Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Why Is A Carrier The Size It Is?

Carriers are mammoth vessels.  Why? 

Why?

This isn’t a trick question but it’s one that we never think about.  The answer is that the carrier’s size is determined by its air wing. 

The air wing needs an immense flat area simply to park its aircraft on.  That area must also be able to launch and recover aircraft while not interfering with the storage (parking) of the aircraft.  That adds immensely to the area.  More flight deck room is needed to move aircraft in preparation for launch or maintenance. 

For example, the entire bow area of the carrier is there because that much room is needed for the catapults.  If the aircraft were all vertical takeoff, you wouldn’t need the bow of the carrier and you could lop off the entire area from the bow cats forward.  Relax, vertical take off is not where we’re going with this.  I’m just illustrating that the size of the carrier is determined by the requirements of the air wing.  The same reasoning applies to the huge recovery area that constitutes much of the aft half of the flight deck.

The air wing also needs to maintain itself.  Thus, we have a huge hangar for maintenance, many repair shops, lots of spare parts storage, etc.

The air wing needs munitions and lots of them.  So, a large chunk of internal carrier volume is devoted to magazines and munition handling areas and elevators.

The air wing needs fuel and lots of it.  The carrier, despite being nuclear powered, needs immense fuel tanks for the air wing’s aircraft.

The air wing also needs the mundane things like berthing, heads, showers, food and water storage, galley space, mess decks, laundry, waste treatment, etc.

Take away the air wing and all its requirements and what do you have?  A small, nuclear powered tugboat.

Okay, so now we’ve thought about why a carrier is the size it is.  So what?

Well, let’s keep going and think a bit deeper.  Having asked why a carrier is the size it is, let’s now ask why the air wing is the size it is.

Again, this is not a trick question but it is one that is examined even less than the carrier size. 

The air wing is the size it is because of the tasks it is asked to perform.  What are those tasks?  Here’s a list of a tasks and a typical air wing’s assigned aircraft to accomplish those tasks

  • Strike and Fighter – 38x  F-18 Hornets
  • Aerial Tanking - 6x F-18 Hornets
  • AEW – 4x E-2 Hawkeyes
  • ECM – 5x EA-18G Growlers
  • ASW/ASuW/Logistics – 12x MH-60(x) Seahawks

That gives us an air wing of 65 aircraft – our modern air wing.

Okay, so now we’ve thought about why an air wing is the size it is.  So what?

Well, do you recall the recent post on distributed costs and the resulting change in force structure?  We said that we need to reverse the trend towards ever larger, ever more expensive, ever fewer ships and go (return) to smaller, simpler, less individually capable, cheaper, more numerous ships.  Do you recall an overarching theme of ComNavOps calling for more numerous and cheaper, smaller, single function ships like dedicated ASW vessels and dedicated MCM vessels and narrowly defined AAW escort ships and so on?  Well, the same applies to, and is interlinked with, carriers or, more precisely, carrier air wings.

If we had a more numerous force structure of smaller, single function ships what impact might that have on carrier air wings?

Instead of the Navy’s current carrier escort of three or four Burkes, each with a single helo, providing ASW, imagine if we had 16 smaller, dedicated ASW vessels, each with a single helo for a total of 16 ASW helos.  We wouldn’t need the carrier’s helos.  The requisite number would be distributed throughout the escort.  So, the air wing’s helos could be reduced from 12 to 2 (for plane guard duty).

Suppose we were to distribute the air wing’s capabilities across two carriers instead of one.  That would mean each air wing would have 2 Hawkeyes instead of 4 and 2-3 Growlers instead of 5.

We don’t want to distribute the air wing’s strike/fighter capabilities, however.  Quite the opposite.  We’d like to increase the number of strike/fighter aircraft.  So, what if each of our notional two carriers had an air wing of 38 Hornets, 6 Hornet-tankers, 2 Hawkeyes, and 2 Growlers?  That would give us an air wing of 48 total aircraft with the exact same combat capability as a current air wing!

Because the air wing is only 48 aircraft, a 26% reduction in numerical size, the carrier needed to operate the air wing could be substantially smaller. 

Let’s go still further.  If we’re willing to accept a slight reduction in launch capacity, our notional carrier could be equipped with only 2 catapults instead of 4.  All four catapults are rarely (almost never) operated simultaneously.  They’re mainly useful for full strike launches which is less and less a viable operation.  A reduction of two catapults gives us a significant reduction in equipment and required flight deck space.  Remember earlier in the post when we noted that if it were not for the two bow catapults we could lop off the entire bow section of the carrier?  And with a wing of only 48 aircraft the bow flight deck area wouldn’t even be needed for parking. 

You can see where this is going.  A smaller air wing means less flight deck area, less hangar space, fewer repair shops, less personnel berthing, etc.  In short, it means we can have a much smaller carrier.  In this concept, we would actually have two carriers instead of one and they would pool their Hawkeyes and Growlers to have the capability of a full air wing today plus twice the strike/fighter numbers.   This would result in a force of 20 carriers as opposed to today’s 10, resulting in distributed cost, distributed and increased lethality, twice the combat aircraft, and, most importantly, distributed risk so that we would actually be willing to commit carriers to combat.

So, why is the carrier the size it is?  The answer is, for no good reason.

93 comments:

  1. Nice post.

    It would also give us the ability to use 1 small(ish) carrier to plink hi-lux's instead of a SuperCarrier. Distributed lethality indeed. We simply must get on the other side of our cost to effectiveness ratio.

    We're getting to the point where we have fewer units that we can't use to perform many tasks because they aren't all that good at it (I suspect Burkes at ASW most of the time) or because they are too expensive (Burkes, again).

    An interesting study to me would be the claim the Navy makes for the SH and the newer Ford class saving money.

    The airwings have been reduced dramatically in size since the cold war. ~90 AC to ~48. And the AC (SuperHornets) themselves are supposedly A) easier to maintain, and B) now have a common logistics tail because they are mostly the same. I'm told that manpower is the super big end all be all expensive thing in the Navy. Yet.... it doesn't look to me like the manning of the Nimitz class has gone down. Just arguably the effectiveness of the airwing in any sort of peer conflict.

    And, with the new Ford Class, they are manned at 4000 crew, from what I've read. But those numbers don't seem to include the air wing. But the cost of the carrier itself is now approaching triple what the last true Nimitz was; all for a ship that still houses the same size airwing.

    Where is all the cost savings?

    One question I had from the post about the 4 catapults: "They’re mainly useful for full strike launches which is less and less a viable operation"

    WHy is an alpha strike increasingly a less viable option?

    I can think of a few reasons (smaller airwing means less striking power; short legs of the aircraft; no good mission tanking capability...) but I'm wondering if there is something else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "but I'm wondering if there is something else."

      The effectiveness of modern air defense systems (SAMs) suggests that manned strikes are not cost/attrition effective and are better left to cruise missiles or UAVs. Thus, the reason for massed carrier strikes - to massively hit a large, important target - is becoming less and less relevant. The more important the target, the better defended it usually is and, thus, the more likely to attack it with missiles instead of manned aircraft.

      The other reasons you noted are also valid.

      Delete
    2. If that's the case... then I think we need to re-think carriers entirely. They still have value as blue water assets, but if in a peer war their striking ability is hindered at best then we really need to dial down their cost.

      Which, when you think about it, isn't that far off from the way we used CV's in WWII. Blue water assets at first, to degrade the Japanese Navy. Then strike platforms on the Japanese outposts, then as strike platforms on Japan after Japan's air defense had been degraded.

      Delete
    3. "but if in a peer war their striking ability is hindered at best then we really need to dial down their cost."

      You hit the nail on the head with that. Their cost. How many Admirals are going to risk a a ship of that size and COST to engage the enemy? Yeah, we have these massive, super expensive ships....what one is sunk or severely damaged? In this day and age, you just lost 10% of your capability. But since there are never 10 carriers fully up and operational, more like 20%.

      Delete
    4. Cost and crew. Not to sound cavalier about casualties but no admiral will risk a carrier in an area where in one fell swoop we could lose more Americans than in the 9/11 attack.

      Delete
  2. I think the issue missing in your analysis is how the reactor and the attendant manning plays a role in CVN size. Does the USN have enough Reactor Officers and enlisted personnel to support 20 CVN's? It doesn't appear so. If you go conventional then how big does the carrier need to be JFK sized to get equivalent on station times to a CVN?

    Don't get me wrong, I agree in principle with you; the USS America Class should have been built with an angled deck, two catapults and three trap wires. But I don't think that escort CV would be able to deploy for the 7-9 months that most CVN's are doing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! So many things to respond to.

      "But I don't think that escort CV would be able to deploy for the 7-9 months that most CVN's are doing."

      No ship should deploy for 7-9 months!!!!!! That's how we wear ships out before their service lives are over.

      "... the reactor ..."

      I didn't say anything about reactors. First, reactors on today's carriers are there due to the size of the carrier which, as the post discussed, is due to the size of the air wing. Cut the carrier and wing in half and you no longer have an overwhelming case for nuclear power. Should the smaller carrier I suggested by nuclear or conventional? I'll leave that one to the experts but I suspect that a smaller carrier ought to be conventional powered.

      "get equivalent on station times to a CVN?"

      On station times are not determined by nuclear power. They're determined by munitions inventory, flight deck surfacing, aircraft maintenance needs, crew fatigue, etc. We've kept non-nuclear carriers where we needed them indefinitely. That's just an oiler/logistics issue which we solved decades ago. Heck, we fought an entire Pacific war in WWII with forward deployed, non-nuclear carriers. Don't make it seem like a non-nuclear ship is suddenly, somehow, a new and difficult problem that stands in our way.

      So, no, the reactor is not missing from the analysis. It just isn't relevant.

      Delete
    2. Did I not read a study a few months back to states that a conventionally powered carrier is, in the long run of a ships life, much cheaper that a nuclear carrier?

      Delete
    3. I give little credence to those studies because you can make them say whatever you want them to say by manipulating which factors to include or exclude. For example, for a conventional carrier, do you also include the cost of the tanker ship you have to build to keep the carrier supplied with fuel? Do you consider the transportation costs to get the fuel from some stateside port to halfway around the world to the tanker/carrier? And so on.

      Those studies also never seem to consider the operational and tactical advantages and disadvantages of either system.

      Delete
    4. thanks for taking the time to respond...

      "No ship should deploy for 7-9 months!!!!!! That's how we wear ships out before their service lives are over."

      Concur

      "I didn't say anything about reactors. First, reactors on today's carriers are there due to the size of the carrier which, as the post discussed, is due to the size of the air wing. Cut the carrier and wing in half and you no longer have an overwhelming case for nuclear power. Should the smaller carrier I suggested by nuclear or conventional? I'll leave that one to the experts but I suspect that a smaller carrier ought to be conventional powered."

      I agree that a escort CV would be conventionally powered. I was just asserting why Big Navy is maintaining the current path. While the air wing is smaller, CVN size has increased. You assert the growth is because of the number of planes while I'm concurrently suggesting that the potential of long deployments is also a factor.

      "On station times are not determined by nuclear power. They're determined by munitions inventory, flight deck surfacing, aircraft maintenance needs, crew fatigue, etc. We've kept non-nuclear carriers where we needed them indefinitely. That's just an oiler/logistics issue which we solved decades ago. Heck, we fought an entire Pacific war in WWII with forward deployed, non-nuclear carriers. Don't make it seem like a non-nuclear ship is suddenly, somehow, a new and difficult problem that stands in our way."

      I entered the Navy just as the Cv were decommed. While the Navy has cracked the code on replenishment, it does seem to want to make the investment for gassing up big decks. As you stated in another post, stores for DFM mean fewer tanks for AVGAS.

      Delete
    5. I think alot of this revolves around the fact that the Navy is mucking up the airwings so badly.

      If we had a large, long range aircraft along with good stand off weapons, the role of the carrier on the first day of the war changes, and its value goes way up. Ditto if the F-35 had the range and striking power of an A6.

      Are we having this conversation if the SuperTomcat 21 and the A12 were built in numbers?

      Delete
    6. Jim - good points, do not forget the F-111 issue either.

      There were some good reasons to walk, but the had the carrier capable version of the F-111 been built, the Navy would have ended up with a superb long-range heavy attack aircraft and access to a great EW platform as well.

      GAB

      Delete
  3. In the meantime, the Navy could expand the current carrier air wing to match the size of their carriers. Indeed, it was not that long ago that a carrier air wing had 70 to 80 fixed-wing aircraft. Today, that number is less than 60.

    At a minimum, the Navy should add another Super Hornet squadron (12 aircraft), a short squadron of 8-10 Super Hornets for aerial refueling, and round up the Growler and Hawkeye squadrons to 8 and 6 aircraft, respectively.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. Although that exacerbates the risk issue because now you've got even more combat power in one platform. There has always been, and always will be, a tension between risk and power. The current carriers, due to their shrinking air wings, have fallen far down the power curve and need to come back or else we need to abandon supercarriers.

      The problem with enlarging the air wing is that the Navy won't even consider doing it. The Navy, in the minds of Navy leadership, is in the business of building ships and it doesn't matter what kind or whether they're useful (witness the LCS). Money for more aircraft will mean fewer ships so that's a no-go. That's ill-advised but that's the current reality.

      Still, I'm with you!

      Delete
    2. I couldn't agree with this more.

      I'm still in with SuperCarriers... if we built a 'Super' airwing to match. Without it....

      Even the Nimitz class with 38 short legged strike aircraft isn't worth the cost. The Ford.... not even worth considering.

      There. I said it.

      Delete
    3. Given the size of the current carrier air wing, a 70,000 to 75,000 ton carrier is probably sufficient. But, I don't see the Navy downsizing the size of the carriers any time soon.

      Nuclear power is the only option for a ship that size. Conventional enginest are possible, but they don't offer the speed or unlimited range that nuclear power does. But, it would be worthy of serious consideration if the Navy could build two large carriers (each supporting today's air wing) for the price of a Ford.

      But, I have the sense that if China were to build their own 100,000 ton super carrier, the Navy would start building 125,000 ton carriers. Size does matter when it comes to such things. Besides, who doesn't want to have the biggest toy on the block?

      Delete
    4. We built and operated conventional carriers of 82,000 tons (USS John F Kennedy) with no problems. Conventional carriers have all the speed and range they need. Interestingly, the conventional Kennedy has a Wiki-listed speed of 34 kts while the nuclear Nimitz has a speed of 31.5 kts. Unlimited range is pointless if you have to stop every few days to allow your escorts to refuel. This is why the Navy once tried to build nuclear escorts - they recognized that little conundrum.

      So, nuclear power is not the only option for a ship that size. If you want to make the argument that nuclear power is preferable, then give some reasons that are useful and practical. There is no speed advantage and unlimited range has no practical benefit. Give me some practical reasons.

      Delete
    5. "If you want to make the argument that nuclear power is preferable, then give some reasons that are useful and practical. There is no speed advantage and unlimited range has no practical benefit. Give me some practical reasons."

      I think that one can only make the case for, or against, nuclear power based on what you want to do with your fleet, and on your own cost structure.

      If your carriers are mainly there for shooting high lux's then nuclear power is probably insane. Its just too expensive. Along those lines, so are F/A -18's. Make an America class with catapults and some form of CATOBAR capable bronco type aircraft. (OF course, at that end of the price spectrum, CATOBAR is questionable... but it does give you decent launch weights).

      If you want a blue water dominance vessel then you might go supercarrier, or not. I'm thinking that for CNO's type nuclear power may just be below the tipping point. It does give potential advantages (I'm speculating) like increased bunkerage for aircraft fuel, and maybe some to share with its escorts. It might give you the chance to go to a turbo electric drive, and its opportunities for increased compartmentalization.

      Delete
    6. CNO, just sticking my nose in here, but I would have to say that Speed is a very real advantage of nuclear power over conventional.
      Why? Simple.
      Endurance.

      A Conventional Carrier like the JFK may be able to get to the same speeds as a Nuclear Carrier, but that is flank speed for the Conventional - they cannot keep that up for long.
      Meanwhile, the Nuclear Carrier can hit that speed and stay there the entire journey under the correct circumstances.
      This enables the navy to pull off Swap Guard and just rotate the escorts out at predetermined locations (escorts from Pearl Harbor replace escorts from San Diego, for instance).

      Now, will the navy do this these days? Probably not.
      But it is something they did in the late 80s/90s (the New Jersey made an Atlantic transit to the Mediterranean never getting below 28kts - something she could only due by virtue of her huge fuel tanks, which carriers could not have because of aviation gas afaik), and was something they considered for faster reaction times of Carriers that were not forward deployed, cutting the time in transit by as much as 2/3rds.

      - Ray D.

      Delete
    7. OK, transit speed is a potential advantage though a very, very small one. How often will we need to transit a carrier at a sustained speed that will leave the escorts behind? Probably never.

      Also, while the nuclear reactor can provide indefinite power for perpetual 30 kt speeds, the machinery (gears, shafts, lubrication systems, and so on) cannot sustain that speed indefinitely. Thus, prolonged high speed borders on a one-in-a-million type of benefit. It would have to be a very unusual set of circumstances to warrant such a sustained speed.

      In terms of making the argument for nuclear power, that rates about a 1% contribution to the argument.

      The nuclear argument comes down to cost and operations. All the cost analyses I've seen show that conventional and nuclear power are about a wash, depending on what factors you want to include in the analysis. Similarly, operational factors probably show a very slight advantage for nuclear power. Overall, the arguments seem to be a toss up.

      Delete
    8. Well, theoretically, we would end up doing that in the case of virtually any war that put the US again a peer or near-peer.
      The ability to cross the Pacific/Atlantic in a matter of days instead of weeks is a fairly huge thing that would end up saving thousands of American and Allied lives... if only the Carriers actually had any striking/staying power, but that is something that has been discussed into the ground.
      Regardless, that is a very real argument that is used quite often in the pro-nuclear side of the argument. At least from those I have heard argue for it.

      (Overall, I agree with you, but I tend to side in favor of Nuclear Power. Even for escorts.)

      - Ray D.

      Delete
    9. Obviously, conventional and nuclear propulsion have their advantages and disadvantages. Conventional carriers have lower acquisition and maintenance costs and can be home ported overseas without too many complaints from the host country, but require refuelling at sea and carry fewer weapons and fuel for the air wing. Nuclear propulsion doesn't require refuelling at sea and can carry more weapons and fuel, but the overhaul of her nuclear reactor can take a carrier out of service for a couple of years or more.

      The Kennedy could hold 11,000 tons of fuel. A number of conventional carriers could strain the current replenishment fleet, requiring additional tankers to be procured, which, at a minimum, would offset the acquisition savings.

      The Navy has looked at this in the past and has always comes down on the side of nuclear propulsion for carriers. Somewhere I'm sure, there is a carrier size where the cost of propulsion is a wash, but I don't know what that is.

      Delete
    10. "(Overall, I agree with you, but I tend to side in favor of Nuclear Power. Even for escorts.)"

      I'd be all over an all nuclear navy. A Navy where you don't have to worry about fuel at all has alot of advantages.

      But we just can't afford it.

      Delete
    11. "The Navy has looked at this in the past and has always comes down on the side of nuclear propulsion for carriers. Somewhere I'm sure, there is a carrier size where the cost of propulsion is a wash, but I don't know what that is."

      I wonder if some of the combined power plants out there might affect that. If you have a smaller ship that can cruise on diesel and go to gas turbines for flight ops it might tip the efficiency enough.

      Delete
    12. Combined diesel and gas turbines is an option I hadn't considered, but it is certainly a possibility.

      Delete
    13. Let's keep in mind who's making the decisions - the Navy. The same geniuses that gave us the LCS and a litany of other highly questionable decisions. I won't bother listing them. This entire blog is testimony to the idiocy of Navy decision making. Based on that alone, you'd almost have to conclude that nuclear power is a mistake!

      Every serious study I've seen has conventional power being cheaper. Of course, I have yet to see a study that I thought was fair and balanced. Every study has had a fairly clear bias.

      Delete
    14. Yes, the Navy made a poor decision with the LCS. But, the same Navy also gave us the Burke-class, arguably the best ship today and for the foreseeable future. So, there is hope.

      When it comes to decision making, I'm of the mindset to let the data set you free, but the data has to be measured objectively and free of any bias.

      Delete
    15. I'll give the Navy full credit for the Burke class (though even that has flaws but, to be fair, what class ever built didn't have some flaws?) but even that is being mismanaged now. The Navy is trying to shoehorn the AMDR into the Burke despite knowing that the ship is not adequately sized or equipped to handle it.

      Burke aside, what is next best decision the Navy has made since the Burkes? I'm hard pressed to come up with one.

      Delete
    16. The only one I really like (relatively) recently was the decision to take the early Ohio subs and make them SSGN's.

      Delete
    17. Yes, that was a very good decision. Good example!

      Delete
  4. Which, of course, leads us to where we knew this was all going:

    http://www.panix.com/~tomr/F35LCS.png

    ReplyDelete
  5. I understand the under a ASW helicopter reorganization, the escorts helicopters are included as part of the carriers air wing but could be deployed to the escorts hangar

    ReplyDelete
  6. You're all hung up on a near peer war. I dont think the current US fleet was built with near peer in mind. I think you'll find your SSBN's are there to ensure that your near peers keep their noses out of your business, along with your land ICBM forces.
    The navy, with its floating islands that each one carries the words 10th most powerful airforce, are there to keep your hegemony over the minor powers of the world, who should they unite could pose a threat, but your geo politics coupled with your carrier strike forces spread around the globe to assert influence where necessary prevents that happening and maintains US prestige where its needed.
    Since the fall of the Soviet Union, i dont think any US strategic thinkers envisage a real shooting war against anyone silly enough to shoot back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're certainly correct that for the last few decades the military has taken their eye off the ball and forgotten why they really exist - to fight big wars. Now, however, parts of the military are scrambling to regain their high end combat readiness. The Army, in particular, has shown a refreshing focus on high end combat and is desperately trying to "power up". The Air Force has some awareness. The Navy and Marines are lost and haven't got a clue.

      As far as your assessment of the purpose and uses of the military, I'll charitably say that's not reflective of reality.

      Delete
    2. Military exists to enforce political decisions.

      Which part of the above isn't reflective of reality?
      Certainly isn't a pretty assessment. But if you try and think of events through the perspective of an historian 400 years hence studying todays events, it allows you a much broader view...

      Delete
  7. Building multi billion dollar carriers to handle minor powers is a colossal waste of national treasure.

    ReplyDelete
  8. CNO, you are suggesting a carrier as big (or as small) as the french Charles De Gaulle?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probably just a bit bigger but, yes, that's in the ballpark.

      Delete
    2. The DeGaulle carries a rather small carrier wing of about 30 aircraft, though she can carry up to 40 aircraft. With a smaller carrier, are you suggesting a smaller carrier air wing too?

      Delete
    3. "With a smaller carrier, are you suggesting a smaller carrier air wing too?"

      Not really. Read the post. It describes the air wing I envision for this option.

      Delete
    4. By splitting up the Growler and Hawkeye squadrons between the 2 carriers, your doing just that. If the carriers were forced to operate independently, as they have had in the past, the 2 Hawkeyes provide a limited AEW capability. And, what if one becomes a maintenance casualty, that leaves just one Hawkeye to serve as the eyes of the carrier. Same reasoning for the Growlers for EW support.

      At the same time, your suggestion means buying more Hornets, something you recently chastised me for suggesting.

      Delete
    5. "By splitting up the Growler and Hawkeye squadrons between the 2 carriers"

      No, the carriers would operate in pairs for combat (actually groups of 4 or more). During peacetime, they can operate any way they want - it doesn't matter.

      This was the entire point of the post! Two carriers combine their aviation assets to have a full wing of Hawkeyes and Growlers WITH TWICE THE COMBAT AIRCRAFT!

      Regarding Hornets, I would suggest buying a new design, dedicated strike aircraft and a new design dedicated fighter aircraft. Failing that, yes, we would have to fill in with Hornets but that's the far distant second choice.

      Delete
    6. But, as you well know, there are situations when it will be necessary to split the carriers. A carrier should be able to fight on its own and it simply can't with so few Hawkeyes and Growlers.

      Delete
    7. That's operationally absurd. If our doctrine is for carriers to fight in pairs (or 4, or whatever multiples) then that is how they will fight.

      In WWII, for example, once we had enough carriers, we always fought our carriers in groups. They never split up.

      The entire concept of a carrier group is based on multiple carriers, operating together, to mutually support each other.

      You're trying to create a conceptual flaw in a carrier group that doesn't exist.

      Delete
  9. CNO,

    Like manned tanks, the very idea of manned carrier aviation is an anachronism desperately seeking relevance like Polish lancers in 1939. There can certainly be select manned aviation assets but the advantages of UCAVs and UAVs are certainly what prospective near-peer and peer actors will be investing in. Like the silly notion of distributed lethality without a mature tethered targeting architecture, there's a reason most other navies don't build carriers like the US; they realize that the capital expense has very little return and the very capital invested makes the country risk averse to actual combat that employs it.

    The Chinese know that a wide and deep A2/AD framework in their contiguous SCS AO will work the magic of forcing standoff for projection of all surface capital ships.

    While I find the USN "global commons" nonsense fatuous and self-serving PR, if one wanted to deploy a 2050 fleet, it would be more subsurface than not and the UCAV "LPH" configuration could project just as much combat power as the present manned aviation assets the air mafia in the USN and USAF continue to force fighting WWII again. And far cheaper in these "fiscally austere" times (as if that would make the bureaucratic mandarins more fiscally responsible).

    I would recommend the following book to give a wider framework to the whole argument. It considers abolishing the USAF but its arguments against the use of air as a strategic multiplier are scintillating.

    https://www.amazon.com/Grounded-Abolishing-Studies-Conflict-Diplomacy/dp/0813144957/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1471536109&sr=8-1&keywords=abolishing+air+force

    Bill Buppert

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bill, your out of hand dismissal of manned carrier aviation is without supporting evidence. History, in fact, suggests just the opposite. On the other hand, weapons and threats have changed so there may be justification for abandoning manned aviation. However, the case has not yet been made.

      Your opinion is valid though unsupported. Perhaps you'd care to offer some specifics of data/logic in support of your position? To be fair, this is a comment and there's hardly room for a grand thesis but, on the other hand, this blog tries to present data and logic to support positions.

      Take a shot at it. Offer one (space limited) cogent argument against manned aviation other than not risking pilots - that's a given but hardly constitutes overwhelming logic.

      Also, your "reason" why other countries don't build carriers is suspect, to say the least. You might want to think that one through a bit more.

      Delete
  10. I've lived 5 years of my life aboard both CV class and CVN class as a flyer, underway CDO, TAO and Airwing Strike Lead. I know carrier aviation old and new.

    This same supercilious arguments have been going on that entire time spanning 4 decades.

    Reading Mr. Bupp above about carriers, naval aviators and polish lancers of 1939 that were mowed down by Nazis, goes beyond supercilious. Why don't we just use ICBMs for everything Mr. Buppert, they are unmanned? War demands warriors Mr. Buppert and someone who knows how to fight. otherwise you end up with .ppt cowboys who never risked missing lunch fighting wars....

    Futurists are fine in their boxes but if you want rubber on the road for fighting blue water and continue to retain that "wall of wood" Mr. Adams spoke of that defends this continent, you better consider real naval carriers, not dinky things the Marines land Harriers/helos on or anything the foreigners have. I remember all the arguments when we went 100% CVN- same old same old. BTW, the JFK could handle a 65 aircraft airwing with about 20 jets to spare...

    b2

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keep comments polite and respectful. Discuss the ideas, not the person.

      The fact that carrier arguments have been going on for decades strongly implies that the "answer" is far from clear or else everyone would agree. That there continues to be such energized discussion means that the both sides have valid points and neither side is overwhelming correct. Nothing wrong with that.

      Having the discussion is far more beneficial than not having it. We had no discussion about the LCS or F-35 until after we were committed to them and look how they turned out!

      Delete
    2. At its most basic, the argument for manned aviation is the discretion and control that the man in the cockpit offers - the ability to make on-the-fly (no pun intended), split-second decisions about use of force, tactics, and judgement calls. As UAV control software (autonomy) improves, some of that argument may become less relevant but we are not there yet.

      As far as unmanned robots on the land, there is a place and a use for them but, ultimately, land war is about occupying land and you need live boots to do that.

      Delete
    3. CNO
      Thats causality at its worst. Saying that just because theres lots of arguments from both sides implies there's something worth arguing about it the worst kind of fallacy and on that note you'd fail Debating 101.
      Just look at the anti-vaccination movement. Zero scientific grounding, completely 1 sided as far as the medical community goes, yet, lots of uninformed imbeciles out there who are sure that their uninformed opinion is worth more than the pig spit it is...

      I fear much the same can be said about military matters being discussed by amateurs.

      Delete
    4. I'm not talking about casual arguments. I'm talking about professional debates within the military. The Navy has a long history of attempting to build smaller carriers and the Navy has commissioned many, many studies on the subject. That's indicative that even within their own professional ranks, the Navy still sees this as a debate worthy topic. So, yes, there's something well worth arguing.

      Delete
    5. b2 I'm very curious about your experience, and your opinion of things like the F-35C. For myself my knowledge is just book based. I'm curious as to what someone who has real experience thinks about the current and future state of naval aviation.

      Delete
  11. Not a disagreement with the main subject, but an observation. Ship size tends to directly influence survivability, would going smaller put us at greater threat to ships being sunk? Particularly weak nations or terrorist organizations using sneak attacks or other means.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Certainly a smaller ship is inherent less survivable, once hit, than a larger one, all else being equal. However, the size carrier I'm suggesting is still 40,000 - 60,000 tons and that's hardly a small ship! I doubt there's all that much practical survivability to be gained from going from 40k-60k tons to 80k tons.

      When you factor in costs, missions, weapons, and a host of other factors, survivability differences in that range are probably not much of a factor.

      Delete
  12. Perhaps the size of the air wings (which affects the size of an aircraft carrier) is dependent on the size of the aircraft. Let's see how changed the weight of the aircraft . Skyhawk 4.7 t, A-7 8.7 t, Hornet 10.5 t , the Super Hornet 14.5 t. Once A-3 Skywarrior was a heavy bomber (17,8t) now F-35 has almost the same weight (15 , 8t). Not to mention the A-6 Intruder which weighs 11.6 t had a lifting capacity of 8 tons and range of 2,800 nmi (all the data from Wikipedia). Maybe USN needs a smaller and lighter aircraft. With interesting F-35B weighs 14,7t and AV-8B 6,3t with about 1/4 higher range.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure where you're getting your specs. Here's the data I see on Wiki using empty weights for common comparison. Also, you left out the F-14, the mainstay of US carrier air wings prior to the Hornet.

      So, an air wing of the previous generation had these weights.

      F-14 Tomcat = 21 tons
      A-6 Intruder = 13 tons
      A-7 Corsair = 10 tons
      S-3 Viking = 13 tons

      Today's air wing has these weights
      F/A-18C/D = 12 tons
      F/A-18E/F = 16 tons

      The F-35A = 13 tons. I don't have a good F-35C weight. It will be somewhat higher.

      So, I'm not seeing a general increase in aircraft weight. In fact, given that the F-14 was the mainstay of the previous air wings, we went from a 21 ton aircraft to the 16 ton SuperHornet which is a decrease in weight.

      I see no correlation between air wing size (or carrier size) and aircraft weight. Further, given that the air wings have shrunk from 85+ aircraft to the current 65, the total aircraft tonnage has dropped dramatically!

      Delete
    2. One of the smallest postwar carriers (USS Midway), operated one of the largest of USN aircraft the A-3B Skywarrior from VAH-8.

      It may not have been the best mix of planes, but it was done.

      GAB

      Delete
  13. Remember that aircraft spot factors have grown tremendously: the F-35C is 40℅ larger vs. the A-4/A-7, likewise for the F/A-18E vs. A-6. So today you need a Midway sized carrier just to carry a decent sized air wing (~40 fixed wing).

    What do you think of this 55,000-60,000 ton CV design? This is what the French want for their future fleet carrier, having found the nuclear Charles de Gaulle too small and the Royal Navy's CVF too big... (and too gold plated)

    www.meretmarine.com/sites/default/files/new_objets_drupal/20130228011328_pa.jpg
    Www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,3974.75.html

    -HK

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. While your statement is true for the A-4, it's barely true for the A-7 and is false for the F-14 and F-18E/F.

      F-35C 51' x 37(?)' (folded)
      F-14 63' x 38' (swept)
      F-18E/F 60' x 38(?)' (folded)
      A-7 46' x 39'
      A-6 54' x 41(?)' (folded)

      You are attempting to suggest that carriers have grown due to larger aircraft sizes (spots). Given that the Nimitz class operated largely F-14 and A-6 air wings of 85+ aircraft total and the Ford will be operating F-18E/F and F-35 air wings of 65 aircraft total, the suggestion that carriers are larger due to spot size is false.

      Delete
    2. Carriers haven't grown. It's the air wing capacity that has shrunk as aircraft spot size has increased. The old standard air wing was 80 fixed wing (24 F-14, 24 A-7, 18 A-6/KA-6/EA-6, 10 S-3, 4 E-2C). Now with Super Bugs and F-35Cs you won't even fit 70... the max air wing is more like 65 fixed wing.

      By the way your numbers are all wrong...

      A-7: 46' x 24'= 1,100 sq ft
      A-6: 55' x 25'= 1,400 sq ft
      F-14: 63' x 33'= 2,100 sq ft

      F/A-18E: 60' x 33'= 2,000 sq ft
      F-35C: 51' x 30' = 1,500 sq ft

      There's also a whole argument around sortie rates. During max cyclic operations aircraft belong either on deck or in the air. You used to have more aircraft in an air wing because of all the hangar queens. There wasn't actually the capacity to fly them in terms of available manpower, deck park, and launch/recovery slots. So if you revert to a larger air wing you'd just have a bunch of aircraft sitting in the hangar without any extra sortie generation.

      HK

      Delete
    3. I've read that the F/A-18 E/F is nearly the size of an F-15.

      It makes me wonder with its continual issue with range if there aren't some key points (something in the design that limits fuel fraction, the outward cant of the weapons stations) that make it such a poor performer as the main carrier aircraft.

      I mean, its fine for what it does, but its short legs are a real killer in terms of any near peer war. And its high cost is *way* overkill for non-peer conflicts.

      Delete
    4. "Carriers haven't grown. It's the air wing capacity that has shrunk as aircraft spot size has increased."

      This is not even close to true. Even using your numbers, an air wing of the '80s had 85 aircraft at an average spot of, say, 1700 sqft for a total need of 144,500 sqft. Compare that to today's wing of 65 aircraft at an average spot of, say, 2000 sqft for a total need of 130,000 sqft. That's a 10% DECREASE in spot area. When the F-35 enters service, the spot area will decrease still further!

      Your discussion of hangar queens and sortie rates is just plain wrong. There is no greater or lesser prevalence of hangar queens today than there ever was. Sortie rates have been completely discredited. If a carrier was ever operating its max air wing of close to 100 aircraft (that's what a carrier is designed for) then sortie rate might be a concern. Today's carriers and air wings are not sortie rate limited.

      Delete
  14. Ok so I’m liking your idea. Let’s play with it a little.

    A Canberra class based on Spain’s Invincible class equivalent is $3.1, quite a snip. Should get you 4 or even 5 per large carrier. Its running cost are also small.

    Ski jump equipped should allow you 2 small air wings per large deck carrier to provide fleet defence , snap response anti surface warfare ( if that ever comes up ever again ) and CAP, stationed out ( 30nm – 50nm ? ) from the main CVN they can also provide buddie taking SAR and ASW. F35B superior sortie rate from a ski jump, but short range and weapons carry would not be an issue in the roles described above. STOVL also allows for higher sea state operation, and with 5 ships to provide 2 this math should work out nicely. Tours can be kept down, and as a bonus you have a true ESCORT carrier of other SAG’s.

    As you say this will free up A LOT of space on you big deck to concentrate on pure strike. Virtually all of your 65 count can be F18 and F35C.

    It also means your CNV magazine, personnel(pilots) and supply chain can be dedicated strike packages i.e. specialists. Letting the Escort Carriers picking up the air to air, ASuW and ASW roles.

    Wacky I know. Whatcha think ?

    Beno

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh sorry forgot, it will also make these Light carriers relitivly expendable should a mission require that kind of risk. Which I think is a very important point you raised recently CNO.

      Delete
    2. We have to be able to take losses. Have to. I'm afraid at this point that any major loss (A Burke, or God Forbid a 'phib or CVN) would make the American public quail.

      No platform is invincible, even the CVN's. And given our ASW performance in the past few years that I've read about even those may be open to major loss of life.

      One thing the smaller CV's might give us is more flexibility because the ships are cheaper and the manning less.

      But somehow we have to get the American Public on board that just because a ship is lost, or potentially los-able, doesn't make it a bad design, or make surface ships obsolete.

      Delete
    3. I think you misunderstood at least a portion of what I was suggesting. I was not suggesting that we unload the large carriers so that we could get more strike aircraft on them. I was suggesting that we eliminate the large carriers in favor of two smaller ones that carry the equivalent of almost two full (by current standards) air wings. These carriers would operate in pairs (or more!) for high end combat but could operate singly for low end work.

      The whole point was that we've priced ourselves out of the really large supercarrier business and this option is a way to keep (increase!) the air wings and increase the number (and, therefore, riskability) of carriers. Instead of the ten supercarriers we have now, we would retire the supercarriers and wind up with 20 prettygoodcarriers with the equivalent of 20 air wings rather than 10.

      Delete
    4. CNO, with respect, it seems that we've priced ourselves out not because of design or need but because of stupidity. Concurrency, questionable (or even existing) strategy), single vendors all have taken us from building 4-5 billion carriers to 14 billion carriers.

      Would a new design, built in this same environment, really get us to the cost efficiency we need to make 20 CVN's and their air wings?

      Delete
    5. The major factor in carrier cost is volume. I did a post on this long ago. With only a single carrier built every 5-7 yrs, the entire overhead cost of the shipyard for that 5-7 yrs is rolled into the cost of that one carrier. That's immense!

      Other factors, like concurrency, poor designs, questionable new tech, fraud and waste, etc. all contribute but are dwarfed by simple build volume.

      Delete
    6. So it sounds like you are saying a block buy of multiple carriers, all built at the same time, would provide us with the efficiency needed?

      Delete
    7. All built at the same time? 20 at once? No, that's not quite possible but I am saying that we need to build more than 1 every 5-7 yrs. We to be building 2-3 in a five year period.

      Further, if we opted to go conventional power rather than nuclear, we could open the carrier building to other yards. Right now, the only nuclear carrier building yard is Newport News. If go conventional, Huntington Ingalls, which built the America LHA-6, could potentially build smaller carriers. A little competition wouldn't be a bad thing, right?

      Delete
    8. Sorry, that's what I meant by block by; 3-5 at a pop.

      I think we have to do something to diversify our industrial base.

      Having Lockheed be the only fighter vendor and NN the only carrier vendor and Boeing the only tanker vendor....

      is madness.

      I'd try to open it up to foreign vendors as well. And if we had more of a distributed class of ships, and aircraft, you can have more reasonable contracts so that a vendor can make money making a tanker, or COD plane, or fleet defense aircraft without the risk of going bankrupt if they don't get the contract.

      Ditto ships. I was thinking if you had smaller carriers one of the things you'd need would be escorts. If you followed the LCS model to an extent and built commercial + ships (I know, not survivable) but with conventional propulsion that had dedicated ASW rigs, and that's all they did, all the time, they'd be both affordable and good at ASW.

      Delete
  15. The problem is fighter capacity has a decreasing marginal cost.
    Every additional fighter requires a small increase in ship size than the preceding fighter.
    A 20,000t ship might reliably operate 6 to 8 aircraft, a 50,000t, 30, a 100,000t, 100+

    You arent getting two 50 slot carriers for the cost of a single 100 slot. You would be lucky to get 2x30.

    Fewer Cats and Traps would be cheaper, and you may not need all four operational, but, you will rarely have four of four operational, and you damn well need two operational, and you wont have two of two operational.


    The airwing size is going to be a very complicated affair, today, carriers are under utilised, but, a Carrier has a 50 years plus life span, an aircraft, half that.
    Well, maybe aircraft are lasting a little longer now, but the Hornet wasnt supposed to still be in service.
    Todays Carriers have to operate the F18, the F35, the F70 and quite possibly the F140
    Todays airwing might all squeeze on a baby carrier, but tomorrows airwing might not.

    Personally, I think the USN needs bigger, or at least, longer, carriers. The biggest problem, range, is hugely driven by getting fuel airborne, longer runway, higher takeoff weight, more fuel on takeoff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Um ... Your numbers show the opposite.

      20,000 t / 7 ac = 2857 t/ac
      50,000 t / 30 ac = 1666 t/ac
      100,000 t / 100 ac = 1000 t/ac

      Your numbers show that it takes less ship tonnage per aircraft as the number of aircraft increases. In other words, carriers become MORE efficient as the size of ship and air wing increases.

      Delete
    2. Sorry, got technical there, and made a typo.
      Marginal Cost is the cost to build one additional unit.
      So the Program cost might be $200mn per unit, but the actual construction cost of building one additional unit might be $150mn.
      Or tons in this case.

      "Every additional fighter requires a small increase in ship size than the preceding fighter."
      Should have been "smaller".
      From an "efficiency" stand point, building huge carriers is perfectly rational.

      From a military utility point, its a lot less clear cut, but I think the problem is that the USN is failing to utilise the Carriers, rather than they are too big to be utilised effectively.

      Personally, I think maintaining a CAP is going to require four sets 1 E2, 4 Hornets and 1 tanker, probably a fifth set as a spare.

      Strike on top of that.


      The UKs rationale for having such small Carriers is that the US will provide fighter and information support.
      They would be severely hampered if they were forced to fight someone who can fight back, and there isnt a "big brother" nearby.

      Delete
  16. CNO,

    I have two questions: escort requirement due to dual carriers CSG, and CSG role vs. $resource$ allocation.

    1. Escort requirement: wiki says there are two surface/sub rings for 1-carrier CSG, and I took an average radius of both to be about 15 miles. Now, in a 2-carrier group, if the spacing between two carriers is 10 miles (air traffic safety), the radius increases by 33%, and the CSG surface footprint area increases by 75%. Does it mean: a 100% increase in carrier will also result in 75% increase of its surface/sub escorts? (or, is my train of thought correct?)

    2. CSG role vs. resource allocation: in your post you said to replace burke with ASW dedicated vessel (and your previous posts also recommend using long range missiles and aerial asset to kick down doors in A2/AD scenario), which means CSG is more of clean-up crew than a door kicker. Where would you allocate the additional(but limited) budget: better/more door ram, or mop?

    I'll put my helmet on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tim,

      The historical answer is that escort numbers are largely independent of the number of carriers being escorted.

      The escort size *should be based upon the threat; one, two, or even four carriers really does not affect this.

      GAB

      Delete
    2. GAB,

      With all due respect, A2/AD is not Chinese CSG meeting USN CSG in high sea, in the context of historical USN carrier battles. If USAF and Virginia subs can't subdue Chinese land (and near shore) missile corp/fleet, USN carriers, with its short legged air wings, will stay out and stay put. If USAF/Virginia do their job, this here argument is a 2ndary issue (i.e. either expensive or cheap carrier can mop the floor clean, and Chinese subs are not main stay of its A2/AD deterrence).

      Also, in ww2 context, IJN couldn't keep up with carriers/planes/pilots production. In today's A2/AD context, China can certainly keep up with missile production (at $2-3M per) to match/mission-kill (at $7000M per cheap-carrier) any USN ship increase. There is no leverage advantage (or wrong kind of leverage) in $$ or industrial capacity here.

      Delete
    3. Tim,

      You did not address my point on escort numbers, and you point about A2/AD is strategically limited.

      Every nation has vulnerabilities, and China certainly has issues with energy security and access to certain raw materials; we need to think hard about what can be done beyond "go downtown and drop bombs."

      GAB

      Delete
    4. "Energy security and access to certain raw materials."

      Isn't that nearly the same issues we would face as well in a hypothetical war with china?

      Delete
    5. GAB,

      Regarding escort number (again, I preface I have no mil background), I went with the logic of more carriers will invite more 'A2/AD asset allocation', and the fact that there must be spacing between 2 carriers (which enlarge the inner circle footprint)for air wings staging/landing. For example: if Chinese pencils in another 50-100 missiles (and related infrastructure) for the extra carrier in CSG, that's another 100-150 interceptors (or 1-2 more burkes) to knock them down.

      A2/AD is the only Chinese gig there is, so whether it is strategically limited(or strategic differently), is not the point. As for energy security and raw material, there are actually two problems there. First, China internally pumps about 4-5 million barrels a day, same as what US did in 1945. So, if the US could sustain a full blown 2 fronts war then; I think China can get by, by belt tightening, in energy embargo today. (btw, the US is not about to bomb Russia-China gas line in a constrained conflict either). Second, a high sea energy embargo is a double edge sword: there will be no (or severely throttled) fuels going to US Westpac allies (Japan, SK, or Taiwan). These littoral nations are going to starve long before China does, and 1 or 2 of these nations will compromise itself with China. Unless it is an all out war, the US will lose at least 1 of 3 Westpac footprint in an A2AD/anti-A2AD (but limited) conflict.

      I'm talking about US mil has to defend Taiwan, come hell or high water. (I know I'm going way off topic here..) If Taiwan is gone, you all can see its ramification.

      Delete
    6. " ..Unless it is an all out war, the US will lose at least 1 of 3 Westpac footprint in an A2AD/anti-A2AD (but limited) conflict."

      Rephrase: Unless it is an all out war, the US will lose at least 1 of 3 Westpac geopolitical (i.e. containment) footprint in an A2AD/anti-A2AD (but limited) conflict (i.e. China/CCP retains its fundamental industrial and political footings).

      Delete
    7. "China internally pumps about 4-5 million barrels a day, same as what US did in 1945. So, if the US could sustain a full blown 2 fronts war then; I think China can get by, by belt tightening, in energy embargo today."

      I'm venturing way outside my area of expertise but in 1943, the middle of WWII, the US population was 136 million. The Chinese population today is 1.4 BILLION!!! The amount of energy China needs just to sustain her population, to say nothing of military needs, dwarfs the US needs in WWII. I suspect your conclusion is incorrect.

      Delete
    8. "Regarding escort number..."

      What is your point?

      The number of escorts will be however many are needed to deal with the threats.

      What point are you trying to make?

      Delete
    9. CNO,

      You remember the 'Hungry lion and Africans' story? Chinese don't have to outrun (i.e. outlast) the American. They just have to outlast either Taiwanese, South Korean, or Japanese. Any one (of 3) breaks, and China can make that 'China containment' a mute point; especially in the case of Taiwan.

      Or, let me look it this way. A2/AD(china) will not be about SCS or Senkakus/Japan. If push comes to shove, China will make it about Taiwan-grab. Taiwan is <100 miles from China; its military is de-spirited and under equipped; it fits China's last nationalism narrative; and if PLA can grab the island(and can't be dislodged) in a week. The 1st island chain is snapped, Japan is flanked geopolitically, and the Pacific is wide open to PLA eventually.

      So, whether it is air-sea-battle or off-shore-containment; US mil.has one-week (or two).

      Delete
  17. Joking aside, this makes me wonder what the smallest feasible carrier for a STVOL aircraft is.

    Feel free to punch holes in this idea, but imagine a minimum-sized carrier whose job is to be a "stepping stone." Size is determined by the minimum flight deck required to launch. No below decks hanger or elevators, all aviation operations are on a single deck.

    It isn't a long-term base for aircraft, but allows them to land, refuel, rearm, swap pilots and possibly perform minor maintenance. The operational concept is that it extends the reach of the supercarrier by a ferry range, both for strike and CAP. Ideally, they'll be small enough that each one services 3-4 planes, and you have a dozen or so deployed 800nm or so ahead of the carrier group.

    If design allows, add a few VLS cells with the intent that the missiles are slaved to aircraft, so the ship doesn't need a full sensor suite. SAMs would work well here if the CAP can control them. It's also an interesting thought to add either firepower, decoys, or drones to a strike package.

    Survivability is the big problem--small and stealthy helps, but it's going to rely on its air cover. It will need at least passive ASW--ideally a towed sonar.

    Sensible? Stupid? Fun to think about?



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. " ... small enough that each one services 3-4 planes, and you have a dozen or so deployed 800nm or so ahead of the carrier group."

      "ship doesn't need a full sensor suite"

      "CAP"

      How are minimally armed ships with no sensors of their own going to survive 800 miles ahead of a carrier group? How is having to dedicate a CAP to protect these non-carriers going to enhance the carriers capability? It will just drain aircraft and resources from the carrier. How much air cover do you think will be required to protect these ships? Four planes can't stop a raid. You'd need dozens of aircraft - this sounds like the ultimate example of existing just to protect itself.

      Do you really think the enemy is going to allow us to operate a nearly unarmed and blind ship 800 miles from the nearest help?

      All that aside, you didn't lay out a mission. You described a method but not a mission. What mission would these non-carriers do or contribute to?

      Delete
    2. The stepping stones would deploy on the threat axis. Since they're between the carrier and the threat, the CAP over the stepping stones is also the carriers extended defense--incoming air attacks are engaged 800nm out.

      The mission/benefits:
      - increase the carrier's strike range by 800nm
      - more depth on the carrier's air defense
      - dispersal of aircraft. This is not complete, since the carrier is still needed, but it certainly helps aircraft survive and continue ops if the carrier is under ballistic missile threat.

      I'm specifically thinking of this in a Pacific conflict--the geometry and distances make a "barrier CAP" feasible vs. a "ring around the carrier CAP." The hope is to find a way for carriers to be effective from outside DF-21 range.

      (This draws some inspiration from the cold war strategy of dispersing and staging aircraft through FOBs during a conflict)

      Delete
    3. Think through how many aircraft are needed to conduct a given mission. You make up the mission - it doesn't matter. Work through the numbers and logistics of a mission. Tell me what you find. Don't forget to leave the carrier a healthy protective force of aircraft just in case the enemy doesn't cooperate and approach along a perfectly predictable threat axis!

      Delete
    4. Fair enough--what are reasonable assumptions for turn times for a plane between sorties, and how often they need carrier level maintenance?

      Delete
    5. Anywhere from minutes if all you need is a hot refueling to hours if you need munitions, maintenance, and pilot rest.

      Delete
  18. I wonder if it would be reasonable to use missiles, rockets and guns to attack shore targets, and use aircraft carriers predominantly for air superiority and fleet protection. Obviously, new aircraft and munitions would be needed, especially relatively inexpensive SRBMs. Maybe this idea would be worthy of a post by ComNavOps (if he hasn't already done one considering the idea).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've repeatedly discussed the role of carriers and suggested that their role is to provide escort for "shooter" ships (Tomahawks) and to establish local air superiority in support of Air Force mission and other operations. This is essentially what you're suggesting. I have done posts on this.

      Delete