Home » Budget Industry » Essay: The New Strategic Realities of U.S. Carrier Operations

Essay: The New Strategic Realities of U.S. Carrier Operations

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) leads a formation of ships from Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12 during a maneuvering exercise on Sept. 23, 2014. US Navy Photo

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) leads a formation of ships from Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12 during a maneuvering exercise on Sept. 23, 2014. US Navy Photo

Just four days ahead of the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy announced its intention to award Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc (HII). approximately $4 billion to construct the USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) super carrier, the second vessel of the new Gerald R. Ford-class of carriers. The cost has raised eyebrows, as the Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) experienced cost overruns of 22 percent.

Additionally, debate is raging over the utility of the aircraft carrier and whether it’s even relevant anymore in the face of China’s new, lethal anti-ship missiles. It’s a debate worth having, but it needs to be rooted in realistic naval principles and war precedents, not politics and hype.

Destroy the Enemy’s Fleet

Alfred T. Mahan, one of history’s preeminent naval theorists, wrote that the purpose of the navy, during war, is to command the sea by the destruction of the enemy’s fleet. It’s that simple of a principle. If Mahan were still alive, he likely would include destruction of the enemy’s surveillance, reconnaissance and command and control (C4ISR) assets as part of his concept. Accordingly, the U.S. Navy should be designed to destroy enemy ships and C4 ISR assets in the most economical and efficient manner possible. When misinterpreted precedents and hyper-partisan politics get in the way of that singular goal, it skews U.S. Navy doctrine and the ships and weaponry that compose the fleet. That, in turn, increases the risk of naval defeat, and the prospect of catastrophic national decline becomes real.

The Carrier Is Still Useful

The "Gunslingers" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105 conduct a flyover during their homecoming at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va. on April 17, 2014. US Navy Photo

The “Gunslingers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105 conduct a flyover during their homecoming at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va. on April 17, 2014. US Navy Photo

The aircraft carrier, particularly the carrier strike group (CSG), still fits the core Mahanian principle of destruction of the enemy’s fleet. It’s an excellent weapon in the U.S. arsenal, and for good reason. The carrier’s original purpose was, and still is—via its aircraft—to destroy enemy aircraft, naval vessels, and land targets. (Another just-as-essential carrier mission has forever been protection of the CSG itself.) In WW II, the classic era of the carrier, these ships extended the striking distance of the fleet well beyond surface combatants sporting naval artillery, much of which was line of sight or just beyond the horizon. Carriers also had some stealth, speed and a deep reconnaissance function that supported the force application function of the fleet overall.

Regarding extending strike distance, take for example the Battle of the Coral Sea (May 4-8, 1942), the first non-line-of-sight naval battle in history. There, Japanese and American carrier-borne aircraft attacked each other and their mother ships at a distance of around 250-plus miles, according to Richard Natkiel’s Atlas of Battles.

Both navies each lost a destroyer and a carrier (USS Lexington was scuttled), with several other vessels sunk and damaged. During the Battle of Midway (June 4-7, 1942), U.S. carrier aircraft flew about 170 miles to attack Japanese carriers.

The U.S. lost a carrier, a destroyer, and 150 aircraft. Japan lost four carriers — the heart of its national carrier force — and, according to master military historian Russell F. Weigley, the momentum of the entire war.

In the future, there will be war scenarios where enemy carriers and their aircraft need to be destroyed, and U.S. carriers can help facilitate that end.

Carriers have proven their worth against surface combatants as well. The two largest battleships ever to set sail, the Imperial Japanese Navy’s (IJN) Musashi and Yamato, were both destroyed by U.S. carrier air power; the former in October 1944 during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the latter in April 1945 during the battle for Okinawa.

In the future, there will be war scenarios where enemy surface (and subsurface) ships need be destroyed, and U.S. carriers can bring about that result.

Regarding land strike, the highly destructive carrier raids on the IJN ports of Truk and Rabaul in the Pacific War further demonstrate the utility of the aircraft carrier. Rabaul was a port town on the east end of New Britain Island in Papua New Guinea. It was also Japan’s main forward base for its offensives against the Solomons and New Guinea.

Pilots Ensign Charles Miller, Lieutenant (jg) Henry Dearing, and Lieutenant (jg) Bus Alber walking toward their aircraft aboard USS Saratoga, on Nov. 5, 1943. US Navy Photo via World War II Today

Pilots Ensign Charles Miller, Lieutenant (jg) Henry Dearing, and Lieutenant (jg) Bus Alber walking toward their aircraft aboard USS Saratoga, on Nov. 5, 1943. US Navy Photo via World War II Today

From Nov. 2-11, 1943, both U.S. land and carrier-based aircraft attacked Rabaul’s port and land facilities, damaging 6 cruisers and destroying 52 aircraft.

Strikes on Rabaul helped facilitate air and sea isolation of 10 islands and other critical objectives for Operation Cartwheel, which entailed scores of amphibious attacks stretching from New Guinea to the Solomons.

As an aside, air and sea isolation means destroying enemy ships, aircraft, and other weaponry that threaten amphibious landings and other naval operations so they can proceed without being attacked by air and sea. Amphibious operations in particular already have to contend with shore defenses, and they don’t need additional enemy pressure mucking up their ship-to-shore movement, the most fragile phase of amphibious landings. Ship-to-shore movement has to be protected at all costs, and without sea and air isolation, amphibious operations are folly.

Truk lagoon in Micrionesia, 600 miles north of Rabaul, was the IJN’s forward fleet base in the Pacific. It housed more than 27,000 men and every type of ship in the IJN, including merchant ships. U.S. carrier aircraft attacked Truk on Feb. 17, 1944 as part of Operation Hailstone.

The task force consisted of five fleet and four light carriers and their 500 aircraft, plus support vessels such as battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and submarines. Hailstone destroyed 12 naval vessels, 32 merchant ships and 275 aircraft. The end result was the elimination of Japan’s forward Pacific base, which took significant pressure off the seizure of the Marshall Islands via Operation Flintlock. It moreover created the largest underwater graveyard of ships in the world.

In the future, there will be war scenarios where enemy land-based targets need to be destroyed, and U.S. carriers can help facilitate that end. Carriers will also help achieve air and sea isolation for amphibious operations.

Threats that Change the Use of the Carrier

So how is today’s use of the carrier different from that of yesteryear’s?

Certainly, carriers can still attack enemy ships, aircraft, and land targets. That’s obvious. But advances in anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) – specifically by the Chinese—and their probable tactical application of swarming (or saturation) have changed the chessboard, so to speak, altering the past role of the carrier that many assume still holds the van as it did in WW II.

The People's Liberation Army's DF-21D medium range ballistic missile, the so-called 'carrier killer.'

The People’s Liberation Army’s DF-21D medium range ballistic missile, the so-called ‘carrier killer.’

Advances in Chinese anti-ship missiles have been well covered as of late by a host of experts. (Modern Chinese torpedoes and other, like naval weaponry, are critical issues, too, but that’s for another article.) The DOD’s annual “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2014” puts the threat in plain terms, as do military writers Zachary Keck via The Diplomat, and Robert Haddick via War on the Rocks. Military scholars Dennis M. Gormley, Andrew S. Erickson, and Jingdong Yuan provide additional technical data on these threats in Joint Forces Quarterly, and Robert Farley follows suit in The National Interest.

The general consensus is that today’s naval missile ordnance, specifically ASCMs, is far more dangerous than the weaponry of yesteryear’s capital ships. Chinese ASCMs can be fired from sea, air, or land. They can moreover send a 100-plus kilogram warhead more than 200 miles at both sub and supersonic speeds.

This is a phenomenal advance over a World War II battleship’s 12 and 16-inch guns, the latter of which could shoot a 2,700-pound shell more than 25 miles at 2,500 feet per second.

Robert Haddick deftly suggests a worst-case scenario where China’s YJ-12 ASCM, with a range of 400 kilometers, is launched beyond America’s Aegis Combat System’s range, leaving a carrier group little warned of an attack, allowing just 45 seconds to react.

Interestingly, the advanced ASCM signifies that the dreadnaught or battleship concept—trounced by the carrier in WW II—is reborn and transformed, this time without the heavy armor. The gunboat, or more specifically, the missile boat, is back with a vengeance.

Chinese ASBMs are similarly lethal. The DOD says that China’s CSS5 Mod 5 (DF 21D), nicknamed the “carrier killer,” can target carriers from 932 miles and kill them with a single hit. Robert Farley asserts this missile can shoot more than 1,000 miles.

The DOD says China is deploying other ASBMs that can target ships out to 1,864 miles. Their payloads are 1,322.7 pounds of conventional explosives or a 500-kiloton nuclear warhead.

Interestingly, the Chinese deployment of ASBMs is an incredibly modernized version of U.S. Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck’s 1840s era coastal defense concept. General Halleck, a leading military thinker in the age of Mahan, asserted that coastal fortifications were superior to attacking navies.

During the American Civil War, the Union Navy’s guns, its amphibious operations, and land-based maneuver warfare—avoiding coastal forts altogether—proved Halleck wrong at the time. Because of ASBMs, however, disregarding Halleck now would be unwise.

Regarding anti-ship missile tactics, many analysts say the Chinese will swarm or saturate enemy carriers and other ships with their ASCMs and ASBMs, thereby overwhelming their sensors and weapons, dooming whatever flotilla they descend upon. This tactic is nothing new in naval warfare.

In the battle of Midway, for example, when Adm. Raymond Spruance figured Japanese carriers were within striking distance, he ordered that all of his aircraft from TF 17—carriers Enterprise and Hornet—launch for attack. This was 67 dive-bombers, 29 torpedo bombers, and 20 fighters. USS Yorktown later attacked with 17 dive-bombers, 12 torpedo bombers, and 6 fighters.

Adm. Raymond Spruance on the cover of Time on June 26, 1944

Adm. Raymond Spruance on the cover of Time on June 26, 1944

Spruance wanted as many Japanese carriers sunk as possible, so he swarmed them with his airpower. He sank all four carriers opposing him, plus a heavy cruiser. The Japanese acted similarly in attacking U.S. carriers. It should also be noted that these tactics left both U.S. and Japanese carriers highly vulnerable, as demonstrated by Japanese losses.

So missiles can now do a lot of what aircraft have traditionally done, only in some cases faster and farther. Driving the point home, Robert Haddick again dexterously proposes a worst-case scenario where the Chinese are likely to swarm 100 or so ASCMs from many directions against carrier groups, overcoming their defenses, and sinking them.

This is the kind of naval engagement that—like Midway—can change the direction of a war and force the strategic downfall of a country.
So the markedly increased distance, heightened speed, decisively destructive payloads, and swarm/saturation tactics of ASCMs and ASBMs have dramatically changed the tactical situation for carriers, and the rest of the fleet for that matter.

Those who assert that these anti-ship missiles checkmate the carrier are justifiably alarmed, but strategically and tactically mistaken. Airpower in naval warfare still matters. If America gets rid of the carrier, then land-based airpower will be its only recourse. While land based air power is essential to the naval warfare equation, it is static, which means it’s easier for the enemy to identify, locate, target, and destroy, especially with ballistic missiles. The carrier provides the criticality of flexibility in warfare. There’s no reason to take naval airpower tools out of the U.S. military toolkit.

Carriers in the Future

Having said this, the carrier no longer has the van in naval warfare as it did in WW II because of these new threats. Accordingly, there are nine strategic and operational carrier warfare concepts America must take into consideration as it moves forward.

  1. The carrier remains a useful weapon to destroy enemy ships, aircraft and land targets, the core purpose of naval forces
  1. Modern anti-ship missiles pose strategic, theater level threats to carrier operations—all naval operations, for that matter—as opposed to just tactical, operational level threats
  1. Modern anti-ship missiles significantly curtail the carrier’s use as a stealthy, deep strike and air/sea isolation weapon on its own, particularly in first strike scenarios
  1. Because of issue 3, a reasonable degree of both strategic and operational sea/air isolation (destruction of ASCMs and ASBMs, or cover from them) is necessary prior to carrier operations
  1. Because of issue 4, strategic and theater-wide intelligence preparation of the battlespace is critical to carrier operations instead of carriers carrying the naval reconnaissance van
  1. Carrier group anti-ship missile defenses—ideally integrated with those of other Services, including in space—need to be dramatically enhanced
  1. The defeat of anti-ship missiles requires a combination of strategic, theater level approaches with tactical, operational level approaches, including space
  1. The gunboat—or missile boat—has returned to a vanguard position in naval warfare since being dethroned by the carrier in WW II
  1. Modern, land based, anti-ship missiles—particularly ASBMs—have resurrected and upgraded Halleck’s coastal defense concept

Of course, many in the U.S. Navy are well aware of these issues. There is copious and frequent discussion of anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) threats amongst our white-uniformed brethren.

But whether these threats and new strategic realities are understood and accepted throughout is another matter. The same goes for the DOD. And do our civilian leaders fully grasp these new threats and operational concepts? It seems doubtful. More than 70 years of American blue-water naval dominance, the backbone of which has been the CSG, has led the nation to naval complacency.

To combat these new threats, the U.S. Navy is enhancing its own anti-ship missile capabilities, and in November 2014, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert told an audience at the Brookings Institute that increasing the defenses of the CSG was a top priority. He even indicated by his tone that it was an urgent priority.

n artist rendering shows the Office of Naval Research-funded electromagnetic railgun installed aboard the joint high-speed vessel USNS Millinocket (JHSV- 3). US Navy Image

n artist rendering shows the Office of Naval Research-funded electromagnetic railgun installed aboard the joint high-speed vessel USNS Millinocket (JHSV- 3). US Navy Image

Additionally, the U.S. Navy is fielding a laser to counter various surface and airborne threats, its new rail gun is slated to be fitted on surface ships, and the Navy launched and recovered from a carrier its first Unmanned Combat Air System in August 2013 – though that program is apparently under contention. And then there’s the Air Sea Battle (ASB) concept that’s supposed to target the enemy more intelligently— its C4 ISR assets for example—via “kill chain” targeting priorities and the like.

All of this is well and good, but to get anything done in Washington these days, the problems and solutions need to be well described and absorbed with “Midway-like decisiveness” by the services, the DOD, and our highly dysfunctional political leaders. In this demoralized national security environment, however, can we get it done?

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), chairman of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, recently told Defense News that Capitol Hill would have to change its approach to make true progress. Says Forbes, “What we have historically done for the last five, six years on Capitol Hill is really backwards when it comes to defense. We have asked the question how much money do we want to spend on defense?” From there, he says, strategy was made. “We have to change the debate,” said Forbes, “to where we start talking about what our goals are for national defense.

In the end, in order to avoid a Pearl Harbor type surprise and national, killer blow, America needs a good dose of “Midway-like luck” in getting its massive, stifling bureaucracy behind these new naval concepts. Can a Republican-led Congress do it? We’ll see. But one thing is for sure: the Chinese won’t wait for America to catch its breath and get organized. It’s modernizing and professionalizing its navy at high speed, come hell or high water.

Or both.

  • Frank Langham

    We do not have nearly enough SM3/2 and SM6 missiles on hand and, even if we were to survive a strategic swarm, we would not have the reserve stock to re-load our MK44 VLS tubes. … We should also look VERY seriously at REAR SEABASE assets and at trading a few of our super-carriers (CVNs) for MORE LHDs and MANY more commercial platform conversions. … WE CAN DO WITHOUT HEAVY ARMOR … We can exploit Commercial OTS platforms and modify them. … Could we PLEASE modify an LHD for DEDICATED LAND-SEA-AIR DRONE OPS ? … Just ONE ?? … Try it, you will LIKE it !

    • Pat Patterson

      Resupply at sea is very limited. Probably need to distribute missiles over a range of ships.

      • Curtis Conway

        Every platforms a shooter. Donation Mk41 VLS cell space in the designs?

    • Curtis Conway

      Japan and South Korea should be co-producing the entire SM-2/3 lines. They have the QA and manufacturing capability and we all need the inventory increase and capacity of production.

  • Rob C.

    The challenges are pretty significant for the US. To cope with threats like the the Anti-ship ballistic missile. Current generation of ships, don’t carry reloads on their weapons. Hopefully, more powerful ship based lasers and the Rail Gun will pan out, but they still need adquete platform to use it from. Which we don’t have yet, the current generation of Burke-Class ships and newly schedule upgrade aren’t going cut the mustered for power requirements.

    Putting on a venerable commercial platform with counter weapon system is foolish. I won’t want civilians and few military people on Commerical platforms risking their lives hoping that their defenses are strong enough to knock out incoming ballistic weapons, never mind hidden cruise missiles / torpedoes coming from submarines near by. We can automate ships, commercial ships are near drone status now, with fewer crews, however reaction time still be in question. These platforms still need protection from other threats. Speed is needed to stay alive, i don’t think we’ve considered how fast the nuclear powered carrier, civilians aren’t told all the facts for reason of security.

    The Gerald Ford’s costs are high, because it’s extensively updated platform. It’s has new systems never used before. It’s the prototype, hopefully the new systems will finally be done by the time the John F. Kennedy’s systems need to be installed.

    • Byron Audler

      Any complicated weapons system that’s a “first of” is going to have cost over runs; the first Ohio SSBN is a good example. And the article states that the CVN is now faced with a “new” threat, the missile. Excuse me, weren’t the CVs and CVNs of the 80’s faced with huge Soviet air launched and sub launched ASMs?

      • Curtis Conway

        Learn from HiStory or you are bound to repeat it.

  • MikeJonesDC

    Good piece

  • Vitonio

    We need more Subs.

    • Curtis Conway

      Russian FBMs are returning to patrol areas. Our sub fleet has shrunk. The Chinese FBM sub fleet is growing in numbers and capability.

      • Frank Langham

        Meh … Yes and no … We are clearly on-track to replace the OHIO class subs, though behind schedule. … Our competitors have far more problems to solve than we do and Russia is having problems paying for their ambitious plans … The Chinese are driving around in Soviet-Era relics and the Russians have some real quality and budget and time-table issues. … Their entire submarine engineering and manufacturing culture has seriously eroded. … There is a MAJOR dearth of competent talent, in all areas of their sub design, building and operations. … The Chinese are still developing training and general procedures (all of that must be documented and entrained) … Our Naval and Submarine industrial base has been consistent and un-broken. … Our training and our operational procedures are fully and organically evolved. … No, we cannot afford to take a nap while our competitors climb up our leg but I am personally not in a panic, at this stage.

    • Frank Langham

      Subs and Burkes … The teeth of our fleet.

      • Secundius

        @ Frank Langham.

        The problem with Subs and AB class Destroyers, is there Air Wing capabilities are Border-Line Nonexistent…

        • Frank Langham

          No doubt or any question of that fact. … No platform operates in a vacuum. … I certainly did not mean to imply that we should rely upon DDGs and Subs to the exclusion of other essential assets but when push comes to shove, Attack Subs and DDGs will be doing most of the shooting. A CVN is a sitting duck without them.

          • mustard_gun

            Frank. If you are relying on DDGs to shoulder burden in an ASW fight…. then we are screwed. Our competitors are fielding very quiet subs with long range anti-ship cruise missiles. By the time a DDG locates an enemy sub, that sub could’ve killed him many times over.

            Navy needs to push the ASW fight out. Long range assets capable of wide area search. That means more P-8A Poseidons.

          • Frank Langham

            So, are you saying that Towed Array Sonar is obsolete ? That escort attack subs and DDGs are hardly significant for ASW ? (I am getting kinda old) … The Russians may
            have fielded some significant upgrades to a fairly old design of sub but their production rate of their stealthiest subs is very much retarded (to date) … We can hear Chinese relics coming down the road like a junk-wagon. … Iran does have some scary little diesel-electric boats (very quiet) and they do not have a large magnetic signature but, thankfully, their offensive weapon capability is very limited UNLESS the Iranians decide to turn the entire sub into a suicide torpedo.
            (which they may, if they decide to gun for a CVN).

  • Curtis Conway

    US Naval Air Power is the key to any success in future combat operations in the Pacific, so the necessity of carrier operations in the future is absolute.

    Anti-Ship Missile Defense is a certainty in the new underway battle space, and every ton of displacement and inch of underway deck-space is an invaluable asset and must be used as effectively as possible.

    Accurate and timely intelligence facilitates proactive actions that facilitates victory. Every element in the system is a collection node, and major centers like the carrier
    are the action centers.

    Defeating ASCMs and TBMs requires a plethora a capable platforms distributed in depth about the region, formation, and high value unit(s). This must be the base capability of every surface combatant otherwise it is just another target. We do not have enough destroyers to do that, and it will cost a lot to do it with just destroyers. The Aegis FFG provides the lower cost unit.

    The gunboat/missile-boat may be back, but the LCS (whatever you want to rename it) is not it! It does not have a decent gun, and few missiles, and even if it had a decent non-rotating 3D AESA radar, it can barely defend itself from a determined attack.

    This is why the US Navy NEEDS a new multi-warfare Aegis Guided Missile Frigate to take on lower tempo operations and threat tasks of AAW/ASW/ASuW, Escort and Theater Ballistic Missile Defense where ever they deploy. The Ballistic Missile inventories of the world powers, particularly of our most likely adversaries, have been growing in leaps and bounds, and the CG-47/DDG-51s will be in great demand for many things other than AAW. If one had to put up a Ballistic Missile Defense net along a US coast it would soak up quite an amount of the inventory with nothing left to take its place in the fleet to meet its other obligations and missions. A multi-warfare frigate is needed in numbers and soon.

    The United States Navy needs an Aegis Guided Missile Frigate clear and simple.

    This is where that 3D non-rotating AESA radar comes in real handy. It can spot a periscope, track Line Of Sight surface and air targets, and look into low orbit near space if necessary. A truncated AMDR Lite will have the same control cabinets, software, power supplies, and cabling. Then, we need Directed Energy Weapons on our new frigate fed by the tracking data. Plumb electrical distribution using the Integrated Power System, and place the GTGs near the Directed Energy Weapons to facilitate redundant connection. The Mk15 CIWS deck spots can support the new upgraded 100kw units now going into test, with a vision for the 500kw -1Megawatt units to follow in the coming decade. Operational doctrine can be developed as experience is gained using the new weapons in fleet exercises. Development of EO/IR detection, tracking and direction systems must be a priority. Passive combat systems is the way to go.

    National Security Cutters are larger and have more expansion space for enhanced weapons systems like Mk41 VLS than the alternative. Each NSC is capable of operating in the most demanding open ocean environments, including the hazardous seas of the North Pacific and the vast approaches of the Southern Pacific/Atlantic. With robust Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) equipment, stern boat launch and aviation facilities, as well as long-endurance station keeping, the NSCs are afloat operational-level headquarters for complex national security operations.

    The US Navy should invest in six USS America (LHA-6) Class Light Carriers (CVLs) constructed and operated in a rotational fashion as we do with the big flattops, just in areas not requiring all the capabilities of a full blown Carrier Air Group (CAG). I do not propose replacing the Super Carriers or the standard CAG with new LCAG versions (L=Light). However, with the advent of the KV-22 Osprey Tanker capability, and the addition of a pressurized V-22 Osprey with which to develop the Carrier On-board Delivery (COD) and a new EV-22 Osprey AEW&C aircraft, the LCAG will possess most of the capability of the full blown CAG. It just will not have the versatility of the CAG and it will lack Electronic Attack, at least until further upgrades are made to the F-35B.

    • PolicyWonk

      Indeed, we have long agreed with the problems created via continuing the purchase of LCS (or any of its derivations), given its many problems. The NSC design, up-armed/armored for use by the USN is starting to look like a bargain given the recent increases in costs of LCS/SSC/FF, and its lack of room for growth, fragility, etc.

      I agree that our navy should invest in small deck carriers, along the same size range of the LHA-6 (USS America) class, to project power (and demonstrate our interest) in less volatile parts of the world. We can then continue to use/leverage large deck carriers in parts of the planet that require more attention. With the advent of smart munitions, even a small deck carrier of today is considerably more effective than a large deck carrier of merely a few decades ago – while saving the taxpayers a lot of money – and distributing our assets more effectively.

      That particular idea has been picking up an ever-growing constituency amongst defense analysts, and its overall practicality is undeniable.

      • Curtis Conway

        On the DDG-51 side we cannot afford to replace the combat power of the traditional frigate (pre-ffg-7 without Standard Missile) with destroyers. Half the DDG-51 combat power in an NSC would be very advantageous, be with us about twice a long as the life expectancy of the LCS, and provide far more utility.
        Propulsion should be one DDG-51 engine room segregated down the middle with the Port/Starboard propulsion configurations separated by a barrier for damage control redundancy. Then Hybrid Electric Drive the Main Reduction Gear for more efficient operations when traveling at slower speeds, and provide more megawatts at GQ.
        directed energy should be introduced times four on the corners of the forward superstructure as high as practical, with Mk15 CIWS between them Port/Starboard sides.
        AMDR Lite with the same software and cabinets for a 1/4-1/2% radar size would be easy on this size ship.
        Mk41 VLS forward (strike length cells), and the short cells down both sides by sacrificing a one helo hanger.
        hull mounted sonoar and towed array.
        Real 5″ gun (or small rail gun when available for refit)
        New passive detection, tracking, targeting system with multiple EO/IR illumination/tracking systems stationed about the ship. this vessel would be particularly effective in a passive picket in contested waters, could detect threats and defend itself up to TBMs . . . and cost half of a DDG-51. Will not have all the technology up front, but the combat system is something that cannot just be swept aside like an LCS can.

      • Frank Langham

        From Wikipedia : LHA-6 (USS America) class
        The ship’s design is based on USS Makin Island (LHD-8), but to allow more room for aviation facilities she does not have a well deck, and has smaller medical spaces. With a displacement of 45,000 tons, she is as large as the aircraft carriers of many other nations, and can fulfill similar missions when configured with 20 F-35B strike fighters.

        • PolicyWonk

          This is correct. However – the LHA-6 class is being stopped after only 2 hulls in the “America” class. After the second hull is completed, all subsequent ships using that hull design will include the well deck.

          The omission of the well deck to make room for more planes, fuel, etc., to support aircraft isn’t an innovation as some tried to claim. Rather, that configuration is simply a CV.


    • Sam Riddle

      I wish I’d scrolled down to read this, very informative, you should be writing for USNI or do you??? Is there going to be a replacement for the FFG’s? I was on FFG 8 and worked at a shipyard putting fin stabilizers in a few of the Perry Class Frigates, of course they had SSDG Enclosures.

      I assume diesel is out and gas turbine is in now? I always wonder with the more complicated gunnery systems (rail / laser) there will be more dependence on power.

      And we always seemed to have undefined grounds and switchboard problems both DIW and Pier-side? Probably not the case anymore with today’s technology…

      Are there remote GTG’s now like the old SSDG enclosures or is it all tied into the propulsion plant? There’s a whole lot I don’t know and wish I did…

  • AKO

    The financialization of the American economy

    American De-Industrialization
    Continues Unabated

    The U.S. is becoming dependent on countries such as UK, Russia, France and Germany for critical weapons technology.

    This is the reason for the decline of the US military

  • Kirit Nair

    Excellent essay…well articulated & highly informative.

  • Lazarus

    I believe the author is equating the last 20 years with the whole of the post Cold War era. The Soviet Union also boasted ASCM-armed aircraft, submarines and surface combatants that were a significant threat to Cold War carriers. The Soviet submarine arm in particular was large, and oriented toward anti-carrier operations. ASCM’s and torpedo have improved, but so have the defensive abilities of the CSG. The new ESSM allows for quad-packing 4 such missiles in one VLS tube. The problem with the carrier is that its air wing has become short-ranged and smaller. In their recent USNI carrier debate, both “sides” of the argument, as represented by Dr Jerry Hendrix and Bryan McGrath, agreed on this point.

    The carrier has been a vulnerable platform since its inception, and dependent on its air wing and escorts, rather than its own weapons for defense. The carrier replaced the battleship because it could deliver more ordnance over a more sustained period at longer ranges than the dreadnought. Massed missile craft can deliver large salvos, but they too have shallow magazines and must re-load. Shore batteries have seemingly endless magazines, but “forts” have always posed threats.

    While the carrier debate should continue, it remains to be seen what platform or platform(s) will replace the carrier as an effective US power projection and war at sea tool.

    • Frank Langham

      The carrier, itself, as opposed to the full strike group is definitely MORE vulnerable to evolving ASM capabilities (speed, range, discrimination, stealth, loitering, etc.) … Considering the size and the COST of a single CVN, it seems clear that ASBMs and Flanker-Launched ASCMs are just way less expensive and more prolific (not to mention wide distribution across many bases and platforms) … While we NEED CVNs for force projection and to crack air-defense zones (and to maintain safe corridors and air-caps), I would personally recommend relegating CVNs to the REARWARD SEA-BASE operational zone, outside the range of intermediate threats and, thus, provide more reaction time and more obstacles to successful “delivery”. .. As longer range hypersonic and stealthier threats emerge and evolve, rear-basing will be necessary, at least until broad air and sea superiority have been asserted and established. … Just my take. … I would like to see more LHDs and more Commercial conversions and I would like to see at least one LHD converted and dedicated to LAND-SEA-AIR DRONE OPS (as a mobile drone base with technical maintenance specialists and facilities on board (specialized ordnance and fuels and operations … Automated launch and recovery, etc.).

      • Lazarus

        The US Navy is a long way from launching massed drone strikes, from either a carrier, or LHD. A commercial platform would be challenging. Fixed wing aircraft (manned or drone) require some speed across the deck, and short of fitting catapults to merchant ships (costly), few commercial ships go fast enough to generate sufficient lift for takeoff. Rotary wing UAV’s might be accommodated, but they lack speed, range, and payload capacity in comparison with fixed wing assets. That platform would still require the same robust escort as a CVN, but likley provide less sustained delivery of ordnance over time.

        • Frank Langham

          Respectfully disagree. E/M Catapults and no human G-limits means you can flick strike-drones off of almost any platform, including SEA-BASE platform barges. … Recovery is similarly solved with precision capture. … No humans means a much less demanding launch and recovery performance envelope. You could even use a precision E/M trebuchet for BOTH launch AND recovery. … You assume that development and operational deployment would take a very long time. … I totally disagree. … One thing is for sure, a consolidated drone ops (land-sea-air) LHD makes TOTAL sense in terms of personnel specialties and shared maintenance and supply and fabrication and ordnance facilities. … Furthermore, relegating drones to a dedicated sister-ship would free-up the very busy CVN, and other legacy platforms, for more conventional ops. Considering the modularity of the mission configuration and the generic nature of the hull design, it would not be a very risky venture and, if we do not start NOW, we will not have this automated launch and recovery capability by the time we REALLY need it, in a decade’s time. … Consolidated specializations … Consolidated control facilities … Consolidated ordnance … HIGH speed AUTOMATED LOADING, FUELING, QUEUING, LAUNCH and RECOVERY … Automated and autonomous traffic control (in the air, on the deck, beneath-decks) …
          … Human based operations and drone based operations are not highly compatible (they interfere with each other’s efficiencies of cost and operations) … We do not want drones in the way of manned platforms and we do not want manned platforms hindering the efficiency of drone ops … Yes … Let them meet in the air (or at sea) and fight together but their basing and maintenance and rear ops should be separate (IMO).

          • Lazarus

            Your dedicated drone carrier still sounds complicated, people-intensive, and probably expensive in its own right. I would agree that mixing manned and unmanned air on the same ship could be challenging and that it may be best to base them separately on different ships.

          • Curtis Conway

            We can’t afford the expense at this time.

          • Frank Langham

            Agreed, Curtis, but I MUST continue to push for this because it IS our future (along with airborne UCAV service basing) and, while these systems ARE of higher expense and “risk”, (not COTS), this IS where we MUST go and we MUST keep the development and testing regime active and “well fed”, regardless of other priorities, for the next 15-to-20 years (or “as-if”) … We CAN take an older LHD and gut it and just start by working on our maintenance-flow, traffic-flow, control integration, talent consolidation, and experimenting with selection of mission-based autonomous “squads” (land-sea-air) and how to manage those assets during simulated and less-critical missions. … In short, we need a development platform just as was the case with the USS PONCE … It was a good idea and the PONCE served it’s purpose (proof of concept). … Work with me, here, Curtis. … The Republicans MUST take the Whitehouse in 2016.

  • mustard_gun

    This article has a lot to say about the carrier… but practically nothing about the carrier air wing. The air wing is the “main battery” of the strike group.

    The capabilities of the air wing have atrophied significantly in the last few decades with the loss of F-14 (long range AAW) and S-3 (long range ASW). We’ve essentially got a wing of relatively short-legged strike fighters (F-18s) and helos (H-60s).

    Looking forward, the F-35 isn’t going to change this dynamic. Its just as short-legged as F-18, but at 2-3x the cost. Our air wings are on the path to being outranged into irrelevance.

    • I think the smaller number and shorter legs of the current crop of carrier based aircraft, and the only marginal improvement in range offered by the F-35C, is the prime driver behind the USN “dragging it’s feet” on the JSF program. I think they still hope they can instead go to the Advance Super Hornet and reinvest the budgetted F-35C dollars in F/A-XX and/or UCASS.

      • Frank Langham

        Well … As I see it, there IS a place for the F-35C/B as an integrated, aerial sensor platform and as a highly mobile “best-shooter” for the extended AEGIS battle-compute network. … It puts networked sensors on-high and over the horizon and also acts as a launch platform for AEGIS coordinated ordnance. … I agree it is no match for the far less dependent (and far more prolific) LONG range FLANKER threats, in the region but, as an extension of AEGIS surface nodes, it really is a “must-have”, in reasonable numbers.

        • Curtis Conway

          A man who has vision and sees the plan.

          • Guest

            Visions (plural), Sir (LoL).
            Sometimes, I even read stuff.
            Even boring proposals and contracts,
            assessments, analysis, white-papers, etc.

    • JJSchwartz

      Don’t even consider the F-35. I’d much rather see more advanced F-18s or up graded equivalent of the F-14. The F-35, if it flies, has little punch, little range and is way too vulnerable not to mention a big investment in maintenance time for every hour that it might fly.

      • Curtis Conway

        The F-35 has been a huge expensive boondoggle. However, when this is all said and done, there will be GFE available for the Gen 6, that will be maturing rapidly by that time, bringing a tremendous capability to the table. The F-35 with all its problems brings a lot to the table. It just has a lot of limitations too.

        • JJSchwartz

          The F-35 brings absolutely nothing to the table. Even if all systems work according to specs it has nothing; no significant punch, no staying power, maintenance turn around time is abysmal, its aerodynamics suck so bad that it would be a dead duck in a dog fight. It’s a jet engine surounded by a huge fuel tank, a death trap for any pilot assigned the F-35 in real combat. It’s nothing but a money maker for Lockheed-Martin. Gen 6 of what?

          • fengshuileung

            Are we not talking about the F35 as the human flight leader of a sqn of drones?

          • JJSchwartz

            Sorry. Not sure that I follow you.

          • fengshuileung

            The F35 may be used in the role of forward controller of armed anti surface / anti air UAV squadrons.

          • Curtis Conway

            Try to sneak up on it. You’re dead meat.

          • JJSchwartz

            Care to explain?

        • vincedc

          Remember the F-18A? No legs, underpowered, difficult to keep in the sky and no way it could match the F-14 in air superiority. But the system matured into a world class fighter/attack/tanker /ecm platform. The F-35 will go through the same evolution just like every new technology.

  • The key to the success for the CBG is to maneuver for maximum use of it’s long range strike ability (and that of it’s connected assets like Subs or escorts) to degrade the threat while remaining outside the engagement envelope of the shore based air/surface launched ASCM.
    I love how everyone assumes the CBG will just waltz in where everyone can track it and invite the enemy to give them their best shot. It’s like a bad WWII or Vietnam movie where the Japanese of VC charge into the american machine gun fire like automotons. This will not happen.
    The real question is how long can the Chinese (in this case) keep the bulk of the US battle force out of effective strike range and can they complete their strategic goal before a proper counter-attack can be completed? ASCM/ASBM cannot prevent a counter-attack, but if they can delay it does that allow the provide the Chinese with the same strategic result?
    On another note the goal may not even be to use these weapons agains the USN at all, but instead raise the ante for USN involvement in a regional conflict, effectively cutting out the US from a conflict with say, Vietnam or Indonesia (and evolving up to the Phillipines?, but not intended for Taiwan, Japan or Korea), that isn’t worth the risk to the US, but provides huge strategic value to China.

  • Hugh

    An excellent article. I have been aware of the listed threats for many years, including the Chinese “no holds barred” in conflicts. “Effective counter-measures” is the question, attrition is not.

  • Henry

    Viewing technology as relative rather than absolute distills a thesis to the salient point of political objective. A weapon system is an arrow in a quiver. It is a resource in the service of strategy.

  • David Scott

    Were China the only potential theater of operations in future naval conflicts the author’s points would be more valid. It is indeed unrealistic to believe that we could operate for long within range of Chinese land based air and land/sea based missile systems. Mr. Langham makes an excellent point about out limited reload capacity for the standard missile system which would further limit survivability in the near China zone. Submarines and mine warfare which neutralize their trade, access to raw materials, and naval power, will be our most effective strategy in any open conflict with China.

    Having said that, China will not be our only potential opponent. The ability to project force and control sea lanes will remain vital to our national interest and for those missions carriers remain our most effective tool. The mission of our naval leadership is to determine the optimum number of these ships and to ensure their construction does not consume a disproportionate share of a shrinking budget.

    • Jeff

      David – right. China is not the only threat. It’s just the only one outwardly making frequent threats of naval warfare against the US, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. If you read what the CPC writes, if you read what the PLAN says in conjunction with the CPC, it’s pretty clear.

  • James Bowen

    Excellent article. The carrier is still necessary due, if nothing else, to the simple fact that 71% of the world’s airspace is over water; not to mention that land-based, non-naval air forces have traditionally not performed well in the maritime domain (the Battle of the Bismarck Sea being a notable exception).

    • Jeff

      Thanks, James, for weighing in.

      • James Bowen

        You are welcome.

  • James B.

    Currently the carrier’s magazines carry most of the anti-ship missiles in the strike group. Unless the SWOs plan to get back into the sea combat game, and the LCS is a particularly unserious attempt at this, carriers aren’t optional for naval success.

  • Pat Patterson

    Have any of these Chinese missiles been tested against target ships? It’s one thing to have a carrier mockup on shore and totally different in combat conditions.

    • The Chinese have never tested the DF-21D at sea. There is no confirmation of it having a maneuvering reentry vehicle with terminal guidance. All the other ASCMs fall well within the engagement envelope of existing AAW sytems (SM-2/6, ESSM & CiWS), making CVNs very hard to reach except in the most dire worst case scenarios. Not that CVNs are invulnerable (especially to subs), but unless USN commanders are caught with their pants down (possible) or as dumb as the extras in the WWII & Vietnam movies (not-possible) then the battle between chinese A2/AD batteries (just for instance) and the attacking CBG is going to be much more nuanced dance then the doom-mongers or happiness-fairies would want us to believe.

  • A submarine Navy may be the best defense and offense against missiles and enemy navies.

    • The Silent Service is the prime platform for first strike/Day 1 attack. Having an asset withing TLAM range of enemy CAC and ISR assets is a huge advantage. The issue though is that the Sub’s inherent stealth also means a very small magazine. Even a SSGN only carries a maximum 154 TLAMs, compare that with the strike capability of a CVN Alpha Strike and then remember the CAW can be back with a second load in hours (vs weeks for the SSGN).

      • Jeff

        Rudy and Frank – I think you all make excellent points. Subs will be one the key platforms to any US Naval defense and offense in the Pacific.

    • Frank Langham

      Yes … Attack subs are the ace up our sleeve. … The cold war provided us with generations of hard-earned submarine stealth, evolved sub-surface weapons, and ASW capabilities. … The Chinese are DECADES away from challenging our lead and they STILL cannot manufacture a decent jet-turbine engine and they STILL are far behind in their aspirations for a credible aircraft carrier. … Our entire culture of engineering and training is the result of many decades of fierce competition. … And, while the Chinese can steal plans and mass-produce effective missiles, their Integrated Virtual Battlespace is not an organic evolution, as ours is. … The Chinese do not even know what they do not know.

  • PolicyWonk

    What I’m unclear on, is why the USA failed to learn the lessons from our proposed “global strike” idea – where we would arm ballistic missiles with conventional warheads, to strike a target of opportunity anywhere on the planet.

    When we brought that notion up, the Russians informed us that since they couldn’t detect a “global strike” mission from a nuclear first strike – they would be likely forced to launch on warning. That instantly trashed that idea.

    Why, pray tell, didn’t we announce the same thing to the Communist Chinese, with their so-called “carrier killer” ballistic missiles?

    • The difference between a MRBM and a ICBM is very clear from trajectory, now if we started firing MRBM from Europe into Iraq or from Japan to North Korea we’d get the same response to firing Prompt Strike SLBMs from the Carolina or Oregon coast.

    • Elvis

      I would say because the Chinese ASBM are targeting carriers and therefore the trajectory of the missiles & warheads is going to end up somewhere in the western Pacific Ocean. Similar to an anti-ship cruise missile or a flight of bombers carrying anti-ship missiles.

      In turn a ballistic missile carrying a conventional warhead toward either Russia or China cannot be differentiated from one carrying a nuclear warhead. Likewise if we sent bombers heading to the Chinese mainland or European Russia, they would not be able to determine if they carry a conventional payload or nukes. They have to assume the worst.

      That’s what makes me nervous about the whole Air/Sea Battle concept, striking deep into China. How are the Chinese to know that we aren’t carrying nukes? Even if they realize its a conventional strike, the infrastructure that we would strike is in many cases the one they need for their nuclear forces. That may be a dangerous escalation that may force the Chinese into the “use em or lose em” scenario.

  • Elvis

    What I want to know is if we have any idea of how the Chinese will employ lasers & rail guns in naval & air warfare. We already know that the Chinese plan to use UAWs in naval warfare (such as targeting ships) & air warfare (such as the Divine Eagle with multiple AESA radars to find stealth aircraft). Reason I ask is the US has reported that the Chinese have been making major investments into the research & development of directed energy weapons including lasers & rail guns.

  • KenPrescott

    What’s the mission of the DF-21D?

    Is it aimed at American carriers?

    Is it aimed at American replenishment ships?

    Or is really aimed at China’s carrier?

    The idea behind the last point is that the 2nd Artillery Corps wants to show that it can protect China’s seaward approaches much more effectively and at a lower cost than the Chinese Navy can.

    Budget wars! With live ammo!

    • and China being China, the power brokers over at PLA want the guys at PLAN to know they can sink they’re ships if they need to.
      In a communist government it’s alway important to remember that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean the world isn’t out to get you.

  • Mark Jumper

    Isn’t it instructive that the Chinese themselves, would-be swarmers of ASCMs and TBMs, are adding carriers to their fleet? Maybe there’s something to those vulnerable platforms after all!

    • Even if the Chinese don’t think their carriers stand a chance against the USN, they certainly are more than a match for the other regional sub-powers like Vietnam, Indonesia and The Phillipines. If they are concerned about India threatening their sealanes then projecting power into the Indian Ocean is a must.

      • Jeff

        Mark, I agree. Excellent point.

    • Frank Langham

      Prestige and respect … Carriers are a symbol of strength (the ultimate bling).

    • Jeff

      Mark – good point. I didn’t intone that carriers weren’t useful. In fact, I specifically said they were useful…that their airpower was indispensable. My main point is that they might be used differently. More, the Chinese might use them differently from the way the US uses them. I can see that they’d come in handy against China’s smaller, regional rivals.

  • jeeten

    Boost Indias production base and you have yourslef a manufacturing base capable of producing carriers at WW2 levels for the western navies

  • Jim Valle

    Man, this article generated more commentary than anything else seen here in a long time. A good deal of it was highly technical but it seems to me that some broad general themes were neglected. For starters I don’t think that any nation is going to try to match our existing and projected fleet of large deck carriers. It’s just too expensive and complex a job and we’re too far ahead already. Next, given advancing ship killer missile technology, the only real protection our carriers have is the realization that sinking one by any method means all out war with the United States. No advantage gained by taking out one of our carriers is worth this risk to any nation. Third, the whole business of operating multiple carrier strike groups is hideously expensive. Only a third of the force can be on station at any one time. The others are in overhaul or training. Add the cost of the air groups, the defensive ring of Aegis cruisers and destroyers, the fleet train, shore bases and thousands of personnel and you are spending many bllions of dollars just to deploy four groups of eighty aircraft all around the World. Only the US economy can support such a drain on its resources and even we have to sacrifice very desirable military and domestic priorities to accomplish it. The great age of carrier versus carriers warfare lasted only about 44 months. Since then carriers have only been relevant to the extent that they affect land warfare outcomes. Prowling the blue water main looking for enemy fleets to engage and sink is probably not in our future.

    • Curtis Conway

      “I don’t think that any nation is going to try to match our existing and projected fleet of large deck carriers.”

      China just started down the path, using our green backs to do it with.

      “. . . given advancing ship killer missile technology, the only real protection our carriers have is the realization that sinking one by any method means all out war with the United States. “

      As we get weaker (at least for the next two years) and China gets stronger, anything is possible when the enemy realizes that our leadership is ‘anything but’.

      “ . . . the whole business of operating multiple carrier strike groups is hideously expensive.”

      You Sir, are making our case for the Expeditionary Strike Group (Marine-centric) / Light Carrier Battle Group (Navy-centric). Much less expensive to operate, and with the F-35B Combat System brings a lot to the table. The V-22 variants bring a lot of versatility, speed, and as well.

      “Only the US economy can support such a drain on its resources and even we have to sacrifice very desirable military and domestic priorities to accomplish it.”

      A very biased statement that really does require some explanation. Do you have insurance of any kind? Safety, Security, and economy . . . CSGs are cheap insurance compared to the Blood you will shed regaining the high ground once you have lost it. The CSGs maintain Proactive Presence and maintain our Sea Lines Of Communications (SLOCS) which are ESSENTIAL for our (and our Allies) economy. To deny the necessity of the requirement is to fundamentally not understand the international economy, trade, shipping on the high seas, and sea power in the modern age . . . remembering the HiStorical context. We are creating vacuums and ‘not so nice things’ are filling them in our absence, having a very negative effect on our economy, and that of our Allies.

      “Since then carriers have only been relevant to the extent that they affect land warfare outcomes.”

      Once again, a statement that exudes contempt for the HiStoric context, and the very capability that has served this nation, and that of its allies, well.

      What is missing in today’s context is US Leadership, which in the past has always been Righteous, unwavering, looking out after our Allies (as well as our own interest), who by and large are independent small democracies
      looking to flourish in the world economy without having to deal with oppression from an overbearing neighbor. Now there is a term for you . . . “Overbearing Neighbor” . . . describe anybody in the South China Sea?!

      • Jeff

        Jim and Curtis, I appreciate you all sounding off. Good debate points. I’d obviously lean more toward Curtis’ thinking. I’m not convinced China would behave as the “rational actor” and be deterred by a major US reprisal if they did sink a carrier. This is a very American-centric view, and one must take into account the Chinese mindset. James Kraska’s article, “How the United States Lost the Naval War of 2015” offers a plausible scenario where the US National Command Authority just doesn’t retaliate in the face of getting a carrier sunk. It’s something to take seriously.

        • Curtis Conway

          Point taken. The US Navy is not the only actor in the region. The USAF, submarine force, and Allies are in the equation too.

          The Nationalistic Chinese Mindset is a point well taken as well. It’s one the administration does not understand. But then . . . you would have to go to the briefings to understand it.

  • bee bop

    I think you have posted Captain Mahan a little to high on the mast as the renaissance man of naval warfare. Information gathering is a human instinct with such simple efforts as the hostess in a restaurant, a boy on the pier with a fishing pole, reading the Forum in USNI News, or a modern drone flying about undetected in the littorals or further out above the shipping lanes. Political deterrence has always been the best war waged, but it has to be backed with real strength, as Teddy Roosevelt preached. Mahan emerged from the community of West Point, and is an excellent study of a successful Naval Officer in his own right. But Roosevelt, though an Army man of superb courage and leadership, was the first to present a modern navy to the world with his “Great White Fleet,” offering Congress the proposal of sending the fleet around the world in grand display. Congressed balked at the notion of the expense of that endeavor. So Roosevelt countered with the fact that he had enough money to send them half way, and if the Congress continued to refuse his request, that was what he would do. They knew not to call his bluff, and the power of the US Navy was witnessed around the world. But ships wear out and we have to sustain a modern Navy. At least we have enough names of courage to keep in front of us.

    • Jeff

      bee bop – I wrote, “one of history’s preeminent naval theorists,” not “THE renaissance man of naval warfare,” as you say. Quite frankly, I don’t know who the latter would be – this “renaissance man” you speak of. Nelson? Nimitz? Spruance? Rickover? Ted Nugent?

      • publius_maximus_III


      • bee bop

        Your follow up leaves me with a sense of “touche.” Mahan was definitely the “think tank” of the time with his writings of “projection of sea power” if I can summarize his ideas in that way , and it would appear likely that he was the prime motivator behind the later actions of T. Roosevelt, as I have found in further research. But something had to have been in the works for a while, because when TR was ready to act the ships and crews were already in place. We need a time line for this discussion. They met at the Naval War College in 1887, but it wasn’t until the 1890’s that Mahan’s lectures were published. The Great White Fleet made it’s trek from December 1907 to February, 1909. Mahan was definitely the better researcher than sea captain based on his record, but had definitely impacted the navies of the world, particularly ours. And TN was a draft dodger for whatever thats worth. Peace.

  • OleSalt_1

    Great challenges face the USN Carrier Force, and it must always stay ahead of its adversaries. It should never rest on the laurels of past WW II victories in the Pacific, as well as other 20th Century Operations.

    • Jeff

      You are dead on correct, Sir. Thanks for joining in.

  • publius_maximus_III

    One major advantage a missile has over a carrier plane is that it doesn’t need to refuel, since it is always on a one-way trip. That consideration can be used either to make the missile smaller and faster, or to extend its range. An anti-ship missile is today’s Kamikaze, a weapon which did a lot of damage at the end of WW-II.
    The memory of that British destroyer that was sunk by the Argentines in the Falkland Islands using a single French Exocet missile is still fresh on my mind. To me, that incident ushered in a new era of naval warfare, where battles could be decided in minutes, or even seconds.
    In WW-II, our U.S. Navy command had realized the era of the battleship was going to be supplanted by the era of the carrier. Thank goodness the carriers were out at sea on December 7th. We need to be sure our future naval forces anticipate what may be the next era of naval combat.

    • Jeff

      Good points, Maximus. Thanks for weighing in.

  • Pingback: The New Strategic Realities of U.S. Carrier Operations | Andrew S. Erickson()

  • sferrin

    You know what would be nice? If defense writers had the integrity to point out that NOT ONCE has China ever demonstrated the ability to hit a moving ship with a ballistic missile. They go to great lengths to paint China as the boogie man when they are but a pale shadow of the threat the Soviet Union presented with it’s Oscars and Backfires. Why is a YJ-12 scarier than a Kh-22 Kitchen or P-700 Shipwreck? Get a grip people.

    • Jeff

      Sferrin – thanks for your comments. For me, personally, it was not a matter of my integrity, but research done by the DoD and other missile techies that I drew on. And true, the Chinese haven’t hit a carrier with an ASBM yet. But I don’t think we have to wait to start to think about countering threats before they become full fledged. I think it’s prudent to address them even when they might be just concepts. And Chinese ASMBs are much more than concepts. They are real. Finally, you are right, the Kh-22s and P-700s are serious anti-ship threats. But the impetus behind this piece was that the Chinese government has been the main country vocally and frequently threatening missile strikes and war against the US, Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, and Taiwan. Lots of these threats are very specific – such as hitting Long Beach, CA, with ballistic missiles and battling the US Fleet. The Russians have not met this level of rhetoric.

  • Sam Riddle

    I cant help but wonder as I read this article and the realities of an unprepared military are these new concepts like the rail gun and laser technology that no doubt will rely heavily on electrical power, and electronic sensors whether they will stand up to an enemy that is extensively evolved in it’s electronics warfare technology. Are these new weapons systems EMP hardened and what happens when the ship goes dark?

    And, the Aircraft Carrier Battle Group is an naval air mobile strategic asset, something America will never do without, maybe faster and cheaper made carriers should be a consideration.

    I look back at WW II and remember that it was the Island Hopping Campaign driven by Naval Air Battle Groups followed by a land invasion force that saved the day, not so much in the European conflict once landed, it was an overland open battle carried by land based air supremacy.

    On one side of the world that seems to be in total meltdown the Middle East with smaller armies such as Iran or the Taliban, it is close in air support many miles from any blue water rather than the long range threat further in our future of bigger foes with real armies like Russia, China and North Korea.

    Seems to me, we need to rethink this pivot idea and go back to our roots, being prepared for war in both places…

    • Curtis Conway

      EMP hardness is in the Standard.

    • Jeff

      Sam – nice encapsulation of carrier air power in the Pacific vs mostly land-based air power in Europe (during WW II). That’s a great addition to the strategic overview of this debate. And I think your idea about scrapping the “pivot” is a good one. And I’m an Asia hand. We should be focusing on areas based on national interests and practicality, which naturally includes Asia and several other regions. Saying we are pivoting toward Asia sends the wrong strategic msg…as if we were turing “from” other areas and “finally” getting to Asia.

      • Sam Riddle

        Thanks Jeff, I can’t compare to the knowledge you guys have on the subject but as an old vet who understood our national security objectives of the 80’s and 90’s and what happened after 9/11. It really concerns me how our national security policy is more based on politics now a days than the reality of the threats we face.

        Pretty scary stuff, especially with sequestration, I look forward to learning from you fellas on this site…

        BTW, there has been a lot of bad messaging going out to our foes of late, almost amateurishly…

  • James B.

    If the goal of the US fleet is to sink enemy warships, the carrier’s air wing and the submarine fleet are the only striking arms which carry enough anti-ship missiles to be meaningful. The CGs and DDGs exist to defend the carrier from air attack, and there don’t seem to be plans to buy a legitimate surface-to-surface frigate/corvette/whatever.

  • Tony

    This article seems to anticipate the scenario that plays out in “The Aztlan Protocol” a China US war thriller.

  • Pingback: Okinawa Japanese Restaurant Yorktown Menu | antipasta - delicious italian restaurants()