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Document: McCain White Paper on Future Defense Budget Recommendations

The following is a white paper that was issued on Jan. 16 from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on defense spending recommendations for fiscal years 2018 to 2022.

  • CharleyA

    Skimmed it last night. Proposes a new, smaller CV class (not LHA w/ F-35s,) adding a bunch of Super Hornets and Growlers, a new frigate. Good stuff.

    • El_Sid

      a new, smaller CV class (not LHA w/ F-35s,)

      Well that starts getting into a matter of definitions – arguably LHA-6 *is* an aircraft carrier by most international definitions, it’s a similar size to de Gaulle or a Midway. What he says is “a smaller, lower cost, conventionally powered aircraft carrier. Over the next five years, the Navy should begin transitioning from large deck amphibious ships into smaller aircraft carriers”.

      A Queen Elizabeth would certainly fit the bill, whether in STOVL or CATOBAR form. In fact it looks like he’s been looking through the BAE catalogue, his frigate sounds awfully similar to the Type 26…

      • CharleyA

        What is unwritten is that a LHA cannot adequately perform the missions which are typically assigned to CVNs. A smaller CV in the 6-70,000 ton / Forrestal / QE class range is probably hitting the sweet spot. STOVL only would be a show-stopper: The new CV would need the ability to launch MQ-25, E-2Ds, EA-18s, which is unlikely with a LHA / America class reconfiguration.

        • Jacek Zemło

          I agree there is not much sense to build 100k+ tons, 13 billion $ carriers for a 40+ strikefighters air wings. But a new CV would take another 20 years to develop and (knowing the realities) cost even more than a CVN.

        • El_Sid

          STOVL only would be a show-stopper:

          At the moment the lack of reliability of EMALS/AAG would suggest that CATOBAR is a show-stopper!

          And I completely understand the prejudice against STOVL – but at the same time that shouldn’t blind you to what can be done with the current state of the art in STOVL (or marginal development of existing tech).

          F-35B is still highly capable, and looks like it will take over significant amounts of the work done by Hawkeye and Growler. Yes altitude is always nice but less of an issue if the “Hawkeye” is more of an integration node than a sensor node. You can imagine a Crowsnest-type module on an Osprey (or FVL, or AW609) – the Merlin version will reach IOC in two years, although I imagine the USN might well prefer the Lockheed version that was too expensive for the RN. The palletised V-22 Aerial Refueling System will start deliveries next year.

          Is any of this as good as Hawkeyes and Stingray and Growlers? No – but it doesn’t have to be. Is it good enough to do the missions required? I think so.

          Key to it is that none of this is Powerpoint – the STOVL version of QNLZ is a real design that is in the water (builders trials begin in a few months). Surge capability of high 50’s of aircraft doing up to 110 sorties a day, at a cost in serial production of $3bn-ish built in the UK.

          LHA-6 is only 14′ shorter than de Gaulle, and the latter can launch Hawkeyes (just!!).

          • CharleyA

            McCain knows of all of your points re: V-22 and F-35, yet still wants a CV and not an LHA.

          • El_Sid

            Maybe we’re just talking labels, but there’s nothing that says a CV has to be CATOBAR – indeed the RN has always been quite careful to distinguish between carriers and its LPH’s even if they were superficially quite similar (Ocean and the Invincibles were both ~20,000t flattops).

            I don’t see anything in McCain’s piece to rule out STOVL – although I’m well aware of the Pentagon’s tendency to take the Gucci option at all times.

          • CharleyA

            A CV – which in US service implies CATOBAR – would / should have the ability to launch any naval aircraft now in service or planned. LHA / STOVL limits the types and weights of aircraft that can be embarked, and are unable to leverage the highly optimized and superior capabilities that specialized aircraft bring to the fleet. Perhaps the new CV class could be designed to support STOVL aircraft while not affecting cycles, but the point is the fundamental design of LHA limits its effectiveness and defensibility in missions that US CVs normally undertake, hence the call for a new CV class vs. simply tasking a LHA.

          • El_Sid

            No – hull designations are about role rather than mechanics. CV is any kind of fleet carrier for power projection (but can fly tiltrotors and helicopters as well as fixed-wing), as opposed to Lxx whose role is amphibious assault. The fact that historically the USN has not used STOVL aircraft in a power projection role is not relevant – the Falklands shows it can be done.

          • CharleyA

            Yes, technically CV means carrier, heavier than air. But in modern USN practice, it means cats and traps. LHA is not suitable for the mission set that US CVNs are expected to perform because they lack the ability to launch the aircraft needed to support those missions. Again, the McCain paper is calling for the creation of a new class of CVs because even a large 45KT America Class LHA cannot adequately perform the mission.

      • tpharwell

        BAE as we know, owns shipyards in America. I am sure it would like to have something to build in them. (Former Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Co., in Jacksonville, and Mobile, bought and sold by John Lehman.

  • Horn

    I remember reading a government report on an independent study showing the cost effectiveness vs capabilities, nuclear vs conventional propulsion, CATOBAR, etc. on aircraft carriers in the 1990s. They concluded that large carriers were the best value for your money, something around 70k+ tons. Granted this was before the USS Ford and hybrid electric propulsion, but still it was an interesting read. I’m not quite sold on light carriers as we can see the effectiveness of other nations’ CVs. Maybe the QE-class might give us a more modern example of its effectiveness. Definitely agree with the procurement of Super Hornets and Growlers to fill the capability gap. Also agree with opening up competition on a new frigate again (NSC variant). They need to purchase more of the Mk VI patrol boats and work on a replacement for the Cyclone-class.

    • El_Sid

      It’s interesting how the study on alternative carriers that was commissioned ?2 years ago seems to have been buried….

      I think part of the prejudice against “small” carriers in the USN is the way that the LHAs have been built around the Panama Canal, which makes them too narrow for comfortable flight operations. QNLZ has been designed without that restraint (and obviously the widening of the canal has implications for the USN), indeed she’s got a relatively huge flightdeck for the size of hull in an attempt to reduce the manpower needed for constant fidgeting with the air group.

  • Lazarus

    A “frigate” such as the kind Senator McCain proposes will cost over $1b, as have the British, Australian and now French heavy frigate designs. Why does the USMC need to be 200K personnel? That’s more than the Marine Corps had in 1991. Back then, the Navy had 451 ships and it is now down to 274. It seems Senator McCain has turned his back on his service in favor of parochialist ground force rhetoric.

    • Marauder 2048

      No one has ever accused the Senator of being a great thinker. I’m curious as to who actually wrote this white paper.