What’s the problem? Why has this situation occurred? Can we do anything about it?
Let’s start by asking, why do we even have a problem? It’s because we did something very foolish some time ago: we combined an aircraft carrier and a troop transport to get the LHA/LHD. The LHA/LHDs are gigantic ships that cost a fortune and cram both the aviation element and the ground element together in the same ship. Talk about concentrating risk! If we lose a LHA/LHD, we lose both elements and several billion dollars worth of investment.
|Wasp Class LHD - Ground + Aviation|
Yeah, that’s true, you say, but that’s the way it’s always been. Wrong, bilge breath! In WWII those functions were separate. Let’s recall how it was done then.
The aviation element, in WWII, was contained on a small escort carrier. This carrier was free to maneuver and remain well off from the landing site because a few dozen, or more, miles meant nothing to the airplanes. Thus, the carrier could provide effective support for the ground troops without having to risk the ship, itself.
The troop transports (APA attack transports) were free to move in near shore to unload their troops into landing craft. Being smaller, with the risk widely dispersed, the transports were expendable in the sense that the loss of one would not cripple the entire assault.
We need to return to this model. We need to separate the aviation and troop transport functions.
We need to build small carriers that house the assault aircraft and that have no other function. These small carriers can stand as far off from the landing site as needed.
We also need to reevaluate what constitutes assault aircraft. If the assault aircraft are dedicated to ground support (as opposed to air-to-air fleet defense) then they don’t necessarily need to be high performance stealth fighter designs. They could, potentially be more akin to an A-10 or Skyraider.
We need to build small (on a relative basis) WWII type troop transports, each with a couple dozen landing craft (which also need to be designed and built). This reduces the cost, disperses the risk, and makes a landing actually feasible again.
Eliminating big deck amphibious ships and breaking them up into small, separate, ground support carriers and troop transports reduces risk, reduces cost, and increases the feasibility of amphibious assaults. Let’s do it, Navy!