“The carrier strike group’s combat power is impressive, but when combined with an Expeditionary Strike Group, like the America ESG, it is unparalleled,” said Rear Adm. Stuart Baker, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 9. (1)
This statement demonstrates that the Admiral hasn’t got the faintest idea of how a carrier group and an amphibious group would work together. The reality is that they wouldn’t! Never have, never will.
Carriers don’t operate with amphibious groups. Carriers can’t be tied to a geographic location which is what an amphibious group must do. Carriers act to support amphibious groups from afar – way, way afar. The carrier’s job in an amphibious operation is to provide distant interdiction of enemy counterattacks. The entire history of WWII demonstrates this.
Yes, in WWII there were light/escort carriers that directly supported the assaults by providing close air support. Today, we call those light/escort carriers amphibious ships. The Navy, for better or worse, has combined the functions of the light/escort carrier and the attack transport into a single LHA/LHD. The fleet carrier is simply not part of the amphibious group in any way, shape, or form.
|Roosevelt and America Sailing in Formation|
The Admiral is further misguided (or lying) when he states that the combination of a carrier group’s power and an amphibious group is ‘unparalleled’. The carrier air wing consists of around 44 Hornets plus a dozen assorted AEW, EW, tankers, and ASW helos. The addition of the typical 6 F-35Bs that an LHA/LHD carry would add next to nothing to the aviation combat capability of the carrier.
Similarly, the carrier has nothing to add to the ARG’s ground combat capability. The two groups have nothing in common, operationally, don’t operate together, and do nothing to enhance each other’s capabilities or any mythical combined capability.
Returning to specifics, here’s what the article actually listed as specific training evolutions during the exercise.
Assets participated in a variety of evolutions to include air-to-air training, steaming in formation, maneuvering, and establishing joint communications to rapidly enable a command and control environment. (1)
Some air-to-air training is always good but the rest is just routine sailing and talking – hardly an exercise of joint amphibious operations. Thus, the commanders are either complete babbling morons or they’re just spewing nonsensical garbage for public relations purposes which is, or should be, beneath them and just makes them look like idiots.
Admiral Baker isn’t alone in his lack of understanding about carriers and amphibious groups. The amphibious commander is equally misguided.
"Expeditionary strike force operations combine the kinetic combat and 5th generation capabilities of the America Expeditionary Strike Group with the truly impressive air power of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group," said Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group Seven. "Merging our two teams into one makes the Expeditionary Strike Force greater than the sum of our parts… (1)
As before, this Admiral also cites the combination of the carrier’s aircraft and the amphibious group’s half dozen or so aircraft. It makes no discernible difference, Admiral!
Finally, there’s the utter idiocy that these Admirals apparently think that one carrier and one amphibious ship somehow constitute a viable war unit. They don’t. If we ever conduct a war time amphibious assault, it will be with our entire amphibious fleet and several carriers providing distant interdiction. Whether a carrier and LHA can sail in formation is utterly irrelevant and a complete waste of time. Sailing in formation? Really? Is that what these pitiful excuses for admirals think a war time operation is about? Is sailing in formation what constitutes a combat exercise now?
What about that air-to-air training? As I said, any A2A training is good but if an amphibious group’s F-35Bs are ever engaged in actual A2A it means that our carriers have failed (probably sunk) to interdict enemy forces, our amphibious aviation element is no longer supporting the ground troops, and the amphibious group is in extreme danger and is probably in the process of being destroyed. So, while A2A training is never a waste of time, it would be last on the list of aviation training evolutions for amphibious aircraft. A2A is simply not their job and if it becomes their job, we’ve screwed up big time.
On a related note, since there are no F-35Cs deployed on carriers, yet, who/what was the amphibious group’s F-35Bs training against? As the Air Force has already assured us, the kill ratio for F-35s against 4th generation fighters is infinity:0. If one believes the Air Force, no F-35 has ever been defeated in a training exercise so what’s the point of A2A training against carrier F-18s and vice versa?
Under different circumstances, I’d be tempted to just write this off as a photo op and Navy spin for public relations consumption - wasteful and pointless but harmless. However, I truly believe that our admirals and officers think this really is legitimate preparation for war and that’s frightening. I believe that they think this is actually how a war will be fought: an isolated carrier, an isolated amphibious ship or group, and, if we really need a massive effect, a joining, in formation, of a single carrier and a single amphibious ship. Why wouldn’t I think this? Our Navy leadership constantly tells us that this kind of exercise is the cutting edge of modern naval firepower. Since none of them have ever fought in a real naval battle, how would they know differently? They clearly haven’t studied naval history or they wouldn’t be doing and saying these things. We’ve grown a generation of leaders who have no idea what naval combat is like and it shows in every exercise they conduct and every statement they make. I take them at face value that they are the idiots they appear to be.
(1)Commander, US Pacific Fleet website, “Theodore Roosevelt, America strike groups conduct joint operations in 7th Fleet”, 15-Feb-2020,https://www.cpf.navy.mil/news.aspx/130558