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Quad Countries to Operate USS Kitty Hawk?

July 15, 2009
USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63)

USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63)

An intriguing proposal via Defpro.com as suggested by US historian Jason Verdugo:

China’s secret construction of six aircraft-carriers is now out in the open and its aggressive expansion is scaring its neighbours. The only country that can theoretically contain it is the US, but under Obama and waning domestic support in the US for solitary military campaigns, especially against a powerful enemy, support is quickly fading so they cannot be expected to intervene.

The Austral-Asian region, therefore, needs to strengthen up in groups like IONS. It needs to leave behind its history, its differences and come up with creative solutions. One such suggestion is that the Quadrilateral (Quad) Initiative countries (Australia, Japan, India and the US) should band together and operate the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk that the US decommissioned in January 2009. If China’s growth is really peaceful as it claims, then it should feel no threat because getting four diverse countries to agree on a particular course of action will be inherently difficult.

My own suggestion if India and the other states are concerned over China’s mythical carriers: build more submarines! But still an intriguing idea, and certainly the Kitty Hawk is no older than the ex-WW 2 British carriers the Indians operate. Still, it seems a single carrier would hardly be enough, so why not send them the newly retired USS John F Kennedy as well? What think you, readers?

20 Comments leave one →
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  5. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 21, 2009 10:34 am

    Yet the terrorists and rogue states like North Korea are using very cheap methods to pose their will on the United Nations. So can we say our way is better? It is true that a good defense establishment doesn’t come cheap, but neither should it bankrupt a country. If your defense isn’t working, you look for alternatives, and this usually entails a back to basics. And cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean less capable.

  6. Jason Verdugo permalink
    July 21, 2009 10:30 am

    True projected Naval power is not cheap. AT Mahan said the same thing in his book “The Influence of SeaPower on History” and his other books. “Power Projection” is the key to naval power. Sure you can put dozens of cruise missiles on a ship, but you are limited by your capacity and range on those missiles. Plus a small ship can take fewer torps in the keel than a large ship with more crew avaialable for damage control. (which is missed in the LCS design, debate later) Ship types are complimentary as you mention, a carrier is vulnerable with out a good missile cover. That works both ways, the F-14 was great for fleet defense. No decision is easy or cheap. India tried to go cheap with the Gorshkov and we see where that went. With China moving today and right now against India and has hundreds of missiles at Taiwan, and adding more everyday. This isnt just an intellectual exercise for a hypothetical scenario a decade into the future. This is as immediate as armed aircraft in the air on their way to their targets. This is why we always have a carrier group not far from the India Ocean. Europe is moving to a shared airlift concept. So this isnt impossible to have a shared use of a ship, with rotating contry command, but were are aware and agree that the logistics, training and deployment will be complicated.

  7. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 21, 2009 7:31 am

    Manu, I don’t think this is a bad idea, but it may have trouble getting one of our capital ships past the American Congress. The Russians are in a bad way themselves and are having lots of trouble with their own ships, so I’m not surprised the Admiral Gorshkov is taking so long. And didn’t India have trouble with some Russian Tulwar frigates a while back? So buying ships from the West who have such a tried and true naval air arms and understand how to build air-capable ships would be sensible.

    I do notice all nations having difficulties with their new large, high tech warships, which is why I often encourage navies to pick out a single, capable capital ship design as the center of their fleet. If you buy aircraft carriers for expeditionary warfare, you have to buy very costly missile escorts to defend them, plus endure a very complicated and controversial aircraft procurement cycle, which can also run up expenses drastically, as the British and Americans are discovering.

    My point is, instead of building up a traditional carrier arm, why not just purchase many missile firing warships, with such smart weapons often duplicating the naval air mission of air defense and even long range surface bombardment. Then there is the stealthy submarine, probably the most survivable of all naval warships, which can launch missiles and deny the sea to offending forces, even aircraft carriers. My point is, for rising medium size powers like India, or Australia, or Japan, and old-fashioned naval arm might not be as effective, survivable, or affordable than a surface battleship or submarine taking advantage of the new decider in sea warfare, the cruise missile.

  8. July 20, 2009 10:47 pm

    I wrote this article with Jason http://tinyurl.com/kratut. It was more an intellectual exercise but yesterday the Ruskis raised the price of the Gorshkov another $700m from our last expected price to US$2.9 billion
    http://www.hindu.com/2009/07/20/stories/2009072056991800.htm

    The chances of China forcefully taking Taiwan are high. So the U.S. has to decide if it would intervene or not. If it does, does it want to go alone or with the Quad countries? If it does go with the Quad, better to establish relations now than start ringing them after the missiles are flying.

    For India, China is now aggressively claiming the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh which has been inhabited as Indian territory since longer than 1947. For argument’s sake, even if China had a historical legit claim to it but the people in AP are happy as part of India as they have always been, why start a war with a peaceful, functional democracy over it?

    For Australia, the ongoing Rio Tinto case should be a wake up call that China will do what it needs to, to control resources. And this is only going to get worse

    For Japan, who do you think is supplying all the tech and balls to Nth Korea? And boy do they have bad blood in their past!

  9. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 17, 2009 3:35 pm

    China is certainly a competitor Jack, and nothing resembling an ally.

  10. Jack Rogers permalink
    July 17, 2009 2:10 pm

    Sooner or later we are going to have to fight the Chinese. Don’t know about you, but given the range of shipborn weaponry now adays, I would rather them in the Yellow Sea with Korea and Japan as bases than fight them 300 miles off Hawaii or San Francisco. We have much more in common with Australia and India than we have with the Chinese.

  11. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 16, 2009 9:10 pm

    Joe, good point!

  12. Joe permalink
    July 16, 2009 2:42 pm

    Mike wrote: “As long as the ChiComs are blowing their funds on capital ships…”

    Technically speaking, is that their money…or ours? ;)

  13. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 16, 2009 1:20 pm

    Byron is stealing my earlier idea, which is OK! As long as the ChiComs are blowing their funds on capital ships, they have less money to spend on more effective asymmetrical platforms like submarines, cruise missile firing ships and anti-ship ballistic missiles. Of course, like the Germans in the World Wars who also preferred capital ships, the few unconventional weapons they have might be enough to cause much trouble.

  14. Byron permalink
    July 16, 2009 11:34 am

    We’d be better off giving JFK to the PLAN. The money it would take to keep her running would keep them from building two new carriers. No kidding, Justin, when you were kicking around in ’03, I was putting band aids all over JFK. She was in very bad shape when she was de’com’d (and I was a leadman for shipfitters/welders during the decom), and I have been from the 0-11 to the seventh deck.

    Lastly, who’s going to provide the CV qualified pilots for a quadrilateral carrier? Escorts? Hell, aircraft for that matter! Don’t forget little things like E2-Cs and EA-6Bs either.

  15. Paul V. Patty permalink
    July 16, 2009 8:20 am

    A romantic idea, but in reality pure nonsense.

  16. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 16, 2009 5:36 am

    I do not see this happening either, and it wasn’t even an official proposal from any government. Still, stranger things have happened, recalling in the early 1980s Reagan offering two of our retired Essex class CV’s to Margaret Thatcher.

  17. Distiller permalink
    July 16, 2009 1:02 am

    Technical things needs replacement every so many years. An approach like a Gothic cathedral, with constant renovation as a design feature, where the shape stays identical, but aside from the fundaments almost no stone is actually from the initial build, is not cheaper than periodically building new stuff. And even if you did it, you’d pretty soon have a hard time integrating new things like climate control, network cables, and sensors and NavCom.

    But agree that Kennedy went out of service surprisingly soon. Might actually happen again, in case the Navy reduces to 8/9 CVN, then two or three will be retired in close sequence, and then it might even be that one is retired instead of RCOH’d.

  18. Justin permalink
    July 15, 2009 11:36 pm

    It is an interesting idea, but not even remotely likely to occur. These vessels are too costly to operate for the sole pretenses of defending against an attack that isn’t even viable at this point from the Chinese. In addition, the strategic interests of a quadrilateral venture of this magnitude would by nature make it inherently difficult to achieve any real objectives purposed by the nations operating the vessels.

    Back in ’03 when I was on the JFK down in Mayport just “kicking the tires” the idea of retiring her was sickening. With the amount of money we are pouring into these behemoths annually, we should be able to use them indefinitely. We have to get away from the idea that everything has to be replaced every so many years–retrofit these hulls, upgrade defensive capabilities, and allow these ships to serve their missions for as long as possible.

  19. Brandon permalink
    July 15, 2009 11:24 pm

    The U.S. has already denied that it wants to sell the Kitty Hawk to India: http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/feb/28kitty.htm

    One problem that would have to be worked around is the requirement that the Navy keep several carriers in reserve to refurbish and return to service is required. Three of those carriers are in terrible shape and are scheduled to be scuttled and two are on donation hold, leaving only Kitty Hawk and the JFK in reserve.

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