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The Case For Small Carriers

July 22, 2006

The time has come, according to Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD):

“I think we need to have a working group that’s involved in a more deliberate consideration” of the issue of reducing the size of traditional aircraft carriers to enable procurement of more vessels that may be smaller, but can be distributed across the globe, House Armed Services projection forces subcommittee Chairman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) said…The issue of building smaller carriers has emerged periodically over the last few years, with the most recent instance coming last year when OFT, under the leadership of then-director Arthur Cebrowski released an Alternative Fleet Architecture Design study, which proposed building smaller warships and aircraft carriers to distribute Navy assets more widely across the seas.
Shrinking an aircraft carrier was also considered as part of an analysis of alternatives conducted in the late 90s before efforts to develop the Navy’s next-generations carrier, CVN-21.
Bartlett believes it is time to revisit the issue because the increased used of precision guided weapons that raise the probability of destroying a target, may be reducing the need for carriers that in the past launched multiple planes to ensure a hit.
“I’ve been asking the question, with the vastly improved capabilities and weapons today, why do we need a carrier that is larger than the minimum size necessary to launch and retrieve a plane,” Bartlett said.

It seems the main reason for continued production of the large deck carrier is to keep jobs in certain Congressman’s districts, rather than for national security reasons. Yet, warfare has passed these vessels by.

Murdoc has more with comments.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 13, 2010 7:48 am

    Douglas said “The only draw back here is these smaller carriers can not support high intensity operations with a single ship like a CVN”

    Why not? With modern aircraft these are dramatically easier to maintain than previous classes of aircraft, notably the F/A-18 versus the F-14 Tomcat, the latter a notorious maintenance hog. This means you get more sorties out of your aircraft, which makes the CVL more enticing and its smaller size less prohibitive. Then of course, with PGMs you require less sorties, dramatically less, to take out any target.

    The standard the USN places on alternatives “not as good as a Nimitz CVN” is offset by the falling numbers of the latter. You can’t build enough for your needs, but a CVL with modern tech is more than capable and would return balance to carrier numbers. A ship can’t be everywhere at once. The CVN is enormously capable, but power concentrated is power wasted. The CVL is the perfect platform for taking advantage of the “one bomb, one hit” economy of smart bombs, and the high maintainability of modern jets.

  2. January 13, 2010 7:38 am

    I have been a supporter of a true light carrier dating back to the CVV.I believe a true light carrier can be built and even work along side CVN’s .A purely VSTOL CVL is a non starter.Ant CVL must be able to support not onltF-35’s but E-2 C/D’s and ASW helos as well .

    I thought a Stol Carrier which can support All naval aircraft ,like was proposed in the early 80’s had a good idea.The F-35 helps make this more practical.But a Stol CVL could embark F/A 18’s ,E-2’s just like a CVN.The displacement was in the 30,000 -40,000 ton range.

    The only draw back here is these smaller carriers can not support high intensity operations with a single ship like a CVN. A new CVL or STOL CV would bring about 30-35 aircraft so you need twice as many to support a Desert Storm situation.


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