Home » News & Analysis » Senate Armed Services Bill Directs Navy to Start a Preliminary Design Effort for a Light Carrier, Pluses Up Shipbuilding Totals Over Trump Budget


Senate Armed Services Bill Directs Navy to Start a Preliminary Design Effort for a Light Carrier, Pluses Up Shipbuilding Totals Over Trump Budget

Four F-35B Lightning II aircraft perform a flyover above the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) on Nov. 20, 2016. US Navy Photo

The Senate Armed Services Committee version of the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act piles on more ships and aircraft over the Pentagon’s request in a plan that spends more than $20 billion above the Trump administration’s request, according to an executive summary of the legislation that the SASC issued on Wednesday night.

“By supporting $640 billion for defense, this legislation begins to address the readiness shortfall, crisis in modernization, and eroding military advantage by recapitalizing and reinvesting in our forces. This year’s legislation also builds upon the sweeping reforms that Congress has passed in recent years,” committee chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement.
“By continuing important efforts to reorganize the Department of Defense, spur innovation in defense technology, and improve defense acquisition and business operations, the NDAA seeks to strengthen accountability and streamline the process of getting our warfighters the equipment, training, and resources they need to succeed.”

Specifically for the Navy, the SASC is adding $5 billion to the shipbuilding and conversion fund, bringing it to $25 billon. Included is language for the Navy to buy 13 ships in FY 2018, or funds for five more ships than the Pentagon’s budget submission. Included is a third Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer for a total of $5.5 billion, and $3.1 billion for advance procurement of Virginia-class attack submarines (SSN-774).

Both totals, in line with House proposals, include money set aside for “economic order quantities” that would help shipyards by long-lead materials that support a multi-year procurement deal for the destroyers and the attack boats.

An artist’s concept of the 12th San Antonio-class (LPD-17) amphibious warship Fort Lauderdale. HII Image

The SASC bill also calls for $1 billion for an additional amphibious warship in the FY 2018 budget – either the first next-generation LX(R) amphibious dock landing ship replacement or the 14th San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock (LPD-17). The mark also included $661 million for a new Expeditionary Sea Base; $250 million for a T-ARC cable ship; and $509 million for eight Ship to Shore Connectors, five more than the administration asked for.

Absent from the executive summary provided to the public on Wednesday is any mention of the Littoral Combat Ship ship construction. USNI News understands the SASC bill will align with the original presidential budget submission that just asked for one hull in the Fiscal Year 2018 shipbuilding plan, though the administration requested a second ship the day after submitting its budget request to Congress. The bill called for removing $94 million from LCS and the mission module procurement line.

A P-8A Poseidon aircraft assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 is parked on the flight line of Naval Air Station Keflavik, Iceland. US Navy Photo

A P-8A Poseidon aircraft assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 is parked on the flight line of Naval Air Station Keflavik, Iceland. US Navy Photo

In aviation, the bill almost doubled the Pentagon’s request for F/A-18E/F Super Hornets fighters to 24 for $1.9 billion. The SASC calls for $2.3 billion for 13 P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft. The bill also calls for $2.9 billion to buy 24 F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters for the Marine Corps and $1.4 billion for ten F-35C Navy variants.

Among one of the largest departures for the SASC, their bill sets aside $30 million for the Navy for a preliminary design effort to create a light carrier for the service.

McCain has been a constant and consistent critic of the Ford-class carrier program and for years has called for an alternative look to the $13-billion price tag for the next-generation hulls. Included in the series of studies the committee asks the Navy to undertake is the question of light carriers’ ability to distribute aviation assets throughout a battlespace.

Launching of Virginia-class submarine Indiana. HII Photo

The most likely scenario would be a modified version of the America-class big-deck amphib that would add two catapults to launch aircraft, similar to World War II-era straight-deck escort carriers. The idea would be to give deployed amphibious ready groups greater ability to field a wider variety of logistics and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft that would give the groups a better ability to project power, Bryan Clark, author of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis (CSBA) fleet study, told USNI News earlier this year. The Navy has said it has been looking at alternatives to the larger 100,000-ton carriers but a serious public study has not emerged.

While the SASC mark added more ships and aircraft, it also trimmed from other programs. The language wants the Navy to hold the third Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier – Enterprise (CVN-80) – at a cost cap of $12 billion, claws back $100 million in funding from the three-ship Zumwalt-class (DDG-1000), and cuts $225 million in funding for the Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) line, which USNI News understands was tied to FY 2016 funding for the first Flight III destroyer that has yet to be spent.

  • FelixA9

    I would hope the USN would just blow the dust off the last forty studies they did on the light-carrier unicorn and throw it on their desk. I would also ask the SASC why every country that can afford to build large carriers does so if they suck.

    • DogoodPatriot

      I believe the focus of this is to replace the big amphibs overtime and not the supercarriers. The cheapest way to do so would be to build an “Americanized” QE2 class. Replace then install US equipment and sensors, and up to total complement number by at least 1,000( 1,600 to 2,700), which what current big deck amphibs carry. The US QE2s should keep the STOVL config. being that the Marines are sold on the F-35B and use the V-22 platform as needed when it comes to tanking and AEW. As for price, the UK is spending $3.6b on each, so the US could lower the price by 1) building them in number, around 10-12 and 2) build them in sections at competing shipyards, the Brits build them in sections. $3b is possible which is on par with the third America class. Sorry if I rambled on too long. Cheers

      • sferrin

        At best this would just be the “excuse” they’d use to try to quell fears they’re trying to do away with CVNs. As soon as a few got into service (if even that long) the John McCains would start whining about replacing CVNs with them because they’re cheaper.

        • Bill

          I doubt McCain will still be in the Senate that long.

          • sferrin

            I didn’t mean McCain specifically. I was referring to those like him. (Self-aggrandizing, always ready with the soapbox if they can find a mic to bitch about something for the cameras. Reality rarely concerns them much.)

          • Bill

            Got it.

      • El_Sid

        1) Common mistake – but it’s not QE2. Like the WWI battleships, QNLZ is named after QE1.

        2) Although we moan about the cost of building in Britain, shipbuilding seems to be one area where the US is significantly more expensive, despite your economies of scale.

        3) Would be easy enough to add a Crowsnest AEW system to V-22, although I’d guess the USN would prefer to use the more expensive Lockheed system that was rejected by the RN.

        Surprised that there’s been no mention on USNI of QNLZ sailing out for her first sea trials, there’s pics at www defenceimagery mod uk/fotoweb/Grid.fwx?search=((IPTC025%20contains%20QE%20Class)%20or%20(IPTC208%20contains%20QE%20Class)) (replace spaces with full-stops) including her party trick of hingeing her mast to get under the Forth bridges.

      • Jon

        I think it would need catapults they are finding that catapults add a level of options for the Taskforce…

        • El_Sid

          The British studied this intensively and found that adding catapults also added a level of cost for the Taskforce – and on balance the extra options weren’t worth the extra cost. For the RN at least.

    • muzzleloader

      Agreed. The Chinese have a full size CV, with a second on the way, and 4-6 planned. The British are going to have 2 QE class, and I imagine the French would like to have more CVNs if they could. Would an escort type CV be able to complement the E-2, or a squadron of Growlers? Would such a ship,s ammunition magazines be sufficient in size to allow the versatility and sufficient punch for a battle group? Returning to a conventional CV would require would it not, a rethinking of the assets required to supply such a ship with underway refueling for sustained at sea periods? Nothing comes close to the capabilities of the current Nimitz class platforms. They have the ability to traverse the planet if required, with speed and an unmatched potential in terms of firepower. A lot of nations would love to have such assets, we do. Do we really want to settle for less?

      • El_Sid

        The French can (just!) fly an E-2 off de Gaulle – or V-22 equivalent to the British Crowsnest system could be created relatively cheaply and could be used on just about anything down to an Indy LCS. The British aren’t putting Growlers on their carriers – F-35B can do a similar job.

        Sure, a Nimitz is a formidable capability – but you assume an unlimited budget environment. The question is whether one can get 90% of the capability for 70% of the money – and sometimes you’ll get a much greater capability because buying more, smaller ships means that they can be in two places at once. The RN turned down the offer of Ranger in 1982 because they couldn’t man it – two QEs can generate about as many sorties as a Nimitz with 2/3 of the manpower.

        Britain had the opportunity to build a 100,000t carrier – but chose two 65,000t ones instead. It’s worth at least looking to see whether the USN would make the same choice.

        • sferrin

          “Britain had the opportunity to build a 100,000t carrier – but chose two 65,000t ones instead. It’s worth at least looking to see whether the USN would make the same choice.”

          They already looked. Do a little research on how they arrived at the Ford configuration. Over half a century of real-life experience informed the design of the Ford with scores of configurations studied, including “light carriers” and conventional QE-sized carriers. I mean damn, the amount of ignorance that goes into some posts, “hurrrr, I’ll be the USN never thought of that before” is mind boggling.. Nobody else has more experience than the USN when it comes to carriers. And the #2 guy isn’t even close.. (Not referring to you specifically, just all the, “hey, they need to reevaluate and look at this neato idea” comments. THEY ALREADY LOOKED. THOSE IDEAS DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT.)

          • El_Sid

            AIUI there’s been no serious USN study of smaller carriers since the late 70s – a lot has changed since then. Certainly all the US discussion of smaller carriers I’ve seen has assumed that smaller carriers come with much higher costs and much lower sortie generation. The QE class rather disprove that and show what can be done with current technology.

            I also get a strong sense of institutional inertia (“Everything since Forrestal has been an 80,000+ ton Supercarrier” implying that’s what is appropriate now). The other factor is that Nimitzes are amazing – but cost. That’s fine when budget is not a great consideration, but in the current environment, I’d suggest that effectiveness per $$$ will get much higher weighting than in previous analyses. Even if the underlying facts are similar, the fiscal and threat environment are rather different to even when Ford was being designed.

          • Donald Carey

            Until the QE class is fully operational, no one will know if they live up to their hype, so no, the QE class has NOT disproved anything yet.

          • El_Sid

            Come off it, it’s far more real compared to the Powerpoint designs that usually get discussed on these forums. Sure, we’ll only know for certain once the airwing is fully assembled and it goes to war, but at least it’s 90% there – it’s a real design that’s in the water, and all the aircraft that will fly from it are in the air. We know what the models say it should be capable of – the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, but there’s little evidence that the models are significantly wrong.

          • Donald Carey

            Sure – and the models for the LCS were positively glowing. If the sorties per buck (building plus operating cost), are even close I’ll be surprised.

          • El_Sid

            Well compared to Powerpoint ships we’ve got one big uncertainty out of the way, building cost is pretty much done and dusted now, despite the 25% increase solely due to political interference. Sure, the F-35 costs are not as settled – but there’s no realistic alternative so that is a factor when looking at any new Western carrier. So it comes down to ship operating costs – and although it’s a feat of structural engineering there’s relatively little unproven technology in there apart from the weapons handling system – at least compared to say the Fords with new reactors, EMALS and AAG.

            And it’s not the USN doing the models…. ;-/

      • Chesapeakeguy

        I don’t think anyone would argue that our nuke carriers are without peer. But their costs are what they are. Our Navy did just fine with a mix of CVs and CVNs for all those decades. Will additional tankers have to be built/acquired to keep new CVs fueled and supplied? I think the answer is obvious, and that has to be factored in to their over all costs. BUT, if it comes down to a matter of how QUICKLY new ships can be brought into the fleet, then CVs might be attractive, because they should be able to be built quicker than CVNs, and do not require the same kinds of specialized maintenance or facilities over time. For those who make it a question of total ‘life cycle costs’, I’ve seen info over the years that have BOTH CVs and CVNs being the more ‘economical’ over the other one, so I have no clue what the truth is about that. I do agree that if TIME is not a factor, stick with the CVNs.

        • sferrin

          “Our Navy did just fine with a mix of CVs and CVNs for all those decades.”

          All what decades? Everything since Forrestal has been an 80,000+ ton Supercarrier. And if you haven’t noticed, the seas are far more dangerous today than back in the 50s.

          • El_Sid

            Which is maybe an argument for dispersing aircraft across more hulls that can better cover those seas, but which can come together when a lot of punch is needed at one point.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            ALL THOSE DECADES since the Forrestal class was launched until they were retired in the 90s! What OTHER ones are there? Until they were replaced by nukes they existed with nukes. Look it up! And if YOU haven’t noticed, systems are in place or in development to help level that playing field of ‘dangerous seas’.

      • tiger

        The Cold War is over. You do not need all the firepower for most missions.

    • El_Sid

      I’d disagree – it’s always worth doing a study once in a generation to see how the numers stack up with current construction costs, aircraft capabilities, other capabilities (like anti-air capabilities of escorts affecting CAP requirements), sensor capabilities and what the enemy looks like.

      And “every country that can afford it” currently builds carriers that are half the size of a Nimitz – de Gaulle is roughly the same size as LHA-6. If you’re looking at what other countries think is “a carrier that doesn’t suck”, then 40-60,000t carriers would be the way to go.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    Will this ‘light carrier’ be conventionally powered? If so, then why bother with a ‘light’ vessel and instead design a new CV along the lines of the retired “Forrestal” class or other defunct conventionally powered super carriers? With modern systems, it won’t be cheap, and decisions would have to be made about how the catapults are powered among other things. But if it’s NOT nuclear powered, then it WILL be cheaper than a Ford, and can no doubt be built in a quicker time period than what’s required for CVNs.

    • tiger

      You do not have the manpower for ship or Airwings. And what is to escort these ships?

      • Chesapeakeguy

        Umm, what is going to escort this supposed light carrier? And how much ‘manpower’ does the Ford class require? And what will escort those Fords? First things first. I’m confident that the Navy will be able to man these ships and provide the requisite air wings. Last I saw, there are fewer air wings than actual carriers, because at any given time one or several carriers are in ‘pipeline’ and not deployable. I personally believe “if you build it, they will come!”. But first things first…

        • tiger

          The Navy has many issues and a small checkbook to play with. The USN & USMC have the same shortage of pilots as does a the USAF. So more airwings are doubtful even with money. As for escorts? The idea of bring back the FFG-7’s from mothballs is on the table short term.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            Yet they are talking about possibly DESIGNING and BUILDING an entirely new class of ship, or re-designing/modifying an existing one. Either one costs a fair amount of money. You asked about escorts, then with your reference to bringing back the few Perry’s they have in mothballs, that supposedly solves your own escort question. So you have a me a but confused here. As to pilot shortages, well, they’re still going to have them with a new light design or a modified America. I’m sure the the Navy will address that, which I’m sure they will. or at least they will attempt to do so.

    • Jon

      with Fuel at its current price why not but what if the price of crude rises… I personally like the idea of anything over 12,000 ton displacement (except auxiliary ships aka oilers dry cargo etc) being nuclear powered

      • El_Sid

        It’s reallly only above $100 oil that it becomes worthwhile for most ships to be nuclear powered – CRUDES a bit less as they put in the miles, but gators and carriers less so. There’s a tactical element – but your planes and escorts will need tanking as well.

        Actually I think one of the best ships to power by nuclear is an oiler – combine it with the technology for electrolysing seawater to JP-8 and an AON could stay with the fleet creating its own fuel. You need a really big reactor though – even a Ford-type reactor fulltime on fuel production would barely cover routine ops, you’d need extra tankers for surge ops.

      • Chesapeakeguy

        Well, the costs of ‘crude’ have always been a consideration. They still are. We had several big oil-fueled carriers that didn’t miss a beat when those various ‘oil embargoes’ were in place against this country. Certainly their operating costs went up in those times, but we made do. I like nuke power too but we both know that the days of things like nuke powered escorts are over, and I have not seen any proposals for nuke powered auxiliary or amphib or supply ships. I think the logical trend to pursue is in reducing the manning requirements for ALL ships. That might be another subject, but when over all costs are considered, it’s something that will need to be addressed.

        • tiger

          Trump wants a coal burning fleet again.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            Obama wanted an all-Pink fleet. So I guess we’re done here…

  • Jffourquet

    Now study the cost and effectiveness of AIP submarines for the USN.

    • sferrin

      They USN is already fully equipped. They’re called, “SSNs”.

      • Jffourquet

        The Navy is projecting a shortfall of SSNs in the 2020s. AIP sub are cheaper, and good enough to penertrate a CVN escort screen, attack the CVN and escape unharmed. AIP subs add attach subs to the fleet and a lower production cost.

        • sferrin

          FFS not this s–t again.

        • Donald Carey

          AIP subs are only good for operations close to their base – they just don’t have the speed or range needed. America would MUCH rather keep the fight a long way from our shores, thank you!

          • Jffourquet

            The Japaness Soryo class has a range of 6100 nautical miles, more this enough to to take the fight away from our shores. As I said before AIP subs provide an effective sub at reduced cost.

          • tiger

            Well said. Nuc boats are nice, but most nations are fine with the AIP.

          • Donald Carey

            Russia’s front line subs are NOT AIP. 3rd class navies use AIP subs, the U.S.N. is not a 3rd class navy.

          • tiger

            A propulsion system is just that: a propulsion system. Not a measure a naval power’s ability.

          • Raad

            Hi there, To be honest….they are second :). We(the Dutch Navy) penetrated the carrier escort screens several times now with our AIP subs during excersises. Because our subs are bigger then most AIP subs, we use them in the way the USN operate their subs. Exept we can deliver sub ops also near coastel areas and the USN subs don’t. And above all,….AIP subs are by far more quiet then USN subs. So AIP subs do have a positive side…

          • Donald Carey

            6100 nautical miles at what speed? Remember:”get there firstest with the mostest” Nuclear subs are more than twice as fast.

          • PolicyWonk

            This never stopped our allies AIP boats from cleaning our clocks in war games

          • tiger

            We have bases from Naples to Guam. AIP is a good idea.

          • Donald Carey

            Those bases could disappear tomorrow and you know it. AIP is NOT a good idea for the U.S.N.

          • tiger

            Nor is spending $2 billion a boat sustainable. Sub tenders can set up shop on the fly if a base is needed to be moved. That is why they float.

          • PolicyWonk

            Guam is a US possession, and it’s not going anywhere. We have allies all over, and AIP boats are not only far less expensive, but they’re both quieter and better suited for littoral operations.

          • PolicyWonk

            Forward basing easily resolves that problem…

          • El_Sid

            For as long as the bases are intact…

            As someone who thinks that AIP boats have a place in the 1000-ship navy (but in two minds whether they should be in US or allied navies within those 1000 ships), I can recognise that weakness.

            On the flip side, if things have gone that badly in a war that all bases have been neutralised then the SSN’s are going to be having a hard time as well. I think the existence of bluewater AIP boats that can be on patrol from a base in say Okinawa and then have enough juice to retreat back to Hawaii should Okinawa get “reconfigured”, significantly changes the argument for AIP in the USN.

            I think the argument for AIP boats in the USN is certainly stronger than Wayne Hughes’ Seafighters, which definitely belong in allied navies rather than the USN.

  • Horn

    This article’s title is misleading. It sounds like SASC is just asking the Navy to draw up plans to add catapult capability and a sky ramp for the amphibs to give them more value in the dual role.

    • tpharwell

      May be. May be not. One would need to read the language in the marked up bill. The following statement, to which I believe you are responding, is at best hearsay, and sounds like conjecture:

      “The most likely scenario would be a modified version of the America-class big-deck amphib that would add two catapults to launch aircraft, similar to World War II-era straight-deck escort carriers. The idea would be to give deployed amphibious ready groups greater ability to field a wider variety of logistics and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft that would give the groups a better ability to project power, Bryan Clark, author of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis (CSBA) fleet study, told USNI News earlier this year. The Navy has said it has been looking at alternatives to the larger 100,000-ton carriers but a serious public study has not emerged.”

      Another word for it might be “spin”. But one must always be very wary of reliance on such statements, knowing that “it is never over until the fat lady sings”. On its face, the statement is not hard to dispute. Given all the money that has gone into, and keeps going in to the F-35B – the only version of the plane worth having, and the problems the Navy is having with expensive new catapults, it is hard to see how it could be so dumb as to waste money on catapults for VSTOL carriers. A more likely scenario would be a smaller angled deck carrier, of the proportions of Midway, with one nuclear reactor, a back-up turbine-genset all electric drive, and fewer catapults. Or something modeled on the QE. Depends a lot on the aircraft envisioned.

  • tpharwell

    Leadership on this subject, from where you would expect it. Good to know there still is some.

  • b2

    “Light carrier” means light-weight thinking. $30M waste of my tax dollars for more foolish ideas… That money would be better spent coming up with a new Frigate design so we relegate LCS to the trash heap of history…
    No John McCain, we can’t rebuild the original America class conventional large deck (powerful) carriers, even if we tried for much less than the price of a Ford class we over developed, so that only leaves the option to another stinking LPD/LPA type, “minus ship” as alluded to in the article…. That is being stuck on stupid. $30M is a lot to me John, I didn’t marry a beer heiress!

  • NavySubNuke

    I love the idea of building a slightly larger America optimized for limited flight ops.
    In addition to saving billions during construction we’ll save billions more over the life of the ship since the crew is 1/4 the size.
    Will it launch as many sorties in one day? No Will it carry as many planes? No But will it allow us to provide a necessary air presence at a much lower cost? Certainly.
    We’ll get push back from NAVAIR and the rest of the aviators —- but that is more of a sign of us being on the right path than the wrong one.

    • NavseaRetired

      LHA-6 USS America is a great large deck amphib. It can cruise very economically at 10 knots using only its two electric propulsion main engines. (the ship has 5 big diesel generators). However, if LHA-6 or its new twin LHA-7 USS Tripoli, wants to increase speed to 15 knots or 18 knots or 21 knots, then it must light off both its 2 gas turbines: one on each shaft. The max sustained speed of a fully loaded, fully fueled LHA-6 class is roughly 21 knots without running your mains at 100 % MCR. (Max continuous rating). So…. you want your new light CVV to have a max sustained speed of 21 knots ????

      What if the local winds are less than 5 knots ? Want to launch a fully loaded F-35B that carries both fuel and ordnance ???? On a hot day in the Persian Gulf with no winds ???

      Probably not a very flexible CVV platform for serious air ops. But LHA is a most excellent Amphib ship. Truly impressive quantity of JP-5 and DFM fuels carried onboard !! Decent self defense combat system. Really excellent aviation and command and control facilities and lots of maintenance space and gas carrying capabilities…… We should crank out 3 new LHA’s per decade minimum.

      • tiger

        How about adding a Navalized A-29? Small enough to fit & does not need a cat to launch. Yet carries enough weapons & fuel for needed aircover in a non Mig Air space.

        • El_Sid

          You sure? This has a Brazilian Super Tucano needing 1,778ft to take off empty :

          http:// aviationweek com/defense/emb-314-super-tucano-pilot-report

          • tiger

            WW 2 planes with Very heavy loads took off from decks smaller than a LHA of today.

  • Sir Bateman

    Building an America class knock off or two optimized for VSTOL operations with F-35Bs may not be an altogether terrible idea as long as Congress funds the purchases of enough F-35Bs to actually operate from said carriers. However building some sort of “light” carrier complete with cats and traps is a fools errand that will end up costing almost as much as a brand new Ford class.

    • Curtis Conway

      The the USS Tarawa (LHA-1) first came out with her brand new AV-8B Harrier IIs the General of the MAGTF and the Admiral of the Battle Group wanted to prove you wrong. It turns out that the MAG was able to maintain a SSSC aircraft, helos and a CAP (with ready-5 standing by) for the entire transit. The launch and recovery rate rivaled anything a conventional carrier could do at that time. The data was quashed and they wouldn’t publish it for fear of jeopardizing the funding a Bird Farms of the day. That argument still persist . . . and we are broke . . . and we need those Lightning Carriers now. THAT is why the USMC needs a full complement of F-35Bs, instead of being forced to buy F-35Cs.

      • tiger

        How would you feel about Small Attack bird for a Light Carrier? Like a A-29 or or Armed T-45?

        • El_Sid

          It’s a similar argument to having them on land – nice to have, but it seems the capability hasn’t earned itself a budget even for the “easy” option of using them on land. T-45 is more realistic, given that it’s semi-navalised (but would still need more work on that front) and there’s lots of toys it could use out there on other Hawks.

          It also means you getting away from STOVL carriers like LHA-6 or QE, so you’re adeding more cost and complication there.

          • tiger

            I think they they would complement the choppers & be more effective than the Sea Cobras. The ship design would not need to change that much.

          • El_Sid

            The fact remains that the US hasn’t felt the need for them on land, despite having spent 16 years doing COIN, and it being far cheaper to deploy them on land than at sea. Navalising is a whole different kettle of fish, it’s not trivial. Plus you end up taking up very limited hangar spots with a one-mission aircraft.

            You’re probably better off with drones if you want to drop the odd Hellfire – at least drones have better persistence and no pilot to lose. Or a Tomahawk if you want a bigger bang. And their low speed makes them less suitable for CAS where you want to be able to respond quickly.

            I understand where you’re coming from, I’m just not sure they tick any box well enough to justify the rather large costs of doing it.

        • Curtis Conway

          Navy aircraft really do better with two engines. Safer over water, and when pressed into missions like CAS (usually emergent tasking under dire circumstances) ‘bullet vacuum cleaners’ do so much better with two engines as they deliver their ordinance, and pull off target with all the holes in the aircraft. I would prefer to see an OV-10G+ or something of that nature. Beef up the landing gear, fuselage, and add a hook. If the Marines wanted to operate ashore with an AT-6 Wolverine, I could be cajoled into supporting it, but it only has one engine. That engine could be upgraded and receive armor making it more damage resistant. My focus is for the CAS aircraft crew. For a low-and-slow mission, in a hail of bullets, RPS, and MANPADS, one engine just doesn’t cut the mustard. The T-45 is one tough bird, but it has one engine, and the same for the Super Tucano. It should have a refueling probe.

          • El_Sid

            They both get used for COIN by many countries though – and certainly the Hawk has lots of extras available off-the-shelf, including refuelling probes. Besides, even A-10’s don’t go as low and slow as they used to…

      • Rob C.

        F-35Bs don’t carry large enough payload to do that job if you want to make America-Class LHA a “Light” Carrier.

        • Curtis Conway

          Support your argument. We are not replacing a CVN airwing. We are responding to GWOT scenarios, maintaining Presence, and Showing the Flag in hot spots. There have already been numerous examples of an ARG willing in for the absence of the CVN in the Persian Gulf. Granted we could not schedule the CVN, and the ARG was the only asset to fill the spot. However, most of the scenarios we are discussing do not require this kind of response, and a Lightning Carrier will have much more throw-weight than a strait MAGTF LHA-6.

      • Sir Bateman

        You sure you responded to the right guy? I said procuring an America class optimized for a limited attack role probably wasn’t a bad idea, i.e. it probably makes financial sense.

        However, if Congress tries to procure some sort of light carrier complete with catapults and arresting gear the price is really going to escalate to the extent that the cost point between it and a Ford will be negligible. In the 1970s Congress looked into procuring a medium sized aircraft carrier, with catapults & arresting gear, in lieu of further Nimitz class production and they eventually deduced that the cost difference between it and a repeat of the JFK was so small as to not be worth the loss in capability. If memory serves me correct the French’s aircraft carrier the Charles de Gaulle ended costing about as much as a Nimitz.

        Again, if Congress wants procure a light attack carrier it needs to be optimized for VSTOL operations and should based off of existing production so as to take advantage of a hot production line and the resulting economies of scale. Additionally Congress must procure the necessary amount of additional F-35Bs to properly outfit said carrier.

        • Curtis Conway

          We are of like mindset. Also the NRE cost for Ford evidently was not all absorbed by the first unit. Every copy there after is over $10 Billion+. Another discrepancy in the big formula that we have been sold. I would build my fill of LHA-6 Lightning Carriers before I would schedule another CVN-78 construction project. The US Navy would have to adopt the F-35B into Reserve Squadrons at JRB Ft. Worth, or something similar to keep the costs down. the VSTOL/STOVL AEW&C aircraft would have to be developed and fielded, or just buy them from the British, but I think we can do better. Revision #2 or the Marine v-22 Osprey Tanker Experiment should come out in a more mature form, probably using the longer range CMV-22B. Trying to turn an LHA-6 into a Light Carrier over and above what already exist is folly because it will add displacement that will require a propulsion upgrade that destroys commonality with the rest of the force increasing logistics costs in the long run. It’s not going to be a nuke . . . which I could come to support, but it would have to look a lot like the other nuke plants and propulsion equipment already in the inventory.

          • El_Sid

            I don’t know whether it would fit in the LHA-6, but an obvious option would be to drop the Zumwalt propulsion system into a new LHA. Would increase the power available by about 50%, and it’s effectively a US-ified version of the Queen Elizabeth propulsion system. Same engines are also used in the Freedom class.

  • Ed L

    New Frigate Needed NOW!

  • seamarshal

    NavySubNuke: well said. Presence is what is needed. Just like having police officers in a high crime area; it reduces crime. If we could build 5 smaller air craft carriers for the price of one super carrier we could cover more of the world’s oceans. With today’s aircraft that can carry more ordinance on one sortie than ever before do we need a 90 plane aircraft carrier? Can 15 Super Hornets do the job? I think so. Look what we are doing to ISIS with the limited number of aircraft we have in the area. As for the F35, I would prefer an upgraded F18 Super Super Hornet for much less. It can do the same job and save the tax payers a bundle. Congress is out of their minds. 20 Trillion in debt and they want to spend more than what President Trump is asking for. When the debt goes to 22 Trillion they’ll blame Trump. Swamp needs to be drained!!

    • Curtis Conway

      You just made the case for truncating a Ford and building 4-5 USS America (LHA-6) Lightning Carriers. Now we need the AEW&C and Tanker support.

      • El_Sid

        Osprey modular tanker kit has already been demonstrated, a Crowsnest-type modular AEW/ASaC solution for Osprey (or even Seahawk) is quite plausible, both Lockheed and Thales have demonstrated one for Merlin.

        Truck – meet payload.

  • RobM1981

    Given all of the money that we spent for the F-35, why not equip the amphibs with a ski ramp, like the Brits have done? I would think that the F-35B would work in that configuration, no?

    And, yes, new Frigate needed now.

    • El_Sid

      The argument against a ramp is that it sharply reduces the area available for helicopter ops. It’s not so bad on QE which is significantly bigger than the LHAs (and has a huge deck area for its size), but the argument would be that the USMC need helicopter spots more than the extra payload on its F-35B’s. The USN has the luxury of splitting fast jet ops and airborne assault, most countries don’t have that luxury.

      • RobM1981

        That’s a good argument.

    • Blain Shinno

      Light Carrier needs to have a CATOBAR system. How much utility are you going to get with just F-35Bs and helos. You are either operating in a permissive environment or you are supplementing a CVN. In the case of the latter there is extra deck space for a squadron or two of F-35s on large deck carriers.

      • RobM1981

        Are we planning on launching AEW’s from this light carrier? If not, then what utility is required that helo’s and the 35 can’t deliver? Air to air refuel?

        Aside from the whole “the F-35 can’t do what the F-18 can do,” which I agree is a big deal, the plan is for the F-35 to be the wonder platform: AAW, ASW, AAA Suppression. The works, no?

        If you can launch 35’s configured for any/all of those missions, how much more do we need? And, where we need more, isn’t that where a CVN should go?

        What is the plan for this LCV – independent operations, or operations as part of a CVBG? Do we really see a situation where these light carriers are operating alone?

        You might have noticed that we are out of cash. I’d like to see some return on some investment. Why is that unreasonable?

        • Blain Shinno

          I believe that is why they are talking about having two catapults on the light carrier. I don’t think any CINC will want to go into battle without AEW and EA support – unless you are going into Somali.

          • tiger

            Most ops are to places like Somalia. As for the AEW & other roles we are making Drones to do some of that duty.

        • tiger

          I would like to add a Navalized A-29 to the America Class

        • Curtis Conway

          On more than one occasion in recent months there has been a lonesome Amphibious Large Deck Aviation Platform in the Persian Gulf/Arabian Sea and no CVN in sight.

      • El_Sid

        How much utility are you going to get with just F-35Bs and helos.

        Enough for the British to be spending $20bn on and betting the future of the FAA on. And the RN won’t even be using V-22’s for AEW and tanking as the USN would likely do.

        You are either operating in a permissive environment or you are supplementing a CVN.

        The real world has far more shades of grey – and wars have been won by Harriers operating off carriers that were half the displacement of a Tarawa. 20-40 F-35’s can do a useful job in a lot of circumstances.

        • Blain Shinno

          If you are talking about the Falklands – that was a bloody mess that didn’t have to be. The British lesson might be that STOVL carriers are all we need. The American lesson is that CATOBAR system carriers are pretty much essential.

          Unless you find a way to replace Growlers and the E-2 with a long endurance UAV, you are going to need those assets. Also, why give up payload and range with the B model if you don’t have to.

          Regarding the HMS Queen Elizabeth – the largest STOVL carrier in the world. That is such a waste. It’s almost as large as CV-41, but only will carry 24 F-35Bs, compared to the Midway’s 75 aircraft – including 60 strikers.

          • tiger

            Wrong lesson then. What Cold war are you fighting that needs that many jets?

          • El_Sid

            If you are talking about the Falklands – that was a bloody mess that didn’t have to be. The British lesson might be that STOVL carriers are all we need. The American lesson is that CATOBAR system carriers are pretty much essential.

            They got the job done – with the loss of life and assets, but they got the job done. It was a close-run thing – but at the time our economy had just been rescued by the IMF and the RN had been subordinated to being the ASW arm of NATO. Sure we learned lessons – CIWS got fitted, Sea Dart software was changed to cope with Western seaskimmers as well as Soviet high-altitude missiles, Sea King got an AEW radar. It would have been easier with a CATOBAR carrier (we turned down the offer of USS Ranger) but the mission was achieved, in spite of the budgets and kit available.

            Although you view the main lesson of the Falklands as CATOBAR, the RN is painfully aware of how close submarines came to really ruining their day, despite being the most ASW-y navy in NATO. That’s why the lessons of the Falkands can be seen in Type 2087 and Merlin HM2 – I’d rather take them sub-hunting than their US equivalents, in fact it’s scary how unserious the USN (or at least the people who fund them) is about ASW relative to the threat. The ASW module for LCS (which incorporates a good chunk of Type 2087) can’t come fast enough.

            And now we will have something rather better than Harriers with Sidewinders. How exactly would the Falklands be better with F-35C’s rather than F-35B’s? Sure, there’s a minor range hit, but set against that the B can operate in rougher seas – it can land on the pivot of the “seesaw”, the C is landing on the end of the seesaw. Significant factor off the Falklands.

            So then your argument for CATOBAR is about the auxiliary aircraft. QE could have had CATOBAR – indeed as recently as 2012 it was going to – but on balance the RN went for a skijump. Sure – noone woulld argue that an E-2 is nice to have – but noone is more familiar with the capabilities of helicopter AEW than the RN. It’s also worth noting that AEW is changing – even E-2/3’s are increasingly data integration nodes for the F-35 radar, as much as radar platforms in their own right. You can see that in the evolution of the bagger Sea Kings – the first ones were AEW.2, then they were upgraded to ASaC.7 – Airborne Surveillance and Control. It’d be nice to have Ospreys for the ASaC mission – but the Crowsnest module that will fit on any Merlin is a neat solution. V-22 Crowsnest is probably justified just for the existing USMC ships, let alone any upgraded LHA.

            As for Growlers – again they’re nice to have, but the F-35 has significant capabilities in that regard. I guess we’ll only really know where the balance comes when it comes to replacing the Growlers – will there be a dedicated EF-35? Certainly I couldn’t see the UK ever getting Growlers even if our main carriers were CATOBAR. That’s partly being budget-conscious, but also a doctrinal thing, we never went for Wild Weasel Tornados like other countries instead preferring to have a lesser capability on every plane.

            the HMS Queen Elizabeth – the largest STOVL carrier in the world. That is such a waste. It’s almost as large as CV-41, but only will carry 24 F-35Bs, compared to the Midway’s 75 aircraft – including 60 strikers.

            It’s never “the HMS” – think about it.

            You do realise that 24 F-35 is the equivalent of 40-odd on a Nimitz? A QE has the capacity to operate over 40 F-35, but won’t do that most of the time. And frankly 24 F-35 and a squadron of Merlin is probably more use. I note that elsewhere you have suggested it’s more important to get F-35 on ships rather than fill them with 4th-gen aircraft “deploy with one less squadron. Its not like anyone blew a gasket when the CVWs went from 60 fighters/attack jets to what it is now.” Extra aircraft can be moved from land bases or indeed built in a factory faster than new carriers can be built.

            You can’t compare the F-35 with Panthers and Cougars, it’s a much bigger aircraft. A 40,000t LHA can only accommodate 20 F-35, the de Gaulle is a similar size to LHA-6 or a Midway and manages 24 Rafale. Two QE cost less than $10bn and can host a similar number of planes to a Nimitz – and more importantly can manage a similar sortie rate, despite being smaller ships. That’s something that has always been one of the big arguments against smaller carriers, the groundcrew spend half their time shuffling planes around the deck so sortie generation suffers relative to big carriers – it’s something that QE has been relentlessly optimised for.

        • Curtis Conway

          The Brits are sticking with STOVL, and the USMC has for some time based upon a British model. Since both will hang with this concept we should join in developing excellent and capable VSTOL/STOVL Tanker & AEW&C platforms. A VSTOL AEW&C with tanking near by can take off of any flight deck and provide E-2D like picture for any formation at sea, in any theater, regardless if a carrier is nearby or not. Several other navies could use this capability and would probably participate in this effort.

      • tiger

        Who are you fighting? Nobody is doing Midway over again. But for short tern air cover in a world where Friendly airstrips are few, it makes sense.

        • Blain Shinno

          The last time I checked there were no super carriers at Midwy. Six participated in Desert Storm. Five – Iraqi Freedom. A similar amount in the initial stages of Enduring Freedom.

          Anytime there is a crisis a carrier or two is often sent like the recent show of force off Korea with two carriers. It just my guess but 120 strike fighters off of two carriers would be a lot more meaningful than 20 off of the America or 24 off of the Queen Elizabeth.

          • El_Sid

            Once again – a QE can operate 40 F-35.

            Your Korean example rather makes the point in favour of more, smaller carriers – the Vinson was off Australia at the time. 40 F-35 on station is a more effective deterrent than 120 fighters thousands of miles away.

            Benghazi happened because there wasn’t any assets in the area – wouldn’t have needed much, just some vertical lift with fighter cover. Perfect for a smaller carrier.

            But if needed, smaller carriers can come together for major attacks, even if there will always be a role for full-fat CVN’s.

          • Refguy

            The term super carrier hadn’t been invented in 1942. Hornet, Enterprise an Yorktown were the newest carriers in the fleet. They were first line ships. CVE and CVL were later, smaller ships.

      • tiger

        Other than France & Brazil, other navies seem to function without that system. Two squadrons is light?

  • CaptainParker

    A “light carrier” – 35,000 to 55,000 tons – is quite doable. Unfortunately, the admirals and the fighter jockies will fight it because these are the people that always want the biggest new toy on the block. It will take political will to force these elements to say “aye, aye sir.” As for the ship itself, put out a list of general specifications and capabilities…and then let the private shipbuilders submit proposed designs. Make it clear that these ships will be built at a fixed price – no never ending cost overruns. Don’t be afraid to accept a foreign design…it can always be built under license. Most important, consider designing the ships to mercantile standards. What, you say? Well, the UK built a whole series of “light carriers” at the end of WWII to mercantile standards. They were economical to operate, carried a respectable air group and served the UK for up to twenty-five years. It CAN be done.

  • Blain Shinno

    The USN should study a conventionally powered medium size carrier instead – along the size of CV-41/43.

    Personally, I don’t like the Ford Class. They should have continued building the Nimitz Class.

    • Sir Bateman

      They did exactly that back in the 1970s during Carters administration, the difference in costs between what you propose and a follow on JFK, the last conventionally powered full size carrier, was minuscule, that’s why it was cancelled and they went with additional Nimitz class carriers.

      • El_Sid

        That was then, this is now. You now have the example of the QE class, which cost <$10bn for two, which can generate a similar sortie rate together as a Nimitz but which can split up to provide presence in places like Benghazi. Different times, different sums.

        • Sir Bateman

          If Congress and the USN want to procure some sort of smaller conventionally powered alternative to full size CVNs for purposes of costs then really the only viable option is a strictly VSTOL platform based upon an existing design that’s currently in production in a U.S. shipyard. Anything that deviates from this, especially if they start trying to install cats and traps, is going to see the cost point escalate roughly to the equivalent of a Ford in fairly short order.

          And even if they go that route Congress is still going to have to come up with the funds to supply the accompanying battle group that all carriers are built around.

  • DefTactics

    The idea of a light carrier only works if it carry out the mission of a CVN in a scaled down fashion.It must have a angled flight deck with the ability to launch and recover all of the current and future aircraft.Something between the America class and the KittyHawk class at approxametly 60,000 tons.It must have the hybrid propulsion system and be able to generate large quantities of power.The idea of a large deck amphibious modified,is target practice for the Chicoms and the Russians !

    • Curtis Conway

      “The idea of a light carrier only works if it carry out the mission of a CVN ” . . . hogwash! What is needed is a VSTOL/STOVL AEW&C aircraft and a Tanker for the ARG/MAGTF. Then we have a roving force that can complement any CVN operation, and handle most light duty tasks, as has been the case on numerous occasions in the Persian Gulf in recent times.

      • tiger

        Exactly. Most Navies do not go whole hog on missions for their ships. Nor Russia, the UK, France, Spain, Japan, China, India, Brazil, etc. The Cold War is over. We are not fighting Midway or Coral Sea again either. We need a ship like the old Essex class that can sit off on Yankee or Dixie Station & give mobile air cover where the USAF has no friendly land close by.

  • tiger

    Why are we putting more money into a amphib force that has not made a real landing since Inchon?

  • Rob C.

    Not this again, I know they want go smaller. Problem is the aircraft we use a Nation.
    F-35 is not a ideal frontline aircraft. Less is still not more. F-35B can’t carry as much as full-outfitted F35C or F/A-18E/F which has large payload and doesn’t worry about stealth as much. Which I think part problem. We have jamming aircraft that handle some of the detection issues. I know it’s not stealth but given race to keep up with anti-stealth technology, I think it’s better trade off while keep the airmen alive.
    A smaller aircraft carrier was studied in the 1970s as replacement/alternate to the Nimitz Class CVN. The CVV, which is in Wikipedia if you want look it up. It was a conventional aircraft carrier of the 50k ton range. Problem when it came down it, was cost. A repeat John F Kennedy CV-67 was just as cheap and still had same capacities of the Nimitz except fuel cost.
    CVV was technically suppose to be less expensive due being smaller and having small air wing to maintain. Essentially Midway-Class Carrier replacement, which she was in commission with most of her sisterships when this study happened.
    Today terms is simple, we can have more ships out there. However you will have more hulls your going to need maintain. Also survivability if big and honking smacks your ship, at least a supercarrier can survive a hit. CVV may not, but the jury is out on how this would have worked out.

    • El_Sid

      Instead of CVV, why not look at the new British carriers? Capacity for 40 F-35B, project cost $2bn in costs by delaying them, estimated that the marginal cost is <$3bn in serial production. So similar cost to LHA-6 but with twice the aircraft.

      And F-35B may not have quite the payload but is still hugely capable (and some of the payload issues will be improved by eg a 1850lb bomb designed for the weapons bay rather than a 2000lb bomb).

      And quantity has a quality all of its own – the USN has too few carriers, there's been too many times when there's not been a carrier in the Gulf, or situations like Benghazi where there's not been enough air assets in the area. You could have the navalised equivalent of an F-22/B-2 lovechild, but if it's not in the area where things are kicking off, then you might as well not bother.

  • John B. Morgen

    Aircraft Carriers about the size the USS Midway (CV-41) are needed, along with AIP submarines that could be mass produced; a but modified enlarged A Burke variant CG is also needed. The Fleet really needs a serious make-over than building make-shift warships such as LCS, or I should a say modern day ocean gunboats which are really no match going up against the Chinese PLAN’s warships.

    • tiger

      The Midway class was far from “Light.” As for mass production? Uh, where are these magic shipyards? You bringing back Navy yards like Mare Island & Philadelphia? A Burke CG? What happened to the Zumwalts? Not to mention frigate needs?

      • John B. Morgen

        We don’t need frigates, but we need is more guided missile destroyers like the Burkes. Reopen all major shipyards, but dropped the Admiral Zumwalts; plus, start building the “standard” aircraft carriers, before the super aircraft carriers took over the Fleet.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    The language included in the Senate proposal adds money for ship building and CONVERSION. To me that’s intriguing. Are there any commercial ships/deigns that might be candidates for a conversion to a smaller carrier? It certainly has been done before as the history of this nation’s carrier forces prove. Even if it’s just used for VSTOL aircraft, this approach might offer a means to quickly add hulls and do so more cheaply. Anything that is going to include conventional aircraft and the requisite gear needed for those should include an angled deck. To not have that is literally playing with fire when recovering planes. I do hope that is included when they talk about a ‘modified’ “America”. All I saw mentioned were adding catapults, which I am assuming means arrestor gear as well.

    • El_Sid

      The “conversion” bit is just a conventional name for the account, it doesn’t mean they’re actively looking at conversions. Perhaps the most relevant and recent example is RFA Argus, which took four years to convert and was used as an aviation training ship/hospital ship, but it didn’t do the aviation thing particularly well and was further converted into a single-purpose hospital ship.

      I think it’s certainly worth looking at a SCADS/Arapaho-style containerised solution for emergency conversions in wartime, but civilian ships don’t work particularly well – the Atlantic Conveyor is an example. Worth having a read of this though, goes into some detail on using container ships as emergency helicopter/STOVL carriers (add back the fullstops)

      www thinkdefence co uk/2012/04/the-atlantic-conveyor-falklands30/

      • Chesapeakeguy

        ‘Conversion’ is for a war time application only (as I personally see it), and if a conflict extended long enough for that. But it also conveys that the Navy does keep those sorts of things on the table. You mentioned Arapaho, and I meant to include that in my post, but Arapaho is realistically only for VSTOL aircraft. Which will still no doubt be useful, especially against a foe who has a robust submarine capability. But this article is about the navy finding some means to place CONVENTIONAL aircraft on other types of ships. The first two ‘fleet carriers’ the Navy ever had were conversions (Lexington and Saratoga, and of course their first carrier was smaller but was a conversion as well, the Langley). While they no doubt served to provide experience and metrics and ‘lessons learned’ for designing carriers from the keel up, the Lex and the Sara both served admirable during WWII. Lex was sunk early, buy Sara made it all the way through. If it’s about getting hull into the fleet that can operate conventional aircraft, it won’t hurt to look into as many options as possible.

        • El_Sid

          But V/STOL no longer means Harrier – perhaps the main reason for the F-35 programme costing as much as it did was to create a V/STOL aircraft that was 75-100% as capable as conventional ones (depending what you look at – range is 75%, avionics is 100%). So one might as well use that investment to allow you to do quick and dirty things like SCADS on the ship side. The SASC make no mention of CATOBAR vs V/STOL, Sam merely offers one interpretation of their intentions.

          Bear in mind from that link above, Atlantic Causeway “received 4000 helicopter landings and refuelled aircraft 500 times, an impressive feat for a conversion and restoration that cost £2million”. At consumer infation that would be about US$10m today – probably $25m would be more realistic for shipbuilding inflation. Still, it’s buttons in the context of multi-$bn carriers, even if it is just freeing up spots on a LHA or CVN for more “serious” work than refuelling. It’s still an important task if you’re flying a lot of helicopters in an ASW screen.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            I’m confused here. “Harrier”? What about it? It’s being phased out by a VSTOL version of the F-35. This article is devoted to some of the language in the Senate proposal for CONVENTIONAL aircraft to be operated and deployed on ships other than Ford or Nimitz class carriers. I say again that I personally believe a ‘straight’ deck flight deck similar to those of WWII is a recipe for disaster. That’s what the article mentioned. A NEW conventionally powered full size CV would cost more than adding some catapults and arrestor gear to an America, there’s no argument to that. But how much utility would the really get for sun and investment in such an arrangement? I believe that extra money is better sent on a big CONVENTIONALLY powered carrier rather than a stop gap ‘band aid’ approach being proffered..

          • El_Sid

            Maybe I’m being stupid, but where did the “language in the Senate” mention conventional? Sam’s commentary did but not the SASC, I think you’re seeing things that aren’t there.

            Also – a LHA-6 derivative doesn’t have to have a straight deck. QE was originally designed to have the option to have either a straight ski-jump deck or an angled deck with cats (although that’s a long story in itself…). I’d imagine it would be more difficult to do the same to an LHA that wasn’t designed that way (qv the Indian Kiev) but it comes down to semantics, whether you call it a heavily modified LHA or a new design that borrows significantly from the LHA.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            Ummm, excuse me, it is SAM’S reporting that WE are commenting on. That said, why in the world would catapults and arrestor gear be added to an ‘America class’ vessel if not to handle conventional, i.e., non-VSTOL aircraft? Why would they do that? Did you read the links within the article? They go into further detail about the ‘studies’ mentioned and what they are all about. They talk specifically about aircraft that can enhance a group’s airborne intel capabilities. From the link attributed to Bryan Clark…

            “The light carriers – about 45 to 50,000 tons – would initially be modified America-class amphibious assault ships and feature a catapult launching system so the amphibious ready group could launch larger fixed-wing aircraft to provide, for example, air search radar like on the carrier strike group.”

            ‘Air search radar’ like that in a CSG means HAWKEYES If they can launch and recover Hawkeyes, they can probably do so with other types of planes, like Hornets. No VSTOL aircraft can do what the Hawkeyes do. I think THEIR language and hence intent is pretty clear here.

          • El_Sid

            I thought we were tasking about “the language in the Senate proposal” – and I think it’s useful to distinguish between what the SASC actually said, and what commentators think they mean. Because it seems that whenever carriers are mentione, US commentators think like a man with a hammer – all they can see are nails. So they automatically assume that “carrier” = something that works like a CVN, with F/A-18 and E-2 flying off cats/traps. Something like a QE is never even considered – and I think it’s interesting that this site hasn’t even mentioned the sea trials of what is by most metrics the biggest warship ever built outside the US supercarriers, and one that will be hosting a USMC squadron on her first cruise.

            Hawkeyes are amazing aircraft – but they are an exception, the global norm is for helicopter AEW – Sea King, Merlin Model 112, Ka-31. VTOL AEW may not be as good as a Hawkeye, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth considering – particularly if one was to put a modular AEW system like Crowsnest on a V-22. 80% capability may not be as good as 100% capability, but it can still be good enough.

            You also have to consider what DARPA is up to – TERN looks like it could bring significant ISR capability in a VTOL package. And as I said, naval AEW increasingly looks like a question of integrating various sensors like F-35 into single picture, rather than just putting a single big radar aloft.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            What? We ARE talking about the Senate language VIA what has been reported. We are commenting on THIS ARTICLE. How can you say ‘nothing else is considered’ when the ACTUAL language mentions a ‘modified America’ with catapults and arrestor gear as an ‘initial’ step? ‘Global norms’ are fine, but again, that language is SPECIFIC about FIXED WING aircraft that have the capabilities of a Hawkeye. That’s not my invention, is it what is reported on this forum. At present, the USN does NOT have a helicopter that can do what the Hawkeyes do. They are also far more limited than an actual Hawkeye, so maybe all involved HAVE considered that helicopter option and have deemed it impractical. Also, just because most everyone else does it a certain way, does that mean we should as well? This article is about the Senate wanting the Navy to look at smaller carriers that retain at least some of the capabilities of the traditional large deck carriers.

          • El_Sid

            The “ACTUAL language” says nothing about a ‘modified America’. Literally all that the SASC have said on page 5 of https:// www armed-services senate gov/imo/media/doc/FY18%20NDAA%20Summary6.pdf is :

            “Authorizes $30 million for preliminary design of a smaller aircraft carrier, which is in addition to the administration’s request.”

            Nothing more, nothing less. The SASC have said nothing about whether such a carrier would be CATOBAR or V/STOL, nothing about whether it was based on an LHA or QE, nothing about whether it would carry fighters or AEW aircraft. All they’ve said is “smaller aircraft carrier”.

            It’s important to distinguish between what the guys in power have actually authorised, and what all the vested interests are willing it to be. Maybe it will turn out to be an America with angled deck and cats/traps – the point is that we don’t know that yet because that’s not what has been authorised.

            As for the USN not having a VTOL option for AEW at the moment – they could do by the time the carrier was built, certainly if they chose one of the Crowsnest options it would need relatively little integration, using existing airframes. Personally I think there’s a good argument for a USN Crowsnest regardless of whether a smaller carrier gets built, it could do good service on the gators and Burkes/LCS’s – but I guess the current plan is that TERN will take on that role, albeit over a longer timescale.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            So you are saying that the AUTHOR of this article is LYING? Is that your contention? Did HE invent that bit about a ‘modified America’? Do you think any follow up was done by the author to determine what exactly is being discussed by the Senate? Talk about going off on tangents that are not there. One more time, we are discussing THIS ARTICLE. I saw nothing in it about helicopter-based EW. If you want to continue to deny what is actually being said I am powerless to stop you. But what is reported HERE is plain as day. If you believe the author is a liar, make your case, but we would all be better served if you took that up with him!

          • El_Sid

            Huh? Of course I’m not saying is Sam is lying, what on earth gives you that idea? But I can distinguish between what the SASC actually said – “preliminary design of a smaller aircraft carrier” – and speculation by third parties about what that smaller carrier might look like, including speculation about specifics like whether it _might_ be CATOBAR or _might_ be based on LHA-6.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            ‘Where on earth would I get that’? Because you keep denying that it’s not part of the discussion. One more time, where do you think that bit about “a modified America” came from? I’m confident the author of this article did not invent that on his own. The Senate had to get the idea of a lighter carrier from somewhere. John McCain was mentioned as favoring such an approach. Think HE might have elaborated on that when asked? And just to stay along the lines YOU are treading on, why WOULDN’T any reasonable journalist seek out answers from the real experts about how that might be achieved? I say again that if you are having trouble with what the SASC said and what is REPORTED here, then the author is the one you should be taking it up with.

          • El_Sid

            “you keep denying that it’s not part of the discussion.” Where did I ever say that?

            I’m just trying to distinguish between facts and speculation. The one hard fact is SASC authorising the preliminary design of a smaller aircraft carrier. Beyond that is just speculation – there is nothing in the article from the USN or politicians about what shape that smaller carrier might take. Can you accept that?

            Sure, if the politicians want a smaller version of one’s biggest warship, then even a schoolkid could see that one obvious way to do that would be to modify one’s second-biggest warship. But being a proper journalist Sam doesn’t just say “even my daughter could see that a modified LHA is an option” – he goes out and finds a credible source saying “a modified LHA is an option”. I’m not denying that it is an option, far from it – it’s probably the most likely one. But there”s nothing in the article to say it is the _only_ option being pursued. What don’t you understand about that?

            Sure, Sam may have been tipped the wink that a modified LHA is the only option being pursued, and that has informed his choice of things to speculate about. That kind of thing happens all the time. But until there is _official_ word from the USN or politicians, then it has to be marked as speculation rather than fact.

            I’ll ask the question again – is there anything in the article from the USN or people in power to say what kind of “smaller carrier” is being pursued?

          • Chesapeakeguy

            So you obviously did NOT read the links within the article (as I suggested you should) that has ALL that info within in it as to who is saying what per the Navy’s actual studies on this matter. And you most definitely have been avoiding the reality of what this ARTICLE has said about what might constitute an initial Light CV. And man, you are all over the place, contradicting yourself from paragraph to paragraph about “the only option” to that of being “an option”, and back again, or so it seems. For the record, he said it’s ‘the most LIKELY’ one pending. So I can play your own game with you all day long if you wish. But I prefer to deal in facts and not obfuscation!

          • El_Sid

            I’d missed that the CSBA study was funded by Congress. But it’s still only one study, laying out some options – there’s nothing definite. If you want “the Navy’s actual studies” then the FFA doesn’t want a CATOBAR small carrier, it wants a modified LHA carrying more F-35B’s, to deploy as wingman to a Nimitz.

            All we have is the funds for “the preliminary design of a smaller aircraft carrier” – beyond that all we have is Powerpoint. One study wants a CATOBAR LHA, the USN study wants a bigger STOVL LHA. There’s nothing definite.

            So all we have are options. And I’ve not contradicted myself at all, it’s just that my views, what Sam might have been told off the record, and what Sam is able to write on the record, are three different things. It’s quite common for journalists to be tipped the wink on what the “real” plan is, but for the on-the-record version to look rather different – but the on-the-record version can be both vague but steered in a particular direction so that it doesn’t look embarassing when the full story finally emerges. I don’t know if that’s what’s happened here, but it could be one reason for quoting CSBA rather than FFA. I could just be reading too much into it.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            And of course Sam does NOT have the experience or initiative to follow up and ask questions of those who might have some insight into all this, right? The Senate are not the ones who will design ANYTHING. But to start getting ideas, one has to start somewhere. Hence the references in the article. What any particular SASC member is thinking is irrelevant, and certainly not in this article.

  • Kenneth Millstein

    Light Carriers are an interesting idea. During WWII the Navy had a fleet of one hundred light Carriers (aka: Jeep Carriers) that were both in the Pacific and Atlantic theaters of war. The Atlantic Carriers were principally convoy escorts. In the Pacific they were able to provide a great deal of air cover during the island hoping campaigns. So I agree with whoever suggested that the Navy take at look at that type of hull. Hopefully, they wouldn’t need as large a Carrier Group as our current Carriers require. During WWII, unfortunately, for the crews, they were considered to be somewhat expendable. Once again, I believe it is a worthy idea to explore.