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UAV versus the Aircraft Carrier

June 30, 2008

Jeff Huber thinks the Navy’s new N-UCAS combat drone is a bad idea. We can’t imagine why:

The problem with all N-UCAS’s beautiful ugliness is that any airplane that can fly 6,000 miles from an aircraft carrier beginning to steam out of its naval base in San Diego can just as easily take off from the naval base in San Diego, which also happens to be a naval air station. If the jet can fly 6,000 miles refueled it can fly 12,000 miles refueled…

And this is a bad thing? Yes, according to Huber because:

Northrop Grumman is also the world’s only manufacturer of catapult aircraft carriers like the current Nimitz class, and any future class of carriers will be developed and manufactured by Northrop Grumman. If, eventually, someone starts getting the bright idea that the Navy doesn’t need both N-UCAS and aircraft carriers, Northrop Grumman will drop N-UCAS like a radioactive potato. For now, though, N-UCAS is a moneymaker, so nobody at Northrop Grumman’s going to look up its skirt.

Well, he has a point that once the carriers come under threat you’ll suddenly start hearing of all the defects in the N-UCAS program, much like what happened to the arsenal ship in the 1990s. But a million dollar UAV versus an $11 billion carrier increasingly vulnerable to cruise missile armed submarines? Which would you choose?

The manned air proponents don’t get the point. Traditional airpower is on the wain due to the extreme cost of defending such huge aerial targets against precision SAMs. UAVs are cheaper and expendable, plus can stay on station far longer than a manned strike plane. They are the future of warfare and so far only the army seems to be getting this right. Already they are taking on missions once the sole domain of the USAF. Here’s hoping they won’t have to displace the navy as well and we end up with a single service!

7 Comments leave one →
  1. charbookguy permalink
    June 30, 2008 9:46 pm

    Thanks Mrs. D!

  2. Mrs. Davis permalink
    June 30, 2008 9:22 pm

    The 6,000 nm argument does not reflect response time.

  3. charbookguy permalink
    June 30, 2008 7:41 pm

    I agree that price is the ultimate killer of big ships. We’d likely still have BBs around if the opposite were true, even after Pearl Harbor.

  4. Distiller permalink
    June 30, 2008 4:22 pm

    The threat for the carriers will come from budgets and most of all the USN’s inability and unwillingness to re-think the whole carrier aviation and amphib assault complex. The new LHA-6 is the best example of that. If the forces don’t unify, they will die.

    In 20 years autonomous aerial systems will be routine. If the USN doesn’t follow technology and stays relevant, it might be just one more reason to reduce the carrier force.

    The 6000nm argument doesn’t take into account expended ammo?

  5. charbookguy permalink
    June 30, 2008 1:17 pm

    Ha ha! “Robots are people too” eh?

  6. west_rhino permalink
    June 30, 2008 12:25 pm

    So how long ‘ere the left demands an acknowlegement of the sentience of robots and UAVs in particular?

    Although the notion of rogue tanker UAV, carrying a misplaced USAF 15 MT warhead glassifies Tehran has some merits fo plausible deniability. Achmedinijihad and Mullahs cannot find a landline from hades to deny that the great satan was right.


  1. Carriers: The Weakest Link Pt 1 « New Wars

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