Carrier Diversity Thursday
Today we present a special “small carrier” edition!
Royal Navy Carriers “Sitting Ducks”
Save the Royal Navy is none too happy with Labour’s claim to support the British military:
The fact is that ALL in-service (commissioned) Royal Navy warships, and especially the carriers HMS Ark Royal and Illustrious, are sitting ducks to recently developed supersonic anti-ship missiles, such as the Russian ‘Sizzler’ SS-N-27. Other than the upgraded US Navy Aegis/ESSM/Standard Missile system, only PAAMS/Aster is thought (carried by just 6 British Type 45 destroyers under construction) to be able to counter this type of missile.
The French can retrofit their aircraft carrier with new, cutting edge anti airborne threat missile systems that are required to meet today’s threats, why- during the last 10-years- hasn’t the Labour govt ensured that the same was done for the Royal Navy’s carriers? Why are the UK’s planned new carriers not going to have PAAMS/Aster or any anti airborne threat defences?
If Labour is a party that claims it looks out for the country’s best interests, then why is Labour authorising funding for the RN’s Flagships to be made “faster, leaner and greener” but not for them and the escorts to have their weapons and defensive systems upgraded?
Light carriers in Action!
On that note, here is another RN flattop taking part in a major naval exercise:
Eight Harrier GR9s from the Naval Strike Wing, Two ASW Merlin from 814, Two Sea King ASAC from 854 and one Lynx helicopter embarked on to HMS Illustrious on Monday 28th September. The aircraft are onboard to take part in Exercise Joint Warrior 092, which is a UK wide, tri-service exercise that takes place between 5 – 23 October.
The aim of the Joint Warrior is to provide coordinated training for all 3 UK Armed Services and forces from allied nations. The Exercise includes participants from the UK and up to 10 Foreign Nations including Land participation from the RAF Regt, 18 surface and 3 sub-surface maritime units and approximately 50 aircraft.
Based on HMS Illustrious , the Commander UK Carrier Strike Group (COMUKCSG), Commodore Simon Ancona will lead a Task Group, consisting of 9 warships from differing countries, demonstrating the UK Carrier Strike Group (CSG) capability and utility.
Very impressive! Who says only large decks can deploy airpower at sea effectively?
Sins of Omission
The following is something we mentioned in the comments last week that bears repeating:
Concerning the small deck aircraft carrier, their detractors often accuse them of “sins of omission”, what they can’t do instead of their abilities which are considerable. Not many nations can deploy supercarriers, in fact none since World War 2 have managed to do so except the USA, not even the former Soviet Union which immediately went bankrupt just as hers were entering service (probably not related but there it is). Does this mean all other navies in the world are irrelevant for this lack? Hardly.
In the South Atlantic War, the British proved you didn’t need CTOL carriers to deploy naval airpower at sea. Those who minimize the lessons of the Falklands claim “sure they won but they didn’t win right”, misses this crucial point, that what an amazing achievement this was for a small navy, steaming thousands of miles beyond any friendly bases, with the Harriers outnumbered nearly 8-1, in some of the roughest weather on earth. The two tiny British flattops not only survived but prevailed though outnumbered in the air and ground war. Instead of proving the supercarrier so much more capable, it now seems so much overkill and an unnecessary burden.
I will also add that in the Falklands, the light carriers were tested to the utmost limits of what they could expect in wartime, under threat of cruise missiles, aircraft, and submarines, forced to operate to the extent of their aircraft range, outnumbered in the air. Proof of the concept is the fact that except for the USA, every flattop currently in production or conversion is of the light or medium variety. Recently the Japanese Navy restarted its light carrier program. Others such as Britain, Italy, India, Spain, Thailand, Russia, continue to do so, while possibly China and Australia are seeking the type as adjuncts to their own navies. Who’s to argue that any of these fleets are irrelevant?
The Russian Alternative
Strategypage reveals how the former Soviet Union planned to circumvent the need for giant, American-style nulcear powered attack carriers. What they came up with might be dubbed a “medium carrier”?
It was in the early 1990s that work began on creating a variant of the MiG-29 for carrier use. These were to be used on the Kuznetsov class carriers, which were conceived as 90,000 ton, nuclear powered ships, similar to American carriers (complete with steam catapults). Instead, because of the cost, and the complexity of modern (American style) carriers, the Russians were forced to scale back their goals, and ended up with the 65,000 ton (full load) ships that lacked steam catapults, and used a ski jump type flight deck instead. Nuclear power was dropped, but the Kuznetsov class was still a formidable design.
The thousand foot long carrier ended up carryings a dozen navalized, 33 ton Su-27s (called Su-33s), 14 Ka-27PL anti-submarine helicopters, two electronic warfare helicopters and two search and rescue helicopters. The ship was designed to carry up to 36 Su-33s and sixteen helicopters.
Backed up by the massive Kirov class battlecruisers, thses ships might have been formidable adversaries for the USN Big Decks, if our submarines didn’t get to them first!
Max Hastings on the choices Conservative Party Leader David Cameron must make if elected British Prime Minister:
Harsh choices are needed quickly, involving a rebalancing of resources to create a world-class Army, while cancelling the Navy’s aircraft carriers and accepting a minimalist nuclear deterrent after Trident. We need far fewer fast jets and more helicopters and drones. The Ministry of Defence requires radical reform.