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Carriers: The Weakest Link Pt 1

August 9, 2010

A U.S. Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon leads a formation of F-15 Eagles and F-22 Raptors as they fly in formation over USS George Washington (CVN 73).

Consider for a moment the amazing capability of a single US Navy Nimitz class aircraft carrier, other than a nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, the most powerful, most capable warship ever devised by man. Here from the Navy website we read:

Aircraft Carriers support and operate aircraft that engage in attacks on airborne, afloat and ashore targets that threaten free use of the sea; and engage in sustained power projection operations in support U.S. and coalition ground forces in Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The aircraft carrier and its battlegroup also engage in maritime security operations to interdict threats to merchant shipping and prevent the use of the seas as a highway for terrorist traffic. Aircraft also provide unique capabilities for disaster response and humanitarian assistance. The embarked carrier air wing provides helicopters for direct support and C4I assets to support them and ensure aid is routed quickly and safely. The 10 Nimitz class aircraft carriers are the largest warships in the world, each designed for an approximately 50 year service life with one mid-life refueling.

An astonishing potency in a single, immense package, but is this concentration of force necessary, and is the USN limiting itself to only 10 Nimitz ships and 1 aging USS Enterprise an advantage or a handicap?

Concerning carrier numbers, the idea that there is 11 aircraft carriers at sea at a given time is deceptive. For instance, the Navy will say that it takes 3 Big Decks to ensure one is always forward deployed, with one in extended refit, another in rest and training. While this may vary according to emergencies, this means on average there are only 3-4 of our most expensive ships available. Considering the vast expanse of the worlds oceans, the myriad of commitments America involves itself in through treaties, this highlights an amazing gap in our ability to deploy naval power.

The British Royal Navy also plans to deploy its own big deck supercarriers in the near future. The UK version of the Nimitz class are HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, at 65,000 tons roughly 1/3 smaller but still able to deploy a respectable airwing of 40 jets. The RN says it needs 2 to insure that 1 is available for service at a time, which means on average expect half the firepower unavailable in most circumstances. Up until now the 3 Invincible class have formed the naval air striking power of the fleet, and during the Falklands conflict in 1982, along with the older HMS Hermes, meant it was possible that at least 2 were available in an emergency. So, with all the extra expense and apparent capability of the large deck, you can see the RN actually losing some ability by deploying larger, fewer ships.

Even these small numbers depend on the ideal notion that no one is shooting at your Big Ships. Throughout the Cold War, and even to this day, the USN might trust in America’s nuclear arsenal to ensure it pretty much had free reign of the world’s ocean. Because almost any military encounter between the superpowers might lead to full scale nuclear exchange, the carriers could sail close to most shorelines, and proved very effective supporting land operations against less well equipped, virtually non-naval powers in the Third World.

With the proliferation of guided missiles in the hands of even the poorest of nations, such as cruise missiles supplied to the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon, used against an Israeli warship, the ideal conditions of the past may be at an end. Recently in a naval demonstration ostensibly pointed toward North Korean aggression, the Chinese forced the US Navy to deploy the aircraft carrier George Washington into another sea. This amazing act was partly through diplomatic coercion, but also from the rising threat of missiles equipped with advanced targeting, technology which was ironically designed here in America. What a stark picture this presents to the brash sailing of carriers into the Taiwan Straits during a previous crisis with the Mainland in 1996, certainly a turning point in naval seapower!

Author and naval expert Norman Polmar thinks we can do better. Recently, the consultant to numerous Congressmen, Secretaries of the Navy, CNO’s, and President Ronald Reagan said the Navy “would make do”:

What has happened, he said, is a revolution in smart weapons to the point where surface ships and submarines can deliver cruise missiles on target instead of strike aircraft from a carrier offshore. For reconnaissance, there are satellites and unmanned vehicles instead of planes.
“Today, you want to hit somebody and you send a destroyer or submarine and you shoot 20 or 30 or 50 Tomahawk missiles,” he said. “We’ve got different capabilities in other ships that can do, to some degree, not completely, what a carrier does.”

 Especially in terms of the Tomahawk missile, there are now 130 such vessels in service including the “arsenal submarines” of the Ohio class, totaling an extra 600+ of these 1000-mile range unmanned bombers on 4 super-stealth and cost effective platforms. Speaking of unmanned weapons, there is also the impending use of UAVs from surface, “reusable cruise missiles“, with their effectiveness assured in recent land wars. Along with the Tomahawks, the naval drones with their great range and persistence promises to restore the range and survivability of the fleet, as new threats destroy the invulnerability myth of the supercarrier. Backed by satellites and land based planes, this should destroy once and for all our dependence and obsession with the world’s most powerful and costly warships, ending a chronic drain on our budget and numbers once and for all.

Instead of fearing constantly that our troops or ships will lack aerial protection we should depend more on our unmatched air defense ships for air cover. The West’s most powerful Aegis  radar has been consistently updated over the decades, until it can now destroy maneuvering missile warheads falling from space. A recent upgrade to the Arleigh Burke destroyer has been the addition of ESSM, potentially quadruples the number of the 90 missiles carried by the world’s most powerful surface combatant class. Instead of tying these new battleships to the increasingly redundant carriers, they should be loosed against America’s enemies, restoring the fleet’s versatilely and enhancing the survivability of our fleet.

Why can’t we get by with fewer carriers? Large deck advocates often boast that the vessels carry more firepower than many world air forces. Recall that the Royal Navy carriers in the Falklands stood up to a more numerous land based force with apparently less capable, sub-sonic, and short range Harrier jets. It is understandable that the Navy might be prepared then for battling 1, 2, and even 3 other airpower’s at a time, but by their own standards the USN is attempting to combat 11 other powers simultaneously, while their own strategists put this number as high as 13!

This post will be concluded on Thursday.

*****

38 Comments leave one →
  1. critcalmass permalink
    August 18, 2010 9:32 pm

    DF-21D Wunderwaffe or Fortune Cookie?

    There is a good discussion of the DF-21D here:

    http://project2049.net/documents/chinese_anti_ship_ballistic_missile_asbm.pdf

    And also here:

    http://forden.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/2819/df-21-delta-some-early-thoughts

    Mitch

    PS Technical detail is somewhat over my head…

  2. Heretic permalink
    August 11, 2010 9:31 am

    Mike, you forgot to add “too prejudiced” to your list.

  3. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 11, 2010 6:23 am

    Mitch I have posted on the DF-21, just not with a specific post lately. See:

    https://newwars.wordpress.com/2009/03/30/end-of-the-surface-fleet-as-we-know-it/

    I have usually incorporated the Chinese capability within other posts, especially the Thursday Carrier Alternative Weekly article. Three arguments now against the carrier;

    too expensive
    too vulnerable
    too redundant

  4. critcalmass permalink
    August 11, 2010 5:32 am

    Here Mike

    http://www.newworldorderwar.com/china-develops-new-super-missile/

    Can we have an article on this ‘game-changer’ — so we target a ICBM at a carrier group?

    Super Tactical-Nuke missile with conventional warhead…

    USN has anti-missile defence—so what makes this missile penetrate better than a surface skimmer…blah…

    Is that all this is?

    Mitch from War and Game

  5. Hudson permalink
    August 10, 2010 5:24 pm

    Cruise missiles can betray you. Somewhere, I read that two of the 70 or so missiles that Bill Clinton fired at O.B.M. after the Kenya embassy bombing in 1998 (Operation Infinite Reach), landed fairly intact, and the Chinese got bin Laden to ship the unexploded missiles to them, which Chinese engineers then reverse engineered for their own designs. B.C. also approved the sale of precise milling equipment for the prop shafts of our quiet nuclear boats, to China. Generous man, our Bill.

    Anyway, the missiles missed bin Laden, upon which his star rose in the Middle East and has, as yet, failed to set in the West.

  6. Heretic permalink
    August 10, 2010 3:02 pm

    re: B.Smitty

    I wasn’t disagreeing with your point, just the details. :)

    And by the same token, I wasn’t disagreeing your pointing out I’d missed a detail. ;)

    IMHO, SSGNs and TLAM warships are good for limited, surgical strikes against certain types of fixed targets. You can’t fight a campaign with them. The current non-reloadable-at-sea VLS issue exacerbates this problem. They have very limited types of target effects. They can’t find their own targets or enhance the ISR picture.

    Which was kinda my point. SSGNs and TLAM warships are, compared to a carrier with reusable aircraft, rather shallow magazine options. Mike can (and has) argued that TLAM warships are “fine” for Day 1 of any war … but that viewpoint conveniently ignores that almost all wars last into Day 2+ and that any sort of offensive strike capacity needs to be maintained if it is to be effective, which you won’t get with an all TLAM Navy because you’ve eschewed carriers.

    TLAMs are good as a First Salvo … but they’re lousy for sustained campaigns. And last time I checked … pretty much every war in history has been about campaigns sustained long enough to achieve an objective. Wars that last all of 15 minutes are, shall we say … exceedingly rare.

  7. B.Smitty permalink
    August 10, 2010 1:48 pm

    Heretic,

    I wasn’t disagreeing with your point, just the details. :)

    IMHO, SSGNs and TLAM warships are good for limited, surgical strikes against certain types of fixed targets. You can’t fight a campaign with them. The current non-reloadable-at-sea VLS issue exacerbates this problem. They have very limited types of target effects. They can’t find their own targets or enhance the ISR picture.

  8. Heretic permalink
    August 10, 2010 12:47 pm

    Fine … fine … instead of parking four SSGNs in the Persian Gulf, we send SIXTEEN and they generate 2500+ TLAMs in a day … and then go home because they’re out of ammo and can’t be replenished at sea. Meanwhile, the demand for airstrikes lasts more than a day/week/month.

    How’s that Bang For Buck ratio doing by the way?

  9. Fencer permalink
    August 10, 2010 12:35 pm

    Mike,
    In a single paragraph you agreed with my statement the nothing can duplicate the primary ability of a CVN, than said that “there are so many alternatives”. These statements appear to be mutually exclusive so could you clarify what you meant?

    The survivability of aircraft carriers against a peer threat is a matter of opinion. However, the Navy says that they’re survivable, history says they’re survivable, every nation that owns a carrier says they’re survivable, and even our enemies say they’re survivable (actions speak louder than words and the effort they continue to spend on “carrier killers” is significant).

    The carriers would be a lot more intimidating to hostile entities if they though we might use them. A platform isn’t intimidating because it looks cool, it’s intimidating because of the destruction it can unleash. If our enemies know we won’t use a weapon than they won’t be afraid of it.

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

    I agree with the anonymous poster who said:

    “Heretic the weakest link with the carriers is that the USA can’t afford them because of the world’s largest debt in history and an impending financial crisis. If cheaper alternatives aren’t found the whole darn house of cards will come crashing down. (…) In twenty years time there won’t be five carriers. (…) Wake up people! you want the USA to bankrupt itself and you need to be aware of sleepwalking to danger. Instead you live in fantasies of unlimited military power and it is crippling the country!”

    I wonder: How many avid, patriotic posters on all those U.S. American miltech Web-sites and blogs honestly believe that after this present economical crisis the U.S.A. will ever return to Presidents’ Kennedy’s and Ford’s G.D.P. growth rates, to the chimp’s all-time highest Dow Jones Industrial Average, to President Clinton’s budget surplus and to Ronald Reagan’s Armed Forces size again? Am I perhaps the only poster on the whole Internet who’s convinced that the U.S.A. are merely shrinking to their definitive, natural, economical size, and will forevermore be just a regional, continental power à la Europe and China? Somehow I constantly miss any allusions to the topic called “the structure of the post-imperial U.S. Armed Forces” in ALL those discussions and articles which I read, even in future studies from the brass! I suspect that as long as the President himself doesn’t announce America’s new format in crass, glum tones to all his subjects, your self-delusional minds reflexively block this very thought. Not very adult.
    Gone are the days of your uncontested hegemony (hey, I’m a Taliban: Come and catch me!), they will never return, and since you missed your one-time chance to lead the World wisely and by giving a good example (a typical mistake of ALL former empires…), today you’re hated more than terrorists wherever you go, another reason to start forgetting all your dreams about “global power”, “power projection” and “defending our national interests on the other side of the World”, etc. . It will also be a great exercise for your Defense Department to become truly DEFENSIVE again, after over a hundred years or so ( YES : A “brand-new”, “radical”, strategic concept for the U.S.A.).
    It’s not that you don’t need your last penny right now for buying way more important things than steel for soldiers, in my opinion…
    And before anybody pesters me with that stale “Isolationist!” cry: Do Europe, Japan and China somehow look “isolationist” (Wilson-style) to you? They merely understood that war is obsolete, and live accordingly! And if the recovery of your Capitalism fails, like Communism too, and you’ve got no other marketable skills, maybe we’ll even make a deal with you and pay you to be our watchful global cops (but not too watchful, please).

    Just trying to “startle” you a bit with the things to come in the very near future… Until then, you’re perfectly free of course to outmatch yourselves at drawing up the most grandiose armament plans. (Don’t forget lots of details!)

  11. B.Smitty permalink
    August 10, 2010 10:03 am

    Heretic,

    Four SSGNs bring a mere 616 TLAMS, not 2500+! They can’t find any land targets on their own. And a TLAM would take an hour or more to reach Baghdad from the Persian Gulf. Not exactly responsive for time-sensitive targets.

  12. Heretic permalink
    August 10, 2010 9:43 am

    Mike, if you’re going to advocate “missiles are ALL WE NEED!” as a solution, then you might as well go for an all submarine navy, with few (to no) surface ships … and have those surface ships oriented entirely around the Low Intensity Conflict and Maritime Policing, rather than as competitors meant to deter Near Peer nations.

    Mind you, instead of buying $9b Ford class CVNs, you’ll instead be buying $7b SSBNs and SSGNs. Instead of buying $1.8b DDGs, you’ll be buying $2.4b SSNs.

    You won’t need a Flotilla to defend the Fleet, because there won’t actually BE a surface warfare fleet designed and built to go to war … on the surface … to defend or screen. You’ll wind up with a Submarine Navy with a Deepwater Coast Guard floating on top doing all the work that doesn’t require “big grey floaty things” that the USN never wanted to have to do anyway (’cause that’s Coastie work!).

    So let’s say … just for the sake of argument … that you have four SSGNs loaded with Tomahawks in the Persian Gulf on day one of Desert Stomping Ground in 1991 instead of a CVN and its airwing. Those SSGNs spam launch their 2500+ Tomahawks the first day … and then … what? Go home? Desert Stomping Ground featured around 2500 aircraft sorties PER DAY for over 30 days … including land and sea based aircraft.

    You really aren’t thinking this through to its logical conclusions, are you? You can’t exactly replenish VLS at sea, you know … even with a flo/flo tender. Replenishing a CVN while underway … no problem.

    Amateurs learn tactics.
    Professionals learn logistics.

    If you’re still in doubt, consult with tangosix. He’ll set you straight.

  13. ffb permalink
    August 10, 2010 7:37 am

    To Mike Burleson:

    You wrote: “That is why I say the missile ships are the new battleships, and they will, are already taking their place in the minds of future strategists, as well as potential foes.”

    And after the initial salvo on high sea (meaning: If their magazines are empty) ? And to provide C.A.S. or C.O.I.N.? Or after their sonars pick up a distant echo?
    Let me guess: You’re radically against any guns on ship decks, similarly to those air strategists a few decades ago who were also all the rage for missile-only fighter planes, or even for a missile-only air defense for the whole North American continent (Truman, Trudeau) ?

  14. August 10, 2010 6:23 am

    TangoSix said “Whenever I look at the United States Navy’s budget I am astounded by the size of it and shocked by how little it seems to buy.”

    True. Even if you factor out personnel costs the bang for buck is frighteningly low. (I won’t mention European budgets………..)

    One of the things I find interesting is ship life. In the West we use super hi-tech this and that and throw a hull away to the Third World who nurse it on for a lot, lot longer. Yes that is a gross simplification and there lots of factors we all know I have mentioned. But on a very basic level it does make me wonder.

  15. August 10, 2010 6:14 am

    Hudson said “It might seem like we are playing with Monopoly money, but in fact, money is real. If it were not, we all could pick up free cash at the local pub or supermarket. That, as everyone knows, would lead to inflation, then hyperinflation and the billion dollar/pound note.”

    Um. Sorry. No. Though I wouldn’t advocate I monetary system based on leaves or blades of grass money is an abstract.

  16. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 10, 2010 5:09 am

    Fencer wrote “no other platform (or combination whereof) can duplicate the ability of one of our “few and fancy flattops” to remain on station indefinitely while conducting combat operations over 475,000 square miles of ocean or land.”

    I don’t deny that, I just question first the viability of this in an age of rising threats, honestly this mission only works against low tech threats in a benign environment. Then I question the need when there are so many alternatives, such as small carriers, missiles ships, UAVs, and land based airpower.

    The giant ships are also losing their intimidation factor. What do the Norks do soon after our massive but pointless demonstration off their waters but go and capture an SK fishing vessel.They no longer take us seriously, and even if we attack, they still win propaganda-wise.

  17. August 9, 2010 10:17 pm

    Hello Fencer,

    that is a very good point about the budget.

    tangosix.

  18. Fencer permalink
    August 9, 2010 10:12 pm

    Mike,
    The problem is that no other platform (or combination whereof) can duplicate the ability of one of our “few and fancy flattops” to remain on station indefinitely while conducting combat operations over 475,000 square miles of ocean or land.

    Carriers replaced battleships because they were far more capable, not because they were cheaper. Secondly carriers could not only accomplished every single mission that had previously required battleships, they could also preform tasks like ASW and ISR that had been filled by cruisers and destroyers. The only time cost played a role in the demise of the battleship was when the world’s navies had to decide how many they could keep in commission.

    After reviewing the US Navy’s budget the picture I get is that aircraft are the single most expensive system. In the 2010 “Ship Building and Conversion” was only 71% of “Aircraft Procurement” ($13.7 billion vice $19.3 billion), in addition “Mission and Flight Operations” ($3.8 billion) cost 15% more than “Mission and Ship Operations” (only $3.3 billion). With that much money being spent on naval aviation I don’t think the most cost-effective carriers in the world would make much difference.

  19. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 9, 2010 6:55 pm

    Heretic wrote “You’re compounding your mistake, Mike.”

    Every mission currently done by the few and fancy flattops are already duplicated under current technology, if not by the sea services, then the land and air forces. No single vessel will ever perfectly replace the roles currently done by the giant aircraft carriers, just like the latter can’t blast a beachhead to smithereens like the old Iowa class.

    The problem being, even though the carrier is so capable, it is no longer practical. Their cost, sucking away other important functions, including from their own airwings, and distracting from the sea control mission, outweigh any advantage they have. That is why I say the missile ships are the new battleships, and they will, are already taking their place in the minds of future strategists, as well as potential foes.

  20. B.Smitty permalink
    August 9, 2010 5:26 pm

    ““Gates wants the defense budget to be reliable and predictable, looking more like a gently sloping hill than the lines on a defibrillator. He wants to give the services themselves more flexibility about how to spend their money in a threat environment that constantly changes.

    Unless, of course, Gates doesn’t like the system in question (e.g. F-22).

  21. B.Smitty permalink
    August 9, 2010 5:24 pm

    F-35s will certainly be able to carry more than 4 AAM, just not internally. It has six under-wing pylons.

    External carriage will futz with its VLO, assuming no stealthy missile pods are developed, but it will still have a lower signature than any 4th gen fighter.

  22. Heretic permalink
    August 9, 2010 5:22 pm

    re: Mike B.

    Relying instead on missile ships, you could do the same missions, but count the number of strikes groups in the scores, ending any gaps, ensuring greater survivability, giving the ChiComs something to worry about.

    /facepalm

    You’re compounding your mistake, Mike.

    Missile ships canNOT do the same missions (plural) as carriers. Missile ships might be able to yield equivalent firepower on target in the first few salvoes, but they aren’t going to do the same missions (plural) as carriers.

    How many missiles do Electronic Warfare?
    What’s that? None? Oh wait … there is one missile that does. It’s called an EMP airburst, and it requires use of nuclear power. No one would “object” to something like that being used, would they? Everyone will still be friends with us and want to be our trading partners after we use one of those, won’t they?

    How many missiles do ISR?
    What’s that? None?

    How many missiles do Sea Control?
    What’s that? None?

    Missiles are, in this context, only good for One Thing … the Hard Kill (or at least, the intent to deliver it). Note that this is not all that substantially different from the mindset attributable to submarines. Missiles don’t give you a whole lot of “options” between Kill? (Y/N) … even when deployed defensively (where you *do* want that sort of decision).

    Aircraft, and the carriers they fly from, by contrast, can perform a WIDE range of services that go way beyond the excessively simplistic Hard Kill question. This inherent flexibility is what makes carriers at sea so very very valuable.

    How many missiles have you seen escort a hostile aircraft away from a contested and/or sovereign airspace without causing an international incident which leads to war between nations?
    What’s that? None? Well fancy that …

    My point is that the Kill? (Y/N) is not the ONLY question which needs to accounted for when you’re trying to reassure friends and marginalize enemies.

  23. Hudson permalink
    August 9, 2010 5:21 pm

    From today’s The Atlantic Wire on Bob Gates:

    “Gates wants the defense budget to be reliable and predictable, looking more like a gently sloping hill than the lines on a defibrillator. He wants to give the services themselves more flexibility about how to spend their money in a threat environment that constantly changes. When China announces that its ballistic missiles can now hit moving U.S. aircraft carriers, duplication studies and task forces and bloated senior level staff often get in the way. The Joint Forces Command is based in Norfolk, Virginia. Thousands of Virginians will lose their jobs. In Gates’s world, though, “Virginia may well come out with a lot more jobs than it loses.” Why? Less headquarters bloat will give the Navy more money to build ships in Newport News.

    “This is why the point needs to be emphasized,” he said. “This is not about cutting the defense budget.” Services like the Navy that identify savings can “invest them in higher priority things,” Gates said.”

    Ummm.

    Ballistic missiles can now hit moving Joint Forces Command…

  24. August 9, 2010 4:02 pm

    Hello,

    X said:

    “Um. Anon’ has a point.”

    He does indeed.
    Whenever I look at the United States Navy’s budget I am astounded by the size of it and shocked by how little it seems to buy.
    It is difficult to see how any nation can sustain the current level of spending when so much of that money is borrowed but if the budget is cut the United States Navy is going to have a really big problem if it does not learn how to build cheaper ships.

    tangosix.

  25. August 9, 2010 3:47 pm

    Hello,

    J.Wilson said:

    “That’s almost three times the ordnance of the Ohios, but for fifty times larger targets. Oh dear, not very stealthy, survivable or clever.”

    Each carrier carries about 40 times as much ordnance as each Ohio.
    Why is that a bad thing?
    Aircraft carriers are far less stealthy than submarines but they are far more survivable if hit,vastly more useful and also more survivable than the alternative which is a land base:

    http://grandlogistics.blogspot.com/2010/06/analysis-of-warfare-is-bit-like.html

    J.Wilson said:

    “Well if one is hit by just one JDAM or exocet now, the British are in trouble. (You know, like happened to a number of their ships and the Atlantic Conveyor in the Falklands.”

    In order to hit an aircraft carrier with a J.D.A.M. or an exocet an aircraft (or it’s missile) would have to get past the carrier’s air wing,it’s escosting destroyers and frigates and it’s defensive weapons and soft kill systems.
    The Argentinians didn’t manage that in 1982,it will be a great deal harder in 2022.
    The Argentinians did manage to sink or damage multiple destroyers and frigates whose numbers did not give them survivability.

    J.Wilson said:

    “And if you knew more about naval history you would know that with only 30 harriers the british could not even provide combat air patrols to protect their SMALLER carriers.”

    Really,how many aircraft carriers did the British lose during the Falklands war?
    If you knew more about naval history you would know that the Argentinians did not manage to hit a single aircraft carrier.
    What the size of those ships has got to do with that I can’t imagine.
    The Argentinians did however manage to sink or damage a very large number of surface combatants which were largely defenceless against air attack.

    J.Wilson said:

    “They are only buying 50 F35-Bs now, that carry even less missiles than the harrier (just 2 internally, and not even an internal gun) so they get the SAME wimpy CAP for two much larger ships! I don’t think you know what you are talking about.”

    Unless you are intimately familiar with the ongoing strategic defence review,you will not know how many F35s are going to be ordered as that will not be announced until the autumn like everything else.
    In any case the Royal Navy requires only enough to maintain the 36 strong air wing for the single carrier the Royal Navy is expecting to have operational at all times.
    To suggest that 36 longer ranged,faster and all round more capable F35s armed with 4 or more A.S.R.A.A.M.,A.M.R.A.A.M. (and possibly Meteor) and backed up by airborne early warning aircraft will only provide “SAME wimpy CAP” as 28 short ranged Sea Harriers armed with 4 Sidewinders with no airborne early warning is not credible.

    tangosix.

  26. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 9, 2010 3:27 pm

    Heretic wrote “Mike, I think you’re going in the wrong direction with this one.”

    The point about the number of carriers isn’t the weakest link, its the carriers themselves. You could build 5 or 10 more, it would make little difference.The problem is, concentrating so much firepower in so few packages. This makes for a tactical mistake, that could lead to strategic implications, such as us being forced out the Western Pacific, at least. You could have gold and blue-submarine type crewing, ensuring you’d have most or all of your ships deployed at once, but it still would be concentration of force, allowing gaps in your sea control.

    Relying instead on missile ships, you could do the same missions, but count the number of strikes groups in the scores, ending any gaps, ensuring greater survivability, giving the ChiComs something to worry about.

    Tangosix wrote “Just one Queen Elizabeth class carrier will carry 36 F35s.”

    How many aircraft will the absent carrier load at a time? Capability cannot duplicate availability.

  27. Hudson permalink
    August 9, 2010 3:11 pm

    It might seem like we are playing with Monopoly money, but in fact, money is real. If it were not, we all could pick up free cash at the local pub or supermarket. That, as everyone knows, would lead to inflation, then hyperinflation and the billion dollar/pound note.

    China has been selling off U.S. Treasuries, some $75 bil, I read recently. That is only a small fraction of its holdings. However, a large selloff of Treasuries would devalue the dollar, causing China to hurt its own ability to export to the United States — which is still the engine of its economy. If China simply wanted to devalue the dollar, it could stop artificially devaluing its currency against the dollar, which is what the United States wants and China has resisted for years.

    Dumping U.S. Treasuries en masse would be the economic equivalent of China cutting off its nose to spite its face, and the people in charge of China’s economy recognize that (for now). And who would want to buy this bad paper?

    If the U.S. were to fail to meet its Treasury obligations on time, then technically we would be bankrupt. Economic life would continue in the country; states and localities would issue their own script and barter goods for services (as is happening on a small scale now). California today is a good example of bankruptcy, or near bankruptcy, on a large scale in the U.S.

    Fixed assets, like naval vessels, would not evaporate. But there would be no cash to operate them. The Government would have to pay its sailore in I.O.Y’s, as has been done to government workers in California. Under these circumstances, it is difficult to imagine U.S. ships firing cruise missiles into China–for any reason. China might retaliate by hacking Government computers and shutting down the U.S. Treasury printing presses, or running them to exhaustion, which we are pretty much doing now.

  28. August 9, 2010 2:10 pm

    I wouldn’t blame you guys for hauling up the shutters!!!!

  29. elgatoso permalink
    August 9, 2010 1:37 pm

    I believe in isolationism.(I always did).If America grow again his own industry,we don’t need China and the rest of the world.

  30. August 9, 2010 1:12 pm

    Whoops! US tech drives Chinese manufacturing.

    Damn this not being a forum!!!!!! :)

  31. August 9, 2010 1:10 pm

    Um. Anon’ has a point. But if one thing the recent crisis has proved is that money isn’t real. In fact it hasn’t been real since the petro-dollar came about. Economic systems are artificial. You have to be careful not to fall in the semantic trap of believing they are anything other than imaginary.

    One thing I know is real is the effect of 1000lb precision guided munition. And I think the it is the US’s ability to deliver the latter in a large quantity that means the PRC will never ever be able to collect on its debts. It is called realism. ;)

    More seriously China depends on the US more than US depends on China. US tech’ is what drives US manufacturing. The Chinese make up one 17% of the world’s population. The US makes up only 5%; but that 5% generates 25% of the world economy. If the US learned to grow corn as efficiently as the Europeans and decided to build their own iPods the rest of the world would suffer. That is called isolationism.

    Unfortunately for the US their biggest enemy at present sits behind a big desk in a funny shaped room in DC. That is called democracy.

  32. Anonymous permalink
    August 9, 2010 1:00 pm

    Heretic the weakest link with the carriers is that the USA can’t afford them because of the world’s largest debt in history and an impending financial crisis. If cheaper aletrnatives aren’t found the whole darn house of cards will come crashing down.

    China is the USA’s largest creditor. China’s largest credit agency has just given the USA junk bond status and its chief analyst has said it is because the USA only has borrowed money and a crippled economy. And sadly they are right.

    In twenty years time there won’t be five carriers.

    wake up people! you want the USA to bankrupt itself and you need to be aware of sleepwalking to danger. instead you live in fantasies of unlimited military power and it is crippling the country!

  33. J Wilson permalink
    August 9, 2010 12:55 pm

    Tagosix said: A single American aircraft carrier carries about 6,000,000 pounds of ordnance with it’s station ship carrying another 6,000,000 pounds of ordnance to replenish the carrier.

    That’s almost three times the ordnance of the Ohios, but for fifty times larger targets. Oh dear, not very stealthy, survivable or clever.

    And only four carriers are at sea at any one time. Don’t just take the author’s word for it. Take the USN’s. That’s compared to 130 vessels spread right across the whole planet! Maybe 45 of which are active at any one time. 4 versus 45. Hmm.

    Tagosix said: there are two Queen Elizabeth carriers. Well if one is hit by just one JDAM or exocet now, the British are in trouble. (You know, like happened to a number of their ships and the Atlantic Conveyor in the Falklands. Multiple destoyers and frigates give REDUNDANCY and SURVIVABILITY.

    And if you knew more about naval history you would know that with only 30 harriers the british could not even provide combat air patrols to protect their SMALLER carriers. They are only buying 50 F35-Bs now, that carry even less missiles than the harrier (just 2 internally, and not even an internal gun) so they get the SAME wimpy CAP for two much larger ships! I don’t think you know what you are talking about.

    If you were in charge, britain would be doomed in a war!

  34. William permalink
    August 9, 2010 12:48 pm

    Couldn’t the USN just get by with buildng more Nimitz class CVN’s, perhaps slightly modified to see if the crew could be reduced somewhat, rather than the much more expensive Ford class?

  35. Heretic permalink
    August 9, 2010 11:12 am

    Mike, I think you’re going in the wrong direction with this one.

    Yes, it “costs” 3-4 ships to have one constantly forward deployed in a rotation. Big surprise then that it costs 2-3 ships to have one constantly defensively deployed in a sovereign protection rotation. Difference? Transit time from home base.

    The “mistake” with carriers is relying on them for power projection ashore FIRST and for maritime missions a very very distant second. This puts them into the position of being Offense Only assets as a matter of doctrine … so naturally everyone else is going to want to get into the Carrier Denial business to keep USN CVNs out of “their” backyard (or sea, as the case may be).

    The weakest link with carriers is the aircraft they carry … and how they are used.

  36. Hudson permalink
    August 9, 2010 10:09 am

    By comparison, the 6,000,000 lbs. of ordance carried by a supercarrier equals six times the explosive power of the powder magazine of the USS Arizona.

  37. August 9, 2010 9:41 am

    I think I am in right in saying the 3 Invincible carriers have only ever been at sea all at the same time on one occasion. Most of the time it has been one in long, long, refit. One with a minimum crew. And one available for ops. If the crewing figures and technological advances(!) work out in theory we will be better off than in the early 90’s………

    Everything is moot until October.

  38. August 9, 2010 8:09 am

    Hello,

    Mike Burleson said:

    “So, with all the extra expense and apparent capability of the large deck, you can see the RN actually losing some ability by deploying larger, fewer ships.”

    The two small carriers sent to the Falklands carried about 30 Harriers and Sea Harriers between them (numbers varied during the conflict).
    Just one Queen Elizabeth class carrier will carry 36 F35s.
    There are only 2 Invincible class carriers in service which are being replaced by the same number of Queen Elizabeth class ships,a big increase in capability.

    Mike Burleson said:

    “Especially in terms of the Tomahawk missile, there are now 130 such vessels in service including the “arsenal submarines” of the Ohio class, totaling an extra 600+ of these 1000-mile range unmanned bombers on 4 super-stealth and cost effective platforms.”

    Those 600 cruise missiles on 4 submarines deliver just 600,000 pounds of warhead between them.
    A single American aircraft carrier carries about 6,000,000 pounds of ordnance with it’s station ship carrying another 6,000,000 pounds of ordnance to replenish the carrier.

    Mike Burleson said:

    “Instead of fearing constantly that our troops or ships will lack aerial protection we should depend more on our unmatched air defense ships for air cover.”

    If cruisers and destroyers offer unmatched air defence,then how is anyone going to hit the aircraft carriers which they protect?

    If cruisers and destroyers cannot protect an aircraft carrier with the support of the carrier’s air wing then how are they going to be able to protect themselves without air cover?

    tangosix.

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