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Carrier Alternative Weekly

February 4, 2010

Artist conception of proposed Sea Control Ship (SCS) from 1972.

The Sky’s the Limit, or Maybe Higher

The cost of new Ford Class nuclear supercarriers has jumped to nearly $12 billion. Story from the Peter Frost at the Daily Press:

The Navy’s 2011 proposed shipbuilding budget, released Monday, also shows that the estimated cost to build the next-generation aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford, increased $685 million — or 6.3 percent — over a one-year period. The Newport News-built carrier, which was christened in late 2008 and is due to be complete in 2015, now is estimated to cost $11.53 billion, compared with a $10.85 billion estimate in the Navy’s fiscal 2010 budget.

More than half the cost escalation, or about $350 million, was under a line item labeled “Plan Costs,” according to budget documents.Nearly a third of the cost increase came from three new technologies: an electromagnetic aircraft launch system, a dual-band radar system and new aircraft recovery equipment, according to budget documents.

Note the technologies I highlighted are cosmetic changes to equipment already in existence, nothing revolutionary or ground breaking, though probably useful if they ever work right. The expense doesn’t seem to justify making the large deck carrier more exquisite and pricing it beyond the limits of affordability.

 Finally, the supercarrier hull has become more important in the minds of the admirals than the weapons its transports, it’s aircraft, the only purpose for its existence. As absurd as this may sound, they may soon have to reduce the number of airwings currently carried just to afford the rising prices of ever larger decks. Oh wait

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Is “Shrinking Gap” an Oxymoron?

Secretary Gates says the USN Fighter gap isn’t a large as it was supposed to be. From Colin Clark at DoD Buzz:

The much-​​debated carrier fighter gap stretches about 100 planes wide in 2018. That is what Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the House Armed Services Committee today. That is less than half of the Navy’s estimate, given to Congress last year.

The Navy has pretty much stuck with a figure of 243 aircraft or, as some lawmakers have it, 48 planes a year. OSD’s old PAE shop performed an analysis last year that concluded there was in fact no fighter gap, if you took into account capabilities beyond those planes based only on US carriers, but that study was never publicly released.

The navy knows how to juggle some figures, eh? Some, like Rep. Todd Akin, (R-​​Mo.), aren’t buying it:

“The only real option is to buy more airplanes, and the only Navy fighter currently in production is the F/​A-​​18 Super Hornet. If we are going to buy anything, we should do so in a way that is most responsible for taxpayers. In this case, a multi-​​year procurement could save hundreds of millions of dollars, but the DoD seems to have their head in the sand.”

One way to solve the problem, is make the carrier smaller.

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Outstanding Quote

The following comes from Matthew Yglesias at Think Progress:

You won’t read anything in the QDR about how “it would be politically inconvenient to permanently reduce the size of the carrier fleet because it would cost jobs in someone’s district” but that’s very much among the reasons for maintaining a large carrier fleet.

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A Case for Light Carriers?

The nuclear carrier USS Carl Vinson is departing from the Island of Haiti after its mission of mercy there. Scoop Deck has the details:

Scoop Deck asked Rear Adm. Joseph Mulloy, who gave the Navy’s budget brief Monday at the Pentagon, about the cost implications of the Haiti mission to the Navy’s operations and maintenance account. He said the Pentagon’s latest figures showed the Navy’s “burn rate” for Haiti was about $3 million per day, although there were no estimates yet for a total cost because the response is ongoing. Mulloy also said the cost of the response was expected to shift as high-price, big-ticket assets like Carl Vinson and the Aegis warships retire, leaving behind the Nassau and Bataan amphibious ready groups and the panoply of Coast Guard and Military Sealift Command ships that will likely be needed off Haiti for several weeks more.

Nassau and Bataan are those handy Marine “Harrier Carriers” which provide troop transport as well as their on air defense. The beauty of light carriers is they are very useful ships for all types of emergencies: war and peace, disaster relief or combat, without busting the defense budget.

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Small Carriers for Sea Control

Solomon at the Snafu! blog reminds us of the Zumwalt Plan from the 1970s to build light carriers that almost paid off:

If  you ask any proponent of the 300 ship Navy they’ll tell you that those ships are needed for sea control.  Problem is this…the designer of the concept, Admiral Zumwalt…called for the use of aircraft and light carriers to control the seas. 

The admiral also called for many smaller escorts, like the Patrol Frigate, missile hydrofoils, and surface effect ships to work alongside the carriers, but the blogger makes a good case. My proposal would be to rename the DDG-1000 Zumwalt stealth destroyer and place this worthy title on a renewed Sea Control Ship, since the great former CNO was about building the Navy not shrinking it. The DDG could be named after someone in Congress, something else which does very little, yet is grossly expensive!

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Chinese Sea Denier’s

Though all the talk is over the impending rise of a PLAN carrier-based airpower, Shashank Joshi at India’s National Interest insists the focus should be on the Mainland’s submarine buildup:

A recent article in International Security, ‘Undersea Dragons’, argued that “there is little evidence that China will endeavour to field carrier battle groups [and] preliminary indications suggest that…submarines are emerging as the centrepiece of an evolving Chinese quest to control the East Asian littoral.” Since any American defence of Taiwan would pivot on the US Seventh Fleet, this focus on ‘sea denial’ or ‘anti-access’ is unsurprising—though there are vociferous debates within the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). In 2002, China purchased 8 Russian Kilo class submarines, supposedly as quiet as their Los Angeles class American counterparts, bringing their total up to a dozen. The authors conclude that ”PLAN writings leave little doubt that destruction of US aircraft carrier battle groups is the focal point of doctrinal development”…

The writer also warns against building ships exclusively for power projection, as their utility against non-naval powers can be deceptive:

When NATO forces deployed carriers for operations against Serbia in 1999, or Britain used its shrinking carrier fleet against Afghanistan and Iraq, those targets were virtually defenseless states lacking a competent navy and air force, and without the requisite national capacity to hit back in other ways. This ‘uncontested’ expeditionary capacity is far from useless, but there is no reason to suppose that the scenarios envisioned by India’s maritime doctrine would be so kind to admirals.

Neither should it be the focus of an entire naval strategy, but should be balanced with adequate sea control forces.

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38 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 22, 2010 6:20 pm

    Don’t think I am the one doing the “redefining”. The common mantra from Big Carrier advocates is that Invincible and Hermes didn’t win the air war over the Islands “good enough”, say like a giant deck American carrier. From this reasoning then, Britain feels it must have 2 large decks, only one of which it can afford enough planes for. Also, she must do without many essential escorts (the ones she does have is currently at sea without her missiles), without which the carrier can’t leave port, neither can amphbious ships sail safely to land their troops.

    If you are having trouble following the logic, WTH, welcome to my world!

  2. CBD permalink
    February 10, 2010 1:49 pm

    Chris, Certainly. I’m just bringing up all of the issues with the V-22 as AEW. As you point out, there are certainly worse options.

  3. Chris Stefan permalink
    February 10, 2010 3:22 am

    While the MV-22 might not be an ideal AEW platform it’s got to be better than hanging an AEW radar off of a helicopter like the RN does. Similarly while the MV-22 isn’t as good as the C-2 on a CATOBAR carrier it can operate off of flight decks no C-2 ever will.

    EMALS would let smaller carriers more easily handle modern fixed-wing aircraft but there are currently NO carriers with EMALS and no suitable carrier capable fixed-wing AEW platforms other than the E-2.

    While the S-3 might have indeed made a dandy AEW platform it is no longer being made and I’m sure the tooling is long gone which means any attempt to revive it is essentially a completely new airframe program.

  4. CBD permalink
    February 8, 2010 12:27 pm

    Left out my conclusion:
    For Ships that can’t launch and recover the C-2 or E-2, this would make some sense…but notice how much larger it is than the considered aircraft (A4, etc) and figure out how much space that would cost the ship! Furthermore, airframe expenses would be high and more would be needed to cover the space of a fixed wing alternative. If it must happen, the V-22 could certainly do the duty.

    These problems are why the VTOL carrier has fundamental problems operating as a light carrier. If any form of EMALS could be installed, the problem would be solved by some cheaper and more useful fixed wing options.

    Such an option might be a converted S-3 (we have a lot of spares of those around, now). The COD and ASW variants exist and the AEW might be readily developed (and has been tested). The S-3 replacement aircraft program (CSA) was not funded (due to F/A-18E/F fielding, and the F-35 and MMA (P-8) program costs), so no replacement was made. Given the success of the C-2A reprocurement program, if they’re bringing back A-4s or Harriers, it might be worth it to bring back the S-3 or S-2 at the same time.

  5. CBD permalink
    February 8, 2010 11:57 am

    Chris,
    The Navy has considered that idea. But I’m not sure it makes much sense. While there would probably not be an issue with fitting the radome (it’s about 24′ dia, the Osprey wingspan is 48′) and the nacelles wouldn’t be in the way during plane-mode flight (reducing the otherwise significant interference/blind spots they might introduce), though elevating the radome to clear the aircraft body would be an issue…but my problem is more with capability and capacity.

    My concern is that the V-22 isn’t up to the task for a variety of reasons:
    – Range (unloaded):
    MV-22: 879nm
    C-2A: 1,300nm (1.5x)
    E-2C/D: 1,400nm (1.6x)
    This means many more V-22s are required for equivalent coverage time, precluding some overland missions as during OEF and OIF. COD resupply will also be limited unless ferry configuration is used, which takes up much of the space in the MV-22. Aerial refueling is possible, but adds to the workload and benefits all aircraft types alike.

    – Payload (Internal, not including 4 aircrew):
    MV-22: (10,000lb)* or 24 passengers (bench seating)
    C-2A(R): 10,000lb or 26 passengers (airline seating), 39 passengers (bench), 20 litter patients + 4 attendants
    E-2C/D: 3,932 lb [equipment weight estimated by (deadweight E-2C) – (deadweight C-2A)]
    *- Unavailable. Estimate based on external carried weight, likely high.
    Reduced payload. Mission payload for radar variant would leave small margins and reduce endurance, range and max altitude.

    -Internal Payload Dimensions (LxWxH, in feet, MAX dimensions)
    MV-22 (OFFICIAL): 24.2 x 5.9 x 6.0 (143 sq ft, 856 cu ft)
    MV-22 (REPORTED): 20.8 x 5.7 x 5.5 (118 sq ft, 650 cu ft)
    C-2A (R): 27.5 x 7.3 x 5.4 (201 sq ft, 1011 cu ft)
    Square footage is important for bulk loads, the main duty of the COD aircraft. Reduced area and volume impair the ability of the COD to deliver larger aircraft and ship’s parts.

    – Cruising Altitude, Ceiling
    MV-22 (unmodified): <10,000 ft; 26,000 ft (cabin not pressurized, must wear O2 masks and cold weather gear above ~10,000 ft)
    C-2A: ~20,000 ft; 30,000 ft
    E-2C: unknown; 37,000 ft
    Reduced altitude decreases the radar horizon, reduces transport efficiency and range from stated ideal values. The lack of pressurization, temperature control and oxygen support means that the MV-22 is inappropriate for patient or passenger transport without weight-adding modifications.

    – Area Occupied (in carrier deck, in sq ft; l, w in ft)
    MV-22 (expanded):4,848; 57.3, 84.6
    MV-22 (folded): 1,167; 63.1, 18.5
    C-2A (expanded): 4,642; 57.6, 80.6
    C-2A (folded): 1,664; 56.8, 29.3
    E-2C (expanded):4,642; 57.6, 80.6
    E-2C (folded): 1,688; 57.6, 29.3
    F/A-18E/F (expanded): 2,695; 60.3 x 44.7
    F/A-18E/F (folded): 1,966; 60.3 x 32.6

    The loss in space when extended is made up for by improvements in space when stowed. He space occupied extended and stowed is comparable to that of the C-2A and E-2C. Unfortunately, for maintenance work on the engines, the V-22 must be extended in the hangar bay, which means that when engine work must be done, the V-22 takes up just short of 3x the space of the E-2C during a similar evolution. That the V-22 has reliability issues with the engine nacelle system means that such work will probably be frequent to maintain it at a proper operational readiness.

  6. Chris Stefan permalink
    February 8, 2010 2:53 am

    One thought for AEW on smaller carriers or LHA type vessels would be an AEW variant of the MV-22. The big trick would be finding a place to mount the antennas.

    Supposedly the USN is looking at the MV-22 as a C2 Greyhound replacement, so why not a AEW variant for ships that can’t launch and recover the E2?

  7. February 7, 2010 1:30 am

    Hello,

    Mike Burleson said:

    “Recalling also the British weren’t so timid about using them against the Argentines in 1982, even without complete command of the air, and in the presence of enemy submarines and cruise missiles.”

    Because of their lack of command of the air,the British carriers spent the entire Falklands war timidly operating as far East of the islands as they practically could.
    This enabled them to avoid the Argentine submarine which was stalking the shallow waters around the Falklands and also minimised their exposure to the anti-ship missile threat.

    The downside was that this left the rest of the fleet poorly defended and many ships were sunk as a direct result.

    Mike Burleson said:

    “As I often tell my readers, building a balanced navy entails some compromise, especially in modern times when large warships are so expensive. If Britain had bought large deck “American type” aircraft carriers in the Falklands, she would had to reduce the number of sea control assets, meaning frigates, destroyers, and submarines.”

    Britain lost many ships and very nearly lost the Falklands War precisely because she did not have a well balanced navy.
    The Royal Navy in 1982 was a single purpose anti submarine force designed to protect the North Atlantic from Soviet Submarines.
    Which is why the surface combatants in the Falklands were largely composed of anti submarine frigates with little in the way of air defences.
    H.M.S.Invincible was a helicopter carrying cruiser with a handful of fighters intended to shoot down Soviet maritime patrol aircraft.
    If the Royal Navy had bought larger aircraft carriers there may well have been fewer frigates in the Falklands but as those ships did little more than get themselves sunk surely that would have been a good thing?

    Mike Burleson said:

    “The argument might go that you would need fewer escorts, but in wartime we never seem to have enough and with your fleet reduced, this also means fewer targets for your enemy to have to contend with. This increases the vulnerability to your large assets, not reduces it.”

    Giving your enemy lots of easy targets to sink does not reduce the vulnerability of your major assets,it increases it as resources which could be used to protect them from the enemy are instead sitting at the bottom of the sea.

    Mike Burleson said:

    “So I contend the British possessed a near perfect balance of forces in the South Atlantic. It was a force geared mainly for sea control, to fight Soviet subs in the North Atlantic, but as we see in the rare power projecting role (for Britain) it was called on to do, it made the transformation nicely and won the war.”

    This “near perfect balance of forces” was very nearly slaughtered by the small and poorly equipped armed forces of a developing nation.
    The British did not win the Falklands war,the French did.
    It was only the French refusal to supply more Exocets to Argentina which saved the British from defeat.
    A defeat which would have been an object lesson in what happens to a navy which has an inadequate carrier fleet.
    As for the rarity of Britain using it’s forces for power projection,the United Kingdom has been performing such operations constantly since it was formed in 1707.
    British soldiers were killed in action in 99 out of the 100 years in the twentieth century.
    A list of Britain’s recent conflicts can be found here:

    http://www.britains-smallwars.com/main/index1.html

    Mike Burleson said:

    “A carrier alone cannot do sea control, but enhances the destroyers and frigates which perform this vital navy function. It defends the fleet from air attack, and can do attack itself, while providing valuable scouting, and early warning.”

    At least we agree on this bit!

    tangosix.

  8. February 7, 2010 12:32 am

    Hello,

    shashankjoshi said:

    “Actually, I understand full well the use of British carriers in those operations;
    my point was that their use even in those specialised roles was to some degree contingent on the *limited degree of contestation* they were likely to and did face.”

    Allow me to quote the relevant extract from Shashank Joshi’s article:

    “When NATO forces deployed carriers for operations against Serbia in 1999,
    or Britain used its shrinking carrier fleet against Afghanistan and Iraq,
    those targets were virtually defenceless states lacking a competent navy and air force,
    and without the requisite national capacity to hit back in other ways.”

    Nowhere in this article was there any reference to aircraft carriers being used in the air assault role.
    British carriers were first mentioned in the same sentence with fixed wing carrier operations against Serbia.
    The first reference to amphibious operations was not until the first line of the next paragraph which began with:

    “This goes double for amphibious capabilities.”

    That line does give the impression that the preceding paragraph was not talking about amphibious operations.
    Indeed,if it had been about British ships being used in the “Commando carrier” role,
    the assertion that Afghanistan and Iraq “were virtually defenceless states lacking a competent navy and air force,
    and without the requisite national capacity to hit back in other ways.” would make no sense at all.
    Both of those countries were more than capable of shooting down helicopters as has been demonstrated on numerous occasions.
    A measure of the “limited degree of contestation* (helicopters) were likely to and did face” in Iraq can be understood from reading this article:

    http://www.cobra74creations.com/ambush.htm

    That whole paragraph would make sense if it was referring to fixed wing operations from the British carriers.
    As would the rest of the article.

    There were a number of other points in this article which led me question Shashank Joshi’s knowledge of carrier operations:

    “….Britain’s ability to suppress air attack and land a brigade hinged on the presence of two light fleet carriers
    (one of which, incidentally, serves as INS Viraat).
    Both required enormous complements to hold Argentine planes and submarines at bay,
    only barely succeeded and that too at great cost,
    and were compelled to stay so far offshore that their aircraft could not reach the main Argentine runway on the islands…”

    Royal Navy Sea Harriers bombed the airfield at Port Stanley on their very first combat mission on 1st of May 1982,shortly after the Vulcan bombing raid on the same target.
    They bombed the airfield a number of times during the conflict and also operated much further west than Port Stanley:

    http://www.raf.mod.uk/falklands/fa.html

    An interesting quote from Lieutenant Commander David Morgan who flew on that raid:

    “Initially, we were told that we were going to do a post-strike recce for the Vulcan but we said no, not on your life;
    if we are going to expose our arses then we are going to drop some bombs on the way through which is what we did.
    I ended up being the last one through the target area and got shot through the tail as I was releasing my weapons.
    I dived down into a big pall of smoke next to the control tower.
    I remember going past the control tower and the windows were just above my head thinking that’s comfortable, that’s about 50 feet (15m).
    I went into thick black smoke, out the other side and ran off down the beach.
    I went back after the conflict and discovered that the control tower was a two storey building and I was about 10 feet (3m) of the ground doing something like 500 knots (576mph)!”

    Quoting from Shashank Joshi’s article again:

    “The Argentine carrier itself was contained in coastal waters by a handful of British submarines,
    virtually a floating hulk of no military use.”

    THe Argentine carrier Veinticinco de Mayo was not contained in coastal waters,at least not at the start of the conflict.
    In fact she attempted (but failed) to launch an air strike against the British task group.
    She returned to port only after the sinking of the cruiser Belgrano.
    Which was most unfortunate as H.M.S. Spartan had been sent to find her.
    However,she still remained an operational threat, a “fleet in being” which tied up valuable British resources.

    Shashank Joshi also said:

    “And since the majority of a carrier air wing is dedicated to defence, the size of Indian carriers means that purely offensive power is still limited.”

    How much of a carrier’s air wing is dedicated to defence depends entirely on the situation.
    When operations against Iraq began the American aircraft carriers flew a high proportion of defensive sorties and kept their distance from Iraqi air bases
    (air power is inversely proportional to the range at which it is applied).
    As the enemy forces were degraded the carriers moved closer,generating a higher sortie rate and reducing the proportion of defensive sorties.
    This is a particular advantage of an aircraft carrier,it can reduce the threat of enemy air power by incrasing the range,something a land base cannot do.
    Incidentally,land bases have to fly a higher proportion of defensive sorties than aircraft carriers.
    Unlike the carrier,the location of the air base is known to the enemy and the target is static and hence easy to hit,especially with ballistic missiles including insurgent rockets and mortars.

    This article missed a number of pertinent points I would have expected to see in any discussion of Indian aircraft carriers.

    Pakistan has an extensive inventory of Ballistic missiles.
    The Ghauri II has a claimed Circular Error Probable (C.E.P.) of 190m and a range of 900 miles.
    Such a missile could shut down any airbase within a combat aircraft’s tactical radius of Pakistan.
    India does not yet have an operational anti ballistic missile capability to protect those bases.
    That may result in aircraft carriers being the only way for India to deploy tactical air power against Pakistan.
    With land and sea forces being dependent on air support,vulnerability of Indian air bases could be a key driver for the expansion of the Indian Navy’s carrier fleet.
    Even if those air bases can be protected,air power is in inverse proportion to the range at which it is applied.
    If the Indian Navy wishes to operate closer to the bases of the Pakistani Air Force than to those of it’s own air force then it will require carrier protection.

    This article suggested that high speed anti-ship missiles were a threat to aircraft carriers.
    What it did not mention was that the aircraft carrier is the only ship in the Indian Navy which would have more than 30 seconds warning of an attack by such weapons (excepting those which carry the Kamov 31).
    The aircraft carrier can detect and destroy launch platforms before they fire such missiles whether they be on land,in the air or on and under the sea.
    There is no surface combatant in the Indian navy which could survive a coordinated attack by multiple Mach 3 missiles coming over the radar horizon simultaneously.
    Without air cover there is no way to prevent such an attack.
    Arguably the entire Indian surface fleet would be unable to operate in the Arabian sea without carrier protection if Pakistan were to field such weapons.

    There are then three main circumstances in which it would be wise for India to invest in aircraft carriers:

    1.If it is unable to protect it’s land bases from ballistic missile attack,carriers may be the only way to deploy tactical air power.
    2.If Pakistan deploys Mach 3 anti ship missiles aircraft carrier groups may be the only surface warships capable of operating in the Arabian sea.
    3.If the Indian Navy (including it’s maritime patrol aircraft) wish to operate offensively closer to Pakistans air bases than their own they will require carriers to offset the sortie rate deficit.

    There are also three main circumstances in which India may not need aircraft carriers:

    1.If India’s ballistic missile defence system can protect it’s air bases there may not be a need for aircraft carriers to project air power against Pakistan.
    2.If Pakistan does not deploy high speed anti-ship missiles (and does not use subsonic missiles in mass attacks) there may be no need for aircraft carriers.
    2.If the Indian Navy only wishes to operate defensively close to it’s own coastline there may not be a need for aircraft carriers.

    There is one final point I am tempted to criticise from Shashank Joshi’s article:

    “The prospective sophistication of the next generation of stealth frigates is less important in this regard than their defense systems.
    StratPost, an online defence news portal, recently quoted an Indian naval source as claiming that “if we were to be interested at all in the [British] Queen Elizabeth class [aircraft carrier],
    it would be because of their claimed air defences”.
    This, and not just firepower, should be a priority for indigenous naval development.”

    These sentences are a little unclear but they appear to be suggesting that the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers are worth buying because of the air defence systems.
    This is frankly a bizarre statement as the air defence systems on the Queen Elizabeth class are close to non existent,having been largely deleted for financial reasons!

    tangosix.

  9. CBD permalink
    February 6, 2010 7:36 pm

    Distiller,
    Thanks for the input and info. And thanks for playing along with the concept!

  10. Distiller permalink
    February 6, 2010 4:58 pm

    The U.S. Navy LHA/LHDs are a poor carrier platform, since with their flat bottoms they tend to roll a lot in heavier seas. Active roll stabilisation only gets you so far, and I’m not sure I wanted to depend upon it for my flight ops. Those supersize-me U.S. amphibs open the superficially tempting option to use them as carriers, but their characteristics are completly different from a real carrier.

    I was thinking a little about it (in connection with the Royal Navy), and while I estimate a 2-cat carrier for SHornet/Rafale/F-35 sized strikefighter and Hawkeye sized support aircraft and capable of continous and (near-)simultaneous take-off/landing operations would end up at around 55.000ts (fully loaded), stepping down to a Sea Gripen and Turbo Tracker footprint could probably reduce the displacement to around 45.000ts (again fully loaded). Which is pretty much exactly what a late Essex was. And as shown there, a LHA-style straight deck would neither be necessary nor desirable. And 2 EMALS would do just nicely.

    The air wing of such a vessel could be something like 24 Sea Gripen, some 8/9 Turbo Tracker support aircraft, some 4 Avenger UAV, and 6 or so MH-60. Of course neither Sea Gripen nor (modern) Turbo Tracker exist. Same problem with Skyhawks – no modern airframes available. And Goshawks would be woefully underpowered if used with warload.

    But the lack of a suitable CTOL carrier aircraft in the 12/15t class for carrier-borne combat support is what really kills the medium carrier at the moment. The funny (or not) thing of course is, that the U.S. Navy’s refusal to build the CSA (or put a radar dome on the Viking) has already lead them into similar problems, as they dropped carrier based wide-range ASW from their list of capabilities, and are endangering their supercarriers with that – amongst other things.

    I think for the overall punch, flexibility, and survivability of a limited expeditionary task force fast jets are vital, the air wing should be as all-round as possible, not rely on land-based assets (only the U.S. has that luxury), and should have its own dedicted platform. First they can be used as the iron fist cleaning out the theatre, and later in support of ground operations. In a permissive environment, or for DR/HA missions they can still take a bunch of Army helicopters. But the mission of the carrier should not be mixed with the mission of the amphibs.

    I mean, I have to agree with Mike here. 100.000ts carriers are not God-given. They stem from the years when the U.S. Navy wanted to do SIOP strategic nuclear bombing from their carriers – A3D, A3J. Since then the Navy never stepped back from their size fetish. Now they are caught in a situation where a change back would take a generation, and where they don’t have enough money, escorts, and manpower to support smaller carriers. But a European power like the Brits (or a unified Europe) wouldn’t have to follow into the same trap.

    Apropos, talking about the CdG: I regard this ship as almost a miscarriage, but certainly a waste of money. It is just a little too small (~5000ts) to enable a proper layout, and in its current form it doesn’t even have the user value of a late Essex.

  11. CBD permalink
    February 6, 2010 3:13 pm

    Distiller,
    Firstly, I want to note that this is primarily a thought experiment about the impact of integrating something like EMALS onto existing LHX ships to facilitate the use of alternate, cheaper air support aircraft. This is primarily a question about taking the latest and greatest launch technology without demanding the latest and greatest (and heaviest) fighters. This is also a question of the need for light carriers to fill the same air role as super carriers rather than as a locally-oriented base for tactical strike and CAS.

    Re: LHA-6. That’s quite possibly it. But the Marines have stated that they are going back to the well deck for any further LHAs produced. Also, while the concept of automation and small crews offers more problems than benefits on most ships, carriers are more likely to have significant crew reductions due to the adoption of EMALS and newer machinery. Whether that is sufficient to allow for a simultaneous 2D and 3D assault along with strike missions I cannot say. Using one of these aircraft types instead of the F-35B would certainly simplify matters (lower launch weights, smaller volumes occupied and simplified maintenance for similar payloads).

    As far as making an impact on land, is the desire to act like the CVNs and attack the entire target nation or is it to support a specific operation/area with intensive fire support. I think that a light carrier capability might do something beneficial in the latter category while it would be ridiculous to try to independently accomplish the former with a small carrier.

    The Marine Corps, properly employed as a shock force, are reasonable in their desire for dedicated air and naval support under a single command structure. But they should also be employed as such (not as a ‘second army’ with air craft in numbers to match). But inflated ego and weak leadership are certainly heavily involved.

    AEW: Excellent question. I’m not sure.
    The French Charles de Gaulle class carriers are just in between the LHDs and the LHA-6 in terms of displacement and about 14 feet longer. They successfully launch E-2Cs with a steam catapult somewhat shorter than is standard on the US carriers (bearing 1-2 vs 3-6 on the CVNs). Various updated Essex-class carriers (~40 feet longer than the LHDs) supported several launch lanes for the A-4s. Some land-based long ranged AEW (737 Wedgetail, etc) could also support a light carrier for a specific landing. Normally, the light carrier might use a limited supply of AEW aircraft to augment existing air coverage of assisting AEGIS ships and AEW from a CVN.

    It’s not unimaginable that a modified LHA-1 (retired and kept in maintenance category “B”) could be used as a test platform for the EMALS catapult, which being significantly smaller, more energy efficient and lighter than existing steam catapults (and yet more powerful and adjustable).

    The disadvantages of operating a light carrier only fleet are multitude, but a super carrier + light carrier fleet might work with an overall shift to rebalance our fleet into high and low level capabilities.

    Some more data on the offered aircraft. Note the size and weight differences to the F-35B!
    Multiple models and the F-18E stats provided to give idea of likely weights and measures.

    Dimensions (LxWxH)
    A-4M: 40 ft 3 in x 27 ft 6 in x 15 ft
    A-4AR: 40 ft 3 in x 27 ft 6 in x 14 ft 11 in

    T-45C: 39 ft 4 in x 30 ft 10 in x 13 ft 5 in
    Hawk 128: 40 ft 9 in x 32 ft 7 in x 13 ft 1 in

    Gripen: 46 ft 3 in (48 ft 5 in 2seater) x 27 ft 7 in x 14 ft 9 in
    Gripen NG: (same)
    Sea Gripen: Unknown

    AV-8B: 46 ft 4 in x 30 ft 4 x 11 ft 8 in
    F-35B: 51ft 5 in x 35 ft x 14 ft 3 in
    F-18E: 60 ft 1.5 in x 44 ft 8.5 in x 16 ft

    Weights
    (Model: empty weight; max take off weight)
    A-4M: 10,465 lb; 24,500 lb
    A-4AR: 10,803 lb; 24,500 lb

    T-45C: 10,403 lb; 14,081 lb
    Hawk 128: 9,880 lb; 20,000 lb

    Gripen: 14,600 lb; 30,900 lb
    Gripen NG: 15,040 lb; 35,000 lb
    Sea Gripen: 15,992 lb; 36,376 lb (predicted)

    AV-8B: 13,968 lb; (rolling) 31,000 lbs (vto) 20,755 lb
    F-35B: 29,300 lb; 60,000 lb (predicted)
    F-18E: 30,600 lb; 66,000 lb

  12. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 6, 2010 8:12 am

    shashankjoshi wrote “Quite right (0f course, it was also, to misquote Wellington, a ‘damn close run thing’…)”

    As I often tell my readers, building a balanced navy entails some compromise, especially in modern times when large warships are so expensive. If Britain had bought large deck “American type” aircraft carriers in the Falklands, she would had to reduce the number of sea control assets, meaning frigates, destroyers, and submarines. The argument might go that you would need fewer escorts, but in wartime we never seem to have enough and with your fleet reduced, this also means fewer targets for your enemy to have to contend with. This increases the vulnerability to your large assets, not reduces it. In other words, I’d rather see compromise in a carrier design, as the British did, than for the Navy to compromise its vital fleet escorts of small warships.

    So I contend the British possessed a near perfect balance of forces in the South Atlantic. It was a force geared mainly for sea control, to fight Soviet subs in the North Atlantic, but as we see in the rare power projecting role (for Britain) it was called on to do, it made the transformation nicely and won the war.

    A fleet focused exclusively on power projection, as the USN does (which is a non-traditional role), means it compromises on the role which really matters, that is maintaining the security of the sealanes. The Allies in WW 2 couldn’t invade Europe until the U-boats were defeated. The Japanese fleet had to be defeated before the successful US Navy island hopping campaign took back the Pacific Islands.

    Today the problem is piracy, and terrorist arms smuggling on the high seas. Also there is the threat of conventional submarines from China and the Third World. The navy might say its airpower can take the place of essential escorts, but there is no historical basis for this assumption. The consistent lessons of sea control, at the start of each war, is defeating an enemy fleet first, power projection second.

    A carrier alone cannot do sea control, but enhances the destroyers and frigates which perform this vital navy function. It defends the fleet from air attack, and can do attack itself, while providing valuable scouting, and early warning. It’s all about airpower, not the platform itself, as we I often note, there are other forms of airpower today rivaling the manned aircraft which are getting more expensive, more technically complicated, and fewer with each decade.

    These alternatives including guided missiles, V/STOL aircraft, and UAV’s. Just like the deployment of fixed wing air to sea in the last century required radical hull forms and new tactics, I think the Navy must take into consideration this newer technology, which promises to solve the increasingly prohibitive cost of manned naval airpower, the hard to build hulls, and the difficulties in providing adequate types of naval aircraft in adequate numbers.

  13. Distiller permalink
    February 6, 2010 4:21 am

    @ CBD

    I think the America class LHA-6 is more a manifestation of the acknowledgement of the operational incompatibility of 2D amphib assault (LCAC, EFV), 3D amphib assault (helicopters), and fast jet CAS from the same vessel. And also that the number of F-35B possible in the typical mix of an LHD are too few to make any impact on the situation on land. And also not to underestimate the inflated ego of the Marine Corps and its desire to be an own army, navy, and air force. If anything the LHA-6 class tells of doctrinal insecurity and weak political leadership.

    On the list of light aircraft: Sea Gripen. Reducing the footprint of the aircraft is one of the two or three ways to enable smaller carriers. But the real question remains: What to do with AEW, and also wide-area ASW? Bring back a turboproped version of Willy Fud? There are actually some still around, called the Turbo Firecat. Because that’s the max size such an aircraft could have.

  14. CBD permalink
    February 6, 2010 12:42 am

    An informative graphic on the matter of US carriers vs. the total world carrier capability.

    The only aircraft carriers in the rest of the world larger than our LHAs/LHDs are the USN CVNs and a former USSR rusting hulk of an aircraft carrier. Most are smaller and yet operate fixed-wing aircraft. No reason to not save a lot of effort by acknowledging that the LHAs/LHDs are carriers and developing cheap, light aircraft to use them. The development of effective, very small PGMs (particularly the SDB, laser-guided rockets and increased flexibility of the Hellfire) means that these light aircraft have a serious precision strike capability. Their ability to carry larger weapons (like the Mk 82 500lb bomb) should not be underestimated (the baseline Gripen can bear 8, very old Skyhawks took 6,

    What aircraft could be readily adapted (within 2 years)?
    – A-4 Skyhawks
    – T-45 Goshawks
    – Gripen/Gripen NG/Sea Gripen
    – AV-8 Harrier

    A-4 Skyhawks
    The last version in US service (A-4M) was with the Marines. It was hardly a modern fighter and lacked many modern combat systems. Fortunately, as late as 1999, Lockheed Martin had developed the A-4AR “Fighting Hawk” upgrade for Argentina, with an impressive array of modern systems. Singapore’s somewhat less recent A-4SU “Super Hawk” and New Zealand’s Project Kahu upgrade demonstrated the ability to integrate modern US-type weapons and avionics systems.

    A new production of these aircraft would be relatively simple due to the wide availability of samples and (re)manufacturing information used for spares…and foreign sales would be possible. After all, most allied A-4 users have stopped using the A-4s because their airframes got too old to maintain, not because they were unwilling to use them, going to the BAE 100 and 200 series Hawks, the Gripen or the T 50 for light strike and lead in training…quite similar aircraft.

    T-45 Goshawks
    These are in current use as the T-45A and T-45C with the USN as an advanced jet trainer for carrier landing and launch. Already familiar to naval aviators and integrated into the current supply base for the USN, these could be readily upgraded to develop a capable, light strike aircraft.

    Based on the 50-series of the BAE Hawk trainer, the Goshawks could be readily updated with equipment from the -100 or -200 series Hawk aircraft. The later BAE Hawks are both trainers and light strike aircraft, bearing modern radars and weapons systems. Both the Goshawk and Hawk aircraft are in current production (in the US and UK, respectively). The Hawk family of aircraft have filled much of the gap left by the aging of the ~3,000 Skyhawk aircraft. The conversion from trainer to light fighter is also well demonstrated by the T-50 Golden Eagle’s F/A-50 variant. (More T-45C Info, Hawk Info.)

    Sea Gripen
    Certainly the least-favorite, politically, would be the navalized Gripen NG concept known as the “Sea Gripen.” This aircraft shares the Hawk’s role as Skyhawk replacement, fitting the bill in terms of price, small size, long range and tough construction.

    STOL capability and a design theory in line with that of the USMC means that, while the adoption of this latest Saab concept would face plenty of domestic opposition, it is also a good candidate for light carrier based attack aircraft. They also are willing to allow some non-domestic production, which might work for certain congressional districts. (More. Even more. Still more.)

    Harrier
    If the F-35B were to fall through, and the Marines still are dedicated to having V/STOL aircraft available, that means the AV-8B Harrier II. Although reportedly somewhat accident prone and considered outdated by some, it has filled its difficult role well. The Harrier is proven and has been repeatedly upgraded (most recent is the “Harrier II Plus”). An upgrade program is underway to fit the Harrier for ‘smart’ weapons. The new Harrier production ended in 1997 and the last remanufacture was in 2003, with efforts ended in anticipation of the JSF F-35B. An aggressive upgrade effort and new production could keep the Harrier going and make it more relevant to the PGM fight.

  15. CBD permalink
    February 5, 2010 4:54 pm

    Mike,
    Another quick thought: are the America’s a back-door way for the USN to deploy light carriers without actually saying they are light carriers? Recalling the term practically is “political incorrect”, as I know from experience. We get alot of heat for daring ever to suggest such heresy!

    I believe that’s exactly what they are. I can think of no other reason to have an amphibious assault ship with no significant amphibious capabilities. The roles of the light vs. super carriers I discuss below.

    Though I am intrigued about the idea of the all-V/STOL America class, even I wonder what it has to do with the Marines. If it was all-air, it should be a smaller helo carrier, like the old Iwo Jima’s. Why do the Navy and Marines both need attack carriers
    Exactly. If the Marines just needed a dedicated helicopter carrier, it would be a much smaller vessel. The need to fit the large, heavy and thirsty V-22 and F-35B craft determined many design aspects, but that doesn’t fully explain the decision…Was there (unconsciously?) a desire to build a carrier in the image of its CVN predecessors?

    The Navy carriers are a floating, strategic attack capability. It is meant to utterly destroy countries from these floating air bases. The Navy uses carriers to enforce its will, it is not another tool like the Burkes or SSNs, meant to kill a few ships or bombard a set of targets…it’s meant to conquer nations.

    A light carrier, however, is not equipped to do so. A light carrier is a tactical weapon. A modern light carrier, like the CVEs of WWII, is meant to provide a small local air umbrella, boost the strength of naval task forces, and to provide the limited air capabilities needed for amphibious landings. It will not bring down a nation, but it could invade one. The

    The America class seems to be designed to remake the LHAs in the image of the CVNs…not CVEs.

    This means that the Marines don’t have much of a use for it in the existing OOB and the lack of light aircraft (A-4, etc) capable of being launched from the LHA-6 means that it isn’t useful as a light carrier in the USMC. In supporting a landing, the Marines need to be able to attack enemy infrastructure, armor, artillery and troops. The ranges are short and small, agile aircraft are all that is needed. Local air responding to local needs, an A-4 with updated electronics or the SeaGripen proposal could fill this role, the Harrier and Cobras fill this need now. That a light carrier is perfectly capable of supporting helicopter assaults almost goes without saying.

    Air dominance is desired, but possibly better established with ship-based SAMs and air dominance fighters (F15s, F22s) from any friendly base in the region or from CVN-launched (fast and very heavy) aircraft. Heavy bombing, is likewise best done by the long-ranged heavy bombers and CVN-launched Super Hornets. The use of any of these powerful assets for a landing (rather than incapacitating the target nation) is a diversion of rare and expensive resources from missions where their expertise is needed.

    I blame the JSF: The need for stealth in a STOVL jet meant to operate from helicopter carriers and the proverbial ‘short and unimproved airstrips’ (to borrow a line from the Harrier pitch) to support landing operations is limited. The Harrier, current king of this domain, has been effective (for all of its difficulties) because it is focused on its role as an attack aircraft…it does not dream of being a jet that will sneak up on enemy jets to engage in air-to-air combat or that will destroy national air defense networks. The JSF tries to put a Strategic-type asset in the USMC’s tactically-oriented air wing. It doesn’t have a real role, IMHO, on the USMC’s light carriers.

    The Marines have also had the experience that their soldiers’ CAS and strike needs are best met by dedicated, Marine-controlled aircraft. Because of this and because of their role as the shock troops of the DoD on foreign shores, the Marines want to carry their support with them (Semper fidelis sed omnia mea mecum porto?). The recent stories about reorganizing the USMC rifle company to include support assets are a reflection of this desire.

  16. February 5, 2010 4:08 pm

    “Recalling also the British weren’t so timid about using them against the Argentines in 1982, even without complete command of the air, and in the presence of enemy submarines and cruise missiles”

    Quite right (0f course, it was also, to misquote Wellington, a ‘damn close run thing’…), which is why I intended only to stress that the response to understanding the nature of carriers’ vulnerabilities should not be to conclude they are obsolescent, but to understand the requirements for their optimal defence, and to calibrate procurement and doctrine accordingly. My overarching point is that I don’t think it’s useful to invoke ‘power projection’ without going into a little more detail, which I do not often see in discussions of the Indian Navy.

    Best,

  17. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 5, 2010 3:57 pm

    Thank you Mr Joshi!

    Recalling also the British weren’t so timid about using them against the Argentines in 1982, even without complete command of the air, and in the presence of enemy submarines and cruise missiles.

  18. February 5, 2010 3:43 pm

    However,I would have to question the credibility of Shashank Joshi when he says:

    “Britain used its shrinking carrier fleet against Afghanistan and Iraq, those targets were virtually defenseless states lacking a competent navy and air force, and without the requisite national capacity to hit back in other ways.”

    Anyone who has studied British carrier operations would be aware that the Royal Navy did not use it’s aircraft carriers during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq,at least not as fixed wing aircraft carriers.
    In both cases British aircraft carriers were used in the amphibious helicopter carrying “Commando carrier” role.
    The limited capabilities of the Harriers,combined with the small number of aircraft carried and limited magazines and bunkerage rendered the Invincibles of little use in the attack carrier role in these conflicts.

    Actually, I understand full well the use of British carriers in those operations; my point was that their use even in those specialised roles was to some degree contingent on the *limited degree of contestation* they were likely to and did face. Obviously, my overall point would be strengthened if they had been used as attack carriers, but the argument still holds. I hope this makes it clearer.

  19. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 5, 2010 2:58 pm

    Another quick thought: are the America’s a back-door way for the USN to deploy light carriers without actually saying they are light carriers? Recalling the term practically is “political incorrect”, as I know from experience. We get alot of heat for daring ever to suggest such heresy!

  20. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 5, 2010 2:55 pm

    Only a short comment CBD, as I’m distracted now with the Absalon incident. Though I am intruguied about the idea of the all-V/STOL America class, even I wonder what it has to do with the Marines. If it was all-air, it should be a smaller helo carrier, like the old Iwo Jima’s. Why do the Navy and Marines both need attack carriers?

  21. CBD permalink
    February 5, 2010 2:24 pm

    I know it is a complex debate in the CVN/CV/CVE/LHA neck of the woods…but an idea floated into my head…

    Note, the Marines don’t like the LHA-6 as a new LHA design and have called for the return of the well deck in future LHX ships…but that doesn’t mean they have any less need or desire for the accompanying air support. They see it as a ship that abandons the needs of the USMC (amphibious landing) to accommodate some dubious air programs (F-35B, M/CV-22). The LHAs and LHDs are already, as has been noted elsewhere, of similar size to the proposed SCS and the European ‘light’ carriers.

    EMALS, for all of its complication and failure to meet its (overly optimistic) development schedule could be the thing to make the SCS a reality. EMALS occupies a fraction of the space of the old steam cat system and as the USN has developed high energy distribution systems for the DDG-1000 class vessels, could a LHA/LHD serve as a CVE (or LVA/LVD)?

    The distinction in terms of functional launch capabilities between a CV/CVN and LHA/LHD in the USN is the ability to launch fixed wing aircraft without VTOL/STOVL capabilities. Given that EMALS allows for a less forceful launch, tuned in profile and force to the aircraft it is launching, could the USMC cat launch a fixed-wing fighter that is designed to work from the rough, minimally airstrips described in marine doctrine? Could 1-2 catapults be sufficient?

    Could a light STOL aircraft (A-4, SeaGripen or the often-proposed COIN/CAS aircraft) be based on a marine escort carrier, giving the USMC dedicated fixed-wing air support? Even without a turn to such an extreme, could the AV-8Bs and F-35Bs work better by cat-assisted launches, boosting carried fuel and weapons capacity? Would it be possible to place an E-2D on such a ship?

    While the CVNs are expected to take all threats, could a light USMC carrier exist primarily as an air support ship in medium and low threat environments? Would the relatively limited role meet the USMC needs rather than USN fleet needs? Could such a carrier allow the CVNs to take on a role beyond that of a self-licking ice cream cone?

    Comments requested!

  22. B.Smitty permalink
    February 5, 2010 11:06 am

    Distiller wrote, “But one could of course drop the fleet carrier requirement, and add the carriers to the amphib forces. Call it an “LHA”. :)

    Or one could drop the wanna-be carrier called an LHA from amphib forces and replace it with a real CV/LPH.

  23. Distiller permalink
    February 5, 2010 3:38 am

    No fleet carrier under 55.000 ts (fully loaded). Point.

    But one could of course drop the fleet carrier requirement, and add the carriers to the amphib forces. Call it an “LHA”. :)

  24. elgatoso permalink
    February 5, 2010 12:21 am

    The DDG could be named after someone in Congress, something else which does very little, yet is grossly expensive
    Thats was good!!!!

  25. elgatoso permalink
    February 4, 2010 11:11 pm

    electromagnetic aircraft launch system http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/systems/emals.htm
    is completely different from a steam launch system.Technically is more like a railgun.

  26. February 4, 2010 11:11 pm

    Hello WTH,

    while I agree with everything else you said,I cannot agree with this:

    “…….the UK is building larger replacements. Yes that is bankrupting their Navy; but that fleet balance and funding is a different argument.”

    It is a common misconception that the Royal Navy’s financial problems are due to the aircraft carriers.
    In fact both the Astute class submarines and the Daring class destroyers are costing more than the aircraft carriers.

    Before I post a link to the Royal Navy’s budget it is worth noting two points.

    Firstly,the figure listed under “Naval aircraft” (£1,183,981,000) covers the Fleet Air Arm’s helicopters and other aircraft but it specifically does not include the cost of the fast jets which will fly from the aircraft carriers – they are “owned” by the Royal Air Force and paid for out of the “Combat aircraft” budget item in the air force budget.
    In other words,the Royal Navy will not be paying for the F35s.

    Secondly,the figure listed under “Aircraft carriers” (£448,038,000)includes the cost of operating the current Invincible class ships (£50-£60 Million per ship per year) and the cost of building the new Queen Elizabeth class ships.
    When the new carriers are in service and the old carriers have been retired that figure should decline significantly.
    The Queen Elizabeth class are expected to have running costs of about £50 Million per ship per year.
    That is £100 Million a year out of a (2008/2009)Royal Navy budget of £7,491,158,000.
    The Royal Navy will then only be spending about 1.4% of it’s annual budget on the aircraft carriers once they are built.
    Even accounting for procurement costs,the annualised lifecycle cost of both carriers is likely to be only about 3% of the Royal Navy’s budget.

    Here is the link where you can see what the navy spends it’s money on,see page 240 of the document (page 95/144 on Adobe):

    http://www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/77428463-6C55-46F2-AEE4-522FB73D1B98/0/mod_arac0809_vol2.pdf

    tangosix.

  27. WTH permalink
    February 4, 2010 9:26 pm

    Mike,
    explain why “everyone else is building smaller carriers” proves their utility. There are two countries that have used aircraft carriers in anger in the last 30 years the US and UK, both of which are building large carriers. If we’re basing opinions solely on what countries are building, I’d rather take the opinion of those two countries. Also explain China’s pursuit of a large carrier.

    Ensuring sea control requires denying the enemy the ability to strike your ships from the air as ships are hugely vulnerable to aircraft. Air control is then obviously a pre-requisite for sea control. To guarantee air control you need a large carrier with AEW, again UK experience in the Falklands. The Invincible class cannot support that, even with the modified air wind they moved to following the Falklands (3 x AEW, 9 x ASW, 8 x Sea Harrier) for 24/7 coverage that translates to 8+hrs a day per AEW aircraft and probably 6 hours a day for each Sea Harrier (assuming they operate in pairs). That is unsustainable so at some point you have deployed a target.

    I’m not going to argue that there are tradeoffs, that is obvious. I will entertain a discussion as to whether ships need to be omnipresent but I will take issue with the continued assertion that smaller is better. The Invincibles proved that they were too small in combat and the UK is building larger replacements. Yes that is bankrupting their Navy; but that fleet balance and funding is a different argument.

    There is a certain irreducible size that an aircraft carrier must be to maintain air superiority, that is based on capability of aircraft. If we can reduce the size of aircraft maybe the size of the carrier can come down, but we haven’t broken through those physical barriers yet. Until that point is reached, an aircraft carrier must be of a certain size to maintain air superiority, which is needed for sea superiority. Once those things are secured the carrier happens to be a fantastic asset to project power ashore which is the ultimate goal. In this calculus smaller is better is only true if you’re looking to get ships sunk.

    Decisions must be made, we can either spend the money for the fleet to do what is asked or change what is asked. There is a disconnect between those two right now. That is the problem, it is not a problem to be solved by smaller ships. As I said previously in the FFG discussion the “smaller is better” solution may well be worse than the current problem.

  28. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 4, 2010 8:19 pm

    WTH–It matters what your definition of “little use” is. Can’t deploy as many sorties as a CVN, sure, or a fully effective AEW aircraft wing. Despite that, the small carriers remain very effective, as part of a balanced fleet. Almost every nation other than the US and UK is building smaller carriers, proving their continued utility.

    The extra capabilities you get with a CVN is often offset by what you lose. If you place all you hopes on giant ships for sea control, then you have very limited control because your giant ships can’t be everywhere at once. Your small ships can’t be used to their full effectiveness because they are tied up defending your larger vessels (the British discovered this post-Jutland, when it was torn between using her precious DD’s to defend the grand Fleet of Dreadnoughts, or save the nation from surrender by the German U-boat reverse-blockade).

    Yes, you do get extra capability with large decks, but there is always a trade-off. It was bearable once, but now that such vessels have long surpassed billion dollars, tens of billions for the US, it is very likely we have passed the point whether the trade-off in fleet numbers is worth the loss, especially since there are alternatives, as New Wars consistently points to. The Invincibles have been just one such alternative.

  29. February 4, 2010 7:02 pm

    Hello,

    well said WTH.

    I would add that extending the frigates sensor horizon can also be done with the use of aerostats or helicopters.

    A tall masted destroyer like H.M.S.Daring has a radar horizon of about 20 miles against a small boat sized target.
    If that ship can deploy a radar to an altitude of 6,000 feet,it’s radar horizon is extended to about 120 miles.
    Extending the radar horizon by a factor of 6 allows the destroyer to have “eyes on” 36 times as much sea area.

    However,to exploit that extra radar coverage the surface combatant will require larger boats with greater range,endurance,seakeeping and defensive capabilities.
    The costs of adding larger boats to a new frigate design are very small.

    tangosix.

  30. WTH permalink
    February 4, 2010 6:49 pm

    ” Mike Burleson:
    ‘limited magazines and bunkerage rendered the Invincibles of little use’

    Limited doesn’t mean “ineffective”. If your limit is winning, let’s have more limited warships!! ”

    Mike, I’m having trouble following your argument here.

    Limited might not mean ineffective but “little use” sure does. I’m also having trouble trying to reconcile you redefining winning.

    Care to elaborate?

  31. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 4, 2010 6:38 pm

    “limited magazines and bunkerage rendered the Invincibles of little use”

    Limited doesn’t mean “ineffective”. If your limit is winning, let’s have more limited warships!! There is no need to bust your budget which was the point of the “less capable” Invincible.

    The UAV frigate-I can hardly wait until the UAVs join the surface fleet in numbers, and I prefer them to be catapult launched fixed wing rather than the VTOL version like Fire Scout. Every ship an aircraft carrier, taking the proven abilities of the UAVs on land, placing them in the sea environment. It will be a revolution in naval airpower economy of force.

  32. WTH permalink
    February 4, 2010 6:20 pm

    This is the issue:
    “The limited capabilities of the Harriers,combined with the small number of aircraft carried and limited magazines and bunkerage rendered the Invincibles of little use in the attack carrier role in these conflicts.
    Which is why the Royal Navy is buying bigger more capable aircraft carriers.”

    Invincible class: 20700 tons
    Queen Elizabeth class: 65000 tons
    America class: 45000 tons

    Light carriers are still going to be too big to be built in numbers or too small to be effective.

    The CVL proposed in the New Navy Fighting Machine is 25-30000 tons and $3B. If we learn from our UK friends that’s too small to be effective and it’s still too expensive to be bought in numbers. CVLs also have the problem of not being able to support AEW as it exists now.

    This brings us back to the frigate as mothership concept. With UAVs, in numbers, the area one ship can cover is drastically larger. A frigate sized ship, if it can maintain sensor carrying UAVs in the air 24/7, can work a much bigger slice of battlespace. Frigate sized ships are eminently affordable. This seems to be about the best current use of the mothership concept: enable far greater sensor coverage for extended influence area. Further, the technology exists now and a ship designed to exploit this concept of operations is easily upgraded in the future as more and more capable UAVs come online.

    The carrier concept, applied in frigate size (relative miniature), could be affordable, flexible and useful. It does not replace the large carrier requirement as that sort of concentrated firepower will be needed for the foreseeable future, but could probably reduce it. It also avoids the middle ground of carriers that are expensive yet not capable enough.

  33. February 4, 2010 2:40 pm

    Hello,

    Mike Burleson said:

    “I think if we spread the capabilities around the fleet, a smaller carrier would be viable. This is the British lessons of the Falklands.”

    The British lessons of the Falklands war were that surface combatants provide the enemy with lots of expensive targets to sink and big aircraft carriers are a lot more useful than small aircraft carriers.

    Admiral Stanhope said:

    “We have got to be clear that the requirement for carriers is a joint requirement for Defence as a whole and the effect they provide is a joint effect, not a maritime effect in isolation.”

    The admiral is quite right to say that.
    It is not just the Royal Navy which would be unable to do it’s job without aircraft carriers.
    The British Army would also be next to useless without them,see Korea,Suez,Afghanistan and the Falklands for example.

    tangosix.

  34. February 4, 2010 2:29 pm

    Hello Mike Burleson,

    I completely agree with this comment:

    “My proposal would be to rename the DDG-1000 Zumwalt stealth destroyer and place this worthy title on a renewed Sea Control Ship, since the great former CNO was about building the Navy not shrinking it.”

    Elmo Zumwalt would be spinning in his grave if he saw what they named after him.
    Given his legacy I would rather see a frigate class named after him.

    However,I would have to question the credibility of Shashank Joshi when he says:

    “Britain used its shrinking carrier fleet against Afghanistan and Iraq, those targets were virtually defenseless states lacking a competent navy and air force, and without the requisite national capacity to hit back in other ways.”

    Anyone who has studied British carrier operations would be aware that the Royal Navy did not use it’s aircraft carriers during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq,at least not as fixed wing aircraft carriers.
    In both cases British aircraft carriers were used in the amphibious helicopter carrying “Commando carrier” role.
    The limited capabilities of the Harriers,combined with the small number of aircraft carried and limited magazines and bunkerage rendered the Invincibles of little use in the attack carrier role in these conflicts.
    Which is why the Royal Navy is buying bigger more capable aircraft carriers.

    tangosix.

  35. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 4, 2010 2:11 pm

    I think if we spread the capabilities around the fleet, a smaller carrier would be viable. This is the British lessons of the Falklands. Realizing I sound like a broken record on that, but there is no denying they made it work! How much more so can the better funded and equipped USN if the smaller UK can pull it off.

    But the large carriers have little to do with sea control, according to the admiral’s own admission. Remember what I posted last week from British 1SL Mark Stanhope:

    The carriers are about supporting effect ashore, not protecting the fleet, as at Jutland. We have got to be clear that the requirement for carriers is a joint requirement for Defence as a whole and the effect they provide is a joint effect, not a maritime effect in isolation.

  36. Jed permalink
    February 4, 2010 10:29 am

    Marcase I agree with you, but Mike was talking about SNAFU and the Zumwalt sea control reference – what is a Cavour sized carrier and an F35B going to do for sea control ? What modern (supersonic ?) anti-ship missile is to be integrated on the F35B ? What medium or short range multi-role missile (thinking son-of-IR-Maverick) is being integrated with F35B ? Anti-radiation missile…. ??

    Where is the surveillance and ASW assets of the small sea control CVS ? No S3’s any more, SH60 really does not cut it on range / endurance / payload – UAV’s ??

    I am not against small carriers, whether the carrier is big, medium or tiny, its ALL about the air group – and don’t see a capable air-group available for CVS without “sacrificing old-school peer-v-peer capabilities”.

  37. Marcase permalink
    February 4, 2010 8:17 am

    As Bill Sweetman so eloquently puts it, CVNs become ‘self licking icecreams’ when the focus is on the number of carriers, and not the effect they provide. With only 40-50 (at best) medium range FA-18EF fighters to provide the actual strike missions, the costly subs, destroyers and frigates escorting the carrier increase the ‘burn rate’ to ridiculous levels, especially if the (few) carrier strike groups also have to deal with piracy, presence and disaster response all the time, every time.

    Current PGMs (SDB II, WCMD/Skeet) can turn smaller aircraft into effective CAS/IDS platforms. They do not require the 80-90,000t CVN, but can operate effectively from smaller CVE/CVS in the 40-50,000t class. When (not *if*, I’m an optimist) the STOVL F-35B is available, smaller and cheaper carriers like Italys Cavour may be a good option to augment fleet numbers, without sacrificing ‘old school’ peer-vs-peer capabilities.

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