Carrier Alternative Weekly
Australian Light carriers Looming
Some might take issue with me describing the HMAS Canberra class amphibious ships as “carriers”, but the fact is– here is an amazing ability which the service hasn’t possessed for decades. Info is from Brahmand.com:
The first of the two LHDs – HMAS Canberra – is expected to arrive in Australia in 2012 followed by the second one in 2014. The ships are being built for the Royal Australian Navy for sophisticated air-land-sea deployment. The 27,000 tonne ships will be able to land a force of over 2,000 personnel by helicopter and water craft, along with all their weapons, ammunition, vehicles and stores.
Despite numerous difficulties and controversies endured by the Australian Navy of late, she seems determined for a major expansion of capabilities in the next decade, alone with some large Aegis missile destroyers we often liken to “new battleships”. All are of Spanish design. Defense Industry Daily writes:
These 5 ships will be the core of Australia’s future surface navy. The LHDs will be able to serve as amphibious landing ships, helicopter carriers, floating HQs and medical facilities for humanitarian assistance, and launching pads for UAVs or even short/vertical takeoff fighters.
Concerning her aviation abilities, here is Wikipedia:
The Canberra class ships will provide the Australian Defence Force with greatly increased naval aviation capabilities, with each ship carrying up to 24 Army and Navy helicopters. These aircraft will include Army and Navy MRH-90 transport helicopters, Army Tiger helicopter gunships and Navy S-70B Seahawk anti-submarine helicopters. Although the ships will be fitted with a ski-ramp and could be certified to operate STOVL aircraft, they will not initially be fitted with the radar needed to operate fixed-wing aircraft.
The Demise of Naval Air
New Wars never gets tired of questioning the logic that says we must continue to deploy large deck carriers, even as their airwings reduce in size. Here is U.S. Navy Undersecretary Robert Work quoted in Defense News:
We have a requirement for 10 carrier air wings. Do we have enough airplanes – is there exactly 44 in every single one? No, but we don’t need it.
Oh, and those 10 airwings are to support an 11 carrier fleet. Sigh.
Don’t Exile the UAV’s to the Carrier
One of the best qualities which small unmanned aerial vehicles bring to the battlefield, is flexibility. It allows the warfighter, as in small combat teams to field their own mini-airpower assets without always depending on large manned jets, which might often be hundreds of miles away or distracted by other missions. In other words, UAV’s in land warfare disperses the ability of airpower to react to numerous threats, large or small, empowering forces greater than ever before.
The navy’s current but belated interest in UAV’s seem to be in part based on the capability of launching large planes from its handful of large deck carriers. Defense Industry Daily explains the reasoning:
A May 2007 non-partisan report discussed the lengthening reach of ship-killers. Meanwhile, the US Navy’s carrier fleet sees its strike range shrinking to 1950s distances, and prepares for a future with 11 operational carriers – but just 10 carrier air wings. Could UCAV/UCAS vehicles with longer ranges, and indefinite flight time limits via aerial refueling, solve these problems?
This is a logical use of the carrier’s spacious hull, but we wonder if it is a practical use of the UAVs versatility, and its ability to launch from even smaller decks. Instead of just empowering the 10-11 carriers we have in deployment, UAVs should be spread among the fleet, of use with individual warships, just as the same weapons on land have enhanced the abilities of small ground forces.
While our very few large decks, can’t be everywhere at once, a UAV can be anywhere there is a launch platform available. Logically this would be as many of our current 280 ship fleet as possible, but at the very least the amphib carriers and the Burke destroyers. Currently, there may be no UAV suitable for this role, but it is certainly feasible, as we remember the USS Wisconsin and USS Missouri launching Pioneer drones off their decks during Operation Desert Storm. Imagine an armed Predator drone catapulted off the deck of Navy destroyer to speed inland and bomb terrorist enclave hundreds of miles inland, or support a company of Marines tied down by enemy fire. Maybe the Navy has imagined this which is why they might wish to see the drones tied down to their Big Decks!
India’s No-Sale for Kitty Hawk Carrier
Putting to rest rumors to the contrary, here is Sify Business:
The aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk is not up for sale to the Indian Navy as it has already ‘outstretched’ its life, a senior US Navy officer said Wednesday.
‘The ship was meant to last 48 years. It is in Wilmington (North Carolina) and not for sale. There is no intention to sell it. It has already outstretched its intended service life,’ Rear Admiral Allen G. Myers, the Director (Warfare Integration) of the US Navy, told IANS.
This puts to rest all reports of the decommissioned carrier being offered to India, which, at one stage, expressed interest in the vessel.
Maybe just as well, though New Delhi has done wonders with the 50 year old Hermes.