June 29, 2018

So You Want to Build a Modern Navy - Aviation Part 2

This is a continuation of our discussion of the elements necessary to build a modern navy, specifically what sort of naval aviation is required or desirable.

Davy Jones: It seems to me as if the decision between CATOBAR and STOBAR comes down to whether we want to be able to punch very hard in few places or punch decently in a lot of places. This comes down to a discussion of who our adversaries are likely to be, what we'll be fighting over, what forces they're likely to bring to the battle, and what losses would be acceptable to us.

Bean: Sort of. Keep in mind that even a STOBAR or STOVL carrier still needs combat systems, engines and escorts. While there's a reasonable extra cost for CATOBAR, it's not as much as you might think on a whole-fleet level. The bigger question is if we can afford CATOBAR.

Davy Jones: I assume that there's a performance price that has to be paid for the VTOL capability which means that 4th generation VTOL aircraft won't be as capable as 4th generation normal aircraft. Are there enough countries fielding 3rd generation aircraft that it's worth going this route? Or would this be as part of a joint attack?

Bean: For a given technology level, there is absolutely a performance penalty for going with VTOL/STOVL. But we're not planning on building a 4th-generation aircraft with 4th-generation technology. We're building a 4th-generation aircraft with 5th-generation technology. Most military aircraft are designed to be as advanced as possible, but that’s not what we’re doing. We’re building an airplane designed to broadly match fighters originally designed 30-40 years ago, but with STOVL capability.

Davy Jones: Who would we sell our VTOL aircraft to? The US, Europe, China and Russia would all probably feed their own local military complexes rather than buy it from us. Will there still be enough countries around the world who'd be willing to pony up for VTOL aircraft rather than the Rafales or Super Hornets that you mentioned earlier?

Bean: Our first target market is anyone with a ship with a big, flat top on it who doesn’t have a strong commitment to an existing fixed-wing aircraft to fly off of it. There are at least 15 of these ships in existence, and more under construction. The owners of several of these ships have been sniffing around the F-35B, but I suspect that most of them would be quite happy with a pitch running “We can get you a capable aircraft to fly off your ship for half the per-unit cost of the F-35, and a lot lower operating cost, too. Oh, and we aren’t going to make you deal with the US procurement and sales system, either.” Make no mistake, we’re going head-to-head with the F-35B. We can’t win in a fight on capability, but we can easily win on price.

Selling to the US is harder. The Marines want the F-35B, and nothing else. Anything like this is an existential threat to their ability to operate a fully modern strike fighter off of their amphibs. The Navy doesn’t care. They don’t operate off of the small carriers. It’s not likely to be big or manly enough for the USAF. So, what service do we sell it to?

Dndnrsn: The Coast Guard?

Bean: I like the way you think, but no. We sell it to the Army. Not for them to use, because that violates various inter-service treaties. But to the Air Force on their behalf. Our campaign centers around the fact that the A-10 won’t last forever, and that our plane can provide better CAS. We hammer on the vulnerability of the A-10 to ground fire, and the advantages of having a survivable platform that can operate from close to the front lines, and that has the capability of a modern strike aircraft. We offer to throw in a free 30mm gun pod, and some extra bits to make it ugly.

But, you say, they’ll never buy it because the US defense establishment has a lot to do with jobs. Never fear. What we do is team up with a US manufacturer to build them under license in the US. Lockheed Martin isn’t likely to be very happy with us, as we’re going to be actively trying to kill one of its major products. So it’s either Boeing or Northrop. Given the state of their respective order books, Boeing is likely to be a lot more interested, although if they win T-X, that might change. Or we could team up with a smaller US company, although I’d prefer to get someone with major political clout on our side. We also team up with them on providing upgrades to the platform. The airframe is easy, but we’re going to need to push the avionics to make it viable in the long term, and a partner with lots of experience on that front would be valuable.

Longer-term, if the plane's good enough, we can sell it even to people who don't need its special capabilities. Look at the Hornet and Super Hornet. They've sold very well, even to countries which not only lack carriers, but lack navies entirely. We can also look at building a non-STOVL version to sell to people who want something 4th generation that has lots of life left in it. We might even be able to sell it to the Marines as a supplement to the F-35B down the road, as we can build a version with a back seat. That's helpful for some tasks, and it means they get a STOVL trainer.

John Schilling: The great danger in aircraft carriers, for any but the greatest of powers, is that they will turn out expensive enough that you can only afford to maintain one of them. For great prestige, no doubt, but with a great reluctance to actually risk it in battle. See, for example, the Veinticinco de Mayo's inaction during the Falklands war. And note that France's plans to maintain a two-carrier fleet have fallen apart on cost considerations. Are we richer than France? If not, it would be prudent to look for something smaller than the PA2 proposal that France wound up cancelling.

At the same time, the Harrier has been upgraded to the limit and is nonetheless obsolete. The F-35 is a Lockheed-Martin monopoly that will no doubt be priced so as to nearly break our budget, and LM may overestimate our budget. And while I would like to see the free world have a fourth-generation STOVL "expeditionary fighter" available, I fear that the market for such would be too small to recover the development costs. Note that the total number of Harrier airframes manufactured for customers other than the US and UK was I believe less than a hundred, spread over two generations, twenty years, and two manufacturers. With the US and UK locked in to the F-35, I don't think this works.

But if we look again to France, their Clemenceau-class aircraft carriers demonstrated the ability to operate high-performance aircraft of up to 15,000 kg takeoff weight, in a CATOBAR configuration, on a hull of perhaps 25,000 tons standard displacement (references vary a bit on that). And Saab has repeatedly proposed a carrier-capable version of its JAS-39 Gripen, a perfectly fine 4th-generation multirole combat aircraft within our weight limit. Presumably our aerospace industry could assist with the navalisation and assemble the resulting Sea Gripens locally. And if Saab gets too greedy or uncooperative, the HAL Tejas would also be suitable and is already designed for carrier operations, though in that case we'd want to work on upgrading the combat systems to modern western standards.

Possibly a more useful project for our aerospace industry would be to develop a carrier-based utility airframe comparable to the USN's S-3 Viking, though a bit smaller (18-20,000 kg MTOW) and probably a fast turboprop rather than a turbofan. Specifically designed to swap between maritime patrol, AEW, ESM/ECM, tanker, and transport roles. This would be a substantially less ambitious development than a new strike fighter, and would face little or no competition for what I think would be a substantial export market (roughly, everyone with a carrier smaller than a QE, plus the low end of the land-based maritime patrol/AEW market).

So, scaling from the Clemenceaus, I think 30,000 tons standard displacement would support an air wing of 24 JAS-39s, 8 multirole turboprops, and 8 helicopters, with reasonable endurance, logistics for sustained air operations and full combat systems including a modest self-defense capability. The air wing should be sufficient to ensure complete sea control out to ~400 nm against anyone who didn't bring an aircraft carrier of their own, and conduct planned strike missions out to ~800 nm.

And on the economic front, there are a number of nations that would clearly like to operate light aircraft carriers but don't have any affordable options - particularly if they aren't F-35 customers and can no longer pretend the Harrier is a viable combat aircraft. So we could probably make this a joint venture, maybe tell parliament that we want three but the Brazilians have offered to share development costs if they get the fourth. And then when it turns out we can't afford all three, well, we get two and Argentina will surely bid for a carrier to match Brazil's. Also consider Spain, Italy, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, just off the top of my head.

Bean: That's a lot of ground to cover. Starting from the top, we may not be richer than France, but I think we can be reasonably sure that we won't mismanage the process the way they did last time they bought a carrier. PA2 looks to have fallen victim to the 2008 recession. But your point is taken about the need for numbers, and I'm very well aware of that.

Both France and Sweden have been able to develop indigenous fighters, and we're aiming to put as many off-the-shelf systems aboard as possible. If it's what we need, I don't think it would be financially ruinous. But before we commit to anything, I'll make sure we have a better idea of the market.

I have a couple of problems with your carrier proposals. First, airplanes. While the Gripen is a good fighter, Saab has never built a naval aircraft of any sort, so I don't really trust their navalization skills. I know they're close with Boeing these days, who do know how to build naval aircraft, but I'd still rather not. And a cynic might suggest that the Tejas program was set up to make US aircraft procurement look good. I'd much rather have Super Hornets, both because it's built from the ground up as a naval aircraft and because it lets us operate Growlers, too.

But what about your carrier estimates? I happen to remember that the British used to operate Buccaneers off the Hermes, a ship smaller than Clemenceau, and those are very close in size to the Super Hornet. They didn't operate a lot of them, but it is possible to fly a big airplane off a ship that small. I'm sure you'll object that a ship of that size can't carry very many, but you can't fit two Sea Gripens for every Super Hornet. Also, remember that steel is cheap and air is free. Going from 30,000 tons to 40,000 tons will cost a lot less than an extra third, and will get us a much more capable ship. I'd recommend going as big as we can reasonably get away with. The utility aircraft isn't a bad idea, but you do have to remember the lack of CATOBAR carriers currently in service.

And while I also do like the idea of recreating the light fleet carrier program, I don't think it will work. Brazil just bought HMS Ocean from the British to fill their flattop gap, so I'm not sure we can sell to them soon. Argentina is an even worse choice. They probably don't have the money, they might well capsize it, and I really don't want to have that conversation with the British Ambassador. And I don't see that many opportunities for selling other ships. Taiwan is hard to sell to without angering the Chinese, and selling to the others is really tricky. A lot of them have STOVL-capable carriers of fairly recent vintage, and something as high-profile as a carrier is hard to sell for export unless it's really cheap.

Comments

  1. June 29, 2018Johan Larson said...

    Generally speaking, I like what I am hearing about this expeditionary fighter/strike aircraft. The idea of an aircraft that is made to be rugged and reliable and cheap rather than state-of-the-art is appealing. But I have to wonder about the vertical landing system. It seems to me the main advantage of this is that it lets us operate STOVL carriers, which tend to be the smallest sort of carrier. Don't we want to be a bit more ambitious than that, and go at least STOBAR? We'd be giving up a lot for the vertical landing capability.

    I think it would make sense to consider making the expeditionary fighter merely rugged (which it will need to be to handle carrier landings), STOL and easy to maintain, so it can be operated from makeshift landing strips, meaning bits of highway in seized territory.

  2. June 29, 2018bean said...

    If we go that way, it’s almost certainly better to buy the Sea Gripen. One of the basic thoughts behind the Expeditionary Fighter was that it would fill a niche that otherwise is completely empty, namely a STOVL fighter for people who don’t want to break the bank on the F-35B. There’s a lot of helicopter carriers out there whose owners would probably like to fly something fixed-wing, but who don’t need a full first-line strike fighter. Going for STOBAR means we can’t sell into that market, and there are several quite good fixed-wing fighters around. Gripen has pretty decent short/rough field capability, it's smaller than the alternatives, and a lot cheaper than building our own.

  3. June 29, 2018cassander said...

    If we're so hard up we can't afford better than the Tejas, we're better off abandoning fixed wing naval aviation entirely. Why on earth would we sign up for a plane so terrible that even the Indian Navy is trying to avoid using it?

    As for developing our own 4th gen STOVL fighter, that's a recipe for disaster. There's no way we'll ever sell it. The market is absolutely glutted with 4th gen fighters at the moment. Just looking at western designs you have the F-16, F-15, F-18, Rafale, Typhoon, Gripen, and FA-50. We aren't going to be able to beat those guys on price for any time in the near future, so we can't compete for middle range countries, and the huge number of those aircraft that are going to get replaced in the near future (more than 1000 F-16s are going to retire in the next decade) is going to flood the low end of the market with used aircraft. This leaves out potential market as countries who have enough money to operate STOVL carriers and expensive STOVL aircraft, who don't have their aircraft industry, and who can't get the F-35. Not a lot of countries fit that bill.

    There's definitely no way in hell we sell it to the US Army. There's no way the US military buys a plane that's not American in substantial numbers (license production won't be enough, see the KC-46 saga), and while the A-10 lobby is powerful enough to keep them from retiring, it's certainly not powerful enough to tear up Key West. That's especially the case because rotary wing army aviation will absolutely see such a plane as a threat to them and work with the air force to kill it.

    I stand by my earlier stance that there's very little point in a carrier much smaller than a CATOBAR Queen Elizabeth or Charles de Gaulle flying the F-35 or a 4th gen fighter already in production. If we can't afford at least two of them, we shouldn't bother with fixed wing naval aviation.

  4. June 29, 2018bean said...

    I'm personally pretty sure we could fly Super Bug or Rafale off anything of reasonable size, although proving that took a lucky find. I'm with you on not risking ending up with the Tejas.

    And I wasn't discussing tearing up Key West. I was saying that we sell the Expeditionary Fighter to the Army philosophically, and they force the Air Force to buy them. Built under license by Boeing or Northrop, of course. I think the tanker thing was utterly stupid, but in this case, nobody in the US would be building a viable alternative. That was very much not true with the tanker. Overall, though, I think it's probably not a viable plan. It was a cool idea that didn't work.

  5. June 29, 2018sfoil said...

    You're not going to deliver a competitive 4th-generation naval fighter ex nihilo. India's Arjun project appears to be a boondoggle, and tanks aren't anywhere near as hard as jets. John Schilling is right, if you want your indigenous aerospace industry to develop, start with something less ambitious like an MPA. Or have them navalize an existing fighter and produce it under license.

    The issue of whether you can afford 2 (ideally 3) carriers is huge. Assuming that you can afford 3x CATOBAR carriers puts you on par with all but biggest hegemonic powers.

  6. June 29, 2018doctorpat said...

    Given the convincing story about the market for a STOVL fighter that is smaller and cheaper than the F35, why has nobody else done one? Is it that the USA was promising to produce the STOVL fighter for everyone, and then, when it came out it was huge and expensive and years late... resulting in the current hole in the market?

  7. June 29, 2018bean said...

    @sfoil

    I'm aware of that, and to some extent was proposing things which would make sense in the context of a nation which could afford this kind of stuff in real life.

    Re cost, it hasn't necessarily been posted here, but I've been arguing for having no army or air force, and only a small marine corps to free up funds for the navy. In this context, I think that makes a great deal of sense, and it makes paying for carriers a lot easier.

    @doctorpat

    The problem is that I probably oversold it. If you offered the various helicopter carrier owners a $50 million/copy jet and it worked as well as an F-16, you'd probably get buyers. But there's nobody who is willing to put up the development funding. Fighters are expensive to develop, and STOVL's kind of a niche role. You'd need it to fill an important slot in your defense infrastructure before it made sense to spend the money, and it's not been that important to anyone. Except the Marines and the British, who developed the F-35. And STOVL's always been tricky. It looks like a great idea with lots of benefits, but when it comes time to pony up, everyone leaves. Take the Mirage IIIV. Working VTOL fighter to a major NATO requirement, and then nothing happens. Everyone just decides they're OK with what they have.

  8. June 30, 2018Gbdub said...

    I guess I’m still at a loss as to why you wouldn’t build a CATOBAR carrier - even if you go with developing a VL fighter for export reasons, no reason you can’t operate that in CATOBAR mode from the same ship (with greater useful load). And unless you plan to build a tilt rotor E2 equivalent, you’re sacrificing huge capability even outside your strike force.

    What makes CATOBAR so much more expensive? You’ve already said basically that displacement is cheap, so it can’t be the extra size of the ship. Are catapults that expensive/complex?

    The most expensive part really seems to be the boondoggle price, i.e. procurement inefficiency. Seems to me one of the best ways to end up in a boondoggle is to make programs too big to fail, and tying your fighter and carrier development so tightly together, such that you’re totally hosed if either one doesn’t work would be a perfect example of that.

    Better to design a fighter that is marketable and useful even if the flattops get delayed, and a carrier that can be loaded up with cheap nasalize versions of existing fighters if your fancy new fighter doesn’t quite work out.

  9. June 30, 2018Inky said...

    I'll try to approach the issue from another side: who are we and who are we arming against. Morealso, are we building a "token fleet" (all set up and powered, but we're not really expecting to see any actual combat in the foreseeable future) or we are actually considering the scenarios in which we might actually use it in anger?
    The reason the question needs to be formulated this way is, I think, that a) carriers are really expensive b) they only really shine in power projection / overseas strike missions. Practically speaking, that is. This is what US uses it's carriers for. There is also the matter of national prestige (read: saber rattling) and this is what all the other powers that have them use them for. Now, if we are building our navy from the ground up, is this really a good idea?
    If we are really seriously preparing for a fight, Grippen is probably not a very good option. The problem with Gripped is that it was designed in the 80s as a light, easily maintainable, "guerilla" air superiority fighter. And then the Cold War ended and it was no longer needed. To market it for export SAAB turned it into a "multi-role strike fighter", but that made the airframe a full ton heavier, which negatively impacted it's performance. In EU qualifications Grippen consistently lagged behind Rafale (which generally performed best) and Typhoon. Now, the naval version is going to be even heavier, so... no wonders here. SAAB is looking for a better powerplant, but the best they can expect is F414, two of which powers a single Hornet. Look at the countries that order Grippens, it's Eastern Europe, South Africa, Brasil (which is mostly in it because SAAB promises them to set up production locally). They aren't really expecting a shooting war.
    Another important question: will our carrier be survivable without a battle group? They almost never operate without one and with good reason, carrier in the open seas without a CBG is too much of a juicy target and loosing it would be devastating and all it takes is a diesel sub that got close undetected (and these exist now, see Gotland-class) to sink it. CBG would probably cost as much as a carrier and we haven't even begun talking about how to build it. And one more detail: so far the carrier is on a mission, CBG always shadows it, effectively eliminating the possibility to use it for any other purpose. So the complete sum would likely be astronomical.
    Have we considered other options at self-defense? I think that drone carriers are a good option for coastal patrol. Although it would be wise to invest into jamming-resistant communication protocols, encryption and, ideally, a few communication satellites of our own.

  10. June 30, 2018bean said...

    @Gbdub

    I guess I’m still at a loss as to why you wouldn’t build a CATOBAR carrier - even if you go with developing a VL fighter for export reasons, no reason you can’t operate that in CATOBAR mode from the same ship (with greater useful load). And unless you plan to build a tilt rotor E2 equivalent, you’re sacrificing huge capability even outside your strike force.

    A STOVL fighter probably isn't stressed to take a cat, and it's less efficient than a CATOBAR airplane. The non-CATOBAR navies are running helicopter AWACS, which is not quite as good, but not terrible. Thinking it over more, I wonder how much of it is the different ways that CATOBAR carriers get used. A typical STOVL carrier doesn't have a strike command system, or maintenance accommodations for strike aircraft. Because yeah, cats aren't that expensive.

    The most expensive part really seems to be the boondoggle price, i.e. procurement inefficiency. Seems to me one of the best ways to end up in a boondoggle is to make programs too big to fail, and tying your fighter and carrier development so tightly together, such that you’re totally hosed if either one doesn’t work would be a perfect example of that.

    That's a good point.

    @Inky

    I’ll try to approach the issue from another side: who are we and who are we arming against.

    These are questions I'm not going to answer. I don't have the time to do a proper job of simulation, so I need to keep it generic.

    Morealso, are we building a “token fleet” (all set up and powered, but we’re not really expecting to see any actual combat in the foreseeable future) or we are actually considering the scenarios in which we might actually use it in anger?

    We're definitely planning to actually use it. Not on anyone in particular, but we're buying more missiles than we need just to fill our tubes (classic "token fleet" behavior).

    The reason the question needs to be formulated this way is, I think, that a) carriers are really expensive b) they only really shine in power projection / overseas strike missions. Practically speaking, that is. This is what US uses it’s carriers for. There is also the matter of national prestige (read: saber rattling) and this is what all the other powers that have them use them for. Now, if we are building our navy from the ground up, is this really a good idea?

    What are our alternatives? We're an island, so our security rests pretty much entirely on the Navy. If we want to be able to project power and have diplomatic weight, we need carriers.

    If we are really seriously preparing for a fight, Grippen is probably not a very good option.

    Interesting. Gripen generally has a pretty good reputation, but I haven't followed the issue well enough to defend it beyond that. There are probably people around who can handle that. That said, I think that any carrier needs to be able to fly Rafale or Super Hornet, for largely the reasons Gbdub mentions, not tying the carrier too closely to the airplane.

    SAAB is looking for a better powerplant, but the best they can expect is F414, two of which powers a single Hornet.

    But the Gripen weighs half as much as the Super Hornet. The T/W isn't grossly worse than the Super Bug with the existing engine, and the F414 is going to make it virtually the same.

    Another important question: will our carrier be survivable without a battle group?

    No. That's kind of a given.

    CBG would probably cost as much as a carrier and we haven’t even begun talking about how to build it.

    We haven't gotten around to it. I've been very busy of late.

    And one more detail: so far the carrier is on a mission, CBG always shadows it, effectively eliminating the possibility to use it for any other purpose. So the complete sum would likely be astronomical.

    That's not true. US CVBGs usually train together, then split up when at sea. The carrier is covered by a Tico, while the Burkes go do their own thing. Obviously, they'd reconvene in a hot war.

    Have we considered other options at self-defense? I think that drone carriers are a good option for coastal patrol. Although it would be wise to invest into jamming-resistant communication protocols, encryption and, ideally, a few communication satellites of our own.

    The problem is that it only works for coastal patrol. I want power projection, and the drone version of that (which has been around for years in the form of cruise missiles) isn't a full substitute.

  11. July 01, 2018Suvorov said...

    The reason the question needs to be formulated this way is, I think, that a) carriers are really expensive b) they only really shine in power projection / overseas strike missions.

    I would think carriers are actually pretty good for naval defense and sea control missions, and are not necessarily a bad investment for purely self-defense purposes. If you are an island nation, you are probably more vulnerable than average to a blockade. If someone sends a fleet to blockade you, bomb you, or invade you, you need to sink it.

    I think small submarines stand out as the obvious cheap solution to this problem, but submarines aren't especially effective at finding a fleet in the vastness of the ocean on their own, and generally they don't give you a good picture of said vast ocean. I think offhand you'd need at least maritime patrol aircraft in addition to subs to patrol and defend your island.

    But carriers let you push the sensor network further from your shores than maritime patrol craft, and they let you engage the enemy at distance rather than at your doorstep. They let you move a LOT of credible firepower off of your small, satellite-imaged island. They also present a credible threat to cruise missile diplomacy; it seems unlike that a great power is going to lazily send a single frigate to sling a few missiles at you if you have a carrier battle group. And you can send it out to defend your trade routes if your shipping lanes are threatened from afar, whereas a distant nation with P-3s and cheap submarines cannot credibly respond to that sort of a threat.

    Plus, they're no slouches against ocean-going threats. One on one, submarines are probably the most dangerous threat a surface ship will face, but during WW2, they always did hit-and-run. I don't recall them ever stopping a large fleet in its tracks, and I assume the same would hold true in a war of tomorrow. A pair of reasonably-sized CATOBAR carriers can present, I would think, a credible threat of at least ~20 fighters armed with Exocets plus covering escort fighters in a single strike package, and do this without risking ship-to-ship combat, and with the added situational awareness that the carrier-launched aircraft bring you. An enemy who underestimates that threat gambles with their entire fleet. So now if you want to threaten Paperclip Paradise, you've got to bring a task force you think could absorb swarms of 80 ASMs at a time, which means you'll probably want your own carrier(s).

    Basically, I think a pair of CATOBAR carriers and the appropriate escorts purchase your island the freedom from being bullied by stronger powers, instead of, say, the freedom from being invaded by them you could buy with submarines and ground-based defenses. It's not worth it for even a superpower to mess with someone with that many assets.

    But curious to hear other's thoughts on that.

  12. July 01, 2018bean said...

    @Suvorov

    Well done. That's an excellent summary of the case for carriers for sea control missions. I'd have only a couple of nitpickts.

    First, small submarines mean diesel and if you want to really hunt ships, you need nuke boats.

    Second, you neglect the air threat to shipping. Surface escorts, even Type 45s or Burkes, have to play defense against the missiles, instead of being able to hunt the airplanes doing the firing directly. A carrier can do that, and naval strike aircraft are tough to replace when they get shot down. During the Cold War, lots of navies seemed to be under the delusion that the only threat to the convoys was submarine attack. It was true only so long as there were carreirs to fight the Badgers and Backfires.

  13. July 01, 2018Suvorov said...

    @ bean

    First, small submarines mean diesel and if you want to really hunt ships, you need nuke boats.

    I'm given to understand that diesel subs are pretty good at hunting ships, but they're basically ambush predators which lose their effectiveness outside of the littorals on account.

    Second, you neglect the air threat to shipping.

    That's a good point! Now that I think about it, a strategically located enemy with a few aircraft (even if they don't have a large navy or a carrier) could really wreak havoc on one's shipping lanes, and do it even faster and cheaper than with ships, assuming they had the capabilities to locate enemy shipping and didn't mind taking the diplomatic penalties associated with sinking said shipping. You'd have to reintroduce the convoy system all over again, at a minimum.

  14. July 01, 2018bean said...

    I’m given to understand that diesel subs are pretty good at hunting ships, but they’re basically ambush predators which lose their effectiveness outside of the littorals on account.

    This is true. But someone with carriers of their own can probably remain out of ambush range. Part 4 of why the carriers aren't doomed applies to other people's carriers, too.

    That’s a good point! Now that I think about it, a strategically located enemy with a few aircraft (even if they don’t have a large navy or a carrier) could really wreak havoc on one’s shipping lanes, and do it even faster and cheaper than with ships, assuming they had the capabilities to locate enemy shipping and didn’t mind taking the diplomatic penalties associated with sinking said shipping. You’d have to reintroduce the convoy system all over again, at a minimum.

    For some reason, that's a common thing to overlook. I really can't explain why. In the absolute case where there's no defenses, killing ships is cheap. Laser-guided bombs work very well for that. Even a convoy with a single Burke means you now need stand-off missiles, and quite a few of them. But the advantage of a carrier is that it's a threat the opponent can't ignore, which both stops them going after convoys and hopefully attrit them.

  15. July 01, 2018Cassander said...

    @bean and Suvorov

    I'd like to push back a bit on the idea that carriers are an effective tool for local (i.e. home territorial waters) defense. I don't deny that they're potentially useful, but I doubt very much they're cost effective compared to some KC-46s and land bases. Air bases aren't cheap, and they're vulnerable to attacks that carriers aren't, but carriers are also vulnerable to things that bases aren't, and on the whole I have a hard time imagining that for local defense, heavy body tankers don't come off much cheaper than carriers, with similar range. After all, the primary sensor platform on a modern US carrier isn't the carrier's its escorts' radars, it's the E-2. If we're not trying to project power, there's nothing stopping us from mounting a similar radar on a gulfstream.

    Second, I agree with Suvorov on diesel boats. If you know what direction the enemy is coming from, they are potentially very effective. And if they never fire a shot because their mere existence is enough to encourage the enemy to stay much further away, then great! they've achieved their purpose without firing a shot.

    Lastly, on air interdiction of shipping, the US actually did a fair bit of that during ww2. Splashing Yamamoto was not an isolated incident. As bean says, the topic doesn't get a lot of attention and I've never seen any book dedicated to the subject, but most books I've read about the air war in the south pacific have a lot of references to sending out a flights of planes to jump on some transports. For reasons of range, it was mostly explicitly military shipping, those island re-supply runs, but it was very, very effective, especially because we were reading the japanese codes more often than not.

  16. July 01, 2018bean said...

    I’d like to push back a bit on the idea that carriers are an effective tool for local (i.e. home territorial waters) defense. I don’t deny that they’re potentially useful, but I doubt very much they’re cost effective compared to some KC-46s and land bases.

    I'm not trying to justify them purely on a home defense basis. That would indeed be a rather bad idea. The point is that besides being good at power projection, they're also useful for home defense/sea control, because there is more than one way to do that, and the method using carriers is probably better than the alternative, particularly against air threats.

    Lastly, on air interdiction of shipping, the US actually did a fair bit of that during ww2. Splashing Yamamoto was not an isolated incident.

    Yamamoto was in an airplane. Or are you talking about Yamato? Anyway, yes, it was something that lots of powers did.

  17. July 01, 2018Anonymous said...

    Bean:

    We might even be able to sell it to the Marines as a supplement to the F-35B down the road, as we can build a version with a back seat. That’s helpful for some tasks, and it means they get a STOVL trainer.

    A V/STOL trainer seems to be about the only role the US military would be interested in, but with the F22 and now F35 not having any two seater instead having all conversion training done in sim somehow I doubt they’d even buy.

    Bean:

    Both France and Sweden have been able to develop indigenous fighters

    Though Sweden didn’t design their own engine or guns for it, at the moment the smallest country to make a fighter that is truly their own is France and if it weren’t for the Charles De Gaule needing something so small they may have just joined Eurofighter.

    Bean:

    Saab has never built a naval aircraft of any sort, so I don’t really trust their navalization skills.

    Is there any actual reason why a company couldn’t figure things out from say, the US Navy standards in the same way that companies that have never built an airliner sometimes manage it?

    i.e. maybe the US Navy was being silly by insisting on GD and Northrop bringing Vought and MD into navalising whatever LWF contender the Navy picked.

    Bean:

    I happen to remember that the British used to operate Buccaneers off the Hermes, a ship smaller than Clemenceau, and those are very close in size to the Super Hornet. They didn’t operate a lot of them, but it is possible to fly a big airplane off a ship that small.

    Yes, but didn’t the FAA have a high accident rate doing that?

    If you do something that results in a high accident rate you may end up losing more money than going the safe route simply due to the need to replace so much extra stuff (both the planes and the expensively trained pilots) and may have a harder time getting recruits especially in peacetime.

    bean:

    There’s a lot of helicopter carriers out there whose owners would probably like to fly something fixed-wing, but who don’t need a full first-line strike fighter.

    Might even describe the USMC.

    sfoil:

    You’re not going to deliver a competitive 4th-generation naval fighter ex nihilo.

    True, trainer/light attack aircraft are very popular for that reason.

    bean:

    What are our alternatives? We’re an island, so our security rests pretty much entirely on the Navy.

    Air Force, all you need if your enemy is using Fast Attack Craft. :-)

    bean:

    If we want to be able to project power and have diplomatic weight, we need carriers.

    But can it be afforded? Some flattop amphibs might be all that can be afforded and in practice countries with those seem to have diplomatic weight.

    Suvorov:

    I think small submarines stand out as the obvious cheap solution to this problem, but submarines aren’t especially effective at finding a fleet in the vastness of the ocean on their own, and generally they don’t give you a good picture of said vast ocean. I think offhand you’d need at least maritime patrol aircraft in addition to subs to patrol and defend your island.

    Then you need a way to for the MPA to communicate with the sub.

    Suvorov:

    But carriers let you push the sensor network further from your shores than maritime patrol craft, and they let you engage the enemy at distance rather than at your doorstep.

    A P8 could go thousands of kilometres then patrol for hours, more if you use in flight refueling and there’s nothing technically stopping you from using a 777-200LR or A350-900ULR for martime patrol.

    Whilst ships can stay out even longer they take longer to get anywhere and a carrier based aircraft isn’t any better at long duration than a converted airliner big enough to carry bunks and a relief crew.

    Suvorov:

    Basically, I think a pair of CATOBAR carriers and the appropriate escorts purchase your island the freedom from being bullied by stronger powers, instead of, say, the freedom from being invaded by them you could buy with submarines and ground-based defenses.

    But can it be afforded? Without compromising something else?

    Suvorov:

    Now that I think about it, a strategically located enemy with a few aircraft (even if they don’t have a large navy or a carrier) could really wreak havoc on one’s shipping lanes, and do it even faster and cheaper than with ships, assuming they had the capabilities to locate enemy shipping and didn’t mind taking the diplomatic penalties associated with sinking said shipping.

    One of which is likely to be regime change, the powers that be really don’t like people just going around and blowing civilian ships up.

    Affordability

    Ultimately the whole thing comes to down to what can be afforded and whether going all out on the Navy at the expense of the Air Force and Army is really a good idea.

    Certainly you’d like the might to be able to take the entire US Navy on if you needed to but there’s no way such an Island is going to be able to do that (at least not unless aliens or time travelers provide some tech), in any realistic scenario you’d have a budget to stay within so you won’t be able to have a military powerful enough to handle any threat or do everything you may on the off chance want it to do so you’ll have to prioritize, say:

    1. Don’t get invaded.

    2. Don’t get invaded.

    3. Don’t get invaded. (can I emphasize that enough?)

    4. Don’t let anyone cut you off from international trade

    5. Deny nearby waters to any potential enemy

    6. Police your EEZ

    7. Contribute to operations along with allies

    8. Do power projection alone as sea denial

    9. Do power projection alone as sea control

    10. Provide diplomatic prestige

    11. Provide national prestige (i.e. for domestic consumption)

    12. Give the Admirals and Captains some toys to play with (I can’t help but think that a lot of military hardware is bought more for this reason than because it’d actually be useful in a war)

    13. Try to take over the world (it’s the same thing we do every night) :-D

    Depending on where you are in the world it might even be unwise to build too powerful a military as you probably don’t want to start an arms race.

  18. July 01, 2018Anonymous said...

    WTF happened to my nice ordered list?

    The Markdown documentation gave me the impression that would work.

  19. July 01, 2018Cassander said...

    @bean

    Yamamoto was in an airplane. Or are you talking about Yamato? Anyway, yes, it was something that lots of powers did.

    I know that yamamoto was in a plane, but I could have been more explicit. I meant pouncing on random transports with minimum protection because we knew exactly where they'd be. Yamamoto was in a plane, but we did it to ships all the time as well.

  20. July 01, 2018bean said...

    @Anonymous

    I tried to fix the list. Doesn't have the same numbering you were using, but it's better than nothing.

    Anyway, that's a lot to work through. Starting from the top:

    A V/STOL trainer seems to be about the only role the US military would be interested in, but with the F22 and now F35 not having any two seater instead having all conversion training done in sim somehow I doubt they’d even buy.

    It's a bit more complicated than that. The simulator teaches some things on an F-22/F-35A/C. The various other planes (T-38/TX/two-seat legacy fighters) teach others. But there's no STOVL trainer. So you've got someone flying into that regime for the first time on their own.

    Though Sweden didn’t design their own engine or guns for it, at the moment the smallest country to make a fighter that is truly their own is France and if it weren’t for the Charles De Gaule needing something so small they may have just joined Eurofighter.

    The original Gripen uses an indigenous engine, and the gun is the last component to worry about importing. It's probably made in Sweden under license, because that was easier than designing one themselves.

    Is there any actual reason why a company couldn’t figure things out from say, the US Navy standards in the same way that companies that have never built an airliner sometimes manage it?

    Yes. The demands of a carrier are definitely different from those of land-based aircraft. I can't give an exact list, but everybody is very nervous about someone who has no carrier aircraft experience trying to build carrier planes.

    Yes, but didn’t the FAA have a high accident rate doing that?

    First, I have no particular information on the accident rate of the Buccaneer off the Hermes vs Ark Royal, or of the FAA in general in that time period. Second, I'd be careful reading too much into that. Particularly in that era, the British were much more aggressive than the US about risky flying. There are tales at Red Flag of British aircraft pulling up into power lines 50' off the deck.

    and may have a harder time getting recruits especially in peacetime.

    Given that we were able to staff the early jet carriers quite effectively, I rather doubt this will be the case.

    Might even describe the USMC.

    Totally objectively, the USMC should be flying something more like the Expeditionary Fighter than the F-35B. But they won that political battle a long time ago.

    Air Force, all you need if your enemy is using Fast Attack Craft. :-)

    I'll be sure to give them the memo.

    But can it be afforded? Some flattop amphibs might be all that can be afforded and in practice countries with those seem to have diplomatic weight.

    This is where my refusal to give numbers is coming to bite me. Yes, I think we can afford it.

    Then you need a way to for the MPA to communicate with the sub.

    Satellites make that at least vaguely possible. Small satellite antenna on the sub, uplink is basically undetectable, downlink doesn't tell you where the sub is.

    A P8 could go thousands of kilometres then patrol for hours, more if you use in flight refueling and there’s nothing technically stopping you from using a 777-200LR or A350-900ULR for martime patrol.

    That would be very big and very expensive. But yes, theoretically possible.

    Whilst ships can stay out even longer they take longer to get anywhere and a carrier based aircraft isn’t any better at long duration than a converted airliner big enough to carry bunks and a relief crew.

    A carrier-based aircraft is a lot more survivable. It also has backup close at hand. For surface surveillance work, I'm not sure why you need a crew, actually. I'd recommend something like the MQ-25.

    One of which is likely to be regime change, the powers that be really don’t like people just going around and blowing civilian ships up.

    I'd rather be one of those powers than rely on the US to bail us out if it happens.

    Depending on where you are in the world it might even be unwise to build too powerful a military as you probably don’t want to start an arms race.

    I wouldn't worry too much about that here.

    Re affordability, let's just say that I think the budget numbers say we can do a pair of carriers, although it will require a fairly small land and land-based air component. One of our big advantages is that we don't have a bunch of constituencies with political power resisting cuts to them. Let's take advantage of that and decide what to be good at.

    @Cassander

    Ah. I see your point. Agreed. The British did it a lot, too. (To the Germans.)

  21. July 02, 2018Suvorov said...

    It seems to me, to respond to Cassander and Anonymous, that a lot of this depends on the sort of island nation you are. If you're like New Zealand, you don't need (and at any rate, can't afford) much more than a couple of subs, maritime patrol aircraft, and related shore-based assets. (Of course, IIRC New Zealand doesn't even have these, but it has powerful friends.)

    Whereas if you're an island nation like Great Britain, with extended shipping lanes and a large economy, having a pair of CATOBAR carriers makes a lot more sense, both militarily and financially.

    Offhandedly, if I was an island nation, I would want to make my nation as prickly as possible by making my entire population reservists and then by buying as large a navy to defend myself as was reasonable. While I think carriers are very expensive, I think that IF you can afford a full carrier battle group, your well-stocked carrier is a better force multiplier than buying, say, a dozen extra frigates. The flexibility you get from having a floating airport (with its own maritime patrol and airborne early warning assets) is not to be underestimated.

    Also, regarding communicating with subs: you don't even need a satellite, although it would be preferred. The Germans (and I presume everyone else) did it during WW2 with radio. The important thing is for the subs not to reply. But they don't need to, not for targeting instructions, although it certainly would be uncanny during wartime for your subs not to report in for months at a time. (I expect that is what our strategic deterrence assets do as a routine matter, though, so it's something we can live with!)

  22. July 02, 2018Anonymous said...

    Following are replies to bean:

    I tried to fix the list. Doesn't have the same numbering you were using, but it's better than nothing.

    Actually it's what I intended all along, the documentation said that which numbers didn't matter only that it start with a number and I couldn't be bothered renumbering when inserting things.

    A preview feature would really help.

    It's a bit more complicated than that. The simulator teaches some things on an F-22/F-35A/C. The various other planes (T-38/TX/two-seat legacy fighters) teach others. But there's no STOVL trainer. So you've got someone flying into that regime for the first time on their own.

    I guess that depends on how much the sim teaches, airline pilots can get type ratings with basically sim only but I imagine most of what they need to learn is the systems.

    The original Gripen uses an indigenous engine, and the gun is the last component to worry about importing. It's probably made in Sweden under license, because that was easier than designing one themselves.

    The original engine is a GE design modified by Volvo (and made under license of course), I wouldn't call it indigenous.

    The problem with license building stuff is that you then have to obey export restrictions of another power, probably not a problem for Sweden as they're unlikely to want to sell to anyone the US would block and the Gripen could probably take the SNECMA M88.

    Which does raise the question, what would you do if the US decided they didn't want to sell to you? What about all western aligned countries?

    Yes. The demands of a carrier are definitely different from those of land-based aircraft. I can't give an exact list, but everybody is very nervous about someone who has no carrier aircraft experience trying to build carrier planes.

    Which brings up the question of how you get new companies into that business?

    But didn't MiG and Sukhoi manage it relatively recently?

    and may have a harder time getting recruits especially in peacetime. Given that we were able to staff the early jet carriers quite effectively, I rather doubt this will be the case.

    Society as a whole has become less tolerant of risk than back then and the military does seem to have gotten less attractive compared to civilian life (roughly your argument about habitability standards in regard to putting the battleships back in service).

    Then there's the conscription and people joining not Army or Marines to avoid becoming infantry but there might not be much of that in peacetime (war time is a different matter).

    Then you need a way to for the MPA to communicate with the sub. Satellites make that at least vaguely possible. Small satellite antenna on the sub, uplink is basically undetectable, downlink doesn't tell you where the sub is.

    True, though the sub has to come up to periscope depth.

    A P8 could go thousands of kilometres then patrol for hours, more if you use in flight refueling and there’s nothing technically stopping you from using a 777-200LR or A350-900ULR for martime patrol. That would be very big and very expensive. But yes, theoretically possible.

    Submarine communications might be an argument to get a bit bigger so as to be able to VLF transmitter on the MPA, probably don't have to go all that much bigger for that, maybe an A321LR or 767-200ER if even that is too small.

    Or it might be better to have a separate platform carry the VLF transmitters.

    Also, aircraft looking for convoys and sending their coords to subs are hated by the enemy, the British built the CAM ships just to shoot down maritime patrol aircraft (but such a desperate move also indicates the tactic is worth trying).

    A carrier-based aircraft is a lot more survivable.

    Why? I agree that a Superbug could be more survivable than a 737 but is an E2 or S3 really any more survivable than a 737 with military countermeasures?

    Even if so you're probably going to be trading off capability or cost to get it. Of course if you have carriers you'll need them.

    For surface surveillance work, I'm not sure why you need a crew, actually. I'd recommend something like the MQ-25.

    Drones could probably work pretty well, at least most of the time.

    I'd rather be one of those powers than rely on the US to bail us out if it happens.

    True, but it might not always be possible and a big part of security is who you ally with, for a lot of countries it may be more important than how they equip their warships.

    Depending on where you are in the world it might even be unwise to build too powerful a military as you probably don’t want to start an arms race. I wouldn't worry too much about that here.

    It would depend on where you ended up, maybe for the population the kind of military you'd make would be about average, maybe the other countries are all third world countries that just couldn't afford to match you no matter what (and the tendency of incompetent military design means they wouldn't appear as outmatched as they really are).

    although it will require a fairly small land and land-based air component.

    That may be sacrificing too much, an island nation will rely primarily on it's Navy and Air Force for defense (sinking enemy L??s is much better than fighting their troops on the beach) but you do still need a land component to ensure that they have to send those amphibs (and with enough troops to be able to beat your Army) and to mop up any that do make it past the sea and air components. Of course a lot of that could probably be done by reservists.

    As for land based air, two flattops is not much air power in the grand scheme of things and the need to fit on the carrier does limit the size of carrier based aircraft and there may be advantages to using different types so that an issue with one won't take out everything (e.g. if carriers use E2s and airbases operate 737 AWACS something grounding the E2s won't knock out every AWACS, the US did have all their F22s grounded not too long ago due to oxygen system issues so it's not theoretical).

    One of our big advantages is that we don't have a bunch of constituencies with political power resisting cuts to them. Let's take advantage of that and decide what to be good at.

    That would help, of course if you want a to win a war it's not so much you who decides what you have to be good at (and no one may even know until it's fought, maybe not even then).

    The question becomes, what are modern militaries doing wrong? What are they buying that's a waste of money?

    Following are replies to Suvorov:

    It seems to me, to respond to Cassander and Anonymous, that a lot of this depends on the sort of island nation you are.

    Very true, to truly have an idea you'd need some idea of population and economy, size of the island specifically in terms of how much water needs to be patrolled along with some vague idea of what the potential nearby threats are.

    If you're like New Zealand, you don't need (and at any rate, can't afford) much more than a couple of subs, maritime patrol aircraft, and related shore-based assets. (Of course, IIRC New Zealand doesn't even have these, but it has powerful friends.)

    They have MPAs, though their Navy does look a lot like a glorified Coast Guard which actually makes sense for them given their remoteness from any potential threats.

    Offhandedly, if I was an island nation, I would want to make my nation as prickly as possible by making my entire population reservists and then by buying as large a navy to defend myself as was reasonable.

    Making the whole population armed isn't likely to help, with islands the way to keep from being conquered isn't to fight on the beaches or in the streets but to sink the troop transport a hundred kilometres or so off shore. If things are getting to the point at which you're looking at the enemy landing troops in large numbers you probably don't have much of a Navy or Air Force left and the enemy is blockading your trade, maybe including food.

    It also may not even deter anyone, certainly we know that the Nazis weren't deterred from invading Swizterland by the Swiss military, they just got their asses kicked by the allies before they got around to it.

    While I think carriers are very expensive, I think that IF you can afford a full carrier battle group, your well-stocked carrier is a better force multiplier than buying, say, a dozen extra frigates. The flexibility you get from having a floating airport (with its own maritime patrol and airborne early warning assets) is not to be underestimated.

    Quite true, but OTOH a dozen frigates can be a dozen places while a carrier and it's battlegroup can only really be in one place even if the escorts can spread out a little bit (I also doubt that the price of a carrier battlegroup is only a dozen frigates, though maybe it is about a dozen destroyers).

    I suspect the real alternative to a carrier is more destroyers plus more land based aviation, if you're not doing power projection that'll give you more firepower for the same money.

  23. July 02, 2018bean said...

    @Anynomous

    I guess that depends on how much the sim teaches, airline pilots can get type ratings with basically sim only but I imagine most of what they need to learn is the systems.

    Type rating is a good way of looking at it, actually. The F-22 and F-35A/C are essentially type ratings on a fixed-wing fast jet license. But getting the license involves actually flying the relevant type of plane, and I'm not sure the F-35B does/should share a license type with anything. Except maybe the V-22.

    The original engine is a GE design modified by Volvo (and made under license of course), I wouldn’t call it indigenous.

    Ah. I just saw "Volvo", and made a bad assumption.

    The problem with license building stuff is that you then have to obey export restrictions of another power, probably not a problem for Sweden as they’re unlikely to want to sell to anyone the US would block and the Gripen could probably take the SNECMA M88.

    Believe me, I know. I've had to do ITAR training.

    Which does raise the question, what would you do if the US decided they didn’t want to sell to you? What about all western aligned countries?

    First, don't get into that situation, because that's a major diplomatic failure. Second, buy Russian.

    Yes. The demands of a carrier are definitely different from those of land-based aircraft. I can’t give an exact list, but everybody is very nervous about someone who has no carrier aircraft experience trying to build carrier planes.
    

    But didn’t MiG and Sukhoi manage it relatively recently?

    Honestly, I'd be nervous about them, too. They've been doing it a while, but I suspect there are some fairly serious flaws in their planes that the USN and FAA would/do mock.

    Society as a whole has become less tolerant of risk than back then and the military does seem to have gotten less attractive compared to civilian life (roughly your argument about habitability standards in regard to putting the battleships back in service).

    Finding people to fly fighter jets is not normally a big problem. The US military is having trouble keeping them, but that's because they stupidly insist that flying fighters is merely what you do until you get senior enough to fly a desk instead.

    True, though the sub has to come up to periscope depth.

    That's probably inevitable, if we don't go the VLF route. And from what I know of that, it's probably not practical on a tactical level.

    Submarine communications might be an argument to get a bit bigger so as to be able to VLF transmitter on the MPA, probably don’t have to go all that much bigger for that, maybe an A321LR or 767-200ER if even that is too small.

    The original TACMO transmitter was a C-130, so I'm pretty sure the transmitter will fit on a 737. Not sure what else will, though.

    Also, aircraft looking for convoys and sending their coords to subs are hated by the enemy, the British built the CAM ships just to shoot down maritime patrol aircraft (but such a desperate move also indicates the tactic is worth trying).

    I'm well aware of the danger of snoopers. That was actually the reason Harrier got an air-to-air capability in the first place.

    Why? I agree that a Superbug could be more survivable than a 737 but is an E2 or S3 really any more survivable than a 737 with military countermeasures?

    Because a carrier gives me the opportunity of sending a Super Bug if I suspect there's going to be trouble.

    True, but it might not always be possible and a big part of security is who you ally with, for a lot of countries it may be more important than how they equip their warships.

    This is a good point. However:

    1. This is my blog.

    2. I have a possibly-unhealthy fascination with warships, not international diplomacy. :-)

    That may be sacrificing too much, an island nation will rely primarily on it’s Navy and Air Force for defense (sinking enemy L??s is much better than fighting their troops on the beach) but you do still need a land component to ensure that they have to send those amphibs (and with enough troops to be able to beat your Army) and to mop up any that do make it past the sea and air components. Of course a lot of that could probably be done by reservists.

    Pretty much. Amphibious warfare is really, really hard. Nobody but the US has the capability to put more than a battalion or two across a beach and sustain it in the face of any serious opposition. The National Guard/Territorial Army should be plenty to deal with that. And there would be land-based air components, but I'd flag them as Air National Guard instead of Air Force to keep them on the political leash.

    As for land based air, two flattops is not much air power in the grand scheme of things and the need to fit on the carrier does limit the size of carrier based aircraft and there may be advantages to using different types so that an issue with one won’t take out everything (e.g. if carriers use E2s and airbases operate 737 AWACS something grounding the E2s won’t knock out every AWACS, the US did have all their F22s grounded not too long ago due to oxygen system issues so it’s not theoretical).

    That's a reasonable point, but I think the cost advantages of commonality outweigh it.

    The question becomes, what are modern militaries doing wrong? What are they buying that’s a waste of money?

    Basically, the problem is that there are lots of groups who latch on to one capability and start defending it to the death, even when it makes no sense. In the US, it's the A-10. The UK is rife with examples these days. Every time someone talks about deleting a capability, a bunch of people spring out of the woodwork, claiming that doing that would be a major blow to national prestige and so on. Thin Pinstriped Line has a bunch of good stuff on this.

    Making the whole population armed isn’t likely to help, with islands the way to keep from being conquered isn’t to fight on the beaches or in the streets but to sink the troop transport a hundred kilometres or so off shore. If things are getting to the point at which you’re looking at the enemy landing troops in large numbers you probably don’t have much of a Navy or Air Force left and the enemy is blockading your trade, maybe including food.

    Those kind of trade warfare rules have been obsolete for a century. And even having food isn't that much consolation when you're effectively reverting to a North Korean standard of living.

    It also may not even deter anyone, certainly we know that the Nazis weren’t deterred from invading Swizterland by the Swiss military, they just got their asses kicked by the allies before they got around to it.

    I'm not so sure of that. Switzerland is really, really hard to invade. That, and the bit where the diplomatic consequences are really bad with the neutrals.

    I suspect the real alternative to a carrier is more destroyers plus more land based aviation, if you’re not doing power projection that’ll give you more firepower for the same money.

    True. But I think we should do power projection. Hence carriers.

  24. July 02, 2018Anonymous said...

    Type rating is a good way of looking at it, actually. The F-22 and F-35A/C are essentially type ratings on a fixed-wing fast jet license. But getting the license involves actually flying the relevant type of plane, and I'm not sure the F-35B does/should share a license type with anything. Except maybe the V-22.

    I believe it comes under Powered Lift. Though the F35B is said to be easier to fly than a helicopter.

    Which does raise the question, what would you do if the US decided they didn’t want to sell to you? What about all western aligned countries? Second, buy Russian.

    Which brings up the question of whether there's anything made by non-western aligned countries that would be worth buying even if you could buy western?

    Yes. The demands of a carrier are definitely different from those of land-based aircraft. I can’t give an exact list, but everybody is very nervous about someone who has no carrier aircraft experience trying to build carrier planes.

    Somethings seems to have screwed up with respect to word wrap.

    In terms of the expertise, does the knowledge exist in the company or the employees?

    Honestly, I'd be nervous about them, too. They've been doing it a while, but I suspect there are some fairly serious flaws in their planes that the USN and FAA would/do mock.

    You mean the lack of catapult attachment?

    In all honesty if they're able to land on the carrier repeatedly without breaking apart the designers have probably figured it out well enough.

    Finding people to fly fighter jets is not normally a big problem. The US military is having trouble keeping them, but that's because they stupidly insist that flying fighters is merely what you do until you get senior enough to fly a desk instead.

    Which brings up the question of whether pilots not commanding at least a Flight should have commissions instead of being US style Warrant Officers?

    That's probably inevitable, if we don't go the VLF route. And from what I know of that, it's probably not practical on a tactical level.

    What limitations are those?

    The original TACMO transmitter was a C-130, so I'm pretty sure the transmitter will fit on a 737. Not sure what else will, though.

    It's not just the transmitter, but everything else and having the 737 still have room for the maritime patrol stuff.

    Because a carrier gives me the opportunity of sending a Super Bug if I suspect there's going to be trouble.

    AWACS could be escorted by fighters, though you may have to send a tanker if it's a long way.

    And there would be land-based air components, but I'd flag them as Air National Guard instead of Air Force to keep them on the political leash.

    How long would that last?

    As for land based air, two flattops is not much air power in the grand scheme of things and the need to fit on the carrier does limit the size of carrier based aircraft and there may be advantages to using different types so that an issue with one won’t take out everything (e.g. if carriers use E2s and airbases operate 737 AWACS something grounding the E2s won’t knock out every AWACS, the US did have all their F22s grounded not too long ago due to oxygen system issues so it’s not theoretical). That's a reasonable point, but I think the cost advantages of commonality outweigh it.

    Probably so, though a two seat Superbug could act as a mini-AWACS if needed (I'm assuming you'll want to equip everything for network centric warfare).

    Those kind of trade warfare rules have been obsolete for a century.

    Invading countries to gain territory has been pretty much obsolete as well.

    I'm not so sure of that. Switzerland is really, really hard to invade.

    Doesn't mean impossible and the Nazis were planning an invasion.

    That, and the bit where the diplomatic consequences are really bad with the neutrals.

    Which is where they really get their security from (and knowing when and how much to give in to demands the more powerful countries make for them to make sure taxes get paid on bank accounts).

  25. July 02, 2018bean said...

    I believe it comes under Powered Lift. Though the F35B is said to be easier to fly than a helicopter.

    I was using license type metaphorically, not literally.

    Which brings up the question of whether there’s anything made by non-western aligned countries that would be worth buying even if you could buy western?

    There may be a few systems. Overall, I'd stick with one side to avoid design philosophy problems. But there may be exceptions that I can't think of offhand.

    In terms of the expertise, does the knowledge exist in the company or the employees?

    Yes.

    You mean the lack of catapult attachment?

    In all honesty if they’re able to land on the carrier repeatedly without breaking apart the designers have probably figured it out well enough.

    Very much not so. The structural part is pretty straightforward. It always is. 10% of engineering effort goes into making sure that the system doesn't fail the first time you land it. 90% goes into making sure it works for 30 years, despite fatigue, corrosion, manufacturing glitches, and the like, and that you can actually use it. I'd guess that one of the big aspects of naval aircraft is deck operations, and also things like making sure there aren't places for water to pool and cause corrosion.

    Which brings up the question of whether pilots not commanding at least a Flight should have commissions instead of being US style Warrant Officers?

    That's a good suggestion.

    What limitations are those?

    AIUI, the antenna needs to be vertical, which involves some fairly radical maneuvers that you don't want to do near a hostile fleet.

    AWACS could be escorted by fighters, though you may have to send a tanker if it’s a long way.

    Exactly. You can't afford to escort an MPA a long ways from home.

    How long would that last?

    Quite a while if you structured it carefully. The ANG is made up of a mix of direct entries and retired naval pilots, and the senior people are all naval.

    Probably so, though a two seat Superbug could act as a mini-AWACS if needed (I’m assuming you’ll want to equip everything for network centric warfare).

    Of course we're building full net-centric capability. I'm skeptical that a 2-seat superbug is going to give us the full Hawkeye package, but it's not terrible.

  26. July 02, 2018Suvorov said...

    @Anonymous

    Making the whole population armed isn’t likely to help, with islands the way to keep from being conquered isn’t to fight on the beaches or in the streets but to sink the troop transport a hundred kilometres or so off shore.

    Optimally, sure, that's what the subs are for.

    But the point of having a whole armed population is that it raises the stakes. You're going to have to bring a lot more of those troops to conquer and control an island that is populated entirely by reservists.

    And having an island entirely populated by reservists means the enemy has to seriously consider the prospect of wiping out the people and resources they are trying to conquer. I mean, China could just nuke Taiwan, but what would be the point?

    If things are getting to the point at which you’re looking at the enemy landing troops in large numbers you probably don’t have much of a Navy or Air Force left and the enemy is blockading your trade, maybe including food.

    I believe that modern agricultural techniques have pretty much eliminated the need for an island to worry about food, unless it's very overpopulated or in an inclement climate.

    It also may not even deter anyone, certainly we know that the Nazis weren’t deterred from invading Swizterland by the Swiss military, they just got their asses kicked by the allies before they got around to it.

    I'm skeptical. If the Swiss military deterred the Nazis until the Allies beat them, it served its purpose.

    But in more recent history, an (untrained) populace armed to the teeth has a good track record of really messing up would-be invaders (most recent example: Yemen.) I think a population of reservists would have to be taken very seriously by military planners.

    Again, of course, a lot of this depends on the scale. I'm not sure an armed Falklands Island would scare anyone. Whereas an armed population the size of England would represent a very formidable obstacle to invasion and occupation.

  27. July 02, 2018IsANobody said...

    A few times commenters have cited power projection as a reason to have a real carrier. Can someone go into more detail about what that entails?

    Is it just delivering bombs cost effectively inland? Advanced Gun System's problems notwithstanding, would a really big gun (possibly one that's not TRL9 yet) cover that? Depending on the system (e.g., a very long ram accelerator), this might also satisfy requirements to look impressive in port.

    If it's anti-ship stuff, how does buying an equivalent amount of anti-ship Tomahawks compare? Even one Super Hornet seems like it would cover the Tomahawk cost of much of the Exocet volley @Suvorov proposed.

    If it's about target flexibility, isn't that increasingly covered by multipurpose missiles in VLSes?

  28. July 02, 2018bean said...

    @IsANobody

    It’s kind of all of the above. A carrier gives you options, even if it’s not the absolute best at any given task. If all you need is to blow up a bunch of heavily-defended stuff ashore, use cruise missiles. If all you care about is sinking ships, send an SSN, or maybe use cruise missiles (assuming away the problem of finding the ship). But a carrier is pretty good at blowing up heavily-defended stuff and sinking ships, and it’s also good at area surveillance, air defense (particularly anti-snooper work), CAS and responsive attack, and flying by overhead to rattle people’s windows and remind them that you’re offshore.

    It's not impossible for us to eventually develop technology which lets us do all of these things without manned aircraft. But I don't think it will happen within the next 20-30 years, and reports of the manned aircraft's demise have been greatly exaggerated before.

  29. July 03, 2018Anonymous said...

    Bean:

    Very much not so. The structural part is pretty straightforward. It always is. 10% of engineering effort goes into making sure that the system doesn't fail the first time you land it. 90% goes into making sure it works for 30 years, despite fatigue, corrosion, manufacturing glitches, and the like, and that you can actually use it. I'd guess that one of the big aspects of naval aircraft is deck operations, and also things like making sure there aren't places for water to pool and cause corrosion.

    So the worry is that if you buy Russian STOBAR fighters they'll corrode or have metal fatigue a lot quicker than a Boeing or Dassault aircraft and may not be as easy to handle on the deck?

    Bean:

    AIUI, the antenna needs to be vertical, which involves some fairly radical maneuvers that you don't want to do near a hostile fleet.

    For sending the message you could have an aircraft at some distance or a ground station do it though you can't really do anything to help the submarine there.

    Bean:

    Quite a while if you structured it carefully. The ANG is made up of a mix of direct entries and retired naval pilots, and the senior people are all naval.

    The direct entries may not be happy if they can't advance.

    Bean:

    Of course we're building full net-centric capability.

    Of course you'll need to make sure to train without it enough just in case the enemy decides to do some jamming.

    Bean:

    I'm skeptical that a 2-seat superbug is going to give us the full Hawkeye package, but it's not terrible.

    It won't, otherwise why buy the E2?

    Suvorov:

    But the point of having a whole armed population is that it raises the stakes. You're going to have to bring a lot more of those troops to conquer and control an island that is populated entirely by reservists.

    That's assuming the invader thinks it a threat.

    Suvorov:

    And having an island entirely populated by reservists means the enemy has to seriously consider the prospect of wiping out the people and resources they are trying to conquer. I mean, China could just nuke Taiwan, but what would be the point?

    They don't have to wipe out everyone, only the minority who decide not to collaborate.

    Suvorov:

    I believe that modern agricultural techniques have pretty much eliminated the need for an island to worry about food, unless it's very overpopulated or in an inclement climate.

    Even if you can feed everyone there won't be as much choice, people who really like food that can only grow elsewhere may not sacrifice forever.

    But someone ruthless enough to try to starve you into submission and who has air superiority over your island has a lot more options than just blocking trade.

    Suvorov:

    I'm skeptical. If the Swiss military deterred the Nazis until the Allies beat them, it served its purpose.

    Maybe, but it wouldn't have worked had the allies not started winning when they did. Worth noting that the German military (competent people, not the idiot running the country) didn't expect to have much trouble winning against the Swiss.

    Suvorov:

    But in more recent history, an (untrained) populace armed to the teeth has a good track record of really messing up would-be invaders (most recent example: Yemen.) I think a population of reservists would have to be taken very seriously by military planners.

    At which point it's bye bye standard of living. Unless the invader has announced that their war aim is genocide most of the population isn't going to be interested in playing guerrilla and will instead collaborate with whoever looks like they'll win.

    Arming everyone and training everyone enough to be useful is going to cost money that could instead go to equipment to blow up amphibs before they can put troops on the beach.

    IsANobody:

    Is it just delivering bombs cost effectively inland? Advanced Gun System's problems notwithstanding, would a really big gun (possibly one that's not TRL9 yet) cover that? Depending on the system (e.g., a very long ram accelerator), this might also satisfy requirements to look impressive in port.

    Railguns have durability problems, a lot of people (who work on railguns I should note) don't think a Coilgun capable of exceeding conventional gun muzzle velocity can be short enough and Light Gas Guns mean hydrogen or helium, the second expensive and the first probably not something a Navy that hates JP8 will want on their ships and Ram Accelerators will also probably require hydrogen.

    If you want a better naval gun either solve the durability problems with Railguns or figure out how to increase the acceleration of Coilguns.

  30. July 03, 2018bean said...

    So the worry is that if you buy Russian STOBAR fighters they’ll corrode or have metal fatigue a lot quicker than a Boeing or Dassault aircraft and may not be as easy to handle on the deck?

    Or something else will go wrong that I haven’t predicted, but it's definitely not just the planes falling apart the first time they land.

    For sending the message you could have an aircraft at some distance or a ground station do it though you can’t really do anything to help the submarine there.

    But that makes the situation a lot more complex. You now have to pass the message from the MPA that spotted the enemy to the transmitter, and then to the sub.

    The direct entries may not be happy if they can’t advance.

    That’s fairly easy to solve. Make it easy to transfer from ANG to active. If you want to fly fighters on the weekend (which I expect is the terminal goal for a lot of people) we’re happy to have you do that. If you want to be an admiral, then you’re going to sea. If those are the terms, then I don’t think there would be much trouble. In fact, I’d make everyone who’s full-time Real Navy, and rotate them in from sea duty.

    This assumes that we have direct entries, which I'm not sure about now that I think more about it. There are things we can do to improve retention over the US military, but we're still going to lose people who don't want to spend a third of their time on a metal box on the ocean. These are people we've expensively trained, and I suspect that a lot of them would like to keep flying fighters if they didn't have to do those deployments.

    Of course you’ll need to make sure to train without it enough just in case the enemy decides to do some jamming.

    Obviously. It’s great when it works, but we need to be prepared for when it doesn’t.

  31. July 03, 2018Anonymous said...

    Replying to bean:

    For sending the message you could have an aircraft at some distance or a ground station do it though you can’t really do anything to help the submarine there.

    But that makes the situation a lot more complex. You now have to pass the message from the MPA that spotted the enemy to the transmitter, and then to the sub.

    True, but probably not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.

    The direct entries may not be happy if they can’t advance.

    That’s fairly easy to solve. Make it easy to transfer from ANG to active. If you want to fly fighters on the weekend (which I expect is the terminal goal for a lot of people) we’re happy to have you do that. If you want to be an admiral, then you’re going to sea. If those are the terms, then I don’t think there would be much trouble. In fact, I’d make everyone who’s full-time Real Navy, and rotate them in from sea duty.

    Would flying a fighter only on weekends be enough?

    This assumes that we have direct entries, which I'm not sure about now that I think more about it. There are things we can do to improve retention over the US military, but we're still going to lose people who don't want to spend a third of their time on a metal box on the ocean. These are people we've expensively trained, and I suspect that a lot of them would like to keep flying fighters if they didn't have to do those deployments.

    True, but you're likely to still want them to be full time, even if they get to go home to their family most nights.

    But if they are full time they might resent not having the advancement opportunity (but if you allow them to get it by serving a single tour on a carrier, maybe they wouldn't consider that too bad).

  32. July 03, 2018bean said...

    The US Air National Guard seems to get by just fine with pilots who are pretty much weekends-only. I don't see why ours should be any different. If we think we need more defense firepower than what we can scramble from the squadrons currently not on deployment, we call them up. Simple enough.

  33. July 04, 2018Anonymous said...

    But how often do ANG pilots have to fly in combat? How often do they even do exercises against allies?

    How many hours of training can you do if you're only flying on weekends (and they'll probably still want to have some weekends off)? If they're only training every other weekend you'd be lucky to get much more than a hundred hours a year which is likely too little if they have to fight people who do more than two hundred a year.

  34. July 04, 2018bean said...

    But how often do ANG pilots have to fly in combat? How often do they even do exercises against allies?

    The ANG has been deployed fairly extensively in the Middle East. I'm not sure how it compares to Army National Guard deployments, and I'm sure there's some working-up time, but the US seems to do reserve forces (including ANG) very well.

    How many hours of training can you do if you’re only flying on weekends (and they’ll probably still want to have some weekends off)? If they’re only training every other weekend you’d be lucky to get much more than a hundred hours a year which is likely too little if they have to fight people who do more than two hundred a year.

    First, the USAF is apparently struggling to get its active fighter pilots to 200 hours/year. Second, it doesn't have to be only literal weekends. I believe the US has protections for military reservists that give them more time off for duty. We could copy that system. Third, the ANG pilots will not need the full set of skills the active people have. Their primary job is interception, with a secondary role of anti-shipping strike. Land attack is basically irrelevant. Lastly, it's reasonable to assume we'll have some standup time before we have to throw them into combat. Crises take some time to happen. If we need to, we mobilize them and have them fly a lot to polish their skills.

  35. July 04, 2018Anonymous said...

    Bean:

    The ANG has been deployed fairly extensively in the Middle East. I'm not sure how it compares to Army National Guard deployments, and I'm sure there's some working-up time, but the US seems to do reserve forces (including ANG) very well.

    Is actually deploying reserves in wars of choice really a good idea? I guess I thought the point of reserves is to act as reserves.

    First, the USAF is apparently struggling to get its active fighter pilots to 200 hours/year.

    Do you know why they are having trouble?

    Second, it doesn't have to be only literal weekends. I believe the US has protections for military reservists that give them more time off for duty.

    Yes, you probably would have some week long training events throughout each year.

    Third, the ANG pilots will not need the full set of skills the active people have. Their primary job is interception, with a secondary role of anti-shipping strike. Land attack is basically irrelevant.

    So you don't expect much need for CAS to mop up any troops who manage to make it to the beach?

    Lastly, it's reasonable to assume we'll have some standup time before we have to throw them into combat. Crises take some time to happen. If we need to, we mobilize them and have them fly a lot to polish their skills.

    True, there probably wouldn't be many examples of complete surprise attacks that came out of nowhere with not even a hint of deteriorating relationships. I guess the question is how long would the warning signs last before you actually need the military to fight.

  36. July 04, 2018bean said...

    Is actually deploying reserves in wars of choice really a good idea? I guess I thought the point of reserves is to act as reserves.

    Depends on the situation. In Vietnam, the Reserves and Guard stayed home in case the Soviets came west. Today, we don't have that kind of threat, and it makes some sense to deploy them. That said, it might be getting scaled back with the growing threat from Russia and China. And it's not something we plan to do, either.

    Do you know why they are having trouble?

    Not really.

    So you don’t expect much need for CAS to mop up any troops who manage to make it to the beach?

    Not really. They may fly minimal certification missions for that, but they certainly don't need the full land-attack skills of the active squadrons.

  37. July 05, 2018Anonymous said...

    Replying to bean with everything:

    Depends on the situation. In Vietnam, the Reserves and Guard stayed home in case the Soviets came west. Today, we don't have that kind of threat, and it makes some sense to deploy them. That said, it might be getting scaled back with the growing threat from Russia and China. And it's not something we plan to do, either.

    There's also the unknown threats but as I said, I'm not sure if any threats have ever really come out of nowhere (but if the political and military leaders didn't recognize the signs…).

    Not really. They may fly minimal certification missions for that, but they certainly don't need the full land-attack skills of the active squadrons.

    Certainly wouldn't expect them to train for SEAD or Interdiction if they're purely defensive and if you get to the point at which CAS from defensive fighters is needed in any serious amounts you've probably already lost.

    Though maybe those who started as active and then moved to the reserves for whatever reason would continue doing some training for ground attack while those who join straight into the reserves will only be taught air to air and anti-shipping.

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