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Aircraft Carrier Fleet May Fall to 7

July 24, 2009

Has there ever been a case in history where a battleship was sent to defend a nation without her guns? This bizarre scenario may actually occur unless the US Navy deals with it’s “fighter gap” of several hundred warplanes. From DoD Buzz we learn:

At a discussion this week on the Navy’s “fighter gap” at the Center for National Policy in Washington, one of the defense world’s most knowledgeable sources on all things Navy, CRS’ Ron O’Rourke, tried to put a definitive number on that “gap.” From the Navy’s public statements, O’Rourke calculated the number at anywhere between 125 and 243 aircraft, although some in industry contend it’s 300 or more. The peak of this shortfall is projected to occur around 2015; the Navy contends a shortage of strike-fighters could reduce the number of available carriers from 11 to seven around that time.

An interesting phenomena in recent decades has been the dramatic increase in aircraft carrier size, while the number of warplanes needed on her spacious decks have actually declined. With the advent of new precision bombs in modern warfare, widespread use at sea not starting until the 1990’s, naval aircraft are more capable than ever. With one plane (or UAV) having the ability to destroy a target once required of huge airwings and multiple sorties, it only stands to reason we have entered a revolution in carrier power, which a few big decks with sizable numbers of strike bombers fail to adequately take advantage of. Yet the Navy still insists our shrinking number of 100,000 ton flattops with their 90 warplanes are the only way to deploy airpower at sea!

One person who says carrier numbers should be rethought is strategist Frank Hoffman, who argued in a recent CNAS paper that at an estimated $11 billion for the new Ford class carrier, large deck carriers are too costly, too oriented towards open-ocean fighting between battle fleets and air wings are too short ranged. The Navy should reduce the number of carriers to no more than 8 and should emphasize long range unmanned strike aircraft such as the N-UCAS and make more innovative use of the aviation-capable large deck amphibious ships for forward presence and power projection, Hoffman said.

We still see a great need for naval airpower, but it should be spread among a many small ships, rather than a handful of large ones. Such a strategy would take better advantage of the individual capabilities of modern aircraft equipped with smart bombs and missiles. I can see a group of small corvettes each able to launch 2-3 UCAVs so armed as a carrier replacement for many functions, such as supporting troops in a land battle.

The strategy we cling to perhaps for nostalgia reasons emphasizes the ship is more important than the weapon she carries. But what is a battleship without her guns but a hollow shell?

The Scoop Deck also commented on this story.

36 Comments leave one →
  1. leesea permalink
    July 27, 2009 5:04 pm

    Bsmitty,
    ANY alternative to the LPD17 would be an improvement. More, less expensive hulls provide presence in lower phase scenarios.

    ALL navy amphibs do NOT need to be forcible entry capable. There are Combat lifts and there are Admin lifts. Two different beasts/ships.

    There are many possible missions for foreign LHDs and Absalon and Endevours etc.

    CVL is the biggest ship needed in the New Navy Fighting Machine by Capt Hughes.

    Ski-jumps are a contentious design which I can’t answer.

  2. B.Smitty permalink
    July 27, 2009 1:23 pm

    Lee,

    Should the largest ship in the Greenwater Navy be a CVL? Or just a smaller LHD like the Juan Carlos that you mentioned?

    Question for those with an amphibious background: Could something like the Juan Carlos wholly replace the LPD-17 (assuming a suitable combat systems swap)? It sure feels like a far more flexible configuration than the San Antonio. Yes, it may cost more, but IMHO, it would be money well spent in this era of dispersed operations.

    Maybe if we bought a ski-ramp LHD based on the San Antonio (roughly the size and configuration of the Juan Carlos), we could eliminate the large LHA/LHD from the ARG. A future-ARG might then have four of these smaller LHDs (rather than one big LHA/LHD, and LPD and an LSD). The ACE could be asymetrically split between the ships, with fixed wing aviation on one, and rotary wing split amongst the other three.

    When not being used as part of an ARG, each LHD could act as a sea control ship in a littoral squadron or SAG. 8-10 fighters plus 12 helos and the C3I facilities would be a major addition to any task force.

  3. leesea permalink
    July 27, 2009 12:24 pm

    One cannot ignore what the PLAN is doing now. Their fleets improving and so is the Russian’s. At some point down the road, a big bluewater presence will be needed.
    There is a good argument that the next maritime confrontation will be in the Greenwaters of the world. Carriers and big corvettes may not be so useful there, and any big naval ship can be easily taken out of action while in those dangerous waters. So I subscribe to many smaller combatants whose (unofrutnate) lose can be sustained.

    BTW the 80/20 split was cost not hull numbers

  4. Alex. (the new'un) permalink
    July 27, 2009 11:29 am

    for those of you that like the idea of having the entire escort fleet composing of 4,000-4,500T warships http://www.armarisgroup.com/files/pdf/FM%20400.pdf might be worth a look at, the ASW variant appears to be a more modern T23 esque warship, and a reconfigureable deck aft is a great idea.

    It seems to be the EXACT kind of ship that you lot over here advocate! and is what i would like to see filling the C.2 requirement of FSC (although featuring British kit such as Mk.8 Mod.1, Artisan MRR, Stingray torpedos, etc.)

  5. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 27, 2009 6:54 am

    Thanks New Alex! Thought I had read that somewhere.

    Leesea wrote “we can have a Navy which is 80% deepwater ships and 20% greenwater ships/boats”

    To me this is so much overkill. I would like to see the numbers flipped. Battle force ships are now so much more capable today because of precision weapons. And we have no comparable carrier fleets out there built or building.

    When in all history has the Hi End Navy outnumbered the Low End? Perhaps in the Age of Galleys. But all ships were littoral ships in those days.

  6. Alex. (the new'un) permalink
    July 27, 2009 5:44 am

    Mike, the Malaysians have VLS Sea wolf on their F2000 Frigates (can’t remember what they’re called) and ontop of that Brunei ordered some OPV(H)s from BAe with Sea wolf as the AAW suite(there have been problems with those and IIRC they’re rotting on the clyde somewhere untouched)

  7. leesea permalink
    July 26, 2009 11:09 pm

    We all have to stop thinking in terms of either or. Capt Hughes of Naval Postgraduate School has a study which says in essence we can have a Navy which is 80% deepwater ships and 20% greenwater ships/boats for LESS money than we are now spending. His numbers look good.

    The two parts of the navy have to cooperate AND work together BUT they are constructed to fight naval warfare differently. It seems to work for me.

    For comparison, look at Italian Cavours, Spanish Juan Carlos, Japanese DDH and some other smaller carriers (except those supporting amphib ops).

    The largest ship in the Greenwater Navy would be a CVL which is a smaller aircraft carrier, straight deck using the F-35B and all other aviation assets which could not be put on smaller corvettes, cutters, OPVs etc. The CVLs would be built in smaller numbers as would the CVNs.

    The small surface combatants could be built in large numbers since they cost less to buy. Their operational advantage would also be in number dispersed into greenwaters where they could “lurk” and attack the lower end of enemy shipping both warships and merchants. (Remember how USN subs were used towards the end of WW2, also the PT boats).

    The deepwater navy made up of avaitors and submariners are far too myopic about what there big, expensive, but too few platforms, can do as opposed to what will be needed in the next 1o years or so.

    The key premise of course is that presence is carried out with more hulls in more places.

  8. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 26, 2009 6:11 pm

    Defiant asked “Weather you can put these systems on a 2000t vessel, I’m not sure.”

    Israel is planning on utilizing its Barack anti-missile system on its new corvettes in conjunction with the MF-STAR Naval Multi-Mission Radar. See here:

    http://defense-update.com/products/m/mf_star.htm

    http://defense-update.com/products/b/barak8.htm

    And also:

    http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/News/the_Front/09/07/2601.htm

    Also, on the other post about HMS Iron Duke, I was curious if you could place the Sea Wolf anti-missile system on board a corvette size ship. At one time studies were done on a Lightweight Sea Wolf. Maybe the Original Alex has more info on this?

  9. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 26, 2009 5:06 pm

    Sven, often in peacetime you get alot of things wrong, which you only discover in wartime. By then its too late. And with 65 years and no major wait at sea, you can get alot of things wrong, like putting new wine in a few old, very large, and expensive bottles.

  10. Alex. (the new'un) permalink
    July 26, 2009 4:41 pm

    4 Burkes, you could get 6 F-100s for that. or 5 T45s[they cost £600m or $1bn, but you could probably shave 20% off of that price building them en masse stateside], De Zeven Provincen, i have figures at my disposal that quote €400m but that seems far too cheap, i would expect €500m at the cheapest(around $700m) which is roughly the cost of building the German ships of similar spec

    now you would favour one of the above over 4 burkes?

    Helicopters are not cheap expendable assets; a Merlin HM.1 out of the box will set you back £60m($100m) on a small ASW ship, the cost of the helicopter will make a large contribution to the final cost of the platform. (obviously you don’t factor in the cost of a helicopter into the ship design but it’s not something that can be overlooked, more ships = more helicopters.. the potential extra hulls by cutting down on size is getting smaller and smaller here!

    I’m not an advocate of a super huge warship navy, I’m not an advocate of a navy of Corvettes (Sweden is different), there has to be compromise and each of them hold a valid part

    PS:As a bit of a sidenote some of you may be interested to know that the whole T45 project(6 Destroyers) has cost HMGOV and therefore the British taxpayer £6.6BN($11bn) whereas the actual building of the ships only takes out a wedge of around £3.6BN, that’s what we get for flogging a dead horse for 10 years and paying a large proportion of the costs at the same time, including for the SYLVER launchers and Aster missiles of which the UK gets limted workshare… and the French and Italians still blame the UK leaving the project for the high cost and limted numbers of Horizon frigates(Destroyers really)!

    PPS: the cost of the Merlins doesn’t include R&D, spares, training or support, it’s based on the inital procurement of £2.5bn for 44 airframes (after factoring out the R&D, training, spares and support costs from a starting figure of £4.65bn) even when the RN received 6 ex Danish Merlins the MoD payed £30m a unit for the used and bruised.

  11. Defiant permalink
    July 26, 2009 3:01 pm

    With 2 ships you can cover a bigger area (radar), you have 4 helicopters, 4 sonars, as well as a tactical advantage and distribution of risk.
    The electronic equipment is of course more expensive for 2 ships instead of 1, but for 1+ billion for a burke you can get 2 decently equipped ships. Of course every ship needs defensive equipment, but not every ship needs to be able to control the airspace in a 100nm sphere and have a 60 cell vls.
    The biggest threats to ships are submarines and Missiles.
    A submarine will have a harder time against 2 vessels, and the difference in missile detection ability is minimal, this may be a significant in some situations but i suppose it isn’t most of the time. The most significant attribute for detecting sea skimmers should be the radar horizon, which depnds on the height of your radar. Even for with a 9000t vessel you can’t put your radar much higher, so there isn’t really much of a advantage for the more sophisticated aegis radar system. A few Essm cells can give you near burke performance against non asbm threats.
    Are any ship defense systems proven against supersonic missiles at all?
    The burke Is certainly one of the best vessel for AAW, but in any other missions i’d trade 4 burkes even against 6 ships (while i still think you can get more ships with adequate defense for the price) Weather you can put these systems on a 2000t vessel, I’m not sure. Having a good small vessel design at hand in wartime isn’t bad either, as there are more docks who can built 5000t vesseles than 9000t ones.

  12. July 26, 2009 2:56 pm

    The “economy” in wartime is that you begin the war with the hardware and troops that you were able to afford in peacetime.

    You can selectively ignore influential factors, but that doesn’t help your judgment.

  13. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 26, 2009 1:33 pm

    Where is economy in wartime? Its more about numbers and effectiveness. In peacetime you can get away with this, but with so many threats, we can no longer afford to do without small escorts and patrol ships, or as Galrahn might liken them “cruisers”.

  14. July 26, 2009 11:24 am

    “…instead of 1 9000t ship, i’d rather have 2 4500t vessels…”

    And that’s the problem.
    You don’t get two 4,500 ton ships instead of one 9,000 ton ship. That’s economy of scale in action.

    You may get five 4,500 ton ships instead of four 9,000 ton ships ceteris paribus.

    Steel is still quite cheap. Steel is the greatest difference between “big” and “small”. The propulsion power requirement and the electronics costs don’t scale up with displacement.

    Those people who buy the huge “destroyers” are not entirely dumb or incompetent.

    You can save costs, and it may in the end turn out to be a smaller ship than a Burke (as the Swedish or Norwegian Aegis ships), but simply advocating smaller ships does neither guarantee large cost savings nor a strong increase in numbers or even combat power.

    A small ship still requires a full defensive suite with good sensors, weapons, acoustic insulation and decoys or else it’s just fodder. The saving in steel tons and the one gas turbine less don’t save much money.

  15. Defiant permalink
    July 26, 2009 10:26 am

    Bigger might be better in the fields of fuel and crew cost, but instead of 1 9000t ship, i’d rather have 2 4500t vessels for everything excluding AAW. With 2 4500t (or even 3 3000t) frigates, each with 2 helicopters, towed sonar, and 1 or two rhibs, there is far more potential in ASuW and ASW, while decreasing the vulnerabilty for submarine attacks.

  16. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 26, 2009 8:15 am

    Alex, the aviation cruisers are very interesting and deserve a full post themselves (hint, hint), but I plan to touch on these and other versions in a series of articles next week called Evolutions of the Cruiser!

  17. Alex. (the new'un) permalink
    July 26, 2009 5:03 am

    Hudson:

    the Helicopter cruiser (such as Moskva class and FS Jeanne D’arc) has always been a favourite of mine, and i firmly believe that an ASW Helicopter-cruiser of 9,000-12,000T+ totting 4-6+ ASW helicopters (Merlin HM.2 in the RNs case, I’ve no idea what it’s like your end of the pond) with a formidable TAS would be an asset 2nd to none in the field of ASW… Never thought about the platform for the USN but you could arm it to the teeth with ESSM, Tomahawks and VLA in however many VLS cells (you wouldn’t need more than 80[probably not even that many] if you dont intend on using SM2/3)

    Lots of helicopters with dipping sonars in the water is a luxury in ASW, lots of ships with hull mounted sonars in the water is a necessity and without proper frigates (Burkes alone aren’t enough) such a vessel is little more than a waste of resources.

    This is the reason that i have come to accept (finally) that such a vessel (or a slightly smaller version of) to fill the C.1 requirement of FSC for the RN wouldn’t be a wise decision without a job lot of C.2s (around 16-20) in the drink. (and if we had a job lot of C2s we’d need another batch or 2 of T45s (another 4 at the least) aswell which really isn’t feasible on current budgets, not to mention that the numbers in mind are 10 C1s and 8 C2s (although theres only 8 T2087 and no more are getting built so theres little point in more than 8 C1s which if you shift the budget would allow for 8 C1s and 12 C2s without spenidng any more money)

    PS: There is a reason for the love of such a ship; I was a young, attractive(well if i don’t blow my own trumpet noone else will!), impressionable marine when HMS Tiger and later Blake were decommissioned and i wasn’t much older when there was talk of both of them being recommissioned.

    PPS: I didn’t touch on why the USN should switch to many more smaller carriers (similar to the french PA.2, or preferably the slightly bigger CVV model B design of the 70s with 3 cats and 3 lifts with a modest size reduction over Nimitz being about 300m in length and if it was built today displacement would be around 75000T ) such a ship wouldn’t have been much cheaper to run than a Nimitz in the 70s however today it’s a new question and deserves a new answer.

    PPPS: Not sure what kind of size carriers you lot had in mind but any smaller than the above and it really is just too small for the taskings of the USN; 1 jet might be able to put 1 bomb on 1 target, but the same does not apply for anything else.. you cannot use 1 jet armed with 1 AMRAAM for CAP expecting the enemy to use your own philosophy and try and use 1 jet to put 1 Exocet into 1 Carrier.

    PPPPS: when was the last time you saw 4 postscripts in a single reply? (Sorry lads, i couldn’t resist.)

  18. July 25, 2009 8:44 pm

    Is that an attempt of a killer argument?

    Seriously; manning costs are an issue.
    Fuel costs are an issue.
    Efficiency of maintenance is an issue.

    Most of all: I’m a guy who looks a lot into unorthodox ideas and who likes many of those.
    Yet I am highly suspicious of unorthodox ideas that assert that the optimum is very far away from what’s being done and that cannot show off a valid precedent.

    The aircraft on cruisers were a marginal failure in WW2 and entirely bested by real carrier aviation, for example.
    Aircraft on small ships have been used before. I have seen illustrations of a rigged ship with coal-fired aux engine for arctic patrols – it had an aircraft on board like many arctic patrol ships of the inter-war years.

    There are enough experiences, and the historical lesson is that big platforms are the way to go for naval aviation. Another lesson is that relatively large aircraft are the way to go as well unless you can do the job with the simplicity of an A-4.

    The USN idea of a CV isn’t necessarily optimal. A 40,000-60,000 ton ship (as the French and British designs) can do the job with a useful air wing as well (carriers would operate in TFs in real wars anyway).
    The attempt to relocate naval aviation to tiny ships is bound to fail, though.

    Finally; unmanned systems are hyped up, and equally over-estimated. Their decisive advantages are limited to niche roles and their lesser advantages face a tough competition with cruise missiles, manned aviation and satellites.

    A corvette-based UAV (let’s say a small unmanned helicopter) is useful as radio relay and for the use fo (LL)TV and IIR for tasks like surface object identification. A large UAV model could be used with a surveillance radar to extend radar range.
    A manned helicopter is vastly superior in all other roles.

  19. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 25, 2009 7:50 pm

    Joe to borrow your analogy, the Navy wants to wear their dress blues to play in the next soccer or football game! Good way to wear out a nice suit fast!

    Sven-those analogies are based on peacetime scale. They just aren’t relevent, unless you expect not to fight, not to take casualites. It’s a zero sum game, no room for error that just doesn’t exist in reality.

  20. July 25, 2009 4:03 pm

    “Sven I reject that theory since it it irrlevent in the precision age and you have planes assuring “one bomb, one hit”. ”

    You don’t seem to understand where I see those economies of scale.
    1) Larger hull of same shape = more mileage per gallon fuel
    2) Fewer (larger) ships = less fixed costs for the systems that every ship needs (bridge, radar, decoys, cantina…)
    3) Larger, fewer ships = less installed power (diesel, turbine) necessary to meet identical cruise and top speed requirements
    4) larger air wing = less aircraft mechanics necessary per aircraft, less workshop size per aircraft

    —————–

    “What about the idea of a layered defense/offense? I see smaller ships as adding a trip-wire feature to our navy that, right now, is served only by our largest assets.”

    “Trip wires” are expendable, ultra-cheap unmanned tools.
    “Trip wire forces” are hostages and easy prey. Look up the fate of Prince of Wales and Repulse.
    The whole idea of patrolling near potent potential enemies is strictly stupid. It’s a violation of most basic rules of warfare.

    Pickets, screening forces, scouts – that’s OK, but a corvette is a very poor picket, screening unit or scout. It’s already way too valuable. Aerial stand-off sensor platforms (especially planes like Hawkeye and J-Stars), subs and in a low-ECM environment even drones are much better in that role.

  21. Joe permalink
    July 25, 2009 3:48 pm

    Sven,

    What about the idea of a layered defense/offense? I see smaller ships as adding a trip-wire feature to our navy that, right now, is served only by our largest assets. If any kind of “issue” breaks out, we have as our only option sending in the biggest and best assets we have. Recall the test exercise from earlier this decade where a carrier battle group, as they war-gamed a hypothetical situation off the coast of Iran/Strait of Hormuz type area, was devastated by small swarm boats?

    I think one way to look at it is by comparing everything to your clothes. Seriously. Most folk’s wardrobe contains perhaps a tux, at least one fine suit, maybe some lesser suits, casual pants and shirts, blue jeans and shirts that go with them, shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops, etc. You don’t show up looking like Jimmy Buffet all the time nor do you show up looking like James Bond, either. We attempt to dress for the situation.

    In a way, why can’t the Navy be that way? Our largest assets are the finest in the world. No question about it. However, do we want to risk only them in any & all situations that arise? Why not smaller ships for smaller risks? There may not be as many varieties as you’d have in your closet, but a layered approach can save us money and make us stronger at the same time.

  22. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 25, 2009 1:23 pm

    “Bigger ships with a larger air wing are simply more efficient than small ones.”

    Sven I reject that theory since it it irrlevent in the precision age and you have planes assuring “one bomb, one hit”. It is an old one used by the USN to justify ever larger carriers, and ever smaller force structures. It no longer hold’s water.

  23. July 25, 2009 1:20 pm

    economy of scale.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_scale

    Bigger ships with a larger air wing are simply more efficient than small ones.
    There are pay-offs, but it’s beyond doubtful whether the optimum is that far away from modern CVs (40-90k tons).

    Small aircraft – no matter whether manned or not – have little payload. Little payload means few electronics. Electronics define the capability and survivability.
    Finally, there’s usually not much fuel in small aircraft; short range and endurance.

    A corvette’s unmanned systems will probably be a fragile and only partial substitute for the more powerful sensors and the helicopters of a frigate or destroyer.

  24. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 25, 2009 7:05 am

    “Aviation corvettes with short ranged planes may be summarized in a single word: “prey”.”

    I can’t imagine where this present bias against small ships come from, since there haven’t been a major war at sea in 65 years, and during that last war small ships were everywhere doing everything. They were in the littorals, they were in the Blue Water. Often they were sent in first to prepare a shoreline for invasion, keeping the bigger ships out of harms way until the coast was secured. They were the sentinels and yeoman of the fleet.

    Today there are despised and maligned by a fleet that would send Arleigh Burke battleships to fight pirates or giant supercarriers to bomb these non-naval powers in Third World countries who have no chance against our Coast Guard, let alone our most advanced ships. But try to sail these same ships in waters infested with mines, cruise missiles, land-based aircraft, and anti-ship ballistic missiles and you might decide against risking our few precious giants in such waters.

    Our war-era sailors knew this having learned the lessons well, that you don’t risk your battleships except in the most dire of circumstances. The small ships, forward deployed, would save our Big Ships from undue risk until there are needed, and also build up fleet numbers, and relieve our over-worked sailors, just as such craft have always done throughout the history of war at sea. As Galrahn would say, time to bring back the cruisers!

  25. Defiant permalink
    July 25, 2009 6:29 am

    There’s no doubt that a corvette is more vulnerable than a csg, but a csg is basically 20 billion dollars in one spot, which can be taken out of combat (mission kill) by a single torpedo, maybei even a aShm, as there’s no proof yet that all these defense systems can protect you against supersonic missiles. With small ships you can spread the risk, and nobody ever said to drop all of the carriers, you can’t replace carriers with corvettes, but by replacing one csg with 50 small vessels carrying 3 uav each you can control a bigger part of the sea at lower fuel cost.
    I do not see anny sense in using ucavfrom small ships, as they are already the size of small helicopters, need more logistics and vtol generally do not have enough range with a weapon payload.
    I think carriers have their place, but so do small vessels, it’s a question of the mix.

  26. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 25, 2009 5:20 am

    Jim, I think they are waiting for someone to lead the way. But its the old dreadnought race against where everyone wants power and prestige. Give us a real war at sea and attitudes will change dramatically.

  27. Hudson permalink
    July 25, 2009 2:17 am

    I think that the new air craft coming online, including UCAV, Osprey, F-35, in addition to the older Harrier and helos, will eventually compel the USN to disperse its platforms among smaller, less expensive, more numerous ships. These might include catamarans.

    I would like to see better use of LPDs and LSDs, both as supporting gun platforms and as air carriers. We could also build crusier/carrier type vessels at the cost of a new Burke. The Russians and French once built this type of ship. Hybrids are interesting, useful vessels.

  28. Grandpa Bluewater permalink
    July 24, 2009 6:56 pm

    All this Littoral yammer obscures the fact that the real threat to a CVBG is an attack submarine and ASW is a critical skill set, requiring real Frigates. Which is another subject entirely. More to the point on the topic at hand:

    Aviation corvettes with short ranged planes may be summarized in a single word: “prey”.

    The consistent mistake being made is thinking in terms of a type of ship.

    Think in terms of a mutually supporting task force with overwhelming combat power and superior survivability, include the supporting fleet train.

    A few (meaning two dozen) little ships cannot surpress enemy air defense, and must close the beach enough to be engaged and defeated in detail by a small land based airforce. Remember the Higbee? Khadafi’s Navy?

    Radio controlled remote operated attack aircraft can be jammed, spoofed, and hacked. If that is your main force, the enemy gets to specialize in ECM, using genius level engineers at safe locations who require the logistic depth of a Radio Shack warehouse. Never hand the enemy the opportunity for a nice asymetric victory.

    You need to combine Mass, Maneuver and Flexibility with Survivability.

    Little ships don’t, won’t, and can’t.

    Never the less they have a real place.

    The real littoral combat task force is a DD, accompanied by a half dozen PGM’s on a PT type hull, with a stern ramp to launch and recover upgunned Seal Delivery craft (built off (relatively) big Fast Rescue Boat derived hulls (35 footers).

    Their missions are inshore interdiction, CSAR, outer screening for the main battle group, raids on enemy shoreline installations, SEAL support, and scouting. Just like it was in the Solomons, which were about as littoral as it gets.

    And yes we need more of them.

    Almost as much as we need mine countermeasures vessels.

  29. jim permalink
    July 24, 2009 6:41 pm

    If this is really a revolution in naval airpower, shouldn’t we be seeing midpower nations who can’t afford big carriers jumping on this trend with both feet? Serious question – Is this happening? This should offer lesser powers the opportunity to project power with a dramatically cheaper Navy, right?

  30. solomon permalink
    July 24, 2009 5:41 pm

    six in one hand – half a dozen in the other. the smaller the ship the less munitions and fuel it can carry —the greater the need for support vessels….the more dispersed your fleet the greater number of support vessels you’ll need for sustained combat….the more support vessels you have the greater the need for fleet defense, the greater the need for fleet defense the more air defense fighters, sub hunters etc you need. all of a sudden instead of a robust 300 ship navy you’ll need a 1000 ship navy because each platform is so limited. all of a sudden the very need for naval aviation is questioned. then its… do we need a navy?

  31. July 24, 2009 4:23 pm

    well, I wasn’t going to pipe up, but this seems to be heading my way anyway. Consider, USS Akron, updated. Modern version could carry several UCAV’s (Akron held 5 planes). Deploy them, re-capture them, re-arm them, deploy again and again, all while underway, and from any direction, not just seaward. Nice capability.

  32. B.Smitty permalink
    July 24, 2009 3:59 pm

    Mike,

    Why do you think only a handful of J-UCAS would be needed in a major conflict?

    During major combat ops in OIF, each carrier air wing averaged 120+ sorties per day. And that was with up to five carriers participating!

    Small munitions and longer J-UCAS loiter times will have an impact, but during a major conflict we will still need LOTs of sorties.

  33. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 24, 2009 2:01 pm

    Well, I suppose I was thinking of Fire Scout when I first wrote the post, though lets not limit ourselves, and we should experiment with all kinds. I am thinking we should start back to basics, just like Eugene Ely on the deck of USN cruisers, only this time with unmanned planes. Whatever it takes to get the capability which is revolutionizing war on land into the hands of our sailors. The idea that one of two UAVs armed with precision missiles have been making such as difference in our land battles, also for surveillance purposes, is something we just can’t ignore. Like an entire airwing in one package!

    I know the USN plans on launching these new J-UCAS drones off the decks of their large carriers, but even these large and expensive planes seem wasted on a 100,000 ton deck. Only a handful would be required (12-15?) for even a major conflict and considering their long-range and loitering ability, even if we need to launch them from ships it should be on a dramatically smaller, cheaper hull (probably not a corvette). But rather than go to that trouble, I think we might stick with aviation corvettes and shorter range planes, perhaps keeping J-UCAS land based or dumping it altogether if it isn’t needed.

  34. Heretic permalink
    July 24, 2009 1:06 pm

    I can see a group of small corvettes each able to launch 2-3 UCAVs so armed as a carrier replacement for many functions, such as supporting troops in a land battle.

    Mike, if your definition of UCAV is something VTOL carrying a Hellfire (or two), then *maybe*. If your definition of UCAV is MQ-47B, then I can guarantee you that you’re not going to be able to “fit” 2-3 of those on a small corvette.

    Please clarify post haste (weight class, capability, launch/recovery method) what you’re talking about with respect to 2-3 UCAVs armed as a carrier replacement launching from a (presumably ~1k ton) corvette.

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