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Carrier Diversity Thursday

October 15, 2009

090922-N-8907D-044The Real Deterrent

The admirals will insist their large deck carriers backed by many multipurpose missile escorts and submarines are needed to deter war. Ironically, since World War 2 and despite seeing the creation of the most technically impressive warships in all history, this hasn’t negated the need for land armies on consistent occasions, including our present Middle East conflicts. From Strategypage we read:

After several months of debate, the British Royal Navy and Royal Air Force have been ordered to cut back on spending, so that money and resources may be used to support army operations in Afghanistan. Among other things, the army has been pointing out that only ten percent of spending on new equipment goes to the army (based on actual and planned spending between 2003-18). This, despite the fact that it’s the army that is doing most of the fighting during this period…

What annoys the army the most is the continued effort to maintain Britain as a major naval power. The generals can understand the need for destroyers, frigates and submarines to defend the seas that surround the British isles, but they chafe at the nearly $40 billion to be spent on four SSBNs (ballistic missile nuclear subs) and two aircraft carriers (and their escorts). To fund this, on a shrinking defense budget, the army is starved for modern combat equipment. This is allowed to happen while thousands of British troops are in combat.

Makes you wonder, why do we have these magnificent monuments to our technical prowess, notably the giant supercarrier, if they are never used save in these Third World brushfire conflicts, where their great expense seems such a waste? Meanwhile other more urgent military needs are starved of funding.

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Running on Empty

Western governments seem to be living in a fantasy world, in which the Cold War is ongoing, and desperate foes like Al Qaeda and the Taliban can be ignored or considered only a distraction from real threats. The big conventional conflicts are the kinds of wars we want, rather than what we get. Did we learn nothing from Vietnam and the first Gulf War that we can’t fight with one or both hands behind our back? The following is from Allan Mallinson at the Yorkshire Post:

Gordon Brown has thrown money from the Treasury contingency reserve at equipment deficiencies, but has failed to tackle the systemic problems of the defence budget, which is still dominated by huge capital programmes whose origins are in the Cold War – such as Eurofighter – or by over-specified projects such as the two fleet aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, the Army and the less glamorous parts of the RAF such as support helicopters – the people doing the actual fighting – are squeezed ever more, for the Treasury claws their contingency spending from the core defence budget in later years.

Yet we continue to spend vast sums for deterrence that does not deter. It hasn’t been that long ago when we were justifying the building of large deck aircraft carriers and our manned strategic bombers like the B-52 as the only viable way to launched the atom bomb against our enemies. Almost immediately such a role for our expensive platforms were made obsolete by the submarine and land based ballistic missiles. So we found other roles for them, mainly attacking Third World countries in numerous brushfire wars, from Asia to the Middle East. If our military power is stretched thin containing these poorest of nations, what will we do against a real peer threat?

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Big Savings

Part of our ongoing critique of deploying giant deck carriers also includes their tremendous cost. Stephen Abott at Budget Insight points out where the savings might start:

By cutting two CSGs, the Navy may be able to procure 2-4 fewer cruisers, 4-6 fewer destroyers, and two fewer submarines, along with cuts to support ships over the next 30 years (assuming a 30 year service life). Additionally, increased operational tempo could allow the Navy to require fewer ships to maintain or increase its deployments.  (Were the Navy to deploy other ships in place of a carrier, of course, this could reduce the savings.) This corresponds to at least $24.6 billion and possibly over $41.1 billion in decreased ship procurement, than originally planned by the Navy, over 30 years. A decrease of two CSGs would thus lead to total savings of at least $47 billion over 30 years, or the equivalent of more than four years of naval ship procurement.

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7 Aircraft Carriers for the Price of 11

navyfightergapFour giant decks will be less their airwings unless the Navy addresses the impending fighting gap, according to Boeing and Eric L Palmer (Thanks also to both for the graphic!):

The not-so-subtle language in it is that there is still a significant amount of risk by going with the yet unproven (and little-flight-tested) F-35C. One graphic shows a potential for a lot of extra parking space on carrier decks in the future.

How can one justify the pork and graft associated with new large carriers if there isn’t much to put on them? On this I sort of agree. About half of the carrier jets now are Super Hornets. Legacy Hornets are wearing out. If the F-35 stumbles we may see 2 jet fighter squadrons flying off of the carrier deck (not counting the Grizzly detachment).

It was costs that eventually killed the all-gun battleship, not its lack of usefulness or the dive bomber. The Navy needs only to find something as useful as manned air and problem solved! I am thinking a combination of light carriers, cruise missile firing ships, and UCAVs launched from ship or shore will fit the bill nicely and affordably.

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Last Stand of the Giants

Even as the number of planes dissipate on the large decks, the very purpose for the carrier’s existence, the advocates claim we can’t get along without them. Here is Christopher Lehman writing in the Boston Globe who pleads for “Keeping the aircraft carrier fleet afloat“. In so doing he makes our argument for us that:

The United States does not need aircraft carriers to counter those of other countries. With the possible exception of China, it is difficult to imagine a future conflict with a large foreign navy.

Instead, their primary mission is to project power, virtually anywhere in the world, on short notice, with their complement of aircraft and supporting vessels. Indeed, according to the Navy, in 80 percent of the recent outbreaks of international violence, the United States has responded with one or more aircraft carrier task forces. They have been in growing demand over the past 25 years.

What is the purpose of a Navy other than to fight another Navy, or a warship other than to sink other warships, with all other functions including power projection a secondary mission? Here they tread on vital functions of land warfare which is why we have an Army and Air Force. If the Navy can’t maintain the sealanes, with a handful of Big Decks and most of the destroyers tied to defending them, then the other services can’t perform their own necessary functions. If an enemy seeks to impede our fleet with submarines, what will the carriers do to combat them, seeing they no longer possess a long range ASW aircraft, only helicopters?

Then we get the justification for operating the Big Decks without adequate types or numbers of aircraft:

But most frequently their impact comes not from the warplanes that operate from their flight decks. Without releasing a single weapon, aircraft carriers have proven to be an invaluable crisis management tool. On several occasions they have defused a tense situation before it escalated into conflict.

The worlds most expensive, and largest Mercy Ships, performing roles more suited to hospital ships or at least a light carrier. A noble mission, yet this could hardly be cause for the continued building and maintenance of vessels which now approach $10 billion each, not including costly aircraft programs and annual upkeep.

The United Kingdom has committed to building two new large-deck carriers. Italy and Spain recently built their own aircraft carriers, and France is slated to make a decision in the next few years on whether to proceed with new construction. Russia and India, meanwhile, are modernizing their carrier fleets. And China has assigned naval engineers to study the construction techniques of other nations’ carriers. Last March, Admiral Hu Yanlin told a Chinese newspaper that, “Building aircraft carriers is a symbol of an important nation.’’

What the author failed to mention, was the travails these particular navies are suffering in their attempts to deploy US Navy type carrier wings by retiring still useful escorts and submarines to pay for them, or delaying aircraft programs until after the ships are launched. As noted above, the British Army is suffering fatal equipment shortages fighting present wars, while sparse defense funds are allocated for some future, obscure conflict involving carriers, the wars we want to fight.

Also, “everyone has them and so should we” seems to be the mantra. It doesn’t matter if they are effective or not, just as long as our intentions are noble. Recall also that every major navy was building massive all-gun battleships in 1941, then the most visibly impressive warships afloat, right up until the bombs were falling on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Even then and for years afterwards, the vulnerable but still useful craft continued serving, with its final enemy being the cost of maintenance and upkeep, plus the realization that other vessels could do the work more efficiently and at longer ranges.

So we think the guided missile, whether launched from surface ship or submarine will take the place of the giant supercarrier in usefulness and practicality. In no way would we begin to suggest that a missile is as yet more efficient than the manned bomber, though the unmanned bomber certainly possesses this potential. Instead we think the best reasoning for deploying missiles in place of aircraft is what a missile does best, sink other ships. The cruise missile has taken away from the aircraft carrier this single most important role of a Navy, maintaining (or denying) control of the sealanes, which is something the carrier admirals and their supporters no longer deem worthy of their attentions.

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43 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 20, 2009 6:51 am

    Joe, my point being that smart weapons do not require smart platforms. With aircraft and missiles being vastly more capable, why do we need bigger and more costly ships to launch them from? But their supporters will pull out the sliderules and say “we;ve done studies. The $6-$10 billion supercarrier is more cost effective”. But these studies were not done in wartime, at least in a real war at sea when they are more missions that don’t involved naval air, or when some enemy was actually shooting at our ships.

    But we haven’t tried the light carrier concept in war. Oh wait, we have! In the last world war, there were carriers of all types, even tiny jeep carriers which stood up against the world’s most powerful battleships at Leyte and prevailed. These little ships built to commercial standards did the jobs that carriers shouldn’t be doing, which was littoral work, supporting troops ashore. And as proved at Leyte, could fill in for a large deck carrier in a crisis.

    Then the British did the same 40 years later. Unable to afford a traditional large deck carrier
    and a balanced fleet of escorts, they still managed to take a force geared toward ASW, and turn it into a potent power projection tool in a crisis. Not a perfect solution, but it worked, and validated the light carrier concept for at least half a dozen navies operating them today, with even the Navy given grudging acknowledgment to the concept by allowing the Marine Harriers to operate them off the LHA assault carriers.

    So we think that modern technology is just begging for alternatives to the traditional large deck flattop which is increasingly too costly for even a superpower, and a burden on a fleet which more often has to face pirates and speed boats, and never has faced an enemy carrier arm since 1944, and likely never will. We don’t have to be stretched thin, steadily shrinking, or keep ships in service long past their prime, or place our sailors at risk in a handful of Big Ships, (recalling there are no invincible warships), or force our sailors to endure expanded deployments, when the service is nominally at peace compared to the Army. If we are so stretched in peacetime, as I often say, what will we do in a major war?

    If the war lasts long enough, I imagine the bulk of our fleet of giant warships will be in drydock suffering from numerous battle damage, and the admirals will be forced to build many smaller vessels(historically the hardest working type of craft in peace and war), even merchant conversions, because in wartime much of our peacetime biases are swept away when survival is at stake, and the solutions we call for in peace suddenly seem more attractive and so simple.

  2. Joe K. permalink
    October 19, 2009 9:56 pm

    Can I mention something I think no one has mentioned about the whole commercial-vessel-conversion thing?

    How do you make the conversion cheaply? And I don’t mean summarized I mean itemized because I can give you one thing that is a biggie: the control tower.

    Since I’m pretty use MOST commercial vessels have their towers in the rear and center, it wouldn’t be suitable for carrier operations because you’d have higher risk of planes crashing into it. Since it’s so big you can’t just pick it up and move it to the side. You’d have to ditch that and build a new control tower.

    And think of the problems you’d have in having to convert the hull of the ship to put in all of the systems necessary for it to even be a reliable combat vessel let alone a carrier. The way I see it, for something as important as a carrier, it’s not something you want to do a hack job on.

    Though I think India should be the first to try to pioneer a carrier conversion. After all, they get enough commercial ships for stripping and scrapping, why not have them experiment with it?

  3. Graham Strouse permalink
    October 19, 2009 2:29 pm

    Jed, it may have to happen, one way or another. America has suffered from a surfeit of luxury–we don’t know how to react to real crisis & we tend to panic when things go wrong. The problem is systemic.

    I agree with most of your points. I do think that it is not unreasonable to buy European ( Japanese, Korean, etc.) if there’s an overall cost-benefit-utility uptick. We already trade pretty extensively with Israeli. We just need to make sure it’s a value-for-value deal. I wasn’t thinking about outsourcing a la Indian tech reps.

    My fear & expectation is that change will come but that it will be very ugly.

    Don’t shoot the messenger.

    Graham out.

  4. William permalink
    October 19, 2009 2:08 pm

    Tarl, whats laughable is your condescending attitude and your refusal to consider alternative, less costly solutions to deploying airpower at sea.

  5. Jed permalink
    October 19, 2009 12:39 pm

    And therein lays the problem, to reform defence acquisition in the U.S. you have to reform U.S. governement, in its entirety – parochial self interest, pork barrels, lobbyists and all…… !

    Not going to happen really is it. U.S. Air Force could have had new tankers 15 years ago, now into the third iteration of contest, because:

    1. Buying straight from Boeing is wrong – we must have a competition
    2. Leasing straight from Boeing is wrong
    3. Boeing bribing the U.S.A.F. is wrong (sorry my ‘summary’ of the Boeing scandal)
    4. Letting Europeans win the competition is wrong ! This is U.S. jobs you know…. (even Northrop would build them in the U.S. !)

    etc etc, everyone has their own agenda and because of that your stuck with 40 to 50 year old KC135’s – until one drops out of the air and lands on a school or something.

    Politics eh !

  6. Graham Strouse permalink
    October 19, 2009 11:27 am

    Pretty much in agreement here, Mike.

    I’d split the blame between Congress & the military, though. I do find Gates’s common-sense, non-partisan approach refershing, though. Now if only we could convince him to axe the F-35…

  7. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 19, 2009 11:11 am

    “maybe the F-22 wouldn’t have cost so much & taken so long to put together if it hadn’t been assembled piece-meal in 46 different states.”

    And this is mostly the military’s fault. They out-source these new high tech weapons to the states so they get a bloc of Congressman to hold their back when questions arise about relevancy and cost. Gates wasn’t “buying” it, in other words, falling for the same old but proven strategy with the F-22, and this is remarkable, perhaps a turning point in weapons procurement.

  8. Graham Strouse permalink
    October 19, 2009 10:58 am

    While I’m on a role here, why not consider tinkering with some the older ‘phibs? I’m brainstorming now, I know, but converting a ‘phib into an ASW helocopter carrier with some area defense capability doesn’t seem like a huge stretch to me. Thoughts?

  9. Graham Strouse permalink
    October 19, 2009 10:53 am

    This is a tangent, but a relevant one, I think: One of the biggest causes of cost-overrun American military procurement is Congressional interference–parochial interests clashing with national self-interest, basically. Jon Stewart observed rather acidly (and accurately, IMHO), that maybe the F-22 wouldn’t have cost so much & taken so long to put together if it hadn’t been assembled piece-meal in 46 different states. EVERYBODY has to have a piece these days & even our new Coast Guard cutters go for something like $500 million per unit (check my numbers, folks). We just can’t afford this gold-plated nonsense. I’m pleased that there’s some effort to clamp down on cost-plus contracting & Gates seems to have his head screwed on straight but increasingly we’re going to have to find creative ways to make do with what we have in new ways. I mentioned the four converted Ohio SSGNs as examples of (basically) positive & reasonably cost-effective (again, save for the cost of the Tomahawks) conversions of old platforms with limited utility into re-purposed platforms with considerable utility. Why not shift a chunk of our remaining FFGs back into US waters where they can provide submarine/drug interdiction? They’re tired ships, but useful & stripped of their missiles, they’re more economical.

    Shoot, but foreign. If there’s one area where we can benefit by outsourcing some of our asset acquisition it’s the US Navy. We buy weapons from Israel. Why not shop around? Germany, Sweden, South Korea & Japan all have excellent ship-building capabilities & they focus on the kind of units that the US doesn’t produce. They do it cheaper & faster, too.

  10. Graham Strouse permalink
    October 19, 2009 10:35 am

    Depends on the commercial hull. Tankers are double-hulled, sturdy, big & are conveniently flat & about the same size as a super-carrier. Container ships are also built to be sturdy. It’s also easier to build them in numbers & do so quickly. Easier to modify, too. Like the man sez, quantity has a quality all its own.

  11. Tarl permalink
    October 19, 2009 10:14 am

    A commercial ship is a big steel box that is very simple because its only purpose is to go from place to place relatively slowly using the smallest possible crew. Commercial ships are built in large numbers.

    A military ship has complex and redundant sensors, communications, and navigation equipment; must have facilities for hundreds or thousands of people; must have the ability to shoot and be shot at; and must be able to go relatively fast on demand. Military ships are built in small numbers.

    To think that these two types of ships should cost the same, or that they are interchangeable, is simply laughable.

    The problems that Navies have are not laughable – but this suggested solution definitely is.

  12. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 19, 2009 8:53 am

    Laughable:
    Giant deck carriers which get larger and more costly each year, while the its aircraft, the primary reason for its existence, gets fewer and less capable with each new version.

    Then there is the RN carriers which will enter service before its aircraft are ready, or the Indians who have the aircraft but can’t get a new ship in the water.

    Yep, laughable, save to the sailors having to fight with fewer and fewer resources, in an age of increasing threats.

  13. Graham Strouse permalink
    October 19, 2009 2:28 am

    Joe:

    Finding creative ways to re-vamp commercial (or military) ships for other uses is always a good idea (well, not ALWAYS…). Oil & gas tankers have potential as 2nd-line carriers & missile ships. Container ships can be useful transports, missile ships or ASW carriers. LPDs could be converted (with less effort, I expect) into ASW helo carriers. Spruance-class FFGs could be re-purposed for coastal defense.

    The Navy sometimes DOES creative in a good way. The four re-purposed Ohio-class SSGNs are versatile, valuable warships. The conversion costs were fairly reasonable–the main weakness of the SSGNs is the cost & availability of the missiles.

    You work with what you’ve got.

  14. Joe K. permalink
    October 18, 2009 10:37 pm

    Tarl: “If you want to design the military only to deter al Qaeda and the Taliban, you’re not going to have much of a military at all, because very likely these guys can’t be deterred by anything.”

    Fully agree with you. It’s just like the concept of transforming the Army to fight solely insurgent or unconventional threats versus conventional threats. It just can’t be done which turns out an overwhelmingly positive result.

    I also agree with everything else you added.

    I’d like to see Mike actually design a carrier using a commercial vessel as the base and actually taking the time to put in the stuff that a carrier actually needs.

    To quote you Tarl, laughable.

  15. Graham Strouse permalink
    October 18, 2009 10:34 pm

    Here’s another interesting thought. People have bandied the idea of submersible aircraft carriers about for a long time. On the surface (below the surface?) it’s a patently ridiculous idea unless you live in the “Star Blazers” universe (if only…sigh). But what about a large submarine with a modest complement of Hellfire-armed UAVs? I mean, UAVs are pretty compact, can loiter & can be launched & retrieved (fairly) easily. Just an idea.

  16. Graham Strouse permalink
    October 18, 2009 6:45 pm

    Mike, have you had a chance to check out the specs on Japan’s DDH Hyuga class? If you haven’t, you should. It’s a really novel design, has a clear mission (ASW helo carrier w/ a secondary function as command ship), can take care of itself w/o escorts (16×4 cells & 2×3 triple banks of 324 mm ASW torpedos) & is comparaqtively economical (something like 1.2 billion per unit, I think). Decent speed (28-30 knots). Hanger capacity for 13 helos, I think. Personally, my only concern is that it doesn’t really have any kind of gun for close-in fitting, but I don’t think it would be so hard to retrofit a 57 mm or 76mm cannon for dealing with close-in surface threats. They’re about 18,000 tons fully-loaded & the build time has been quite remarkable-this isn’t one of those projects where half the ship systems were obsolete by the time the first one deployed. It’s clearly not intended as a power projection platform.

    Sure, $1.2 billion is still a lot of money, but given the ship’s role, design, build time & the fact that Japan clearly seemed to know what the ship was going to be used for, it seems like a good investment.

    Thoughts?

  17. - Alex (the new'un). permalink
    October 18, 2009 4:35 pm

    Comparing HMS Ocean to a carrier is misleading (and ignoring the fact that her costs were heavily subsidised and once you factor in inflation you wouldn’t be able to build an Ocean type ship for less than £250m at the very least) even at 22,000T and a top speed of 18kts the cheap build only gave her a life of 20 years, you build a 50,000T carrier with gas turbines capable of 30kts and see how long it’ll last especially if it’s ever needed!

    building some ships to commercial standards is fine, Auxilaries and the likes but it is a no go area for aircraft carriers(and it’s pushing it to build an LPH to those standards).

    Cost effective? Not a chance.

  18. William permalink
    October 18, 2009 3:20 pm

    “Nobody is doing this, and nobody is going to do this, because it can’t be done.”

    Hms Ocean, 22,000 tons, £154 million. Scale it up in size to say 50,000 tons and the price accordingly. Add ski jump. Voila, economical, no frills, cost effective carrier. i.e a means of carrying and launching aircraft.

    It likely won’t be as effecient a design as a Nimitz or CVF, but it is FAR cheaper. It SHOWS what CAN be done.

  19. Tarl permalink
    October 18, 2009 1:21 pm

    why do we have these magnificent monuments to our technical prowess, notably the giant supercarrier, if they are never used save in these Third World brushfire conflicts, where their great expense seems such a waste

    Why do we have SSBNs, if they are never used, and their great expense seems such a waste? Why did we build a military capable of fighting the Soviets during the Cold War, if the high-end systems were never used to fight the Soviets? Obviously you build very capable systems knowing full well that they will likely never be used in order to deter the bad guys from challenging you in the first place, thus making it more likely the systems will “never be used”.

    I disagree that big carriers are “wasted” in “brushfire wars”.

    Western governments seem to be living in a fantasy world, in which the Cold War is ongoing

    Disagree completely. The “fantasy world” that Western governments live in is that “terrorism” and “insurgency” are the only threats we will ever face, and conventional conflicts will never again arise or occur.

    The big conventional conflicts are the kinds of wars we want, rather than what we get.

    The reason we get the small wars is we’re prepared to fight the big wars.

    Yet we continue to spend vast sums for deterrence that does not deter.

    Huh? Who has launched a conventional or nuclear war against us recently?

    If you want to design the military only to deter al Qaeda and the Taliban, you’re not going to have much of a military at all, because very likely these guys can’t be deterred by anything. Moreover, we did not get into Iraq because our deterrent failed and they attacked us; we got into Iraq because we attacked them. Are you arguing that we need to design a military capable of deterring the inhabitants of Third World countries from resisting us after we occupy them? What would that military look like?

    It hasn’t been that long ago when we were justifying the building of large deck aircraft carriers and our manned strategic bombers like the B-52 as the only viable way to launched the atom bomb against our enemies. Almost immediately such a role for our expensive platforms were made obsolete by the submarine and land based ballistic missiles.

    Not long ago? It had been over 50 years since CVNs and B-52s were justified in these terms. And no, the CVN was not “made obsolete” by the submarine, nor was the bomber “made obsolete” by the ICBM. There was sound logic for the bomber throughout the Cold War.

    What is the purpose of a Navy other than to fight another Navy, or a warship other than to sink other warships, with all other functions including power projection a secondary mission?

    What is the purpose of sinking the other guy’s Navy? To enable you to use the sea for power projection. Power projection is not a “secondary function”, it is the primary function!

    Here they tread on vital functions of land warfare which is why we have an Army and Air Force.

    The Navy does not “tread on” the Army and Air Force, it complements them.

    If the Navy can’t maintain the sealanes, with a handful of Big Decks and most of the destroyers tied to defending them, then the other services can’t perform their own necessary functions.

    Who says the Navy can’t maintain the sea lanes? I think it manifestly can.

    If an enemy seeks to impede our fleet with submarines, what will the carriers do to combat them, seeing they no longer possess a long range ASW aircraft, only helicopters?

    This is an argument to obtain long-range CV-based ASW aircraft, not an argument to get rid of carriers.

    the British Army is suffering fatal equipment shortages fighting present wars, while sparse defense funds are allocated for some future, obscure conflict involving carriers, the wars we want to fight.

    The British should spend more on defense, not less on carriers.

    Recall also that every major navy was building massive all-gun battleships in 1941, then the most visibly impressive warships afloat, right up until the bombs were falling on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Even then and for years afterwards, the vulnerable but still useful craft continued serving, with its final enemy being the cost of maintenance and upkeep, plus the realization that other vessels could do the work more efficiently and at longer ranges.

    In fact the US and UK kept building battleships long after Pearl Harbor, with the USS Wisconsin being commissioned in April 1944 and the HMS Vanguard being launched in November 1944. No US or British battleships were sunk from 1942 to 1945. This ought to suggest to you that the battleships were not as vulnerable and useless as you might think.

    So we think the guided missile, whether launched from surface ship or submarine will take the place of the giant supercarrier in usefulness and practicality.

    It won’t. Too expensive.

    we think the best reasoning for deploying missiles in place of aircraft is what a missile does best, sink other ships. The cruise missile has taken away from the aircraft carrier this single most important role of a Navy, maintaining (or denying) control of the sealanes, which is something the carrier admirals and their supporters no longer deem worthy of their attentions.

    The large CV is a massively superior platform for sinking ships with missiles, hands down! Anti-ship missiles launched from surface ships have their place, but they must necessarily be large if they are to have any range. An ASCM launched from a carrier-based aircraft will have a far greater range than a ship-launched ASCM, because the “first stage” of the missile is the aircraft that launches it.

    The submarine also has its place as a missile launcher, but, like the surface ship, the submarine cannot exert power ashore in a cost-effective manner as the CVN can.

    it needn’t be prohibatively expensive, if you build your carriers from modified commercially built ships and if your naval aircraft are the same as your land based aircraft, just moved from their usual home at an airbase to a carrier when required.

    Laughable, sorry.

    even larger carriers can be built for hundreds of millions rather than billions if built to largely commercial standards or modified from existing commercial designs.

    Nobody is doing this, and nobody is going to do this, because it can’t be done.

    The Chinese have no preconceptions about what a carrier should be. If they do not do this, and they build a carrier that is not “built to commercial standards or from modified commercial designs”, that ought to tell you this idea is a non-starter.

    don’t think I am against naval air with manned fighters, just think that 100,000 ton decks are the wrong way to go, if you can’t buy enough planes to fill their spacious hulls!

    Buy more planes, not less carriers.

  20. - Alex (the new'un). permalink
    October 18, 2009 10:11 am

    The argument over the optimum size for a carrier will continue, this depends on the navy that’s operating them and how many they feel they need, the HUGE CVNs look good in magazines and TV reports but the the thought behind the CVV designs of the late ’70s is Flawless but the 1 major problem that is more relevent today is that the sensor fit on carriers will be the same regardless of size, and this can compose a large section of the costs, if the US intends to procure 8 huge CVNs or 11 CVV-esque ships would the 3 extra hulls make up for the loss in capability?

    RN does not need to factor in this problem, if QE was smaller RN would lose the flexibility of the design (+ the fact that even 3 vincy sized carriers would be 30%+ more expensive than 2 QEs) and that around the time of the 1998 SDR (even upto around 2003 this was still the case) the planned RN fleet was well balanced and as follows:
    12 Type 45 destroyers
    20 Frigates (doesn’t spefically outline that but 32 escorts -12 destroyers)
    22 Minehunters
    6 RoRo
    8 Amphibious ships (seems huge, what it means is Ocean, Albion, Bulwark, RFA Argus/ASS and LSD(A))
    10 SSNs
    4 SSBNs
    planned procurement of 150 JCA/FBCA (later confirmed as JSF) to form 4 squadrons of 12 and a single training squadron of 16(presumably 2 FAA, 2 RAF squadrons and a joint training unit)

  21. dalyhistory permalink
    October 16, 2009 3:05 pm

    “No we should have bought the design seeing as the French went to all the trouble building a prototype and identifying all the problems. :)”

    I think that would be a much more sensible size than what we’re planning. And hopefully british shipbuilding would get it done quicker than CdeG took :)

  22. Joe permalink
    October 16, 2009 8:19 am

    Exactly Anonymous. Some reasons might be totally legit, but there are always going to be great arguments against something. The Harrier may not be a perfect plane, but in the hands of skilled British pilots it sings.

    And continuing on with the theme, investing more money in known quantities (cheaper to boot) would free up more dollars or pounds for other needs, be it the Army or Navy, without shortchanging Air Force and Naval Air needs.

    Maybe that’s naive considering the Pentagon and the way of things in D.C. (and too in the MoD & London perhaps), but I know I have to, for example, balance my car desires against my house payment even though they’re two totally different expenses. Can’t our military geniuses do a version of the same thing?

  23. Anonymous permalink
    October 16, 2009 7:23 am

    And because I couldn’t remember I have just checked the cost of the Wave oilers. £110million. Spooky isn’t it? How much do they carry?

    “16,000 cubic metres, 3,000 cubic metres of aviation fuel, 380 cubic metres of fresh water, 125 tonnes of lubricating oil, 500 cubic metres of refrigerated solids and dry stores and 8 20ft containers”

    Sorry I used wikipedia for speed.

  24. Anonymous permalink
    October 16, 2009 6:01 am

    “without wanting to offend anyone from across the channel… on second thoughts 2 would be fine :P”

    No we should have bought the design seeing as the French went to all the trouble building a prototype and identifying all the problems. :)

  25. Anonymous permalink
    October 16, 2009 5:58 am

    “cheapest manned fighter (F-18 SH) in Western airpower”

    So true it hurts doesn’t it?

    One of those “why didn’t this happen” from history is why after the success of the Harrier down south didn’t the Tory government start a Harrier replacement programme? OK I know there are lots of reasons why not but………

  26. Joe permalink
    October 15, 2009 10:07 pm

    Mike said, “…just think that 100,000 ton decks are the wrong way to go, if you can’t buy enough planes to fill their spacious hulls! The Brits are having this same trouble with 60,000 ton hulls.”

    That argument is deceiving.

    Regardless of the size of the decks they’re building, the Navy has the opportunity to put on all of its carriers just about the cheapest manned fighter (F-18 SH) in Western airpower. Instead, its decided bet the family jewels on what’s shaping up to be the most expensive…the F-35. The only afterburners working on that plane are the ones attached to its estimated cost & service dates.

    Betting on the F-35, pushing the original F-18’s to the point of near-structural failure, pushing even harder to wind down the F-18 SH line before the F-35’s are even ready, willing, and able…no, that’s it’s own unique form of stupidity and separate from whether 100,000 ton carriers are wi$e to produce or not.

  27. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 15, 2009 8:42 pm

    Also, don’t think I am against naval air with manned fighters, just think that 100,000 ton decks are the wrong way to go, if you can’t buy enough planes to fill their spacious hulls! The Brits are having this same trouble with 60,000 ton hulls. Light carriers, land based air with tankers, missiles from ships and UAVs, all could combine to replace the Nimitz class and their kin.

  28. dalyhistory permalink
    October 15, 2009 7:12 pm

    “No the French will lend us the CdeG………… :)”

    without wanting to offend anyone from across the channel… on second thoughts 2 would be fine :P

  29. Anonymous permalink
    October 15, 2009 5:55 pm

    “whenever one is in refit.”

    No the French will lend us the CdeG………… :)

  30. dalyhistory permalink
    October 15, 2009 5:29 pm

    Where the British Armed Forces are concerned I cannot help but think that we should not fall into the trap of fighting the last war and the present war, but to leave ourselves in a flexible enough position to have a reasonable chance of fighting the next one, in whatever format it comes. The Royal Navy went to the Falklands with a Cold War outlook, and has since spent the past 25 years digesting the lessons. Hence the considerable amphibious capability.

    It is quite disappointing to read of Generals, Admirals and Air Marshals squabbling to justify their own projects. The idea of the joint Ministry of Defence was to more closely integrate the three services but it has in effect allowed the politicians to play the forces against each other.

    I am still convinced that the two 60,000 ton carriers would leave us in an inflexible position, compared to if we had say three 30,000 ton lighter carriers, similar to HMS Hermes, a ship that served in 3 different roles – fixed wing, commando and ‘Harrier Carrier’. The number of hulls is as important – and in some ways more important – as their size, 2 carriers is nowhere near flexible enough and would leave us exposed whenever one is in refit.

  31. Anonymous permalink
    October 15, 2009 3:29 pm

    “Granted, they’re not as survivable if damaged, and likely not as optomised for air operations as a purpose built design built to full military standards, but thats the tradeoff you make for having an affordable, relatively inexpensive design.”

    Modern merchant standards are as high military standards especially with regard to materials. If you took a modern container vessel and made each frame a watertight zone she would be as “survivable” as any modern warship. Go a stage further and fill three lower tiers with containers, then build your warship on top of that. In fact go another stage and fill the containers with empty oil barrels.

  32. William permalink
    October 15, 2009 2:24 pm

    As has been mentioned before on this blog, carriers, even larger carriers can be built for hundreds of millions rather than billions if built to largely commercial standards or modified from existing commercial designs.

    Granted, they’re not as survivable if damaged, and likely not as optomised for air operations as a purpose built design built to full military standards, but thats the tradeoff you make for having an affordable, relatively inexpensive design.

  33. William permalink
    October 15, 2009 2:15 pm

    “But you could take it a stage further and actually question just how “cheap” is land based airpower? Consider the RAF’s new Airbus tankers..”

    Those 12 Airbus Tankers are costing £2 billion via a PFI and support contract. Not cheap.

  34. Anonymous permalink
    October 15, 2009 2:06 pm

    “it needn’t be prohibatively expensive”

    Good point. But you could take it a stage further and actually question just how “cheap” is land based airpower? Consider the RAF’s new Airbus tankers carry 110 tons of fuel for the cost of 110 million pounds. 110 tons of fuel!!! Remember modern jets like the Tornado carry as much as Lancaster but don’t have the range. The RAF has been lucky that it have been able to get where it wants relatively easily. But it might not always be this easy. Which would put pressure on the greatly reduced tanker fleet (They are buying 12 tankers I think.) I will let you do the calculations as to how much fuel 110million pounds worth of ship could lift.

    Plus for major campaigns the RAF’s war reserves have always gone by sea. Again I will let you calculate how many tons of ordnance a ship costing 110million pounds could carry.

    The RAF need the tankers to fulfil their role protecting British air space. There isn’t much spare capacity for expeditionary warfare……..

  35. William permalink
    October 15, 2009 1:21 pm

    Rather like Joint Force Harrier and the RAF’s planned F35B purchase, but could be done with CTOL aircraft but with more expense due to increased carrier certification requirements.

  36. William permalink
    October 15, 2009 1:16 pm

    “and the immense cost to deploy fixed wing air from the sea makes it increasingly prohibitive.”

    But it needn’t be prohibatively expensive, if you build your carriers from modified commercially built ships and if your naval aircraft are the same as your land based aircraft, just moved from their usual home at an airbase to a carrier when required.

  37. Jed permalink
    October 15, 2009 12:52 pm

    Mike said: “Jed, you make this sound like I don’t understand the importance of sea power…”

    Sorry Mike, not my intention at all. My rant aimed at British Army higher ups and the Iron Chancellor / Lame Prime Minister – not at you !

  38. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 15, 2009 12:20 pm

    Jed, you make this sound like I don’t understand the importance of sea power. Just the contrary, I insist Western navies have lost this crucial bit of insight, as Anonymous points out. Mr Lehman says the aircraft carriers are not for fighting other carriers, and I agree with this statement. They are justified mainly because of power projection, jobs, or disaster relief. So if your Navy is obsessed in fighting land battles, who will protect the sea?

    But I would point out that we don’t necessarily need carriers even for the role of power projection. they are quite good at this, but this shouldn’t be a navy’s primary concern, and the immense cost to deploy fixed wing air from the sea makes it increasingly prohibitive. I will also insist the only reason the Navy sees no other alternative to deploy large deck aircraft carriers, is because they haven’t tried.

  39. Anonymous permalink
    October 15, 2009 10:35 am

    UK helicopters in theatre can be RN, RM and Army as well as RAF. Army controls the JHC budget not the RAF. And the RAF and Army are both guilty of playing silly buggers over helicopters; look at the Blackhawk cock-up. The only services that value and understand helicopters are the RN and RM.

  40. Anonymous permalink
    October 15, 2009 10:07 am

    The trouble with the army is it spent to many years sitting on the German plains.

    And the RAF have managed yet again to get itself represented as the key logistics provider in theatre (in Afghanistan.) You have to remember the majority of the British public only leave these shores via aircraft. They are completely unaware on their (near) total dependence on the sea.

  41. Jed permalink
    October 15, 2009 9:34 am

    mmmm’ how does the British Army (with which I have served) get its heavy kit anywhere if not by sea ? How many C17’s does the RAF have – a paltry number, not enough to carry anywhere near a brigade in one go, even if you throw in all the C130J’s.

    Yes the generals are fighting a land locked war – right now ! But does not 90% of the worlds population live within 200nm of a coastline ? Where will the next battle in the so called “global war on terror’ be ? With not enough escorts and no organic air defence lets hope the sight of Bay Class, the civvy Ro-Ro’s full of armour, etc being sunk by torpodoes from some cheap third world sub or mine never grace our TV screens.

    I am also ex-RN, both skimmer and WAFU, (Fleet Air Arm) and I think the 60K strike carriers might have been a good idea when initially devised in the Strategic Defence Review, but they should have been ditched years ago, time moves on, things have changed. 3 x Smaller carriers (bigger than Invicible class, but say 40K max) would have been a much better idea – look how quickly the Spanish and Italians managed to build their new carriers. The generals should blame the Government not the Navy, and to be honest from what I read, the Army senior management needs to throwing mud at others to keep the investigative types away from their own less than stellar performance over the last couple of years.

    If any of the service chiefs had any real guts they would have banded together and resigned en-mass to make the point about fighting a war on two fronts while all defence spending, for all arms of the services was being cut, while the ex-Iron Chancellor bailed out failed greedy banks……. !!

  42. October 15, 2009 7:25 am

    Somethings got to give.

  43. Joe K. permalink
    October 15, 2009 7:24 am

    Yeah, lost me on the missile bit.

    In defense of use of ground forces in campaigns, you can’t conquer or secure a country through missiles or airpower alone. But, like that writer stated, when you need a lot of power projection and a force multiplier in an area with heightened tensions there is no substitute for the kind the carrier brings.

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