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US Navy's Carrier Gap (merged)

To the moderators, can you please merge this thread with another thread on a similar topic?

And can we PLEASE change the title to "The US Navy's carrier gap"?!
S.M.A. said:
To the moderators, can you please merge this thread with another thread on a similar topic?

And can we PLEASE change the title to "The US Navy's carrier gap"?!
Another question that needs to be asked: are the surface warships based with the US 7th Fleet in Japan enough to provide escorts to maintain 2 carrier groups?


Will the United States Base 2 Aircraft Carriers in Japan?

A new study suggests that basing more ships overseas will help the overstretched U.S. Navy meet its global commitments.

By Franz-Stefan Gady
November 20, 2015

Basing an additional aircraft carrier at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan would meet the entire demand for carrier coverage in the Pacific without having to build more ships to fulfill the U.S. Navy’s commitments in the Asia-Pacific region. That’s the conclusion of a new study published by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).

Despite being the most powerful naval force in the world, the U.S. Navy, given its global presence, has been deploying its forces at a pace it can’t sustain. “The central force structure challenge facing the Navy and Marine Corps today is that demand for naval forces exceeds the supply they can sustainably deliver,” the study notes.

“Both services have been maintaining a higher level of presence than they typically plan for by extending deployments, deploying more than once per readiness cycle, and basing more ships overseas,” according to CSBA.


Report: Navy and Marine Corps Strained to Breaking Point; Second Forward Carrier in the Pacific Could Help

Marine Fighters Strike ISIS Targets; French Carrier Leaves for Middle East
[AV-8Bs from LHD USS Kearsarge]

Major budget cuts include a full USN air wing!

Defense News

US Navy Absorbing $7 Billion Budget Cut
By Christopher P. Cavas, Defense News 11:27 a.m. EST February 9, 2016

One Air Wing Eliminated, Cruiser Mod Plan Changed

WASHINGTON — The US Navy is absorbing a $7 billion reduction in fiscal 2017 funding – about 3.5 percent over last year’s plan, according to newly released budget documents. The service is reducing the number of ships it’s buying while adding more aircraft, and uniformed personnel also are being cut, up to as many as 6,400 sailors below previous forecasts.

The Navy Department’s top line drops to $152.9 billion in baseline funding against last year’s projection of $159.9 billion. The 3 percent dip below projection is planned to last just this year, rising in 2018 to $159.7 billion. Projected baseline funding drops again to about $158 billion in 2019, to $155.7 billion in 2020 and up to $157.5 billion in 2021.

NATO won't be pleased.  That's a reduction of 0.019% GDP...from 3.5% down to 3.5%...
But think of what we could do with that money!

We might finally get an OOW chair on the bridge!
The US doesn't really have a "carrier gap," but almost everyone in DC is starting to understand that there is a real, growing gap between wishes and money in the bank.

The results of one survey:

Defense News

Survey: US Voters Favor Cutting Carrier, F-35, Overall Defense Spending
Andrew W. Clevenger, Defense News 12:06 a.m. EST March 9, 2016


Told that cutting the number of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers from 11 to 10 or nine would save either $7 billion or $14 billion over the next decade, a majority of respondents favored shrinking the number by at least one. None of the statewide groups favored keeping all 11, although Virginia, home of the Newport News shipyard, had the largest group (45 percent) favoring the full complement of 11

Wants and needs are two totally different things.

IMHO the whole 11 carrier "requirement" is ridiculous especially in these fiscal times. 
What good are sound arguments for a 12th carrier if many US Congressmen are reluctant to fund it?

Defense News

12th US Aircraft Carrier Necessary In Increasingly Dangerous World
Mike Conaway, Special to Defense News 3:14 p.m. EDT April 21, 2016

The US Navy aircraft carrier is an iconic asset that demonstrates American power and resolve, ensuring peace around the world — a peace the US and other nations benefit from greatly. This peace encompasses the oceans on which nearly all US goods and commodities are transported to market. But the aircraft carrier’s survival — a critical part of our naval strategy and US security — is in danger.

Today, the aircraft carrier is the target of populist arguments that may sound reasonable at face value for those unfamiliar with our security operations, but instead obscure the facts. The purpose of these arguments is to eliminate the carrier from our fleet, by arguing the carrier is an expensive, outdated platform. However, at a time when the world is becoming more dangerous, decreasing our carriers or retiring them altogether for short-term monetary gain is unconscionable and will only limit our ability to defend ourselves. Any short-term benefits will have dramatic and costly effects on our safety now and in the future.

Rather, we need to take a serious look at increasing the number of carriers. Currently, the US has 10 operational carriers with an additional one ready for service in a few years. During the Cold War, the US had 15 carriers, a number the Navy then confirmed would meet our nation’s security needs, but this number was reduced when the threat of the Cold War ended. Today, as global threats to our safety increase so too must our number of carriers.

Conversely - Rethinking Carriers as Factories.

The future of America's aircraft carriers? Floating drone factories.
Kyle Mizokami

April 21, 2016

Earlier this month, the British Royal Navy ship HMS Protector made history. An ice patrol ship, Protector sailed the frigid waters off Antarctica. But instead of using a helicopter to scout an ice-free route, the Protector had an unlikely helper — a drone.

And not just any drone: a 3D printed drone that was manufactured onboard the ship itself. The tiny remote controlled airplane, steered by a laptop and buzzing along at speeds of up to 60 miles an hour, could be an unlikely savior of the largest warships ever to sail: aircraft carriers.

A symbol of American military primacy since the end of World War II, there are currently 10 aircraft carriers serving with the U.S. Navy. Each carries approximately 70 aircraft capable of bringing more firepower than the armed forces of entire countries. They are, in fact, a capability no other country can currently equal.

Still, all is not well in the world of aircraft carriers. Every major weapons system becomes obsolete over time and just as the carrier took over from the battleship, technological advances have made these ships obsolete, some pundits say. China is pursuing so-called "anti-access, area denial" technologies that it hopes will make large parts of the Pacific too dangerous for aircraft carriers.

Chief among these is a network of sensors and bases, capped off with the Dong Feng-26 "carrier killer" ballistic missile. Launched from bases in China, the DF-26 was designed to attack aircraft carriers, plunging through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds and punching through their steel decks. The DF-26 and weapons like them are notoriously hard to shoot down.

There are also those that say aircraft carriers have grown too expensive. The latest, USS Gerald R. Ford, cost a whopping $17.5 billion to research, develop, and produce. That doesn't include the $6 billion cost of the aircraft that will fly off it and a similar cost for the destroyers, cruisers, and supply ships that will sail with a typical carrier battle group. All in all, the Ford's carrier battle group will easily cost somewhere around $30 billion.

The aircraft carrier is indeed embattled. But is its time over? Maybe not. The aircraft carrier's greatest strength, which has allowed it to remain relevant for the last 70 years, is the fact that it carries airplanes — and airplanes can be adapted to a wide variety of missions. Carriers can launch nuclear weapons, sink submarines, destroy enemy fleets, and bring relief supplies to disaster-stricken zones. It's a versatility unmatched by any other ship.

As aviation technology marches on, much of it makes its way onto carrier flight decks. In 2013 and 2014 the Navy's experimental X-47B unmanned carrier aircraft performed takeoffs, landings, and aerial refuelings. The Navy is talking about producing its first operational drone, the MQ-25 Stingray. More drones will follow, and it's not farfetched to think of a day when none of the aircraft on a carrier actually carry any pilots.

Meanwhile, 3D printers can now print steel, aluminum, and titanium, and there's no reason why the technology, scaled larger, couldn't be used to create larger drones. A 3D printer capable of making aircraft fuselages, coupled with stores of pre-assembled aircraft components would enable the ship to build its own combat drones. The carrier becomes not just a floating airport, but a floating airplane factory.

Drones and 3D printing are two technologies that will keep carriers relevant. Drones are cheaper than manned aircraft and the infrastructure — including the human infrastructure — is also less expensive. The ability to reconfigure a carrier's drone fleet, from slow-moving attack jets that could bomb the Islamic State to stealthy, long-range bombers that could out-range carrier killing missiles, would keep carriers flexible and more versatile than ever.

The technology will change the way wars are fought. It takes months or even years to build an airplane, meaning that in wartime once reserves are exhausted planes cannot quickly be replaced. Using 3D printing, carriers could self-replenish their aircraft inventories in wartime, replacing combat losses with fresh drones. Combat aircraft would go from being a precious resource to actually being somewhat disposable — and capable of being built in large numbers.

The aircraft carrier is indeed embattled, but carriers are versatile enough to keep them in service likely for decades to come. The real threat is carriers pricing themselves out of existence, and more needs to be done to keep costs down. Technologies are on the horizon that will keep carriers relevant and affordable — but we will pursue them only if we recognize that costs are growing out of hand. The tiny drone printed and assembled on the HMS Protector is just a sneak peak at things to come.

On the subject of large scale 3-D printers


How about trimming expectations a little and instead of talking about printing drones just print ammunition? Guided or otherwise.
Doesn't this pale in comparison to the average number of underway CVNs/CVs during Reagan's time though?

Defense News

US Navy Deploys Most Carrier Strike Groups Since 2012
Christopher P. Cavas, Defense News 7:17 p.m. EDT June 6, 2016

WASHINGTON — For the first time in nearly four years, the US Navy has four aircraft carrier strike groups deployed at the same time. Two more carriers are carrying out local operations, making for six of the fleet’s ten active carriers underway — an unusually high percentage. And another is preparing to go.

The departure June 4 of the Ronald Reagan from Yokosuka, Japan, coupled with the June 1 deployment of the Dwight D. Eisenhower group from the US East Coast, doubled the number of deployed groups. The Harry S. Truman is in the eastern Mediterranean conducting combat strikes against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq, and the John C. Stennis group is continuing operations in the South China Sea.

Closer to home, the Carl Vinson and George Washington are cruising off the West and East coasts, respectively, undergoing qualifications and training.

A seventh carrier, the Norfolk-based George H. W. Bush, is expected to be underway for training operations in June, preparing to deploy later this year.

The last time four strike groups were deployed simultaneously was over a nine-week period from late August 2012 to early November 2012, a Navy spokesman said. It’s not clear when the last time six or more carriers were underway.

The moves are not in response to a specific crisis. “It’s all been in the works for months as part of the Global Force Management program,” a Navy official said, referring to a joint Pentagon plan that guides major deployments of US military forces.

The level of flattop activity is noteworthy on two counts. Deployments were noticeably cut back starting in late 2012 and early 2013 in response to spending restrictions caused by mandated budget cuts under sequestration rules. The services are still struggling to build up operating funds — just last month, the Navy informed Congress of an $848 million shortfall in fleet-wide readiness accounts, $91 million of which was directly attributable to extending the Truman’s deployment an extra 30 days to operate in  the Mediterranean.

Average 18 Aircraft carriers in service between 1955 and 1995.  How many in actual carrier groups would be somewhat less, say 12?
Not just carrier numbers but future capabilities of their aviation assets--maybe more SSNs/cruise missiles the way to go?

War Between the Dragon and the Eagle: USN Carriers up to It?

Further to this post (note “Comments”),

    "RAND on War Between the Dragon and the Eagle"

the carriers’ future capabilities are questioned (both the people quoted are retired naval officers)...

Sub menace and possible responses:

Anti-submarine warfare
Seek, but shall ye find?
A proliferation of quieter submarines is pushing navies to concoct better ways to track them

DURING war games played off the coast of Florida last year, a nuclear-powered French attack submarine, Saphir, eluded America’s sub-hunting aircraft and vessels with enough stealth to sink (fictitiously) a newly overhauled American aircraft-carrier, Theodore Roosevelt, and most of her escort. An account of the drill on a French defence-ministry website was promptly deleted, but too late for it to go unnoticed.

Nor was this French victory a fluke. In 2006, in what was very far from being a war game, a Chinese diesel-electric submarine surfaced near Okinawa within torpedo range of another American carrier, Kitty Hawk, without having been detected by that carrier’s escort of more than a dozen vessels and anti-submarine aircraft. And, from the point of view of carrier-deploying navies, things are threatening to get worse. Saphir, launched in 1981, hardly represents the state of the art in underwater undetectability; in the decade since the Okinawa incident diesel-electrics have become even quieter. For an inkling of the silence of the new generation of such subs when they are running on battery power alone, without their engines turning, Jerry Hendrix, a former anti-submarine operations officer on the Theodore Roosevelt, asks: “How loud is your flashlight?”

Moreover, submarines are spreading. Since the cold war ended, the number of countries deploying them has risen from a dozen or so to about 40. Many of the newcomers are not part of the Western system of alliances. Some are actively hostile to it. And more may join them...

Perhaps belatedly, but certainly determinedly, a new approach to the submarine threat is now being developed. It is based on a simple principle: since submarines are hard to detect, when you do find one you should never let go.

Shadowing threatening submersibles is nothing new. Trailing something is a much easier sensory task than discovering it in the first place, when you have an entire ocean to search. But at the moment this job is done by destroyers and (for those that have them) nuclear submarines. These cost billions of dollars to build and tens of millions a year more to run. Instead, the idea is to use smallish unmanned ships—marine drones, in effect—to do the job. These will be packed with enough sensors and artificial intelligence to follow adversaries’ submarines automatically.

Half a dozen Western naval powers are conducting the R&D needed to build these, according to Eric Wertheim, author of the US Naval Institute’s reference doorstop “Combat Fleets of the World”. America is furthest along. In June its Office of Naval Research and its Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, began tests in the Pacific of the Sea Hunter, an unmanned (and, for now, unarmed) 40-metre trimaran, pictured. It is designed to follow an enemy submarine from the surface relentlessly for months, even in high seas. While the crew of the boat being tailed will probably be able to hear their pursuer’s diesel engine, that is not really a problem. Short of a torpedo launch, which would be an act of war, “there’s nothing you can do about it”, says Nevin Carr, a retired rear admiral in the American navy who now works at Leidos, the firm which designed Sea Hunter.




Lightguns said:
Average 18 Aircraft carriers in service between 1955 and 1995.  How many in actual carrier groups would be somewhat less, say 12?

In 1955 the USN was flying Banshees with a half dozen 500 pounders and no in-flight refueling capability. Short legs and modest effects meant lots of aircraft and lots of ships.

These days Pappy Boyington, equipped with F18s and AAR, could be hitting Tokyo from Bougainville.  And as Mark points out, PGMs on long range missiles are also changing that dynamic.

I think that there is a role for carriers, like I think there is a role for a lot of ships to control the sea lanes.  But is there a role for a lot of carriers?
Those are all interesting, carriers have a mobility advantage that islands don't.  That being said is the US Navy preparing too much for littoral warfare at the expense of preparing for combat with China or Russia, I don't know?  Militaries have historically prepared hard for the next war in the shape of the war they just fought only to be stunned by the future war demands.  I am sure that the US Navy realizes that and is working hard to divine future war but there is always the budget monster that doesn't let you throw away your toys just because you outgrew them.