Carrier Alternative Weekly
German Light Carrier in the Works?
I love these names navies tag on warships to disguise their true purpose. More on this subject later, but here is one from Germany a “multi-purpose ship”, officially “Mehrzweckeinsatzschiff”. Mike at Combat Fleet of the World (one of my favorite new naval blogs!) provides some details of what this may be like:
– 2 large LHDs, 27/30000 tons, carrying/supporting 800 men (“JSS 800”). Maybe a TKMS MRD150/MHD150/MHD200 or a Spanish BPE design’s…?
– 3 LPD/LHD, + 20000 tons, carrying/supporting 400 men (“JSS 400+”). Maybe a French Mistral or Dutch Enforcer 16000 design…?
– 3 LPD/LHD, – 20000 tons, capable of carrying 400 men, but not enough supplies to support them organically for 30 days, e.g. MZES would be used in addition to that (“JSS 400”).
– no JSS, more MZES instead as a limited solution.
– a mix ?
Multi-role carriers is where it is at. America should emphasize their own more, with less reliance on attack carriers.
Intriguing, and we’ll keep you posted. If the Japanese navy can make a comeback, why not the Kreigsmarine?
Sanity Returning to British Shipbuilding
In wartime or peace, it is better to have a great many good warships, than a few exquisite ones. Proof of this can be seen as BAE expands their building plans beyond the two increasingly uncertain Queen Elizabeth supercarriers. From the Telegraph we learn:
BAE, which took full control of its naval shipbuilding joint venture with VT Group last month, is pursuing orders in Oman and North Africa, as well as looking for opportunities in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Australia where other divisions of BAE have significant businesses.
“We have to put the ground work in now to develop these markets,” said Alan Johnston, managing director of the newly-formed surface ships business “The international business will be about ship support and ship building, using our designs and our system management skills.”
As an example Mr Johnston cites the recent sale of a patrol boat design to the Thai navy, which was based on a ship being built for export to Trinidad and Tobago.
He said the division is looking at contracts worth from £5m up to £4bn. A proportion of future export work would be carried out in the countries that place the orders, he said. Mr Johnston insists the British yards have at least another five to six years of steady work, despite increasing speculation over the future of the two aircraft carriers after next year’s election.
Proof that placing all of one’s eggs in a couple pricey baskets isn’t always a smart move. The USAF learned this with the F-22 Raptor, while its aging fleet of warplanes from the 70s and 80s fought its wars, and 25 years later continue to keep going, and going…
Meanwhile the 2 British aircraft carriers are hanging on by a thread, but thanks to high costs of ships and planes, while threats mount world-wide, their demise can only be a matter of the next government in power.
Rafale versus F-35
One of the handful of remaining carrier-capable, non V/STOL jets in the world today is the French Rafale, a possibility for an F-35 alternative. Judge for yourself from this article via Peter Collins at Flight Global:
It is worth remembering that stealth-optimized, or fifth-generation fighters such as the Lockheed F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are not only likely to be hugely expensive, but they can only preserve their stealth characteristics by carrying a very limited weapons load in their internal weapon bays.
Therefore, in the current and predicted financial defence climate, it could well be that so-called fourth-generation fighters will remain the aircraft of choice for most nations – perhaps even including the UK.
Moreover, the fact that the Rafale is the only European fighter in production that is carrier-capable gives it, in my opinion, a distinct advantage in any future export “fly-off” competition as a single combat type that can equip a country’s air force and naval air arm.
You’ll Be Sorry…
France is intent on selling Russia up to 4 light amphibious carriers no matter the cost, and I’m not referring to money here. From Joseph Farah at World Net Daily:
Never at a loss to pass up a commercial deal that could hit Western strategic security interests, the French government is on a fast track to sell Russia one or more helicopter carriers that will provide the amphibious capability it now lacks in the Black Sea, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Such a capability could allow the Kremlin to move troops and tanks into neighboring Georgia more quickly, for example allowing Russian Spetznaz, or Special Forces, to invade in a matter of hours rather than the days it took in its August 2008 invasion.
In 2008, Russia literally took away from Georgia two contentious breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Ironically, the French government negotiated the end of hostilities that allowed the Russians to militarily occupy the two breakaway provinces which Moscow immediately recognized as independent countries.
When a carrier is not a carrier
From the same WND post, here is some sly bit of terminology on the difference of an aircraft carrier and an amphibious warship. Russia uses the confusion to bypass an international naval Treaty barring flattops from passing through Turkish waters:
In pressing its power projection capability in the Black Sea again, Russia asserts that introduction of the Mistral-type helicopter carriers in the Black Sea does not violate the 1936 Montreux Convention, which is interpreted and enforced by Turkey, Russia’s other “strategic partner.”
Under the Montreux Convention, aircraft carriers are banned from passing through the Turkish Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits. However, Russia claims the Mistral carriers do not meet the criteria of carriers as outlined in the convention.
If the French approve the sale slated for sometime in November, the Russians will most likely put their Ka-27 and Ka-29 helicopters on the Mistral.
But consider what function each particular ship performs, which is power projection by the use of airpower, in the Mistral’s case, helicopters rather than fixed-wing jets. We had this argument in the comments last week when yours truly referred to the planned Australian Canberra class “Landing Helicopter Dock” as light carriers. We also recall a time back in the 70s when a certain naval power was constructing “through deck cruisers” to avoid the prevailing political bias against large decks. And Japan just received first of the new Hyuga class, ahem, “helicopter destroyers”.
Who Would Notice?
Northrop Grumman Corp, the builder of the mighty Ford class supercarrier, promises it will keep costs in line for the $14 billion vessel. Honestly, who would notice if they did go over budget?
Northrop will lay the keel of the Gerald R. Ford, the first of a new class of aircraft carriers — an enormous floating city that will be nearly as long as the Empire State Building is tall — at its Newport News shipyard on Saturday,
The Navy put the cost of research and development on the new ship at $3.6 billion plus $2.87 billion for detailed design work. The first ship, CVN 78, will cost $8.7 billion to build, excluding those costs, said Lieutenant Commander Victor Chen.
Mike Shawcross, Northrop vice president for the Ford-class carrier program, said the company had implemented several measures to beef up oversight and make sure the Navy clearly understood the production impact of any design changes.
When you start getting into the billions of dollars, savings is no longer a factor. Note that this price doesn’t even include the $100 million each fighter jets needed to make her more than a gold-plated barge. Want to show savings? Don’t build this monster of another age! Rely more on smaller ships which don’t strain our shrinking shipbuilding budget to the brink, like small carriers, and missile firing warships.