Monday, August 20, 2018

Small Air Wings And Small Carriers

I’ve noted in recent discussions that there is some confusion about “small” carriers.  I’ve stated that small carriers are useless and yet my own fleet structure plan calls for small carriers.  Huh???  What’s going on?

Well, the confusion lies in the definition of “small”.  The commonly used definition of a small carrier is a carrier with an air wing of around 20-30 aircraft.  Examples include,

  • HMS Queen Elizabeth – around 24 F-35B
  • Charles de Gaulle – 28-40 aircraft
  • INS Vikramaditya  - around 24 aircraft

There is also the popular “sea control” carrier which is generally described as having around 12-20 aircraft.

These may have some utility during peacetime or very low end combat but all of these are utterly useless in high end combat.

ComNavOps’ “small” carrier, in contrast, is a supercarrier by any other definition and is small only relative to a Nimitz or Ford.  It carries a nearly full air wing of combat aircraft, lacking only some of the support aircraft.

People love to talk about smaller carriers as an alternative to supercarriers.  Well, small carrier studies have been conducted since the day after the first full size carrier was designed.  The USS Wasp, CV-7, was an attempt at a smaller carrier even before we completed our first large fleet carriers!

Every aircraft carrier size study ever conducted has reached the same conclusion – that large carriers are more efficient in every way than small carriers.

However, there comes a point where efficiency and effectiveness are rendered irrelevant by sheer cost and it appears that the US Navy has reached that point.  A $14B+ ship is simply unaffordable and, even if construction funding could be provided, it is unusable because no one will risk a $14B+ ship in combat.  At this point, a smaller carrier is no longer a debatable alternative - it’s mandatory just due to cost.

Costs have forced us to shrink our carrier fleet from twenty or so to 15 and now down to 10 (9+1 in long term overhaul).  Runaway costs and lengthening construction cycles have us firmly on track for a 7-9 carrier fleet.  Also, it is worth noting that the Navy currently only operates 9 air wings so only nine carriers can possibly be deployed. 

The key point, here, is that skyrocketing carrier construction costs have forced us to reduce our carrier fleet and is likely to result in further reductions.  Thus, the possibility of smaller carriers – ComNavOps’ definition of smaller - again becomes worth considering.  We simply can’t afford $15B - $20B carriers.

So, where does a discussion of smaller carriers lead us? 

Everyone will have their own favorite vision and version of a smaller carrier and will likely cite some foreign “carrier” as an example of what we should build. 

Everyone will be wrong.

Wait, what now?  Didn’t I just say that a discussion of smaller carriers was worth considering?  If so, how can every version and example be wrong?  They’re wrong because none of them take into account the one aspect (other than cost!) of a carrier that matters.  You know what it is, right?  It’s the air wing, of course.  A carrier IS its air wing.  Without its air wing, a carrier is just a floating tabletop with the combat power of an LCS!  If we’re going to have a discussion about smaller carriers it has to start with a discussion about the air wing.

Okay, so where do we start a discussion of the air wing?  Well, there’s only one aspect of the air wing that’s important and that is its combat power.  Ideally, that discussion would be relative to our military strategy but we don’t have one so we’ll have to do the best we can in the abstract.

The air wing’s combat power comes from numbers of aircraft and type of aircraft. 

Numbers ought to be obvious but far too many people don’t appreciate what it really means.  A carrier air wing has several functions that it has to fulfill.  Among them are,

  • Carrier task group defense
  • Strike
  • Surveillance
  • Anti-submarine warfare

Each function requires a certain minimum number of aircraft to effectively accomplish the task.  We wouldn’t normally send a single aircraft to attack an enemy air base, right?  Of course not.  An effective strike requires a minimum number of aircraft.  Let’s take a shot a estimating the minimum numbers.  Our function list with minimum numbers of aircraft plus some necessary support aircraft now looks like this.

  • Carrier task group defense 30
  • Strike 30
  • Surveillance 4
  • Anti-submarine warfare 8
  • Electronic warfare 6
  • Tankers 12

Now, let’s flesh those numbers out a bit.

Carrier task group defense against a modern aircraft/missile attack will require as many aircraft as we can get in the air in time.  Less than 30 and we’re not mounting an effective defense.  The number 30 also attempts to account for the fact that unless we have absolutely perfect pre-knowledge about the incoming strike direction and timing, we’ll undoubtedly be caught with aircraft on deck, out of position while refueling, or out of position because we anticipated the threat axis incorrectly.  Thus, in order to get, say, 8-10 aircraft actually into a valid intercept position, we’ll have to have at least 30 involved in the attempt.

Strike missions against any kind of significant, defended target will require a minimum of 30 aircraft to carry enough weapons to achieve destruction of the target.  However, a successful strike requires more aircraft than just the weapon launching aircraft.  We’ll need, say, 6 electronic warfare (EW) support aircraft (EA-18G Growlers) and 12 tankers (let’s assume we have a dedicated tanker aircraft).

Surveillance is the establishment and maintenance of situational awareness for hundreds of miles around the carrier.  This is accomplished by E-2 Hawkeyes, mainly.  A minimum of 4 are required to maintain a continuous awareness.

Anti-submarine warfare is a function that has been abandoned by the Navy but the need hasn’t gone away.  We need a minimum of 8 fixed wing ASW aircraft.

With all that in mind, our air wing size now stands at

  • Carrier task group defense 30
  • Strike 30
  • Surveillance 4
  • Anti-submarine warfare 8
  • Electronic warfare 6
  • Tankers 12

  • Total 90

Now, some people are going to say that because we have the dual role, strikefighter F-18 Hornet and miraculous, every role F-35, we can use the same aircraft for either defense or strike and thus get by with far fewer aircraft.  This is utterly incorrect. 

A carrier and its air wing exists to conduct offensive operations.  If we send out a strike (30+ aircraft), we aren’t going to leave our carrier defenseless, are we?  At $15B+ each, we’d better not!  Thus, we’ll need to have 30 aircraft available for defense while the strike is out.  Thus, we still need the 60 total strike/defense aircraft.  Dual roles, as it pertains to numbers, is a fraudulent myth.  No aircraft, no matter how many roles it can perform, can be in two places at once.

Thus, our minimum effective air wing size still stands at 90.  There’s no getting around it.

Now, let’s discuss aircraft types.  We’ve already touched on it but let’s clarify even further.  We know that we need attack aircraft and fighters.  However, it is vital to recognize that the various support aircraft are mandatory for the air wing to successfully accomplish their various tasks.  Thus, we absolutely need electronic warfare, tankers, surveillance, and ASW types.  It is this fact that renders most foreign carriers/air wings nearly useless in a peer level war.  They just don’t carry a full complement of the necessary support aircraft and most are not even capable of operating the required types.

The British, for example, want to believe that when war comes they’ll simply surge one or two dozen extra F-35’s to the carrier (an absurd belief but we’ll let that slide for the moment) to make a full air wing.  Unfortunately, they lack any credible E-2 Hawkeye type aircraft, tankers, or EW support aircraft.  Thus, any strike they might launch will be flying handicapped with no tanker support, no EW support, and no surveillance and air space battle management.  That’s a recipe for losing a high end battle.

Thus, our smaller carrier absolutely must have these support aircraft types.  It is this requirement for support aircraft that renders every proposal for a “sea control” type of smaller carrier utterly useless in high end combat.  The sea control such an air wing without support aircraft could exert is limited to third world, peacetime “threats”. 

So, what do we conclude from all this?

It’s clear that any air wing, large or small, must be at least around 90 aircraft and contain a full complement of support aircraft in order to have any hope of being effective in high end, peer combat.  With that requirement firmly in mind, one can begin to design a carrier around the air wing.

Now, ComNavOps’ own proposal for fleet structure calls for Midway/Forrestal size “smaller” carriers with nearly full air wings.  The “nearly” part, however, omits some support aircraft.  Wait, what?!  Didn’t I just write at length about the need for a full air wing with all the support aircraft?  Yes, I did.  So, how can I then turn around and advocate an air wing without support aircraft?  The answer lies in how ComNavOps’ “small” carriers would be used.  In my concept, smaller carriers would ALWAYS be paired with full size carriers and the full size carriers would supply the missing support aircraft.  Thus, in a very real sense, the smaller carrier is nothing more than an extra aircraft barge for the larger carrier rather than a fully capable carrier that can conduct independent operations.  With that operating doctrine in mind, a smaller carrier with a slightly reduced air wing becomes viable.

Let’s address one final aspect of small carriers, because I know it will come up in comments, and that is peacetime.  There is, of course, a need for carriers during peacetime.  The US, for example, insists on using carrier aircraft to plink pickup trucks.  That’s idiotic but, okay, so be it.  What we don’t need is full size carriers doing very low end work.  Instead, we need to build very small, very traditional carriers with very low end air wings.  For example, a WWII Essex class carrier operating an air wing of Super Tucanos would make a very good peacetime carrier and both the carrier and the air wing would cost a fraction of the current cost to build and operate.


  1. Good article.
    What is your guesstimate on cost of the "small" carrier?
    Are you saying the carrier would have about 60 combat aircraft and essentially be a floating runway/ hanger with basic navigation radar close in AA defence etc?
    Could the be used in peace time as your "Super Tucano" carrier, leaving the CVN's to train

    1. "What is your guesstimate on cost of the "small" carrier?"

      Working off the top of my head, here ... The starting point is the cost of the last typical Nimitz which was around $8B. A Forrestal is around 2/3 the displacement of the Nimitz, so 2/3 the construction cost (yeah, I know it doesn't work that way - it's not linear but it gives an indication). Further subtract 2 bow cats which frees up parking space which further reduces the size. Give it a very basic radar suite which reduces cost some more. Make it conventional power which shaves about a billion off the initial construction cost. Operate a smaller air wing which further reduces the overall ship size.

      Add all that up and I think we're looking at around 50% the cost of a Nimitz which would put it at around $4B.

  2. Insightful as always, CNO.

    Somewhat related is this piece of mine that talks a bit about how useless small-deck carriers are:

    ~ Ben

  3. "The British, for example, want to believe that when war comes they’ll simply surge one or two dozen extra F-35’s to the carrier (an absurd belief but we’ll let that slide for the moment) to make a full air wing. Unfortunately, they lack any credible E-2 Hawkeye type aircraft, tankers, or EW support aircraft. Thus, any strike they might launch will be flying handicapped with no tanker support, no EW support, and no surveillance and air space battle management. That’s a recipe for losing a high end battle."

    At a risk of sounding like Sven, sometimes you have to be a little less maximalist in your objectives.
    All of the extras are nice, but they arent necessarily necessary.

    The UK isn't going to invade Russia alone, so can safely rely on friendly enabling assets.
    If we were defending against Russia alone, we would do so from with range of RAF supporting assets.
    That leaves decidedly second tier opponents.

    Its easy to say you need carrier capable AWACS, but there are less than a dozen nations that operate any AWACS at all, and its unlikely the UK would be facing them alone.
    Would it be better to have AWACS, sure, but its not necessarily necessary.

    1. Hey, don't get me wrong. If you can't afford the assets then you make do with what you can afford BUT YOU HAVE TO ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS ACCORDINGLY! The UK is not peer war capable. It's just that simple. On the plus side, the UK/US relationship is such that neither will have to fight a peer war alone.

      My problem with the UK is that what I read about their view of their carriers makes no allowance for being less than war capable. They seem to think they're fully war capable and that kind of thinking - if it's the official military policy rather than just commentators - is going to get people killed for no good reason.

      The post is not directed at the UK, it's directed at the US navy commentators who hold the UK carriers up as examples of small carriers that can fight a high end war and, therefore, believe that the US should build UK style carriers.

      Now, let's also clearly understand that the UK's military shortages are not the result of some physical or magical limit. They're the result of the UK making deliberate choices to spend their money on non-military programs. There is absolutely no reason why the UK couldn't purchase some E-2 Hawkeyes from the US (assuming they can operate from a QE carrier?). It's just a matter of priorities. The UK as a nation has more than enough money but is choosing to spend it on other things. I don't know the UK well enough to say whether those alternative spending objectives are better than spending on the military or not (yes I do - they're not!). That's a decision for the UK people.

    2. The UK lost its real carrier navy when it "s-canned" its big deck Ark Royal with F-4's, Buccaneers, ect. for their downsized and homegrown AV-8B carriers... As a result they were hard pressed against Argentina with a couple A-4's...

      After that they even let that type carrier go to the breaker yard (socialist EU govmint) along with their Nimrods for this "Queen Elizabeth/F-35B scheme"...

      All small beer, no skittles.. Nelson would puke.


    3. I think Nelson would be fairly impressed by a ship 30 times bigger than HMS Victory with magical flying machines. He would probably also be surprised to find that the USA was an ally!

    4. He would also be dismayed and horrified to find that Britain is now a third rate navy.

    5. 2nd Rate maybe, not 3rd. USA and China are more powerful but no-one else. Russia, France and Japan would be peers.

    6. Compare the list of active Japanese ships to the UK's. The UK isn't even close.

      The Russians have far more ships though the quality is debatable. Russian subs are far more numerous and quite capable.

      I'm very sorry to say it but the Royal Navy has become a third rate navy barely on par with France, if even that. I'm not bashing the RN, just objectively assessing it.

    7. I don't agree. In your article you understated the capability of the QE carriers - they can operate up to 48 aircraft - while listing the full range for other types. There will be 2 QEs while France has only a single carrier, and Britain has more escorts, tankers, submarines and amphibious ships - France only has more patrol boats so I'm not sure how you come to your conclusion. Japan may have more escorts but no nuclear subs, no fixed-wing carriers and much less amphibs - you're being selective in your facts by just listing the number of ships.

    8. I assume you're a UK citizen and you're proud of your navy. That's fine but the reality is that the UK has allowed its fleet to decline to third rate levels. My goodness, look at your comment - you're reduced to debating whether you're better than France, another third rate navy!

      As far as a comparison to France and Japan, here are the actual numbers.

      Subs Jap=18 UK=10 Fr=10
      Surf Jap=43 UK=19 Fr=23
      Carr Jap=4 UK=1 Fr=1
      Phib Jap=5 UK=2 Fr=3

      You'll note that Japan's helo carriers are just as capable of operating F-35B's as the UK carrier and, in fact, are investigating that exact possibility.

      I understand pride but you have to be objective as well. In addition, your statements were factually incorrect regarding numbers.

    9. You're comparing SSKs to SSNs and small carriers to medium carriers and counting LCUs as the same as Bay class is just embarassing. It's your blog - if you want to use it to run down one of your few allies, go ahead but I'm just going to delete the link instead.

    10. It's not "running down" to objectively assess something. Of course there are differences between various classes of ship. These are comments, not dissertations - space is too limited to cover every nuance of difference. Besides, none of the differences change the overall conclusion that the UK is no longer a world naval power.

      If that's all it takes for you to run away from an educational blog then, by all means, flee! If on the other hand, you'd like to continue to learn and, maybe, use that knowledge to help push for rebuilding the Royal Navy along better, stronger lines then stay. Your choice.

    11. The problem with the UK and defense is that Britain wants to have a military, but does not want to _pay_ for said military, and every government, whether Conservative or Labour, has embarked on cust cutting and budget slashing and the MoD is quite pennywise pound foolish - as an example, the Lynx Wildcat's datalink was deleted in a cost-saving measure, so unlike Romeo Seahawks, it can't spot a target and datalink video and radar picture back to the DDG, it has to land and the pilot must copy over the relevant data onto a USB flashdrive, and give it to a rating to hand-deliver to CIC.

      Robbing Peter to pay Paul is an unfortunate fact of life for HM Armed Forces, not just the RN.

      As for operating E-2s off QE, the flight deck's long enough but you'd need it to be a CATOBAR setup. Lacking cats and traps, you're not going to be able to launch and recover an E-2 (like I said previously, this is the target market for the AEW EV-22, since you get greater capability in range, loiter and altitude vs an AEW Sea King).

  4. "So, how can I then turn around and advocate an air wing without support aircraft? The answer lies in how ComNavOps’ “small” carriers would be used. In my concept, smaller carriers would ALWAYS be paired with full size carriers and the full size carriers would supply the missing support aircraft."

    Is this kind of backwards? Would it make more sense to have the small carrier supply the support aircraft and the supercarriers supply the strikers and/or escorts? I imagine the ISR, ASW, and tanking aircraft and search and rescue helos are going to need to launch and recover at different intervals than the more numerous strikers/escorts. The small carrier could specialize to a degree so that support aircraft can launch and recover with less disruption to the arming, launch, and recovery of aircraft on the supercarriers. The small carrier could also provide an emergency recovery location for aircraft that suffer malfunctions while the rest of the strike package is launching and provide a place to launch S&R and tankers while the strike package is recovering.

    1. If operational experience suggests a redistribution of aircraft, I have no problem with that.

  5. On the discourse of small-deck carriers acting like the CVLs of WW2, here's an article that talks about this issue using the QE as an example:

    ~ Ben

  6. CNOPs,

    1- Your nomer, "small carriers" is suspect IMpO, because "it ain't" if it needs 4 catapaults and a hanger bay/elevators large enough to accommodate your #2- 90 aircraft (a decent mix you've selected from existing non-purpose built stock..)

    What you really want is a "conventionally powered", Ford-Nimitz (-minus) carrier......

    Without naming it what you really and specifically seem to want is a USS America (CV-66) class sized, conventionally powered, aircraft carrier already known to have accommodated 90+ aircraft back in the olden days of ~199. You know, those days of yore that I am always saying lays the "blueprint" for what we need today... B.L.- look to the past for your future re carriers, carrier airwing compositions, and carrier battlegroups (CSGs) needs. Those days are a better starting point than just continuing what we have experienced the past 20 years...

    Why beat around the bush? And what is it about this generation of "leaders" is that they think they have all the answers when they don't even know the question(s)?


    1. "What you really want is a "conventionally powered", Ford-Nimitz (-minus) carrier......"

      I've stated that my smaller carrier is a Midway/Forrestal size carrier with two cats (waist only) and conventional power. As best I can tell, we're in total agreement.

  7. No- A two cat system hasn't enough redundancy for contingencies (flexdeck ops, etc during conflict), mishaps and mass causalities. Trust me, as an "operator" during the later Cold War when we dominated the seas against a true peer adversary the USSR, we need all that to have the most warfighting capability.

    BTW, America class is better similarity to your "x". Bonafides: Ive spent "years" of my life on all 3- Forrestal, America and Nimitz classes with a stint on the unique one- CVN-65 and of course a visit to a wooden deck- the got some experience.

    Your chance has passed for this brainstorming you know. A new build to this spec would cost as much as Ford.. The system is rigged I say. That is why I am willing to accept the Ford.. but only with a bigger, more "purpose built carrier airwing".. If it works... Although I am getting fed up with its "developmental issues" after development (??) both recurring and developing...

    People keep talking about small carriers, etc and someday we will end up with "Big Navy impotent", "aircraft carrying ships", like the UK or what the USMC envisions for its version of a Navy Department.... None are Carrier Navy proponents and their voices will only take the USA off the list as #1 Navy in the world.


    1. "A two cat system hasn't enough redundancy for contingencies"

      No, it doesn't. Huh? If I recognize the limitation, how can I call for it anyway? It's because you're missing the reason for a smaller carrier. The reason is construction cost. We've reached a point where we're pricing ourselves out of the carrier business. So, given a choice between a steady decline towards no carriers or building some "smaller" (Midway/Forrestal size) carriers that cost significantly less, the only reasonable choice is smaller - while we work on what went wrong with the larger carriers to make each one cost more than the previous even on an inflation adjusted basis.

      Now, how do you create a smaller carrier that costs signficantly less? You have to make some cuts and compromises: conventional power instead of nuclear, simple radar suite instead of near-Aegis, 2 cats instead of 4, fewer support aircraft instead of the total air wing, and so on.

      "That is why I am willing to accept the Ford."

      You've seen the steady drop in carrier numbers as construction costs have risen. We currently have only 10+1 carriers and only 9 air wings. We are firmly on the path to 9 carriers and, eventually, even fewer. If you're willing to ride this elevator down to zero, that's your opinion but I don't see that as an acceptable path, hence, my concept of a smaller carrier.

      You don't have to convince me that a smaller carrier with fewer features is not as capable as a larger one with every feature ever built. I agree completely. We just can't afford it.

      The definition of status quo is a steady decline into irrelevance.

  8. Nuclear super carriers are horrendously expensive. The true cost, not the mythical then year dollars quoted by the Navy, is revealed by Navy estimate of the CVN-81 in FY2019 dollars as $15,088.0 million even after the major forecast reduction in build costs by Navy in lower man hours from Ford, not clear if costs for Phase 1 or Phase 2 delivery, if only Phase 1 as with Ford need to add another billion, then the ~$2.5 billion for the mid-life RCOH and ~$1.5 billion disposal, nuclear would account for ~$2 billion of these costs.

    My argument is that if Navy reverted to conventionally powered super carriers they could build two for the cost of a single Ford nuclear class, no need to build a small carrier, conventional super carrier can take a full fat aircraft wing of 90 aircraft.

    The Brit carrier ~ 70,000 ton cost ~ $4 billion, add an additional $1 billions each for escalation, CATOBAR and increase tonnage and so a ROM of $7 billion and now possible to open build to competition as can use normal shipyards and higher numbers as Navy no longer shackled to the one and only nuclear shipyard of HII NNS monopoly.

    The nuclear power pluses are more than outweighed by the advantages of twice the number of carriers.

    1. "if Navy reverted to conventionally powered super carriers they could build two for the cost of a single Ford nuclear class"

      No. The generally accepted ballpark cost of installing a nuclear plant is $1B. So, the Ford, at $14B+ would only be $13B+ if you swap in conventional power. That's not going to get you any additional carriers.

      Now, if you're talking about reverting to the Nimitz design at $8B and subtracting nuclear power to get $7B then you're in the ballpark of two for the cost of one Ford.

      The rest of your comment about the merits and disadvantages of nuclear power is a separate topic though you make potentially good points about the shipyards.

    2. CNO "No. The generally accepted ballpark cost of installing a nuclear plant is $1B"

      Why think way too low.

      Navy awarded ten year contract for $30 billion in July for the operation of the Naval Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) for the development, production and tech support of Naval Reactors to Fluor Marine Propulsion, LLC, FMP, who are replacing Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corporation whose contract expires Sept. 2018.

      Also Flour additionally awarded contract for an estimated at $13.1 billion, no funds are being obligated at time of award, presuming for 10 nuclear reactors for the FY2019 MYP buy of ten Virginias. IF, if that is the case, $1.3 billion for nuclear reactor for a ~7,000 ton Virginia. Virginia total cost ~$2.8 billion so $1.3 billion for nuclear reactor could be believable.

      Would have thought a nuclear reactor to power the 100,000 ton Ford would be higher cost than a Virginia plus an add on for the installation costs borne by the shipyard for the special nuclear requirements. Then you have add on the four year mid life nuclear refuelling in RCOH and the special costs for the nuclear dismantling. Navy is currently in a quandary over what to do with the world’s first nuclear carrier the Enterprise and how to dismantle ship, one thing is for sure it will cost big money perhaps an additional $1 billion to meet the environmental standards for nuclear.

      That's why think nuclear super carriers are horrendously expensive to buy and operate if you add in all the above costs, NNL $3 billion support a year for nuclear subs and carriers, nuclear reactor build, special costs associated with nuclear shipyard installation, RCOH and dismantling, plus understand the very high crew numbers to run the plant.

      So as you say reverting to a conventionally powered Nimitz for $7 billion would enable procurement of two ships for the price of a single nuclear Ford and with savings in O&M life costs which can hit three to four times build costs maybe three ships for cost of nuclear Ford.

  9. On the design of the small carrier, I understand that you want to use the bow for aircraft storage. But, with waist catapults only, wouldn't that prevent the carrier from being able to simultaneously launch and recover aircraft?

    1. Yes, it would. However, bear in mind a couple of things.

      1. Carriers routinely operate using the waist cats. The bow cats are less commonly used so I'm just structurally reflecting actual practice.

      2. Carriers rarely - almost never - simultaneously launch and recover aircraft.

      3. Carriers operate in flight cycles. A group launches and then, after some period of time the group recovers and another group is launched. Aircraft do not normally launch and recovery individually at random times.

      4. No one, least of all me, is disputing that removing some features from a full size carrier in order to make a smaller carrier will result in a less capable carrier. It absolutely will. The challenge is to make a smaller carrier that is significantly less costly. That can only be done by eliminating some capabilities and compromising on others. If you have better ideas for reducing costs that will maintain the full complement of cats, please tell me!

    2. The reason for my question is that the final configuration of the Midway had two bow catapults. The Coral Sea had two bow and one waist catapult. Even the Charles de Gaulle has a bow catapult.

  10. Would there be an issue with power for the cats on a non nuclear ship?

    1. We operated four cats on non-nuclear supercarriers for years so I don't see why there would be. We tend to forget what we've long ago accomplished!

      Even if we wanted to go EMALS, providing power shouldn't be an issue. The Zumwalt is claimed to have the power of a supernova for future lasers and rail guns so if we can build that kind of power plant in a Zumwalt we should be able to power EMALS in a conventional carrier.

    2. "We operated four cats on non-nuclear supercarriers for years so I don't see why there would be."

      Those were steam cats, on the other hand, not electrical cats. No lightning, just steam pressure. Just saying.

      Also, it's not quite as simple as power generation, there's so many other things involved: how much fuel you drink in the process, the energy requirements (let's face it, the Zumwalt railguns aren't going going to be firing 31 tons of aircraft off a deck on a regular basis), storage for bunker fuel and aviation fuel, etc etc etc.

    3. "Those were steam cats,"

      That's absolutely fine. Steam cats have some major advantages over EMALS.

      I don't know what point, if any, you're trying to make but we operated steam cats on the conventionally powered Forrestal for many years so it's absolutely doable.

      The person who started this may have been asking if EMALS could run on a conventional carrier - it wasn't clear from his question. If that's what he was asking, my reply citing the Zumwalt seems a reasonable response. Fuel storage and other factors have nothing to do with energy for a cat system.

      Power is just a matter of adding a sufficient number of generators. Pretty straightforward and a carrier would certainly have enough room!

    4. "I don't know what point, if any, you're trying to make but we operated steam cats on the conventionally powered Forrestal for many years so it's absolutely doable."

      The Forrestals had steam propulsion. A modern, conventional carrier wouldn't. Instead they would likely use a combination of diesels and gas turbines.

      You'd need separate donkey boilers to generate steam for steam cats.

    5. That's fine. I don't care what type of cat system is used as long as it works!

      The Navy seems determined to use EMALS so I would assume an improved version of that would be used.

  11. On the topic on the COIN carrier, I've always wondered what the minimum viable size of such a vessel would be. The Thai ship has a tiny displacement (maybe a bit more than a WW2 CVE), but when you're operating Super Tucanos, I would expect the ability to fly off the deck given a good headwind.

    One thing I've wondered is if any coast guards operate far enough afield that there would be a use for something like a CVE operating STOL maritime patrol craft (Twin Otters or analogous platforms), including the possibility of using the old (cruiser/battleship) practice of launching seaplanes/flying boats and retrieving them using a crane.

    On a semi-related note, some high-speed ferries/experimental ships like Sea Fighter are capable of speeds almost fast enough to tow an An-2 around like a kite.

    1. The WWII Essex or even the Yorktown class operated air wings of 90 aircraft that were the size of Tucanos. So, 770 ft and 25,000 tons displacement would certainly do the trick. How much smaller you want to go depends on what size air wing you want. For peacetime pickup plinking, I'd guess an air wing of around 30-40 would suffice.

      The Commencement Bay class escort carrier was around 570 ft long and 24,000 tons and carried an air wing of around 34 aircraft, if that gives you a feel for a smaller option.

  12. I'm reminded of the CSBA study on the USN's future force assessment last year (2017). CSBA was arguing for CVLs to augment the carrier's air wing for BARCAP - their idea was that the fastest way to make this happen was to build more Flight 0 America-class LHAs (at least as the initial starting point), flying F-35Bs. CSBA acknowledged the STOVL F-35B's limitations in range and payload vs the CATOBAR F-35C, but the argument was that the shorter range and lower payload would be less of an issue for F-35Bs operating as BARCAP, since BARCAP missions mean carrying A2A loads (AMRAAM, afterall, is 300 lbs to a Mark 83's 1000 lbs), and while the B has half the C's range, that doesn't matter when you're doing BARCAP around the carrier. The other weaknesses of small carriers - no EW, tanking or AEW - are covered by the CVN, which would house the Growlers, Hawkeyes and drone tankers.

    I'm not entirely sure I buy their reasoning, but it's not the worst idea I've seen floating around.

    1. "it's not the worst idea I've seen floating around."

      It's a horrible idea. For starters, the America class LHA can only carry around 20 F-35B's. That's a very poor package for a $4B ship. As you note, not only is it a very small package for the cost but the F-35B's capabilities are limited.

      Also, BARCAP does not operate around the carrier. BARCAP (Barrier CAP) is generally associated with a strike package and is placed somewhere out along the strike's path in such a way as to interdict anticpated intercepts. It's a barrier between the strike and enemy aircraft at a single point (as opposed to escorts that accompany the strike). I suppose one could set up a CAP between the carrier and an anticipated threat axis and call it a BARCAP but, again, that would likely be much further out.

      Normal CAP would operate around the carrier.

      Also, using a LHA for mini-carrier work takes a highly valuable and scarce amphibious ship away from its main job. Now, if we have no amphibious work to do then that's fine although risking a scarce and valuable amphib doing carrier scut work, just to gain 20 limited capability aircraft, is not the wisest resource allocation.

      As I recall (it's been awhile since I read it) CSBA failed to grasp the operating doctrine of carriers, specifically that they would operate in groups of 3-4 so an extra 20 F-35B's would contribute little. Far too many military professionals continue to consider units in isolation rather than in realistic operational scenarios and with realistic doctrine.

    2. "It's a horrible idea."

      I'm damning with it faint praise. :V

      "Also, using a LHA for mini-carrier work takes a highly valuable and scarce amphibious ship away from its main job. Now, if we have no amphibious work to do then that's fine although risking a scarce and valuable amphib doing carrier scut work, just to gain 20 limited capability aircraft, is not the wisest resource allocation."

      I agree, and the Marines will scream bloody murder at losing amphibs to carrier escort, although, like we've talked previously, it's questionable if we can indeed use LHDs and LHAs to force landings on contested shores. Perhaps CSBA's thinking is that if you're not going to be able to force a landing, you might as well repurpose that hull. *shrug*

    3. The America is also significantly slower that the rest of the ships in the CVBG, so using it in the suggested fashion seems like it would hamper the mobility of the rest of the carrier group.

  13. We should stop building Ford's. Finish the Enterprise with EMALS if it is working but get rid of the arresting system and go back to using the Nimitz' arresting gear. There is no sense in completing another CVN with faulty arresting gear! After 7+ years of trying, I have no faith that the Navy is capable of fixing this fatally flawed system. The other 3 Ford's will have to have their arresting gear removed ASAP (I know, half the flight deck will have to be removed) but what use is a CV that cant't launch and recover fixed wing aircraft?

    I'm going to use CNO's previous idea and call for the new construction of 4 Nimitz carriers with the A1B power plant and no other major changes. There should be enough fuel to run 40 years without refueling. This would make the mid-life refit much cheaper and faster.

    I would also add 4 Kittyhawk CV's just as CNO outlined them, for a total of 12 carriers.

    Since 2 out of 12 carriers will be unavailable do to maintenance/repair most of the time, Eight FULL air-wings for the CVN's plus 3 fighter/attack air-wings for the CVs seem about right.

    After years of neglect and deferred maintenance during the Obama Presidency, it will take years to recover. The Navy is not exonerated, during this time period the Zumwalt was built (3), the LCS was built (tooo many) instead of funding repair and training for ships, aircraft, and personnel.

  14. A lot of 25,000 carriers like the Clemenceau-class or the SCB-43 CVE proposed in the 1950s is what the US Navy needs instead of the America-class LHA.

    These carriers could receive 2 catapults designed for small fighters like the Vought V-1600 I mentioned in an earlier post and would concentrate on the low end tasks (convoy escort, ASW hunter-killer groups, ground troops support) and free up the big carriers for the heavy lifting.

    What I'm envisioning is something akin to the Royal Navy's plans in late WW2 : a few high-end Audacious/Maltas backed up by many low-end Colossus/Centaurs.

  15. I have plenty of problems with this article, but I shall pick just three.

    "The British, for example, want to believe that when war comes they’ll simply surge one or two dozen extra F-35’s to the carrier (an absurd belief but we’ll let that slide for the moment)".

    Well historically this is what happened in the Falkland's war, so not absurd. Going from half a dozen Sea Harriers to intercept the odd Russian bomber to large complements. In the end 90%+ of the Sea Harrier fleet was deployed (no mean feat given the maintenance requirements). Was it perfect? No, but in war you can't hope for perfect just what works.

    "Thus, our minimum effective air wing size still stands at 90.  There’s no getting around it"

    Well this is a highly contestable assertion, the author appear to have one particular engagement in mind and tailored the whole equipment structure to fit. History certainly doesn't show that this is the only wing size that works. The biggest issue I have have is the ignoring of sortie generation and focusing on airframes. Sortie generation and the ability to sustain those sorties over days weeks is a better metric than air-wings.

    "smaller carriers would ALWAYS be paired with full size carriers"

    Never let yourself in war be wedded to your pre-war concepts, being too doctrinaire is a weakness. Once the enemy get their vote you might just have to adapt and compromise.

    1. Aardvark, here's an alternate introduction to your comment:

      "I enjoyed this thought provoking article and it inspired me to offer some additional thoughts ..."

      See how the tone is immediately friendly and invites discussion instead of being adversarial and argumentative? You'll still get to make your points but can do so in a non-confrontational manner.

      Okay, with that out of the way, let's address your points.

      As far as surging for war, this blog is focused on US Navy matters and major, peer level war. The RN surge to the Falklands was a second or third rate RN fighting a 4th or 5th rate Argentine military. That's not even remotely the scenario we're discussing.

      In the Falklands conflict, the "surge" amounted to, what, a couple dozen aircraft? For the peer level war that we're concerned with, that amount of surge would be absolutely meaningless and nearly useless.

      As far as the air wing size, again, this is geared at the US Navy and peer wars. For peacetime or minor conflicts any carrier and any air wing will do, as the Falklands conflict demonstrated.

      As an interesting though experiment, imagine if the Falklands had been China, today. What would a surge of a couple dozen F-35s accomplish? Absolutely nothing. The US Navy is concerned with global/peer wars, not minor conflicts. If you can handle a peer war, you can handle a minor conflict.

      Historically, a 90+ aircraft air wing IS THE ONLY ONE THAT WORKS. WWII fleet carriers all carried 90+ aircraft. The Cold War continued that level. It's only the last few decades that we've forgotten what is required to win a peer war and started to let budgets determine our air wing size instead of combat capability.

      Sortie generation is an irrelevant red herring. Carrier ops are never sortie limited because carriers don't operate that way. Carriers operate in pulse mode, meaning that a large strike is launched and then, hours later, recovered. Sortie rate is not an issue. You need to study actual carrier ops.

      As far as doctrine, you absolutely need solid doctrine to adhere to. You do everything you can to ensure that you've got the right doctrine but, ultimately, in order to train effectively you have to have a doctrine. Otherwise, you can't train.

      Train like you fight, fight like you train.

      The analogy in sports is to focus on what you do well, perfect it, and make the opponent adapt to you instead of the other way around.

    2. CNO, I think your proposed fleet structure has a one major flaw. It is designed for big units battles that will probably never come in a war with China (the only naval power on par with the US).
      If you look at China's coastline, you realize the chinese are essentially trapped in both China Seas by South Korea, Japan, the Phillipines, Taiwan and Vietnam. All of these countries would offer sufficient infrastructure to the US forces to render the use of carriers redundant.
      In fact, the obvious US strategy in a war with China would be to cut the vital trade routes. Such a war would be waged mainly by conventional subs and land based airpower, and wouldn't require a 27 large carriers force structure IMO.
      What are your thoughts ?

    3. I apologise, I had not meant to appear hostile. I do enjoy your blogs' confronting of what appears to be a very complacent defence establishment.

      On the British, my issue was with that you appeared to contend that an RN policy was "absurd" rather than it would be absurd to apply it to the USN.

      On air wing size, in WWII you would often find a USN carrier with 20 crated airframes for spares and replacement for attrition. Active air wings were often smaller than 90. Of course there were more than just Fleet Carriers, at Leyte Gulf, the USN had 8 Fleet Carriers and 26 Light/Escort. RN carriers often traded Air Wings size for survivability, so am not sure sure the historical record supports only large carriers with 90+ air wings as having utility. Post War the USN certainly went for large carriers although this was in large measure due to the desire to deliver nuclear payloads. I still do think there was a strong case for escort carriers for Reforger convoys.

      On sortie generation, perhaps it is just a difference on terminology between us. Also carriers have a wider range of options and demands upon them than just launching large strikes.

      I certainly agree that you need a doctrine to train to, my concern was the inflexibility of the "ALWAYS", in a wide ranging conflict in Pacific+combat losses your doctrine might well have to adapt. If you can make your opponent conform to your will that is excellent but you should not rely on it.


    4. "In fact, the obvious US strategy in a war with China ...
      What are your thoughts ?

      Force structure directly reflects geopolitical and military strategy. I've posted on this so check the archives. It's far too large a topic to cover in comments. I'll just briefly say that the blockade strategy results in no more than status quo at the end. This is unacceptable. If people are going to die then we need to end the Chinese threat permanently. Think of a strategy that will do that and then you'll have the force structure you need and, likely, the one I'm proposing.

    5. "I do enjoy your blogs' confronting of what appears to be a very complacent defence establishment."

      I'm glad you get something out of it and I'm happy to have you contribute comments.

      "Active air wings were often smaller than 90. "

      No, not really. Fleet carriers were right around 90. On any given day they might be a few less due to momentary attrition or transfers or whatnot but US fleet carriers were designed for and did operate right around 90. Check it for yourself and you'll see.

      "RN policy was "absurd" rather than it would be absurd to apply it to the USN."

      RN policy is absurd if they believe they can take part in a high end, peer war which seems to be what the RN "officials" are suggesting. If, on the other hand, they recognize their limited combat capability then that's fine - they're doing the best they can with what they have. And yes, the comment is meant to be applied to US naval observers who believe that the US can apply the RN model to peer level war - that is absurd.

      "RN carriers often traded Air Wings size for survivability"

      Now that's a great observation and one well worth discussing. Was that a good tradeoff or not? The US went flimsy flight decks and lots of aircraft, putting their faith in defense from the aircraft rather than the ship's structure. The RN went for armored flight decks and smaller air groups, putting their faith in the ship's structure. The advent of kamikaze attacks made the issue vitally important. However, actual war experience did not seem to settle the issue one way or the other. Both approaches had advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, the US went the route of BOTH in their supercarriers. Our carriers now have armored decks and [theoretically] large air groups. Of course, the drawback to this solution through combination is the cost and size. This would make a good post topic. Any thoughts you want to add on this?

    6. Armoured Carrier, trade offs, comparing designs a big and very interesting discussion.
      Fortunately someone had done it better than I could hope to,
      This article and the armouredcarriers .com generally is a fascinating and detail account of WWII RN carrier operations and it has plenty relevance for those interested in the US side.
      I hope there isn't some rule about posting links.


    7. Good link. I wasn't aware of it. Thanks.

      I've read the Slade and Worth essays on Navweaps. I just took a skim of the link you provided. My initial impression is that it is somewhat petty and nitpicky without altering any of the conclusions but I'll have to take some time and go over it in detail before a final judgement.

      The author seems not to address the issue of threat versus air group size which is a central point but, again, I'll have to give it a closer read to be sure.

    8. The RN carriers were designed for 36 f-35, which even with the b variant would be far more powerful than 20 f 35 and 24 super hornets. The only equalisers in this scenario would be the growlers and Hawkeye's, but since the UK would most likely be fighting Russia in a peer war, and therefore close to its airbases, it is likely that a sentry or in future a wedgetail would be available. The latter is comparable to the e 2 Hawkeye. Yes, the us carrier air wing would be able to carry more missiles, but the UK air wings missiles are superior, except for anti shipping. See brimstone against hellfire, spear 3 vs sdb 2 and meteor vs amraam. Of course, whether the UK can afford all that is another question, here we are discussing whether the concept is militarily viable.

  16. This discussion has devolved into specious economic arguments and alternative routes to Naval mediocrity.. dead end brainstorming.

    This nation once had a notably powerful Navy only 30 years ago. The CV(N) was unchallenged on the seas with its potent airwing and capable, diverse battlegroup. Surely we can learn from that time? The BG dealt with complex air, surface, subsurface threats simultaneously in blue water or green, 24/7, for several days at a time before we had to witdraw and replenish. The navy carrier airwing of over 90 aircraft of that time- purpose and mission built, with dedicated 300-400 nm VF coverage cued/uncued, potent long range medium attack with standoff weapons, persistent fixed wing VS ASW, all the organic tankerhoses we needed in the air without the USAF big wings, the US Navy could handle the threat from our main "peer adversary" the Soviet Union and keep them at arms length. Yes sportsfans, it came down to strategy and tactics but that comes from having options/capability... I know that power existed because I was "in it" unless Ive gotten so old I aint remembering right... IMO, there is too much simplicity in any argument above including yours CNOPs...Solly Sir..

    BTW, out of my over 700 traps (over 250 night..) they were split 50/50 waist and bow..Cyclic ops were much longer at 1+45 then standard, vice todays 1+15. During hi tempo ops (war/exercise) we had the luxury with our larger airwings and 4 cats, to conduct flex deck ops- basically launching and recovering all the time.. which is what War at Sea 2018 WILL come to for any real fixed wing aircraft carrier, and not a contingency brushfire carrier like the "USMC" owned USS America" w/F-35Bs.. Thats because the enemy will force it..

    It basically comes down to numbers of the right mix/capability of "stuff"... Don't forget the numbers. Mo' is better.. IE- the numbers of stuff- ships, subs, aircraft. Yep. Numbers are expensive to have..even for a superpower. If you cant pay, dont talk about playing. Anything less wont hack it and will get people Defeat.. No real American should accept that.


    1. I have no fundamental disagreement with anything you've said. I have only one question, since you're unwilling to consider any other approach than Ford class carriers, how do you envision maintaining the number of Ford class carriers we need given their cost?

      Reminder, we're down to 10 carriers and 9 half size air wings.

      If you can produce a viable answer to my question then I'm 100% with you.

    2. Tongue in cheek, don't build upside down distroyers, useless trimarans, and overpriced cvn's that don't work. Instead but small cheaper "frigates" for asw etc, and build carriers only with tech that works. Seriously though I do like you "super basic" carrier extra runway, hanger idea.

    3. CNOPs- Let me be as viable and specific as I can..

      If this was 5-7 years ago and we were having this discussion I would have bailed in a heartbeat for the default Nimitz or even considered a conventional CV but the supercarrier approach w/4 cats, 100K tons displacement would be must haves.

      But here we are...with the USS Ford which does have some attributes if they only can get the big issues resolved... And big they are...cats, AG and propulsion... And it is also expensive.. I would estimate we have about $20-25B billion in development (NRE) to date for Ford invested (anyone correct me if I'm wrong..) already.

      In this forum you are discussing/espousing starting from scratch to develop a new supercarrier class (minus)..I can bet that effort alone would cost as much or more than Ford and meanwhile, time goes on....China rising/Russia resurgent..

      Much as I dislike it lets make Ford work and be ruthless and brutal about it... Reasons-schedule/money.

      Yes, we need 12 carriers with 90 aircraft air wings. To me that is bedrock nominal Sir...we used to have 15 back in the day... Oh will be expensive. To me its either that or we become just another nation...

      The antithesis of the large deck argument occurs when we hear those touting that the America class capital "ship" w/F-35Bs or some other foreign approach like the QE or the French carrier(God help us...), as being similar/substitutes to a real aircraft super carrier... They are not and never will be and anyone who touts them does not understand true sea power. Selecting them would automatically relegates us comparable to our adversaries capabilities. I aint French..yet.


    4. You still have not answered the question, how do you envision maintaining the number of Ford class carriers we need given their cost?

      Answer the question. Give me a viable way to pay for $15B-$20B carriers and maintain a 300 or so ship fleet. If you can provide a viable answer, I'm with you 100%. You simply saying you want more Fords doesn't explain how to make it happen.

      I've been through the math of ship costs, fleet size, and budgets. What we're doing now is leading, inexorably, to smaller and smaller fleet numbers.

      Either answer the question or acknowledge that you have a wish but no plan. I hear loud and clear what you want. What I don't hear at all is, how???

    5. "This discussion has devolved into specious economic arguments and alternative routes to Naval mediocrity.. dead end brainstorming."

      The reality is the USN is down to 10 carriers and 9 half sized air wings. The build rate for nuclear aircraft carriers is limited by nuclear capable shipyards. Aircraft carriers are only built at one shipyard, it doesn't have to be that way, but it currently is.

      Dead end brainstorming coming right up!

      Combustion powered aircraft carriers could be built in any shipyard by any shipbuilder. The production of combustion powered aircraft carriers by builders other than Newport News Shipbuilding (HII) would allow for the acquisition of the skills needed to build a nuclear aircraft carrier in the future. The nuclear reactors are not built by Newport News shipbuilding, they just install them. Competition for carrier builds (Combustion vs Nuclear, Combustion vs Combustion, Nuclear vs Nuclear(eventually)) will drive down prices. Lower prices will result in more carriers in the fleet.
      Combustion powered carriers should be viewed as increasing the air wing capabilities of the Nuclear carrier and not solely on their own capabilities (which will still be greater than other navies carriers)

      Sorry, that was the specious economic argument. This is the dead end brainstorming!

      What does the EMALS do? It accelerates the aircraft to a velocity whereby, the aircraft produces sufficient lift that it does not fall out of the sky and get run over by the carrier (bow cats only, waist cats crash into the sea)
      Could a carrier launch aircraft without EMALS or catapults without a loss in capabilities?
      Maybe, here comes the dead end brainstorm!
      The lift needed for take off from the carrier would be provided by a UAV (think really big Quadcopter/Octocopter)designed to be attached to the aircraft. The UAV/aircraft would lift off from the deck of the carrier with the UAV providing the lift needed at slow speed and the aircraft providing forward thrust. The UAV and the aircraft would decouple when the forward speed of the aircraft produced sufficient lift to prevent a water landing. The UAV would then return to the carrier to be mated to the next aircraft to be launched. The concept could also be used by the USAF to allow takeoffs from bombed out runways or no runways at all. The number of UAVs would dictate the redundancy of the system. Four UAVs would have the same redundancy as the current carriers.

      "A two cat system hasn't enough redundancy for contingencies"

      F-15X for the USN and the USAF?

    6. CNOPs,

      $15BN you say?...Well that's what they will cost.. Do the rest of the math yourself x number required... If you want Naval defense that's what it will cost...Sorry. If we skip this class it will take another 20 years to see a prototype...

      A redesigned conventionally powered (diesel, gas turbine?), 95K ton carrier with 4 cats will cost maybe 10% less (best case in todays $$) and take 5-10 more years to even get started. That's the fact of the matter. Less of a carrier than that and it gets even worse...

      Reality intrudes as usual. My actual, real experience at the leadership and warrior operator level of what it takes (both ship/aircraft) of fighting the ship or delivering weapons against a big navy adversary, makes it painful to be the bearer of this bad news...

      When is the "future" Mr. Woltman?.. I want security in your lifetime like we had in mine. There are no shortcuts or gimmicks gonna get us there. As far as I know there is no "Manhattan Project" or secret super weapon at Area 51 to make our enemies stand down. It's like Smith-Barney used to say...


    7. b2,

      The "future" does not exist in reality, but we have to plan for it none the less. The future is influenced by the sum of the past and the present action. We do not possess foreknowledge but we can use experience and data to predict probable futures and plan accordingly.

      We want the same thing "security".

      Your experience is valuable and I do not dispute the need for 12 Ford/Nimitz class aircraft carriers, but what you advocate based upon your experience may not be as valuable in the future and what you deride because of your experience may be what is turns the tide of battle, the future will tell. You earned the right to your opinion but I will not defer to your opinion if I think you are mistaken. I will try to persuade you to see an alternative possible future that your experience may blind you from seeing. If you comment with courtesy you can expect the same from me.

      I am advocating for numerical and technological supremacy in war and the carriers alone do not have sufficient depth of firepower for the future peer conflict. The peer has changed and they can produce more tools of war than the last peer. China can produce more steel and ships than we can at present. Attrition of war materiel will occur and we have a choke point for the production of aircraft carriers. I am not advocating for shortcuts or gimmicks. I am advocating for alternative complementary capabilities. A carrier for unmanned aircraft that does not require catapults or arresting gear should be designed for those assets and at a much lower cost than the Ford/Nimitz carriers. Ideally, less than $2 billion a ship.
      Unmanned assets are the present and future of warfare and the USN will need huge numbers to project power. Such a carrier should also support aircraft that could take off and land from the deck without the need for catapults or arresting gear (KC-130J, F-35B, Future stealth naval tanker)

      War still follows the rules of economics. I would rather not be rebuilding a navy at the start of conflict but the current build rate for carriers and submarines will result in loss of capabilities in the near future. Past decisions are limiting our current options.
      The shipbuilding industry is a strategic asset and we have neglected to safeguard it from economic warfare. We are already engaged in economic/asymmetric/hybrid warfare with China and Russia and need to respond to the threat before we are weakened economically to the point we are unable to assure our security.

  17. There are no helicopters listed is your carrier air wing description. Today's carrier air wings have one maritime strike squadron of SH-60Rs and a sea combat squadron of SH-60Ss, with some of the Romeos attached to the carrier's escorts for ASW.

    Aside from being the only carrier-based ASW platform available, the Seahawks also perform plane guard duty during carrier operations and provide a combat search and rescue capability. Even a small carrier as described would probably need some helicopters for plane guard duty alone.

    Where do helicopters fit in your carrier air wing?

  18. I always feel like the total costs never really get assessed between conventional and nuclear carriers. The cost of drydocking, the careers of all the nuclear propulsion types, manning, availability for deployment. What if we prioritized a carrier in the Med over Persian Gulf? Next, open up other shipyards for the work. The only operating yards with gantry cranes spanning a carrier deck beam are Ingalls and NNS, but what if the hulls got their own competition and moved to the other yards for completion of the flight deck. It would potentially open up NASSCO and Philly Shipyard. Each would need to ramp up some capacity but you could build out a hull about 994 x 131. Compromise on the overall propulsion power by using 4 of the 36.5 MW PMMs that came too late for DDG-1000. That would be 195,789 hp. Main propulsion power would be 4 x LM6000 at 41.6MW (before hooked up to a generator). Then probably 4 x 16V PA6B diesel gensets similar to what's already in the Fords since those are the largest diesel gensets already in the fleet. I'd want the catapults to stay the length as on CVNs to lessen strain on the airframes so it would probably cut the number down to 2 or 3 with at least 1 bow and 1 waist. The third being where ever it will best aid operations. Basically, keep designing down so you can reach a cost where you can commission 1 every 32 months and you can block buy them 3 at a time. Maybe make 1 of each 3 into an upscale LHA with out catapults and arresting gear fitted in a tight budget.

    1. "I always feel like the total costs never really get assessed between conventional and nuclear carriers."

      You're right in that the cost "answer" is whatever you want it to be by manipulating what gets considered in the cost total.

      As far as opening up other yards to carrier construction, anything we can do along those lines would be welcome. We have only one nuclear carrier capable yard and, if I were an enemy, I'd sabotage that yard at the outset of a war!


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