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The Aircraft Carrier Shitstorm Thread

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On 4/26/2017 at 2:17 PM, roguetechie said:

 

Ramlaen,

 

Not being a naval systems guy, other than a fascination with with Umoe surface effect ships (skjold class) small watercraft like the riverine warfare guys etc use anything really high speed WIG's concrete submarines and amphibious warfare systems, I tend to separate naval weapons into long range stuff like harpoon and SM series missiles and CIWS stuff like rolling airframe missiles and Vulcan guns.

 

With this in mind, with all the mark 41 VLS cells in a carrier strike group is a pretty substantial punch IF you're loaded up 80/20 or 75/25 defensive missiles to offensive systems. My assumption is that most of the time this would be the case for a carrier strike group's entourage.

 

But then we get to the close in antimissile and small boat knife fighting systems which a nuclear super carrier itself and her entourage carry, they're just not all that well armed compared to Russian equivalent platforms. Someone actually posted a picture somewhere on the SH forum showing the difference between kuznetsov and American nuclear super carriers. The graphic showed the number and location of missile and gun systems as well as the arcs each item covers and the difference between the two was very evocative!

 

Honestly, modern American naval vessels are really lightly armed on a tonnage basis from the LCS all the way on up to super carriers!

USN carriers are lightly armed for several reasons.  One is that the tonnage and deck area is put into aircraft.  A second is that a jet fuel spill/fire could soak a VLS while it cannot easily reach the launchers in the position they are in on US carriers.  A third is that the vertically launched missile exhaust plumes can damage aircraft, especially stealth coatings.  In addition, the defensive systems have radars that emit and give away the location of the carrier.

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35 minutes ago, Domus Acipenseris said:

USN carriers are lightly armed for several reasons.  One is that the tonnage and deck area is put into aircraft.  A second is that a jet fuel spill/fire could soak a VLS while it cannot easily reach the launchers in the position they are in on US carriers.  A third is that the vertically launched missile exhaust plumes can damage aircraft, especially stealth coatings.  In addition, the defensive systems have radars that emit and give away the location of the carrier.

Plus, the more tonnage you can use for aviation fuel storage, and ordnance is a big deal so you do not have to constantly be pulling off the line to fuel and reload ordnance. 

 

Plus on the conventional ships, fuel for the ships themselves, because we have a lot of water to cover.  This was one of the limitations of the armored deck British Carriers in the Pacific at the end of the war, they were not designed for the type of war the US Navy was and were constantly having to refuel and rearm, and their air wings were small too. Turns out the armored flight deck, though could save the ships in the short run, the damage several Kamikaze strikes did ended up leaving permanent structural damage, since the armored flight deck, unlike the flight deck on US Carriers during WWII, was a major part of the ship's structure. 

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1 hour ago, Domus Acipenseris said:

USN carriers are lightly armed for several reasons.  One is that the tonnage and deck area is put into aircraft.  A second is that a jet fuel spill/fire could soak a VLS while it cannot easily reach the launchers in the position they are in on US carriers.  A third is that the vertically launched missile exhaust plumes can damage aircraft, especially stealth coatings.  In addition, the defensive systems have radars that emit and give away the location of the carrier.

USN carriers, IIRC, also expect a certain level of success from CAP birds on anti-missile duty. Defense in depth is the concept, and if the carrier is shooting someone has fucked up royally.

 

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1 hour ago, Belesarius said:

USN carriers, IIRC, also expect a certain level of success from CAP birds on anti-missile duty. Defense in depth is the concept, and if the carrier is shooting someone has fucked up royally.

 

 

Not so much depth since the F-14 was retired... 

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3 minutes ago, Belesarius said:

There are arguments to be made about the FA-18E/F family along with the AIM-120

.

 

 

Not good ones. Hornet has short legs, and was not designed for fleet defense, and like most things, it is not good at it.  The Navy just decided they didn't need great fleet defense post-cold-war, and the hornet is so much cheaper. 

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yeah, and if the Air Force can keep the F-15 in the air, the Navy sure as hell could have kept the 14D flying just fine if Dick Cheney wasn't an ASSHOLE. The ready rates and mission completion rates in Afghanistan and Gulf War MK II were damn impressive for a plane that wasn't having new parts made. 

 

The F-14 ended up being a better fighter bomber than the BUG too. 

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14 hours ago, Domus Acipenseris said:

USN carriers are lightly armed for several reasons.  One is that the tonnage and deck area is put into aircraft.  A second is that a jet fuel spill/fire could soak a VLS while it cannot easily reach the launchers in the position they are in on US carriers.  A third is that the vertically launched missile exhaust plumes can damage aircraft, especially stealth coatings.  In addition, the defensive systems have radars that emit and give away the location of the carrier.

 

Every single ton of carrier you put into a single hull gives you more capacity than the last one. It takes a lot of tonnage to be able to launch even one plane, let alone launch, maintain and arm one plane. If you compare the air wings of light carriers to supercarriers, the latter have a lot more air wing per ton because things like maintenance, seakeeping, launch facilities and deck space are amortized over more planes. Big missile batteries end up on their own platforms with their own superstructure optimized for radar and so on for very good reasons because the USN can afford the tonnage to make their carriers part of a task force. Lastly, VLS cells are a non-trivial cut in the flight deck, which is part of the strength deck and has to have four long cuts in it for catapults, as well as the cuts in the ship girder for the hangar exits onto the elevators. The cuts that already exist are only possible due to classified structural shenanigans of the deep wizardry sort. The Charles de Gaulle has to have a weak spot in her deck because the reactor needs refueling more frequently. As a result, when their new short catapult designs turned out to only work with literally neck-breaking accelerations, they had to cut down to two cats, and the island is way the hell forward, which sucks because that's prime real estate for spotting planes before launch. The Zumwalts are the first missile focused ships to not need the VLS cut to be in prime centerline real estate, and the way they talk about that development indicates that it's bigger than you'd think.

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30 minutes ago, roguetechie said:

Wow... Thanks!

 

Your references to putting in the cuts and the classified structural shenanigans this requires opens up a new perspective on several things.

 

Ever since the Midways, every carrier's ship girder has been carried up into the flight deck. The Essexes were the last major carriers to have their hangar deck be the main structural deck (Incidentally, the Essexes and before had armored decks, just at the hangar deck rather than the flight deck, which is part of why I say confidently that the hits the Franklin took wouldn't have been stopped by a British style armored flight deck.) Basically, the hangar exits, island location and catapult tracks can tell you a lot about how well the ship design's been able to reduce stress to free it up for those things. Now I'm kind of wondering whether the Fords have more stresses so the island couldn't go between the elevators, or they're doing it to free up space forward.

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10 hours ago, xthetenth said:

 

 The Charles de Gaulle has to have a weak spot in her deck because the reactor needs refueling more frequently.

 

Low enriched uranium strikes again!

 

Without going into too much detail that could get me in trouble, the US Navy is looking into switching to low enriched uranium for future reactors. Or at least they were, since the election of Trump it's probably dropped off. But in any case, there would be some ~interesting~ challenges associated with putting LEU in subs and still keeping a long interval between refuelings. Also, it'd be a long time before an LEU reactor got into a sub; Columbia's reactor design (S1B) is already pretty advanced, so the earliest you'd get it is in a Virginia replacement. And considering how weird an LEU reactor would be (at least compared to current fuel fabrication techniques and reactor layout) the Navy would probably want to do a land-based test reactor.

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13 hours ago, LostCosmonaut said:

 

Low enriched uranium strikes again!

 

For the CDG, I think the reason was mainly that we already had an existing reactor for our subs so we just took 2 and slapped them in the carrier.

Guess it helped a lot with the maintenance and design cost plus having only one supply chain for the fuel (soon with the Barracuda SSN replacing the Rubis class)

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If they're going to fuck up, it's better to do it now than on a Type 003. IIRC the Type 001 is half intended to be a tech demonstrator anyway, kind of like the Pz I was for Germany and tanks I guess.

 

Of course, in this analogy, the Americans are busy working the bugs out of their M60s right now.

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This is a thread I wanted to post in for a while, and now I'm getting around to it. Spoilered to avoid wall-of-text syndrome.

*weapons-grade naval autism warning*
 

The reason the US carriers are the size they are is pure capability. The 90kton carriers have significantly more capability than their smaller bretheren, for a few reasons.
There are a few notes I want to address on this point.
1. Deck size
 

Spoiler

The USN carriers got progressively larger since their introduction in order to handle more and larger aircraft; the last conventional carriers (CV-66, 67) weren't much smaller, and the ability to operate large aircraft like the E-2, S-3, RA-5, A-6, F-14 and A-3D is a very significant advantage over any competitor. Unfortunately this advantage has mostly evaporated since 1990, as most of these large long-range platforms were retired without adequate replacement. 
To compare numbers, here's a listing of USN air wings during the 1GW, per carrier.
http://www.leyden.com/gulfwar/airwing.html
A fighter squadron is around 10-12 aircraft,  attack squadrons 12-15, AEW 4-5, E/A  ~6,  S-3 ~10, and Helicopters around 8.
This means that the supercarriers are proven to be capable of carrying and running in combat conditions around 90 assorted aircraft- a number larger than many national air forces I could mention. 
To compare, the brand-new British carriers are intended to max out at around 36 fixed-wing  F-35B and a helicopter detachment for ASW and AEW. The F-35B, while the best of its class by a wide margin, is inferior to the C variant in terms of armament (smaller weapons bays, can't carry 2000lb bombs or JSMs) and range (smaller fuel tanks). And the Merlin Crowsnest is nowhere near the ability of the E-2. The ramp vs cats is only part of the problem, as even were it to be fitted with cats the low capacity would still be a problem.


 

2. Survivability
 

Spoiler

Despite what the "military reformer" crowd would like you to believe, the supercarriers aren't a peacetime weapon. The large CVA was the brainchild of a USN intending to go up against the might of the Soviet navy and maritime aviation and win. Combine that with Adm. Rickover's genius, and you get a CVN. The big E entered service in 1961, just a year after the first Boomers, and was in training during the Cuban missile crisis- certainly not a time when "world policing" was a priority.
2.1. Size matters

Spoiler


The large size is a distinct advantage when it comes to damage and damage control- the ship can be subdivided enough to survive many hits, without making the internal spaces too small to be useful. The hangar deck is subdivided into around 4-5 sections separated by fire doors, each of which is large enough to comfortably maintain aircraft, and with sufficient damage control equipment to prevent losses. Further, the large deck with 4 cats and 4 elevators allows significant redundancy- even with the bow shot clean off, the carrier can continue flight ops from the waist cats, and the loss of an elevator doesn't preclude the flow of aircraft through the hangar deck (the flow is stern forwards, when recovered aircraft are struck down for maintenance and repair, moved to the forward elevators to be brought to the cats). 
nimitz.gif
Compare this to the Kuznetsov and Chinese copies, and to the French CdG: only 2 smaller elevators,  only 2 cats for the CdG,  with interference between them- you can't launch from the waist when the bow cat is occupied.
GAULLE-AERIAL_3507747k.jpg
 and the single bow ramp for all launch positions on the Kuz.
Class+aircraft+carrier+Kuznetsov+2.jpg
Let's not even mention the sad layout of the Kiev class. Note that the deck arrangement also facilitates high sortie rates, but as that has already been fairly well covered by Colli in this thread, I won't go on about that.


2.2 Torpedoes

Spoiler


Regarding torpedoes, it's common to see submarine proponents go on at length about under-keel shots causing massive damage and potentially break the ship's girder by dynamic loading. It should however be said that this is not guaranteed to actually work every time, and the larger the ship is the less effective this will be. Sinkex footage shows that ships as small as OHPs can survive torpedoes that hit the ends of the ship, and the USS Okinawa was sinkex'd but sank intact despite taking a torpedo to the center of the keel.
1723578-USS-OKINAWA-LPH-3-Stone--13548.j
1723578-USS-OKINAWA-LPH-3-Stone--26545.j
And that's only a 11kton ship. The larger hull of the supercarrier allows the fitting of much deeper and therefore effective torpedo defences. While the details are classified,  one picture of the CV-66's construction hints that a significant portion of the hull's strength may come from the sides and not the bottom keel, which would reduce the effects of torpedoes.
96a1c77229d0a67abca5faca311c5c11.jpg
CV-66 was later SINKEX'd as well, and sank intact and mostly level:
main-qimg-3386509d02b28ed189e2deacc309b9
Which would imply that the passive torpedo defense mechanisms do actually work.
It should be noted, however, that the main defense against submarines is being where they aren't, and forcing then to expose themselves. This requires, of course, an air wing capable of striking targets from long range, which ties into the last point and into this Navweaps article: http://www.navweaps.com/index_tech/tech-031.php

2.3 Missile defence
 

Spoiler

In order to conduct a missile attack, an enemy needs targeting data and enough weapons in range. Targeting data isn't trivial- one needs to locate likely targets, identify them (you don't want to waste your missiles on a ULCC) and engage, without the target escaping the missiles during their flight.
Sats have limited, predictable coverage and are likely to get shot down in a war (what else are you going to use early-production SM-3 Blk 1s for?), and MPAs are vulnerable to carrier aviation and the new SM-6. 
Once the CSG has been detected, located and identified, it's still not yet time to send the missiles flying. The range of a Harpoon missile is ~70nm, while the combat radius of an F-35 is ~700nm. MTCR limits missiles to 300km, which is around 150nm. So you need something to carry these missiles to within range (or much larger more expensive missiles). These missile boats or planes are vulnerable to carrier aviation- F/A-18s can carry 4 Harpoons and 2 AMRAAMs at once.
maxresdefault.jpg
Shore launchers are relatively static and therefore useless at attacking carriers far out at sea.
The launch platforms which do make it to range and launch their weapons have to scram or get shot down; this limits their ability to provide midcourse guidance. The launched missiles now have to either fly high for long range, exposing themselves to long-range SAMs (as well as the CAP), or fly low and relatively slow and limit their own radar horizon. at long range missiles can be dodged simply by going flank speed across the line of flight- by the time it arrives, the ships are over the horizon. Movement such as this also messes with the opponent's attack planning, as missiles are supposed to arrive at roughly the same time to saturate defences- if they get drawn out, they will be defeated in detail. 
Further, E/A aircraft may be capable of seducing missiles away from the actual ships at long range, and that's after they've gone to great effort to confuse the detection and indentification process.
Once the missiles cross the radar horizon of the ships, that's a classic point defense engagement over which much  has already been said so I'll spare it.
Regarding ASBMs, while I understand a Pershing II-style radar image correlation guidance system could be used, the missile is highly visible, not very maneuverable for much of its flight, the pull-up maneuver slows it down a lot and eases engagement by SAMs. Also spamming ASBMs gets really expensive really fast.
The Chinese have yet to prove that their DF-21s can hit anything other than carrier outlines on the ground, they haven't even shot any at moored hulks.



 


3. Force concentration
 

Spoiler

The carriers never operate alone, but in a task force centered around them and their striking power. While the type, design, and number of escorts a carrier needs is an open debate over which much ink has been spilled, the use of a few large carriers as opposed to multiple smaller ones means that the escort screen is significantly denser for the same cost (unless of course you operate 2 smaller carriers together, which defeats the point of them being separate), which for many threats more than outweighs the risks of allowing the enemy to likewise concentrate his, particularly with regards to ASW.


4. Why then, if big is so good, aren't they larger?

Spoiler

The advantages of size dictate that you get the largest you can reasonably afford. The number you require is the number of hot spots you want to keep a permanent presence in divided by your availability rate. The availability rate of ships is usually around 1/3, and so for 4 hot spots (North Atlantic, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean/Persian Gulf, Pacific Ocean) you need 12 carriers. The budget the US Congress is willing to allocate towards carriers then dictates what the individual ships must cost.


5.  Are carriers the future? 
 

Spoiler

IMO, as long as air power remains relevant, and the size of the oceans doesn't become irrelevant, carriers will remain a major class of warship. Even unmanned aircraft won't change that, as they too enjoy the advantages of size- An F-14-sized UAV will be substantially more capable than an F-35B sized one, all else being equal.
There is however one major risk to the USN's flattops- American pride.
While designed as ships for war, intended to be risked and perhaps even lost, they've come to represent the US in all its power and glory. If the US public and military are no longer willing to use the carriers as intended, and are too afraid of losing them to risk them, then they are useless and must be replaced with something which can be risked. But as of now they're still very capable, powerful, and survivable, and will be for the forseeable future.

There is more to say, and I may have a follow-up post at some point.

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Yeah, I don't think the big carriers like the Nimitz are as easy to sink as some imply. The Forestall and Enterprises took a shit ton of damage during the Zuni rocket accidents and were never as risk of sinking.

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