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Carrier Alternative Weekly

July 22, 2010
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The aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) arrives in Busan, Republic of Korea.

Pilots, Man the Torpedo Tubes

Last week we started the post with a quote concerning the increased use of the converted Ohio class SSGN, former ballistic missile subs, posing the new question “Where are the Tactical Tridents?” Today we have news of yet another domain of the aircraft carrier the new underwater battleships are venturing into–airpower. Story from Graham Warwick at Ares blog:

The US Naval Research Laboratory plans to demonstrate the launch of an unmanned aircraft from a submerged submarine – and not just any UAV, but a fuel cell-powered aircraft that has already demonstrated the ability to stay aloft more more than 6 hours.

NRL plans to award a contract to Oceaneering for a submerged launch system that would deploy a UAV launch canister, called Sea Robin, from the torpedo tube of a nuclear submarine. A mock-up of the launch system has already been built and tested, it says.

This would be quite handy for the spy stuff the SSGNs do so well! Interesting that the initial role for ground-based UAVs, and even manned aircraft way back in the Great War, was reconnaissance, so we have high hopes for the new weapons.

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5 Reasons Not to Visit the Yellow Sea

Thats how many a Chinese General recently listed for the US Navy to keep its carriers out of the Yellow Sea, according to Defense Tech:

  1. “We will never allow others to keep snoring beside our beds.” or “If the United States were in China’s shoes, would it allow China to stage military exercises near its western and eastern coasts?”
  2. When it comes to its own security, China must always prepare for the worst. “The bottom line for strategic thinking is to nip the evil in the bud,” Luo says.
  3. The U.S.-South Korean drill area is only 500 kilometers from Beijing.
  4. The U.S.-South Korean naval exercise creates a new crisis, Luo says, arguing that exercises in the Yellow Sea will only heighten tensions on the Korean peninsula
  5. Luo says sending the George Washington into the Yellow Sea creates an additional barrier to development of healthy China-U.S. military relations, adding to China’s resentment over arms sales to Taiwan.

The General also hints at another reason, the USN will be able to closely observe the activities and passage of Chinese submarines. OK, so carriers aren’t allowed, but he didn’t say nothing’ about ex-Trident boomer subs, right?

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China’s Land-based Naval Power

Speaking of escalations, the USN isn’t worried so much about Chinese aircraft carriers as they are new missiles that are said to be able to target our biggest warships. Here from the Stars and Stripes, Erik Slavin reports:

The advanced weapon, a medium-range anti-ship ballistic missile known as the Dong Feng 21D, is “nearing operational capability,” according to a report last year by the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence. And if its targeting system proves accurate, the Dong Feng would rank as the world’s first mobile, land-based missile capable of hitting a moving aircraft carrier from nearly 2,000 miles away, depending on its payload and other factors.

Privately, U.S. military officials concede they are alarmed. One Navy official familiar with Pacific operations, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the Navy has only a theoretical countermeasure against the Dong Feng 21D because its trajectory and other capabilities are still largely unknown.

But even in public, senior officials have begun alluding to the problem.

“We have some concerns over the very aggressive weapons [the Chinese] are procuring,” U.S. Navy 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. John Bird told Stars and Stripes last month.

Experts say the Dong Feng’s basic design isn’t much different from the Cold War-era Pershing II developed by the United States. But it’s the land-based platform, the payload and the capability of a ballistic missile to redirect in mid-flight that especially concerns U.S. strategists.

“[Individually], the technical abilities are not unprecedented, but it’s a revolutionary combination of capabilities,” said Paul Giarra, a former Navy commander and Defense Department senior Japan country director who now works as a strategic consultant.

The missile would be formidable during a battle, but its consequences go beyond any hypothetical, cataclysmic wars. The Chinese could use the missile as leverage to try to weaken U.S. security pledges to Taiwan and other Asian allies, establishing vast “no-go” zones in the Western Pacific, analysts say.

What worries yours truly is the comparative frugality of the threat. Consider the $100 billion investment the US has in its handful of giant decks, with their tens of thousands of crewman. Compare this to the cost of a missile, probably $1-$10  million each, with the notion that only one is needed to sink a flattop, not even accounting for MIRV warheads. Then imagine this technology being sold on the open arms market to any ole rogue dictator with a missile capability.

I’ll leave you with that thought and the Navy plans which focus the bulk of our striking power at sea on 11 very large targets. But a dramatic dispersal of our capability would ensure survival.

*****

Nork’s Save the Carrier (Again)

The carriers might not be so handy against a peer threat, but lucky for the Navy there is still a Third World dictator around to justify the world’s most expensive warships, even though its all just for show.  Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s Danger Room gives the details on Operation Invincible Spirit :

According to Admiral Robert Willard, the commander of American forces in the Pacific, the carrier U.S.S. George Washington and a bunch of destroyers from the Navy’s Seventh Fleet will head to the Sea of Japan, along with surveillance aircraft and “destroyers, frigates, and some patrol craft” from the South Korean Navy, including the South Korean transport ship Dodko. Over 100 aircraft from the Air Force’s Seventh Air Wing and the South Korean Air Force are going to fly above. And since a torpedo from a North Korean submarine sank the South Korean warship Cheonan in March, there’ll be anti-submarine exercises as well. It’s going to unfold over several days. And if you happen to find yourself in the southeastern South Korean city of Busan, you’ll be able to catch the action as it happens.

Special Air components for the exercise include four F-22 Raptors — the Air Force’s beloved jet that Defense Secretary Robert Gates put on ice last year. (Awkward.) The ground forces are taking a knee on Invincible Spirit, contrasting the exercise with last year’s mock attack on North Korea. But they’ll be involved in follow-on exercises over the coming months, Willard said, just as Naval and Air Forces will also drill later this year in the West Sea, where the Cheonan was attacked. (According to the South Korean paper Chosun Ilbo, China wasn’t too keen on the exercise kicking off in the West Sea, and judging from Admiral Mike Mullen’s comments in South Korea warning of a lack of Chinese “transparency” about its military intentions, the exercise implicitly sends a message of U.S. potency to the Chinese as well.)

Yeah, just not in the Yellow Sea.

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Australia versus USN

The Australian Herald Sun boasted of the gunnery expertise of its navy in sinking a derelict USN amphibious carrier in the (snore) RIMPAC exercises recently:

The Warramunga opened up with her 127mm gun and scored several direct hits on the former USS New Orleans during Exercise RIMPAC 2010.

The carrier, which retired in 1997 after a 30-year career, suffered an onslaught of Harpoon missiles and laser-guided bombs before the death blow was delivered by a bombardment from eight allied warships.
The 20,000 tonne hulk was blasted into submission before turning on her side and sinking at the US Navy’s range near Hawaii.

That’s great but shouldn’t frigates be chasing submarines instead of picking on a poor helpless carrier without her escorts and aircraft? Even New Wars isn’t so cruel! LOL

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The Excuse is a Little Dated

One of the reasons I have heard given for not deploying light aircraft carriers is they are “less capable” and often the carrier Ranger is given as proof of this ongoing notion. Not the 80,000 ton supercarrier of the Forrestal class, America’s version of HMS Dreadnought, but an earlier one. Here is Norman Friedman at The Year in Defense who gives an excellent survey of “Aircraft Carrier Evolution“:

Without any overhang of obsolete tonnage, the United States built the carrier Ranger as the first of five that it hoped would give it the best compromise between carrier capability and total aircraft numbers (it was thought at first that relatively small carriers were best). Indeed, it seemed, before they had been completed, that the big Lexingtons would be white elephants. They turned out to be anything but, partly because the U.S. Navy concluded that carriers would have to operate individually (a conclusion overturned during World War II). Ranger turned out to be too small to be very useful. Before she was completed, U.S. designers were working on a new ship about 50 percent larger, Yorktown. She and her sister ship Enterprise were followed by a third, improved, ship, Hornet, once the interwar limitation had lapsed. These were extremely successful ships.

Some might argue this to be clear proof of the superiority of large decks, able to deploy full-scale airwings in modern war. This dated notion fails to take into account advances in technology over the past 80 years since USS Ranger, with planes vastly more capable in terms of firepower and usability, as New Wars detailed earlier:

  • Modern technology has allowed military aircraft, especially Western fighters the capability to do more with much less.
  • The lack of any peer threat in the last 40 years, and the prevalence of plenty of high performance jets in America and her allies precludes any risk from reducing numbers at sea.
  • High Western training standards, and modern weapons make even lower performing V/STOL planes like the Harrier and the F-35B more than a match for potential enemies.
  • The High Cost of large decks actually reduces your strength, since you can only afford a handful of $10 billion ships, and rob from other vital naval functions to deploy that. In other words, when you try to deploy large airwings at sea, more becomes less.

That last point might not matter so much if the only foes you plan to contend with are very poor naval powers such as North Korea, who dare not shoot at our Big Ships. But what if our handful of giant ships are sent into a real shooting war, something they haven’t faced for over 70 years. Mr Friedman also notes:

Moreover, U.S. industrial capacity could more than replace the four (of seven prewar) carriers lost in 1942, whereas Japan’s could not replace her losses.

So, how long would it take us to replace precious ships in a renewed conflict, when missiles, and missile firing platforms are far more easier to build than 100,000 ton superships?

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AESA’s New Package

Since we opened today’s article with UAV’s, here is another for closure. According to DoD Buzz’s Colin Clark, Raytheon Corp. plans to place the AESA radar, used on USN fighters and the E-2 Hawkeye early warning plane, on smaller unmanned planes:

The first operational AESA radar was developed by Raytheon for the F-15C fighter. The first systems were flying by December 2000. Since then AESA radars have racked up 150,000 flight hours, according to a Raytheon press release. The growing UAV market offers opportunities for AESA now because Raytheon looks to build conformal radar that weigh 2 to 5 pounds per square foot and are less than an inch thick. That will allow them to be installed in places current radar just can’t go and they could be placed in UAVs with a six-foot wingspan.

The implications of this is you are placing one of the world’s most powerful airborne survelleince and control assets into an increasingly smaller package, which would further sever warfighters from the tyrrany of giant decks, which advocates say is the only way to deploy effective naval aipower from the sea.

*****

The Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH 152) engages Ex-USS New Orleans (LPH 11).

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59 Comments leave one →
  1. December 27, 2013 12:37 pm

    When someone writes an article he/she retains the image of
    a user in his/her mind that how a user can understand it.
    Thus that’s why this piece of writing is perfect.
    Thanks!

  2. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 25, 2010 12:55 am

    Right now, relatively few bombers today do air to air. In contrast, the Germans frequently engaged maritime patrol aircraft with bombers like JU-88s over the Bay of Biscay.

    Only one USN blimp was lost to enemy action during WWII.

    http://theyearindefense.com/naval/naval-aviation-centennial-blimp-vs-u-boat

    In that case they attacked a surfaced U-boat that was appeared about to attack a merchant ship. The Blimp was shot down, but the failure mode was relatively benign. Only one man was lost–to a shark after abandoning ship. The blimp managed to damage the U-boat which apparently rendered it unable to submerge and lead to its destruction.

  3. Fencer permalink
    July 24, 2010 2:47 pm

    Al, While I probably have underrated the threat to protection of shipping assets, my statement about low-threat environments was in reference to a zeppelin’s potential (IMHO) in anti-piracy and counter-smuggling operations.

    As Wikipedia states that the Allied forces lost 175 warships and 119 aircraft in the Battle of the Atlantic, it seems to me that a zeppelin would probably prove more survivable than an equivalently armed frigate/corvette. However you do make a good point about long-range bombers, they definitely present a major threat that didn’t existent during WWII. My only answer to this would be that any affordable alternative I see would equally vulnerable .

    Does anyone here know if an anti-ship missile could hit a zeppelin at cruising altitude?

  4. July 24, 2010 11:00 am

    Fencer,

    You consider protecting shipping to be a low threat environment? The Battle of the Atlantic proved that isn’t the case. Also while attacks on convoys in WWII were made primarily by submarines, I have a feeling that in future wars we will see many attacks by bombers with anti-ship missiles. Airplanes pose a huge threat to your ASW airships.

  5. Fencer permalink
    July 23, 2010 11:48 pm

    Al, how survivable is LCS? These zeppelins would be for protection of shipping and supplementing a CSG’s ASW capabilities. While I doubt a zeppelin could handle anything more dangerous than a pirate with an RPG (or a submarine) it seems they would prove much more cost effective for patrolling low-threat environments.

  6. D. E. Reddick permalink
    July 23, 2010 11:29 pm

    Al,

    It would be a modern airship. That has a rigid skin encompassing a cellular structure for the helium lift. I.E., not a Zeppelin and not a blimp – something new. Campbell is needed here to explain the details and differences in capabilities.

  7. July 23, 2010 10:13 pm

    Fencer,

    How survivable would that zepplin be? It would seem to me that a single missile hit would kill it.

    Al

  8. D. E. Reddick permalink
    July 23, 2010 7:14 pm

    Fencer,

    Are you sure about your name? You sound an awful lot like Campbell… ;-)

  9. Fencer permalink
    July 23, 2010 5:51 pm

    USS Akron (ZRS-4) had a 91 ton payload, a crew of 90, and a range of 10,580 nm at a speed of 50 knots. When this is compared to USS Independence’s range of 4,300 nm at 18 knots I think the zeppelin is the clear winner. In addition USS Akron carried four 1 ton scout planes, the same weight as the MQ-8B Firescout.

    When combined with modern technology a zeppelin seems like an excellent alternative to a corvette/OPV in a low-threat area.

  10. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 23, 2010 5:46 pm

    Doubling the horsepower, would probably get “WASP” from 24 knots up to 28.

  11. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 23, 2010 5:40 pm

    Fencer said, “If the Wasp class LHDs can make 20+ knots on 70,000 shp it probably wouldn’t be to hard to get it to 30 knots.”

    You would probably need 150,000 to 200,000 HP

  12. Hudson permalink
    July 23, 2010 3:26 pm

    Several milbloggers I have read recently, who might know what they are talking about, have acknowledged a decline in U.S. naval ASW after the end of the Cold War and the much reduced Soviet/Russian submarine fleet. Our subs have been mostly used as cruise missile platforms and SEAL insertion teams. They see this as a loss of art rather than technology.

    However, that might be more troubling than falling behind in ASW technology. We are great at technology but not always adept at finding the ghost in the machine, so to speak. Maybe we can improve our ASW by a series of command directives, a shift in focus. Maybe…

    The phrase that troubled me the most in the article I cited was “and even risk destruction”. This brought to mind the picture of pygmies trying to kill an elephant with blowguns. The braver hunters jump right in front of the beast aiming for a vulernable spot to fell it, to kill the giant carrier. If they are trampled, they will be buried with honor; if they are victorious, they will get the choice parts of the animal and be feted for weeks.

    It would be a mistake to assume it can’t happen because it hasn’t yet happened. If it does happen, there will be screaming all over the place, and then there will be panic. We have the technology to build damns, but look at what happened with Katrina. It knocked the wind out of us. There were bright spots, like the Coast Guard plucking some 6,000 residents to safety without a fatal mishap. But overall we drowned.

  13. Fencer permalink
    July 23, 2010 3:09 pm

    If the Wasp class LHDs can make 20+ knots on 70,000 shp it probably wouldn’t be to hard to get it to 30 knots.

  14. Fencer permalink
    July 23, 2010 3:05 pm

    How would a PLAN SSK swarm work? The wolf packs of WWII relied on constant communication and centralized command to coordinate their attacks. Don’t submarines have to surface to communicate? This doesn’t seem like a good idea when in closed proximity to a hostile CSG. And how can you swarm something that travels twice as fast as you?

    I’m not discounting the submarine threat but it seems like solitary attacks are more likely than swarms.

  15. elgatoso permalink
    July 23, 2010 2:54 pm

    Heretic,

    to get a Wasp class ship to 30 knots you would need a nuclear reactor.

  16. B.Smitty permalink
    July 23, 2010 1:58 pm

    I am not dismissing the threat, just the assertion that we should draw grave lessons from classified, wargame anecdotes.

    Also, I find the term “swarm” difficult to associate with SSKs that have a likely sub 8-10 kt sustained speed. More like a “swarm” of turtles than a swarm of bees.

  17. Hudson permalink
    July 23, 2010 1:22 pm

    I would not be so quick to dismiss the messenger. From the same article:

    “The Chinese strategy in the event of any maritime war with the United States, most especially over Taiwan, in the foreseeable future, would clearly, therefore, be to use swarms of Kilo-type subs to overwhelm the anti-submarine warfare — ASW — defenses of U.S. carrier battle groups to torpedo the giant U.S carriers. Alternately, they could choose to surface briefly and even risk destruction in order to fire their formidable Hai Ying — Sea Eagle — HY2 anti-ship supersonic cruise missiles, copied with Moscow’s approval from the Russian Moskit 3M80 Moskit — NATO designation SS-N-22 Sunburn. These weapons were expressly designed to kill U.S. aircraft carriers.

    “Kilo subs would be no match for state-of-the-art, nuclear-powered U.S. undersea attack subs one on one. But they would not be deployed that way. Just as Nazi Kriegsmarine U-Boat — wolf packs — operating on the surface — sought to overwhelm Allied convoys escort ships by their sheer weight of numbers during the long Battle of the Atlantic in World War II, Chinese diesel subs, remaining underwater, would seek to overwhelm a carrier battle group’s defenses by their numbers as well. The much smaller size of China’s diesel submarines — as they do not have to carry any nuclear propulsion plant — automatically gives them a great advantage in this regard.”

  18. B.Smitty permalink
    July 23, 2010 12:26 pm

    But America’s nuclear aircraft carriers have been sitting ducks for fast-attack submarines for the past 40 years.”

    That is the reporter’s opinion.

    Beware anecdotal evidence. Especially leaks from classified exercises.

  19. Hudson permalink
    July 23, 2010 12:11 pm

    If you google “subs vs. carriers” you will get some 29 mil hits. One recent article I read can be found on UPI.com – Security Industry – Defense Focus: ‘Subs vs. Carriers – Part 2′

    I could not copy the link. It begins:

    “April 9 (UPI) — Not a single Essex-class U.S. fleet aircraft carrier was sunk by enemy submarines in World War II. But America’s nuclear aircraft carriers have been sitting ducks for fast-attack submarines for the past 40 years.”

  20. Fencer permalink
    July 23, 2010 11:36 am

    Would a airship with a towed array (is this even possible?) and some torpedoes be an effective ASW asset? It would be impossible for a submarine to damage it, or even detect it, as well as being much faster than a surface vessel. Could be used to protect convoys and resupply ships? Also, it seems like a long range airship seems like it would be valuable against pirates.

  21. B.Smitty permalink
    July 23, 2010 11:15 am

    Hudson said, “Are you implying that the carrier battle group as it is presently constituted has insufficient resources to defend itself against enemy subs, and that with the addition of auxiliary carriers, or half decks with additional helos, it will be much more secure from enemy subs?

    If we are truly worried that our CVBGs are very vulnerable to subs, then they have insufficient resources, training, and/or need improved tactics. Rather than just throwing up our hands and giving up on carriers, maybe we should just work the problem.

    Whether the SCS or another type is the best option to improve this, I don’t know. Small carriers have been historically used for ASW. Carriers are also the premiere “modular” platform. An SCS also meet’s Scott B’s “THINK BIG, not small” criteria.

  22. Jed permalink
    July 23, 2010 10:54 am

    Ref ChiCom anti-ship ballistic missile – erm’ don’t the USN have the most sophisticated, actually usable (proven) anti-ballistic missile capability in the world with AEGIS / SM3 ??

    I ‘d be more more worried about bad guys getting within torpedo firing range, because 3 or 4 big modern torpedo’s going off under yer keel is gonna signal the start of a really bad day……

  23. July 23, 2010 9:50 am

    Hello Heretic,

    to get a Wasp class ship to 30 knots you would need a really big hill.

    tangosix.

  24. Heretic permalink
    July 23, 2010 9:37 am

    1 Ford class CVN (fixed wing AEW, CAP and Strike)
    1 Wasp class LHD (ASW helicopters and VTOL lift)
    3 Arleigh Burke DDG Flight III
    2 Virginia class SSN

    Only problem with that plan is that the Wasp class LHD can’t pull (much) more than 20 knots. Wonder what it would take to get a Wasp class LHD to move at 30 knots?

  25. Hudson permalink
    July 23, 2010 8:24 am

    B. Smitty,

    Are you implying that the carrier battle group as it is presently constituted has insufficient resources to defend itself against enemy subs, and that with the addition of auxiliary carriers, or half decks with additional helos, it will be much more secure from enemy subs?

  26. B.Smitty permalink
    July 23, 2010 7:48 am

    Hudson said, “This tells me two things: That our carriers and their escorts are more vulnerable today than we care to admit; and that if you wanted to exert sea control/denial, you would commit fewer resources to carriers and more to submarines.

    Or you commit more to ASW defense. SCSs could contribute to this. They could carry perhaps 24 MH-60Rs, or maybe a larger, longer-ranged helicopter like the AW101, and have their own hull mounted and towed array sonars.

    Or they could carry a mixture of helicopters and U*Vs in their spacious hangars and on the flight deck (the hangar of the Principe de Asturias, based on the SCS design, is 900 square meters larger than LCS-2. The PdA’s flight deck is five times as large as LCS-2).

  27. Jacob permalink
    July 23, 2010 2:17 am

    @ Hudson: If subs can penetrate our CVBG’s, then I’m thinking that surface ships in general are screwed. A CVBG is the most well-protected fleet formation that we have, and if even that’s not enough to defend against submarines then a surface combatant group operating without the carrier’s ASW aircraft is just going to be even more vulnerable.

  28. Hudson permalink
    July 22, 2010 11:21 pm

    I am writing in the context of the subject of carriers. From what I have read, in a number of war games, Allied SSKs have penetrated U.S. battle groups and “sunk” not only the supercarrier but a number of escorts, as well, without first being detected. Iranian and Chinese boats also claim to have sailed well into torpedo range of carrier groups without being detected.

    This tells me two things: That our carriers and their escorts are more vulnerable today than we care to admit; and that if you wanted to exert sea control/denial, you would commit fewer resources to carriers and more to submarines.

    This would then clarify the main mission of the carrier as a land operations support vessel, which it has been doing for quite some time now anyway, rather than as a sea control vessel. Thus, you might decide you need fewer carriers and air wings, but you might want to maintain the variety of aircraft, for example, to extend your reach over land targets.

    This shift in power to the submarine would also affect your choice of surface ships. You might decide you need fewer of them too, and ships better armed to attack coastal and inland targets–for example building an inexpensive class of light cruisers on the Absalon model with an AGS, at the expense of LCS and Zumwalt, for example, along with other fire support ships.

    This is a navy that would exert power through naval blockade, coastal and deep inland strikes, occasional amphibious landings, and controlling the sea lanes and choke points with an impressive fleet of SSBNs, SSGNs, and, yes, SSKs. With its wealth of subs, it could also better protect its battle groups by eliminating enemy subs prowling around.

    Maybe someday the balance of power will shift away from the sub to some combination of surface vessels and aircraft, as in former times. There seems to be no silver bullet or quick fix on the horizon. And that would still leave you with enormously expensive big decks and none too inexpensive smaller carriers as targets for a myriad of missiles and torpedoes, whereas submersibles, including robot subs, would remain relatively inexpensive, I am guessing. Your Silent Service is your carrier’s best friend.

  29. Juramentado permalink
    July 22, 2010 9:48 pm

    It is also about generating a comprehensive and accurate sensor picture.

    Concur. Let’s make sure that phrase gets suffixed by the word “FIRST.” Once detection is established, only then can you make a decision about classification and localization. Once you’ve made a decision you’re confident that these x contacts are the best candidates, only then do you send boarding teams.

    Boarding every boat in the area of interest is simply a futile exercise. You have a better chance of winning the national lotto before you actually encounter a bad actor.

    From what I can gather, sea control pretty much belongs to subs.

    Read and be illuminated:

    http://edocs.nps.edu/npspubs/scholarly/theses/2009/Jun/09Jun_Pfeiff.pdf

    I know this won’t please Mike :-) but Detection and Classification are best suited to the MPA and air assets when you’re talking about a large stretch of water.

  30. B.Smitty permalink
    July 22, 2010 6:26 pm

    Chuck said, “A lot of sea control is sorting out the good guys from the bad. In many cases that requires doing boardings.

    It is also about generating a comprehensive and accurate sensor picture.

  31. B.Smitty permalink
    July 22, 2010 6:24 pm

    Hudson said, “Subs can control which ships sink or swim.

    Within their limited sensor and weapon radii.

  32. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 22, 2010 6:04 pm

    A lot of sea control is sorting out the good guys from the bad. In many cases that requires doing boardings.

  33. Hudson permalink
    July 22, 2010 5:45 pm

    Subs can control which ships sink or swim.

  34. B.Smitty permalink
    July 22, 2010 5:40 pm

    Subs are not good at sea control. They are very good at sea denial, covert, short-range ISR, SPECOPS, and limited strike.

  35. Hudson permalink
    July 22, 2010 5:24 pm

    From what I can gather, sea control pretty much belongs to subs. Two types of targets subs would not engage directly would be small boats and pirate skiffs. The main task of carriers is, as it has been for decades now, support for land operations against inferior air and naval opponents. The return of long range big guns would take some of that load from the carriers. The Advanced Gun System has great range (59nm) but a relatively light shell and a CEP of 50 meters–not quite smart bomb accuracy. The most frequent mention in the press of bombs being dropped in Iraq is 500 pounders, sometimes used to destroy a single dwelling and its inhabitants. So you would need an accurate delivery system for that size of bomb, i.e., UAV or fixed wing. Other than that, ships the size of Absalon mounting a single AGS, or larger ships firing a larger caliber shell, could do most of the heavy hitting of shore targets. You could roughly assess your carrier needs: total acreage , hi lo mix, based on these assumptions/needs.

  36. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 22, 2010 5:02 pm

    I remember seeing OV-10s on Iwo Jima class LPHs that were only 602 feet long. Don’t know if they could land on board or if they were just being transported, but obviously VSTOL is not a requirement for taking off of small carriers. Reversible pitch props might even obviate the need for arresting gear.

    If we could operate Avengers off of CVEs of less than 10,000 tons in WWII, 65 years later, we ought to be able to operated gas turbine powered attack aircraft with performance comparable to WWII fighters and much longer range than helicopters from something like a sea control ship.

    We are just not building the right aircraft for that kind of carrier. And there should be a world wide market for decent, reasonably fast aircraft that can operate from austere runways for the COIN role.

  37. B.Smitty permalink
    July 22, 2010 4:54 pm

    SINKEX

  38. Hudson permalink
    July 22, 2010 4:51 pm

    “The Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH 152) engages Ex-USS New Orleans (LPH 11).”

    Engages?

  39. B.Smitty permalink
    July 22, 2010 3:00 pm

    Al said, “Why not have a mixture of large carriers for high sortie rates and larger aircraft, and small carriers for flexibility (think Zumwalt’s high-low Navy)?

    Sounds good, but how do you fit it in the budget (along with enough VSTOL aircraft)?

    We do have some low-end carriers: LHAs and LPDs. However being a carrier is a secondary task for them.

    I do agree with you though. I’ve started to wonder, with all of this discussion about the LCS, littoral warfare, “THINK BIG, NOT SMALL” and such, whether we should resurrect the Sea Control Ship concept. After all, the carrier is the most successful “modular warship” in history.

    The 13,000 ton (FLD) SCS was supposed to cost $100 million in FY73 dollars. That would be around $477 in today’s dollars.

    Could we buy something like the SCS instead of LCSs, or another alternative like frigates, Absalons or corvettes? Would it be a viable option?

    Like I said earlier, buying enough VSTOL fighters and helicopters to fill their decks would be a problem. But if you consider the hangar to just be a large mission bay, why not carry U*Vs in there as well? Or RHIBs or even small patrol boats?

    For the “wars we are fighting today”, how about resurrecting the OV-10 Bronco (perhaps using a marinized OV-10(X))? You could add a few retractable arrestor cables to the deck, and a tailhook to the Bronco and operate them STOBAR. Put a maritime search radar in the belly of each Bronco, replacing the centerline hard point.

    Imagine an SCS in the Gulf of Aden carrying 14 Broncos, 4 H-60s and a half dozen RHIBs or small patrol boats. Assume 2 Broncos are always down for maintenance. The remaining 12 could provide two round the clock maritime patrol orbits.

    The SeaVue maritime search radar can detect a patrol boat-sized target at 165 nm. So 2 Broncos flying at ~170 kts for 4 hours each, could search 2 * 170 * 4 * 165 * 2 = 448,800 square nm.

    Six of those a day yields 2.69 million square nm per day.

    If they found any pirates, the Broncos could fire warning shots with the sponson-mounted .50 cals. Or take them down with a combination of HMG fire, Zuni and Hydra rockets.

    I can’t imagine a new-built Bronco being terribly expensive either, even with some electronics upgrades and considering they’d have to completely rebuild the production line. It’s just not that complex of an aircraft.

    If the SCS had to operate in a higher-threat area, it could swap its counter piracy “module” for a dozen fighters or more helos.

    So maybe we need a Littoral Sea Control Ship (LSCS?) instead of the LCS.

  40. Juramentado permalink
    July 22, 2010 2:59 pm

    Northrop is shopping Newport News. Is there a carrier message there?

    The message is that there less money in defense contracts to sustain the number of shipyards the nation has.

    NG has openly stated that they would rather have Newport News remain a spin-off of the company rather than an outright sale, but everything hinges on what makes more sense for the shareholders.

    Right now, the Pentagon is downplaying the developments since the immediate impact is Avondale, not NN. Would it become a problem? Sure – GD then becomes sole-source supplier for nuke combatants, and their experience with building nuc-boats doesn’t mean they won’t have teething troubles building a CVN. Here’s the rub though – if the likely outcome for NN is a complete shutdown, the Pentagon would have to play the National Interest card to prevent that from happening. A bizarre but possible outcome if that was the case – the government forces NN onto *someone,* a la BofA-Merrill Lynch, in order to prevent the sole source scenario.

  41. B.Smitty permalink
    July 22, 2010 1:34 pm

    Hopefully this means EMALS is starting to turn the corner.

  42. Scott B. permalink
    July 22, 2010 12:54 pm

    And now, something big that went (almost) unnoticed :

    EMALS builder agrees to fixed-price deal

    Moment of truth in September…

  43. July 22, 2010 12:47 pm

    Why not have a mixture of large carriers for high sortie rates and larger aircraft, and small carriers for flexibility (think Zumwalt’s high-low Navy)?

    Al

  44. Fencer permalink
    July 22, 2010 12:07 pm

    First the DF-21; while the unnamed official says the Navy “has only theoretical countermeasures”, according to that article the DF-21 only has theoretical ability to hit a carrier (“nearing operational capability”, “…if its targeting system proves accurate”). Also the US Navy has been upgrading AEGIS for BMD for years and the DF-21 is based off an American missile (I don’t know if the latter would give us an advantage but it shows that this is not some sort of mystery weapon)

    Lets go through your point for small carriers:

    1. I though that your opinion was numbers matter more than capability? Why is it that ships need numbers when aircraft don’t?

    2. Well your small carriers will only be able to embark F-35Bs and AV-8s. So what good will the high-preformance jets in the US do for the small carrier in the Arabian Sea (let alone off China)?

    3. So your opinion is that we should rely on our enemies’ incompetence to win our wars? Somehow I don’t think the pilots in your V/STOL planes would agree with you there.

    4. I think your calculations here are wrong. While the same amount of money spent, small carriers will you more hulls but also fewer aircraft. So if you believe the US Navy is spending too much money on carriers at the expense of other assets that’s one thing, but building smaller carriers is not the answer. It would cost more to deploy the same number of planes, the higher number of hulls would require more escorts, and it would need a much larger logistics train to supply increased number of ships.

    While our inability to replace war losses is frightening, it appears that anything larger than a speedboat will take more than a year to build (not including the time needed to rapidly expand our shipyards). In my opinion the best way to deal with this is to build extremely survivable ships in peacetime but have a cheap corvette/FAC design ready to go for wartime production (would modular construction would allow non-shipbuilding companies participate like in WWII?).

  45. Scott B. permalink
    July 22, 2010 12:02 pm

    BTW, some more tidbits on the *AESA’s New Package* @ DefenseNews :

    Teams Vie To Provide C2 Helos for UK Carrier

    Raytheon Working on Tiny AESA Radars

  46. Scott B. permalink
    July 22, 2010 11:59 am

    T6 said : “A radar carried by a six foot wingspan Unmanned Air Vehicle does not even come close to performing the tasks of an E2 Hawkeye or even a fighter.”

    Smitty said : “While it offers improved capabilities in the same package over non-AESA radars, it doesn’t magically turn a small UAV radar into an AEW radar.”

    Of course, you guys are right and Mike B. is wrong, but let’s look at the bright side : since September last year, Mike B. finally admitted the value of AEW and quit advocating the use of sacrificial radar pickets.

    There’s still a long way to go, but I’m confident that Mike B. will get there eventually, despite his self-admitted 40-year-old anti-carrier mantra !!!

  47. B.Smitty permalink
    July 22, 2010 11:19 am

    Mike said, “Fewer numbers of carriers can also inhibit your sortie rate.

    Sortie rates are an intricate calculation involving many factors (e.g. distance, speed, airframe availability, cat availability, deck space, aircrew availability, fuel and other expendables stores). Larger carriers have a lot more fuel, larger decks and more aircraft on board, so they can stay on station longer and generate higher sortie rates. More numerous, smaller carriers can split launch and recovery cycles across multiple (less efficient) decks. They can also be distributed geographically, if greater coverage is needed. It’s a fine balance, and one that’s highly dependent on the mix of missions.

  48. Mrs. Davis permalink
    July 22, 2010 11:01 am

    Northrop is shopping Newport News. Is there a carrier message there?

  49. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 22, 2010 10:58 am

    “Numbers still matter.”

    Fewer numbers of carriers can also inhibit your sortie rate. This can always happen:

    “Expecting our enemies to always have lower training standards is a very risky proposition.”

    Probably a good reason they changed the Washington exercise well away from the Yellow Sea then?

  50. Juramentado permalink
    July 22, 2010 10:53 am

    Expecting our enemies to always have lower training standards is a very risky proposition.

    Hear Hear! I just went through this intellectual you-know-what exercise on another popular milboard and quite frankly the one thing everyone was yelling about besides the phrase “That’s not doctrine!” is “Let’s not underestimate Red Side.” Overestimation has it’s equal hazards, but quite frankly, it’s high time for operational planning and analysis to start turning the usual scenarios on their sides. We *know* that the majority of bad guys can be overcome conventionally (at a price ‘natch). The question should be – what asymmetric threats can be brought into play to counter our technological strong points? The DF-21 is clearly one of those approaches. There has to be others but (hopefully) those in the know are keeping it mum in order to preserve the advantage if the balloon goes up…

  51. B.Smitty permalink
    July 22, 2010 10:38 am

    Mike said,”Modern technology has allowed military aircraft, especially Western fighters the capability to do more with much less.

    Only in the area of strike. Sorties still need to be flown. Numbers still matter.

    Mike said,”The lack of any peer threat in the last 40 years, and the prevalence of plenty of high performance jets in America and her allies precludes any risk from reducing numbers at sea.

    The Soviet Union wasn’t a peer threat in the last 40 years?

    Mike said,”High Western training standards, and modern weapons make even lower performing V/STOL planes like the Harrier and the F-35B more than a match for potential enemies.

    Expecting our enemies to always have lower training standards is a very risky proposition.

  52. B.Smitty permalink
    July 22, 2010 10:31 am

    AESA is a radar technology. While it offers improved capabilities in the same package over non-AESA radars, it doesn’t magically turn a small UAV radar into an AEW radar.

  53. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 22, 2010 8:21 am

    Tango, I appreciate your thoughts but even the company calls it a “radar”

    http://www.es.northropgrumman.com/solutions/aesaradar/

  54. July 22, 2010 8:03 am

    Hello,

    Mike Burleson said:

    “The implications of this is you are placing one of the world’s most powerful airborne survelleince and control assets into an increasingly smaller package, which would further sever warfighters from the tyrrany of giant decks, which advocates say is the only way to deploy effective naval aipower from the sea.”

    A.E.S.A. is not a radar but a technology – Active Electronically Scanned Array.
    Radars come in many shapes and sizes and their capability depends to a large extent on the size of the array and the radar’s power output.
    A radar carried by a six foot wingspan Unmanned Air Vehicle does not even come close to performing the tasks of an E2 Hawkeye or even a fighter.
    The difference in performance is like that between a 16″ battleship gun and a 0.38″ revolver.

    tangosix.

Trackbacks

  1. The End of the Age of the Aircraft Carrier « Grand Strategy: The View from Oregon
  2. Military And Intelligence News Briefs — July 23, 2010 | TechsZone
  3. Military And Intelligence News Briefs — July 23, 2010 « Read NEWS
  4. Military And Intelligence News Briefs — July 23, 2010 « Read NEWS

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