On the utility of carriers

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Re: On the utility of carriers

Postby Graham Kennedy » Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:56 am

Three is generally considered necessary to have one on station at any given time. The RN claimed that modern equipment means less maintenance and refit time, so they could manage with two. Now thanks to the treasury they're getting one operational and one "in reserve", mothballed. Wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if they decided to sell that one, or even both of them.
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Re: On the utility of carriers

Postby Vic » Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:13 pm

Wouldn't that also depend on potential mission areas? The three carrier idea would be good for say the N. and S. Atlantic but not so good for say Maylasia. That would stretch the whole one on station, one in port resupplying and one in refit to the breaking point. The penny pinchers are going to be apoplectic, not that that is a bad thing :happydevil: .
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Re: On the utility of carriers

Postby Mikey » Wed Apr 25, 2012 1:23 pm

Atekimogus wrote:Good points, however especially with carriers and aircraft are we not approaching a point where even major world powers have trouble developing, building and keeping such things up? That is more my point. Having always the newest and most powerful stuff seems very sensible but it seems that especially with aircraft it seems we soon are reaching a point, where even major world powers have troube paying for that stuff.


That's the beauty of economics. If it ever got to the point at which a nation couldn't fulfill its purchase contract due to price, I guarantee the manufacturers would somehow magically find a way to somehow make it affordable (barely.) The manufacturers know as well as we do that a larger profit margin on an unsold item means a big negative number on the P&L sheet.

For example the whole B2 stealth bomber programm of the US was incredibly expensive. It sure is a great weapon system but honestly, what did they "really" get out of it? No need to get offensive here since I am honestly asking, because to me it seems most of the heavy lifting was still done by tanks, army and more sensible craft/choppers etc. and in the end I think the question "was it really worth it" is not at all stupid.


This is rather myopic. You can say what you want about the cost (and cost overruns) of things like the B-2 or F-22, but this is the wrong way to argue the point. First, tanks are part of an army, unless by "army" you mean "infantry" specifically. In any event, none of those things are replacements for the other. Even in asymmetric warfare, different things are needed for different roles. Strategic bombers like the B-2 can't do what tanks can, nor can tanks do what strategic bombers do. Same with infantry. If by "more sensible aircraft" you mean tactical bombers or F/A planes, then likewise they fulfill different roles than strategic bombers and neither can do the same thing as the other. If you mean less expensive extant strategic bombers, then likewise as Seafort mentioned a Buff may have equivalent capabilities to a B-2, but not identical ones. One can do some things well, the other can perform other roles better. "Choppers" is ridiculous - asking an attack helicopter to do the things a strategic bomber does is like asking a dude on a bicycle to deliver the same amount of cargo as an ULCV. "Was it worth it?" is only a valid question in the context of, "Could a B-2 style strategic bomber have been developed for less and cost less per unit?" not do we need that type of strategic bomber?"

What would you consider UKs vital national interests and would it not come cheaper ensuring and keeping airfields up in the vicinity?


The answer to the first part is so malleable as to ensure itself to be wrong thirty minutes after it was stated; to the second part, there are parts of the world where one just can't put an airfield. The middle of the ocean, for example, in which case a carrier IS "keeping airfields up in the vicinity;" there are also, believe it or not, areas where the sovereign nation will not let another one build a military installation. Finally, I don't have the economic figures but I guarantee that there is a financial critical mass in terms of the number of ground installations you build far exceeds the cost of building and maintaining a carrier that could serve to replace that number of installations.

Or is it more a matter of pride and flexing of military and national muscles? But what if the building and upkeep of only one major modern carrier plus fighterwings is all but bankrupting your state.....wouldn't it be time to reconsider the whole major world power pride? Germany hasn't any carriers and they are doing quite fine imho.


Fortunately, we are in no way discussing the purchase of materiel at the point of bankrupting a nation. The UKoGBaNI is debating whether it will buy, not whether it can buy. In addition, "flexing of military and national muscles" in this way is not just international bravado; rather, it has a very material and tangible effect on international politics. To revisit my earlier example, would the Falklands have ever been invaded if the UK were fielding a carrier with a CAG full of AV-8A's and support craft within a days' sail? Would other antagonistic nations show more temerity if they were out of reach of the West's air power?

As far as Germany, GK made an excellent point. Further, there is a deficit that Germany is circumventing, but not surmounting. For good or ill, the U.S.' force projection ability - largely based in its carriers - is what leads to the U.S. often "taking point" in NATO or Sec Council initiatives, the UKoGBaNI stepping up to the plate like recently in LIbya or earlier in Kosovo. A RN carrier would allow the UK to expand that role; the lack of one disallows Germany to do so. Even more, pressure on Germany to do so - either external, internal from public mandate, or national pride and a need to assuage its EU fellows - would either remain unfulfilled or (strange as it sounds) require an almost unprecedented military partnership with France of all people, and that would inevitably lead to an even further blurring of line between economic cooperation and political hegemony within the EU.
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Re: Funny pics

Postby Atekimogus » Wed Apr 25, 2012 2:06 pm

Captain Seafort wrote:A strategic bomber capable of deep penetration of hostile airspace. You can't take it as written that you'll always be able to suppress an air defence network quickly enough or effectively enough to be able to send in non-stealthy strike aircraft to hit high value targets.


Fair enough. Let's ask the other way round. The B2 is getting fairly old. You think they will replace it or give the job in the future just to intelligent missilles?

And if so is it really because the technology has just progressed to the point where it is possible to do so, or because in the end, it wasn't worth it?


Captain Seafort wrote:Can you guarantee, 100 per cent, that airbases will always be available?


Well of course not, but can you guarantee that you will always only be fighting assymetrical enemies with no fleet to speak of or U-boats?

It seems to me, that the whole concept of carriers nowadays really only works on enemies which are greatly behind, since against anyone with the latest u-boats or ballistic missiles, risking a carrier, a ship which you most not loose is a terrible gamble.

So it would be a risk either way, however, GK made a good point about range and cost effectivness of a carrier in the Lybia scenario so I will concede the point. Makes sense.


Mikey wrote:"Could a B-2 style strategic bomber have been developed for less and cost less per unit?" not do we need that type of strategic bomber?"


Well shouldn't the question be "How would the US have fought the latest war without the B2. What would it have costed?"

To me it seems you have here two options, either you fight a highly outclassed enemy. Then it is questionable if you really need such high advanced technology like the B2.

Or you fight an enemy which is on a similar or equal technological level, but here you have the danger that new technology on his side (for example a new detection method) renders your multi-billion billion weapons platform obsolete in the matter of days.

Now please, I used the B2 only as an example, I am talking concepts here. Now I am not saying one should just built a lot of cheap stuff and zerg-rush the enemy to death like the russians are fond of because that is also not cost effective in the long run, however a bit of a middleground should be desirable imho. Most of the really advanced stuff nowadays is SO expensive that you only have relativly small numbers, however putting all your eggs in just a few basketts......

Mikey wrote:Finally, I don't have the economic figures but I guarantee that there is a financial critical mass in terms of the number of ground installations you build far exceeds the cost of building and maintaining a carrier that could serve to replace that number of installations.


Fair enough. Good point.

Mikey wrote:Even more, pressure on Germany to do so - either external, internal from public mandate, or national pride and a need to assuage its EU fellows - would either remain unfulfilled or (strange as it sounds) require an almost unprecedented military partnership with France of all people, and that would inevitably lead to an even further blurring of line between economic cooperation and political hegemony within the EU.


Well I guess it is more that a carrier is a rather obvious way to say that you want things your way with military power.

A germany which starts to force project again.....oh my, can you imagine all the misplaced histeria around that? So even if they built one they could hardly ever use it, everytime they would show up somewhere someone would scream wwIII.


So ok, I think GK, Mickey and Seafort made quite a few good points as to why the UK need a carrier. What about france though? What have they ever done with it? Afaik they don't really possess any larger territories outside europe anymore....
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Re: On the utility of carriers

Postby Deepcrush » Wed Apr 25, 2012 3:00 pm

Atekimogus wrote:It seems to me, that the whole concept of carriers nowadays really only works on enemies which are greatly behind, since against anyone with the latest u-boats or ballistic missiles, risking a carrier, a ship which you most not loose is a terrible gamble.


This is just something that has to be put to rest, as I believe it was the only truly stupid thing that was said. The concept of Carriers is the same now as it was at Midway. Supply airpower, protect the fleet, aid ground forces and screen the airspace and sea around the fleet's operating area. Short of a nuke, there's no missile out there that will sink a Nimitz on a single hit that is small enough to just pass the defense screen. Lastly, any ship or plane or person sent to war is a part of that terrible gamble. Watching a son bury his father while his mother holds a folded flag is a greater loss in my mind to a nation then a dozen carriers going down if we can save all hands aboard. We can and will continue to build and replace ships and planes and tanks in ever greater numbers and designs throughout our futures. A lost ship can be reclaimed by granting its name to a new ship to carry on in its place. When a person dies, there isn't any way to bring them back.

This is a perspective that you should remember when considering anything involving a military service. That all being said, the very purpose of a carrier or airfield is to be in harms way. So rather then just running away and tucking your tail between your legs, you give the best you can to those who are going to be taking the fight to the enemy.
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Re: On the utility of carriers

Postby Mikey » Wed Apr 25, 2012 4:31 pm

Well said, Deep. I don't care how much or how little you're willing to spend, there's no way to be involved in an armed conflict without being at risk. If you're philosophy is to try to avoid getting hurt rather than trying to win, you may as well just go home and get your white flags out of storage. That said, the way to try to win is with your best available kit, not with kit you deem adequate even though better is available. Carriers are useful, and it defies the whole concept of an armed navy to say, "We won't use a useful item because it might be in danger." Further, as Deep said, you're even overstating that danger.

Atekimogus wrote:Fair enough. Let's ask the other way round. The B2 is getting fairly old. You think they will replace it or give the job in the future just to intelligent missilles?


What's the question? Whether it gets replaced by a more advanced aircraft or a more advanced guided munition, it's still being replaced. And either way, the question is self-limiting: it will be replaced when AND ONLY WHEN a replacement is available that performs the same role. The Buff is 60 years old, and is projected to be in service for at least 20 more years, because - even though much more advanced strategic bombers have come along - nothing's come along that does the same things significantly better than the Buff does. Further, nothing will be made to replace the B-2 until the B-2 proves itself to be incapable of performing its role at its current level of ability.

Atekimogus wrote:And if so is it really because the technology has just progressed to the point where it is possible to do so, or because in the end, it wasn't worth it?


The former, obviously. If the B-2 has performed its role well, in anger (which it has, admirably) then it was "worth it." You're trying to limit this to a question of pure dollars and cents, and it can't be so reduced. If the B-2 never performed except poorly, then it wouldn't be "worth it" even if it cost one dollar and 58 cents to produce. Likewise, if it did perform its role properly over the intended course of a decade and half (and on into the foreseeable future,) then the question of it being "worth it" is almost independent of its $929 mil per unit cost.

Atekimogus wrote:Well shouldn't the question be "How would the US have fought the latest war without the B2. What would it have costed?"


Of course that shouldn't be a question at all. That would only be a viable question if the U.S. had the opportunity to develop the B-2 and decided that it wasn't "worth it," only to not have a strategic bomber for that role available when we needed one. The Vulcan never dropped a nuke - ever - but are you saying that the UKoGBaNI should never have developed a deterrence bomber during the CW? That would be ludicrous to say, but in essence it's the same thing as the above statement of yours.

Atekimogus wrote:To me it seems you have here two options, either you fight a highly outclassed enemy. Then it is questionable if you really need such high advanced technology like the B2.


Of course it's not questionable - if you don't have such SOTA kit, then the enemy no longer falls under the heading "highly outclassed." BTW, "highly outclassed" is exactly how you want your enemy if you have to fight a war.

Atekimogus wrote:Or you fight an enemy which is on a similar or equal technological level, but here you have the danger that new technology on his side (for example a new detection method) renders your multi-billion billion weapons platform obsolete in the matter of days.


Yep. But to reiterate Deep's excellent point, fighting a war involves risk. If you're not prepared to stomach that risk, stay home and prepare to learn a new language. If you do intend to fight when required, then what you mention is yet another reason to keep advancing when possible and to not half-ass your kit acquisitions - because the other guy won't.

Atekimogus wrote:Now please, I used the B2 only as an example, I am talking concepts here.


Of course, but it certainly seems that to continue the example is a convenient way to discuss the matter.

Atekimogus wrote:Most of the really advanced stuff nowadays is SO expensive that you only have relativly small numbers, however putting all your eggs in just a few basketts......


Indeed, and nobody suggested that the B-2, at approximately $1 billion U.S., is a viable option for a nation with an annual defense budget capability of $1.2 billion. However, the conversation is still valid if we say "the best possibly afforded kit" rather than "the best kit by any absolute criteria."

Atekimogus wrote:Well I guess it is more that a carrier is a rather obvious way to say that you want things your way with military power.


It could be - it can also be an obvious way to say that you won't stand for any evil shit going down.

Atekimogus wrote:A germany which starts to force project again.....oh my, can you imagine all the misplaced histeria around that? So even if they built one they could hardly ever use it, everytime they would show up somewhere someone would scream wwIII.


Indeed, which why Germany has been given a pass for being the richest Continental nation but not being at the forefront of multilateral force projection - and therefore, another reason why the "Why doesn't Germany need one?" question is slightly tangential to the discussion.

Atekimogus wrote:Afaik they don't really possess any larger territories outside europe anymore....


I think everything we've said goes far beyond the simple needs of colonialism.
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Re: On the utility of carriers

Postby McAvoy » Wed Apr 25, 2012 5:01 pm

Vic wrote:Wouldn't that also depend on potential mission areas? The three carrier idea would be good for say the N. and S. Atlantic but not so good for say Maylasia. That would stretch the whole one on station, one in port resupplying and one in refit to the breaking point. The penny pinchers are going to be apoplectic, not that that is a bad thing :happydevil: .


Well, it comes down to money really. In a perfect world the British would have a Navy on par with the US. But since money doesn't grow on trees, the Royal Navy are severely limited in what they can do.
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Re: On the utility of carriers

Postby Captain Seafort » Wed Apr 25, 2012 6:42 pm

GrahamKennedy wrote:Three is generally considered necessary to have one on station at any given time.


By the rule of thumb, yes. CASD requires fourto allow a bit of leeway in case of unexpected problems.

McAvoy wrote:In a perfect world the British would have a Navy on par with the US.


In a perfect world we'd still be on the two power standard. :P

Mikey wrote:What's the question? Whether it gets replaced by a more advanced aircraft or a more advanced guided munition, it's still being replaced. And either way, the question is self-limiting: it will be replaced when AND ONLY WHEN a replacement is available that performs the same role. The Buff is 60 years old, and is projected to be in service for at least 20 more years, because - even though much more advanced strategic bombers have come along - nothing's come along that does the same things significantly better than the Buff does. Further, nothing will be made to replace the B-2 until the B-2 proves itself to be incapable of performing its role at its current level of ability.


To nitpick, the BUFF has already been replaced in its designed role, by the Bone and the B-2. The reason its still in service is that it's still effective in its secondary role as a bomb truck, and even there I suspect it's closer than 20 years to the end of its life based solely on airframe age. What exact the USAF is going to do about that I've no idea.

Atekimogus wrote:What have they ever done with it? Afaik they don't really possess any larger territories outside europe anymore....


They've still got a few islands around the world, plus French Guyana.

Mikey wrote:I think everything we've said goes far beyond the simple needs of colonialism.


True, but firstly this isn't about colonialism, and I think it's worth pointing out the existence of those scattered islands - the first duty of any nation is to protect it's citizens, and given the nature of our overseas territories the only way we can effectively do that is through the Royal Navy.
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Re: On the utility of carriers

Postby Mikey » Wed Apr 25, 2012 7:05 pm

Captain Seafort wrote:To nitpick, the BUFF has already been replaced in its designed role, by the Bone and the B-2. The reason its still in service is that it's still effective in its secondary role as a bomb truck, and even there I suspect it's closer than 20 years to the end of its life based solely on airframe age. What exact the USAF is going to do about that I've no idea.


Hmmm, I'd like to see a B1 or B2 carry out linebacker raids or drop daisycutters the way the Buff can. The 20-year-out idea isn't an hypothesis, it's taken from USAF statements. Certainly not the originals, but more recently built F's and such.
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Re: On the utility of carriers

Postby Captain Seafort » Wed Apr 25, 2012 7:33 pm

Mikey wrote:Hmmm, I'd like to see a B1 or B2 carry out linebacker raids or drop daisycutters the way the Buff can.


Sure, but that's not what the Buff was designed for - its simply a job it's taken on and done very well. It was originally designed for deep penetration of Soviet airspace with a couple of thermonuclear weapons. These days, trying to do that with a non-stealthy aircraft would be a complete waste of time, aircraft and crew.

The 20-year-out idea isn't an hypothesis, it's taken from USAF statements. Certainly not the originals, but more recently built F's and such.


Even the newest aircraft are fifty years old, and I simply can't see them carrying on for another couple of decades. They might make it, but I'm not putting any money on it.
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Re: On the utility of carriers

Postby Mikey » Wed Apr 25, 2012 8:32 pm

Captain Seafort wrote:Sure, but that's not what the Buff was designed for - its simply a job it's taken on and done very well. It was originally designed for deep penetration of Soviet airspace with a couple of thermonuclear weapons. These days, trying to do that with a non-stealthy aircraft would be a complete waste of time, aircraft and crew.


Perhaps, but to say that a B-52's current role is as a strategic anti-Soviet nuke bomber is as nuts as to say that its counterpart - the Tu-95 - is still employed in that role.

Captain Seafort wrote:Even the newest aircraft are fifty years old, and I simply can't see them carrying on for another couple of decades. They might make it, but I'm not putting any money on it.


Oh, well. You'll have to take it up with the USAF and let them decide if you know better than they do. As it stands, they project a usable life of the class (not of individual aircraft) of 80 years, and it's the prime candidate for an airborne defense chemical laser platform.
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Re: On the utility of carriers

Postby Captain Seafort » Wed Apr 25, 2012 8:38 pm

Mikey wrote:Perhaps, but to say that a B-52's current role is as a strategic anti-Soviet nuke bomber is as nuts as to say that its counterpart - the Tu-95 - is still employed in that role.


True, but that's why I specifically stated that I was talking about its designed role. If anything it reinforces your original point, since the USAF didn't just shrug and say "it still flies, so we'll make do", they kept looking at whether or not it could still reliably do the job against the most effective air defences outside the US, and when they came up with a superior platform they deployed it.
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Re: On the utility of carriers

Postby Graham Kennedy » Thu Apr 26, 2012 11:33 pm

Speaking of carrier utility, there's been some discussion of whether to fit the new UK carriers with the B version of the F-35, which takes off and lands like the Harriers used to, or fit the ship with catapults and arrestor gear and buy the C version that the US Navy plans to buy. Money is the deciding factor as always - getting the C would mean spending on the deck equipment, which isn't cheap, but the aircraft are longer ranged, cheaper, and simpler to maintain.

According to Jane's, the UK have ordered the new EMALS, an electromagnetic catapult, so it looks like this has moved at least towards the realm of a certainty.
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Re: On the utility of carriers

Postby McAvoy » Fri Apr 27, 2012 2:15 am

GrahamKennedy wrote:Speaking of carrier utility, there's been some discussion of whether to fit the new UK carriers with the B version of the F-35, which takes off and lands like the Harriers used to, or fit the ship with catapults and arrestor gear and buy the C version that the US Navy plans to buy. Money is the deciding factor as always - getting the C would mean spending on the deck equipment, which isn't cheap, but the aircraft are longer ranged, cheaper, and simpler to maintain.

According to Jane's, the UK have ordered the new EMALS, an electromagnetic catapult, so it looks like this has moved at least towards the realm of a certainty.


Perhaps the new electromagnetic catapult will beat the Ford class. I know they have been extensively testing it in Fort Dix for awhile now.
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Re: On the utility of carriers

Postby Captain Seafort » Sat Apr 28, 2012 6:03 pm

GrahamKennedy wrote:According to Jane's, the UK have ordered the new EMALS, an electromagnetic catapult, so it looks like this has moved at least towards the realm of a certainty.


No it hasn't. The whole thing is rapidly turning into one of the worst procurement fuckups in MoD history.
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