons si la propulsion nucléaire constitue une solution réalisable dans des conditions économiques satisfaisantes. Lorsque l’heure du choix sera venue, nous présenterons les choix envisageables à coûts / efficacité convenables au Président de la République.”

    In English (google translation) :

    “The incidents which we knew this year show, if it of it were need, the need for a second aircraft carrier, subject on which we are not related any more to the British. We work with the industrialists to define as economic solutions innovating and effective as possible while reasoning in complete costs during all the lifespan of the boat. We will see whether the nuclear propulsion constitutes a realizable solution under satisfactory economic conditions. When the hour of the choice comes, we will have the possible choices to suitable costs/effectiveness with the President of the Republic.”

  7. Michael permalink
    January 27, 2010 8:29 am

    Scott B said,
    Back in the good ol’ days of Entente Cordiale the French were indeed *hoping* to use the same platform in a CATOBAR configuration.

    As far as I am aware they still are basing their future PA2 on the British design,even though they have put off a decision to 2011/12 due to financial pressures.
    In fact Britain and France came to an agreement in 2007/8 in which France would pay £130 million for the British design plans. Of which £70 million was to be paid at the time and the remainder when France took the decision to build.

  8. Scott B. permalink
    January 26, 2010 9:31 pm

    Ol Paint said : “Among other things that the average containership would need added just to support the absolute bare minimum of flight operations:”

    That’s a bunch of fair and good points that you’re making here.

    The idea of using a (not-so-average) containership for aviation ops is still floating around though.

    See for instance this and this.

  9. elgatoso permalink
    January 26, 2010 8:17 pm

    Off topic-

    http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2010/01/video-former-usaf-officer-blow.html

    Talking about cultural resistance.

  10. Scott B. permalink
    January 26, 2010 7:58 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “So yours truly becomes an anti-carrier advocate”

    Is this to be interpreted as your official *coming-out*, Mike ? ;-))

  11. Scott B. permalink
    January 26, 2010 7:55 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Scott mentioned “radar picket ships”. Here is an interesting link of the USN cruisers performing just such a mission in conjunction with E- 2 aircraft.”

    I’m sorry, but performing air traffic control during disaster relief ops (which is what the link you provided is all about) and acting as a radar picket in wartime is ABSOLUTELY not the same mission.

  12. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 26, 2010 7:36 pm

    Heretic said “Don’t give me credit beyond my due, Mike.”

    My apologies but I get these excuses alot why the navy can’t build low cost decks. Historically, the Navy built aircraft to match the quality of the ship. It was a given especially during the world war that carrier based planes were less capable than land based air. Now the opposite seems to be true that the platform, the mothership in other words, is more important than the weapons she is carrying, in this case, naval airpower. So you have a mediocre fighter, such as the F/A-18 and conceivably the JSF with the British, on the worlds most expensive warships. It doesn’t matter whether you can afford enough warplanes, the platform becomes all important.

    I saw the Harrier carriers of the 1970s as returning some sanity to naval airpower, which was falling in numbers, rising in costs and ship sizes, while the quantity and quality of planes declined steadily. It is much worse today, where we have too few decks and not enough planes (the only reason for the carrier’s existence) to fill the ones we have. It will only get worse.

    So yours truly becomes an anti-carrier advocate who is the only one trying to save the carrier, as the Admirals are content with decline and irrelevance. A strange position to be in.

    Scott mentioned “radar picket ships”. Here is an interesting link of the USN cruisers performing just such a mission in conjunction with E- 2 aircraft. Very interesting.

    Even with the presence of AEW planes, you still need essential escorts, as we insist aircraft aren’t a substitute for but an asset to naval power. It is just another weapon, howbeit a very capable one. In a way you can look at it as an type of naval artillery, with a greatly extended range.
    The aircraft carriers by themselves could not sail into the Falklands to defend the landing forces. While providing air cover for its own defense, she would need to cover the assault ships and escorts.

    For the cancellation of the CVA-10 in 1966, Britain traded a great aerial platform for 3 good ones, while deploying plentiful escort assets. She could afford to lose surface combatants in the Falklands, and she lost several. She could not afford to lose a single carrier. So we see the advantages of low cost carriers and plentiful escorts, the latter being for sea control, which the other can only do in the presence of escorts to defend it.

  13. Ol Paint permalink
    January 26, 2010 7:11 pm

    Among other things that the average containership would need added just to support the absolute bare minimum of flight operations:
    –Aviation (JP-5) fuel stowage, piping, and associated facilities.
    –Air crew berthing
    –Hotel services–additional generation capacity, chilled water, HVAC, dry stowage, cold storage, galleys, grey water/potable water/black water tankage and piping to support the pilots and the support personnel that perform all of the duties necessary to put an aircraft in the air–cargo/ordnance handling, maintenance, flight deck operations, refuelers, etc., etc.
    –Aircraft hangering & maintenance support, to include such things as additional electrical power, cranes, shops, etc.
    –Firefighting
    –Ordnance stowage and support–including things like elevators and more firefighting.
    –Air Traffic Control or C3–personnel plus all of the electronics and equipment necessary to run operations around the clock.
    –Air Wing and Ship’s Crew Staff and all the associated growth they bring–someone has to develop strike plans, process intelligence, put together the schedules, make sure everyone gets trained, make sure everyone gets paid, make sure everyone gets promoted on time, maintain inventories of ordnance/fuel/supplies/parts, etc. You can’t simply put 40 planes and 40 pilots on a containership and expect it to perform. And every person added to the air wing requires literally tons of additional support.
    –Medical. With this number of people on board to put the aircraft into the air, a medical staff is not optional.

    Most merchant ships don’t stay at sea for extended periods, either, which means they don’t have requirements to replenish at sea. With a tiny operation crew, stores and support services are miniscule in size compared to the overall displacement of the ship–after all, the ship will probably be in port in a week or two and, even if it is on an extended voyage, the volume of stores required is still small. Note also that modern containerships, because their crews are very small relative to the size of the ship, logically have the crew support infrastructure highly concentrated in one location (i.e. the whole crew lives in the superstructure, which means that all of the HVAC, piping, tankage, storage, and other support infrastructure is almost all grouped into the superstructure or the hull directly below). Which limits the extent, size, and complexity of said support infrastructure.

    A crew of 20 or 30 is sufficient aboard a simple vessel like a containership. All a containership does is drive from port to port. Ships like the Emma Maersk don’t even do their own cargo handling. Basically they only have enough crew to man the bridge 24 hours a day, handle lines and run the deck machinery when entering/leaving port, and keep the limited machinery plant running. A carrier–no matter how minimalist–is not a simple ship. All that wiring, plumbing, and machinery needs maintenance. Which means ship’s crew. Who need support–eating, sleeping, laundry, heads. Which adds more plumbing, wiring, and machinery. When you stick a few hundred personnel (or more) on board a ship, the story changes dramatically. That’s a big reason a cruise ship like Oasis of the Seas costs a heck of a lot more than an Emma Maersk, even though they may be similarly sized. The complexity doesn’t begin to compare.

    None of this has even begun to address survivability measures. A merchant ship is relatively unlikely to come to harm if an engine dies or a generator gets fried. She might be a few days late while the small merchant crew does repairs, but what happens to a carrier that loses power in a war zone? Even in normal peacetime operations, survivability features are still required for occasions such as when (not if) an aircraft has a landing accident.

  14. Scott B. permalink
    January 26, 2010 6:37 pm

    x said : “I wasn’t on about this system. What I am interested in is the fact that a ship like the Emma Maersk can be built for $150million, be crewed by less than 20, and still do 25kts day in and day out.”

    Container vessels are natural candidates for a conversion (hence my previous answer), but not such a good starting point for the kind of *full-time* solution that you have in mind, for a variety of reasons.

    The best starting point (or at least the most decent one) would be an Ore-Bulk-Oil carrier or OBO. More 10 years ago (or was that 15 years ago ?), I’ve had a chance to discuss this option with a gentleman whom I met when he was working for NASSCO.

    Rather than exposing his POV, which I don’t agree with, I’ll see if I can still contact him after all these years and get him to jump into this discussion (or any other one that might develop in the meantime on the subject) and expose his ideas. And then I’ll explain what I disagree with and why.

  15. January 26, 2010 6:03 pm

    “ARAPAHO”

    I wasn’t on about this system. What I am interested in is the fact that a ship like the Emma Maersk can be built for $150million, be crewed by less than 20, and still do 25kts day in and day out.

    Lets say you add another $500million on top for electronics, weapons, etc. And then another $100million for more structurally steel.

    I do have reservation about a single shaft for large ships. And I know there a few (just a few?) holes in my thinking.

  16. Michael permalink
    January 26, 2010 5:40 pm

    Mike said
    ‘winning is winning in my book’ a truly American way of thinking and one that I whole heartedly endorse,or what is the point of fighting in the first place.

  17. Scott B. permalink
    January 26, 2010 5:37 pm

    x said : “We need to look at why container vessels that dwarf most naval vessels get to sea safely, efficiently, and much more economically.”

    This specific subject has received quite a lot of attention in the late 1980s – early 1990s with such experiments as ARAPAHO (on the US side) or Atlantic Causeway aka Reliant (on the British side), or such industry proposals as BAE’s SCADS to name only one.

    The fundamental parameters haven’t changed in the meantime, and the assessment of the much-regretted DK Brown (see Rebuilding The Royal Navy, page 144) retains its validity :

    “There are roles in which cheap helicopter carriers are useful, but such roles must be tightly defined to avoid creeping growth and, conversely, to correct any impression that a full aircraft can be obtained on the cheap.” (emphasis added)

  18. Scott B. permalink
    January 26, 2010 5:16 pm

    Heretic said : “I point out that there’s a chicken-and-egg problem”

    There’s no chicken-and-egg problem, it’s a mere matter of constraint optimization, the constraints being : 1) how much money you have (or expect to have in the future) and 2) what’s currently available in terms of AEW and what might be available in the near future.

    Suggesting that STOL carriers would be fine if there was a decent STOL AEW solution available out there is like saying if my aunt had testicles, she’d be my uncle…

  19. January 26, 2010 5:07 pm

    I haven’t yet a position in this discussion. Enlighten me. If we were to move to smaller carriers has thought been given to dividing the carrier role into dedicated defensive and offensive missions? My first guess is that we would save in building costs but sacrifice, once again, in operational efficiency.

  20. January 26, 2010 4:38 pm

    “what is the most efficient way to embark 40 aircraft on a carrier at sea? THIS is the question that hasn’t been answered yet (imho).”

    I think the solution lies outside traditional warship mind sets.

    We need to look at why container vessels that dwarf most naval vessels get to sea safely, efficiently, and much more economically.

  21. Heretic permalink
    January 26, 2010 4:28 pm

    re: Scott B.

    Well played sir. I point out that there’s a chicken-and-egg problem with making STOL/ski-jump carriers capable of carrying out their own organic AEW due to the lack of a STOL AEW platform being already in production … unlike the CATOBAR E-2C/D … and you tell me, well, what you said.

    Well played sir.

  22. Scott B. permalink
    January 26, 2010 3:58 pm

    Heretic said : “what is the most efficient way to embark 40 aircraft on a carrier at sea? THIS is the question that hasn’t been answered yet (imho).”

    Merely looking at some of the CV projects out there should provide a decent starting point : e.g. the Brits with their QEs, the Frogs with their PA2, the Indians with their Vikrant and follow-on should give you a decent bracket in terms of how big a CV needs to be in order to be able to operate efficiently with an airwing of 40.

    From there, you might want to dig further into the subject and check some of the studies that were published on the subject and are publicly available, e.g. :

    Future USN aircraft carrier Analysis of alternatives
    by Dr D. A. Perin and J.D. Raber
    Naval Engineers Journal (May 2000)
    vol. 112, no.3, pp. 15-25

    Mike might tell you that you’re, once again, unfortunately “pulling out the well-used metrics by the Navy that is forcing obsolescence on naval airpower”, but hey, it’s definitely worth taking a close look at this specific NEJ article.

  23. January 26, 2010 3:47 pm

    “Note the French had to enlarge their carrier deck to reliably operate the
    E-2.”

    Yes they did. 10,000 tons would have made all the difference to the CdG, for very little extra cost to the whole project. May have even helped them with reactor install.

    “What’s being suggested is that the way to go is to start with the problem (part of which is what type of AEW is needed AND available within a reasonable timeframe), and define the solution (i.e. the CV) accordingly.”

    As a very famous ship’s engineer said “You canna change the laws of physics!”

    A bigger airframe means you have room to modify in the future. Which goes someway to reducing costs.

  24. Chuck Hill permalink
    January 26, 2010 3:33 pm

    Note the French had to enlarge their carrier deck to reliably operate the
    E-2.

  25. Scott B. permalink
    January 26, 2010 3:31 pm

    Heretic said : “It’s why I’ve said before (and will again here) that if you really want to have a STOL/ski-jump carrier with fixed wing AEW, you need to also create a STOL/ski-jump capable AEW fixed wing aircraft … of which there are currently none.”

    You’re trying to start with a solution (STOL carrier or whatever) and walk your way back to the problem (what type of AEW airframe will fit in your STOL carrier).

    What’s being suggested is that the way to go is to start with the problem (part of which is what type of AEW is needed AND available within a reasonable timeframe), and define the solution (i.e. the CV) accordingly.

  26. Scott B. permalink
    January 26, 2010 3:20 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Again with “the British didn’t win the right way in the Falklands” talking points?”

    The discussion is radar picket ship vs AEW, and there’s almost NO debate here.

    The next question is what type of AEW is desirable, what it implies in terms of airframe, and then what it means in terms of carrier design.

    That’s such a central question in all these carrier discussions that there’s no reason why this discussion should become taboo.

  27. Scott B. permalink
    January 26, 2010 3:15 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Winning is winning in my book.”

    That’s what the French thought right after WW1. That one of the reasons why they suffered such a humiliating defeat at the beginning of WW2.

  28. January 26, 2010 3:15 pm

    “This is already true.”

    I knew of this relationship you mention. I was talking more from a British angle with our obsession with JSF.

    As for VSTOL AEW there is platform that is suitable but it is lost in the mists of time. Or as you would know it, the 1960’s.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairey_Rotodyne

    “Rebuilding the Royal Navy”

    Um. Yes I do have the book. But I hope my belief is more based on conclusions drawn from my own very informal investigations into naval warfare than what I have read in one book.

    I am not anti-vstol (Harrier, JSF, or whatever) per se. But fixed wing turbo-prop AEW is still the way to go.

    And we mustn’t forget COD either………

  29. Heretic permalink
    January 26, 2010 3:12 pm

    Heretic unfortunately pulled out the well-used metrics by the Navy that is forcing obsolescence on naval airpower

    W hiskey
    T ango
    F oxtrot
    ?

    For the record, I didn’t pull out ANY “well-used metrics by the Navy” with that long rant up above. I didn’t even go to any authoritative sources for my info. I pulled numbers out of my {FNORD!} based on simply using a Mk I Eyeball on the question and using a layman’s judgement based on “that looks right” to someone who has never been to sea. The mere fact that you can then turn around and think I’m talking any sort of “navy gospel” on the subject tells me that I’ve either hit the mark pretty squarely or otherwise lucked out and found the right answer without knowing a whole heck of a lot concerning what I’m talking about beyond a feeling of “yeah, that looks about right.”

    Don’t give me credit beyond my due, Mike.

  30. Heretic permalink
    January 26, 2010 2:54 pm

    I have come to believe that the AEW airframe is the airframe around which the carrier should be built.

    This is already true. It’s why the E-2D is the size it is … because the catapults and traps on USN CVNs can “service” an AEW that large and that heavy. It’s why I’ve said before (and will again here) that if you really want to have a STOL/ski-jump carrier with fixed wing AEW, you need to also create a STOL/ski-jump capable AEW fixed wing aircraft … of which there are currently none. So in a lot of respects, this notion that the AEW airframe is the lynchpin for carrier specs/requirements is somewhat correct (bearing in mind that there are other factors too, of course).

  31. Scott B. permalink
    January 26, 2010 2:53 pm

    Michael said : “Why have you conveniently forgotten to mention that these vessels have been designed so that they can be relatively easily be converted to fly conventional carrier aircraft,deck space is provided for angled deck and space below deck for catapult machinery.”

    Back in the good ol’ days of the Entente Cordiale ;-)), the French were indeed *hoping* to use the same platform in a CATOBAR configuration.

  32. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 26, 2010 2:50 pm

    Michael said “the American idea of a small carrier is 50,000 tons”

    I know! Anything would be an improvement, but time is against the large deck carrier.

    Heretic unfortunately pulled out the well-used metrics by the Navy that is forcing obsolescence on naval airpower, but I completely disagree that we have no alternative but breaking our budgets or shrinking our fleet. There is a better way and it usually involves smaller, not necessarily small (I know, a shocking statement from yours truly!).

    Again with “the British didn’t win the right way in the Falklands” talking points? Winning is winning in my book.

  33. Scott B. permalink
    January 26, 2010 2:50 pm

    Michael said : “I would suggest that at only 15,000 tons larger than the Indian carrier it is hardly a behomath in carrier terms.”

    Like I said earlier, 50,000 tons is the standard displacement of the Vikrant follow-on, which translates into a full load displacement of ~65,000 tons.

  34. Michael permalink
    January 26, 2010 2:29 pm

    A’h now I understand, the American idea of a small carrier is 50,000 tons well I suppose that is small in comparison with what you build at the moment.
    So India is building a 50,000 ton fixed wing catobar carrier at one third of the cost of a U.S. carrier and you think this is the limits of Indian aspirations.
    India being in the geographical and political position that it is, with its burgeoning economy and potential adversaries on both its north west and north eastern borders is surely not going to stop at this.
    They have years of experience of carrier ops in both fixed wing and vstol,what they don’t have is experience in building their own carriers,that is about to change.
    They will no doubt gain experience in building and operating these vessels,and from there the natural progession will be to build bigger and better, I hope I am around in twenty years time to see what India has on the drawing board.
    Then you go on to say that Britain is building extremely large and limited carriers,I would suggest that at only 15,000 tons larger than the Indian carrier it is hardly a behomath in carrier terms.
    You also state that it can only operate vstol,which in their wisdom? the powers that be in the U.K. have decided we should progress with,one reason being our experience in this field.
    Why have you conveniently forgotten to mention that these vessels have been designed so that they can be relatively easily be converted to fly conventional carrier aircraft,deck space is provided for angled deck and space below deck for catapult machinery.
    Do you also think that China is going to come flying out of the starting blocks with mini carriers I think not, and neither India or China could be called naive when it comes to long term thinking.

  35. Scott B. permalink
    January 26, 2010 2:01 pm

    west_rhino said : “Maybe surplus Kamovs have a maskirovka value?”

    A patrol endurance of 2.5 hours doesn’t sound that exciting, does it ?

    Or maybe it is just me…

  36. west_rhino permalink
    January 26, 2010 1:50 pm

    HMMMM LCS, Little Carrier Ship? For AEW, somehow AFBLUES (from an earlier strip noting a AWACS crash) provides a notion of a UAV screwtop… Maybe surplus Kamovs have a maskirovka value?

  37. Scott B. permalink
    January 26, 2010 1:39 pm

    x said : “I have come to believe that the AEW airframe is the airframe around which the carrier should be built.”

    Which reminds me of what the much regretted D.K. Brown wrote in his magistral book entitled “Rebuilding the Royal Navy”, in a paragraph called “Lessons of the Falklands War” (p. 173) :

    AEW : The lack of airborne early-warning was the most serious deficiency, eventually reduced by fitting Searchwater radar to eight Sea King helicopters. The lack of AEW caused much wasteful patrolling by Sea Harriers.”

    Once it is agreed upon that radar picket ships is NOT the way to go, the question quickly becomes : what type of AEW is needed ?

    Once you’ve answered this question, you can indeed move on and find out what it implies in terms of airframe, and eventually which carrier should be built.

  38. January 26, 2010 11:52 am

    I have come to believe that the AEW airframe is the airframe around which the carrier should be built.

  39. Heretic permalink
    January 26, 2010 11:10 am

    We’ve had this conversation before Mike, but I figure it bears repeating.

    There are certain “irreduceables” when it comes to fixed wing aircraft carriers. These are factors where you simply can’t get any smaller without compromising mission performance/availablility/suitability to a degree that the platform becomes unworkable for its intended purpose. These factors are:

    Aircraft do not have a 100% mission readiness rate. This means that a portion of any embarked complement of aircraft will simply be unavailable to sortie. In practice, it is best to plan for a mission readiness rate of 75-80% of the embarked complement of aircraft simply to “keep it real” in terms of how many assets you “need” to have available at a moment’s notice. Note that mission readiness tends to be higher during actual combat rather than peacetime sailing, due to greater crew motivation and other factors which do not yield easily to quantification in powerpoint slides … but for planning purposes it is “safer” to work with a 75-80% mission readiness rate for aircraft.

    AEW aircraft, if embarked, need to provide 24-hour coverage over the carrier. That means you need at least a 4 plane rotation plan. That’s because with 4 AEW planes, you’ve got a “spare” in case one goes down for maintenance (see mission readiness above) … which is important because you’re dealing with either 6-hour (4 planes) or 8-hour (3-planes) sorties of loitering over the carrier to provide AEW “services” 24/7. Note that including launch and landing and prep and parking times, that’s really more like 7-hour (4 planes) or 9-hour (3-planes) sorties, which has implications for aircrew fatigue when taking things below this point in terms of available AEW assets onboard.

    Similarly, a carrier needs to supply CAP aircraft for its own defense. Same rules for this apply as above, except that fast moving jets rarely possess the sort of loiter time seen in an AEW asset. Furthermore, any CAP jets really shouldn’t be getting below half a tank of fuel if you want them to be useful/effective in the event of a call to intercept an inbound bogie. Buddy tanking helps out tremendously in this regard, but still doesn’t counterbalance the need to rotate CAP planes regularly so they can be maintained aboard ship in readiness for sorties the next day. Which is a long way of saying you don’t want your CAP planes hanging out for 6-8 hours a day (in a single stretch) over a carrier like you do an AEW asset … which means you’re going to need a larger number of jets to maintain constant CAP 24/7. When you factor in aircrew fatigue and other factors, it’s probably best to have 6 planes “dedicated” to the task of CAP for every 1 plane you want to have in the air, meaning each CAP pilot flies CAP for 4 hours a day (not including launch and landing cycle times). Given the 75-80% mission readiness rate consideration above, that means for all practical purposes you’re realistically wanting to “dedicate” 8 jets to the task of CAP for every 1 plane you need to have in the air at all times. And since you’re realistically going to never want to send out CAP flights as solo performances, that means you’re looking at needing to have 16 planes embarked for every 2 ship CAP you want to have in the air around the clock. Note that this is assuming 1 sortie per pilot per plane per day for CAP, which may be overly generous (for both pilots and aircraft), but I’m trying to be conservative here, which leaves a reserve aboard the carrier for rapid launch to intercept additional incoming bogies (cue Tom Cruise, “launch the alert 5 aircraft” scene).

    The important thing to notice here is that this means (so far) a minimum complement of 20 aircraft, just to provide 1 AEW aircraft and 2 CAP aircraft on a rotating 24/7 basis, indefinitely … and this is before adding in any dedicated strike packages for attacking targets on land, at sea, or in the air. This is not including any helicopters for Search And Rescue as well as cargo transfers (best to have 4 of those, see above for mission readiness on why) as well as a fixed wing cargo transport plane (at least 2, 3-4 if you can fit them aboard, again for mission readiness reasons). Add all that up and you’re up to 26-28 aircraft (fixed and rotary wing) even before adding in strike assets to hit air, land and sea.

    If assuming you’ve got 28 aircraft “dedicated” to performing “carrier services” 24/7 like I’ve mentioned, if you’ve got 40 aircraft embarked that means you only have 12 jets left over for offensive strike (not including any “surging” of CAP aircraft for the strike role). Factor in the 75-80% mission readiness rate and you’re looking at having only 9-10 jets available for use on strike packages, which incidentally can be launched at least twice per day (or possibly even 3 or 4 times per day, depending on range to target area). Carrying 4 PGMs (at least) per plane, that’s approximately 40 targets attacked per sortie (of 10 planes), and approximately 80 targets (or more) that can be attacked per day. Note that 1-bomb does not necessarily equate to 1-hit, nor does 1-hit automatically equate to 1-kill.

    That’s what “happens” when you’ve got a complement of 40 aircraft … fixed and rotary wing … embarked on a carrier, in terms of flight rotations and ops. As can be quickly discerned, using this analysis, you’re really not going to want to go that much smaller than this number of aircraft without having to make some really hard choices with regards to availability of aircraft for particular tasks that are vital to the safety and security of the carrier itself. For a variety of reasons, these numbers are somewhat “irreduceable” beyond this point, as you can see.

    So if you’re going to have an aircraft carrier BE an aircraft carrier with *attack* aircraft, you’re really not going to be “able” to go much lower than 40 aircraft embarked if you want to get the “job” done (which is the entire point and purpose of the carrier in the first place). At which point the question becomes … what is the most efficient way to embark 40 aircraft on a carrier at sea? THIS is the question that hasn’t been answered yet (imho).

Trackbacks

  1. Carrier Alternative Weekly « New Wars
  2. Navy versus the Bigger Fleet « New Wars
  3. Carrier Alternative Weekly « New Wars
  4. Aircraft Carrier Transformations Pt 2 « New Wars | Tailspin
  5. links for 2010-01-27 « Budget Insight

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