Monday, May 14, 2018

Carrier Vulnerability and Operational Reality

There is a persistent faction of naval thinkers out there who believe that a carrier is an outdated, obsolete, vulnerable target just waiting to be sunk by Chinese “carrier killer” ballistic missiles, submarine torpedoes, massive supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, and all manner of converging, lethal weaponry that can’t be stopped.  In fact, if one listens to these people, the only question one comes away with is, how can the vast array of attacking weapons not collide among themselves as they approach the carrier!  I guess they probably will but there will be so many that it won’t matter.

Obviously, the rest of this post is going to be about how wrong these people are and the lead in to that discussion is the question, why are these people so very wrong?  How did they come to such an incorrect conclusion?

The answer is one of ComNavOps pet peeves:  they consider the carrier in isolation rather than in its true operational form.

If one considers a lone carrier, sitting out at sea, presumably motionless in these thinker’s minds, with no support and no purpose other than to survive, fighting off wave after wave of attacks, then, sure, it is inevitable that, sooner or later, the carrier will be sunk.  So, that’s it then.  The carrier is obsolete and unsurvivable.  We need to say goodbye to the carrier, the mainstay of naval power since WWII and move on in our naval thinking to the next mainstay – networks, perhaps?  Or small UAVs?  But, I digress …

The problem with this line of thinking, as I noted, is that it considers the carrier in isolation rather than in its true operational form.

We need to keep firmly in mind the true nature of a carrier. It's not a carrier - it's a carrier GROUP. That's an incredibly important distinction. One lone carrier is somewhat vulnerable. However, a wartime carrier group would consist of 3-4 carriers, 300 some aircraft, and 30 or so Aegis cruisers/destroyers (you’re not going to risk 3-4 carriers without substantial escorts, are you?  Check the WWII historical escort ratios) with multiple Hawkeyes out in all directions providing situational awareness. It is an immensely powerful, LAYERED, defense.

The layered defense includes long range carrier fighters, long range Standard missiles/Aegis, medium range ESSM, short range SeaRAM/CIWS, passive ECM and decoys, and more. Nothing is getting through all of that easily. Nothing is invulnerable but a carrier group on a wartime footing is as close as you can get to invulnerable.

Regarding escort numbers, consider our WWII experience and Adm. Marc Mitscher’s description of a carrier group composition..

“Said Mitscher: "The ideal composition of a fast-carrier task force is four carriers, six to eight support vessels and not less than 18 destroyers, preferably 24. More than four carriers in a task group cannot be advantageously used due to the amount of air room required. Less than four carriers requires an uneconomical use of support ships and screening vessels." (1)

Even this description is a bit light.  Every carrier group had multiple cruisers and, often battleships attached in addition to the listed destroyers.

We’ve gotten so used to single carriers sailing around in peacetime with only 3-4 escorts that we’ve come to believe that’s how carriers will fight in a war and that’s just plain wrong.  We’ve also gotten so used to a numerically tiny navy that we’ve come to believe that escorts of up to 30 vessels is unthinkable.  Well, combat will change our thinking quickly enough.  We learned all this in WWII and have completely forgotten it.

Multiply This By Four !

There is another, almost always overlooked, layer to the carrier’s defense and that is that a carrier group's best defense is a good offense. We all think of a carrier, on its own, sitting in the middle of the ocean trying to fight off wave after wave of attackers and we conclude that the carrier, ultimately, has no hope. The reality, however, is that the carrier group has a mission. It doesn't stay in one place. It moves at high speed to a mission execution point, executes the mission, and returns to base. During that movement and execution, rather than passively playing defense and hoping to survive long enough to execute the mission, the group would be launching massive Tomahawk cruise missile attacks against all likely enemy bases and missile sites to suppress attacks before they even begin. This is the part of the layered defense that most people overlook and the part that, properly planned and executed, can be the most effective.

If each Aegis escort (Burkes) had 30 Tomahawk missiles, the group of 30 escorts would have an inventory of 900 Tomahawks.  That’s a lot of suppression over a thousand mile radius!

Recall, typical WWII carrier strike operations.  The carrier group would dash into aircraft range of the strike target, launch fighter sweeps to suppress enemy counterattacks, strike the target, and leave before effective counterattacks could be mounted.  The same holds true today except that we now have thousand mile suppression attack capability.

The submarine is probably the carrier group's greatest threat and we'll come to regret the loss of the S-3 Viking. Still, a carrier group is going to be moving at 30 kts and no submarine, unless it gets lucky and finds itself dead in the group’s path, is going to catch up to a carrier group without giving itself away.

Even if a submarine managed to launch a salvo of torpedoes at a carrier, none would make it to the carrier.  With an escort of 30 vessels, the torpedoes would latch on to the escorts rather than the carriers.  That would be tragic for the unlucky escort but that’s part of their job description.  Again, the group is a very tough nut to crack.

“Consideration in isolation” is one of the major problems with modern naval thought and analysis and its application leads inexorably to incorrect conclusions.  It’s at the root of the win-a-war-singlehanded school of thought that leads to massively capable (only on paper) and massively expensive ship designs such as the Burke.  Instead of recognizing that a Burke is just one ship and should have only one main function as part of a group of other ships, each with their specialized functions, we load it up with every function we can think of because we consider it in isolation.  Seriously, does anyone think a single ship has the time to train to perfection as an AAW, BMD, ASW, ASuW, group air defense controller (when the Ticos are gone), and land attack platform?  Good grief, the acronyms alone would take a year to master!  It’s been demonstrated that we can’t even train to perform basic seamanship proficiently yet we believe that a single ship will master all those disparate combat functions?  That’s a fantasy that Walt Disney would be proud of.

A carrier, when considered in its proper operational form as a group, is the most survivable military asset there is.  It’s time to put the misguided, incorrect notions about carrier vulnerability to rest.


(1)Taylor, Theodore, “The Magnificent Mitscher”, Naval Institute Press, ISBN 1-59114-850-2, p. 316


  1. Always an excellent article! Very convincing argument. Cheers!

    1. Thanks. Now, why don't you add something of your own to it? What do you think? If all this is correct, what does it imply about, say, the UK's single, small carrier (in terms of its air wing) and its survivability and usefulness in war? What does this imply about the number of carriers the US needs? What does this say about our Burke escorts in terms of numbers and capabilities? Or, tell me about any other aspect that struck you.

    2. Good read but I think ya left one ship out of the commentary from what I've read doesn't a carrier group have a SSN as part of the screen too wouldn't that come into play also

    3. Carrier groups used to have subs attached. I don't know if they still do. Regardless, I have no idea how they would operate in a 3-4 carrier group. They would almost be more trouble than they'd be worth given the difficulty identifying friendly from enemy. I could see them operating far out in front, sanitizing the route, possibly. I left them out because I have no idea how they would fit in, if at all.

  2. Ditto.

    All this is true and documented during the recent past since WW2 including that unfortunately ignored Cold War period when we had the most powerful Navy the world has ever seen. As an ex carrier jet operator, TAO/OOD, fleet staff officer and lifetime advoocate of carrier avaition I can agree with your post 100%. However, you do touch on some real shortfalls, because while the CVN CSG is still a good national strategy, the overall CVN "wep system" including the 2 decades old selection of all-pupose jets/helos vice bluewater, purpose-built, naval aircraft and the self limitations the CVW has imposed on itself through bad acquisiton practices have made the strategy more vulnerable. Those defieciencies must be shored up, including the total number of aircraft embarked.

    CNOPS, the carrier haters will always be out there..They include the "global power, global reach" wing of the USAF with their bomber based in CONUS, then there is the more erudite anti-carrier proponents within the US Navy itself- the sub/surface combatant communities that are merely envious and lastly that USMC/gator Navy group that makes perposterous claims about their flat bottomed jeep carriers (minus) vs. the USN large deck CVNs. They are the ones to be vigilant against regarding the carrier Naval Aviation and the CSG because they always present their cases/alternatives in well veiled economic savings and never in efficiencies or combat capability.. They must be refuted when/wherever they arise. How can I be so sure? A lifetimes of observation plus the fact that, "why are our main adversaries spending their national treasure and rushing to build and deploy blue water naval aircraft carriers?" CAPT Obvious...

    Re SSNs- they do fit in..

    1. As a former carrier rider, what aspect of carrier ops would you like to see explored in more depth on this blog?

      What aspects trouble/interest you?

      Are you interested in guest writing? I'm always open to people with experience and interest writing about their areas of expertise.

    2. "As an ex carrier jet operator, TAO/OOD, fleet staff officer"

      I'd love to get your thoughts on multi-carrier combat operations. Did you ever participate in such an exercise? Why don't we make it a point to train for multi-carrier ops (fight like you train, train like you fight)? What do you see as the ideal number of carriers in a group? What do you think of the trend towards smaller air wings?

  3. Your escort numbers seem a little "fantastical". At its peak in WW2 the Navy had about 380 destroyers and 70+ cruisers. Fast forward to now I think we have only 11 Aegis cruisers avail for duty and 60ish Burke destroyers. Considering that all of them probably won't be avail at once I have a hard time imagining 30+ Aegis escorts for a 3-4 carrier battle group. I think 15 is more realistic. With that said, I think even 15 Aegis escorts will present a formidable defense such as you described.

    1. You bring up an excellent point in a round about fashion and, likely, unintentionally.

      You read my escort number requirement (seriously???? you want to protect 3-4 carriers with only 15 escorts?) and your conclusion was that my number was a little "fantastical". The proper conclusion should have been that the Navy's fleet size is a ridiculously small for a world war with China.

      We desperately need more escorts. Now, before you tell me that we can't afford another 50-100 Burkes, you're right! What we need - and what I've stated many times - is entire new classes of ASW vessels. The Burkes are the "battleships" of today. What we lack is the cruisers, destroyers, and destroyer escorts.

      So, rather than call the escort numbers into question you should be calling the fleet size and composition into question.

    2. Wasn't that one of the reasons for the all powerful LCS class surface warfare, anti-sub warfare and anti-mine warfare and to help fill in the gap in numbers only problem is it can only fill in the numbers problem hell it doesn't even have a weapon to sink a Sub. with besides the helicopter what they going signal for whales and knock the subs. out of commission

    3. To be fair, the LCS was never originally intended for carrier group escort duty although, at various times and by various Admirals, that position changed. The fact remains, however, that the LCS was not designed as an escort but as a separate, littoral ASW asset (part of an envisioned group of ASW LCS's, actually).

      Of course, had we completed the 55 ship build of LCS, that would have only exacerbated the lack of task force escorts.

    4. Agreed totally though it does seem as though LCS may repeat May evolve into some kind of sub hunter although once it found one it would need something to kill it with helicopters can fly all the time can they

    5. "escorts ... I think 15 is more realistic."

      Let's consider that and analyze it, briefly.

      If you sent a single carrier into war, how many escorts would you give it? 6? 8? 12? I would assume you'd give it 8-12. Less than that is just throwing the carrier away. So, do the simple math. For a 4-carrier group, 4 x 8-12 escorts = 32-48 escorts! My number of 30 is actually on the understrength side!

      One problem you may be having is carrier "spread". Carriers don't operate side by side. They can't! They need a certain [large!] amount of airspace to operate or else they'd be fouling each other's airspace. We learned that in WWII even with the small, slow flying aircraft of the time. Jets need a LOT more airspace. So, carriers need miles of separation. I don't know what a modern carrier needs but I'll hazard a guess and say carriers would need ten miles separation, at least, quite possible more. Thus, your 15 escorts, when spread over the 4-carrier separation distances becomes a pretty sparse escort.

      Consider, 15 escorts divided by 4 carriers is slightly less than 4 escorts per carrier. That's not even peacetime escort levels! Even in peacetime, each carrier should have at least 5 escorts which would make 20 escorts for a 4-carrier group. The more I think about this, the more I think I may have to increase the escort number.

      This is the kind of exercising that the Navy should be engaged in now. How much separation do carriers need? How many escorts are needed to cover the separation effectively? How do we maneuver multiple carriers when their launch/recovery cycles may not coincide or when combat pressures required that they maneuver independently? How many aircraft are needed for an effective combat air patrol (CAP)? Where should the CAP be positioned? Where should Hawkeyes be positioned for a group and how do we protect them? And so on.

    6. CNO, I want to comment on the escort numbers, now look there is alot of complexities that goes into availability and sustainment rates, I am sure in wartime they could be pushed up, but lets go by the 'rule of 3rds'.

      So we have 3 operationally available carriers, we have 1/3rd of ~75 destroyers, that gives us 25 deployed destroyers, that gives us a maximum of 8 destroyers per carrier, but ofcourse that leaves none available for ABM duties or patrolling or anything else, I think 5 or 6 is a more realistic number, that leaves 10/7 destroyers available for other missions. And that lower figure is in line with peacetime deployments, I believe that is how they intend to fight a war.

      And its utterly unrealistic, to have 3 carrier groups with 48 air-to-air fighters and 24 (short range bombers), escorted by 5 destroyers pose much of a threat to land based aviation. Its unrealistic because 3 carriers gets you 144 air-to-air planes and 72 in a bomber configuration (yes I know they are all F18s), for a total of 216. Sweeden for instance in the cold war, ordered ~200 grippens, and they can be operated from dispersed airbases or roads, and if the airbase gets hit it doesn't sink...

      So the carriers are more or less useless for projecting power against a 2nd tier country, and arguably at sea, the lethality capabilities are not disperesed enough to provide sufficent coverage..

      What the US needs is to revisit the likes of the CG V/STOL and Sea-Control Ships, build a proper self-escorting cruiser/carrier, with say 10 STOVL fighters, plus helos and other supports, that gives you a ship which can exercise control over a large area, and is countered only by a more powerful land/sea aviation or submarines.

    7. "lets go by the 'rule of 3rds'."

      Have you studied history, at all? Have you examined the fleet usage in WWII? Clearly not.

      The "rule of 3rds" does not even remotely apply during wartime - not historically, not logically, not in the future, not in any sense.

      The rule of 3rds is a pure peacetime construct to enable cycles of deployments, training, and maintenance. THERE ARE NO DEPLOYMENTS DURING WAR. During war, ships execute missions, not deployments.

      I'm not even going to bother addressing the rest of your comment since it is as unfounded as your opening statement. Go study historical fleet operations and gain an understanding of wartime operating practices and then come back and try again.

      I state on the Comment Policy page that I expect a basic level of knowledge about naval operations. You need to do some homework to bring yourself up to that level.

    8. So what do you think sustainable deployment rates would be during wartime CNO? Based on realistic availability, sustainment, repair and turnaround times, and transit times?

      Because all those things that the Rule of 3rds is predicated on still exist during wartime. Is the US going to instantly relocate the sustainment facilities and all it's associated supporting industries and workers, drydocks and whatnot to anchorage, and other forward operating facilities?

      Elsewise you still have a limited availability rate, I think to have 1/3rd of your forces on station at any time is a good outcome, particularly when they are deploying from US bases too halfway arround the world, with forward deployment I can see those numbers maybe increasing closer to 1/2, but your not going to be able to put much more than that out at sea at any time, not if you discount for transit times and whatnot...

      And that is going to stress at sea-replenishment, which given the unarmed nature of such vessals, and the long supply lines from the improvised forward operating bases, is going to create a substantial weak-link.

      If the logistics chain is attacked, or disrupted, then the availability rates will suffer. And the US doesn't have sufficent quantity and composition of force structures to protect its rear logistics chain and at sea replenishment vessals from say hypothetical Chinese Nuclear attack submarines.

      The thing is CNO is that you fight the wars with the sustainment rates and logistics chains and vessals that you have at the start of the war. And the USN just doesn't have the ability to deploy internationally many concurrent naval ships simultaneously.

    9. "So what do you think sustainable deployment rates would be during wartime CNO?"

      I just told you that there are no deployments in war. Ships execute missions. They don't go on deployments for months on end. GO READ SOME HISTORY ABOUT NAVAL WAR OPERATIONS.

      I'm not going to tell you this again.

  4. Perhaps the real enemy of carriers is the cost the Ford is now protected to go over the 13 billion dollar Mark that is a load of cash

  5. "Good Grief".... I see what you did there :)
    Great post, and more proof that the "quality vs quantity" fallacy needs to die, yesterday. Otherwise, regardless of how much taxpayer money is thrown at them, western navies will keep losing 50% of their strength every 30 years.

  6. It certainly is example of how much time effort and money goes into the super carriers not saying follow on carriers won't as expensive but from I've read is the cost will all be in 10 billion dollar range the Ford is a giant leap up from the Nimitz class in technology and innovation a lot of it I am not a fan of

    1. To be fair, like you said, the Gerald R Ford class is wielding some pretty new toys, so I certainly can’t blame the Navy for encountering a few problems with their new carrier.

      But back to the point I find it ridiculous how so many people (particularly in YouTube) say that Russian Zircons and Chinese missiles can sink the Ford as if it were alone. As CNOP’s has pointed out, in wartime, carrier groups are often large (30-50 vessels per group) and filled with defences.

      If we go back in history to wwii, operation ten-go (the battle that sunk Yamato) was the deployment of 11 US carriers, 6 Battleships, 11 cruisers and more than 30 destroyers.

      What’s even more ridiculous is the fact that on an forum called “More Basement Dweller Stupidity” the forum users showcase a quote from a blog called BF4C, which claims that 4 gripens can take out a carrier battle group of 30 ships.

      This is just absurd.

  7. Four carriers with a combied air wing of 300 (presumably operational) aircraft! Plus 30 (preaumably operational) escorts! We will be unlikely to see such a fleet in our lifetimes.

    As for carrier vulnerability to submarines, several (well-publicized) exercises have highlighted the vulnerability of carriers to submarines.

    1. I don't know if ya look back to just a few months ago you saw 3 carriers around the Korean peninsula it was petty impressive to see the Korean and Chinese certainly took notes there too

    2. "As for carrier vulnerability to submarines, several (well-publicized) exercises have highlighted the vulnerability of carriers to submarines."

      Do you know the conditions of the exercises? I don't but I do know that exercises are designed to accomplish pre-determined outcomes. Sometimes it's ASW practice for the escorts. Sometimes it's ASW practice for the aviation component of the escorts and carrier. Sometimes it's simple tracking practice for the sonar operators. And sometimes it's attack practice for the sub.

      In other words, sometimes the sub is supposed to win.

      Exercises are highly unrealistic with time limits, bounded operational areas, often known starting points, artificial constraints on both sides so as to accomplish the purpose of the exercise, and so on.

      The exercises are often run and rerun, repeatedly to try out different variations and tactics.

      Sure, a photo through a periscope of a carrier looks dramatic and much is made of it but what you don't hear about are the conditions of the exercise or all the times the sub failed in addition to succeeding.

      There is a huge difference between a scripted, artificial exercise and a real world attack on a wartime alert carrier group with all its escorts and helos actively looking for subs.

      It can also not be overstated how difficult it is for a sub to actually detect and reach a viable firing position against a carrier group moving at 30 kts. Unless the sub just happens, through pure dumb luck, to lie directly in the group's path, it's impossible to intercept a 30 kt target without the sub also moving quite fast - and giving its own position away.

      So, "several (well-publicized) exercises" have highlighted nothing but the ignorance of the publicists. We, being well informed naval analysts, however, know better.

    3. You are making generalizations on exercises for which (I am assuming) you have no knowledge. Some are scripted. Some are not.

      As for submarine firing ranges: most modern subs carry anti-ship cruise missiles which changes the game immensely.

    4. ALL exercises are scripted. With very, very few exceptions, the USN does not do free play exercises.

      Sub launched missiles don't change anything simply due to the fact that they carry too few to make any significant difference.

  8. Let’s assume that in a war with China the US Navy can put together:
    1) One 4 carriers battle group (including about 15 surface escorts)
    2) One 4 “jeep carriers” battle group (including other amphibious ships), i.e., 4 Amphibious Ready Groups, for embarking a Marine Expeditionary Brigade, plus about 10 surface escorts.

    What are the logistics requirements of such formations?

    Even if the carriers are nuclear powered the escorts and the aircraft need fuel and weapons.

    So, a 4 nuclear carriers battle group will need a substantial logistic “tail”, i.e., at least one quite big Underway Replenishment Group (URG) with its own assortment of escort vessel. And maybe, 2 such URGs for a continuous operation across the Pacific!

    The 4 “jeep carriers” battle group will need also one or two Underway Replenishment Group plus escorts.

    Does the US Navy and/or MSC have enough tankers and ammunition ship for sustaining the deployment and operation across the Pacific of such Battle groups (1 carrier battle group with 4 flat tops and 1 jeep carrier battle group with 4 small flat tops, in both cases with more than 10 surface escorts each)?

    Are there enough CG/DDG for all such battle groups and URGs?

    1. The problem is we don't and most likely can't afford all these ships tour talking about not to mention all the Manpower requirement for each one

    2. I've addressed this repeatedly. You're right that we can't afford the number of ships I'm talking about if we insist on making each one a several billion dollar vessel. However, if we stop building Burkes and start building small, dedicated ships then we can have all the numbers we need.

      Before you say we can't afford the ships, recall that we used to have a 600 ship fleet and fully manned it. So, yes, we can. We've simply forgotten that we can and we've come to think that we can't because we haven't done it in so long. History has the answers we seek if we'll study it.

    3. "What are the logistics requirements of such formations?"

      Logistics are a significant issue and the Navy is woefully ill-equipped to meet the needs. That said, you may have a misconception about operations and logistics.

      Naval groups, whether a carrier group, amphibious group, or surface group, do not just sail around, endlessly, waiting to be resupplied. Naval groups go execute a mission and then return to base until the next mission. Thus, the bulk of logistic needs are satisfied in port, not at sea. Still, there are significant refueling and resupply needs at sea and your concern is valid and relevant.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. "We built 600 back when we were spending 10-40% of GDP on defense."

      This is simply false. Look at the chart you linked. During the Reagan years of the 600 ship fleet in the '80's, which I was obviously referring to, we peaked out at about 7% GDP. Only during WWII did we do 40% and only during the Korean War ('50's) did we top 10%.

      You know exactly what was I referring to when I referenced 600 ships. Please don't do this.

    6. Yep and you get from the Carriers (which you can only support 3 with the current 11 ships) 144F18s in A2A configuration, and 72 F18s in Ground attack configurations for 216, that is equivelant to the 200 Gripens Sweeden ordered (in terms of air-to-air capabilities) during the cold war...

      The fleet of jeep carriers gets you conservatively, perhaps maybe the equivelant of an armoured brigade?

      So you have a military force that is the equivelant of the Sweedish Airforce, and one Armoured Brigade...

      Hardly a threat to a 1st rate or even properly armed second rate power. The only thing you can do with that, is take islands in the pacific, or blockade countries without a competitive navy..

      Saying that however, any country with say two dozen nuclear attack submarines could declare and enforce a blockade against say the USA. The ocean is a large place, and there are many targets in it.

    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    8. "can only support 3 with the current 11 ships"

      I'm honestly not sure what this rambling comment is about but, in war, ships don't deploy - the execute missions. If the mission calls for 8 carriers at once, then we'll assemble 8 carriers.

      I'm not going to address this wartime "deployment" nonsense again.

    9. "Almost half of what Reagan added were Auxiliaries."

      Yeah, that's what a fleet needs to operate. What question are you answering? Did someone ask if a fleet needs support ships?

    10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    11. Yeah, it would be hard for us given our current habits. Did someone say it wouldn't? Do you have a point to make related to the post premise of carrier operations?

    12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    13. "how your overall design fits together."

      I'm actually in the (slow) process of putting together an overall fleet design page.

      You're welcome to present your design in a post, if you wish.

    14. This comment has been removed by the author.

    15. "It's certainly more on the "speculative" side of what could be done, rather than what's practical, short-term."

      This blog, at least, looks at both the current, real, practical aspects of naval matters and at the speculative side where we opine about what should or could be done. Both are welcome.

  9. CNO,

    If such a "war group" were sent, presumably, to the SCS, do you think they'd have much air cover? I know nothing about it, but I'd imagine quite a few bombers would be sent as well, refueling on the way. Whether or not the timing is such that they attack before the fleet arrives, just as it arrives, or even after it arrives, I don't know. Similarly, is it possible for the P8 to fly above the group, circling, with a lot of refueling?


    1. If a carrier group were sent the SCS, they would be their own air cover with 300 or so aircraft.

      A carrier group would not be "sent to the SCS". Naval forces don't operate that way - sailing to an area and just sitting there. Naval forces execute missions. They move, purposefully and quickly, to a mission execution point, execute the mission, and then leave. To simply occupy a location is to invite disaster.

      You need to review WWII carrier operations to get a feel for how carriers are used and how they operate.

      A P-8 might be survivable above a carrier group but it would serve no purpose there. If there are submarines inside the group, the group is already in a world of trouble. The time/place to hunt for subs is far, far away from the group and a P-8 operating far, far away from the group would be non-survivable. Does that answer your P-8 question?

    2. Wait a minuge. Enemy air defense are both omnipotent and ubiquitous? And you shouldn't send a 737 directly into them? Fascinating.

      You seriously need to read up on Cold War Theater-level ASW operations. Look at how MPA fit into the overall structure.

      Historically, ASW operations have taken place in the open ocean far from enemy IADS. Because that's where the enemy puts their subs!

    3. "Historically, ASW operations have taken place in the open ocean far from enemy IADS. Because that's where the enemy puts their subs!"

      No. The enemy puts their subs where they can do some good such as on convoy routes, chokepoints, protecting strongholds, where the enemy is, etc. China currently has not strongholds beyond the first island chain. The war will take place inside the first island chain. That's where US forces will attempt to operate so that's where Chinese subs will operate.

      By your logic, we prepare to face China by bulking up our European ground forces because that's where the Cold War focus was. China is a different location and that brings different combat requirements.

  10. "With an escort of 30 vessels"

    How many submarines would be included in a war time escort?

    1. I answered this in another comment. Here's what I said.

      Carrier groups used to have subs attached. I don't know if they still do. Regardless, I have no idea how they would operate in a 3-4 carrier group. They would almost be more trouble than they'd be worth given the difficulty identifying friendly from enemy. I could see them operating far out in front, sanitizing the route, possibly. I left them out because I have no idea how they would fit in, if at all.

      To specifically address your question, I have no idea how many subs would escort a carrier group, if any, because I don't know how they would function without causing more problems than they solve. You can't conduct ASW in an area with friendly subs without a significant risk of blue-on-blue incidents.

    2. One idea that comes first to mind is to use SSN's as "watch dogs" in the defensive, make em operate within a radius around the group that is considered safe and everything outside that radius gets slammed with ASW ASROC Helo's e.t.c

    3. What ship captain is going to blindly trust that the sub they just detected is friendly? A sub works most effectively when it is off on its own and doesn't have to worry about friendly fire possibilities. The best use of subs that I can think of is to sanitize a route well in advance of the group or to watchdog a potential naval base threat. Anything else is just too fraught with identification problems to be effective.

      Consider all the shots we passed up in Desert Storm due to a 1-5% uncertainty about identification. Trying to identify subs is going to be many, many times harder and we'll wind up letting enemy subs go because of the uncertainty.

  11. Good article about the Carrier Group and how we need to think about the totality of the ships and weapons.

    However the Navy has been under Congressional guidance to prove they have a defense against supersonic anti ship missiles and so far (that I know of) they have not stated that the current weapons (aircraft, ship, etc.) can stop them.

    By analogy it doesn't matter how many infantry units you have if none of them have an effective anti-tank weapon. One tank is gonna wreck havoc.

    If the Navy can demonstrate that the SM series or some other FILEDED weapons system can stop these weapons, then it is right to have some concern.

    Aside note, even with the screening ships with doctrine that results in a 4:1 kill ratio (shoot, shoot, look, shoot, shoot) or 2:1 (shoot, look, shoot) how many missiles does it take to make the battle group Winchester?

    And you can't say take out the launch sites because attacking the Homeland is a HUGE escalation factor.

    1. "And you can't say take out the launch sites because attacking the Homeland is a HUGE escalation factor."

      You can't be serious?? If we're in a war that involves 4-carrier battle groups then we've already escalated to a world war.

      Why is the responsibility for not escalating only on the US, in your mind? What about the Chinese (let's face it, that's who we're talking about) launching cruise and ballistic (how do we know they aren't nuclear!!!!!! what an escalation!!!!!) missiles at us?????

      The US is not going to initiate a world war with China which means that when the war starts it will have been started by China. Isn't that kind of the definition of escalation? And, if China attacks the US and starts a war, shouldn't they expect to be attacked in return, even (and especially) in their homeland?

      I know, you're going to say that if we drop a bomb on the Chinese mainland, China will immediately launch nuclear weapons at us. That's stupid beyond belief. Remember MAD? Turn the situation around. If China dropped a bomb on our mainland, would we immediately launch a total nuclear strike on China? Of course not, so why would you think they would do so? They'd wind up with a nuclear wasteland for a country which would defeat the very purpose (whatever that was) for starting a war.

      Did we refrain from attacking the German or Japanese homelands out of fear of escalation?

      You don't win a war by farting around the periphery. You win by destroying your enemy's industry, economy, infrastructure, government, and military and all those things are found on the mainland. To do otherwise is to repeat all of the mistakes of Vietnam. History is there for us to learn from.

      If China doesn't want its homeland attacked then they should start practicing peaceful, responsible world behavior instead of pushing relentlessly towards war.

      This is one of the most illogical statements I've ever read.

    2. "how many missiles does it take to make the battle group Winchester?"

      An escort of 30 Burkes, for example, would have something in the vicinity of 3,600 ESSM missiles (assuming 30 quad-packed ESSM VLS cells per ship) and 900 Standards (assuming 30 Standard VLS cells per ship). If the escorts were configured for total AAW, that would be another 900 VLS cells available for Standards, quad-packed ESSM or a mix. You can do the math from here and answer your own question.

    3. Well we are even then because your belief that we can control things when 2 nuclear nations start fighting is just like the other illogical statements from the Delusional people that believe they are Masters of the Universe.

      Just a recap of recent history where things happened that no one wanted:

      Did any country believe that WWI would last 4 years and kill 18 Million people and the peace treaty would seed WWII that killed 50-80 Million people?

      Did anyone believe we would fail to defeat the Chinese in Korea and have to station an army there for 60 years?

      Did anyone think we would lose in Vietnam after 10 years of heavy fighting?

      Did anyone think we would be in Afghanistan 18 years later?

      Did anyone think that Iraq would be the mess it is today after 15 years? What party won the election?

      And just so people don't think it is only in War that things go NOT according to plan.

      Remember the dot-com bust? Who thought that people would invest in no business plan companies because they were on the web?

      Remember the Financial crisis where everyone said why would companies take on exorbitant risk?

      In short, things do not go according to our logical view. When you cross lines people shift their thinking and values. Suddenly what was unthinkable before is now just seen as the next step in winning, or not losing, or not losing face.

      BTW you win a war by getting the other guy to do what you want and there are many other historical examples where fleet battles decided things without attacking the homeland. AND that was when the other guy did not have the capability to destroy you and the planet.

    4. If you're going to enter a war ruled by your own fears then you've already lost. You're welcome to your fears.

  12. The weakness I see is an EMP weapon. Modern warships are not as well protected as they used to be and there won't be much defence capability left once the radars are burnt out. COMNAVOPS has already discussed the probability of these being repaired at sea in previous posts. Lack of ABM capability is the biggest hole in the carrier group capability right now.

    As for other navies, they are proportionally weaker and more vulnerable - a French Carrier Group, for example, would have little chance, certainly less than a single US carrier plus escorts. Europe would need to field a joint carrier group (including the Royal Navy) to form a single US-type 3/4 carrier group and Japan is the only other country capable of getting close to this if it modifies its ships for F-35.

    1. "The weakness I see is an EMP weapon."

      You're raising the general issue of hardening which the Navy has all but abandoned. We need to shock harden every piece of equipment. We need to EMP harden all electronics. We need to NBC-proof our ships. We need to implement electronic emission shielding on all electronics. We've forgotten how to build warships.

      Good point.

    2. "Europe would need to field a joint carrier group"

      Even that wouldn't be useful because the individual air wings are so small (20-40 aircraft per "carrier" is too small to be useful) and so lacking in tankers, electronic warfare support aircraft (Growlers), and AEW/AWACs. All of Europe couldn't assemble a single useful carrier group for a peer war.

    3. It's enough to stop Russia or China at sea, not enough to strike the mainland. Equally, Russia or China couldn't muster sufficient carrier force to strike Europe.

    4. "It's enough to stop Russia or China at sea"

      Is it? Could a combined European carrier group stop Russia or China at sea? I have severe doubts. The airwings are just too small. Why don't you analyze it for us. Calculate the number of aircraft, remembering you need a healthy reserve for carrier group defense even while you launch a strike, and see if a credible strike could be mounted and, applying a reasonable attrition rate, how many strikes could be executed before the group became combat incapable. I'd be fascinated to see what you come up with.

    5. I'm surprised you question it. Neither Russia nor China can field more than 1 carrier currently and a single Queen Elizabeth class should be enough to take on that airwing on its own, let alone when there are 2 plus a Charles De Gaulle and a Cavour. Even if you allow for a second Chinese carrier and assume no one else takes a pop at it on the way, it shouldn't be much competition.

    6. Here's the relevant statement,

      "enough to stop Russia or China at sea,"

      That means ALL of Russia or China's sea forces. Thus, a European carrier group could, potentially, face Russian groups anchored around modernized Velikiy (Kirov class) battlecruisers supported by Slava class cruisers, Udaloy and Sovremenny class destroyers, and various frigates as well as SSN/SSK and land based naval aviation.

      China can assemble some pretty impressive surface groups of Burke equivalents (or better) that are shortly going to be backed up by carrier air and supported by subs and land based air.

      THAT'S what a European carrier group would have to face in order to accomplish any mission. Wars are not fought in isolation with one ship or one group against another. Wars are joint affairs and you don't get to pick out one particular ship/group to fight. That's why US carrier groups have extensive AEW/AWACS, EW, tanking, and ASW aviation forces and why an European carrier group would be almost useless.

      Now that you know the enemy, go do an analysis and let us know what you find.

    7. The Russians have a very few, very old ships and are massively outnumbered by European frigates and submarines and the majority of the Chinese Navy could not reach Europe as many are not ocean-going ships and their refuelling capability is limited. The Chinese Navy is also still outnumbered by Europe and would have to pass hostile nations to get here. Ergo, Russia and China cannot really damage Europe from the sea and vice versa. European carriers are not there for the same reason as US carriers and are quite capable of handling the tasks they need. You only argued a few weeks ago that NATO doesn't need to be expanded to the Pacific and suggested a separate Pacific version so why would Europe be attacking China in that scenario anyway?

  13. Excellent points. Almost every article I can recall reading about carrier vulnerability never bothers to put it an operational or tactical context. Their argument basically consists of pointing out that it is a big ship, and that anti-ship missiles are getting more lethal. There is rarely any discussion of what carrier aviation does or could do in the near future.

    I published an article on future carrier CONOPs, "An Information Dominance Carrier for Distributed War at Sea" ( that I hope is one of the first articles in the public domain to put carriers into the Navy's distributed lethality concept. Would hope you can check it out and provide thoughts (my contact is in the author's bio).


    1. An odd premise considering Distributed Lethality was an Attempt by the surface community to detach itself from the carrier-centric Navy.

    2. "Attempt by the surface community to detach itself from the carrier-centric Navy."

      I've seen nothing to support this. As best I can tell, distributed lethality was an attempt to find a use for the LCS and a weak attempt to justify the horrible decisions that have led to a hollow, small force by conjuring a ridiculous theory.

      If you have some evidence to support your contention, please present it.

  14. Lovely article! The US does have a small problem at the moment, however.

    Where are we supposed to get 3-4 Carriers at the same time? we currently can only deploy two at once, sometimes!

    And that assumes no attrition, It's foolish not to prepare for the possibility of China getting lucky at LEAST once!

    If your argument about Carrier potential is true, then we need approximately 16 of your minimalist non-nuclear(for flexible deployment) carriers, and we need them ASAP!

    Even, I would say, more then any Submarines, SSBN included.

    1. "Where are we supposed to get 3-4 Carriers at the same time? "

      I suspect that you're locked into a peacetime deployment model which requires 3-4 carriers in order to support the deployment of one. However, in war, orderly deployments will vanish. Missions will take over and whatever carriers are available will be assembled as needed for the duration of the mission.

      There will be no 10 month deployments. There will be only missions, typically of a few weeks duration followed by return to base. Review your WWII carrier operations history.

      We only started the war with five fleet carriers in the Pacific and yet we managed to assemble three or four at a time, as needed (you know, until they were all sunk except for Enterprise!).

      We'll be starting a war with China with 11 (maybe 12?) carriers so, in that sense, we'll be well ahead of the WWII curve.

      "And that assumes no attrition, It's foolish not to prepare for the possibility of China getting lucky at LEAST once!"

      I've addressed this in a post. We won't lose any carriers unless we commit them to a battle. When we do so, it will, presumably, be for very good reasons that will justify the potential losses - just like Coral Sea and Midway. Carriers aren't just going to spontaneously sink. They'll be sunk in a worthwhile battle/mission or they won't sink. If the battle/mission is suitably worthwhile then, in the cold hard math of war, we won't care and will count it a win - just like Coral Sea and Midway.

    2. "then we need approximately 16 of your minimalist non-nuclear(for flexible deployment) carriers, and we need them ASAP!"

      Yes. Our fleet numbers and composition are not optimized for war. Shortly, we'll have 35 LCS in the fleet that can contribute nothing to a peer war. We need to rebuild the fleet for war and we need to do it now!

  15. "The answer is one of ComNavOps pet peeves: they consider the carrier in isolation rather than in its true operational form."

    I think you did set up a straw man there.

    It's been 73 years since the last time a somewhat powerful force tried to kill aircraft carriers at sea. Much has changed, there are huge uncertainties. Even insiders of PLAN and USN cannot know and understand the full picture.

    It's indefensible to be certain that carriers would be wasted easily, and it's equally indefensible to be certain that the defensive effort would succeed. We simply don't know.
    It's thus unwise to go all in on the concept of CVBGs, and the only real backup plan of the USN is the SSN.

    1. If your point is that no one can predict the future, you're correct. Well, no, you're not. Those of us who carefully study history, tactics, naval technology, aircraft performance, missile capabilities, etc. - in other words, military art and science - can quite accurately predict the future. This, I have done.

      Historical precedent: The US Navy, prior to WWII, wargamed hundreds of Japanese war scenarios and studied every possible scenario they could imagine. So thorough was the study, that after the war, US Admirals stated that nothing the Japanese did was a surprise except the kamikaze tactic and that the course of the war was utterly predicted.

      The point is that STUDENTS of the military arts and sciences absolutely can predict the future with quite good accuracy. Only the casual, uninformed observer believes that war can't be predicted. Sure, some weapons will perform better than anticipated and some worse but the overall effects and impacts are quite easily understood and predicted. Yes, some low level tactics will be surprises but nothing that will have any immense impact on the conduct of a war.

      Become a student of military art and science and you, too, will be able to predict the future.

    2. "Historical precedent: The US Navy, prior to WWII, wargamed hundreds of Japanese war scenarios and studied every possible scenario they could imagine. So thorough was the study, that after the war, US Admirals stated that nothing the Japanese did was a surprise except the kamikaze tactic and that the course of the war was utterly predicted."

      The USN thought after the 1930's experiments that to strike first wins carrier battles, as the air attacks would be devastating. That was utterly wrong. To have a robust, radar-supported defence won carrier battles in 1943-1944.

      And frankly, you appear to have no idea how much I studied military art and science. I actually studied military history enough for pretty reliable B.S. detection.
      The USN has no clue whether its carriers would survive quasiballistic missile attacks - it has merely a clue about how difficult it is to pull off such an attack and it knows that such a missile has but one try each, but it does not know how the Chinese missiles would perform.

    3. *sigh*

      Well, since you obviously don't know the quote, here it is. It was delivered by Adm. Chester Nimitz after the war:

      "The war with Japan had been enacted in the game rooms at the War College by so many people and in so many different ways that nothing that happened during the war was a surprise—absolutely nothing except the kamikaze tactics toward the end of the war."

      Warfare is utterly understandable and predictable and the fact that you don't grasp that is clear indication that you are not a serious student of military art and science. I'm sorry but it's that simple. Fortunately, you can take advantage of my studies and insights, if you're wise enough to do so! Failing that, you're welcome to your opinions.

    4. Well, then Nimitz was lying or misremembering.
      Quotes are never as valuable as actual history anyway.
      The fact remains that the USN entered the war with an overestimation of the offence in carrier battles and learned by 1942 about the great importance of radar-supported CAP and strong AAA of better than 20 mm calibre. Now maybe you should study the issue (first Fleet Problem X to Marianas Battle) if you don't know that.

      There's nothing to sigh about. The results of the fleet experiments are published and we know that radar was underappreciated.

      Regardless of how serious a student of military theory one may be, a reliable prediction of the face of future warfare is not possible. Instead, a serious student can easily recognise patterns from previous conflicts or theory in a current conflict.
      Much of the Syrian Civil War is very similar to the Bosnian War, for example.

    5. "Well, then Nimitz was lying or misremembering."

      You're bordering on paranoia. Clearly, there's nothing more I can say that you will accept so, have a good day.

    6. I don't care much about amateur psychologists, and frankly, to trust a quote of some officer over the historical record is nothing but the logical fallacy of appeal to authority.

      I'm unimpressed.

  16. Japan (in WW2) and China is different. To protect Japan, IJN had to keep its enemy away, hence high sea showdowns. OTH, China's interest (and mil advantage) is all within 1st island chain, with its land mass/capacity as one big weapon platform. Again, Taiwan becomes the focal point. If China grabs it, do you come in and grab it back to preserve the 1st island chain; if not (and if China has no interest in high sea showdowns), then what's the fleet's purpose?

    1. You're completely failing to understand the difference. The high seas showdowns, as you phrase it, occurred because the Japanese had seized territory (islands) across the entire Pacific and the US had to kick them out. The Japanese resisted this effort and so high seas showdowns occurred.

      At the moment, China has seized only the first island chain. They are looking to change that, of course, but it will be quite some time before that occurs.

      The fleet is needed to clear the Chinese off the first island chain, roll back the A2/AD zone, clear aerial attack lanes for the Air Force, eradicate the Chinese navy, and impose a total naval blockade. The fleet will be quite busy!

    2. 6 unopposed carriers plus more bomb tonnage (from unequivocal air superiority) than dropped on Nazi and IJ combined couldn't bring NV (a much lesser land power, though with backing of China & Russia) to its knee. Just how would, say, 10 carriers plus very long distance air sorties, fighting a true peer industrial power in its own backyard with the same zeal to unify its nation (as NV did with SV) and possibly with another coalition of China+Russia and with coalesced determination to fight however long at whatever cost (as NV did), might fare better than VN War situation militarily and politically?

      China will not go beyond Taiwan, and US will not have another 'Yankee station + B-52s' advantage. Yet, do you really think 2nd time is a charm, against another but much larger land power than an isolated island nation?

    3. If the US fights a China war in the same half-committed, semi-serious way it fought Vietnam then it will lose. On the other hand, if the US fights an all-out, no holds barred war like Desert Storm, it can win.

      Currently, China is too far behind in too many areas and the US, if committed, would fairly easily win a war with China (depending on what the victory conditions are, of course). However, the balance of military might is changing and that result will not be nearly as foregone a conclusion in the future.

    4. Remember too the Japanese were fighting every where basically in the Pacific and possibly without U.S. aid the Chinese could very well have lost the end result though was a Communist China and friendly Japan kinda a total reversal

    5. Well, that just it! I see no circumstance (like another Pearl Harbor) US will commit to another total ( conventional) war against China unless China went on a war path like IJ or Nazi Germany. OTH, if It is a war of unification (or independence) over Taiwan, this will the the 3rd time US-China come to blow over unification cause in e.Asia (Korea, VN, and now Taiwan). While your article is about hypothetical viability of an all powerful multi-carriers task force going into harms way, I just don't see such utilization/commitment in another localized E.Asia unification war if history is of any guidance, from Korea to VN. OTH, power disparity between the combatants, from Korea to VN, didn't stop lesser power to outlast the stronger US. Today, over Taiwan, the power disparity couldn't be any smaller than ones in 50s' and 60s'.

      So, which will it be, another WW2 Pacific war, or 3rd E.Asia unification war? I think it will be the latter, if it happens.

  17. speaking of the Viking, I've never heard of anyone who thought that retirement was a good idea

    1. It wasn't!!!! It cost us dearly. Not only did we lose significant ASW and ELINT capability, it meant that 10-20% of our F-18 Hornets had to be dedicated to tanking which diminished our combat assets and used up valuable flight life on our front line airframes.

      One can only marvel at the stupidity of those who made such decisions. To be fair, there many such decisions whose magnitude of stupidity can almost not even be grasped.

    2. Don't understand the Vicking either best guess is they want to fund the other stuff like LCS the Ford and F35 in other words a total mistake

  18. Hello. Great food for thought! I enjoyed reading this post. I agree with the gist of your argument, ideally a carrier would operate in a multi-carrier group which -as described- would be a very tough nut to crack. However, wouldn't there be circumstances that might preclude the formation of such a group?

    The Navy brass as much as they would like (I imagine) cannot always decide where and when hostilities would start. That is even if we are assuming a scenario in which the US initiates hostilities. There might be certain political objectives that need to be achieved and thus missions -as you put it- generated to to fulfill those needs within a certain time frame. That might mean executing those mission with the nearest "peacetime" carrier group available, which may already start well within the threat envelope of the adversary. The situation is even worse of course in a scenario in which the adversary is the one initiating hostilities. If I am going to do something so brazen as to incur the wrath of the US, then I'd better make sure that I have the nearest carrier within my cross-hairs to be dealt with as soon as war is triggered. Heck sinking the carrier might itself be the trigger!

    In best case scenario, the nearest carrier group starts outside the threat zone. Now you are going to have to combine several "peacetime" carrier groups to form that mighty armada. That might mean combining 1-2 carrier groups from different parts of the world, plus 1-2 more that are going to sail fresh from the US. Then joining them all in one location to start sailing for the mission. How long would assembling all this force take? Four days? a week? maybe two? I don't know. Still, I would imagine it is a significant time commitment that the situation of the conflict might already be very different once it is all ready to go (For example, the adversary might have fulfilled some or all of their objectives and is already suing for peace/ceasefire). Not to mention of course that each "peacetime" group is still vulnerable to being intercepted by submarines before they combine (submarines don't really need to catch up as much as intercept the anticipated path, and with a carrier group that is not exactly hard to predict, no luck involved).

    I agree with you, I don't follow the line of thinking that the carrier is "dead". Far from it. However, it is useful to try to understand in which situation(s) might the carrier be more vulnerable than the ideal.

    1. The Chinese aren't stupid - the carriers would be one of the first targets in any major conflict, probably in a surprise attack whilst in port from civilian ships etc. I would expect the US to lose half its carriers on Day Zero and have to start looking at the LHDs as replacement F-35 carriers very quickly.

    2. "I would expect the US to lose half its carriers on Day Zero "

      This is a completely false statement. Do you have any idea where our carriers are on any given day? It's not a secret. USNI website publishes a weekly(?) update with a map showing the locations of all carrier and amphibious groups. 99% of the time, we have only one carrier in range of China and that is the forward deployed, Japan-based carrier. Typically, we have one carrier in the general Middle East vicinity and the rest are home ported in the continental US. At best, China could sink one carrier on day one of a war.

      "The Chinese aren't stupid - the carriers would be one of the first targets"

      This is another completely false statement. Carriers would actually be quite low on the list of initial targets. Far more important targets include Guam, the pre-positioned supply ships, the Newport News Big Blue crane, the Pearl Harbor fuel depots, the MLP sea base ships, any fleet oiler, etc. Take these things away and there's no need to deal with carriers. You need to study the lessons of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

    3. "wouldn't there be circumstances that might preclude the formation of such a group? "

      An excellent all around comment.

      Certainly, there could be circumstances which could lead to isolated carriers. The forward deployed carrier based in Japan is the obvious example. At the start of any war with China that carrier will be in a precarious position - which leads one to ask why we have a single carrier based there but that's a separate issue.

      Also, sinking one carrier, while a setback for the US isn't all that serious in a war with China. We'll still have ten other carriers, our entire Air Force, our complete submarine force, and all of the Army and Marines. One carrier is a relatively insignificant part of our overall military.

      The WWII Asiatic Fleet was another example of a pre-war force caught in a hopeless position when war started.

      It is up to our military planners not to place our ships in no-win situations if it appears that war is looming. Wars don't just happen spontaneously. There is always extensive lead up to the event. For example, we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that war with Japan was going to happen and we even had the start pegged to about a four week period which proved correct. So, we'll have plenty of time to properly pre-position, if we're wise.

    4. "How long would assembling all this force take? Four days? a week? maybe two?"

      Who cares? Wars are not won or lost in a day or month. A war with China is going to last years. So what if it takes a few weeks (actually, it would take months!) to assemble a multi-carrier group. Besides, a carrier group is not just thrown together an tossed at random into a war zone. A valuable carrier group is committed to a particular mission in support of an overall military strategy. We would assemble naval forces and then wait for the right opportunity to commit them to a worthwhile mission.

      This is one of the reasons why I like the idea of keeping our naval forces homeported in CONUS. There is no need to rush them into battle, piecemeal, and they are protected from the initial surprise attacks of the war (I assume that the US will not initiate a war with China). The time require to assemble them and move them forward is irrelevant in the time frame of a peer war with China.

    5. "Not to mention of course that each "peacetime" group is still vulnerable to being intercepted by submarines"

      Yet another good reason to keep our carriers homeported. We can let our subs conduct some thinning of the Chinese sub herd for a month or so while we prepare our carriers to move forward.

    6. "However, it is useful to try to understand in which situation(s) might the carrier be more vulnerable than the ideal. "

      I very much enjoyed your comment. You've thought beyond the initial premise of the post to non-ideal situations. You stopped a bit short but that's okay. I've filled in some additional reasoning along that line of thought. That's what continued discussion is for!

      Good comment on your part. Feel free to continue extrapolating along this line and see what it leads you to conclude about forward basing, types of initial targets, what the US should look at doing for a quick response (hint: Air Force B-2 bombers), whether we should have a Japan based carrier, etc. Let me know what you think.

    7. I disagree about the target priority because you are thinking from just a military point of view. Carriers are political targets and damage public support in ways that airfields and cranes and tankers do not - you aren't factoring in US public opinion as a weapon the Chinese can use against the US. The Chinese frequently use civilian ships as military units so I will say again - watch the big container ships and any LNG tankers anywhere near military ports when tensions get high, that's the threat, not carriers.

    8. "Carriers are political targets"

      I'm not, in the least, saying that China wouldn't sink a carrier if it was sitting out in the open begging to be sunk. I'm saying that it's not a day one priority target.

      You do make a valid point about political targets, however, this is a much less valid aspect in a major peer war. Damaging or sinking a carrier during some sort of pseudo-peace would be a major coup but in a peer war it's just going to one of many major targets that get destroyed.

    9. ComNavOps wrote:

      "This is one of the reasons why I like the idea of keeping our naval forces homeported in CONUS."

      This is key to your idea. The carrier in Japan is a sitting duck in port half the time. Our amphibs at Sasebo would all be sunk in an hour. They would hope to flee east before the shooting begins, but what about the tens of thousands of family members left behind in the chaos of wartime Japan with food and fuel short?

      And we have 30,000 DoD civilians and dependents foolishly deployed on Okinawa, which would instantly be cut off from food supplies, and we have some 30,000 in South Korea.

      If a shooting war starts, the #1 priority will be getting those civilians out, as it was with the 5000 we had in the Philippines in 1941. I agree the best idea is to assemble 100 ships with four carriers around Hawaii then sail forth for battle, but that will take months and the pressure to throw what is available into battle to keep the air evacuation routes open will be impossible to resist. Especially since its our Generals and Admirals who foolishly deployed them to Japan and Korea.

      Move the homeported ships out of Chinese aircraft range, and 90% of the dependents out too. This is the first step toward sanity.

  19. ComNavOps a simple question we win the war in the Pacific as a result of unrestricted submarine warfare sinking everything they saw could not the same thing occur in a war against China aren't they much more dependent on raw materials and oil than the U.S.

    1. China is a large country and has many more resources within its own borders than Japan had. In addition, Japan was an island nation and everything imported had to come via water and was, therefore, susceptible to blockade. China, on the other hand, has vast land boundaries through which goods can be imported. More, much of that land passage is through Russia which would, undoubtedly, be supportive in a war with China.

      So, no, a submarine blockade could certainly hurt China over a long period of time but it cannot "starve" China's industry.


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