Archive for the 'aircraft carriers' Tag
“Why is the Naval Academy Museum hosting a debate on the future of aircraft carriers?”
It’s a question I was asked earlier this week about the debate between Jerry Hendrix and Bryan McGrath at USNA’s historic Mahan Auditorium. So let’s break down that question and answer it.
First, why is the Museum hosting this? Part of the Naval Academy Museum’s mission is to educate Midshipmen and the general public on the history of the Navy. While this debate is about the future of aircraft carriers, both debaters and the moderator are extremely well versed in the utility of carriers for much of the past century. In addition, the event was promulgated with additional information about the historical debate on aircraft carriers from the pages of Naval Institute Proceedings since 1922. In conjunction with the debate, the museum also has a special exhibit during January on the history of aircraft carriers. We’ve also produced through LTjg Christopher O’Keefe, the History of the Navy in 100 Objects which includes many videos on aircraft carriers. Our mission also includes demonstrating to the public the contributions of Academy graduates. It would be difficult to imagine today’s utility of aircraft carriers without the contributions of graduates such as Admirals Halsey, Mitscher, and others during World War II or nuclear propulsion guided by Admiral Rickover. This debate is open to the public.
Second, why a debate format? That’s simple. We are very fortunate at the Naval Academy to host a number of informed and recognized guest speakers and lecturers. The Museum, for examples, has a regular lecture series throughout the academic year. Although it may have happened in my ten years teaching at the Academy, I don’t recall a debate about a national security issue. It’s a great format to get to issues a single presenter might not. And, historically, there’s a real periodic tradition of debating naval issues among officers and civilians at least as far back as the Naval Lyceum and Naval Magazine in the 1830s. Both Jerry Hendrix and Bryan McGrath are well-versed in our naval history, articulate, and serious informed navalists whose voices are important in our greater concepts about national security. I, for one, look forward to learning from each side.
Third, why is the Museum involved in a debate on the future? That’s simple. We’re a teaching museum. Ideas about the future, whether they’re about operations, platforms, or strategies, simply don’t occur out of a vacuum. As they say, you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. At the museum we’re trying to bridge the gap between our naval heritage and the future. For example, we try to integrate our artifacts in applied history projects with the midshipmen such as with the recently-acquired Mount Suribachi field glasses. In addition, our moderator is Captain CC Felker, USN, Chair of the History Department at the Naval Academy. He’s the author of “Testing American Sea Power” and holds a doctorate in history.
Finally, I owe mention to our partnership with the United States Naval Institute on this event. For those interested and unable to attend, the United States Naval Institute is livestreaming the event. The Museum and the Institute have a long history going back to when Preble Hall was built in 1939 and housed both the Museum and USNI. USNI left the building in 1999 for Beach Hall at Hospital Point but we have an excellent working relationship. We rely heavily on their photographic archives for some of our exhibits and they take photos of some of our collection for their book catalogues and Naval History Magazine.
Members of the Naval Institute will be familiar with the phrase for “To provide an independent forum for those who dare to read, think, speak, and write.” Now it’s time to debate. We hope you’ll listen and join in on the discussion in the pages of Proceedings, elsewhere, or on Twitter (#CarrierDebate).
(This article appeared at RealClearDefense and is cross-posted by permission.)
In previous writing about the ongoing East Asian naval race shortly after the launching of the Japanese helicopter destroyer Izumo (DDH-183), I noted that the feverish naval race may be rooted in historical grievances, fierce competition for scarce resources, and the recent sequestration cuts within the Department of Defense, which may make it more difficult for the United States to “manage its alliances and strategic partnerships in the region.”
As some of my readers have pointed out, I may have appeared somewhat biased against Japan because I did not fully account for other dynamics of the regional naval competition. However, it is not my intention in any way to accuse Japan or its neighbors of espousing expansionist tendencies. I should, therefore, point out that the factors behind the ongoing naval race may be more complex than they appear at first.
In support of Chris’s post, let’s dig at this a bit more.
Via FT; once again, when our prostrate, financially starved, and materially deficient allies say this,
“We must not tolerate this regime using military force against its own people,” David Cameron, UK prime minister, said. “In that context I have asked the Ministry of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff to work with our allies on plans for a military no-fly zone.”
What they really mean is, “America, will you please do the heavy lifting? We will try to help with what little we have, but be a good sport.”
Want to make this an international effort? I won’t even start to discuss the UN route – as to get to that point is just too difficult and like Darfur, by the time someone can craft a deal, there will be no one to save. Anyway, really?
You can also think NATO, but I think that is off the table already.
… Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister of Turkey, which has the second largest standing army in Nato, on Tuesday rejected intervention by the western alliance in Libya as “unthinkable”.
“Can you even consider such an absurdity?” Mr Erdogan said at a conference in Germany when asked about calls for Nato to intervene in Libya. “As Turkey, we’re against this, this can’t even be talked about, it’s unthinkable.”
Russia and France also opposed military action, with Paris saying humanitarian aid and cutting off Col Gaddafi’s funding sources should be the priorities.
Once again – NATO devolves to the lowest common denominator, even in their own back yard.
Coalition of the willing it is.
No serious person is talking about putting boots on the ground to engage in ground combat the Libyan rebel forces are more than willing to do – I think the most aggressive thing inside the “possible” bubble is a no-fly zone in Libya (NFZ-L) so Gaddafi’s air force cannot do their will on civilians and rebel forces.
Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman called last week for NATO countries to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent air attacks by Mr Gaddafi on opponents who have wrested control of large parts of the country from him.
According to Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, US military planners are working on “various contingency plans … [and] repositioning forces to be able to provide for that flexibility once decisions are made”.
Let’s make some initial draft Planning Assumptions (PA) assuming that the CINC directs the establishment of a NFZ-L, here’s my first three:
– PA-1: The ENTERPRISE CSG and KEARSARGE ESG now in the Red Sea successfully transit Suez.
– PA-2: Tanker, AEW, and EW/ES aircraft have full basing rights in Sigonella, Souda Bay, at British bases in Cyprus.
– PA-3: ITA, ESP, and GBR are willing to contribute Navy and Air forces.
Of those allies with the most pressing concern in the Mediterranean, we already know TUR, and FRA are non-players. GRC? Child please. There goes your most of your Med nations. Who else can help that isn’t already on holiday? GBR, ITA, ESP, with perhaps a dog or cat from other NATO air forces up north may help, but they have very limited reach and a very shallow bench. Even with the USAF, you cannot effect a sustained NFZ-L using ground based aircraft – even if you limited it to the Tripoli and Benghazi. Especially when you can bet a paycheck that ROE will require visual ID and sustained observation of suspect activity; no. Add to that the requirement for CSAR, and no again.
There is only one way to do this: Carrier Aviation. American Carrier Aviation.
One carrier cannot do this alone unless you have very low ambition and expect very little in the way of tasking. You should have one station to the east, one to the west. If you are talking big deck CVN – you really need two to keep one station for any length of time. To keep two stations, four – but if you can get some limited land-based air support for some cycles – maybe get by with three?
Let’s be realistic. We are not going to get four CVN or even three. Two then? I vote no. We’re tapped out.
If you had plenty of support and just a few AAW CAPs up – we could get by with just one … if for only a short time. Hope? Feh, not a plan – so be modest in your ambition.
OK, let’s go to NFZ-L with the Global Maritime Partnership we have, not that we wish we had.
Would we give a station to our allies? Of the remaining folks, GBR, ESP, & ITA have CVS, right? Well, the Brits don’t do CVS counter-air anymore – and the Italians and Spanish carriers? How many sorties can they do? How about if they had a lot of land based fighter support? How many fighter aircraft need to be stationed at Sigonella supported by how many tankers to cover Tripoli? Same question about Souda Bay and Benghazi. The British bases on Cyprus?
UK officials said they could use of a British military air base in Akrotiri, Cyprus to enforce a no-fly mission. “Akrotiri would be very useful if we wanted to deploy,” said an official. “That would seem most logical.”Although fixed-wing aircraft appear to be depleted, British officials said the main concern was that Col Gaddafi could use helicopters to mount bombing raids on opponents.
Thanks, but … look at that transit – tanker and AEW/ES only. That is about the same distance as from Masirah, Oman to Southern Afghanistan.
There is the problem – but we have a solution, the one a lot of smart people are going to try to make work. We will have do a limited NFZ-L with Big E and the KEARSARGE ESG. Not the way it should be done, but good enough for show.
On alert, using limited CAPs and relying on ready aircraft. Our allies may be here and there and will be able to help on the margins – but they have neither the ability or political will to do much more. They have proven over and over that they are less concerned about their backyard than we are – either that are they are just too used to us solving their big problems – and if we don’t – they will just hope for the best.
My guestimates on the back of a notepad are very rough – but probably within a standard deviation. Do them yourself. The tyranny of distance and allied defense budgets are beyond our control but are critical planning factors you cannot get around.
Once you ponder that some, remind yourself and others the importance of a CVN – and use this other little tool in discussions of the utility of CVN. Off Libya soon may be the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65), commissioned on 25 NOV 61 – almost 50 years ago. On the western side of Libya is the former Wheelus Air Force Base. How is that base working out for us?
UPDATE: SECDEF Gates throws some cold water on Prime Minister Cameron, and seems a bit off key with SECSTATE Clinton.
The U.S. and allies have discussed the prospect of imposing a no-fly zone over the North African country to prevent Col. Gadhafi from using air forces to strike at protesters. But Mr. Gates on Wednesday made clear the U.S. military would have to launch pre-emptive strikes to destroy Libya’s air defenses if President Barack Obama ordered the imposition of a no-fly zone,
“Let’s just call a spade a spade,” Mr. Gates said. “A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya.”
Mr. Gates’s words were the strongest public indication of skepticism within the administration about establishing a no-fly zone, especially without broad international support.
In recent days, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spoken supportively of a no-fly zone. Asked about the apparent contradiction between Mr. Gates’s comments and Mrs. Clinton’s remarks, Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said Wednesday that the no-fly zone is being “actively considered.”
I think SECDEF Gates has reviewed COA-1, COA-2, & COA-3 and realized the risk-reward is just not where it should be. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do something. Right call.
To paraphrase the Great Bismark; Libya is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier.
Rhetoric supporting the new carrier launch system, EMALS, was on full display during CNO Roughead’s March 11 testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. He said:
“…Among the new technologies being integrated in these ships is the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which will enable the carrier’s increased sortie generation rate and lower total ownership costs. EMALS is on track for an aircraft demonstration later this year and is on schedule to support delivery of CVN 78 in September 2015…”
But, according to Inside Defense (subscription required), reality, in the form of a question from Rep. Norman Dicks (D-WA), forced SECNAV Mabus to confirm that the EMALS program had experienced an ugly test failure. What happened, exactly? This:
“…According to a Navy official, on Jan. 12 during a test at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst , NJ, the shuttle was commanded to move forward 10 meters, but instead reversed direction and slammed into the catapult’s deck tensioner, causing damage to the system’s hardware. Damage to the armature and the tensioner was non-reparable, though a motor block and the end of the system’s trough, which also suffered damage, were salvageable. There were no injuries…”
That’s quite the mishap…But, never fear, they tell me this high-profile program is all still on schedule. Right?
I like EMALS, and I love this sort of high-profile challenge…and good poker games, too.
But…where’s the hedge? Did we start production of the Next-Gen Ford-class too early? If America needs to start figuring out how many MV-22s fit on the new LHA(N) amphibian, isn’t that something policymakers should know and discuss? And if the money that EMALS will, in theory, save (via reduced wear and tear, lower manning and so forth) gets eaten up by developmental costs and reliability SNAFUs, then, shouldn’t there be a debate on the strategic (and/or tactical) merits of this system?
Is a higher sortie generation rate and consistent high-power cat shots THAT important?
I wasn’t aware of Japanese I-400 boats until I received an email a couple days ago with this article, which is available from numerous sources online. I found it coincidental to have read about this not long after Galrahn’s Risk Averse Political Policy Requires High End Focus led to a good bit of discussion on defending submarines from air threats.
Airfield Under The Sea is an interesting read for anyone (like me) who did not know the Japanese had actually put submarines to sea carrying aircraft.
Most of the photos and graphics are self-explanatory, but I wish there was a caption giving the date and location of the photograph of a surviving M6A1 Seiron on page 2.
- On Midrats 3 May 2015 – Episode 278: Betrayal, leadership, loyalty, and redemption: Task Force VIOLENT
- A “Hollow Force” or a “Hollow Strategy”?
- On Midrats 26 April 15 – Episode 277: Manpower, Modernization, and Motivation – an Hour with VADM Moran
- A Call to Write
- On Midrats 19 April 2015 – Episode 276: “21st Century Ellis”