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Carrier Alternative Weekly

July 1, 2010

British light carrier HMS Glory in 1946. Should the USN build CVL's to complement it's fading fleet of supercarriers?

Yawn

So much for the voices of conspiracy! A routine deployment caused a big splash in the news, with cries of an impending strike on Iran (as if they didn’t deserve one!) all to get us here, according to Lance Bacon at the Navy Times:

For the sailors aboard the carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, the large, gray flattop that roared past the port side was a welcome sight. That ship was the carrier Harry S. Truman, and the long-awaited exchange happened Saturday. The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group will officially relinquish control of Task Force 50 and the area of responsibility Friday.

Here’s what we get for all the uproar:

The Truman strike group deployed May 21 from Norfolk, Va., after a seven-month delay caused when the carrier Enterprise was late coming out of the yard. The strike group transited the Suez Canal and entered 5th Fleet on June 18. Its six ships, air wing and 6,000 sailors will provide close air support to coalition ground forces in Afghanistan.

Tehran need not fear since the USN will continue to use the world’s most expensive warships in sundry ground support missions over uncontested airspace, in an attempt to justify their relevance in 21st century warfare. Supporting land troops being its only haven in an era of mostly ground threats, though cheap, expendable, and off the shelf “jeep” carriers were good enough for this function in the last world war. Likely the Marine Harrier carriers would be adequate for this role in a Navy seeking savings, but are there no airbases in Afghanistan?

Placing them where their 100,000 ton hulls can be at risk from suicide boats, attack from missile subs or mines might also interfere with future funding plans.

Nothing to see here. Move along, move along…

*****

Carriers Keep Out!

In contrast to the ongoing Iran fable, is a very real and impending threat to USN warships from China. Recently the PLA announced it would be testing it’s rumored carrier-killing anti-access missiles just in time for America’s birthday celebration on the 4th. Here is Greg Grant at Defense Tech:

Chinese media reports that beginning today the People’ Liberation Army (PLA) will hold six days of military exercises in the East China Sea, a message, analysts say, to the U.S. Navy not to steam its carrier battle groups too close to Chinese shores…
Respected China analyst Andrew Erickson says the live fire training aims to demonstrate China’s ability to attack a U.S. carrier strike group and may include the first test of China’s long talked about anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). He sees hints that China’s Second Artillery, a powerful organization within the Chinese military which operates the country’s missile force, may be at a point where it’s ready to test an ASBM.

According to the report, China has numerous available alternatives to concentrate attacks on our few giant warships:

Erickson says Chinese tactics would aim for “multi-axis saturation” of a carrier strike group’s missile defenses by combining swarms of missile boats (such as the Houbei Type 022 fast missile catamaran), missile launching submarines and land based ballistic missiles.

Which argues against the USN practice of concentrating immense firepower in a few inflexible platforms, inflexible in the sense they can be in only one place at a time.

*****

Buy Small Carriers…

You get the impression that advocates for large decks in the USN want either 100,000 ton ships or nothing. They may get nothing as their continual insistence on building legacy style warships is helping anti-carrier advocates in their cause to turn the USN into a coastal defense force, since no power on earth can sustain ships costing $10-$15 billion each, plus arm them and build adequate numbers of warships for other navy functions.

Often accused of trying to sink the carriers, in contrast New Wars and others who advocate smaller ships are naval airpower’s last hope. Focused as they are on upshoring a floundering economy, and increasingly distracted by social concerns, politicians are looking for big cuts in military spending, and the logical conclusion will fall on the battlefleet, with many beginning to question its relevance.

The battlefleet is still relevant, and it doesn’t need cutting so much as changing. Though many have insisted how less capable small carriers are compared to the immaculate supercarriers of the Nimitz class, if the choice left is “nothing”, suddenly the economical vessel appears quite effective.

Michael Colombaro at Combat Fleet of the World is now echoing New War’s call for building smaller fixed wing carriers. First he gives the reason why:

If the latest Nimitz carrier (USS George.H.W.Bush) cost +/- 7 $ billion, the 1st Gerald-R-Ford cost +/- 14 $ billion (R & D include) and the 2 next reached +/- 10/12 $ billion per copy. For this, in 2009 it was decided to build a new carrier only every 5 years (rather than previously every 4 years). In fact, with cost escalation/inflation, its become clear than by late 2010’s/early 2020’s, the cost of a later 100 000 tons CVN 78 class ships reach easily +/- 15 $ billion (or even worse….)

And even the cost of there mid-life modernization (RCOH) is a major concern…
– The 1998/2001 RCOH for the USS Nimitz cost +/- 1,8 $ billion.
– The 2005/2008 RCOH for the USS Carl Vinson cost +/- 3,1 $ billion.
– The 2009/2012 RCOH for the USS Theodore-Roosevelt was expected to cost +/- 3,3 $ billion…

While Michael concedes how a larger deck would be more desirable, the costs can only lead to one conclusion–cuts.

Unfortunately the rising cost of big CVN will push the Americans to slow down their buildings. But this is not a long term solution. In fact, it becomes clear that in future, with UAVs is increasing onboard, with a 100,000 tons ship cost +/- 15 $ billion (or even much more by 2020’s), a VERY strong need for reducing expensive crew and newer threats capable of sinking large ships. The need to develop new, smaller , advanced (and survivable) vessels will be felt…

Here is a summary of the blogger’s CVL proposal:

  • displacement-58,000/68,000 tons
  • Length-278/290 meters
  • Crew-1000/1500
  • Airwing-40 to 55 total
  • Propulsion-2 or 4 conventional shaft or even pods
  • Or-A single nuclear reactor that doesn’t require midlife replacement (?)

My own thinking, this is a safe adjustment to carrier procurement because of advances in airpower since the 1980s, with the advent of precision guided munitions, allowing naval bombers the long-sought goal of “one bomb, one hit”. I continue to be astonished that the carrier builders do not take advantage of this significant breakthrough in technology to reduce the cost and increase the number of flattops. Instead, they remain on the basic Nimitz type supercarrier hull, allowing the class to increase in unbearable cost, thus ensuring its inevitable demise.

*****

…Or Nothing

Interestingly, the US Navy seems to be in the position of the British Royal Navy in it’s post World War 2 stage, and the decline from Empire. After the rapid expansion of the war years, the RN shrank rapidly and steadily, averaging around 300 ships in service initially, with about 9 fixed wing carriers in service by the 1950s. After 1960 and the retreat to a position “East of Suez“, the decline became more pronounced.

Beginning in WW 2 and for years afterwords, the Navy supplemented its fleet of large carriers, the 6 Illustrious class plus the improved Eagle and Ark Royal with numerous light carriers. Specifically these were 5 ships of the Majestic class, 8 ships of the Colossus class, and 4 ships of the Centaur class. Many of these remained uncompleted at war’s end, and eventually were either sold to allies such as Canada and Australia. One was even used against Britain in the Falklands War, or at least the aircraft of Veinticinco de Mayo, formerly HMS Venerable were. Others became the first British helicopter “commando carriers”.

Several were used as fixed wing aircraft carriers to supplement the declining number of strike carriers. Most notable was the famed HMS Hermes which could also launch the excellent Blackburn Buccaneer attack plane, though not the larger American Phantom II fighter.

The saga of saving the Fleet Air Arm and the subsequent canceling of CVA-01 in 1966, the last (so far) British supercarrier, has been told here before. The idea was that Britain attempted to purchase 5-6 supercarriers to keep herself in the first rank of naval powers, with this number eventually downsized to 1-2. Because of the expense and the post-war economic difficulties of the United Kingdom, again sounding very familiar to modern America, she ended up losing her fixed wing ability altogether.

This is not to say the V/STOL capability of the Invincible class, often called light carriers themselves but really non-traditional types able to load only helicopters and the Harrier vertol plane, aren’t desirable. The Harrier is a great plane, but its primary attribute is to operate from austere decks, even a helicopter platform. It’s drawbacks include short range, low speed, and high maintenance. Overall it is better than nothing, which is where the Royal Navy was about 1970.

It is curious that the Navy didn’t draw on its experience in building and deploying light carriers to continue this practice. Certainly a slightly enlarged HMS Hermes, perhaps some 30,000 tons-plus would have been more affordable than 60,000 ton giants, and less controversial price-wise. The French in the 1950s pursued a less ambitious carrier program, producing the Foch and Clemenceau, which were quite adequate for the colonial duties of her own fading empire.

Aircraft would have been less a problem. The French designed several series of the supersonic Entendard specifically for carrier service, but the British still had the Buccaneer that proved a formidable attack plane, later in RAF service up to the 1991 Gulf War. The Gannet airborne-early warning plane could also be carried, which is an oft-noted deficiency in the Invincible class in the Falklands.

Fighters would have been harder to come by, as the French discovered in their use of antiquated American F-8 Crusaders from the Vietnam War up until the 1990s. One idea might have been to adapt the Panavia Tornado for this role, which was smaller than the Phantom. Also, the excellent Franco/British Jaguar might have been an alternative, since these planes were also tested for naval service, the Jaguar M.

Of course, there was still the Kestrel, later dubbed the Harrier, just in time to save naval airpower for small/medium navies. The Harrier gave excellent service in numerous wars as it continues to this day. The problem is with its replacement there are few alternatives, the only one being the F-35B Lightning II which is an expensive and troubled program. Yet light fixed wing fighters and bombers are widespread, and deployed worldwide, most notably the French Rafale now on the small Charles de Gaulle, and there is even talk of adapting the Swedish Gripen for naval service. Numerous training planes such as the British Hawk series and the Korean T-50 Golden Eagle seem readily adaptable for combat functions.

*****

An RAF Buccaneer S.2B aircraft in 1988.

86 Comments leave one →
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  3. B.Smitty permalink
    July 8, 2010 10:21 am

    Joe said, “Didn’t flesh out my question quite well, but I really was wondering that *if* the F-35 program crashes and burns, and we’re left with just short-legged Supers, might that open a door for the F-15 Sea Eagle concept or would the Navy just leave the door shut and say to heck with it?

    If we’re going to navalize any land-based fighter, it should be the Raptor.

  4. Hokie_1997 permalink
    July 6, 2010 4:05 pm

    Hi all,

    Some choice excerpts from recent RAND paper on naval UASs which may be appropriate to carrier discussions in general.

    This is mainly to provide our gracious host with some realistic bounds on what UASs are and are not capable of.

    UASs can do a lot of things — but we’re unlikely to see them dogfighting for some time.

    **********

    Air-to-Air Combat

    Air-to-air combat against highly maneuverable enemy aircraft —in other words, “dogfighting”—is not a suitable application for a UAS in
    this time frame because the situational awareness and reaction time of an offboard pilot is insufficient.

    For a manned system, the pilot’s reaction
    time is around 200 milliseconds. For an unmanned system, such a reaction time is currently almost impossible. The data rate required to provide the pilot on the ground with situational awareness is very high, and any loss of communication signal could be disastrous for the UAS.

    If SATCOM provides the data link, propagation delay alone would triple the reaction time from 200 to 600 milliseconds.

    A UAS could be designed to automatically react to information gathered on its sensors, but mature automation technology does not exist to provide this capability, and many challenges remain.

    The UAS may be suitable for other air-to-air applications, such as attacking enemy high-value airborne targets that are less maneuverable,
    such as bombers or ISR aircraft. However, these targets are likely to be defended by fighter aircraft.

    The best option for using a UAS in an air-to-air capacity is to have the UAS be part of a larger formation that includes manned aircraft.

    The manned aircraft, perhaps Navy F-35 aircraft, can lead the UAS into combat and provide “guidance” to the UAS weapons. In essence,
    the UAS is simply providing the manned platform with more weapons.

    The UAS itself may be programmed to follow the lead of the manned aircraft and fire weapons at selected targets when instructed. Note that
    this would place additional demands on the pilot of the F-35. Also, significant technical challenges would have to be overcome.

    In summary, we do not recommend air-to-air combat as an application for an N-UCAS. Advances in automation technology and development of CONOPS and capabilities for integrated manned and
    unmanned aircraft systems may enable air-to-air applications in future UASs. But considerable challenges exist today. For this reason, we do
    not consider air-to-air combat a promising application for an operation using N-UCAS in the 2025 timeframe.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    July 6, 2010 6:45 am

    Mike,

    I doubt that the USN would stop all work on carriers just to build up naval aviation. It seems somewhat contradictory.

    Joe,

    My gut feeling is that we won’t be seeing an F-15 sea eagle any time soon, but its only backed up by a general lack of available information on the subject that seems to indicate a similair lack of interest. If anyone else has any info on the F-15N it would be greatly appreciated.

    Al

  6. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 6, 2010 5:59 am

    “I just can’t see them spending even more money on fighters right now.’

    A freeze on carrier construction would set things aright. We can spend funds on reequipping the naval air arm. Planes with decent range, plus variety of planes for different functions. Maybe even afford some stealth bombers for the CVNs.

    Give it twenty years and we’d still have the greatest carrier fleet on earth. The planes we’d get could be updated as needed for another few decades until we see what type fleet we need.

    If our allies can go 20-30 years without building flattops, why can’t the USN, if they are worried about losing “vital expertise”? Seems to me a poor excuse for bankrupting the shipbuilding budget.

  7. Joe permalink
    July 5, 2010 11:59 pm

    Anonymous said: “…and plans to spend billions on F-35Cs. I just can’t see them spending even more money on fighters right now.”

    Didn’t flesh out my question quite well, but I really was wondering that *if* the F-35 program crashes and burns, and we’re left with just short-legged Supers, might that open a door for the F-15 Sea Eagle concept or would the Navy just leave the door shut and say to heck with it?

    The TBTF/SAAC (too big to fail/save at all costs) nature of the F-35 program is easy to see in Washington. If it survives, then right or wrong it’ll be joining Supers on flattops at some point. However, if it dies of its own escalating cost structure, then we’re left to decide what (if anything) will take its intended place on carriers.

  8. Anonymous permalink
    July 5, 2010 11:13 pm

    Scott B.

    ” And that’s how Meteor is supposed to work in conjunction with AEW”

    Thanks for the info and links, I hadn’t realized someone was actually working on this.

    Quoting myself here:

    ““I’m not sold on UCAVs. Ever since our Predetors were hacked over Iraq it is clear to me that a major power could not only hack but just jam thier signal making the UCAV useless.”

    All the more reason to make fully (or mostly) autonomous UAVs.”

    I want to apologize for dismissing a valid point so casually. UCAVs wouldn’t work for this because the hacking/jamming problem, and autonomous UCAVs are a long way off.

    Al

  9. Anonymous permalink
    July 5, 2010 10:56 pm

    “I too wish we could see a navalized F-22 (and the FB-22), but there isn’t enough magic pixie dust to make either of them come true. For the naval angle, given the Tomcat line has been dead for so long, would there be much more (if any) chance of reviving the old notion of the F-15 Sea Eagle?”

    Probably not, given the fact that the Navy is already in the process of buying Super Hornets and plans to spend billions on F-35Cs. I just can’t see them spending even more money on fighters right now.

  10. Joe permalink
    July 5, 2010 9:16 pm

    B. Smitty said: Long-ranged missiles need to be paired with a powerful radar, which will make for a large aircraft. Unless we plan to bring the Tomcat back, I don’t see this as any more realistic.

    I too wish we could see a navalized F-22 (and the FB-22), but there isn’t enough magic pixie dust to make either of them come true. For the naval angle, given the Tomcat line has been dead for so long, would there be much more (if any) chance of reviving the old notion of the F-15 Sea Eagle?

    At least foreign nations have been keeping the F-15 line open…

  11. Scott B. permalink
    July 5, 2010 6:58 pm

    Anon said : “Would it be possible to adapt an E-2 Hawkeye to act as fire control for the missiles?”

    And that’s how Meteor is supposed to work in conjunction with AEW :

    “A single fighter, equipped with an operational load of BVRAAM missiles, has the potential to destroy even the most maneuvrable of fighters well before they reach combat range, and simultaneously engage bombers at long range. Targets are prioritised prior to launch, and the missiles are fired towards the predicted interception points. Meanwhile target information can be updated, via the data-link, throughout the initial flight – either from the launch aircraft or from a third party such as AWACs. Tactical information on the missile can also be received by the controlling aircraft. At the appropriate time, BVRAAM’s active radar seeker autonomously searches for and locks onto the target. The missile is now fully autonomous, making its own decisions to home in on the target, despite any evasive manoeuvres, or decoys or sophisticated electronic countermeasures.”

    Source : Global Security

  12. Scott B. permalink
    July 5, 2010 5:55 pm

    Anon said : “Would it be possible to adapt an E-2 Hawkeye to act as fire control for the missiles?”

    That’s pretty much the way SM-6 ERAM is supposed to work with E-2D Hawkeye :

    Raytheon’s SM-6 Missile Headed for Sea-Based Trials”

  13. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 5, 2010 5:52 pm

    “On Global Security there is a concept for a “FB-22″.”

    We could certainly use something like this in the force mix, but the cost I am sure would make most of us cringe. How about something like the F-15K which the ROK recently bought, at $100 mill per? Excellent bomber, great range.

    Anonymous wrote “Carriers do a lot more than carry planes. They serve as oilers, command and control/flagships, hospitals.”

    That’s what frightens me about our dependence on them. I understand they must be very survivable, but there is little proof since they only operate in benign environments against non-naval powers, or extremely minor ones. We lose one ship, and there is a tremendous amount of your capability gone. I don’t believe in unsinkable warships and using 100,000 ton battle carrier as gunboats, and sea bases, and everything you mentioned doesn’t inspire me with confidence we are ready for the next blow-up at sea. We learned about distant blockade 100 years ago, yet we are using our most indispensable ships for littoral operations.

  14. Fencer permalink
    July 5, 2010 5:04 pm

    On Global Security there is a concept for a “FB-22”. This plane is an enlarged F-22 with an improved payload and approximately 1,000 mile range while retaining the advanced stealth and supercruise abilities. It seems like a navlised variant of this plane could give the US Navy carriers an excellent weapon to deal with modern air-defense systems and anti-access weapons.

  15. Anonymous permalink
    July 5, 2010 3:00 pm

    Anonymous,

    “I’m not sold on UCAVs. Ever since our Predetors were hacked over Iraq it is clear to me that a major power could not only hack but just jam thier signal making the UCAV useless.”

    All the more reason to make fully (or mostly) autonomous UAVs.

    Al

  16. Anonymous permalink
    July 5, 2010 2:41 pm

    I’m not sold on UCAVs. Ever since our Predetors were hacked over Iraq it is clear to me that a major power could not only hack but just jam thier signal making the UCAV useless.

  17. Anonymous permalink
    July 5, 2010 2:35 pm

    There are several flaws in everyones arguments on this post. As a former sailior in the U.S. Navy and current defense contractor I can tell you that birdfarms are treated like ships of the line. The Navy has NO problem parking a CVN off the coast of a hostile country or sending her thru narrow straits. The major problem with these arguments is that people are looking at the Nimitz and Ford class ships as a single entity. They are not. They are a part of a team that support each other.

    Carriers do a lot more than carry planes. They serve as oilers, command and control/flaggships, hospitals. There are reasons why they are so big and such large crews. American warships are designed from day one to be upgraded. So they are built larger to accomdate the wieght of the new systems. Including bigger aircraft and their weapons.
    The crews are large beacause the U.S. Navy demands that all systems are manned 24hr a day. Meaning 1/3 of the crew is always on duty and depending on the size of the ship be at battlestations in 7 minutes. Even the engine rooms are fully staffed at all times even on a gas turbine ship.

    Damage control is real big in the U.S. Navy. Amercan ships tend to be overly engineered in this area. However as a former Damage Controlman I wouldn’t have it any other way. For example if you compare a Burke to a Euro style destroyer just on their water tight fixtures you will see what I mean. The amount of damage a Nimitz class carrier can take is insane. She may not be able to launch aircraft but she will be able to fight another day. The real speed of a Nimitz will surprise many as well. You all would be surprise the little tricks carriers have to defend themselves.

    The defensive layer of carrier battle group reaches out rather far. My ship was FAR ahead of the group. I do admit that the loss of the Vikings and the range and the Tomcat in Alpha Strike mode is a loss to the fleet. The Rhinos did close the gap somewhat in the attack area but nothing as of yet replace the S-3s.

    As far as the sky rocketing price of American warships a lot of that has to do with pure 100% greed of our defense contractors. Admirals and Generals don’t say anything because they want nice jobs when they retire and politicians like the support they get from the deep pockects of the contractors.

    The key thing to remember is, at least in the U.S. Navy, aircraft carriers mission is to take the war to the enemy no matter where they are on a 24 hr basis.

    sorry for the rant and grammer. It was a good 4th!

  18. Anonymous permalink
    July 5, 2010 8:51 am

    “Would UAVs fit into this concept, since this seems to be where airpower is focused lately? Their persistence indicates they would be perfect hunter killer types against other aircraft.”

    I hadn’t considered it before but you’re right, UAVs would be perfect for this concept. They would probably fit in best as missile carriers controlled either by the E-2 or another aircraft (Prowler?).

    However if we can build UAVs able to carry large missiles and dogfight effectively, it raises the question of why not simply try to match Chinese numbers with mass UAV production.
    Al

  19. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 5, 2010 8:29 am

    Would UAVs fit into this concept, since this seems to be where airpower is focused lately? Their persistence indicates they would be perfect hunter killer types against other aircraft.

  20. Anonymous permalink
    July 5, 2010 7:24 am

    Mike,

    “Going back to the missileer concept of the 1960s.”

    There are two major differences between my proposal and the 1960s idea. First the E-2 Hawkeye, rather than just telling the missile aircraft that enemy planes were coming, would use it’s own radar to illuminate the missile targets and guide the missiles in.

    Secondly the missile planes would be conventional fighters (maybe the Hornet) that had been converted to carry the missiles. Once the missiles had been launched, the fighters could defend the E-2 from enemy fighters as well as engage any enemy planes that survived the missile strike.

  21. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 5, 2010 5:04 am

    “Would it be possible to adapt an E-2 Hawkeye to act as fire control for the missiles?”

    Going back to the missileer concept of the 1960s.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F6D_Missileer

  22. Anonymous permalink
    July 5, 2010 12:50 am

    Would it be possible to adapt an E-2 Hawkeye to act as fire control for the missiles? That would allow smaller planes to carry the missiles, plus the radar plane would use an existing airframe.

  23. B.Smitty permalink
    July 4, 2010 11:23 pm

    It would be near impossible to sell to Congress.

    Long-ranged missiles need to be paired with a powerful radar, which will make for a large aircraft. Unless we plan to bring the Tomcat back, I don’t see this as any more realistic.

    Increasingly longer-ranged versions of AMRAAM arming EPE up-rated Super Hornets might be as close as we get. Maybe we can buy some Meteors when they become available. We just won’t be able fly Super Hornets near land for fear of SA-10/20+ SAMs.

  24. Anonymous permalink
    July 4, 2010 9:46 pm

    Instead of the F-22 type fighter (which might be hard to sell to a cost-concerned congress), would a plane equiped with a long-range AIM-54 type missile be able handle large numbers of Chinese planes at little risk to itself.

  25. B.Smitty permalink
    July 4, 2010 9:14 pm

    I don’t think the Hornet is adequate, but it’s what we have.

    If we want carrier air to be able to tangle with the Chinese, then they need an F-22-class air superiority fighter to deal with the massive Chinese numerical superiority.

  26. sid permalink
    July 4, 2010 8:32 pm

    Another view here

    (btw that was the first time the Franklin took major combat damage…the idea that the big carriers were held back and the “expendable” CVE’s sent forward is vividly shown to be incorrect in this view)

  27. sid permalink
    July 4, 2010 8:27 pm

    However, its lack of range puts in in the midst of modern anti-access threats.

    I should say “the carrier” , instead of “it”…

  28. sid permalink
    July 4, 2010 8:25 pm

    I think the Hornet is a quite adequate plane for our needs

    However, its lack of range puts in in the midst of moder anti-access threats.

    I’d rather have a gold-plate weapon and a spartan hull, than the opposite, which is why we don’t have enough ships today.

    I’d rather have an adequate weapon that can be bought in numbers and be expected to work when I need it.

    And, given the fact that carriers will be sure to attract enemy fire, I would want them to be tough ships.

    Not, “Invincible”. Not “excquisite”.

    But, a ship that can be risked in a high threat environment with some expectation that it can complete its mission, and mostlikely survive.

    Again- Even the CVE’s were known to be valubale. and NEVER were considered expendable.

    Your notional fleet will not be able to afford too many views like this one

  29. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 4, 2010 6:51 pm

    “in a limited capability carrier air wing”

    I couldn’t agree more. I think the Hornet is a quite adequate plane for our needs, but the exquisite Nimitz and Ford cries for something equally pricey. I’d rather have a gold-plate weapon and a spartan hull, than the opposite, which is why we don’t have enough ships today.

  30. sid permalink
    July 4, 2010 6:51 pm

    From a quite pescient 10 year old Proceedings article (registration required)…

    Saving Naval Aviation
    By Lieutenant Commander Steve Rowe, USNR

    The shift toward a littoral, land-attack focus was an appropriate response to the demise of the Cold War’s open-ocean naval threat. In the rush to capture limited defense dollars by cashing in on power-projection funding, however, the Navy has effectively eliminated the battle group’s ability to operate in a contested littoral without land-based support. This situation will become worse in the next decade, as current budget plans are followed and littoral area-denial threats continue to grow.

    Why Should We Buy Carriers?

    The bottom line is that the naval aviation leadership’s myopic dedication of strike capabilities has stripped the carrier air wing of critical support in virtually every other mission area. The recent reversal in Navy JFACC policy means that land bases will be required for command and control, even if they are not needed to support actual operational capabilities. The few bright spots are overwhelmed by the many gaps in essential capabilities.

    While it true that the carrier may be able to position aircraft somewhat closer to an enemy’s coastline, Air Force tanking (on which the Navy is also dependent) can ensure similar combat reach for land-based strike fighters. Even the supposed force-protection benefits of basing air power at sea are increasingly questionable, given the growth of area-denial threats and the Navy’s reluctance to devote real resources to ASW, ASUW, overland sensing (to detect mobile missile launchers), or mine countermeasures. If putting the carrier air wing at sea provides no unique advantages, then why spend billions upon billions of dollars for aircraft carriers and specialized, tailhook-equipped aircraft?

  31. sid permalink
    July 4, 2010 3:16 pm

    High intensity Naval Aviation must become extremely long ranged.

    The Great Hope is the UCAS-N.

    Sure is a shame that all that “Hornet Love” has resulted in a limited capability carrier air wing (has to rely on land based ISR, tanking or give up attack assets,E-2 incapable of being refueled inflight and unable to keep up with a strike package…), that has a nominal combat radius that is less than half that of a circa 1962 air wing

  32. July 4, 2010 1:27 pm

    Hello Heretic,

    the trade offs needed to make an aircraft land vertically were well known long before the first Harrier was built.
    However,it often seems to be the case that senior military personnel are too easily impressed with technical innovation.
    It is easy to sell them a product if it has a Unique Selling Point (U.S.P.) such as vertical landing.
    Regardless of whether that U.S.P. is really needed in combat,hence the Littoral Combat Ship,Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle,F35B,V22 Osprey,Harrier etc..

    I don’t agree with you about light fighters.
    No matter how big of small a fighter still has a cockpit,engines,undercarriage,radar etc..
    The only difference size makes is that the bigger aircraft needsa bigger fuel truck to fill it.
    While the lightfighter will need more aerial refuelling which is much more of a financial and logistical burden than buying a bigger fuel truck.

    It is desirable that aircraft (both combat and support) can operate from a half mile stretch of road within tactical radius of their targets or from the deck of an aircraft carrier.
    Big aircraft can do that just as well as small ones.

    tangosix.

  33. July 4, 2010 1:05 pm

    Hello Hudson,

    the strategic bombers are almost the only aircraft which can be based beyond the 2,000 mile radius of a DF25.
    The problem is that these large bombers cannot operate in high threat airspace without the support of tactical aircaft like F15s,F16s and EA6B Prowlers (and the tankers and A.W.A.C.s etc. which support them),all of which have to be based within the DF25s radius.

    This picture shows the ramp at Al Udeid,well within the radius of Iranian ballistic missiles:

    Those aircraft probably cost about $4,000 Million but they could be turned into the World’s most expensive seives with just a handful of $1 Million ballistic missiles.

    Tactical aviation will require mobile basing in order to survive under the modern long range artillery threat.
    Either dispersed land mobile basing or sea basing on a carrier.
    The current way of doing things with aircraft tied to a handul of long fixed runways known to the enemy will not be survivable.

    tangosix.

  34. ArkadyRenko permalink
    July 4, 2010 9:42 am

    I think the commentators here are missing a crucial change in the past 5 years.

    High intensity Naval Aviation must become extremely long ranged. So, STVOL aircraft, with their inherent limitations, will at most points in time be inadequate for the missions.

    Naval bases will be very vulnerable, unless quite far from the conflict area. Therefore, the battle fleet will want to minimize its time in port and maximize its time hiding in the ocean.

    Aviation roles will vary between high intensity attacks and periods of very low use.

    Those points are important for the future carrier. The carrier must have catapults and must be able to handle heavy aircraft, so no small STVOL carrier. The battle group must be very resource light. This logically leads to nuclear power. I agree with the previous commentator, the whole battle group should be nuclear powered.

    And really, the nuclear power leads into the next debate. The fleet must be very strategically mobile. If the ASBM has a good terminal homing capability, the only way the carriers can remain safe, is if they keep moving at high speed and use many decoys. That also pushes the fleet towards expensive high quality engines and high speed ships.

    Finally, I think you are all missing the upcoming revolution in naval affairs, the big revolution, that will fundamentally change high power naval warfare. The future isn’t small boats, or giant battleships. No, the future will be submarines, more types of submarines, operating over a larger area and doing a whole variety of missions. Carriers will operate on the extremities of the area and the carriers initial mission is to provide air support to the submarines. Namely cleaning out all the reconnaissance aircraft.

    I think that in 30 years, the question of small boats or big vs. small carriers will be somewhat antiquated. Like debating the merits of the heavy cruiser vs. the pocket battleship. The debate will fundamentally shift. Already you can see the Navy doing that, with the purchase of the UCAS-N and the initial design stages for the F/A-XX. They are already shifting towards a longer range style. The shift is happening perhaps too slowly, but its occurring.

    Though, the next step is to standardize nuclear power and spread it out, to reduce fleet supply demands even further.

  35. sid permalink
    July 3, 2010 2:34 pm

    ooops missed this one. sorry…Beacause this is where the “Burleson Plan” is 100 percent spot on…

    (and it keeps the concept of “Staying Power” in perspective)….

    6. Advantage of Numbers. The attribute that is the most
    consistently advantageous in force-on-force engagements is the
    number of combat units. For example, if forces engaged on side A
    are twice as numerous as side B, then for combat parity, each unit
    of side B must have twice the striking power, twice the staying
    power and twice the defensive firepower of each of side A’s combat
    units. The special combat advantage of numbers seems to apply under
    a very wide set of circumstances.

  36. sid permalink
    July 3, 2010 2:15 pm

    More Hughes

    2. Own Attributes. The key attributes that bear heavily on success
    in modern surface and air-surface naval combat are:
    “o Striking power
    “o staying power
    “o Counterfire (defensive firepower)
    “o Scouting (detection and targeting) effectiveness
    “o Softkill counteractions
    “o Defensive readiness
    “o Training, organization, doctrine and motivation (resulting
    in skill and referred to collectively herein as “training.”)
    No attribute may be neglected in warship design, peacetime
    drills, or combat operations.

    5. Staying Power Robustness. Ship staying power is uniquely the
    ship design element least affected by the particulars of a battle,
    including poor tactics. Staying power’s inherent robustness
    suggests that it should be treated with great respect; and
    specifically with greater respect in U. S. Navy ship designs, which
    have little staying power relative to other attributes such as
    striking power and defensive hard and soft kill power.

  37. sid permalink
    July 3, 2010 11:44 am

    And the idea that small warships are more vulnerable than large should have been put to rest at Pearl harbor.

    Again, Friedman offers a more dispassionate look at what happened to the BB’s at Pearl

    And no, he is not advocating armor for invincibility or exquisiteness….

    So don’t dismiss it out of hand without reading it.

  38. sid permalink
    July 3, 2010 11:21 am

    And the idea that small warships are more vulnerable than large should have been put to rest at Pearl harbor.

    There is no getting around this Mike.

    And Pearl Harbor simply proved that the old US BB’s possessed woefully inadequate torpedo side protection.

    What that tells you mostly (along with the late inclusion of NVR in the LCS), is that when you try to add on survivability factors to a set design -all the BB’s had been blistered during extensive conversions- it will never be as effective as when you incorporate those elements when first build up a design from a clean sheet.

    Yet another notch against the, “pick a hull off the mercantile standard tree”….

  39. sid permalink
    July 3, 2010 11:09 am

    And the idea that small warships are more vulnerable than large should have been put to rest at Pearl harbor. Under the right conditions any ship is vulnerable, and numbers still is the best assurance if survivability, even if it is just a few more than the enemy.

    Numbers are of course important…

    “Staying Power” starts with numbers.

    But you are still drawing the wrong conclusions about the entire subject of “survivability.”

    Yes. Any ship can be sunk

    Thats why the totally off base Kockums PR slogan about survivability being either “invincible” or “invisible” is pure tripe.

    But…

    Individual ship survivability gets to be ever more important in a fleet as any numerical advantage declines.

    And while you may want to beleive that sufficient numbers of even small carriers are going to be built, you will eventually end up right disappointed.

    More Hughes, from his Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat:

    “Suceptibility to hits can and should be attenuated by defensive firepower and soft-kill, but these may not be enough in littroal waters where sudden attacks at relatively close range will be more frequent. Littoral waters will be the arena of modern fleet actions(p165)…Ships that are sunk or out of action cannot deliver anything, so the offense, defense, and staying power of a ship or force all need to be evaluated together.(p168)

    The Great Constants
    – The trend in defense has been away from staying power (the ability to absorb hits) and towards defensive force (forepower and soft kill).

    -Ships architects have overshot the rate of the above change. Staying power should be built into all major combatants.(p225)

  40. sid permalink
    July 3, 2010 10:25 am

    Whoa Mike…

    Friedman never advocated his personal opinions one way or the other in that design study.

    It is simply an historical look at the facors involved, and the decisions made based on those factors.

    So don’t dismiss it, the same devils in the details are still around and will need to be addressed.

  41. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 3, 2010 9:45 am

    I would agree with Mr Friedman and the big carrier advocates if there weren’t two factors involved:

    1) the declining number of flattops due to cost
    2) there were no alternatives

    The primary benefit of large decks seem to come from their ability to launch air patrols the most effectively. Though it may be more cost effective to launch bombers from large decks, except this isn’t the only mission of the navy. this is why you see a great reluctance on the part of the navy to fund mine ships, to give the Marines all the amphibs they want, and to increase the size of the submarine fleet. The “cost effective carrier” and their pricey airwings are soaking up the funding.

    Cost effective ships are great but we need a cost effective fleet able to perform all the missions required of it. And the idea that small warships are more vulnerable than large should have been put to rest at Pearl harbor. Under the right conditions any ship is vulnerable, and numbers still is the best assurance if survivability, even if it is just a few more than the enemy.

    Finally, the ability of individual aircraft makes the small ship equally effective. It doesn’t have to carry the heaviest ammunition stocks or the highest sortie rate, if it can perform the same mission, and the large carriers are rarely used to their full potential, not since Vietnam, because the new planes are more able and more lethal. We can have small carriers with no decline in capability and performance, but certainly an easing on the budget.

  42. sid permalink
    July 3, 2010 9:14 am

    Sorry. Linking into google books is twitchy…

    This link may work better.

  43. sid permalink
    July 3, 2010 9:12 am

    For all the considerations and compromises that go into carrier downsizing, check out the pertinent chapters in Friedman’s US Aircraft Carriers….

    Especially Chapter 15.

  44. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 2, 2010 2:31 pm

    Would be really interesting to see what kind of minimalist carrier could operate a “Sea Gripen.”

  45. Heretic permalink
    July 2, 2010 1:52 pm

    re: tangosix

    I’ll agree with you that STOL is more useful/achievable in fixed wing fighters than VTOL is … but that’s with the benefit of hindsight.

    Another point is that if you’re building for STOL with the intent of austere dispersed basing, you need to be angling as much as you can towards the Light Fighter, rather than the Heavy Fighter. You want something closer to a STOL F-5/F-20 than you do a STOL F-15 (for illustrative example) when your logistical ground support needs to be “limited” to what you can fit onto a few trucks and a dozen (or less!) ground crew. This is one of the major reasons why the JAS 39 Gripen “works” as well as it does, because it was specifically built to operate with a very light logistical tail end on the ground (compared to american teen, tween and thirsty fighters).

    The problem is that the USAF and USN and USMC all want to eschew lightweight fighters as much as possible. If it doesn’t weigh 20+ tons empty, they’d rather not fly it. This one of the major downfalls of the F-35 … the fact that it’s just too darn heavy to be “austere” in any meaningful way.

  46. Hudson permalink
    July 2, 2010 1:13 pm

    Well, if you start sending ICMBs toward the heartland bomber bases, the liklihood is that they will be interpreted as a nuclear attack, thus triggering the end of the modern world. We can hardly replace B-1s, B-2s & B-52s with Harriers and Viggens.

  47. July 2, 2010 12:15 pm

    Hello Heretic,

    I agree completely about Short Take Off and Landing (S.T.O.L.),that is exactly the point I was making.
    Any aircraft reliant on a fixed airbase within 2,000 miles of a DF25 has got a big problem.
    Historically aircraft had the great advantage of outranging artillery,now the heavy artillery out ranges most aircraft.

    The Swedes got thing right a long time ago with their emphasis on S.T.O.L. aircraft conducting dispersed operations.
    Unfortunately Britain focused on the vertical landing Harrier instead,resulting in much less capable and more expensive aircraft than they could have had if they had followed the Swedish approach.
    The Russians also build fighters with short austere runway capability.

    The above is a good excuse for a clip of the Viggen:

    tangosix.

  48. B.Smitty permalink
    July 2, 2010 10:01 am

    When trying to design a less expensive carrier, choosing an exotic hull form isn’t a good idea. We need less program risk, not more. That means choosing proven concepts, hull forms and designs.

    Monohulls of this size have a long, successful track record. We know how to build them, we understand their characteristics and we know how they perform. The same can not be said for catamarans.

  49. Heretic permalink
    July 2, 2010 9:43 am

    A catamaran carrier able to go though the Panama and Siez canals sounds good. My only worry is that being a catamaran would increase the cost too much.

    “Steel is cheap and air is free.”

    Also, why all-electric?

    EMALS
    Podded commercial electric drive
    Free Electron Laser point defense against missile attacks
    Radars (plural)

    Going to an all electric ship presents a number of advantages, including the arrangement of machine spaces.

    —–

    re: tangosix

    It is a simple matter to attack a fixed land base with a ballistic missile which is why I beleive the new long range conventional missiles will make long runway aircraft obsolete.

    This argument was made back in the late 50s/early 60s about airfields in Germany across from the Fulda Gap. It was the reason why the P1127 became the Kestrel, became the Harrier, became the Sea Harrier. It was the reason why fixed wing V/STOL was seen as an advantage in a wartime situation where the almighty air base could not only be held at risk, but put out of commission … thereby rendering all of its CTOL assets useless for lack of useable runways (and fuel?).

    If anything, the threat of ballistic missiles against fixed airbases is a salient reason for moving towards fixed wing STOL such as the JAS 39 Gripen, which have a reduced “need” for mile long runways maintained to “peacetime perfection” standards. Fixed-wing military aviation needs to start orienting itself towards more of a STOL future with reduced logistical footprints that can be operated out of increasingly austere bases … which will tend to be the “survivor” assets when the missiles start launching.

  50. sid permalink
    July 2, 2010 9:34 am

    Whenever I see film of those big fires I think about flightdeck fire engines and the location of fuelling and arming points.

    Good summary of the improvements after the Forrestal fire here

  51. sid permalink
    July 2, 2010 6:55 am

    commenter who’s negative about your stated views.

    wasn’t me…

  52. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 2, 2010 4:18 am

    “Galrahn defends your position regarding the littorals and the LCS in a comment when responding to a commenter who’s negative about your stated views.”

    He should! I got all my ideas from him and probably why I started disliking the LCS.

    Concerning the QE’s, its funny we see something which is bad for the UK Royal Navy, but which we want ourselves! Maybe they can manage one, but the loss of essential escorts and subs, tragic! I also think they should have been CATOBAR ships since the primary benefit of a ski jump and V/STOL is for spartan decks. Otherwise you get a less capable, though not insignificant airpower on an exquisite hull.

    But the smaller carrier is the only way I see fixed wing naval airpower surviving, and they are only logical, considering no other enemy Navy has one, and we are seeking to shed billions from the defense budget. It is imperative we cut building and personnel costs, and so simple if a little common sense is used.

  53. Distiller permalink
    July 2, 2010 2:19 am

    I still like the idea of gas-turbine powered 55.000 ts 2-cat carriers (I think that’s the sweet spot for a 2-cat, not the larger number in that article), but only if they double as 3D amphib assault platforms (for Marines and Army units), and only if the roughly 1.5 million tons of carriers plus escorts are kept stable.

    Just going to smaller hulls and less escorts is just loss of capabilities. But smaller but more hulls and smaller but more escorts is an increase in flexibility, scalability, and survivability (or “staying power”). The CVL is nothing but a sign of defeat. The only way such a thing would be acceptable, is if it would pay for a massive enlargement of the underwater fleet.

    And the question of fuel prices wouldn’t be so critical if the Navy would finally decide to go for coal hydration, as that would give a long-term stable calculation base.

    If the hull count can’t be increased, then CVN plus N-Escorts is the way to go. The Fords will be great ships. Their non-RCOH design is an immense step forward. But what has to follow is nuclear powered escorts (and replenishers), since otherwise the nuclear powered carrier doesn’t use even half its potential.

    This view above might collide with what I wrote earlier in that other thread “Navy 2050”, where carriers are just a part of the amphib assault groups. Well, yes and no. In my mind, without nuclear surface battle groups the Navy is just managing itself out of the surface battle business, and relegates itself to a support asset for the land battle and amphib ops (like the RN already did). In such a scenario a CVF- and LHD/LHA-like slow mover fits just fine. Then be consequential and adjust the carrier capability for that mission. But this doesn’t mean that this is the optimum setup, it’s just what I thought is a carefully optimistic 2050 setup that would still serve an U.S. foreign policy as it is now.

  54. martin permalink
    July 2, 2010 2:09 am

    The ideal future carrier described in the article seems to be an exact replica of the Royal Navy CVF Queen Elizabeth class.

    This program has come in for much criticism both in the Uk and from abroad however I think the RN has done a ecellent job to produce a carrier with almost the same striking power as a nimitz class (36 F35B’s vs 40 F18/F35C) for only $3 billion a piece.

    They have done away with the expensive an uneccassary nucleur propulsion as well as allot of the other toy to produce a major warship which only requires a crew of 1000-1200 about the same as the invincible class she will replace for just 20% of the cost of a Ford Class.

    While I agree in modern warfare especially close to the coast large carriers are of little use we should still remember that their primary bluewater battle fleet mission will always need to be performed and at present a large carrier with a battle group remains one of the best ways to to this.

    We should also remember that while the chinese seek to defeat carriers in their home waters they are also looking to build a fleet of their own. I think the US navy should look at scarapping the future Ford Class carriers and concentrate on building Smaller Ships like the Queen Elizabeth. I am sure the gold old royal navy will be delighted to sell the the plans for very little.

  55. D. E. Reddick permalink
    July 1, 2010 10:24 pm

    Tangosix,

    Yeah, the registration thing at ID is a total, negative, assertive turn-off to those of us who wish to remain non/un-connected with large, corporate-controlled social media networking sites. I used to post at ID, but then Galrahn changed things and so now I only read what’s there.

    As to your browser, I’m presently employing Mozilla Firefox 3.6.6 and I find it almost universally acceptable and useful. And it does have the wonderfully nice RESET function if something does go wrong. Some news sites do cause problems and when Firefox does start acting strange, then I just exit the application (purposefully crash it, if the egregiously faulty site didn’t immediately cause a crash). Then it’s simply a restart with the complete RESET of all previously open windows and their component tabs. And that’s nice since I don’t need to refresh anything to see the latest developments…

  56. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 1, 2010 9:31 pm

    Tangosix, thanks, Since most of it appears to be Air Force, the demand on the Navy does not appear to be too heavy, if I interpret it correctly.

  57. July 1, 2010 8:26 pm

    Hello D. E. Reddick,

    for a long time I had difficulty accessing comments on Galrahn’s site,if anyone else has the same problem try using Google Chrome.
    I no longer comment there since they changed it to registered posters only.
    It will be interesting to see how it goes on the 4th of July.

    tangosix.

  58. July 1, 2010 8:21 pm

    Hello Chuck Hill,

    here is the Air Power Summary for 28th of June:

    http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123211513

    tangosix.

  59. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 1, 2010 7:41 pm

    It would be interesting to find out how big a carrier you really need to maintain the sortie rates we are using in South West Asia now. Perhaps a CVL would be all that was needed.

  60. D. E. Reddick permalink
    July 1, 2010 7:28 pm

    Tangosix,

    The DF21D is presently a major component topic of a thread over at ID. There is the possibility of a test for this ASBM system this coming weekend during a major Chinese PLAN exercise.

    And for MIKE – Galrahn defends your position regarding the littorals and the LCS in a comment when responding to a commenter who’s negative about your stated views.

    Thursday, July 1, 2010
    Chinese Fireworks on the 4th of July

    http://www.informationdissemination.net/2010/07/chinese-fireworks-on-4th-of-july.html

  61. July 1, 2010 7:27 pm

    Hello X,

    when you yanked my chain,did you hear the flush?
    I had been wanting an excuse to put those links up anyway,having heard the same subject raised recently on other forums.

    I know what you mean about posting on the internet.
    The reason I like to include a lot of links is that it saves on interminable arguments.
    It was a member of the Royal Air Force who inspired me to put together these figures and links after his repeated claims that carrier aircraft generated lower sortie rates than land based aircraft:

    http://grandlogistics.blogspot.com/2009/06/during-six-week-long-liberation-of.html

    Speaking of those figures,D. E. Reddick mentioned U.S.S. Midway earlier.
    I think it is interesting that despite having only 2 catapults,rather than 4,she still managed to match the sortie rates of the more modern carriers in the Gulf in 1991.

    Scott B.,thankyou for that link it is on my reading list.

    tangosix.

  62. July 1, 2010 7:01 pm

    Hello Chuck Hill,

    it seems to me that the United States is using battle assets as presence assets.
    This leaves the battle assets in a vulnerable position,rather like that of “Force Z”.
    It also means there are far fewer of them free to surge for battle.

    Traditionally presence duties were the preserve of “frigates” while the battle fleet was held back for when it was really needed.

    The Chinese DF21D was mentioned by sid.
    It is a simple matter to attack a fixed land base with a ballistic missile which is why I beleive the new long range conventional missiles will make long runway aircraft obsolete.
    But to attack a moving ship requires a network of systems each of which has vulnerabilities.

    The one thing it would be really hard to do is take out the launchers.
    However,in a war situation I would expect an emphasis on taking out the network which includes long range detection and tracking systems such as these:

    http://geimint.blogspot.com/2008/11/oth-radar-and-asbm-threat.html

    I would expect missile attacks on tracking satellites and surveillance radars and cleansing the carriers operating area of civilian as well as military vessels and aircraft.

    In addition I think we will see countermeasures deployed against the missile’s terminal seeker.

    DF21D is a worrying development but not without it’s weaknesses.

    Regarding aircraft range,I am no fan of the F35 but one thing I do appreciate is the tactical radius of the C variant.
    It is not as large as I would have liked but is a step up from most current fighters.
    If only F35 was a real Joint Strike Fighter – one aircraft for three services and not three different aircraft shoe-horned around some common parts.
    Dropping the F35A and F35B is the best thing that could happen to that programme.

    tangosix.

  63. Scott B. permalink
    July 1, 2010 6:53 pm

    T6 said : “The issue of aircraft on deck survivability is waayyy overdue for some scrutiny…” I would be interested in your thoughts on that subject.

    Here is a good starting point on the subject :

    Aircraft Carrier Flight and Hangar Deck Fire Protection: History and Current Status

  64. July 1, 2010 6:51 pm

    Hello tangosix!!!

    I was yanking your chain…………

    To be h0nest the more you debate any subject the easier it becomes to prove any point of view using any evidence. That is one of the reasons I don’t really bother to post on sites like this anymore.

    (Though this site has one advantage over many other in that people who post actually know and care what they “write” about.)

  65. Anonymous permalink
    July 1, 2010 6:02 pm

    A catamaran carrier able to go though the Panama and Siez canals sounds good. My only worry is that being a catamaran would increase the cost too much. Also, why all-electric?

  66. Heretic permalink
    July 1, 2010 5:40 pm

    I’m going to continue to be a “Heretic” on the subject of what I’d like to see in a CVL.

    Catamaran hull with twin, side-by-side redundant, axial flight decks topside above the port and starboard hulls. Full EMALS (debugged!) with ski jumps forward on the ends of both flight decks. Central island located amidships between the two flight decks, giving PRIFLY a 360 view of both port and starboard flight decks. Deck edge elevators located fore and aft of island between the two flight decks.

    Suezmax … Currently the wetted surface cross sectional area of the ship is limited by 945 m2, which means 18.9 m (62.0 ft) of draught for ships with the beam no wider than 50.0 m (164.0 ft) or 12.2 m (40.0 ft) of draught for ships with maximum allowed beam of 77.5 m (254 ft).

    New Panamax has a limitation of 160.7 ft (49 m).

    Which means that a 48 meter beam catamaran CV with twin axial flight decks (18 meters wide each?) of less than 15 meter draught (not difficult to achieve) and shorter than 350 meters in length (again, not hard to achieve) would be capable of transit through the new Panama Canal locks as well as the Suez Canal.

    250 m long … 48 m beam (widest point) … 10 m (or less?) draught … sounds “doable” for a catamaran carrier.

    Only question I’d have is how big the hangar deck could be with all the square footage available, thanks to the wider beam … and how many planes and rotaries you’d be able to fit in there.

    Electric Ship all-the-way.

  67. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 1, 2010 5:33 pm

    Sid, Amen. One carrier, forward deployed, is a target. Four carriers conducting a raid create a crushing local superiority that can be a game changer.

    Trouble is, because of the requirement to keep carriers forward deployed, multiply carrier ops are very rare.

  68. sid permalink
    July 1, 2010 4:58 pm

    Oh yeah.

    The expensive part…..

    A dramatic increase in the combat radius of the airwing is desperately needed.

    Three decades of too much Hornet Love has left US carrier aviation almost terminally crippled.

  69. sid permalink
    July 1, 2010 4:55 pm

    “The issue of aircraft on deck survivability is waayyy overdue for some scrutiny…”

    I would be interested in your thoughts on that subject.
    Whenever I see film of those big fires I think about flightdeck fire engines and the location of fuelling and arming points.?

    Of course, after the Forrestal Enterprise and Nimitz fires much has been done to limit deck conflagrations.

    But, then again, no carrier has come under serious combat threat in the last 6 decades…

    How to mitigate the potential of a threat taking out the deck of a ship?

    First off, a little digression: While I always concentrate on the “Vulnerability Reduction” of the Survivability “equation” because its so widely misunderstood and denigrated, it is by no means the total of the Survivability answer.

    In this case, it will take changes in tactics and doctrine first and foremost (Susceptibility Reduction). Soon gone will be the days when we can stand a solitary carrier off a coast in a MODLOC, and float some bluster about, “America’s Calling Card.”

    That just makes the targeting solution easy for the other guy.

    A revisit of the carrier raiding tactics of early WWII should get a dust off perhaps….

    Also -this is where I agree with Mike- numbers matter.

  70. July 1, 2010 4:53 pm

    Hello,

    there are some numbers on fuel consumption on pages 127-133 of the second report I linked to earlier:

    http://www.gao.gov/archive/1998/ns98001.pdf

    Based on the figures on page 128 of that document and assuming an escort of 4 destroyers,the conventional carrier would consume only 22% of the fuel used per day by it’s carrier group while it’s aircraft would consume 53% and it’s escorts the remaining 25%.

    tangosix.

  71. July 1, 2010 4:16 pm

    Hello X,

    there is no need for more oilers or escorts.
    In a conventional carrier battle group,the carrier it’s self usually consumes a minority of the fuel,most of it goes to the escorts and aircraft which need oilers to support them anyway in a nuclear carrier group.
    Having the carrier also consuming fuel just means that those oilers need to be a little larger to carry more fuel.
    The cost of building and operating larger oilers is very small.
    With the same number of oilers there is no need for more shuttle groups or their escorts.
    There have been a number of studies into the effectiveness of nuclear powered carriers,here is a link to one:

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/gao/nsiad98001/c2.htm

    The savings from building conventional rather than nuclear carriers is very large:

    “Investment, operating and support, and inactivation and disposal costs are
    greater for nuclear-powered carriers than conventionally powered
    carriers. GAO’s analysis, based on an analysis of historical and projected
    costs, shows that life-cycle costs for conventionally powered and
    nuclear-powered carriers (for a notional 50-year service life) are estimated
    at $14.1 billion and $22.2 billion (in fiscal year 1997 dollars), respectively.”

    According to this report:

    http://www.gao.gov/archive/1998/ns98001.pdf

    I have read a report some years ago which went into detail on the subject of replenishment for nuclear versus conventional carriers,if I can find a link to it I will post it.

    tangosix.

  72. D. E. Reddick permalink
    July 1, 2010 4:01 pm

    If you look at CVs in the displacement range just above that of the newest LHDs & LHAs, then examining the post-1970 rebuild of USS Midway (CV-41) seems appropriate. A reference book I’m looking at states that Midway had a light load displacement of 51,000 tons and a full load displacement of 64,000 tons following that 1970 rebuild. Besides an angled deck, she had three deck edge elevators and three catapults. She carried 75 aircraft during the ’70s and deployed with 65 aircraft at the time of her decommissioning in 1991 (if I’m understanding different sources, correctly). So, the 1970 version of Midway may point us to what might be possible with a modern CVL in that displacement range around a 45,000, 50,000, or slightly larger/more tons displacement carrier.

    Wikipedia has more information on Midway, but it differs in some details from what I’ve found in my other reference material.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Midway_(CV-41)

  73. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 1, 2010 3:46 pm

    For a Gas Turbine powered ship, would have to go to four engines, but that is no different from the Burkes.

  74. July 1, 2010 3:19 pm

    “You can buy one for less than the cost of the Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) of a nuclear carrier.”

    Does include the extra oilers and the extra escorts to protect the extra oilers, and the extra oilers to fuel the extra escorts? ;)

  75. B.Smitty permalink
    July 1, 2010 1:44 pm

    I think if we were going to commit to a run of medium sized carriers (I have a hard time calling a 50,000+ ton ship a CVL), I think we should just start with a clean sheet of paper. This will allow us to incorporate everything we’ve learned about carrier design and operations. It will be more expensive in the short term, but I think we would be better off over the long haul.

  76. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 1, 2010 1:33 pm

    Here is the link D.E mentioned on LHA-6 fixed wing adaptation.:

    https://newwars.wordpress.com/2010/01/25/aircraft-carrier-transformations-pt-1/#comment-12087

    I figure a 45,000 ton ship would be the smallest you might operate Super Hornets or maybe F-35s if they get built. Is that such a radical idea, seeing that the SPs are armed with precision bombs and missiles, plus there enhanced maintainability compared to older planes?

    Admittedly a 20-30 plane airwing would not be as effective as say 40-50 on a CVN Ford, but would be vastly superior to a Vietnam era CV with 60-80 planes, plus you could afford more of them, or at least keep the number of flattops stable.

  77. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 1, 2010 1:06 pm

    Joe wrote ““Britain and America should buy from each other whenever it makes sense.”

    That quote definitely makes sense! Well put.

    tangosix-he’s does seem to be describing the QE’s. I would propose something 10,000 tons lighter but he makes a lot of sense here, where our current practice does not.

    Chuck wrote “Why not build (LHA-7) with a catapult or ski jump, angled deck, and arresting gear.”

    Great idea:

    https://newwars.wordpress.com/2009/06/10/debunking-aircraft-carrier-myths-pt-3/

  78. D. E. Reddick permalink
    July 1, 2010 1:06 pm

    Chuck,

    I described how to turn an LHA-6 type into a more useful CVL type several months ago (twice, I think) here at New Wars. Of course, it would be a rather slow CVL. If the rumors about the speed of the LPD-17 class are true, then it might be more useful to stretch that hull design and build a CVL atop it.

  79. Joe permalink
    July 1, 2010 12:44 pm

    Tangosix picks up a thought I put to “paper” a few threads ago on this subject. We have conventional alternatives/supplements right before our eyes that could offer cheaper build prices and, equipped with the $45M Supers, be about as economical as an angled-deck carrier is going to get.

    And that this supplement to our fleet might come from the U.K., the first post I ever made here said, “Britain and America should buy from each other whenever it makes sense.”

  80. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 1, 2010 12:38 pm

    Chuck, the LHA’s and LHD’s were specifically designed to not be CVL’s….

    Exactly, they need a redesign. We are spending the money for CVLs but we are not getting them.

  81. July 1, 2010 12:31 pm

    Hello,

    sid said:

    “The issue of aircraft on deck survivability is waayyy overdue for some scrutiny…”

    I would be interested in your thoughts on that subject.
    Whenever I see film of those big fires I think about flightdeck fire engines and the location of fuelling and arming points.

    I would want a vehicle resistant to heat with a large dozer blade for pushing burning aircraft off the flightdeck,protected crew positions and large capacity fire fighting equipment.

    Is this all the United States Navy has at present?:

    http://www.fire-engine-photos.com/picture/number3210.asp

    I would also want aircraft to be armed and fuelled with their missiles pointing outboard and with plenty of space around them.

    tangosix.

  82. sid permalink
    July 1, 2010 12:07 pm

    Chuck, the LHA’s and LHD’s were specifically designed to not be CVL’s….

  83. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 1, 2010 11:58 am

    Apparently we are building CVLs just not very good ones. Long Lead Time items are being contracted for the second America Class, LHA-7: http://combatfleetoftheworld.blogspot.com/2010/07/us-navy-go-headed-with-lha-7.html

    Why not build it with a catapult or ski jump, angled deck, and arresting gear. It is already larger than the Charles De Gaulle.

  84. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 1, 2010 11:47 am

    I also concur that we should be building CVL (essentially the size of the new Brit Carriers) in part because it would allow another ship yard to build carriers. Having only one yard building all our carriers is not a good idea.

  85. sid permalink
    July 1, 2010 11:39 am

    This may come as a shock…

    But yeah. We should buy smaller carriers.

    “Force” Staying Power starts with numbers….

    I will be dismayed though, if you continue on and say such hulls could be bought on the cheap by adhering to “mercantile” standards….

    The historical combat usage of the Casablancas repudiates that doomed to fail idea.

    And, for some apostasy…..

    All this focus on the extreme ruggedness of the hulls obscures the fact that it means little if your flight deck is on fire….

    The issue of aircraft on deck survivability is waayyy overdue for some scrutiny….Especially given the burgeoning ASBM threat.

  86. July 1, 2010 11:23 am

    Hello Mike Burleson,

    that was a very good post.
    I thought the description of the Harrier was particularly fair:

    “The Harrier is a great plane, but its primary attribute is to operate from austere decks, even a helicopter platform. It’s drawbacks include short range, low speed, and high maintenance. Overall it is better than nothing, which is where the Royal Navy was about 1970.”

    Just one criticism,you may want to change the East to West in the following line (or change the “to” to a “from”):

    “After 1960 and the retreat to a position “East of Suez“, the decline became more pronounced.”

    Michael Colombaro seems to be describing a ship very like the Queen Elizabeth class carriers:

    65,000 tonne displacement;
    280 metre length;
    600 crew plus 900 airgroup;
    40 aircraft;
    two shafts.

    The production cost for a Queen Elizabeth class carrier is less than $3,000 Million.
    You can buy one for less than the cost of the Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) of a nuclear carrier.
    For the price of C.V.N.78 you could buy 4 or 5.
    I have no doubt that a British yard could build a larger,faster,better equipped and better protected “cat’ and trap” variant of the Queen Elizabeth class for much less than $4,000 Million.

    tangosix.

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