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Debunking Aircraft Carrier Myths Pt 3

June 10, 2009
USS America LHA-6 Artist's Conception

USS America LHA-6 Artist's Conception

Summing up this week’s study of large versus small deck aircraft carriers, here are our conclusions:

  • Large armored carriers are no less susceptible to battle damage than smaller ships and are harder to repair in wartime.
  • The Navy’s insistence in buying only high-end Aegis anti-missile escorts reveals the service’s own doubts of the Big Ship’s survivability in combat.
  • More numerous small carriers would take best advantage of the advances in precision bombing aircraft, manned or unmanned. Dispersed in adequate numbers, they would greatly enhance the Navy’s global presence.
  • The benefits of nuclear power is counteracted by its drawbacks such as greatly multiplying the cost for individual ships, which in turn reduces the number of carrier purchases, ensuring a smaller fleet less available for global commitments. The dangers of radiation, whether perceived or real, also alienate even our closest allies during random port visits by ships so equipped.
  • Any aviation capable ship is an asset to a Navy.
  • With cheaper aircraft carriers, precious defense funds can be diverted to improving naval aircraft in quality and especially increasing their numbers, which is the sole reason for the carrier’s existence.

With the basics covered, here is our modest proposal for a future conventional carrier:

America Class Medium Carrier

Some might contend that the cost of a smaller conventional carrier isn’t much less than of a full sized nuclear supercarrier.With a new Marine carrier like the USS America coming in at $3 billion, this is not an exaggerated statement. We think the high cost of America and her sisters are the product of lack of competition in US shipyards as well as the ongoing mismanagement. With a drastic overhaul of shipbuilding practices, greater competition, even building ships in foreign yards, big savings could incur, perhaps bringing us closer to the $1 billion mark.

As a Marine amphibious warship, USS America is already well-protected against damage, even from a nearby nuclear blast. Geared specifically toward aviation support, she is already equipped with spacious hangars to accept F-35B V/STOL version of the Joint Strike Fighter. With the addition of a ski ramp, she could operate the higher performance F-36C, or even the venerable F/A-18 Hornet.

Ex-Soviet carrier Varyag would resemble ski-jump USS America in size and appearance.

Ex-Soviet carrier Varyag would resemble ski-jump USS America in size and appearance.

The airwing would consist of 3 squadrons of 12 planes each, for 36 fighters, a mix of F/A-18 Super Hornets and the F-35C Lightning II JSF as the latter becomes available. Since all carriers typically sail with helicopter equipped escorts, the need for an ASW wing would be negated, save for a few utility choppers. The electronic warfare “Grizzly” complement might be reduced to 2, as would the EW Hawkeyes, though certainly no more than 3, and perhaps advances in technology might integrate the essential missions of both aircraft.

If costs can be reined in, here is what the future USN carrier force may look like:

  • 10 America class CVV Medium Aircraft Carriers
  • 5 of the more recent Nimitz class CVN supercarriers
  • 12 LHA/LHD amphibious aircraft carriers

All this would consist of an easier to maintain carrier fleet, whose aviation assets, whether traditional manned jets or unmanned combat aerial vehicles can be built in adequate numbers and affordably replaced as needed. Further savings would be channeled into the general purpose operating forces. Long-neglected small escort ships, newer littoral ships, submarines, ect. could then be built up into a more balanced fleet, instead the top heavy force the USN currently deploys, wholly tied to supporting the handful of Big Deck supercarriers. Finally future naval strategists could think beyond the modest “313 ship fleet” and to a larger 450-500-600 ship force, with vital numbers more fitting a worldwide force for good as the US Navy.

56 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2012 2:38 pm

    This series reiterates what I said in “Building Your Own Navy”.. .
    Today, it is possible to construct capable aircraft with STOL characteristics.
    These aircraft now are equipped with precision ordinance which weighs a fraction of that previously, witness the change from the Maverick(550 lbs) to
    Brimstone(110 lbs), both of which have the same mission.

    Also, Naval Aviation must be able to support landings, which specifically means “Ground Support”. That role requires aircraft that can loiter and deliver ordinance accurately. This means the ability to maneuver between 100-200 knots. This is not a job for most jets.

    The argument regarding the E2C, is spurious. It’s time to miniturize the electronics, shift to a phased array radar, adopt a STOL wing, use composites to reduce weight, and improve engine performance to get the sluggard airborne off a ramp.

    This is the essence of the argument here. Emphasis on hugely expensive ships is hindering development of new more capable aircraft.


  2. Aaron permalink
    December 5, 2009 12:50 pm

    re: ski-ramp jump for the F-18?
    Yeah, that doesnt sound possible without a catapult and then bam, manpower, size and cost skyrocket.
    The russians have an interesting idea: an arrestor hook for take-off combined with a ski jump on the kuznetsov. The idea is that the plane hooks up before takeoff, spins up its engines to max output then releases.
    Anyone know if this is practical or an option for the f-18?
    They have been offered at 50million $ each by their manufacturer…

  3. June 23, 2009 5:07 am

    okey, I lost track of it up there…but there was something about a navalised global hawk acting as AEW…could anyone explain the problems/benefits of such a conversion, and any ideas on whether anyone is looking in to it?

    yours sincerly


  4. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 16, 2009 7:15 am

    Henry, why won’t the E-2D fly from a ski jump? Also, would it be possible to place the same radar in a Super Hornet platforms, especially the new EW F-18G Grizzly (especially since the Hornet has already replaced 5 or more aircraft on carrier decks!)?

  5. Henry Cobb permalink
    June 15, 2009 9:19 pm

    The big missing piece from a ski-ramp carrier isn’t the high performance supersonic jet fighters (F-35B covers this very well indeed), but the lack of airborne early warning.

    For BMD the Aegis ships need an over the horizon spotter and have worked in pairs for tests. The E-2D will allow a compact force to use the full range of the Standard Missiles, but it won’t fly (more than a few dozen meters) from a ski jump.

    Instead of buying mini-carriers, why not build more big decks and host the ARG’s airwing on the big decks so you have the same number of fighters spread over more decks with the Marine aircraft mixed in.

  6. B.Smitty permalink
    June 13, 2009 11:54 pm

    Scott B.,

    ASW, ASuW, very limited strike, very limited ISR (based on sonar and EW range), very limited SPECOPS delivery. Yes, I’d say they are a niche player.

  7. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 13, 2009 4:51 pm

    “SSKs might be able to deny small regions of ocean, but their slow speeds and modest endurance will limit their reach.”

    Smitty, just wanted to remind you that it was SSK’s of less than 1000 tons which nearly brought Britain to surrender in two world wars, and many of these same boats wrecked millions of tons of shipping off the US coast in early 1942 and into the summer. Japan never did get a handle on the 2000 ton Gato class in the Pacific War. And recall that these early primitive boats spent most of their time on the surface and used their deck gun to sink ship most often to save torpedos.

    And SSK’s have come a looooong way since then!

  8. Scott B. permalink
    June 13, 2009 4:01 pm

    B. Smitty said : “It is just a niche player now”

    Niche player ?

    You cannot be serious…

  9. B.Smitty permalink
    June 13, 2009 1:46 pm


    I doubt the next war will be against a nation possessing a large number of advanced nuke subs. It will likely be against a nation like Iran or North Korea, who’s entire Navy would evaporate in the first few days of the conflict.

    SSKs might be able to deny small regions of ocean, but their slow speeds and modest endurance will limit their reach.

  10. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 13, 2009 11:58 am

    It was a close one with the Super Hornet. We had nothing else.

    That was basically what I said on the sub. It is a niche weapon but a dominant one, if it can chase all other ships including warships into port as I suspect it might in the next war. At the very least the big ships should be afraid, very afraid!

  11. B.Smitty permalink
    June 13, 2009 10:21 am


    But the Super Hornet IS in service and doing well.

    The sub will have to show a lot more flexibility to be the new capital ship. It is just a niche player now (though supreme in it’s niche).

  12. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 13, 2009 6:32 am

    Eric, this is the risk you take with a carrier-centric fleet. Aircraft are getting fewer, costlier, and harder to build. We just barely got the Super Hornet in service on time. There was nothing else outside of old planes! We can’t keep operating this way on a shoe-string much longer. All my hopes are on the submarine as capital ship, as the other post suggested.

  13. June 12, 2009 9:11 pm

    Again, the F-35 is a non starter for anything until it is tested. OR…. just go ahead and build ships in hope that a risky aircraft program will deliver. If it doesn’t work out, no jets for the USMC flat-decks. Groupthink in mass is fun to watch, but it is expensive for the taxpayer.

  14. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 12, 2009 6:27 pm

    Smitty said “having 60% of a CVN wing may be enough for 90% of non-wartime tasking”

    Lets not forget the revolution in precision warfare since the 1990’s with every naval bomber able to fire laser guided or JDAM bombs. I don’t know if anyone has ever calculated the increase in firepower this has brought to carrier air but it must be at least one modern carrier comparable to several “pre-precision” ships.

    This is why I think it safe against to consider the small carrier, mainly because of precision air, and the old Cold War template of the advantages of Big decks are no longer feasible.

  15. B.Smitty permalink
    June 12, 2009 5:05 pm

    Scott B,

    Having more carriers certainly allows more deployment flexibility. You don’t necessarily need a full CVN air wing to have a presence in the Med. You might get by with a CV(X) instead.

    At this point, you probably don’t even need a full CVN air wing to fly the handful of CAS/ISR missions over Iraq.

    In other words, having 60% of a CVN wing may be enough for 90% of non-wartime tasking, as long as it comes with the force multipliers like AEW, EW, tanking, and so on.

    Of course, being dual-rolled CV(X)/LHA could pose much higher demands on these decks.

  16. Scott B. permalink
    June 12, 2009 12:27 pm

    B. Smitty said : “More platform. More flexibility.”

    More platform doesn’t produce more flexibility, especially when it comes to aircraft carriers.

  17. B.Smitty permalink
    June 12, 2009 7:10 am

    Distiller said, “Don’t think that with smaller carriers the overall USN fleet carrier tonnage of 800k to 1000k tons should/could/would change. With smaller carriers in the 50k to 60k tons range the numbers of USN fleet carriers would have to go up towards 18. No savings here, just more flexibility and survivability on a fleet level, more platforms for minor actions, and if done wisely no need for a LHA-6 class.

    Exactly. More platform. More flexibility. No need for LHA-6 OR F-35B.

  18. Distiller permalink
    June 12, 2009 3:03 am


    I know. There were even studies done with massive, land-based 15 meter, 20 degreee ski jumps. Shows that such a ramp cuts in half the take off run of pretty much every fastmover.

    A 2cat angled deck carrier for simultaneous flight ops for aircraft with a SHornet footprint and characteristic needs something like 50.000ts min displ (a bit larger than a Charles de Gaulle). So that’s the threshold, above that a STOVL/ramp carrier is pointless (air wing size, simul ops, seakeeping and all). And I also think that this is about the threshold for the carrier air wing concept these days. That’s why CVF as currently depicted is questionable on a system level – all the costs, but not the capability.

    Below the threshold it’s more like a Sea Control Ship, or an aviation capable auxiliary. (Esp since there will be a substantial gap to the threshold; the USMC carriers are larger because of the linear space requirements for CH-53 ops). Even though LHA-6 might operate 20-something F-35B, the Marines seem more to want it for the V-22, since the LHDs are not really a good platfrom for the Osprey. It’s a freaking mess anyway.

    But another thing: Don’t think that with smaller carriers the overall USN fleet carrier tonnage of 800k to 1000k tons should/could/would change. With smaller carriers in the 50k to 60k tons range the numbers of USN fleet carriers would have to go up towards 18. No savings here, just more flexibility and survivability on a fleet level, more platforms for minor actions, and if done wisely no need for a LHA-6 class.

  19. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 12, 2009 2:34 am

    Sad but true Heretic.

  20. Heretic permalink
    June 12, 2009 12:55 am

    That’s because the job of the Navy is … “not to fight” …

  21. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 11, 2009 6:29 pm

    Distiller said “no doubt that supercarriers are superior in terms of economics – in peace times that is”

    Such a profound statement that sums up the entire problem. The USN bases these studies on lessons from the Korean war and ever since. No thought of battles losses in a war of attrition, just centering the entire procurement strategy on the idea that ships won’t suffer a disabling or mortal attack. The notion that a warship constructed a certain way can be unsinkable is unnerving but very prevalent all the way up to Congress.

    In a way it is understandable, but it certainly can’t continue this way for ever. It took Britain 100 years before she met a peer enemy, and the end was fairly quick.

  22. Heretic permalink
    June 11, 2009 5:44 pm

    The rolling vertical landing thing is to try and get some wing lift when landing so as to increase the limit for bring-back-weight when landing vertically.

    With a Harrier, every +1 knot of Wind Over Deck airspeed increases take off and landing weight (permissible) by ~33 lbs (iirc). Every +1 ft (or was it meter? I forget) of take off (and by extension, landing) roll increased take off and landing weight (permissible) by 6 lbs (again, iirc).

    As you can see, doing a rolling take off of 300 ft before getting a boost from a ski jump (for another ~1200 ft of take off run in the air) from a ship steaming at 25+ knots into the wind, made for a rather dramatic increase in take off weight (and thus, warload) for the Harrier. The Royal Navy “remembers” that experience, and is trying to leverage it with the F-35B … in part because even the Harrier prefers to make rolling vertical landings. The reason the Harrier likes to do this is that at about 30-40 knots of forward airspeed, you can keep the big intakes forward of any FOD being blown up from the ground … which also ensures you aren’t getting (as much) hot gas reingestion into the engine (which degrades performance somewhat alarmingly if you’re not prepared for it) as well as giving the pilot an unobscured view down/forward so they can see where they’re going as they set the plane down on the ground (which helo pilots would kill for…).

    So the Royal Navy isn’t being “stupid” per se with wanting to explore rolling vertical landings, based on their experience(s) with the Harrier. The problem is, the F-35B wasn’t really designed with rolling vertical landings in mind from the outset, since the landing sequence is far more automated than it is in the Harrier. As a result, what’s “easy” for a Harrier is far more difficult (if not perhaps, impractical) to do in a F-35B.

  23. Distiller permalink
    June 11, 2009 4:13 pm

    I’m sorry to say that Mike is pretty much right with “book closed on alternatives”. Those studies were limited in scope from the get-go, and had the usual dishonest attitude of a study were the outcome was pre-determined. There is no doubt that supercarriers are superior in terms of economics – in peace times that is. Like a larger crude carrier is more economical to run than a smaller one. The whole equation would look different if the U.S. were forced to replace a battle loss on the fast track. Then they wouldn’t even have a second shipyard capable of building one out of schedule, or able to get another reactors out of schedule.

    And of course a Hornet could ski-jump. Why shouldn’t it? But strait deck carriers usually can’t do simultaneous take-offs and landings (except on very large carriers), since even those STOVL aircraft tend to use most of the deck (if not for the start itself, then for pre-flight preps and maneuvering). And now they are even talking about rolling landings, which puts carrier aviation back to WW2 level.

  24. June 11, 2009 3:50 pm

    I don’t get why the whole catapult thing is such a mess in carriers anyway. I recall reports about 1930’s experiments with simple combustion engine-driven catapults for airfields – the results were spectacular (yet still not needed on land).

    I never understood the need for the complexity of thousands of high pressure steam pipes for a steam catapult or for a huge electromagnet that can do funny things to all metals nearby in a ship (EMALS).

  25. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 11, 2009 3:39 pm

    And the Navy was never interested in the Harrier! Go figure.

  26. Scott B. permalink
    June 11, 2009 3:21 pm

    BTW, did I mention that, back in the 1980s, the US Navy actually tested ski-jump with an F/A-18 ?

    There is at least one research paper out there on the subject :

    CTOL ski jump: analysis, simulation, and flight test
    by John W. Clark Jr. and Marvin M. Walterst
    Naval Air Development Center, Warminster, Pennsylvania
    Journal of Aircraft (May 1986)
    vol. 23, no.5, pp. 382-389

    I might have one picture or two of an F/A-18 taking off from a ramp.

  27. Heretic permalink
    June 11, 2009 3:15 pm

    So to bring this argument full circle, unless you’re willing to fly V/STOL everything from your carrier (which you’ll note, Harriers plus Helicopters qualify as, which is why the Invicible class of “through deck cruisers” worked the way they did) … unless everything is V/STOL from your flight deck, you’re looking at needing catapults and arresting gear in order to accomodate navalized CTOL.

    AND …

    If you’re going to be building for navalized CTOL “shoot ‘n’ trap” then you’re basically going to want what amounts to (in effect) TWO flight decks … even if it’s one aligned with the keel pointing forward, and a second angled deck aft for landings.

    Now historically, owing to the mono hulled philosophy that has dominated how to build (big) ships like this (primarily for seakeeping reasons, among others) this results in a long, thin ship that’s flat from stem to stern up top, aside from the island … with an angled deck on the “back half” of the ship. The primary driver for the minimum length of the forward flight deck has been the length of the catapults (since you can’t exactly “fold” those). The primary driver for the minimum length of the angled deck is to give enough room for arrestor wire travel during a trap, with additional margin to allow human reaction time to respond for deploying a barrier trap to “entangle” a bolter before running out of deck.

    The angled deck evolved simply because having a bolter aircraft miss the arrestors and come careening down the deck to crash into aircraft parked forward was … BAD … and so the angled deck came into existence (along with the mirrored landing sight, thank you Royal Navy, and a whole host of other landing aids). But there is absolutely nothing which dictates that an aircraft carrier MUST be long and thin with an angled aft deck. It is perfectly possible (although no one has even attempted it yet) to design a catamaran dual hulled ship with two parallel flight decks pointing forward atop the port and starboard hulls, with the island located in the center.

    Part of the problem with making “smaller” carriers is that you quickly start running out of hangar square footage due to the narrow beam width of the ship’s hull. But with a catamaran hull design, you can get a remarkably expansive amount of square footage for hangar space, allowing for a higher number of embarked aircraft simply due to being able to marshal aircraft around the available space more effectively. And with a pair of forward pointing flight decks, the Wind Over Deck issue is the same for both sides, and you can simply duplicate the catapults and arrestors on both sides, so that you have flight deck redundancy in the event of malfunction or failure of equipment. Simply swap which side is launching, and which side is recovering to maintain flight operations in the event of mishap. The bow of both flight decks ends in a ski jump, making catapult launches safer AND bolter aircraft which fail to trap successfully have far more time to recover before going splash.

    The key to all of this? EMALS (technology matured) and the companion electric arrestor system (also tech matured). Put a single SSN-774 type reactor in the port and starboard hulls of this Catamaran Carrier and you might even be able to embark 40 aircraft in a 40-45k ton ship (I dunno, I have no way of doing the design work necessary to proof such a concept).

    But then again, I’m a “Heretic” when it comes to things like this (^_-). No doubt someone’s going to come along in short order to exclaim how a catamaran has absolutely horrible seakeeping (or somesuch complaint) …

  28. Scott B. permalink
    June 11, 2009 3:07 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “The Navy closed the book on carrier alternatives long ago,”

    That simply ISN’T true.

    I could only encourage you to try and get hold of the following article :

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

    What you would learn, among other things, is that :

    1) After CVX was established in March 1996, about 70 total studies were developed to investigate the range of design features : airwing size and type, propulsion type, ship mobility performance, survivability,…

    2) The most economical choice between the small and large air wing is the large air wing due to cost efficiency. E.g., in relative terms, a carrier with an air wing of 75 would have a lifecycle cost of 100, whereas a carrier with an air wing of 55 would a lifecycle cost of 92.

  29. Heretic permalink
    June 11, 2009 2:47 pm

    Harriers were launching and recovering in Sea State 6 … and the weather was quite adverse, since WINTER WAS COMING.

  30. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 11, 2009 2:15 pm

    Thanks for the info Heretic. I recall also that the Harriers could take off in almost any adverse weather that would have grounded fixed wing planes. And they were in the South Atlantic notable for its adverse weather!

  31. Heretic permalink
    June 11, 2009 1:42 pm

    First, a follow-up note to something I mentioned towards the tail end of comments on Part 1 of this thread … Railguns and Free Electron Lasers.

    Navy gives Raytheon $150M for laser weapon

    Almost right on cue, you might say … {rolls eyes}

    Now, with respect to the ski-jump and small(er) carriers in general, and the F/A-18 E/F/G clan and all the other fixed wing assets you might want to fly off a flattop deck … like say … an E-2D Hawkeye, should the USN ever stop sitting on their thumbs for such a critical AEW asset … well, like they say in the TV commercials, “but wait, there’s more!”

    You aren’t EVER going to be wanting to fly JUST fixed wing fighters off a flattop deck. As proved by the Royal Navy in ’82 … you really need an AEW asset watching over your carrier, and the RN didn’t have one when they sailed to the South Atlantic. That meant that the Destroyers had to perform picket duty for air defense … and they paid the price for it (and in the process found out why an aluminum superstructure was NOT such a good idea, since the stuff BURNS!). Now … whether this AEW is provided by a FLKA (Funny Looking King Aircraft, thank you Bill Sweetman) or some sort of navalized CAEW (Confromal Airborne Early Warning, thank you Israel) or some sort of derivative of the Wedgetail Tophat MESA radar (thank you RAAF) or *whatever* … you’re going to need to be able to put some sort of AEW up in the air from a carrier deck. Even if it’s “just” a navalized Global Hawk (with folding wings) that you launch and recover from the carrier, you’re still going to have to “put it up there” to watch over your carrier.

    And pretty much NONE of those fixed wing aircraft, from fighters to UAVs to FLKAs, does vectored thrust ala Pegasus engine inside a Harrier … which is what made the ski jump such a successful advance for the Royal Navy.

    Now … to be fair … you could almost certainly land a JAS 39 NG on a ski jump carrier without catapult/arrestor gear. You could certainly land a Pilatus PC-6 Turboporter on one, no trouble. There are certainly other fixed wing aircraft with STOL performance that can dispense with the catapults and arrestor wires … but the planes have to be designed to deliver that kind of performance from the outset, since it’s not something you can retrofit in all that well (even if you add reverse thrust JTO rocket bottles on the wing hardpoints).

    The simple fact of the matter is that a ski jump makes EVERY take off safer for fixed wing aircraft that make a rolling take off. It’s “dirt simple” tech that has almost no moving parts whatsoever and is incredibly easy to design. The “problem” is that in order to use it most effectively/safely you need to do RESEARCH on all the variables involved … on each aircraft type … that will be making use of it. You essentially need to “clear” the ramp design for use, and settle on a curve+angle that is “safe” for all of the aircraft (landing gear types) that will make use of it.

    So the barrier to entry is a matter of flight testing … and ship design. Kinda hard to make use of a ski jump when the ship designers are card carrying members of the Flat Earth Society (with respect to shape of the flight deck). Heck, just look up how much trouble the Royal Navy gave the Harriers with sticking a point defense gun smack dab in the MIDDLE of the bow in exactly the place where you’d HAVE TO run a ski jump if you were going to have one with the Invincible class “through deck cruisers” they bought. It was as if the “guardians of ship building” were doing everything in their power to PREVENT a ski jump from ever being built (no matter how much of an advantage it gave to the embarked aircraft).

  32. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 11, 2009 12:36 pm

    Aircraft alternatives shouldn’t be discounted if the Super Hornet doesn’t prove feasible, though I would try it first since we are still trying to maintain capabilities in the carrier fleet. Here are a few proposals:

    F/A-18C/D Hornet -New build, with only a modest decline in capability.
    F-35B STOVL version of the JSF
    X-45 J-UCAS-Actually a great improvement on the range

  33. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 11, 2009 10:17 am

    Scott, what I am saying is, lets try it before we close the book. The Navy closed the book on carrier alternatives long ago, and look where it got us. A sinking fleet and an aging force.

  34. Scott B. permalink
    June 11, 2009 5:42 am

    Mike Burlseon said : “So, in others words we can’t really say for certain the Super Hornet can’t fly from a ski jump. Thanks Heretic!”

    What you’re sort of saying here is that because it’s not proven that it can be done, then it can be done. Bit of a spin, don’t you think ?

    Since you were the first to make the claim that F/A-18E/F could operate from LHA-6 with a simple ski-jump (and you didn’t mention anything about arrested landings either), don’t you think that the burden of the proof should be on you ?

  35. elgatoso permalink
    June 10, 2009 11:45 pm

    she could operate the higher performance F-36C, or even the venerable F/A-18 Hornet.
    f-36c?????= f-35c?????

  36. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 10, 2009 7:50 pm

    “there have been NO research studies done on the ability of the F/A-18E/F/G to *successfully* take off using a ski jump to shorten take off roll.”

    So, in others words we can’t really say for certain the Super Hornet can’t fly from a ski jump. Thanks Heretic!

  37. Scott B. permalink
    June 10, 2009 1:18 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “I know the Su-33 Flanker used on Russian carriers, and supposedly on the similar sized Varyag is about 10,000 lbs lighter than the SP, but the latter has over double the thrust.”

    The AL-31F on the Su-33 has a dry thrust of 16,750 lbf and a thrust with afterburner of 27,560 lbf.

    The General Electric F414-GE-400 on the F/A-18E/F has a dry thrust of 14,000 lbf and a thrust with afterburner of 22,000 lbf.

    On a sidenote, as it currently stands, it’s Russian Carrier sans ‘s’ in the end because there’s only one.

  38. Heretic permalink
    June 10, 2009 1:06 pm

    F/A-18E/F/G: Why?

    Well, Mike … shall we simply begin with the FACT that the LHA-6 has no catapult nor arresting gear allowing the F/A-18 to exceed stall speed when making an *unassisted* rolling take off, nor is there enough deck length to allow the brakes to stop the plane when landing (without assistance) to prevent a bolter situation that results in soggy planes.

    Furthermore … to my knowledge, there have been NO research studies done on the ability of the F/A-18E/F/G to *successfully* take off using a ski jump to shorten take off roll. Like weapon drop testing, this is something you have to TEST in order to be able to do properly. And there are plenty of variables involved … such as take off roll distance, engine thrust, angle of ski jump exit, radius of the curvature on the ski jump, how much downforce the landing gear can take when accelerating through the ski jump, stall speed of the aircraft, maximum deck pitch of the ship when conducting launches (because launching through a negative pitch reduces the “loft distance” of the ski jump) since you can’t all that accurately predict an exit time from the ski jump when launching under own power rather than being “shot” by catapult off the bow, wind over deck “assist” to reaching stall speed … and on and on and on and on.

    The ski jump itself is “dirt simple basic tech” to build, but “matching” it up to the capabilities and “needs” of specific aircraft types and weights requires a TESTING regime … which not only has the USN not done, but shows NO interest in pursuing.

    How’s that for a … “why?”

  39. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 10, 2009 12:55 pm

    Smitty, if you notice the aircraft complement, the America CV isn’t a STOVL carrier, which brings me back to Scott B’s comment that the Super Hornet wouldn’t fly from it.

    I know the Su-33 Flanker used on Russian carriers, and supposedly on the similar sized Varyag is about 10,000 lbs lighter than the SP, but the latter has over double the thrust. Does anyone else disagree that CTOL aircraft couldn’t take off from a ski-jump equipped America with a 844 ft length?

  40. B.Smitty permalink
    June 10, 2009 12:46 pm


    I too think we need to consider a class of somewhat smaller, non-nuclear carriers to be bought in conjunction with the Fords, but I wouldn’t choose the Americas. Relying on STOVL, IMHO, is too risky and limiting.

    Personally, I think the ESG should shed its LHA/LHD in favor of an angled-deck CATOBAR carrier like the proposed French PA2 (cousin to the British STOVL CVF). Such a carrier could utilize the full suite of existing and upcoming Navy fixed and rotary wing aircraft including, potentially, Avenger (Predator C) and N-UCAS. It could also carry critically important force multipliers like the E-2D and Growler without modification.

    Such a vessel (dubbed CV(X)) would certainly be more expensive than the LHA-6, but we could pay for it by slowing the Ford class buy from 1 every 5 years to one every 7 (dropping from a steady state of 10 CVNs to 7).

    Buying 10 CV(X)s in place of LHA/LHDs, plus 7 Fords over a 50 year period would actually increase the number of real carriers available for independent tasking. CV(X)s could either deploy as part of an ESG, or by themselves in a CVBG.

    It would also allow us to cancel the F-35B.

    A future, independently-tasked CV(X) airwing might consist of the following:

    – 12 F/A-18E/Fs (or F-35Cs)
    – 12 Avengers
    – 4 EA-18Gs
    – 3-4 E-2Ds
    – 6 MH-60s

    Or it could replace the Avengers with 12 more Super Hornets.

    Acting as part of an ESG, its airwing could change to the following:

    – 6 F/A-18E/Fs
    – 6 Avengers
    – 12 MV-22s
    – 3-4 E2-Ds
    – 4 CH-53Ks
    – 4 AH-1Z
    – 4 UH-1Y

    Another side benefit of an angle decked carrier is it could launch and recover fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft simultanously. The current LHA/LHDs have to stop all rotary activity and clear the flight line to permit STOVL takeoffs.

    We would have to make up the shortfall in Marine vehicle and cargo stowage somehow for ESGs.

  41. Scott B. permalink
    June 10, 2009 11:28 am

    Mike Burleson said : “Why?”

    Because, even assuming you’ll get your F/A-18 in the air, it won’t carry any meaningful payload and fuel.

  42. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 10, 2009 11:24 am

    Sven said: ““F-36C”: typo” Not this time, the point being to place high performance aircraft on (fairly) low end platforms.

    The numbers were for 8 Wasps and 4 LHA-6=12 amphibious carriers

    As for the still new Nimitz’s, they could be placed in reserve as was the practice right after WW 2, when we weren’t riding these now extremely expensive vessels half to death. Or considering the many billions of annual upkeep and refueling over the span of its life, good riddance.

    The reason I favor smaller ships is to restore sanity to Navy shipbuilding. To me a increasingly smaller fleet, ships which are drastically rising in price and sinking in quality, with shoddy workmanship, doesn’t sound like one created with “objective analysis”. The old ways aren’t working and I am offering alternatives. The Navy says there is no alternatives, so please tell me who exactly isn’t thinking straight here?

  43. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 10, 2009 10:59 am

    Scott B said: “You won’t be able to operate F/A-18 in any meaningful way”


  44. Scott B. permalink
    June 10, 2009 10:21 am

    Distiller said : “The LHA-6 class in an aberration, not fitting any operational concept. Something the Marines want in their never ending quest to grow into a full spectrum armed force inside the armed forces.”

    For your information, the Marine Corps literally VOMIT the LHA-6 at present.

    Here is, for instance, what BGen Walter L. Miller (Assistant Deputy Commandant Combat Development and Integration, USMC) wrote in a brief he presented at the 13th Expeditionary Warfare Conference in October 2008 :

    “Truncate the LHA(R) no well deck big deck at two ships and assess big deck surface interface requirements to get LH(X) right.”


  45. Scott B. permalink
    June 10, 2009 10:18 am

    Mike Burleson said : “The airwing would consist of 3 squadrons of 12 planes each, for 36 fighters, a mix of F/A-18 Super Hornets and the F-35C Lightning II JSF as the latter becomes available.”

    Maximum number of F-35B you can put on an LHA-6 is 22.

  46. Scott B. permalink
    June 10, 2009 10:10 am

    Mike Burleson : “With the addition of a ski ramp, she could operate the higher performance F-36C, or even the venerable F/A-18 Hornet.”

    You won’t be able to operate F/A-18 in any meaningful way (if any at all) from an LHA and just a ski-jump.

  47. Distiller permalink
    June 10, 2009 9:08 am

    The LHA-6 class in an aberration, not fitting any operational concept. Something the Marines want in their never ending quest to grow into a full spectrum armed force inside the armed forces. It’s a ship to justify the F-35B, a plane which can’t be justified in the first place.

  48. June 10, 2009 8:48 am

    “F-36C”: typo

    There are 2 Tarawas and 8 Wasps, a total of 10, not 12.

    CVN-72 (the sixth-youngest Nimitz class ship) is only 25 years old – good to go another 15 at least. It was refitted recently; 2007.

    What’s the point of phasing out CVNs early in favour of building new CVs at great cost?

    Sometimes your posts look as if you favour smaller ships due to subjective feelings, not due to objective analysis.
    Your proposal would cost more than status quo for no additional capability.

  49. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 10, 2009 8:40 am

    NZ was also on my mind when I wrote this.

  50. June 10, 2009 8:28 am

    It all sounds reasonable, particularly in the face of the huge costs of the proposed Ford Class carriers. Which may reduce the “Ford force” to 8.

    The “no nuclear ships” or “nuclear free” sensitivities will probably remain whether or not carriers are nuclear powered.

    Half the sensitivity is whether US Navy ships carry nuclear weapons. This is certainly the case with New Zealand, near my neck of the woods. New Zealand found the USN response “we can neither confirm, nor deny” to be unacceptable. So no USN ship have visited the land of the Kiwis since around 1980.



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