Carrier Alternative Weekly
Calcutta’s Carrier Conundrum
It’s official now. None of the 2 new British aircraft carriers will be going to India as earlier reported. Still, it seemed like a good idea, so much that we “scooped” the plan last week while working on the draft for this week’s post. I kept the proposal in, because next year’s UK Defence Review might still hold some surprises!
We have posted on this story before, of India’s continous attempts to replace aging warships and create a modern naval air arm. In so doing, they find themselves in an amazing predicament, in no wise unique, according to the Times of India:
On one hand, it has an aging but newly-refurbished aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, which is fast running out of fighters which can operate from its deck.
On the other, it’s soon going to induct another type of maritime fighters but no suitable carrier to operate them from. Navy will get Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov only by early-2013 but will begin inducting its MiG-29Ks later this month.
So she has the fighters but no new carrier, in other words, up the creek without a paddle. Britain will soon have the Queen Elizabeth carriers but can’t afford enough aircraft to fill their massive decks. There’s your answer! Britain sells her 2 unneeded and unaffordable flattops to India, spend the rest on restoring the Royal Navy’s fallen numbers of surface ships and submarines, perhaps enough left over to start start funding on a second HMS Ocean class. Problem solved!
Not quite so easy. Since we drafted the last paragraph, Royal Navy Chief Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope in the Times has declared his service’s intent to see the 4 billion pound program to the end:
The Government, he said, was committed to building two aircraft carriers, and it made little sense to start talking about scaling them down to smaller ships. He dismissed a report that one of the carriers might be switched to a helicopter carrier, instead of having the Joint Strike Fighter F35, the replacement for Harriers. “We can put more helicopters on the platform if we want but we will not be converting one of the 64,000-tonne carriers into a helicopter carrier,” he said.
The admiral said that the £4 billion carrier programme involved 10,000 workers and 57 British companies. He also pointed out that a considerable amount (about £1 billion) had already been spent on the two ships which will be called HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. The two carriers which would be around for 40 years, represented “a good investment”.
India’s “Rust Bucket” Carrier
Speaking of India and British carrier deals, we thought the following post from the Punch blog, concerning the Viraat/Hermes (which turned 50 yesterday) quite humorous:
The saga of the Indian rust buckets (air craft carriers) is a funny one. Bharat is using a 50s vintage bucket—which is now being replaced by a very expensive one—if Delhi and Moscow can ever agree to a price tag.The normal life of a ship is 20 years. This aircraft carrier was obsoleted by the British in the 80s. The huge expense has not project Bharati power anywhere. It has been unable to use this colossal white elephant anywhere. Not in one situation has it been able to project any power. It is like taking a Kia to race car to impress people that you have a car.the Viraat rust bucket hosts 18 obsolete Harrier planes. The words “power” and Viraat should not be used in the same sentence. it is anything but powerful.
She’s pretty old, no doubt. In her defense, the Viraat has performed decades of service for first Britain then India, while their own “new” carrier programs seems as far away as ever, and the Gorshkov saga mentioned ongoing for the whole decade, with consistent delays and costs overrun, probably not over yet.
And the Viraat/Hermes not powerful? Tell it to the Argentines!
China’s military is close to fielding the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile, according to U.S. Navy intelligence. The missile, with a range of almost 900 miles (1,500 kilometers), would be fired from mobile, land-based launchers and is “specifically designed to defeat U.S. carrier strike groups,” the Office of Naval Intelligence reported. Five of the U.S. Navy’s 11 carriers are based in the Pacific and operate freely in international waters near China. Their mission includes defending Taiwan should China seek to exercise by force its claim to the island democracy, which it considers a breakaway province.
The missile could turn this region into a “no-go zone” for U.S. carriers, said Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budget Assessments in Washington.
The US Navy’s entire Maritime Strategy since at least the Korean War is a fleet centered around the giant aircraft carrier able to launch its planes against enemy shore targets, with a secondary role of sea control. Having no peer seapower as an enemy during this time period, means the sea control issue has fallen far from the minds of the air-minded admirals. So focused are they on the land threat, they are now arming all of our Aegis radar and missile armed destroyers and cruisers with weapons able to destroy land-based ballistic missiles in flight. The folly of this land-centric focus of the US Navy is now clear, seemingly justified by each new brush-fire against poorly armed continental powers, from Korea to Iraq, yet obviously these have been the wrong lessons. The ideal scenario of running a 100,000 flattop against an enemy coastline which we’ve enjoyed for 60+years can no longer be realistically contemplated.
Note-Realizing this is the second time in a row I have featured the Japanese light carrier/destroyer Hyuga in the post, but what a great new photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class John M. Hageman and the USN website! I believe that is USS Essex (LHD 2) in the background.