The Navy Wants to Retire a Ship That’s Only Six Years Old


Littoral Combat Ships were once seen as the future—no longer.

BY KYLE MIZOKAMI

FEB 12, 2020

  • The U.S. Navy has unveiled plans to retire the first four Littoral Combat Ships, the youngest of which is only six years old.
  • The LCS program has been problematic for more than a decade, with the lightly armed ships coming in over budget and with technical problems.
  • The entire LCS fleet could eventually go on the chopping block as a new class of frigates comes online in the mid 2020s.

The U.S. Navy wants to retire four ships of the controversial Littoral Combat Ship class, including one ship that is just six years old. The four ships all have at least 10, if not 20 years of service in them but are currently non-deployable test ships not rated for combat. It’s unclear why the Navy wants to dump them when at the same time it is trying to reach a fleet of 355 ships by 2030.

he Navy wants to retire the first two ships from the Freedom class of Littoral Combat Ships, USS Freedom (above) and Fort Worth, commissioned into the fleet in 2008 and 2012, respectively. It also wants to retire the first two ships of the Independence-class. USS Independence, the lead ship in the class, was commissioned in 2010. USS Coronado was just commissioned in 2014, making it less than six years old.

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program has been fraught with problems since its conception in the early 2000s. LCS was originally inspired by the concept of a small (500 ton), nimble, heavily armed “Streetfighter” of a ship capable of duking it out with large ships while operating in coastal regions and island chains. This gradually morphed into a much larger ship, lightly armed, and equipped with interchangeable, self-contained “mission modules” that allowed it to become a submarine hunter, minesweeper, ship-killer, or commando transport within hours.

LCS was an ambitious program. One ship, forward deployed in the South China Sea for example, could swap modules to fulfill different roles without having to return to the U.S. to undergo an expensive and time-consuming refit—at least that was the theory.

A series of design problems proved major shortcomings. The Navy prioritized ship speed (up to 47 knots, or 54 miles an hour) over range, which made LCS less useful in countering the fleets of great powers such as China and Russia. The ships, as Task & Purpose points out, suffered a series of high profile breakdowns and embarrassing cost overruns the Pentagon tried to conceal from the public. The ships have scarcely more armament than a Coast Guard cutter, relying on the mission modules to supply anti-submarine and anti-ship weapons, and they were only capable of defending against aerial threats to the ship.

Another major problem: after more than a decade of development none of the mission modules are fully operational. The high performance engines that gave the ships blazing speed at sea proved troublesome, so much so that in 2016 the Navy took the first four ships out of frontline service and turned them into test ships for the rest of the LCS fleet. The remaining 12 hips of the LCS fleet, lacking the mission modules that gave them purpose, have for years been unable to deploy to fulfill the key missions.

The early decommissioning of the first four Littoral Combat Ships is a bad look for the Navy. The Navy is desperately trying to hold onto its plan to increase the fleet to 355 ships, and decommissioning four ships—one only six years old—runs completely contrary to that plan. It is surprising that the U.S. Navy cannot find the justification to keep these ships in service until at least until 2030, even continuing to use them as training or light duty vessels.

This is probably the beginning of the end of the Littoral Combat Ship program. The U.S. Navy is preparing to build a new guided missile frigate, FFG(X), and the shipbuilding budget for 2021 is 20 percent less than 2020’s. The Navy is being squeezed for cash, and it seems likely that LCS, still without mission modules, will be retired as the new frigates roll out of shipyards. The only saving grace for the LCS is if the FFG(X) program also balloons in cost and experiences delays. Sadly, that’s not an inconceivable scenario.

Source: Popular Mechanics “The Navy Wants to Retire a Ship That’s Only Six Years Old”

Note: This is Popular Mechanics’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean whether I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Sixth-gen Fighters Already on the Drawing Board


By Jon Lake

June 15, 2019, 6:30 AM

Photo PCA

Penetrating Counter Air

A U.S. Air Force “Air Superiority 2030” study has defined the areas of research and development leading to the next generation of fighter aircraft called “Penetrating Counter Air.” (Photo: USAF)

Plans for a new sixth-generation U.S. Air Force (USAF) “Penetrating Counter Air” fighter aircraft concept are advancing, and Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman have all unveiled sixth-generation fighter concepts or artist’s impressions. It will, however, be many years before any resulting aircraft makes a Paris air show debut.

Current efforts stem from a 2016 USAF “Air Superiority 2030” study, which concluded that the Air Force would need to acquire a “Next Generation Tactical Aircraft” for air superiority and air dominance. The new aircraft would replace the Boeing F-15 Eagle and the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, complementing the USAF’s F-35As.

The Penetrating Counter Air (PCA) aircraft represents one element (the air domain platform component) in the USAF’s Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) analysis of alternatives. This is expected to encompass a future family of air superiority capabilities that will together allow the USAF to control the air and space domains. They will allow the USAF to operate in the anti-access/area-denial (A2AD) environment, holding targets at risk even in highly contested airspace.

This family of systems and capabilities will include communications and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and command and control systems, and a host of existing and future platforms and weapons, and include various means of delivering non-kinetic effects such as electronic attack and cyber-warfare.

But the family is still expected to include a new, high-end PCA platform: a manned fighter providing air dominance, air supremacy, air interdiction, and precision strike.

Such a fighter would be expected to incorporate a high degree of stealth and sensor fusion and to be armed with very long-range missiles and perhaps Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs). Artificial intelligence might allow the aircraft to be a single-seater and it could even incorporate provision for optional manning. It could also operate in conjunction with swarming drones.

All of this could result in a long and complex development program and high costs at a time when U.S. defense budgets will be stretched by a range of competing priorities. It could also result in relatively rapid obsolescence, because adversary capabilities and technology will inevitably move on in the time that it takes to develop and field a fighter produced via a traditional large-scale program, necessitating an early upgrade or an urgent replacement.

BRIDGE TO THE FUTURE

But an alternative approach has been outlined, not least by General Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command, who recently looked back at the “Century Series” of fighters of the late 1950s as a model of rapid turnover projects. which were rapidly developed and fielded, but which were expected to serve for a short time (seven to 10 years) before being withdrawn from frontline service.

A modern counterpart to this strategy would allow an air advantage to be maintained, a process that cannot be static. The U.S. would keep multiple development programs active, shifting investment into the most promising and fielding upgrades to in-production fighters rapidly and frequently, and producing new platforms when they offered a significant advantage.

These new aircraft could be less expensive to procure and sustain than today’s fighters because they would not be expected last 30 years or 20,000 flying hours and would be produced in relatively small numbers, with overlapping programs producing several new types in each “generation.”

Confusingly, the NGAD acronym used by the USAF is also being used to describe a separate U.S. Navy analysis of alternatives. This covers the search for a replacement for the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and E/A-18G Growler, with service entry in the 2030s. The basic requirement is to better protect the Navy’s aircraft carriers, which are becoming more vulnerable to advanced long-range anti-ship cruise missiles and ballistic missile systems.

The two NGADs are not related or connected and there are no plans to merge the efforts or to pursue a joint fighter program, since the two services’ requirements are very different, although some senior officers have suggested that there could be some procurement of common systems and subsystems to be integrated with both new next-generation fighter aircraft. The Navy has fought suggestions that it should simply procure a navalized version of the USAF’s PCA. The Navy does not want to pay for capabilities that it will not use, and it may pursue some commonality with the F-35C, which may result in a “cheaper” F/A-XX (what the Navy has provisionally dubbed its new fighter).

While the USAF continues to place great emphasis on low observability (or stealth) to penetrate enemy airspace, the Navy’s deputy director of air warfare, Angie Knappenberger, has said that the Navy will not need its F/A-XX to penetrate enemy airspace and instead plans to use standoff missiles for deep-penetration missions or it will hand such missions over to the Air Force.

Instead, the Navy is expected to focus on increased range, because range is perceived to be a significant limitation for the current carrier air wing. It may also focus on speed. Stealth will play some part but is viewed as being just one element in a wider survivability equation. The Navy is also working on ultra-lightweight armor and counter-directed energy technologies.

The Navy may not acquire a new manned fighter at all, but could instead network shipboard systems and multiple manned and/or unmanned aircraft. It could decide to procure additional Super Hornets, Growlers, and F-35Cs, perhaps in upgraded form, rather than developing an exotic new platform with transformational capabilities.

Source: aironline.com “Sixth-gen Fighters Already on the Drawing Board”

Note: This is aironline.com’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships Are a Slow, Broken Mess


The service is refusing to accept any new deliveries until Lockheed Martin fixes a major defect.

BY KYLE MIZOKAMI

JAN 21, 2021

The U.S. Navy is refusing deliveries of more Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships from Lockheed Martin.

Officials have discovered a defect in the propulsion system affecting all of the ships.

The stop acceptance order doesn’t affect other Littoral Combat Ships from rival shipmaker Austal.

The U.S. Navy is refusing to accept delivery of additional Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) from defense contractor Lockheed Martin. The Navy has identified a defect with the ship that has led to at least two breakdowns among Freedom-class ships, and the service won’t take any new ships until the defect is fixed.

The defect is yet another setback for the LCS program, one of the most troubled Navy shipbuilding programs in recent memory.

The problem, U.S. Naval Institute News reports, is a flaw in the bearings system that links the Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbine engines to the Colt-Pielstick diesel engines. The two engines combined can push a Freedom-class LCS ship to a top speed of 40 knots, or 46 miles per hour on land. The LCS class was designed with speed in mind, to better operate in coastal environments, sprint between islands, or zip in and out of range of enemy weapons.

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The Navy began the LCS program in the mid-2000s, buying two separate designs from shipbuilders Lockheed Martin and Austal. The service envisioned the LCS as a small, adaptable, frigate-sized warship that could quickly onboard “mission modules” to orient the ship toward anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, anti-mine warfare, and act as a mobile base for special operations.

But the mission module program has been a flop, producing few, if any, working modules and leaving the ships under-armed and under-equipped.

There have also been several propulsion system breakdowns in the Freedom class. USS Detroit and USS Little Rock, both Freedom-class ships, have experienced breakdowns that the Navy now believes were due to the class-wide defect. The Navy ultimately plans to buy at least 16 Freedom-class ships from Lockheed Martin.

Now that the Navy has identified the problem, it’s up to Lockheed Martin to fix—and pay for—it. The Navy, Lockheed, and OEM equipment maker Lenk AG have designed a replacement part, which will undergo testing before being back-fitted to ships already in the fleet. It’s unclear how long it will take to upgrade the ships. In the meantime, existing ships are limited to 35 knots.

Source: Popular Mechanics “The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships Are a Slow, Broken Mess”

Note: This is Popular Mechanics’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


The US Navy Has Drifted Badly Off Course


Three main failures are imperiling the sea service, writes the service’s former chief learning officer.

JOHN R. KROGER | SEPTEMBER 21, 2020 10:53 AM ET

COMMENTARY NAVY PERSONNEL

During the past year, I worked in the E-Ring of the Pentagon as the Navy’s chief learning officer, reporting directly to the Secretary of the Navy. For much of that time, I attended the secretary’s senior staff meetings and participated in periodic intelligence and war games briefings. I was deeply impressed with the professionalism and integrity of the men and women with whom I served. I was disturbed, however, by many signs that under the Trump Administration, the Navy has drifted badly off course.

Over the last four years, the Navy’s civilian leaders have failed to define a compelling vision for the Navy’s future, reform a badly broken ship design and acquisition system, or build a diverse, high-performing leadership team. These failures – caused, in part, by rapid turnover in leadership, with five different Secretaries or acting Secretaries of the Navy serving on average for only nine months — have damaged Navy effectiveness, undercut morale, and jeopardized national security.

The primary naval responsibility of every administration is to define the navy the United States will need in coming decades to protect national security. This strategic vision is developed and shared publicly through a process called “future force assessment.” The current administration has utterly failed to meet this responsibility. The most recent Navy force assessment was issued in 2016, during the Obama Administration. Since that time, we have seen the development of remotely controlled drone naval vessels and subs, a new National Defense Strategy, and the rise of Chinese naval power. These events have rendered the 2016 assessment obsolete, but no new blueprint has been issued. The Navy completed a classified draft in 2019, which I analyzed at the request of then-Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly, but that effort and its associated ship-building plan died on the drafting table, widely criticized inside the Pentagon for unrealistic assumptions and flawed analysis. In response, Defense Secretary Mark Esper stripped the Navy of its responsibility to design our future navy and assigned the task to his staff, an unprecedented development reflecting total lack of faith in the service’s leaders and its strategic planning capability. As a result, the Navy – our nation’s experts on naval combat and strategy – has lost the power to define its own future.

The Navy’s ship acquisition program is also struggling. If we want to maintain the world’s strongest navy in the face of aggressive Chinese construction plans, we need to acquire powerful, cost-effective manned and unmanned ships in significant quantities. The last three major surface warship programs, however, have been disasters. The construction of the USS Ford aircraft carrier has been plagued with delays, cost overruns, and technology failures. The hyper-expensive Zumwalt-class destroyer program was cancelled after construction of three prototypes, not the 30 originally planned, because the costly ships serve no clear naval purpose. And the Littoral Combat Ships, dubbed the “Little Crappy Ships” by some sailors, are being decommissioned decades ahead of schedule because their maintenance and upgrade costs far outweigh their limited military value. These failures have resulted in a remarkable development in this highly partisan era: a call from the top Senators of both political parties on the Senate Armed Forces Committee for reform. Despite this abysmal track record, the Navy’s civilian leaders have not made any fundamental changes to our acquisition system or ordered a high-level review to identify a better way forward.

Finally, the administration has failed to develop a diverse, high-performing leadership team. Today, the Secretary, Under Secretary, all three Assistant Secretaries, the Chief and Vice Chief of Naval Operations, the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, Chief Information Officer, and Chief Management Officer are all white, and all but two are men. In senior meetings in the E-Ring, the overwhelming majority of participants are white males. African-Americans comprise 17 percent of the enlisted force, but only 5 percent of the admirals. If you believe that diversity of viewpoint and experience improves decision-making, this should concern you. We need a Navy leadership team that draws upon the entire diverse strength of our nation.

To fix these problems, the Navy needs to implement a series of fundamental reforms. The Department of the Navy needs to create a joint Navy-Marine Corps think-tank inside the department staffed by leading naval thinkers from universities, think tanks, and the uniformed services to lead and integrate strategic planning, force assessment and wargaming, so we can bring greater creativity and analytic rigor to the design of the future Navy. Instead of mindlessly repeating past acquisition mistakes, we need to empower a high-level expert panel to review recent ship design and purchasing failures in order to identify the weaknesses of our system and initiate reforms. This should include implementation of more sophisticated risk analysis and management procedures, so we can avoid the problems that have plagued the Ford, LCS, and Zumwalt programs. And we need a revolutionary commitment to diversity and inclusion, starting at the top, that changes the way we recruit, assign, promote and mentor officers and civilian executives of color.

Our sailors and Marines – and our country — deserve better. Fixing these problems is not impossible, but it will take a real commitment to change.

John Kroger is Vice President at the Aspen Institute. A Marine Corps veteran, former college president, and past Attorney General of Oregon, he served as chief learning officer of the Navy and Marine Corps from 2019 to 2020.

Source: Defense One “The US Navy Has Drifted Badly Off Course”

Note: This is Defense One’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Eyeing China, Pentagon plans larger, ‘more lethal’ navy


  • Defence chief calls Asian superpower top US security threat as he outlines ‘game-changer’ plan to expand sea fleet from 293 ships to more than 355

  • Boost to arsenal includes autonomous vessels, submarines and aircraft, and will add tens of billions of dollars to US Navy budget between now and 2045

Agence France-Presse

Published: 6:38am, 17 Sep, 2020

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin conducts routine operations in the East China Sea in August. Photo: US Navy handout

Secretary of Defence Mark Esper announced on Wednesday an ambitious plan to expand the US Navy with a range of unmanned and autonomous ships, submarines and aircraft to confront the growing maritime challenge from China.

The Pentagon chief said a sweeping review of US naval power dubbed “Future Forward” had laid out a “game-changer” plan that would expand the US sea fleet to more than 355 ships, from the current 293.

The plan, which requires adding tens of billions of dollars to the US Navy’s budget between now and 2045, is aimed at maintaining superiority over Chinese naval forces, seen as the primary threat to the United States.

The future fleet will be more balanced in its ability to deliver lethal effects from the air, from the sea, and from under the sea,” Esper said in a speech at Rand Corp in California.

US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper speaks during a press conference at the Pentagon in January. Photo: AFP

The expansion will add “more and smaller” surface ships; more submarines; surface and subsurface vessels that are optionally manned, unmanned and autonomous; and a broad range of unmanned carrier-based aircraft.

The plan is for a fleet of ships more able to survive a high-intensity conflict, to project US power and presence, and to deliver precision strikes at very long distances, he said.

An example, Esper added, is a new guided missile frigate programme, producing ships with “increased lethality, survivability, capability and capacity to conduct distributed warfare”.

He also said trials were under way on the Sea Hunter, a 132-feet (40-metre) trimaran drone that can autonomously survey the seas for rival submarines for more than two months at a time.

These efforts are the next step in realising our future fleet, one in which unmanned systems perform a variety of warfighting functions, from delivering lethal fire and laying mines, to conducting resupply or surveilling the enemy,” Esper said. “This will be a major shift in how we will conduct naval warfare in the years and decades to come.”

Esper reiterated that China is the top US security threat and that the Indo-Pacific region is the “priority theatre” for the US military.

Not only is this region important because it is a hub of global trade and commerce, it is also the epicentre of great power competition with China,” he said.

A Pentagon report on the People’s Liberation Army released early this month said that Beijing has the world’s largest naval fleet with 350 ships and submarines.

Still, Esper stressed, the Chinese navy lags in strength and capability.

Even if we stopped building new ships, it would take the PRC years to match our capability on the high seas.”

Esper said reaching the goal of 355 ships means the navy will have to grab a larger per cent of the Pentagon budget, but also that the United States has to put more resources into expanding and modernising shipyards, where China has a clear advantage.

Source: SCMP “Eyeing China, Pentagon plans larger, ‘more lethal’ navy”

Note: This is SCMP’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


RETHINKING THE U.S. NAVY’S CARRIER FLEET


ANGUS ROSS JULY 21, 2020

Overhead_view_of_USS_Gerald_R._Ford_CVN-78_and_USS_Harry_S._Truman_CVN-75_in_the_Atlantic_Ocean_on_4_June_2020_200604-N-OH637-1453
Image: U.S. Navy (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Riley McDowell)

In guiding his design teams for the crucial Royal Navy reforms in 1905 — an effort that produced HMS Dreadnought and a new generation of battlecruisers — Britain’s First Sea Lord, Adm. Sir John “Jackie” Fisher, said that “in approaching … ship design, the first essential is to divest our minds totally of the idea that a single type of ship as now built is necessary, or even advisable.” His point was to break his team away from orthodox thinking and to encourage them to develop new ideas. Fisher did not want their creativity constrained by traditions and legacy designs.

In stark contrast, last month the incoming U.S. Navy secretary called a halt to a study on the future of the country’s fleet of 11 aircraft carriers. The “Future Carrier 2030 Task Force” was asked to test how large, nuclear-powered carriers might stack up against the new generation of long-range precision weapons being fielded by China and Russia. While the loss of an individual study doesn’t necessarily mean that the Navy has stopped thinking about the future of its carriers, it is nevertheless a great shame. The Navy’s new shipbuilding plan is still very much under development, and reportedly “reliant on new classes [of aircraft carriers] that don’t exist yet.” There has never been a better moment for a fundamental reassessment of the country’s naval posture. In the words of one analyst, “If the fleet were designed today, with the technologies now available and the threats now emerging, it likely would look very different from the way it actually looks now.”

Specifically, the worry about cancelling the Navy’s own study is that the questions the service ought to be asking itself will probably not see the light of day. Yes, the Pentagon’s Future Navy Force Study will continue, but this is more concerned with the Navy’s contribution to an overall Department of Defense effort, and is not focused on the Navy’s force structure questions per se. In the past, such losses in naval thinking have not gone well. For the carrier force, the key questions would have to include the following: First, is it necessary that all new carriers can deliver a whole air wing capability, which is taken to include fighter and strike aircraft, airborne early warning, electronic warfare, and tanker capabilities? While the United States needs this capability, particularly when dealing with sophisticated rivals, it’s not clear that all carriers need to have it. In fact, it may be possible to carry out future missions with a “Hi-Lo” mix of carrier capabilities, in which the less demanding missions would still be ably accomplished by the smaller, less-capable ships. Second, given the expected budgetary pressures after the pandemic, will the United States actually be able to afford the current plan to buy 10 to 11 Ford-class carriers without hopelessly disrupting the balance of the fleet in the process? History and the experience of U.S. allies would suggest that this is unlikely. Some are even suggesting that the Navy will have to be prepared for drastic reductions in its size.

The idea of the Navy trading off a proven capability for the many uncertain new technologies included on the Ford-class carrier has been contentious from the start. Moreover, a full Ford-class program is likely to be financially unsustainable in the long-term. As a result, the time is ripe to cut the number of Ford-class carriers from 10 or 11 to six, and instead build four to five smaller carriers to maintain the congressionally mandated numbers. At the same time, the possibility exists to augment these still further with a “lightning carrier” derivative from the amphibious ship fleet. While the Navy faces an increasingly austere budget environment, the service still has opportunities to grow the fleet if it thinks outside the box. Moreover, it needs to adopt the “distributed lethality” concept as a fundamental pillar of naval operations. The greater flexibility that such a combination will provide will more than compensate for any loss of individual carrier capability.

What the United States Needs from Aircraft Carriers

Aircraft carriers enable four key missions for the Navy: gaining maritime situational awareness, neutralizing enemy naval power, carrying out short-term raids and strikes against specific targets, and acting as an “airfield at sea.” The first two form a part of the broader idea of gaining sea control. The oldest of them all, the “eyes of the fleet” — that is, the gaining of intelligence and maritime situational awareness — is as valid today as ever, and is a necessary precursor to almost all other maritime operations. It directly links to the second (and arguably the most important): the neutralization of the enemy’s naval power. For both of these, the modern carrier air wing offers the opportunity for long-range effects; effects that theoretically can be delivered outside the range of an enemy’s defenses. Only a complete carrier air wing capability would be sufficient in a conflict with China or Russia. In other words, these two missions need a carrier that can operate such an air wing which, at the moment, means a Ford or Nimitz type of carrier. It is inconceivable that a world-class navy would willingly walk away from these two missions.

The third and fourth missions are also linked. In the “raiding” situation, it is often appropriate for a carrier air wing to conduct limited power projection or a “strike” over contested land in order to accomplish a given objective or to influence events ashore. In this case, the effects are likely only temporary, just sufficient to accomplish the goal and recover to the safety of the open ocean.

Alternatively, such coercive pressure may be required for an extended period, in which case the carrier falls into the fourth and final mission: that of the “airfield at sea.” In this situation, a permissive environment is necessary, or else one in which the necessary sea control has already been achieved by earlier operations. In either case, the actual act of deploying airpower over land may not require the full capabilities of a carrier air wing, particularly when operating against less sophisticated opponents, for example powers like Libya or Syria. This would seem to offer some flexibility, particularly for navies that have a range of carrier capabilities. Since World War II, the U.S. Navy’s carriers have operated almost exclusively in these latter two roles.

Is a High Sortie Generation Rate a Misleading Metric?

In measuring airpower, the numbers of combat sorties that a given air force can generate over the enemy in a 24-hour period has long been a respected metric. In short, the more sorties that can be generated, the greater chance that the necessary effects will be realized. Since carrier air wings basically operate as small, detached air forces, such a metric is attractive in this debate, although it can actually be dangerously misleading if applied too simplistically.

Long a selling point of the large carrier, sortie generation rates have been controversial for decades. A recent RAND study that was commissioned by the Navy to look at future aircraft carrier options was unconvinced that this metric remains useful for today’s potential conflict scenarios. Citing the key performance parameter for the Ford class of 160 to 220 tactical sorties in a 12-hour period, with a short “surge” capability beyond that, the study found that a number of conditions would have to be in place for this to be realized. First, the carrier would have to be operating close to the coast and the air wing flying relatively short distances. Second, the tactical and planning conditions would have to be ideal.

The study analyzed the Gulf War and the Iraq War, scenarios where these provisos were considered most likely to occur, and clearly demonstrated that high sortie generation rates are rarely needed in practice. In fact, the listed sortie generation rate for the Nimitz class of 120 sorties in a 12-hour period has never been achieved in normal operations, nor has it been necessary in the ships’ lives thus far. It would seem that whatever capabilities carrier aviation brings to the fight, these very high sortie generation rates are not the most important. Also, given the reality of the improved anti-access capabilities of powers like China, it would appear that, for the foreseeable future, such figures will be impossible to achieve in any case, since the carriers will necessarily be operating further from the coast, at least initially. Therefore, analysts need to move beyond solely judging carriers in terms of their sortie generation rates.

Why a “Hi-Lo” Mix Makes Sense

The U.S. Navy should pursue a “Hi-Lo” mix of Ford-class carriers, a smaller and cheaper fleet carrier, and even smaller “lightning carriers” in its fleet. When it comes to carrier operations, one size does not fit all. After World War II, the fleet carrier found favor in the U.S. Navy, most likely because of its flexibility and the fact that it can accomplish a multitude of missions. However, U.S. carriers have been conducting missions that rarely require their full capabilities. In other words, they are over-specified for the tasks at hand. This begs the question: How much more flexibility would naval planners have if they had a range of carrier capabilities to use?

Interestingly, the three navies who have made significant use of carrier aviation during the last century (the American, British, and Japanese navies) have found that a fleet composed solely of large fleet carriers was out of their reach financially, no matter how much they may have wanted them. As a result, all three nations resorted to a combination of fleet carriers augmented by a greater number of less-capable ships: the numerous light carriers and escort carriers of World War II fame. In the case of the United Kingdom and the United States, this was resoundingly successful. While it’s true that the wartime budget added to the perception that each country could afford to develop different types of carriers, resources during the war were not unlimited. In addition, the limited capabilities of the lesser ships actually enhanced the availability of the fleet carriers in their prime mission areas.

Both London and Washington tried to reserve their scarce fleet carriers for the more important sea-control missions while using the less-capable light carriers for specialist missions such as anti-submarine warfare, convoy protection, and amphibious landing support. The idea was that the large, fast fleet carriers would first gain wide-area sea control so as to facilitate the access of the supporting forces. Lighter, less-capable carriers would then take over the local sea-control requirements to allow amphibious operations or the protection of the sea train. This, in turn, would free up the fast carriers to continue with their wide-area operations elsewhere. In effect, the possession of a range of carrier capabilities allows the fleet as a whole to achieve much more.

As Fisher’s reforms in early 20th-century Britain show, times of austerity have also produced great naval advances. As the expression goes, necessity is the mother of invention. In theory, there is absolutely no reason to doubt that such a useful symbiosis is equally achievable today. For example, the same RAND study mentioned earlier looked at four modern carrier options aimed at saving money. These options included building a “de-tuned” Ford class of similar dimensions but with fewer systems (e.g., electromagnetic aircraft launch systems, volume search air defense radars, passive defense systems, and a reduction in reactor core life, etc.); a lighter, cheaper, nuclear carrier of around 70,000 tons; a developed America class optimized for F-35 operations; and a smaller, 20,000-ton “escort” carrier with even more limited capabilities. Interestingly, however, the study made light of the idea of a “Hi-Lo” mix of capabilities, perhaps because it was focused on alternatives to the Ford class.

Given its initial aims, the authors of the study rightly dismissed three of the options — “de-tuning” the Ford class, developing an “escort carrier,” and pursuing an LHA-6 America-class carrier optimized for F-35 operations. Of these options, the first was dismissed as not offering sufficient savings for the loss of capability incurred. Similarly, the “escort” carrier was dropped because it offered no advantages over the larger, America derivative and would be even more disruptive to the Navy in terms of its employment doctrines. Finally, the America derivative was rejected on account of its inability to host a complete air wing capability, specifically the early warning and electronic warfare missions. This left the 70,000-ton nuclear carrier as the only option that the study felt was worthy of further discussion.

The study offers helpful insights, but it also misses the point of the original Sen. John McCain white paper that commissioned the task force in the first place. The white paper specifically asked for an investigation into moving from “large deck amphibious ships to small aircraft carriers,” while the study only explores one aspect of this, namely a cheaper aircraft carrier. Whereas the smaller nuclear carrier was aimed at reducing the “fast carrier” bill, the “lightning carrier” derivative with F-35Bs can offer a huge capability in its own right, even without a complete air wing and particularly as an augmentation to conventional carrier operations. In other words, the “lightning carrier” would represent more of a re-purposing of the amphibious warfare segment of the budget (to provide it with more effective airpower), which in turn would take some load off the fleet carriers. Obviously, minor deck modifications to the America class platform and the inclusion of an early warning MV-22 vertical lift aircraft variant would improve things still further.

Skeptics highlight a variety of reasons why smaller carriers are a bad idea. Smaller carriers are slower, harder to sustain, less productive on station, and arguably more vulnerable than large carriers. There is no doubt that smaller carriers are more limited than larger carriers in terms of their operating parameters and endurance. But that is not the point. When operating in tandem with a smaller number of large fleet carriers, they can offer the air planners flexibility by assuming much of the routine air tasking. This in turn gives the fleet carrier the freedom to focus exclusively on the high-end fight. Also, so many of the objections are based on the original AV-8/Harrier jump jet limitations and do not take into account the game changing capabilities of the F-35.

Suggestions for a Range of American Carriers

If anything good is to come out of the tragic USS Bonhomme Richard fire in San Diego last week, it just may be that the disruption it causes to the Navy’s deployment cycle, and the prospects for furthering the Marine Corps’ “lightning carrier” ideas in particular, might force a debate about the size of the Navy’s carrier and amphibious assault ship fleet. Numbers are crucial in the development of flexibility. To this end, the Navy should consider a reduced Ford–class buy and purchase fewer large-deck amphibious ships. These latter units should instead be progressively replaced with two carrier types with fewer capabilities.

First, the Navy should cap the Ford class at six units. This will allow some headroom in the budget while still providing the minimum number of carriers required by the Indo-Pacific theater for the high-end fight. The assumption here is that, for the foreseeable future, China will continue to be the only maritime threat that mandates Ford-level carrier capabilities. The fleet carrier should also return to her historical roots as a platform to perform the essential missions associated with wide-area sea control and the occasional very long-range power projection over land in sophisticated air defense environments. Essentially, this means a switch in priorities from power projection from the sea (airfield at sea) to power projection over the sea with the object of gaining and maintaining wide-area sea control. Priority should also be given to developing the MQ-25 drone tanker (or equivalent) to increase the effective range of the air wings.

Second, the service should replace the remaining Nimitz units with four cheaper, 70,000-ton nuclear carriers, as recommended by the RAND study, to fulfill the congressionally mandated figure of 11 carriers. This responds the nuclear infrastructure concerns and offers a complete carrier air wing capability, albeit with a reduced sortie generation rate, to less vital theaters and missions. While a useful option for other navies, a conventionally powered variant of this platform probably does not make sense for the U.S. Navy, given its experience planning around nuclear-powered carriers.

Finally, the Navy should develop six “lightning carriers,” or variants of the America platform, optimized for the provision of medium-range airpower, including the deployment of F-35Bs. These can provide the Marine Corps with improved air support, thereby taking more weight off the fleet carriers. The provision of an early warning variant of the MV-22 vertical lift aircraft should also be a priority. Such carriers should be capable of taking exclusive control of carrier missions at the lower end of the range of military operations, again giving navy planners more flexibility. These platforms would be partially “paid for” by the gradual retirement of the large-deck amphibious ships.

This program is unlikely to save the Pentagon much money. It would, however, generate crucial operational flexibility for the Navy. Provided that the designs utilize as much technological commonality with the existing America and Ford classes as possible, supply chain concerns can be minimized. With careful project management, it should be possible to stay very close to the current expected costs of the 11-unit Ford program and the existing amphibious ship budget.

Even though the Navy has shelved a study on the future of the aircraft carrier fleet, the service should continue this important conversation elsewhere. These suggestions represent low-risk improvements, and yet the operational flexibility benefits would be enormous. In the words of Julian Corbett, only the U.S. Navy has the true freedom to make far-reaching strategic choices. It does so secure in the knowledge that well-chosen steps will cause competitors headaches by driving them into areas that are less advantageous to their aims. This is no time for the Navy to shy away from the tough choices.

Angus Ross is a professor at the U.S. Naval War College. He spent 25 years on active duty in the Royal Navy as an anti-submarine warfare specialist before retiring as a commander in 2000. He has taught ever since at the Naval War College and is a distinguished graduate of that institution. He also holds a masters in history from Providence College. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author alone and are not an official policy or position of the U.S Naval War College or the Department of the Navy.

Source: warontherocks.com “RETHINKING THE U.S. NAVY’S CARRIER FLEET”

Note: This is warontherocks.com’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


US Shipyards Lack Needed Repair Capacity, Admiral Says


And that’s just in peacetime.

MARCUS WEISGERBER | AUGUST 27, 2020

NAVY INDUSTRY CHINA

America’s shipyards lack the repair capacity the Navy needs in peacetime, let alone during war, a Navy admiral said Tuesday.

Rear Adm. Eric Ver Hage, who leads the Navy Regional Maintenance Center and directs the service’s surface ship maintenance and modernization, became the latest senior officer to paint a grim picture of a shipbuilding sector that has struggled to repair vessels on time and on budget.

We don’t have enough capacity for peacetime,” Ver Hage said during a Navy League webcast Tuesday. “We have so much to be proud of, but we’re not as effective or efficient [as we should be]. We can’t get ships delivered on time with the predictability that we need today.”

The admiral pointed to the lengthy times to repair the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyers were heavily damaged during separate collisions with commercial ships in 2017. It took nearly three years to repair the Fitzgerald and more than two years for the Navy to repair the McCain.

It will be a “massive effort” if the Navy chooses to repair the USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault ship severely damaged in a fire last month, Ver Hage said.

Source: Defense One “US Shipyards Lack Needed Repair Capacity, Admiral Says”

Note: This is Defense One’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Sixth-gen Fighters Already on the Drawing Board


by Jon Lake

– June 15, 2019, 6:30 AM

Penetrating Counter Air
A U.S. Air Force “Air Superiority 2030” study has defined the areas of research and development leading to the next generation of fighter aircraft called “Penetrating Counter Air.” (Photo: USAF)

Plans for a new sixth-generation U.S. Air Force (USAF) “Penetrating Counter Air” fighter aircraft concept are advancing, and Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman have all unveiled sixth-generation fighter concepts or artist’s impressions. It will, however, be many years before any resulting aircraft makes a Paris air show debut.

Current efforts stem from a 2016 USAF “Air Superiority 2030” study, which concluded that the Air Force would need to acquire a “Next Generation Tactical Aircraft” for air superiority and air dominance. The new aircraft would replace the Boeing F-15 Eagle and the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, complementing the USAF’s F-35As.

The Penetrating Counter Air (PCA) aircraft represents one element (the air domain platform component) in the USAF’s Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) analysis of alternatives. This is expected to encompass a future family of air superiority capabilities that will together allow the USAF to control the air and space domains. They will allow the USAF to operate in the anti-access/area-denial (A2AD) environment, holding targets at risk even in highly contested airspace.

This family of systems and capabilities will include communications and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and command and control systems, and a host of existing and future platforms and weapons, and include various means of delivering non-kinetic effects such as electronic attack and cyber-warfare.

But the family is still expected to include a new, high-end PCA platform: a manned fighter providing air dominance, air supremacy, air interdiction, and precision strike.

Such a fighter would be expected to incorporate a high degree of stealth and sensor fusion and to be armed with very long-range missiles and perhaps Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs). Artificial intelligence might allow the aircraft to be a single-seater and it could even incorporate provision for optional manning. It could also operate in conjunction with swarming drones.

All of this could result in a long and complex development program and high costs at a time when U.S. defense budgets will be stretched by a range of competing priorities. It could also result in relatively rapid obsolescence, because adversary capabilities and technology will inevitably move on in the time that it takes to develop and field a fighter produced via a traditional large-scale program, necessitating an early upgrade or an urgent replacement.

BRIDGE TO THE FUTURE

But an alternative approach has been outlined, not least by General Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command, who recently looked back at the “Century Series” of fighters of the late 1950s as a model of rapid turnover projects. which were rapidly developed and fielded, but which were expected to serve for a short time (seven to 10 years) before being withdrawn from frontline service.

A modern counterpart to this strategy would allow an air advantage to be maintained, a process that cannot be static. The U.S. would keep multiple development programs active, shifting investment into the most promising and fielding upgrades to in-production fighters rapidly and frequently, and producing new platforms when they offered a significant advantage.

These new aircraft could be less expensive to procure and sustain than today’s fighters because they would not be expected last 30 years or 20,000 flying hours and would be produced in relatively small numbers, with overlapping programs producing several new types in each “generation.”

Confusingly, the NGAD acronym used by the USAF is also being used to describe a separate U.S. Navy analysis of alternatives. This covers the search for a replacement for the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and E/A-18G Growler, with service entry in the 2030s. The basic requirement is to better protect the Navy’s aircraft carriers, which are becoming more vulnerable to advanced long-range anti-ship cruise missiles and ballistic missile systems.

The two NGADs are not related or connected and there are no plans to merge the efforts or to pursue a joint fighter program, since the two services’ requirements are very different, although some senior officers have suggested that there could be some procurement of common systems and subsystems to be integrated with both new next-generation fighter aircraft. The Navy has fought suggestions that it should simply procure a navalized version of the USAF’s PCA. The Navy does not want to pay for capabilities that it will not use, and it may pursue some commonality with the F-35C, which may result in a “cheaper” F/A-XX (what the Navy has provisionally dubbed its new fighter).

While the USAF continues to place great emphasis on low observability (or stealth) to penetrate enemy airspace, the Navy’s deputy director of air warfare, Angie Knappenberger, has said that the Navy will not need its F/A-XX to penetrate enemy airspace and instead plans to use standoff missiles for deep-penetration missions or it will hand such missions over to the Air Force.

Instead, the Navy is expected to focus on increased range, because range is perceived to be a significant limitation for the current carrier air wing. It may also focus on speed. Stealth will play some part but is viewed as being just one element in a wider survivability equation. The Navy is also working on ultra-lightweight armor and counter-directed energy technologies.

The Navy may not acquire a new manned fighter at all, but could instead network shipboard systems and multiple manned and/or unmanned aircraft. It could decide to procure additional Super Hornets, Growlers, and F-35Cs, perhaps in upgraded form, rather than developing an exotic new platform with transformational capabilities

Source: Ainonline “Sixth-gen Fighters Already on the Drawing Board”

Note: This is Ainonline’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Underwater armada: US Navy eyes drone wolf packs


In 2019 the Navy awarded Boeing a US$43 million contract to produce four of the 51-foot Orca XLUUVs

By DAVE MAKICHUK

JULY 23, 2020

The Orca — similar to the Echo Voyager shown — is up to 85 feet long and has a flexible payload section which is large enough to carry multiple torpedo sized payloads. Credit: Boeing.

It’s bad enough that nuclear submarines are plying the sea, each capable of wiping out a continent — but could you imagine a swarm of robo-subs attacking enemy ships, other manned subs, carrying out clandestine missions or laying mines, all autonomously.

The benefits are obvious — risking an expendable robot will save lives, and, may also save the Navy potential costs down the road.

On Feb. 13, 2019, the Navy awarded Boeing a US$43 million contract to produce four of the 51-foot Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (XLUUVs) that are capable of traveling some 6,500 nautical miles unaided, The National Interest reported, citing a US Naval Institute report.

The Navy could potentially deploy the Orcas from existing vessels to conduct “mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, electronic warfare and strike missions,” USNI reported.

But as Popular Mechanics points out, the Orca’s modular design and relatively inexpensive price tag make the robo-subs a potential game-changer for the Navy.

Orca could even pack a Mk. 46 lightweight torpedo to take a shot at an enemy sub itself. It could also carry heavier Mk. 48 heavyweight torpedoes to attack surface ships, or even conceivably anti-ship missiles. Orca could drop off cargos on the seabed, detect, or even lay mines. The modular hardware payload system and open architecture software ensures Orca could be rapidly configured based on need.

This sort of versatility in a single, low-cost package is fairly unheard of in military spending. The nearest rough equivalent is the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, which costs $584 million each and has a crew of 40. While LCS is faster, has the benefit of an onboard crew, and carries a larger payload, Orca is autonomous — and cheaper by orders of magnitude.

The purchase comes amid a push into autonomous vessels for the Navy, and not just because of President Donald Trump’s focus on artificial intelligence, the National Interest reported.

Earlier this year, the Navy’s autonomous Sea Hunter trimaran, engineered for minesweeping and sub-hunting, traveled from San Diego to Hawaii and back again without a single sailor aboard in a historic voyage.

More broadly, the service is eyeing potential unmanned systems for “robot wolfpacks” of remotely-operated surface vessels to function as scouts, decoys, and forward electronic warfare platforms, as Breaking Defense reported in January.

The Navy has pulled all the stops in “the last six or seven months,” Navy surface ship executive Rear Adm. William Galinis told Breaking Defense.

We’ve got a set of RFIs [that] we’re going to be putting out here probably in the next few days to industry to really start that process, put some proverbial meat on the bones.”

It is likely that the new Orcas will borrow significantly from the 51-foot long, 50-ton Echo Voyager’s design, including its modular payload bays. Credit: Boeing.

Not surprisingly the US is the first sea power to start building XLUUVs, Forbes reported. But other navies are also entering the arena, including Britain and Japan. And China, Russia, and South Korea also have large UUV projects.

The Orca design will be even larger and therefore could patrol further and could carry more.

The Orca is up to 85 feet long, an order of magnitude larger than anything else out there as the moment. It has a flexible payload section which is large enough to carry multiple torpedo sized payloads.

Initially these could be smaller UUVs. In the future they could be Tomahawk cruise missiles, or as the USNI reported, even mines.

According to The Drive, it looks likely that the new Orcas will borrow significantly from the 51-foot long, 50-ton Echo Voyager’s design, including its modular payload bays. The Orca’s basic performance may be similar, as well.

The diesel-electric Echo Voyager has a maximum speed of around nine miles per hour underwater and can dive to depths up to 11,000 feet deep.

Its batteries give it range of more than 150 miles at a speed of around 3 miles per hour, before it needs to surface and use its air-breathing diesel generator to recharge.

Boeing has said that Echo Voyager could carry enough fuel to allow it to operate autonomously for up to six months at a time, covering total ranges of around 7,500 miles.

With just one fuel module in its modular payload bays, it would still have a full range of more than 6,500 miles. It has its own sonar-enabled obstacle avoidance system, as well as an inertial navigation system.

An artist’s rendition of what the Orca drone might look like in US Navy Service. Credit: Boeing.

Source: Asia Times “Underwater armada: US Navy eyes drone wolf packs”

Note: This is Asia Times’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.

 


Are We Nearing the End of the Supercarrier?


The supercarrier has become unaffordable. So what comes next?

BY KYLE MIZOKAMI

MAR 12, 2020

USS Gerald R. Ford Begins Builder’s Sea Trials U.S. NAVYGETTY IMAGES

  • The U.S. Navy might cap the current Ford-class carriers at just four ships.

  • Cost and the danger of placing all of the Navy’s eggs in a handful of baskets could doom the supercarrier as a concept.

  • The Navy could build smaller, more affordable carriers instead.

The U.S. Navy could cap its production of Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers at just four ships, with a smaller, cheaper flat top replacing them in the 2030s. The Acting Secretary of the Navy recently cast doubt on the future of the Ford-class, stating that he didn’t know that the service would build more of the Ford ships and he did not know what came next. Increasingly dangerous anti-carrier weapons built by adversaries and the escalating costs and development issues with the ships could lead to smaller, cheaper ships.

A U.S. Navy Super Hornet launches from the flight deck of USS Truman, 2018.

U.S. NAVYGETTY IMAGES

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly, quoted in Defense & Aerospace Report, had this to say about the 1,092-foot-long Gerald R. Ford-class supercarriers:

I don’t know if we’re going to buy any more of that type,” Modly said, adding that, “we’re certainly thinking about possible other classes. What are we going to learn on these four that’s going to inform what we do next? But we have some time now, we have up until 2026, 2027 before we have to make a really firm decision on what the next carrier is going to look like.”

The Ford-class carriers are some of the largest carriers ever built. Originally designed to replace the aging USS Enterprise and Nimitz-class carriers, the ships were designed with a host of new technologies, including a new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System to fling aircraft into the air, a new Advanced Arresting Gear to bring landing aircraft to a halt, a new radar, and weapons-carrying elevators. The Navy also promised that the new ship would achieve more with less, launching more aircraft sorties and at-sea time with fewer crew and a significant cost savings over the lifetime of the ship.

Unfortunately the lead ship, USS Ford, ran into a series of problems. The aircraft launch and recovery systems were problematic and required troubleshooting, and most of the weapons elevators still don’t work. Crew reductions, cost savings, and sortie generation have also not panned the way the U.S. Navy wanted them to, leading to the obvious question: was developing an entirely new ship with new, untested technology worth it?

Even the U.S. Navy appears to have doubts, if Modly’s comment is anything to go by. The service has committed to four ships: Gerald R. Ford, John F. Kennedy, Enterprise, and Doris Miller.

Technical problems with specific technologies aside, the aircraft carrier faces two brooding issues: cost and anti-carrier weapons. The Navy’s shipbuilding budget is essentially flat, despite what President Trump says about “rebuilding the Navy,” and likely won’t go up anytime soon. At the same time, the service is committed to increasing the size of the fleet from approximately 296 ships to 350 ships by 2030 and to fully fund the new class of Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines, a $109 billion program. This puts the squeeze on the most expensive shipbuilding item in the Navy budget, the aircraft carrier.

China’s DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile.
GREG BAKERGETTY IMAGES

The second problem with the Ford-class carrier is the increasing lethality of enemy anti-carrier weapons. China’s DF-21D “carrier killer” anti-ship ballistic missile or Russia’s Kinzhal hypersonic weapon could seriously damage or even sink an aircraft carrier. Such a loss would eliminate one of just eleven carriers from the U.S. Navy’s battle force, eliminate nearly 80 planes, and kill nearly 5,000 Americans.

The Amphibious assault ship USS America. Note F-35Bs on the flight deck.

U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 3RD CLASS VINCENT E. ZLINE

The U.S. Navy likes big aircraft carriers. The bigger the carrier the more planes it can launch and recover at once, and the more different types of planes it can carry. Larger carriers are more efficient at generating flying sorties than smaller carriers, and more sorties means more more aircraft in the air—and meaning wars are won quickly. But the most critical part about owning aircraft carriers is the ability to afford them, and even the mighty U.S. Navy could retreat from the sheer cost of the supercarrier.

One option for the Navy is to start building smaller carriers based on the America-class amphibious assault ships. The America class can already embark up to 20 F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, the vertical takeoff and landing version of the F-35, but lacks the catapults and arresting gear to accommodate other aircraft, including the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, E-2D Hawkeye carrier command and control planes, and the upcoming MQ-25A Stingray aerial refueling tanker.

HMS Queen Elizabeth
The Royal Navy’s new HMS Queen Elizabeth is smaller than a Ford-class carrier and can carry up to forty aircraft.
STEVE PARSONS – PA IMAGESGETTY IMAGES

An America-class carrier equipped with catapults and arresting gear might accommodate half of a supercarrier’s 75+ aircraft, but it’s worth keeping in mind the original USS America cost $3.4 billion, compared to Ford’s $13 billion. Even if an America modified for carrier operations cost 50 percent more, it would still cost less than half as much as a Ford. The Navy could afford two Americas for the price of one Ford. Two ships would also spread out the airplanes and manpower across two platforms, ensuring one ship is still operational if one is sunk. Two ships can also be in two different places.

Everyone agrees that big carriers are good, so if the money is there then the Navy will continue to build Ford-class carriers after the USS Doris Miller. But if the money dries up, the Navy could build more, smaller carriers, bringing about the end of the supercarrier as we know it.

Source: Popular Mechanics “Are We Nearing the End of the Supercarrier?”

Note: This is Popular Mechanics’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.