Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The U.S. Needs A New And Different Type Of Aircraft Carrier

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Midway, with assigned Carrier Air Wing 5, entering Subic Bay, Philippines, 1981 (PHCS Steven Harris, USN/U.S. Defense Imagery Photo/VIRIN DN-ST-84-00324)

Jerry Hendrix, National Review: The Aircraft Carrier We Need

A strategic design update is due

On April 24 the U.S. Navy announced that a fifth weapons elevator had been certified for use onboard the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78). (A weapons elevator lifts munitions, such as bombs and missiles, from the storage area to the flight deck.) Six more elevators remain uncertified, requiring additional testing and modifications before the carrier can be deployed. Originally estimated to cost $10.5 billion to build, the ship was officially “delivered” to the Navy in May 2017, some 18 months behind schedule, at an eye-popping cost of $12.9 billion. However, even those cost numbers and dates are misleading, as the ship still does not have all of its essential systems certified, owing to major difficulties with its ship-service turbine generators, electromagnetic aircraft-launch systems, advanced arresting gear (the apparatus that slows down aircraft as they land on deck), and finally its weapons elevators. The upshot of all of these difficulties is that the Navy has been forced to use dollars from its crucial operations-and-maintenance accounts to “repair” a brand-new ship, for which it had already paid $13 billion, that has yet to deploy operationally, despite having officially been in the fleet for nearly three years.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: A sobering essay.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are some simplistic and optimistic assumptions that are made by the writer.

First, logistics. He talks about UCAVs that cost more than F-35Cs. One of the advantages given for UCAVs are that they are more expendable. This implies that more losses would be sustained by them and that the need for replacements would be greater. This undermines the argument that one is saving money pursuing this route.

Second, he talks about these UCAVs staying airborne for days at a time. This is advantageous over manned aircraft because UCAVs don't suffer pilot fatigue. The problem is that like any aircraft, they do suffer material and engine fatigue, which would drastically shorten the lifespan of the aircraft. The other problem is that they still require fuel, so a tanker would be required to required to provide that. The logistics, cost, and amount of fuel to sustain that would be incredible. One could burn an entire year's worth of fuel consumed by the average fighter jet in 1-2 weeks doing this for just one UCAV.

Third, probably most importantly, is the misconception of what aircraft carriers are purposed for. Simply speaking, there purpose is to provide air power, particularly strike aircraft, where land aircraft can't easily operate. In other words, they're meant to operate in the middle of the ocean, not right beside land. There's a modern assumption that aircraft carriers must be able to strike mainland China from within 500-1000 miles at will and for sustained periods. Because of anti-denial missiles, aircraft carriers would not be able to bomb China from this distance so they're useless. Even without these missiles, the Chinese would have a massive advantage against any aircraft carrier with just their land based aircraft.

If we consider the pinnacle of carrier warfare, WW2, there are hardly any instances of American or Japanese carriers striking each other's mainland. Rather, they were used extensively to limit each other's fleets and sea lanes from operating freely, to allow their own fleets to operate freely by attacking isolated and remote enemy air and naval bases, and for supporting amphibious forces.