June 15, 2018

So You Want to Build a Modern Navy - Aviation Part 1

Bean: I think it's probably time to look at our options for fixed-wing aviation at sea. As I see it, we have a couple ways to do this, and I'm not sure which one we should go for.


HMS Queen Elizabeth

First, we could buy full CATOBAR carriers like the US and France use. These would be smaller than the US carriers, ideally about the size of the British Queen Elizabeths, although we might be able to go a bit smaller. The advantage is that this gives us the best payload and the widest range of aircraft options. One of the highlights would be being able to fly E-2 Hawkeyes, giving us one of the best AWACS planes in the world. The problem is that ships that big are also expensive, and we'd have to develop a whole new set of skills. We do have aircraft options here, though. We could buy either Dassault Rafales or Boeing Super Hornets, and we'd probably get a pretty good deal on either one. Even better, we could fly the same plane from our land bases, giving us commonality between our sea and land based squadrons.

Second, we could follow the Russian/Indian/Chinese route and run STOBAR carriers instead. These use a ski-jump ramp to launch fixed-wing fighters, which are arrested on recovery. The advantage is that the ship can be made smaller and cheaper than a CATOBAR carrier. The disadvantage is that you can only fly high-performance fighters and helicopters off. No fixed-wing AWACS, no drone tankers, no delivery aircraft. In theory, we could start with STOBAR for our first carrier or two and then transition to CATOBAR later, probably turning the STOBAR ships into helicopter carriers when we do so. But I'm also a bit nervous about such plans, which have a way of not happening to plug a funding shortfall.

Third, we go STOVL. This is the most popular choice today, although we do have fairly limited aircraft options. The Harrier is out of production and getting a bit long in the tooth, while the F-35B is really expensive. The advantage is that the carriers can be quite small, although that's not really a good thing in a strike carrier. The disadvantage is that STOVL aircraft can't really match their conventional brethren in range and payload.

There is a potential way around the aircraft shortage which almost has me wanting to recommend the STOVL carrier, because it takes care of several problems at once. Basically, the F-35 is not a good Harrier replacement. The Harrier was a light attack aircraft and mediocre fighter, while the F-35 is much higher-end. And I suspect that most nations don't necessarily need the full F-35B package if we can offer them an alternative at a much lower price.

To that end, I propose the development of what I'll call the Expeditionary Fighter. The idea is to deliver the performance of a 4th-generation fighter such as the F-16 in a STOVL package while keeping cost down. It's not intended to be a frontline aircraft in a war with the Chinese, but there are lots of people with older fighters in their air force, and it will be a useful light strike aircraft even in a major war. How do we keep cost down? Simple. First, we aren't pushing the edge of the envelope in performance. There's no fancy stealth coatings, although careful shaping can lower RCS remarkably. We use existing engines, and as much other off-the-shelf hardware as is reasonably possible. I don't want a frankenstein monstrosity, but we don't need to develop our own radar or anything like that. And the basic science of what we're doing is well-known, so we can focus on making it cheap rather than pushing the edge of the envelope. Second, we develop in stages and leave room for growth. The initial version won't have all the fancy software that makes the F-35 so lethal by hooking everything together. That's going to take time to develop, but we can start building the planes before it's ready. Likewise, I expect the initial weapons fit to be pretty modest. But we have a team doing incremental upgrades, and the really great bit is that we can sell each one to export customers, giving us an income stream even after selling them the airplane.

There are other advantages. This gives us a good start on an aerospace industry, and makes it easier to bargain for systems from others. We can look at a conventional version if there's demand, and even buy F-35Bs for the high end of our own carrier groups in time. But I do think there's a gap for a genuinely cheap fighter out there, and I think we're uniquely placed to fill it. I'll take questions now, but there's probably more to be said later.

Davy Jones: Since you brought it up, why bother having an Air Force or Army independent of the Navy? We're an island nation which means that all of our offensive wars will involve attacking coasts and all of our defensive wars will involved defending coasts. If our Navy pilots can land on an aircraft carrier, then they'll find it easy to land on the odd airbase or two close to the coast as well. This would simplify our chain of command and hopefully reduce costs as well.

Bean: I like the way you think. This seems like an eminently sensible idea to me.

With my absolutely serious multi-service Minister of Defense hat on, this has advantages and disadvantages. I've long been a strong opponent of a unified air force controlling naval aviation because that tends to result in naval aviation starving because the air force wants to spend all of its money on fighters and bombers. This could lead to the same kind of issues on the other side. The obvious victim of putting the air force under the navy is heavy airlift capability, but depending on which faction within the navy ends up with the upper hand, it could be that the whole aviation world ends up as second-class citizens, and I don't think that would be a good thing.

On the other hand, it could have good effects on our broader foreign policy. I'm a strong advocate of maritime strategy, and that involves keeping our options open and not deploying permanent forces. If we go this way, then having no army removes the temptation to change policy when it looks good to our politicians to start a land war in Asia. All organizations will tend to try to grow and expand their responsibilities, and getting involved in that kind of war is good for the land forces, so even a weak army is a threat. The US tried to defang its army in the 50s, and its reassertion in the 60s was a key element of landing them in Vietnam. I'm genuinely not sure which way to go here.

To be continued.

Comments

  1. June 15, 2018Johan Larson said...

    These aircraft carrier things tend to be a bit pricy. What's the proposed defense budget for this island nation, and how big a chunk of it would be going to the aircraft carriers?

    Also, aircraft carriers are tools of distant force projection. They're for smacking folks down 1000 miles away. Are we sure we need that? If we only need to defend our borders and control the seas within a few hundred miles, a land-based air force should be much cheaper. And we could extend the range of that with airborne tankers if necessary.

  2. June 15, 2018bean said...

    What’s the proposed defense budget for this island nation, and how big a chunk of it would be going to the aircraft carriers?

    This is a question I'm frantically avoiding giving a hard answer to, because I simply don't have the time to come up with one properly. The question of cost has come up a lot in our later discussions, but I think the answer is that we can afford it, particularly if we don't spend a lot on other types of forces.

    Also, aircraft carriers are tools of distant force projection. They’re for smacking folks down 1000 miles away. Are we sure we need that? If we only need to defend our borders and control the seas within a few hundred miles, a land-based air force should be much cheaper. And we could extend the range of that with airborne tankers if necessary.

    I think we do need that. Our strategy is sea control, and one of the important parts of that is that we can control the seas pretty much anywhere. Having carriers gives us a lot of diplomatic leverage, and supports a strategy of dealing with problems as far from home as possible.

  3. June 15, 2018Suvorov said...

    If we go this way, then having no army removes the temptation to change policy when it looks good to our politicians to start a land war in Asia. All organizations will tend to try to grow and expand their responsibilities, and getting involved in that kind of war is good for the land forces, so even a weak army is a threat. The US tried to defang its army in the 50s, and its reassertion in the 60s was a key element of landing them in Vietnam. I’m genuinely not sure which way to go here.

    Perhaps a Home Guard arrangement, like early U.S. militia or the reservist system practiced in some European countries, would suffice. You could have, at most, a small professional cadre army around which the rest of the militia could form in the event of an invasion. Militias historically can be very reluctant to leave their territorial boundaries (causing some angst during the War of 1812, IIRC) and the equipment and focus could be entirely on deterring a home islands invasion. That should dampen mitigate mission creep.

    They could be cheap, have an entirely domestic focus, and I would think most capabilities you didn't trust the Navy to (like airlift capacity) could be assigned to them as well. (Perhaps they could even loan the aircraft to civil aviation during low-use cycles.)

  4. June 15, 2018ADifferentAnonymous said...

    but depending on which faction within the navy ends up with the upper hand, it could be that the whole aviation world ends up as second-class citizens

    I'd have to think this threat is in inverse proportion to our carrier investment, no?

  5. June 15, 2018bean said...

    @Suvorov

    I’ve had very similar thoughts, including use of the phrase “Home Guard”. Such an organization would be fairly easy to keep under control, particularly if you insist that all senior officers are former Marines.

    I would think most capabilities you didn’t trust the Navy to (like airlift capacity) could be assigned to them as well. (Perhaps they could even loan the aircraft to civil aviation during low-use cycles.)

    Heavy airlift aircraft are usually too expensive and specialized to work in civilian service. I’m talking of stuff like C-130s and particularly C-17s. The BC-17 program was a total failure, despite Boeing’s best efforts to sell it commercially.

    @ADifferentAnonymous

    I’d have to think this threat is in inverse proportion to our carrier investment, no?

    Quite probably. I’m not hugely worried about it, just examining all the angles.

    @RedRover

    You aren’t alone in not wanting to go for indigenous procurement. One of the downsides of chopping this up like I am is that the comments often end up recapping discussions that have been had but aren’t posted yet.

    I’m thinking most particularly of the F-20, but I think IAI and some other companies have also tried something similar.

    The F-20 wasn’t really low-capability. It was originally intended as a dodge around Carter’s prohibition on exporting the F-16 without neutering the plane, and collapsed when Reagan reversed that policy. The other plane is probably the Lavi.

    With both of those cases, I’m a bit skeptical. There’s a definite tendency to view the losing/cancelled aircraft through rose-colored glasses. Nobody ever had to deal with the messy reality of bringing it into service, or finding out that the plane couldn’t meet its promised performance numbers. (Of course, maybe I did the same thing in proposing the Expeditionary Fighter. It was an idea, and not one I place(d) huge confidence in.)

    (This was in reply to a comment which seems to have disappeared. It happened a couple of times in the Open Thread as well. So far as I know, there's no auto-moderation, and I'm going to ask Said Achmiz what's going on.)

  6. June 15, 2018Garrett said...

    I'm nervous about the idea of building a new type of aircraft, especially one which needs to withstand the difficult work environment of naval carrier duty. It's one thing to start by building land-based transport or patrol aircraft. But having your navy rely on high-performance aircraft which don't exist yet is a high-risk, moderate reward. That is, we risk having expensive, mostly-useless carriers, but in return we get a lower-cost, non-commercial aerospace industry which likely wouldn't be competitive.

    Something like the F/A-18D would provide a lighter-weight (thus hopefully requiring a smaller carrier) multi-role aircraft. In addition, by going with an older airframe we'd have an easier time getting export permission and it ingratiates us to prospective allies. Then we have something which works and which could be used long-term if we decide to take the experimental aircraft route.

    Side conspiracy theory: I suspect that one reason that China's been buying all of the cruise lines is that it gets them a way to develop experience operating aircraft-carrier-sized ships in a way that doesn't scare everybody.

  7. June 15, 2018bean said...

    @Garrett

    I'd rather not buy legacy Hornets. They're out of production, which means we're buying used, and the USN recently retired their Hornets from combat roles. Which means they're cheap, but they also won't be paying for upgrades for a while. I'm not going to say more about alternative aircraft, as certain members of the discussion took that in a direction I didn't expect.

    Side conspiracy theory: I suspect that one reason that China’s been buying all of the cruise lines is that it gets them a way to develop experience operating aircraft-carrier-sized ships in a way that doesn’t scare everybody.

    Unlikely. A cruise ship isn't very much like a carrier, except in basic shiphandling, which can be learned on a ULCC or a big container ship, too. The skills of carrier operation are very specialized, and what they're figuring out now.

  8. June 15, 2018Chuck said...

    My big concern for a unified Navy commanded military is the thinking that led Yamato astray, the focus on "One decisive sea battle". I also agree that the split focus on sea/land/air logistics might result in some optimization issues, depending how commands and funding are split. I could see combining air and sea, especially if you aren't concerned about strategic bombing.

    Building a 4th gen stovl fighter actually sounds like a pretty great idea, however depending how close we are to the US it might be problematic, since it might compete with the American export market. It is also highly dependent on our aerospace industry's capabilities.

  9. June 15, 2018Suvorov said...

    Heavy airlift aircraft are usually too expensive and specialized to work in civilian service. I’m talking of stuff like C-130s and particularly C-17s. The BC-17 program was a total failure, despite Boeing’s best efforts to sell it commercially.

    Ah, fair enough! I suppose the airliners (troop transports) could probably just be conscripted from civilian airlines in a time of war, too, instead of loaned to them in times of peace.

    Something like the F/A-18D would provide a lighter-weight (thus hopefully requiring a smaller carrier) multi-role aircraft.

    One of my concerns with the older F/A-18 and possibly Bean's Expeditionary Fighter is the short range and low payload. From what I understand, the F/A-18 was very underwhelming compared to the Intruders it replaced in terms of range/payload, and F-14s ended up doing a lot of bomb-hauling to compensate. I think that sort of a fighter is very useful as a point-defense fighter for an island nation--Taiwan, for instance, could do a lot with STOVL fighters, it seems to me!

    But I worry about their ability to conduct CAP or interception missions to defend the carrier battle group, or ability to strike without getting close to enemy shore installations. Personally I would want a CATOBAR Flanker or at least a Rafale to be the big stick aboard my boats. Even the Super Bug seems a little lackluster, although the Rafale may not be much better (I don't know much about it.)

    I’m not going to say more about alternative aircraft, as certain members of the discussion took that in a direction I didn’t expect.

    Oooh, I'm looking forward to the next installment of this series now...

  10. June 15, 2018bean said...

    @Chuck

    I assume the Marines would be semi-independent. Not too much, or they turn into the Army, but there would definitely be a voice in the land forces.

    And I have to wonder if Yamato's thinking is likely to recur. Since WWII, the big shift has been into power projection ashore. Navies today think as much about that as they do about big sea battles, and we're definitely structuring that way, too.

    And I definitely don't expect LockMart to love us if we try to build our own fighter. It's taking very clear aim at the F-35B, which is the only game in town for STOVL right now.

    @Suvorov

    Don't get me wrong. Chartering airliners would probably be enough for most missions, and we can't be good at everything. But there are lots of places you can take a C-17 that you can't take a 767.

    The Hornet is famous for being rather short-legged, and the Super Hornet, while a bit better, still struggles. It's something we can live with, although building a better tanker is high on everyone's priority list right now. I don't have firm specs on what an Expeditionary Fighter could do, but it's not really competing head-to-head with the Super Bug.

    Oooh, I’m looking forward to the next installment of this series now...

    I may have to delay Coast Guard Part 2 and bring it forward.

  11. June 15, 2018sfoil said...

    I've long been a strong opponent of a unified air force controlling naval aviation because that tends to result in naval aviation starving because the air force wants to spend all of its money on fighters and bombers. This could lead to the same kind of issues on the other side. The obvious victim of putting the air force under the navy is heavy airlift capability, but depending on which faction within the navy ends up with the upper hand, it could be that the whole aviation world ends up as second-class citizens, and I don't think that would be a good thing.

    The three main roles of an independent air force are air superiority, "strategic bombing", and heavy air transport. Naval aviation should be sufficient for air superiority required by a maritime strategy. Indeed, anything more would imply a departure from the maritime strategy. However, an "Air Guard" might be desirable for securing national airspace. Putting them under either the Army or Navy could lead to some perverse incentives; perhaps the Air Guard should be part of the Coast Guard, or at least under the same Interior rather than War Ministry?

    You might consider having the Army handle air lift, and generally keep non-carrier-capable aircraft out of the Navy. If the Army relies strongly on a reserve system, they would best handle the mobilization of civilian aircraft as well.

    I think the sheer weight of circumstances will prevent any Navy in A.D. 2018 from turning their aviators into pariahs. Naval aviation is both too obviously important and too much an attractor for talent. If you're still worried, you can "fix" this by making not only the carrier air wing commander but the carrier CO aviators. When only pilots are allowed to command your capital ships, you can bet that pilots won't get sidelined organizationally. The US Navy does this, but I don't know how long it's been going on or what other countries do.

  12. June 15, 2018bean said...

    However, an “Air Guard” might be desirable for securing national airspace. Putting them under either the Army or Navy could lead to some perverse incentives; perhaps the Air Guard should be part of the Coast Guard, or at least under the same Interior rather than War Ministry?

    I'm not sure we can separate it too much from the naval aviation community simply because duplicating the whole pipeline makes little sense, but I do like the idea of doing it as an Air Guard. Staffing it the same way the US staffs the ANG and tying it to geography should give it some independent political power while making it difficult to deploy.

    You might consider having the Army handle air lift, and generally keep non-carrier-capable aircraft out of the Navy. If the Army relies strongly on a reserve system, they would best handle the mobilization of civilian aircraft as well.

    I don't want to have an Army.

    I think the sheer weight of circumstances will prevent any Navy in A.D. 2018 from turning their aviators into pariahs. Naval aviation is both too obviously important and too much an attractor for talent.

    That's a good point. Sometimes I ramble.

    The US Navy does this, but I don’t know how long it’s been going on or what other countries do.

    I believe it's a result of Billy Mitchell's campaign to bring all of aviation under thrall, so it goes back a ways. I'm not sure about other countries, either.

  13. June 15, 2018sfoil said...

    I believe it's a result of Billy Mitchell's campaign to bring all of aviation under thrall, so it goes back a ways.

    Hold up...the Navy gave aviators command of the carriers back when they were auxiliary vessels, then eventually ended up with fighter jocks in charge of their capital ships, didn't they? Also, the loss of the battleships must had a massive impact on the internal status of surface warfare officers. That explains a lot.

    I don't want to have an Army.

    How is the government structured? I know this is ultimately all about the Navy, but your island is going to have some organization on it representing the ultimate application of interpersonal violence. That can be the Interior Ministry, but if it is, what else is in the War Ministry along with the Navy?

  14. June 15, 2018Cassander said...

    With carriers, you need to go big or go home. Yes, you can get some sort of capacity out of a smaller deck, but with crappy AWACs, reduced payload and range, and the expense of developing a new plane, what you're really buying is a political statement, not serious capacity. We should either commit to developing a serious capacity to project power on our own, or not bother.

    Not bothering doesn't mean abandoning all hope of projecting power, of course, you can develop an expeditionary minded air force that's capable of making a serious contribution in partnership with allies, you can buy very capable amphibs like the canberra class, or specialize in some other relatively niche area, but there are better ways to spend money than on marginal carriers. And there's definitely no point in developing a new 4th gen fighter when the cost of F-35s is falling by the day. If we absolutely have to buy a non-catobar carrier, I'd suggest looking to Growler modified for STOBAR operations than something new.

    On the subject of a single military service, I'm going to have to come out against it. You can create such a service, but if it has tanks, ships, and planes, it's eventually going to get a group of people working on the tanks, a group working on the ships, and a group group working on the planes. Those guys guys are going to pretty quickly going to end up looking like an army, navy, and air force no matter what you call them. That's not to say that institutional design doesn't matter, it matters hugely, but the emphasis should be not on eliminating such distinctions, but deciding who is responsible for what, e.g. do your ship guys get to own their own planes, or do the plane guys get them all?

    For my money, I say you draw the line between a Home Guard and the Expeditionary Force. The names are deliberately self explanatory. The home guard is a rough amalgam of northcom, the coast guard, strategic command (I forget, are we a nuclear power?), and the reserves. The Expeditionary Force is the navy, the marines, and the more aggressive parts of the army. The point of this distinction is to create a clear sense of mission and purpose in each branch, and an organizational culture to match, specifically creating an expeditionary force that is long service, professional, and aggressive to maximize what we get from people who will be very expensively trained for their roles.

  15. June 15, 2018bean said...

    @sfoil

    Pretty much. That was how aviators ended up with lots of power.

    And I do think it's a good idea to have a separate land service. But I also want to make it a naval service.

    @cassander

    I'm leaning towards three services: Navy, Marines, and Home Guard. I don't see any need to include the Marines as unified with the Navy, but the Navy can fly its own planes.

    I forget, are we a nuclear power?

    We're still waiting to hear back on that from the team responsible. I should remind him again.

  16. June 16, 2018RedRover said...

    @Crusander

    you need to go big or go home. Yes, you can get some sort of capacity out of a smaller deck, but with crappy AWACs, reduced payload and range,

    I think it depends on how small small is. A diesel Charles de Gaulle or a modern Ark Royal is about half the displacement of a Ford/Nimitz, and close in size to USS America (45k tons vs 100k tons) but still gives you full CATOBAR, E-2, and so on. Obviously there is less capability than a Ford, particularly for shops and maintainers and so on, but that seems like the most promising route.

  17. June 16, 2018RedRover said...

    @cassander

    Apologies for misspelling your name above.

    Also, I suppose you could do a nuclear carrier and really copy the CDG, but I think the one off engineering challenges are too great compared to conventional propulsion.

    You might be able to have a number of SSN plants in parallel as a cheap option, but I suspect that won't work as well as we might think.

  18. June 16, 2018RedRover said...

    @bean

    How much do we really lose by just using commercial air freight strategically? My impression is that while the C-17 is theoretically capable of going places a 747F can't go, in practice this is mostly a training consideration, and in actual combat (at least based on recent US experience) the are enough large international airports around that it isn't really needed in terms of airport requirements, thigh the ability of the C-5 to carry outsize loads is still valuable. For tactical purposes and airdrops you C-130s or something, but for strategic airlift it seems like 747Fs plus a few tank/helicopter carriers would be a cheaper and more capable alternative than C-17s.

  19. June 16, 2018Anonymous said...

    Enterprise with 8 reactors is the closest anyone has come to using Submarine reactors for aircraft carriers (and even those seem to have twice as powerful as what they were using on actual Submarines), the US Navy went to 2 larger reactors in the Nimitz class for economic reasons and even determined that the originally planned 4 reactors of twice the size as the Enterprise reactors would be too expensive and redesigned the Kennedy to burn dinosaurs (dead marine animals actually) while under construction.

  20. June 16, 2018bean said...

    @RedRover

    I'm leaning towards just going the commercial/charter route, and relying on allies if we need something more.

    @Anonymous

    even determined that the originally planned 4 reactors of twice the size as the Enterprise reactors would be too expensive and redesigned the Kennedy to burn dinosaurs (dead marine animals actually) while under construction.

    That's not quite true. The decision was made before the ship was ordered. (Ref Friedman) Nuclear reactors are exactly the sort of long-lead components that you don't cancel.

  21. June 17, 2018Anonymous said...

    Wikipedia says otherwise and references Friedman as the source on the matter.

  22. June 17, 2018Cassander said...

    @redrover

    A fair point. By big I didn't mean nimitz big. Go catobar or go home is probably a better summary. That said, I'm skeptical of any CATOBAR carrier much smaller than a QE class. Bella that and you really start eating into your strike group size. And the CDG had lots of issues at the size it was at, things like catapults not quite fitting.

    @bean

    Why the separation of the marines and the navy? They've gotten a bit too far apart for my liking in the US.

  23. June 17, 2018bean said...

    That's a mistake on wiki's part. The page reference is to a section on ammo loadouts, nothing to do with Kennedy. I first ran across it almost six years ago. I'm really surprised it's lasted this long.

  24. June 18, 2018Cassander said...

    On the subject of using submarine reactors, I think it's a bad idea. The French tried it with the CDG with unsatisfactory results. A carrier reactor needs to be able to drive a large ship pretty fast and simultaneously make enough steam (or electricity) for catapults. The CDGs reactors are under-powered to begin with, and my understanding is that flight it runs into serious issues if it launches planes too quickly. You can use more than two reactors, of course, like in enterprise, but that is going to increase the number of nuclear trained crew you need, and they're not cheap. Unless we're doing something like building a whole fleet around a single reactor design (which you could arguably do with a reactor like the one that will power the Columbia class) I think it's a false economy.

  25. June 18, 2018bean said...

    @Cassander

    Definitely agreed on the CDG. That was a messy design.

    Why the separation of the marines and the navy? They’ve gotten a bit too far apart for my liking in the US.

    Ultimately, one is a land service and the other is a naval service. I don't see any point in making them all wear the same uniform, because they're doing different things. I'll agree that the USMC is probably too independent, but it's possible to go too far in the opposite direction.

    I think the CDG's problems are as much to do with the use of the Carmel fuel as the reactor designs themselves. This was supposed to be a low-enriched fuel you could export, but I don't think anyone took the bait. But it did also mean that there's a big soft patch in the middle of the deck.

  26. August 10, 2018simon said...

    A crazy idea that might be possible in the near future for airplanes on ships: tail-VTOL to and from some mount, perhaps cantilevered off the side of the ship. With SpaceX having proven VTOL for rockets, and planning landing on launch mounts for the BFR, it seems it ought to be possible to do something similar for airplanes. Obviously only applies to thrust > weight aircraft.

    It would require a lot of upfront technology investment but it seems you could do this on small ships and relatively low performance sacrifice for the modified aircraft.

  27. August 10, 2018bean said...

    @simon

    That seems strangely familiar. And yes, modern technology would be able to solve the biggest problem with those two, which is that the pilot had to land the things while looking over his shoulder. But I still wouldn't bet on them becoming common. First, requiring thrust > weight in all cases to operate puts fairly severe limits on performance. STOVL works better than VTOL because they can use aerodynamic lift to supplement their thrust lift. That's just not an option here. Second, if you can only land on a cradle, what happens when there is no cradle available? Maybe your ship got sunk, or the cradle was damaged, and all of the other ones in the fleet are full. Or maybe you just want to operate from a shore base for some reason.

    Lastly, why? What role does this fill? There's a considerable performance sacrifice, and the idea of flying a few VTOL fighters off of small ships has never worked well. You have the economies of scale issues we've been discussing in the most recent post on modern naval aviation. And for what? Is this really so much better than Aegis and Tomahawk?

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