Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Projecting Power Overseas

"As lethal as our carrier task forces are, we would much rather they be used for show, rather than a 'hot go'. The world does not need another war right now." 

Americans love their aircraft carriers. And what is there not to love? They are big, sleek, and powerful. Plus, no other nation on Earth has the kind of aircraft carriers we have. Plus, our very impressive group of Nimitz Class carriers, is about to get even more impressive.

By now, most of us have read that the USS Carl Vinson has set sail for the vicinity of the Korean Peninsula. Yes, that is big flipping news. And it immediately got the attention of the Norks. So much so, they are saying this is a provocation which could lead to war. Big whoop.

Someone on the news yesterday said if the Norks wanted to really worry, they should worry it a Trident (Ohio Class) submarine is in their neighborhood. You can't see a Trident, but they are there. They carry 48 nukes on board, which is enough to turn North Korea into a sheet of glass if the Norks ever decided to attack us.

A word about the Vinson as not to minimize her. She was launched in 1980, the third of the feared Nimitz Class carriers. Her last retrofit was in 2009. In other words, she has been modernized as much as she could be. But like anything else in life, everything gets old. The Nimitz Class are started to look and act dated, so a new class is coming on line. But even with that, the Nimitz Class still packs quite a lethal punch.

The USS Gerald Ford is getting ready to enter the fleet. Right now, her first deployment is scheduled for 2019 - however, should things heat up in the world, I am sure that date could be moved up. The Ford will be the first of a new class of "super-carriers". At about $14B to build, she has all the bells and whistles one could imagine. Plus she has the capabilities to incorporate  new "star wars type" weapons technology which are not quite ready to field as yet.

Besides for the Ford, money (about $42B) has been appropriated for another three "super-carriers" in this class. Slowly, as these come into the fleet, more Nimitz Class carriers will sunset their service to this great country. 

I have always loved the fact they named the last carrier class after Chester Nimitz. A true war hero in World War II. While in the Naval Reserves, I wrangled my way onto the USS Nimitz - twice. Got complete tours both times and was invited to have dinner in the mess hall. It was a highlight of my time in the Navy. Seeing a picture of one of these towering behemoths really does not do them justice. Being on board,  walking through the seemingly endless catacombs. makes you feel you are on a city, not a ship.

One final word about aircraft carriers, no matter if they are in the Nimitz Class or Ford Class. Nothing projects American power the way they do. When a carrier comes a calling, it never comes alone. It comes with a task force. And pound for pound, the AEGIS Class Destroyer or Cruiser that comes with a carrier are the deadliest ships in the world.

America can offer up hope and prayers that just having the Vinson on station will be enough to keep the lid on with North Korea. As lethal as our carrier task forces are, we would much rather they be used for show, rather than a "hot go". The world does not need another war right now. 

1 comment:

  1. Dead wrong:
    1). The Shkval torpedo-This Russian weapon utilizes super-cavitation technology giving it an astounding underwater speed of 200 knots. The Navy has stated “Fitted with a nuclear warhead, Shkval could obliterate entire US naval battle groups and abruptly blow a hole in the USA’s carrier based air superiority doctrine”. Iran is said to possess a version called the "Hoot".

    2). Wake Homing torpedoes-Last year, says the Washington Times, the Chinese discovered a weakness in the underwater structure of our modern carriers, which can be taken advantage of by using wake homing torpedoes designed by the Russians.

    3). Air Independent Submarines-Modern diesel subs, of the kind built by Germany, France, and Russia are sold around the world and come equipped with new AIP technology allowing them to remain undetected for weeks. Such weapons can easily come into the possession of rogue states such as Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela, and perhaps already are. Diesel boats are also far quieter than nuclear subs, and there are more than 400 built or building in the world today.

    4). Less vulnerable platforms duplicate the carrier's mission. Forward presence (showing the flag), close air support for ground troops, and anti-sub and anti-surface warfare is currently spread around the armed services. US destroyers currently make their presence known in all the worlds hot spots and can attack targets at long range using cruise missiles. Long-range bombers and vertol plans like the Harrier support the troops, the latter from light carriers. Submarines and helicopter-equipped destroyers and frigates take care of the submarine problem.

    5) The cost. Modern super carriers generally price at about $6 billion each, but this is only the beginning. There is also an equally costly air wing to consider (about 90 planes at $50 million each for the US ships), plus 3-5 escorts ships and at least 1 attack submarine at $2 billion each for protection, plus 6000 crewmen, and $300 million per year on upkeep. And they wonder why our fleet has sunk from 600 ships to less than half since the last decade!

    As we have seen, the escort ships are currently duplicating the carriers' mission, which may make future strategists question why an expensive "mothership" is needed for today's warfare.