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Carriers-Choice of a Weaker Navy

July 29, 2010

The Republic of Korea Navy amphibious landing ship ROKS Dokdo (LPH 6111) and the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) transit the Sea of Japan.

Here’s the thing: Does North Korea really need a “demonstration” of what a carrier strike group can do?
There isn’t a military commander anywhere on this planet who isn’t familiar with the destruction the U.S. can deliver from the sea. But as we’ve written before, there’s almost nothing you can do about North Korea short of a full-scale attack, and despite what you might read in the kookosphere, that is not in the offing. Conclusion: the North gets a free seapower show off its coast, but will that actually change its behavior?

Phil Ewing @ Scoop Deck blog questions “Who are the WestPac war games for?”

The submarine is often dubbed the weapon of choice for a weaker power. The reasons for this is submarines, at least the non-nuclear kind, are fairly cheap and available to almost any one with the money and a modicum of nautical expertise. Like the suicide bomber on land, a few subs can go a long way and tie down enemies ASW forces far in excess to its own capabilities and numbers. Some weakness.

In contrast is the perceived power of an aircraft carrier, with the US Navy being the supreme, really the only practitioner of this type of warfare on a grand scale. Any one of her magnificent and very expensive nuclear carriers are more powerful than all others in the world combined, and their presence on the world’s oceans gives comfort and security to allies, while reminding our enemies of her strength and determination.

As the cost of carriers mount, so have the enemies poised against them. Technology stands still for no nation as the British and French discovered in 1939. It could be we are in a “horse and tank” moment as well with the world’s most powerful navy increasingly burdened by a last century strategy, while so-called weaker navies not so bound to tradition grasps hold of the new technology to challenge us on the world stage. Here are several reasons why the aircraft carrier is increasingly an albatross strangling the future security of the nation:

  1. Gives the user very limited options. As pointed out above by Phil Ewing, the choices fall to “bomb or nothing”. In contrast, small patrol vessels such as sloops and corvettes might provide numerous options short of war. This was discovered during the Cuban Missile Crisis when President Kennedy used tin can destroyers to enforce a quarantine of Castro’s island, with carrier support far in the distance. Such actions allowed the US Navy to avoid a nuclear war over a very tiny Third World state. Shows of force such as Operation Invincible Challenge as a warning to North Korea has even the Stars and Stripes questioning “Message Accomplished“?
  2. Distracts from other navy missions. An example can be seen with the British Royal Navy, purchasing the most powerful warships in its history, the Queen Elizabeth class supercarriers, having to gut their fleet in order to afford. Given a semblance of great strength, they are forcing arguably the world’s second most powerful navy into a greater dependence on allies, like the Europeans for support. A great many Royal Navy frigates and destroyers, once a comfort to free nations overseas, are deploying less and less in order to pay for the prestige of carriers. With all the talk of the flexibility of carriers, there is a simultaneous realization with a smaller fleet the the navy can’t “be everywhere and do everything“.
  3. Drains the economy. Naval warships are far from the most efficient way for shipyards to occupy themselves. The US Navy now depends on a mere 6 yards, with another soon to close. Unable to compete with foreign manufacturing, and with little incentive to try, the shipyards are building fewer and fewer ships in order to accommodate a navy strategy unfriendly to a large fleet without need of sustained hulls.
  4. Are at risk from low cost countermeasures. Interestingly few navies have even attempted to build large decks since World War 2 to compete with the USN. The fact is, the large ships are very easily matched with the aforementioned submarines, and also long range airpower based on land. Add to this new nuclear boats which can outsail anything afloat, plus land based cruise missiles available on the open arms market, and even the lowliest of world powers can threaten the carrier under the right conditions.
  5. Requires equally expensive planes and escorts. If the $10 billion+ wasn’t enough for the cost of a modern flattop, there is the enormous expense of developing and purchasing advanced planes and ships to protect them. As we noted at the beginning that carriers can only be used under the most dire of circumstances, it has very little use short of warfare. Therefore, low tech navies sailing in the most modest combatant vessels pretty much have the run of the ocean, because the carrier navy emphasizes shows of force over real control. Admittedly a “really big shew”, but still mostly bluff.

*****

35 Comments leave one →
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  2. Hector permalink
    May 6, 2013 1:43 pm

    I am new guy here but I feel compelled to comment. Because of the lack of blue-water challenges to the USA Navy the aircraft carrier has found itself batting in environments that it was not built for and therefore it is seemingly vulnerable to all these shore based threats that all of you mentioned.

    But if a flotilla of 25 enemy war ships plus their support and supply vessels left any port in Europe or Asia heading for deep open sea with the intention of traveling across the ocean and threatening the USA or any one of its numerous allies, friends or essential economic interests the aircraft carrier will find them in open ocean and make a quick job of them.

    And that is because it is still the most efficient and effective anti-ship weapon ever conceived for the open ocean.

    Submarines are vulnerable ships and diesel ones are unable to chase a fleet, close-in with them, kill and then flee with out themselves being hunted down and destroyed by the much faster helicopters from survivors of the attack.

    The problem arises when fighting on costal and littoral regions as well as with predictable sea approaches to ports where submarines and other vessels can lay in ambush. Yes, those are challenging environs to a carrier but he would not be there anyway. Which leads me to the two LLC and what their potential tactical value does for us.

  3. freefallingbomb (ffb) permalink
    August 10, 2010 2:30 pm

    To the orrrriginal Alex:

    You wrote: “…I seriously doubt it would take only one torpedo to sink an american strike carrier…unless a nuclear warhead is used”

    When Reagan recommissioned the mothballed World War II battleships, the U.S. Navy also heralded them as “unsinkable”, because unlike modern warships they had those one-foot-thick double armour belts made of good old-fashioned steel, and no modern ammunition could ever penetrate that, they could even drive completely unmolested through enemy battle groups (yes, they really wrote that), etc. etc. etc. . These battleships were also similarly long as the aircraft carriers of their age.

    Need I say more: Ex-“ARA General Belgrano” = the 185 metres long, heavily armoured (compared to modern ships) “Brooklyn”-class ex-“U.S.S. Phoenix” cruiser. Now a mass-grave.
    It took only one single World-War-II-vintage Mark VIII torpedo (diameter: 21’’, warhead: 365 kg) to put it to sleep with the fishes.
    323 died.

    It also took only ONE unguided, UNAIMED Zuni rocket each (diameter: 5’’, warhead: 20 kg) to turn the “U.S.S. Forrestal” and the “U.S.S. Enterprise” into uncontrollably burning ammunition dumps (because McCain fired one of them, no kidding).
    134 + 27 = 161 died.

    We (and a lot of people) talk again after THE FIRST U.S. American warship meets THE F-I-R-S-T M-O-D-E-R-N enemy warship, submarine or plane SINCE WORLD WAR II … Until then, you can broadcast around the U.S. aircraft carriers’ legendary floatability reserves at your discretion.

    (My personal suggestion to the Chinese: Use thermobaric warheads for your missile warheads, not HE ones. They also make up for your lousy C.E.P.s)

  4. August 10, 2010 12:10 pm

    sorry but that line was

    a) slightly flippant as the last genuinely attractive warship to be built were the Queen Elizabeth class battleships of the first world war era

    b) seeing as it is more difficult to sink (more space+ more subdivision = more water required to make it go ‘glug’…as my grandfather used to say, and he knew a thing or to about making things go ‘glug’), and to put out of action, and you can better armour and install more redudant systems to allow easier operation under difficult circumstances then in passive terms the larger carriers are better. Also because they are nuclear powered a pretty fast they can travel at speeds which should a sub try to run after them at, will make that sub pretty easy to hear.

    c) the final one in favour of the big hulls is the greater amount of aircraft and the greater number of sorties able to be generated from each airframe with the larger carrier, making it far more cost effective and £ for Ib better for your forces. The reason the more sorties are generated is that it has more space for both part storage and maintenance shops to keep parts working; this also helps in imporving service life of the aircraft, although even the smaller carriers are usually better equiped in all this than most military airfields in operational theatres.

    yours sincerely

    Alex

  5. ffb permalink
    August 10, 2010 11:59 am

    To “the or(r)iginal” Alex:

    You wrote: “Your last statement does not make any sense as big hulls are by definition more capable than small hulls as they can have more put in them…which surely makes them sexier?”

    I think that “MatR”’s unstated rationale was: Losing the only carrier in a one-ship-navy isn’t sexy.

  6. August 10, 2010 11:58 am

    also I seriously doubt it would take only one torpedo to sink an american strike carrier…unless a nuclear warhead is used, which again open’s up all the options of retaliation – yes its possible, but I think Cable was right when he predicted that future wars were less likely to go nuclear as people, and leaders understoond better that the moment it did they lost control, and politicians hate to loose control.

    yours sincerely

    Alex

  7. August 10, 2010 11:56 am

    understood FFB, but (and I did know about the SM3…take a look at the testing cycle of the Aster if you want a real laugh) the last time an aircraft carrier was sunk in action was in World War II; and yes whilst these weapons are good they do have a weakness, they still have to find the carrier, and with the SM-3 being able to take out satelites up to 250km at the moment and higher soon, that will be made even more difficult. Combine that with the strike potential of the X-47 which is due to enter service in not to long a time, and the fact that despite all the jumping about, focusing on this great chinese ‘carrier killing ballistic missile’ they have yet to do anything more than show the world pictures and concepts…let alone start procuring the satelite reconnaissance, let alone command and control infrastructure that is neccessary for it.

    They have also yet to explain how they will make it so that the moment they launch their balistic missile at the carrier it is not percieved as the precursor of a total strike and therefore the other nations launch theirs first…sinking a carrier maybe a worthy target, but if as a result you have your entire country if not the world turned to ash and brimstone – I don’t see it as being a pracitcable weapon.

    I hate to say this, and mike close your eyes now, but still the best weapon to take on a carrier battle group with is probably an all arms force including submarines at the front…however the key would be to get the carrier to go over the submarines, so that the subs do not have to reveal themsevles moving to engage, then an air strike/missile attack be timed to come from all around at the same time to destract the helicopters and the CICs so they don’t see the subs until its way to late…however even then I only put chances at 50/50 because to be successful and drive a CBG over a certain spot of ocean, containing a couple of subs, you either have to hit it hard enough it retreats (very unlikely) or be prepared to sacrifice a lot so the commander gets over confident – something which makes it a one a trick pony not to be used unless desperate.

    yours sincerely

    Alex

  8. ffb permalink
    August 10, 2010 11:39 am

    To “the original” Alex:

    You wrote: “…all these new threats are nothing really new; there is always a battle between defensive and offensive weapons…”

    Yes, but risking whole aircraft carriers = the largest warships ever, that cost billions and accommodate 5.000 – 7.000 sailors, over A SINGLE A Chinese carrier-seeking warhead or Soviet/Russian Shkval hyper-speed torpedo, available to any institutional buyer on Earth? Do you maybe think that the Chinese are going to produce less than 11 of those anti-carrier missiles, and the Russians less than 11 hyper-speed torpedoes, one per U.S. American aircraft carrier?
    I’m not saying that U.S. Navy sailors are somehow more coward than U.S. military pilots or U.S. tank drivers to face their respective enemies’ anti-measures, if only the disproportion between these specific measures and anti-measures, both in size, costs and human lives, weren’t the biggest imaginable extreme in all warfare!!! Welcome to reality: Since there aren’t even A-N-Y known and reliable counter-measures against missile cones and hyper-speed torpedoes, at least right now, it’s not even a fair fight for the targeted aircraft carrier! (Even that SM-3 anti-ballistic missile test on 14.2.2008 was conducted at night and during new moon, lest the missile flew against the moon, no kidding, check it out!)

  9. July 31, 2010 11:53 pm

    Hello B.Smitty,

    I use the annualised whole lifecycle costs to get £100 Million per carrier per year.
    That is £5,000 Million procurement cost plus £50 Million operating cost per ship per year over an expected 50 year lifecycle.

    I consider that the fairest metric for comparing system costs over the long term.
    Though it has it’s limitations when used for more short term costing.
    For example,it won’t tell you how much money you would save by cutting a system as it takes no account of sunk costs.

    A good example is a comparison between the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (F.S.T.A.) and the Queen Elizabeth class carriers.
    The carrier’s lifecycle cost is about £10,000 Million and the F.S.T.A. lifecycle cost is about £12,500 Million,25% higher.
    However,the carriers have a 50 year lifecycle while F.S.T.A. reaches full capability in 2016,just 19 years before the contract ends in 2035.
    If we divide the lifecycle cost by the years in service we get a £200 Million a year cost for the carriers and £658 Million a year for F.S.T.A.,329% higher than the cost of the carriers.
    These numbers more accurately reflect the burden to the defence budget and are the most useful metrics for long term planning.
    For example,when deciding if it is worth building aircraft carriers to reduce tanker demand.

    The problems with this metric are that it takes no account of cost fluctuations over the lifecycle and there are many situations where it is not a useful measure.
    The carriers for example may be costing several hundred million pounds a year while they are being built but will only cost about £100 Million a year when they are in service.

    tangosix.

  10. July 31, 2010 10:14 pm

    Hello,

    MattR said:

    “Oh, Tangosix, here we go again.”

    Every day posters on this blog have constant arguments about all sorts of things without taking it personally,you appear to be the exception.

    MattR said:

    “Please, do your research in advance, you look terribly foolish when you do this.”

    People do look terribly foolish when they fail to do their research don’t they.
    They look worse than foolish when they start making things up and falsely claiming people have said things which they have not.
    Let’s look at some examples.

    MattR said:

    “You claim that a Queen Elizabeth carrier costs £1 billion.”

    Where did I say that a Queen Elizabeth class carrier costs £1 Billion?
    Perhaps you could point it out?
    You can’t point it out can you?
    Because I have never said any such thing have I?
    You just made that up didn’t you?
    Have you have just made yourself look very foolish by failing to do your research?

    MattR said:

    “Of the entire CVN tally, only CVN-69 Dwight D. Eisenhower, CVN-73 George Washington, CVN-75 Harry S. Truman, and CVN-76 Ronald Reagan are actually on-station abroad at the moment. Only 1 carrier is taking part in Enduring Freedom.”

    What on earth has the availability of American carriers got to do with the availability of the future British aircraft carriers?
    To suggest the Royal Navy will not have a carrier available at all times on the basis of how the American carrier fleet goes about it’s business is a complete nonsense.
    Did you even look at the Queen Elizabeth class’s Key User Requirements (K.U.R.)?
    Allow me to quote K.U.R.3:

    “KUR3: availability. The CVF shall provide one platform at high readiness for its principal roles at all times.”

    The Royal Navy certainly expects to have one carrier available for operations at all times.
    In fact they are expecting about 600 days availability from the two carriers each year.
    Are the navy wrong MattR or did you just fail to do your research again?

    MattR said:

    “You claim that the Falklands garrison costs more than a Queen Elizabeth class carrier – ‘even that costs far more per year than an aircraft carrier’. Hardly. The Falklands garrison costs about £60 to £70 million a year, the bulk of the cost being for expensive Typhoons”

    Mintaining the Falklands Garrison does not cost £70 Million a year.
    Did you even read the article you linked to?
    Allow me to quote from it:

    “UK Ministry of Defense said the fall was because of changes to ‘accounting policy’ – omitting costs such as military equipment, servicemen’s pay, repairs and communications from the budget.”

    That £70 Million a year figure does not include the cost of the Typhoons or any other military equipment.

    In response to a parliamentary question from 22nd of February 2010,
    Bill Rammell put the figure for 2008-09 at £70 Million and added the following:

    “There is some variation between years caused by what categories of expenditure were included. For example, in recent years figures do not include military equipment, military personnel pay, service children’s education facilities, estate works and maintenance, IT and communication, maritime visits or air charter. Costs associated with these activities are met by other top level budget holders. The MOD’s core budget is separated into eight top level budget holders (TLBs), each responsible for delivering individual military objectives. Within these TLBs the budget is not routinely allocated in terms of regions, but in terms of categories of expenditure. To provide the level of detailed breakdown of these categories in relation to the Falkland Islands would be of disproportionate cost.”

    In other words,the £70 Million a year figure does not include most of the costs inherent in maintaining the Falklands garrison as accounting practices make it difficult to isolate those costs.

    However,we can get a rough idea of how much just a few of the assets needed to maintain the Falklands garrison cost.

    Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (F.S.T.A.) will provide the tanker which supports Falklands based Typhoons.
    F.S.T.A will provide the tankers which get the Typhoons to the Falklands.
    F.S.T.A will provide the tankers which support Typhoon reinforcements if they are needed in the Falklands.
    F.S.T.A will provide the transports which support the Falklands garrison.
    F.S.T.A will provide the transports which bring reinforcements to the Falklands in an emergency.
    Clearly F.S.T.A. is essential to maintaining the Falklands garrison.
    Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft will cost about £658 Million a year if we spread the £12,500 Million over the 19 years from full service entry in 2016 to contract termination in 2035.
    The difficulty in resolving how much of that £658 Million a year should be attributed to the cost of the Falklands garrison is the reason why so many costs are not included in the official figures.

    On top of that we have the cost of the Typhoons and again it is no simple matter to add that up.
    Fistly there are 4 Typhoons on the Falklands but in order to sustain those aircraft you need far more than 4 Typhoons,for example it takes 4 Chinooks to keep just 1 Chinook in Afghanistan.
    Other aircraft are needed to cover deep maintenance,training and keeping pilots current when they are not deployed.
    If we apply that same metric to the Falklands we would need a 16 aircraft fleet to sustain 4 Typhoons in the Falklands.
    How much does a Typhoon cost?
    Official figures that I am aware of do not give an annual cost for a Typhoon but they do give it’s cost per flying hour,£90,000,more than three times the £28,000 cost per flying hour of a Tornado G.R.4:

    http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/cm090721/text/90721w0017.htm

    As other official statements put the annual cost of a Tornado G.R.4 at £10.4 Million,it would not be unreasonable to assume the annual cost of a Typhoon is somewhere in the order of £30 Million.
    If we multiply that by the 16 aircraft which we would probably require to sustain the Falklands deployment we get a figure of £480 Million a year.
    Though it must be added that the cost of the Typhoon is expected to decline in future.

    We could go on to add the cost of infantry companies,artillery batteries and other units down there but that would add many hundreds of millions more to the above numbers which are already many times
    the £100 Million annualised cost of an aircraft carrier.

    MattR said:

    “Given that the garrison has 500 people now, the additional missiles I’d like to see stationed there (if Patriot, S-400, RBS 15, etc) to replace Typhoons would reasonably take 500 extra people to operate, including the people serving the tea and biccies.”

    According to the Secretary of State for Defence the current Falklands garrison is 1,250 men,not 500.
    The army does not account for the cost of it’s artillery regiments as individual items in it’s accounts.
    However,the government did recently publish an estimate of the cost of a similarly sized infantry battalion as £105 Million a year.
    That figure does not include the cost of expensive missiles and radars which an artillery regiment would require.
    In order to sustain one such regiment in the Falklands you will need several such regimets at the very least.
    That will probably cost well over £300 Million a year,three times the annualised cost of an aircraft carrier and that is on top of the already huge cost of maintaining the Falklands garrison which we mentioned earlier.
    Missile batteries would be cheaper than Typhoons as you said but unable to do the “air policing” which the fighters do.

    MattR said:

    “For some reason, you think your 1,450 people on the CV will prove cheaper, although they’ll be using a heck of a lot of jet fuel and F-35 flight hours.”

    The aircraft carriers perform many roles all over the world and their air wings replace much larger numbers of land based aircraft generating huge financial savings.
    The Falklands garrison not only costs more than the aircraft carrier (and probably more than it’s air wing as well) but it can only be in one place,the Falklands.
    Consequently we have to spend even more money on other assets to do things elsewhere.

    MattR said:

    “Rafale Ms and F-18s have similar operating costs to Typhoons.”

    According to the Secretary of State for Defence the cost per flying hour of a Typhoon is £90,000.
    According to the article you linked to,the cost per flying hour of an F18 is $18,900 (£12,115).
    Which means the Typhoon costs more than 7 times as much as an F18 per flying hour and more than 4 times the $30,700 (£19,679) cost per flying hour of the F35 as also stated in that article.
    However,one should never mix figures from different countries as their accounting practices often differ.

    MattR said:

    “The Queen Elizabeth class is designed to accommodate 35 fighters, so let’s say £350 mil a year for those (as if…) on top of your ‘£100 mil’ carrier’s annual cost.”

    Those are pretty fair figures but again,that is probably less than the total cost of sustaining the Falklands garrison and unlike the Falklands garrison that carrier can be deployed on operations all over the World where it will save us huge amounts of money compared to using land based air power.

    MattR said:

    “And let’s face it, your costs are ludicrously low. Mine are actually based on accepted public domain figures.”

    Which figures are we taking about here?
    The figures I have actually used or the figures which you falsely accused me of using?
    My figures are based directly on official figures.
    Your’s appear to be based on a misinterpretation of official figures as we saw from your suggestion that it costs £70 Million a year to maintain the Falklands garrison and your comparison of the flying costs of a Typhoon with those of an F18.

    MattR said:

    “You say: Carriers are one of the cheapest items in the Royal Navy’s budget as you will find if you look in the Ministry of Defence accounts. Like the little guy said on Fantasty Island, ‘De Planes, boss, de planes’.”

    The planes are not in the Royal Navy’s budget,they are in the Royal Air Force budget so how can they be “killing the Navy”?
    They are even saving the air force money as they require less aerial refuelling and allow us to generate a given number of sorties with far fewer aircraft and with lower force protection and logistics costs.

    MattR said:

    “You say: “what bombers would you have in mind?” Well, the ones I mentioned would be nice. They’re perfectly capable of carrying – or being given the updates for – harpoons, torpedos, cruise missiles and a lot of other stand-off weapons. Or perhaps you think only fighters can carry bombs and missiles?”

    Maritime patrol aircraft are perfectly capable of releasing missiles or bombs in a permissive or low threat environment.
    However,the Royal Air Force has only 9 Nimrods on order at a cost of £3,600 Million.
    It is likely that only about 5 of those will be in frontline service
    at any time with perhaps just 4 available for operations each day.
    The operating cost of the new Nimrods is not yet known but is likely to be far more than that of the two aircraft carriers.
    I recall an old document which suggested it would cost £20,000 Million to support the then 22 strong Nimrod fleet for 24 years.
    If we did use those 4 aircraft for long range bombing they would generate very low sortie rates,similar to what the Vulcans managed during the Falklands War when 3 Vulcans completed just 5 sorties between them during the six week long air war.
    That compares to the carrier’s capacity of sustaining about 50 sorties a day for a month.

    MattR said:

    “Away from facts and onto opinion: you state that “Well,in that case we won’t need the entire Royal Air Force either.” A splendid over-generalisation.”

    More of a tongue in cheek respone to your spendid over-generalisation.

    MattR said:

    “Although, now you come to mention it, I think Typhoons are an inflexible and expensive drain on our military budget.”

    The Typhoon has been a tremendous drain on the defence budget for years,last time I checked it had cost over £17,000 Million and that did not even include the £1,200 Million spent on it’s primary weapon system Meteor which is still not in service 7 years after the first Typhoon entered service.
    It’s operating costs are similarly huge.
    It is however very flexible,despite what many claim it was designed for air to ground work from the start and is very good at that.
    It is just a terrible shame it was not designed to fly off aircraft carriers.

    MattR said:

    “800 nm legs are stumpy little legs. And the latest Russian, Indian and Chinese aircraft can defeat them anyway.”

    How would you know that those aircraft can beat Typhoon?
    It certainly does not say that in the link you provided.

    MattR said:

    “I don’t have space to refute everything in your magnum opus, but you can see the pattern here, Tangosix.”

    Yes,the pattern here is very clear,first you accuse me of using figures I have never used and then you get all of your figures wrong.

    tangosix.

  11. July 31, 2010 2:19 pm

    Gentlemen,

    tl; dr!!!! (Only’ jokin’)

    I have one day off to go to Portsmouth and war breaks out……! :)

    Anyway I have seen the future, it is called Type 45!!! It needs a proper VLS, Harpoon, CIWS, and Merlin capable of carrying an ASM. And we need more than 6!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I have started to loose all interest in the carriers.

    Yours,

    X

  12. B.Smitty permalink
    July 31, 2010 9:58 am

    MatR said:
    There are even quicker ways of retaliating, or supporting South Korea, in case North Korea goes crazy and threatens nuclear blackmail. We could base some bombers – maybe newly-bought Poseidons or (ugh) Nimrods at Diego Carcia.

    Diego Garcia to North Korea is on the order of a 10,000nm round trip (if you don’t overfly China). Sounds like Op Black Buck all over again. And we all know how useful that was.

    MatR said: “ Although, now you come to mention it, I think Typhoons are an inflexible and expensive drain on our military budget. 800 nm legs are stumpy little legs. And the latest Russian, Indian and Chinese aircraft can defeat them anyway.

    The latest T2 and forthcoming T3 Typhoons look to be very flexible, multi-role, 4+ gen fighters. Still fighters, of course, but 750-800nm strike radius isn’t bad in that class.

    As I’ve said before on other threads, beware reading anything into military exercises, especially DACT. We don’t know anything about the ground rules or scenarios.

    tangosix said, “Let us not forget that the new aircraft carrier’s annualised cost is £200 Million compared to the Royal Navy’s £7,500 Million a year (2008/9) budget.

    Is this £200 Million the program unit price divided by the service length? If so, then I’m not sure that is relevant for the UK. It makes sense to talk about this number in the US because we will build a carrier every 3-5 years or so, so it’s an ongoing cost.

    OTOH, the UK will build the two QEs and then go on a long CV construction holiday until the QEs are nearing retirement. So the costs aren’t spread evenly over the life of the ships, they are only spent during the initial construction period and then they will go to £0/year for most of the remaining period. They will be much higher than £200 million a year during construction.

    Of course the nice thing is, once the QEs are built, you can focus on other areas of the RN.

  13. MatR permalink
    July 30, 2010 12:59 am

    Oh, Tangosix, here we go again. Please, do your research in advance, you look terribly foolish when you do this.

    You claim: a two carrier fleet ensures that one ship is available at all times with one spare available most of the time. Nothing could be further from the truth, due to the demands of repairing, refitting and training. As http://www.gonavy.jp/CVLocation.html shows, the world’s premier operator of aircraft carriers, the USN, spends much of its time on qualifications, trials, refitting, and so on. Of the entire CVN tally, only CVN-69 Dwight D. Eisenhower, CVN-73 George Washington, CVN-75 Harry S. Truman, and CVN-76 Ronald Reagan are actually on-station abroad at the moment. Only 1 carrier is taking part in Enduring Freedom.

    You claim that a Queen Elizabeth carrier costs £1 billion. No. One ship, with basic systems, not including catapult(s) and other equipment one might consider standard for a CV (mainly C4I systems) costs just under £2 billion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Elizabeth_class_aircraft_carrier). This estimate does not include recently rising costs, and has been widely described by defence experts as being a low estimate.

    You claim that the Falklands garrison costs more than a Queen Elizabeth class carrier – ‘even that costs far more per year than an aircraft carrier’. Hardly. The Falklands garrison costs about £60 to £70 million a year, the bulk of the cost being for expensive Typhoons (http://en.mercopress.com/2010/03/02/mps-claim-uk-defense-spending-on-falklands-50-down-in-six-years; http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jun/14/value-falklands-presence-military).

    You claim: “it would be grotesquely expensive to maintain a garrison there which was large enough to defend the islands from the much larger Argentinian forces”. Right, sure, of course. My idea being to sink them or shoot them down rather than fight in the mud like we did last time – and to use missiles, not Typhoons. Given that the garrison has 500 people now, the additional missiles I’d like to see stationed there (if Patriot, S-400, RBS 15, etc) to replace Typhoons would reasonably take 500 extra people to operate, including the people serving the tea and biccies. We could say that would double the annual operating costs, deliberately to aim at the high end (it would be much lower, as unlike Typhoons fixed missile batteries have very low operating costs) and it would still only be £140 GBP mil a year. Or 1% of the UK’s annual defence budget at the moment. For some reason, you think your 1,450 people on the CV will prove cheaper, although they’ll be using a heck of a lot of jet fuel and F-35 flight hours.

    You claim that one tenth of a Queen Elizabeth class carrier’s *annual* cost is about £10 Million, less than the annual operating cost of a single Tornado bomber and far less than the cost of just one of the Typhoons based on the Falklands. I’ll take you at your word. I don’t see carriers flying without planes on them, though. Rafale Ms and F-18s have similar operating costs to Typhoons. F-35bs are projected to have scarily high operating costs. (http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2010/01/chart-f-35bc-operating-costs-v.html.) The Queen Elizabeth class is designed to accommodate 35 fighters, so let’s say £350 mil a year for those (as if…) on top of your ‘£100 mil’ carrier’s annual cost. And let’s face it, your costs are ludicrously low. Mine are actually based on accepted public domain figures.

    You say: Carriers are one of the cheapest items in the Royal Navy’s budget as you will find if you look in the Ministry of Defence accounts. Like the little guy said on Fantasty Island, ‘De Planes, boss, de planes’.

    You say: “what bombers would you have in mind?” Well, the ones I mentioned would be nice. They’re perfectly capable of carrying – or being given the updates for – harpoons, torpedos, cruise missiles and a lot of other stand-off weapons. Or perhaps you think only fighters can carry bombs and missiles? (http://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/nimrod/, http://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/orion/, http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=1100&tid=1300&ct=1.)

    Away from facts and onto opinion: you state that “Well,in that case we won’t need the entire Royal Air Force either.” A splendid over-generalisation. Although, now you come to mention it, I think Typhoons are an inflexible and expensive drain on our military budget. 800 nm legs are stumpy little legs. And the latest Russian, Indian and Chinese aircraft can defeat them anyway. (http://www.strategypage.com/militaryforums/72-20442.aspx.)

    Regarding cruise missiles with short legs: that’s why I also included ballistic missiles, and mentioned runways. Cruise missiles’ ranges are improving dramatically, and more and more countries manufacture them, including France, Sweden, Norway, Taiwan and South Korea to name but a few. Cheap, ubiquitous, freely available, and capable of being launched from any low-end platform instead of a vastly expensive frigate or destroyer.

    I don’t have space to refute everything in your magnum opus, but you can see the pattern here, Tangosix.

    Alex: Hiya. Well, basically, I got mind numbingly bored one day and went through Janes and all the other resources I could find for the costs of current, freely available missile systems, radars and so on (then, honestly, doubled the costs to account for the usual contractor shenanigens.) They had to be available on the open market, and offer a choice of different nations as manufacturer so as not to tie the UK into any one source, and require low operating and manning costs. It turns out that we really could buy all the radar, Exocets, Harpoons, RBS 15s, Tomahawks, S-400s, Patriots, Scalp Navals, manpads and so on that we could want for under two billion GBP£ (at the high end). That really is enough to throw a shield several hundred k out from the Falklands, and enough to sink every Argentine warship three times, and down every one of their fighters or bombers three times, plus destroy every single one of their power plants, military HQs and major factories, and suppress their airfields for a week. Conversely, the cost to Argentina to purchase warships and planes to successfully invade – given good Falklands defences – is in the tens to scores of billions GBP£. And to reach out to us in any major way, here in the UK, they’d have to spend even more, presumably developing a true blue water navy, carriers (if foolhardy), nuclear subs or whatever their weapon of choice was. Unlike us, they don’t have the equivalent of an unsinkable base the size of Wales a few hundred miles from Penzance ;o)

    I couldn’t agree more with you about scrapping new Typhoon purchases and installing VLS or similar on a T45. I’d agree with your rationale about getting three CVs, but I think they offer low ‘bang per buck’. I’m an advocate of Mike’s ‘new battleship’ idea of missile carrying cheapish surface combatants that shoot and scoot. (Honestly, I really think CVs are doomed in a war against opponents with more than a few anti-ship missiles like the Argentines had last time – I mean, they had less than ten. And their subs were so antiquated they *couldn’t even fire torpedos* if that hadn’t been the case, we’d have been in trouble, as one did a passable job of stalking the fleet.)

  14. July 29, 2010 10:29 pm

    Hello,

    MatR said:

    “I can’t really find a reason for the UK to have 2 carriers with one or two air wings. That number doesn’t even guarantee that a carrier and more than 35 jets will be available for use at any given time.”

    A two carrier fleet ensures that one ship is available at all times with one spare available most of the time.

    MatR said:

    “For a tenth of a CV’s cost – or a twentieth of a carrier battle group’s – we could blanket the Falklands with enough overlapping and redundant capabilities to kill every ship and plane in the Argentine military many times over, with cash left over for adequate cruise missiles to send Argentina’s economy to the stone age.With lots left over for small patrol ships and UAVs.”

    The tiny garrison on the Falklands at present already costs far more per year than a Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier and is incapable of defending the islands.
    One tenth of a Queen Elizabeth class carriers annual cost is about £10 Million,less than the annual operating cost of a single Tornado bomber and far less than the cost of just one of the Typhoons based on the Falklands.
    It would cost more than that to keep even a single infantry company deployed overseas for a year.

    MatR said:

    “Apart from winning back the Falklands when it should be impossible to lose them – in a changing world, what does the UK need carriers for?”

    It takes many units to sustain one unit continuously deployed in the Falklands.
    Consequently it would be grotesquely expensive to maintain a garrison there which was large enough to defend the islands from the much larger Argentinian forces.
    Which is why the Falklands is only garrisoned by a small tripwire presence – even that costs far more per year than an aircraft carrier.
    If the United Kingdom cannot afford to defend the Falklands it must be capable of retaking them.

    Aircraft carriers have been the cheapest way to deliver airpower in every air war the United Kingdom has been involved in in the 65 years since 1945.
    Are you suggesting that “in a changing world” air power is no longer needed or that the United Kingom should waste vast sums of money by doing air power the more expensive way from land bases?

    MatR said:

    “They don’t provide good ABM defence. The Russians won’t try to invade. We’ll likely only ever have one carrier at sea at any one time, stuck in one part of the world, weeks from possible flashpoints. And we’re in a secure spot in the UK – we’re literally right at the heart of Nato, and the bad guys have to develop massive expeditionary abilities to reach us, not to mention fighting their way past the Spanish, Italians, French, Polish or Germans.”

    Well,in that case we won’t need the entire Royal Air Force either.

    MatR said:

    “There are even quicker ways of retaliating, or supporting South Korea, in case North Korea goes crazy and threatens nuclear blackmail. We could base some bombers – maybe newly-bought Poseidons or (ugh) Nimrods at Diego Carcia.”

    Which bombers did you have in mind?
    There are none in production at present and developing a new one would cost far more than the aircraft carriers.
    The procurement cost of 3.4 B2 bombers is equivalent to the procurement cost of 2 Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.
    Even if we did have bombers they are a far less cost effective than aircraft carriers,see here:

    http://grandlogistics.blogspot.com/2009/06/strategic-bombingoperation-allied-force.html

    MatR said:

    “Heck, we’ve got so many barely-inhabited Empire islands still in our posession that there isn’t anywhere in the world we can’t reach out to, if we base cruise and ballistic missiles on them – everywhere from Argentina and Venezuela to Pakistan and North Korea, Russia and China.”

    A Tomahawk cruise missile has a range of 1,000 miles,how many “barely-inhabited Empire islands” does the United Kingdom possess within 1,000 miles of Venezuela,Pakistan,North Korea,Russia or China?

    “And hardly anyone lives on all those islands, or within a hundred mile radius – I’d rather place military bases there than in an Iowa cornfield, or an airbase in the UK that’s only a few miles from a major population centre.”

    How much will all of these new military bases cost to build and operate?

    MatR said:

    “For a small percentage of a complete carrier battle group, we can add much more capbility to our defense – and that of our allies – with missiles, frigates, corvettes and other ‘mundane’ craft. They would allow us to ‘punch our weight’ or punch above it.”

    Without the aircraft carriers those frigates,corvettes and other mundane craft would be completely incapable of protecting themselves from a coorinated air attack.
    Burning hulks don’t punch above their weght,as we saw back in 1982.
    If you can’t protect warships from air attack without carriers you also cannot protect the logistics vessels which overseas military bases depend upon.

    MatR said:

    “Carriers are killing the Navy.”

    Carriers are one of the cheapest items in the Royal Navy’s budget as you will find if you look in the Ministry of Defence accounts.
    As I said in an earlier post:

    “Let us not forget that the new aircraft carrier’s annualised cost is £200 Million compared to the Royal Navy’s £7,500 Million a year (2008/9) budget.
    That is a small fraction of the £1,800 million a year spent on surface combatants or the £2,000 Million a year the Royal Navy spends on submarines,it is less than the £500 Million a year spent on amphibious ships,less than the £300 Million a year spent on replenishment ships,less than the £320 Million a year spent on mine hunters and patrol ships,less than the £620 Million a year spent on the Royal Marines and little more than the £180 Million a year the Royal Navy spends on it’s survey vessels.
    It is worth remembering those figures next time someone tells you the decline in size of the Royal Navy is down to one of the cheapest items in their budget,the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.”

    tangosix.

  15. July 29, 2010 7:52 pm

    Chuck

    you have it in one, in fact I have to say the A220 is possible the best alround corvette in production…and if it were not for the fact union’s would go bonkers, the design should be bought and built for the C2/3 role as frankly that ship armed with the swedish UUSV MCMV systems available would be brilliant for minesweeper mothership duties.

    yours sincerely

    Alex

  16. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 29, 2010 7:48 pm

    Alex (the orriginal),

    Was this something like what you had in mind:

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

  17. July 29, 2010 7:40 pm

    It was the Home Land Security one right? or was it the marching from the sea one?

    either way when I get to that laptop I will send you both – you should enjoy them, even if its just to shout at!

    yours sincerely

    alex

  18. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 29, 2010 7:36 pm

    Alex, that last thesis you wrote and sent me, I lost it in a computer meltdown before reading!

  19. July 29, 2010 7:28 pm

    just to add…I would also cut the Eurofighter, entirely; there is no need for a pure AAD fighter these days. I would cut spending on developing a C1…just put a MK41 VLS in a Daring Class and build 12 no need for development costs. Instead focus on developing an SSK in partnership with the Australians and South Africans, and a class of Corvette as well – these ships must be ocean going (about 3000 tons) shamlessly point-defence in arnament, other than Harpoon and a Lynx Helicopter; therefore they would be capable of providing presence or the extra ships in a task group in war time.

    The A400 would have to go, and I am not sure why new armoured vehicles have to be developed when the CV90 is built by a british company, abroad yes….but it could be brought to britian and money could be saved on development. the Challenger II will carry on for a good few years, so with the CV90 family to replace the CVRTs, Britain is only needing a good ‘road fighter’, which the Striker family could probably provide.

    there is much more in my head, but I really should get back to my thesis…fortunately that is on the 1920s so a lot of help

    yours sincerely

    alex

  20. July 29, 2010 7:18 pm

    So Alex, you would suggest that the Royal Navy and the UK MoD bankrupt itself? 3 carriers with full airwings is going to leave no money for escorts or anything else in the budget.
    UK Defence budget is a little under £40billion Per Anum, the air groups I suggested for 3 carriers would £6 billion total over 6 years starting in 2012, the carriers, 1st two are 50% paid for and so that leaves £4.5 billion over again 6 years starting in 2011 – lets for arguments sake round it all up to £12 billion over 6 years, or £2 billion a year. For suggested cuts to support this, why not put all the equipment for 1st and 3rd Armoured based in germany in one base, and loose the other bases, and bring the personnel back to england; that will save about £2.5billion a year on defence spending

    You say that carriers can do ABM by destroying the launchers before they fire. Yes they can, but you have to get awfully close to your target before that happens – inside the range of your target’s weapons. If you want to do kills of IRBM/ASBM launchers a submarine with TLAM is much more survivable, not to mention cheaper.

    I said carriers can do ABM, MatR said they could not do anything, now certainly a submarine with a TLAM is a good system, but it is difficult to rearm/reload at sea, especially if it carries its weapons in vertical launch whereas a carrier armed with the X-47 has an extremely good strike range…and with a ship mounting SM-3 ABM/ASSAT weapons in its task group, it could knock out the satelites and close to range whilst they are shooting blind…giving it a better than even chance in my book.

    Anyway, what the RN should be focusing on instead of the QE class is better amphibious capabilities and offshore patrol for anti-piracy duties.

    concur on the amphibious capability, and would love to see some more patrol boats…but I was having this disscussion with a few RMs the other day, and they would really like the carriers as well as they would like some air support…afterall they are an infantry brigade, a brilliant one, but an infantry brigade – so they like to have the fire-for-effect capability of a carrier to support them, and preferably a British one.

    I can think of only one thing that a proper aircraft carrier can do better or cheaper than an amphibious assault ship or other vessels – expeditionary AEW. When that is solved, the aircarft carrier as we know it will be obsolete.

    I can add on to that; operate and maintain aircraft – sorry as anyone who studies this in depth will tell you, the space on an LHD is very focused and whilst it is capable of some maintenance…an aircraft carrier always has more shops and more technicians and more facilities so for keeping aircraft operating in theatre for long periods, then a carrier is a massive advantage

    yours sincerely

    alex

  21. Insolent Dendrite permalink
    July 29, 2010 6:56 pm

    So Alex, you would suggest that the Royal Navy and the UK MoD bankrupt itself? 3 carriers with full airwings is going to leave no money for escorts or anything else in the budget.

    You say that carriers can do ABM by destroying the launchers before they fire. Yes they can, but you have to get awfully close to your target before that happens – inside the range of your target’s weapons. If you want to do kills of IRBM/ASBM launchers a submarine with TLAM is much more survivable, not to mention cheaper.

    Anyway, what the RN should be focusing on instead of the QE class is better amphibious capabilities and offshore patrol for anti-piracy duties.

    I can think of only one thing that a proper aircraft carrier can do better or cheaper than an amphibious assault ship or other vessels – expeditionary AEW. When that is solved, the aircarft carrier as we know it will be obsolete.

  22. July 29, 2010 6:14 pm

    ok MatR – I will take up that challenge

    why does Britain need an aircraft carrier; well for starters that defence plan of falklands sounds like a beautiful concept until you put it in the south atlantic…an ocean which pretty much likes to destroy anything in it along a predictable time table. Land basing is out because the Falklands are not that big really, and anything based on it would not take long to find. Finnally there is the fact the falklands are not the only game in town, and whilst on this topic an aircraft carrier can do ABM…you take out the launchers before they are launched, still the best method of ABM anywhere.

    Believe it or not for the cost of rebuilding the Argentine enconomy the government still might do it; especially if they know there is no chance of Britain taking it back.

    anyway to deal with Mat’s points

    I can’t really find a reason for the UK to have 2 carriers with one or two air wings. That number doesn’t even guarantee that a carrier and more than 35 jets will be available for use at any given time. And if one of them is sunk, it’s ‘game over’ for any expedition we embark upon.
    this is why there is a strong argument for 3, and the operative is ‘if one is sunk’, you need to do a lot to break through the defences of a carrier battle group…and on the plus side it is aviation where the government wants it, when it wants it – unlike the bases in Saudi Arabia or Germany or many other nations where it spends 100s of millions giving each one top notch maintenance facilities (which are still not as good as the carriers) and then can not use them because it does not fit with that countries internal/external political needs.

    For a tenth of a CV’s cost – or a twentieth of a carrier battle group’s – we could blanket the Falklands with enough overlapping and redundant capabilities to kill every ship and plane in the Argentine military many times over, with cash left over for adequate cruise missiles to send Argentina’s economy to the stone age. With lots left over for small patrol ships and UAVs. (That’s assuming you take the stated weapon system costs from resources like Janes and then double them to account for the usual price hikes.) Under those circumstances, the Argentine’s would have to be deranged to risk their 40 million citizens within reach of the Falklands just to steal some oil wells. The trade off just isn’t worth it. The Falklands small population and wealth – even if there’s an oil boom – actually serve to protect them, with the power balance modern weapons introduce.
    modern weapons, the phrase is always brought up again and again, but what in actual fact does that mean? there is a constant play between defensive and offensive weapons, and in the south atlantic Britain would have to rebuild the weapons systems every year so they would be very up todate…even if that would mean Britain could do nothing else other than defend the Falklands with those weapons, as with no carrier to provide air support or sea coverage how could she operate anywhere else?

    Apart from winning back the Falklands when it should be impossible to lose them – in a changing world, what does the UK need carriers for? They don’t provide good ABM defence. The Russians won’t try to invade. We’ll likely only ever have one carrier at sea at any one time, stuck in one part of the world, weeks from possible flashpoints. And we’re in a secure spot in the UK – we’re literally right at the heart of Nato, and the bad guys have to develop massive expeditionary abilities to reach us, not to mention fighting their way past the Spanish, Italians, French, Polish or Germans.

    well I countered the ABM one up above, but actually Britain is not that safe…the primary job of the RM’s in NATO is to reinforce Norway. now with the USN carriers acting as strike group and taking on the might of the Romping Stomping Russian Naval Bombers and Submarines, the RN’s carriers and ATGs were to land and support those troops in Norway to keep the northern frontier secure…quite an inmportant job as there are not really that many airbases in norway, and once they are gone then the RMs are facing off against a whole Guards Army…before Rusian bought Mistral class amphibs and other home grown ones start landing troops elsewhere.

    There are even quicker ways of retaliating, or supporting South Korea, in case North Korea goes crazy and threatens nuclear blackmail. We could base some bombers – maybe newly-bought Poseidons or (ugh) Nimrods at Diego Carcia. Heck, we’ve got so many barely-inhabited Empire islands still in our posession that there isn’t anywhere in the world we can’t reach out to, if we base cruise and ballistic missiles on them – everywhere from Argentina and Venezuela to Pakistan and North Korea, Russia and China. They’re even building a runway at St Helena now. And hardly anyone lives on all those islands, or within a hundred mile radius – I’d rather place military bases there than in an Iowa cornfield, or an airbase in the UK that’s only a few miles from a major population centre.

    ok for starters all these bases, even the ones that Britain does not have any more, will need to be supplied by sea, which will require huge great big freighters…which will in turn require at least transient sea control around the convoy, and that means more than the sea denial which can be provided by submarines, but actually means that an air defence screen needs to be thrown out around these fat lumbering targets…and guess what is best at that, yes its Aircraft Carriers; tanker supplied land based fighters just do not have the legs to do it for long enough to make it economical, without Britain establishing dozen’s more bases in countries frankly most people would prefer the government did not get into bed with.

    For a small percentage of a complete carrier battle group, we can add much more capbility to our defense – and that of our allies – with missiles, frigates, corvettes and other ‘mundane’ craft. They would allow us to ‘punch our weight’ or punch above it. Carriers are killing the Navy. Big hulls aren’t sexy, capabilities are.

    your last statement does not make any sense as big hulls are by definition more capable than small hulls as they can have more put in them…which surely makes them sexier?

    the craft you call ‘mundane’, are more acurrately called escort, and thats good, thats what they do…the whole point of a fleet is that all its parts work together to achieve a whole…an objective set by its government; that is where a carrier comes in, providing support for its troops ashore, its ships at sea, and even the odd humanitarian crisis. personnally for Britian the little England approach will never work, she has to many committments, has shed to much blood and is dependent apon too much trade to be able to retreat from the world into some sort of cocoon of self-indulgent and self-delusional saftey. the Aircraft Carriers, Britain should be buying 3 at least, they should be CATOBAR, carrying an air group of 16 F-35C and about 24 X-47 plus a plethora of helicopters and A160s; that is what Britain needs.

    yours sincerely

    Alex

  23. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 29, 2010 5:28 pm

    MatR is one of my new favorite writers!!!

  24. MatR permalink
    July 29, 2010 3:40 pm

    I can’t really find a reason for the UK to have 2 carriers with one or two air wings. That number doesn’t even guarantee that a carrier and more than 35 jets will be available for use at any given time. And if one of them is sunk, it’s ‘game over’ for any expedition we embark upon.

    For a tenth of a CV’s cost – or a twentieth of a carrier battle group’s – we could blanket the Falklands with enough overlapping and redundant capabilities to kill every ship and plane in the Argentine military many times over, with cash left over for adequate cruise missiles to send Argentina’s economy to the stone age. With lots left over for small patrol ships and UAVs. (That’s assuming you take the stated weapon system costs from resources like Janes and then double them to account for the usual price hikes.) Under those circumstances, the Argentine’s would have to be deranged to risk their 40 million citizens within reach of the Falklands just to steal some oil wells. The trade off just isn’t worth it. The Falklands small population and wealth – even if there’s an oil boom – actually serve to protect them, with the power balance modern weapons introduce.

    Apart from winning back the Falklands when it should be impossible to lose them – in a changing world, what does the UK need carriers for? They don’t provide good ABM defence. The Russians won’t try to invade. We’ll likely only ever have one carrier at sea at any one time, stuck in one part of the world, weeks from possible flashpoints. And we’re in a secure spot in the UK – we’re literally right at the heart of Nato, and the bad guys have to develop massive expeditionary abilities to reach us, not to mention fighting their way past the Spanish, Italians, French, Polish or Germans.

    There are even quicker ways of retaliating, or supporting South Korea, in case North Korea goes crazy and threatens nuclear blackmail. We could base some bombers – maybe newly-bought Poseidons or (ugh) Nimrods at Diego Carcia. Heck, we’ve got so many barely-inhabited Empire islands still in our posession that there isn’t anywhere in the world we can’t reach out to, if we base cruise and ballistic missiles on them – everywhere from Argentina and Venezuela to Pakistan and North Korea, Russia and China. They’re even building a runway at St Helena now. And hardly anyone lives on all those islands, or within a hundred mile radius – I’d rather place military bases there than in an Iowa cornfield, or an airbase in the UK that’s only a few miles from a major population centre.

    For a small percentage of a complete carrier battle group, we can add much more capbility to our defense – and that of our allies – with missiles, frigates, corvettes and other ‘mundane’ craft. They would allow us to ‘punch our weight’ or punch above it. Carriers are killing the Navy. Big hulls aren’t sexy, capabilities are.

  25. Hudson permalink
    July 29, 2010 2:59 pm

    Re: tanks and horses & Afghanistan

    For a brief shining moment, in 2001, U.S. Special Forces were riding high atop camels in A-stan, wheeling and dealing with the locals, passing around bricks of c-notes; and calling in air strikes on former Soviet tanks operated by the Taliban.

    Greg Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea,” widely read among the military, said recently in an interview, that the Taliban were losing big sources of foreign money,e.g., from Saudi Arabia, which was making them more aggressive and criminal, and hence increasingly disliked by the tribal elders, the de facto local leaders throughout the country, thus pushing the elders more to our side. It was the tribal leaders who convinced first Gen. MacCrystal (Ret.) and now Gen. Petraeus, to postpone then cancel the planned offensive against Kandahar, saying the timing wasn’t right.

    According to Mortenson, 10 years ago there were only 800,000 students in Afghanistan; today there are 10 times that number, including 2.5 million girls. These are real schools, teaching language and academic subjects not (apparently) hate toward the West. So maybe a cup of tea is worth something over there.

    So, we would need fewer aircraft carriers supporting the region.

  26. Juramentado permalink
    July 29, 2010 2:53 pm

    Folks – here’s one good reason for Invincible Spirit being held – the U.S. needed a very OVERT METHOD of showing support for their ROK ally.

    Whether you agree or not, after this set of exercises, Pyongyang CANNOT MISTAKE the resolve of the US in supporting her allies in the Pacific. In so many ways, it was POLITICALLY NECCESSARY because of the NEBULOUS MESSAGE the UN sent regarding the Cheonan sinking. By stopping short of laying the blame directly at North Korea’s doorstep and announcing as such to the world, the UN delivered the wrong message to NK, indicating that there is sufficient internal dissension. In it’s wishy-washy delivery, the findings may ironically encourage the NK to continue with such hostile acts in the future. If the UN can’t deliver a cohesive message, the US must step in and do so. Oversimplistic? Maybe. But sometimes the best messages are the simple and direct ones – they’re usually the easiest to understand.

  27. leesea permalink
    July 29, 2010 2:43 pm

    Taking this dicussion to another vein and refutting Phil Ewing:

    The Westpac Wargames are to show unequivocably what a CSG could do to a little country.

    IMHO The whacko leaders of NORK do NOT understand anything but force!

    To quote the Gunny, a USN CVN can put a whole lot of whup ass on the NORKs and then they might understand what naval power is? I suspect that the CVN airwing al0ne could stiffle many movements south with their first sorties?

    OK so the probably is not great but one NEVER know what the whacko NORK leaders might do? Sure China will object but that is another lesson to be taught later.

    And IF they NORKs do something very stupid like shoot anything at a USN warship, the appropriate response is …(see above).

    The world has been playing games with the NORKs for far too long a time. Isn’t sinking a warship reason enough for retaliation?

    Just my non-PC opinions.

  28. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 29, 2010 12:27 pm

    I understand, that 40% of the German tanks that invaded France had been captured when Germany seized Czechoslovakia, so they probably could not have taken France if they had not been permitted to take Czechoslovakia first. Perhaps another lesson.

  29. Joe K. permalink
    July 29, 2010 11:30 am

    To poke at your earlier analogy, an albatross was an omen of luck until someone killed it.

  30. July 29, 2010 8:27 am

    Muh-hahahahaha-haaaa!

    but agree though, the lesson of the germany army does teach us not to be dismissive of an enemy just because they are not all top of the line systems…as well as teaching us the capability of a few well handled top of the line systems

    yours sincerely

    alex

  31. July 29, 2010 8:18 am

    Alex wasn’t there when I start to type. Damn!!! Foiled again!

  32. July 29, 2010 8:10 am

    Actually the French had better tanks than the Germans!! It was the way the German employed the tank implementing many ideas that were British in origin. On the whole the Germans Army was surprisingly low tech with only a few prestigious formations; new tanks at the front but lots and lots of horses in the rear. A lesson perhaps for those of us (me included) who dismiss the Chinese as a low tech enemy.

    The US carrier force’s problem is its manning levels. I know what the USN says all those thousands of sailors are supposedly doing but I don’t believe they are all needed.

    And I agree that the fighter aircraft has little utility. But I don’t believe for a minute that a large nuclear powered hull capable of over 32kts day in day lacks utility. That is where the failure of imagination seems to be. Imagine if that hull were Russian or French or Italian. Perhaps I am being too subtle.

  33. July 29, 2010 7:43 am

    Mike

    a) in 1939 the most mechanised army in the world was the British Army…the germans were still using horses to do most of their logisitics – and yes we did not use our own ideas correctly, but we soon learned
    b) a carrier is not just a bomb or a do nothing tool, its mere presence in a region is usually enough to stop the bombing have to be neccessary – so yes that might mean it ‘does nothing’ according to the tabloids, but for the mothers who never have to recieve a telegram I am sure it does a lot
    c) a balanced navy is what is required, and it has to be balanced not only with a hi-lo mix of components but also with a nations plausible needs…britain might need to fight another falklands war again in the next 20 years (especially if your secretary of state keeps saying there should be negotiations over the head and expressed wishes of those who live on the Islands) so therefore a fleet will require proper AAD security, as well as local strike support for any forces landed…and whilst there are other tools that can do the job, the carrier does it very well – unlike the sub it does not need to return to base to be rearmed for example
    d) everything is at ‘risk’ from low tech countermeasures…they always have been, for equivalence during world war II the german subs were a generation ahead of anything the allies had, and it was only by throwing the book at them (including carrier based aircraft) that they beat them.
    e) a carrier is a very flexible tool, and with a decent task group around it can pretty much dominate any ocean it feels like
    f) all these new threats are nothing really new; there is always a battle between defensive and offensive weapons, and at every new development you always get all the salesmen/military/accademics/government officialls jumping up and down saying this spectacular and it will completely revolutionise and change modern wafare, doing away with all the old…the trouble is next week another weapon/defence comes out and the same thing happens again. For example the Chinese SABM, leaving asside the infrastructure not in place to support it, and the fact no one has yet explained its acquisition system, the USN, the JMSDF and the Royal Netherlands Navy are just three nations going to be deploying the SM-3 ABM, the only ABM which has been successfully tested…am I the only one who thinks its funny that the counter is actually inservice before the weapon? and yes it may not be perfect, I am not an expert in the SM, but I bet it will take out a few, and as it has got an ASSAT capability as well, then perhaps it won’t need to because it will already have taken out the acquisiting satelites?

    mike I agree that having 11 super carriers might be excessive, espeically when you have 9/10 assault carriers which are themselves very good…but I think there is a difference between not being able to justify so many and not being able to justfiy them at all. I think for Britain and France it is perfectly reasonable for them to what 2-3medium carriers and 2-3 assault carriers(plus about the same LPDs); as that equals the ability to conduct theatre entry in support of allys (for britain that could be NATO, EU, the Commonwealth or dozens of other allies and friends across the globe) and the ability to land a heavy brigade/light division to further assist or carry out their governments orders. These are scenario’s I can see as being a possible contingency; and I can also say that they would be damn near impossible without an aircraft carrier providing air support.

    yours sincerely

    Alex

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  1. Fract T3 Carriers 2009 | MPLS
  2. Fract T3 Carriers At War | MPLS

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