Are Aircraft Carriers Obsolete?

4 views
Skip to first unread message

Kenneth S Goss

unread,
Jan 18, 1989, 5:31:49 PM1/18/89
to

>
>Only in a conflict with a third-world nation, like Lebanon or Libya, can
>sea power have any effect. And the same effect can be provided by long-range
>land-based bombers. In the assassination attempt against Khadaffi, our land-
>based bombers actually had enough range to detour around the Iberian
>peninsula and fly over the Strait of Gibraltar!
>
I could certainly see the advantages of having to travel several extra
thousand miles during wartime to reach a target. Yes, for that strike we
happened to have only friendlies between us and the target, what if we had
an enemy between, or should should we detour around the world to protect our planes?


>Aren't capital ships and carrier battle groups as obsolete as horse cavalry?
>Don't people remember HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales? How about
>HMS Sheffield and Gen. Belgrano? Do you actually have to send an AEGIS ship
>to the bottom in order to prove sea power obsolete? Or would even that
>be enough?

Interesting to use the Falklands conflict as an example, I suppose the theory would now be for the British to launch all their planes and amphib. strikes from Great Britain.

Carriers, and the capital ships that protect them are essential if you wish to have a worldwide (instead of merely local) presence.

Kenneth S Goss

Steven W. Grabhorn

unread,
Jan 18, 1989, 5:32:09 PM1/18/89
to


In <32...@cbnews.ATT.COM> m...@cup.portal.com writes:
>What is the reason for having aircraft carriers? Aren't they a total
>waste of money?

I won't get into that.

>In a global conflict, the aircraft carriers would all be destroyed
>immediately by missiles. A missile costs a lot less than an aircraft
>carrier.

I don't think I would believe that, but...
(stuff deleted)

>Aren't capital ships and carrier battle groups as obsolete as horse
>cavalry?

No they're not. It's a dynamic situation when any type of battle occurs.
Luckily this doesn't happen very often. However, when it does, intelligence
people try to evaluate the weapons and tactics used in the battle since
this really gives them the only real opportunity to try to see how well
these things work in a real world situation. Hey, that's their job.

I would think that carriers and battle groups are much more concerned with
submarine threats than land, ship, or aircraft missile attacks (assuming
you're in a deep ocean environment and the missiles aren't nuclear). The
problem with subs is that if the group doesn't detect them they can sneak
in or lie in wait and launch something literally right on top of the carri-
er, which is the main target (of course that severely limits the subma-
rine's chances of getting away undetected). When other platforms that are
much farther away launch a missile at a battle group there is a better
chance of detecting it and knocking it down before it gets close enough to
be a threat.

Quite a few people wonder if aircraft carriers would be destroyed right off
the bat in a major conflict, or if the strength of the battle group sur-
rounding it would be effective in protecting a carrier against submarines
and other threats. I don't believe anybody really knows, no matter what you
hear from the surface and submarine people.

Of course, there have been stories in the newspapers about carriers collid-
ing with subs, sometimes of a different nation. Probably navigational
errors, rules of the road, you know, that sort of thing.


Standard disclaimers certainly do apply.
Steve Grabhorn Naval Ocean Systems Center
grab...@nosc.mil San Diego, CA. 92152-5000
sdcsvax!nosc!marlin!grabhorn 619-553-3454

Neil A. Kirby

unread,
Jan 20, 1989, 12:06:38 AM1/20/89
to

>What is the reason for having aircraft carriers? Aren't they a total waste
>of money?

Let's look at the role of sea power first. The reasons to have sea forces
are 1) protect merchant ships. 2) attack enemy shipping. 3) attack enemy
shore. 4) Protect our shore from other sea powers. 5) Other reasons that
don't occur to me but will to the rest of the net :-).

One of the best ways to do many of these missions involves putting aircraft
up over the area in question. The radars on say a Haweye have much greater
coverage than the ship based radars. Simple physics about altitude and
horizon. Carriers give the planes with the attack missiles, like the
Exocet, a place to live. Planes re-act quickly for conducting combat at
some range from the area - but the planes have to be based somewhere.

Total waste of money? No, at least not in my book. Too expensive? I
think that is more a problem of the Military-Industrial Complex rather than
the ships themselves. Do we place too much emphasis on them? This perhaps
is a point more valid to debate.

>In a global conflict, the aircraft carriers would all be destroyed immediately
>by missiles. A missile costs a lot less than an aircraft carrier.

In a total war conflict, the loss of the carriers would be insignificant
compared to the loss of the cities of the Northern Hemisphere.

And a bullet costs less than what we pay to train and retain soldiers.
And a SA7 costs less than an F15. And it takes more effort to heal a
broken jaw than it does to heal brusied knuckles. Are bones a bad idea
since they are too easily lost to the universal threat of strong knuckles?
This line of reasoning -by itself- is invalid. The issues are biggger than
such a simple reason suggest.

Yes carriers can be lost, and yes they prime targets. The question is a
balance of risks; is having and paying for and possibly losing the carrier
better or worse than not having it and using the money elsewhere? I take
exception with the ALL and IMMEDIATELY in your statement.

>In a conflict against an industrialized nation, like Argentina, capital ships
>must stay far away to avoid being hit by a Silkworm or an Exocet or even a
>torpedo.

So what happened to the Hermes? It never got hit. It was a PRIME target,
many folks think the Exocet headed for the Sheffield was aimed at the
Hermes. The example you give refutes your claim. Ask the Argentines about
sea power. They had LOTS of time to get ready - and they lost the
Falklands.

>Only in a conflict with a third-world nation, like Lebanon or Libya, can
>sea power have any effect. And the same effect can be provided by long-range
>land-based bombers. In the assassination attempt against Khadaffi, our land-
>based bombers actually had enough range to detour around the Iberian
>peninsula and fly over the Strait of Gibraltar!

I think that against anything but a major nation sea power has its uses.
You example of Argentina supports this.

In flight refueling goes a long way!

>Aren't capital ships and carrier battle groups as obsolete as horse cavalry?

>Don't people remember HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales? How about
>HMS Sheffield and Gen. Belgrano? Do you actually have to send an AEGIS ship
>to the bottom in order to prove sea power obsolete? Or would even that
>be enough?

For the attack role, submarines are going to be hard to beat. Between the
cruise missiles and the torpedoes, surface ships, especially merchants,
will take expensive losses. But you need AEGIS in a crusie missile/Exocet
environment. You want a Haweye up there for radar coverage. You want some
fixed wing sub-hunters out there. To protect yourself at all you need
carriers and capital ships. Against a major nation these protections are
not as good, but what else do we have for this role that works better?

Neil Kirby
...cbsck!nak

Gregory Thompson

unread,
Jan 20, 1989, 12:06:59 AM1/20/89
to

In article <32...@cbnews.ATT.COM> m...@cup.portal.com writes:
>What is the reason for having aircraft carriers? Aren't they a total waste
>of money?
>
Nope. Aircraft carriers are an exceptional means of power projection.
85% of the world's land mass area is reachable by carrier based attack craft.
They are highly mobile, fast, and difficult to track with an experienced
crew on board. Witness the test done recently where an american carrier
attempted to go from California to Australia undetected; the carrier made it
without being detected.

>In a global conflict, the aircraft carriers would all be destroyed immediately
>by missiles. A missile costs a lot less than an aircraft carrier.
>

Not necessarily. A carrier will almost never be found without a large number
of escorting ships. A common carrier group consists of Frigates on the
outer edges of the group (sometimes 100's of nm's away) These act as missile
& sub catchers (primarily sub catchers). The next line consists of destroyers.
These are also primarily sub catchers, though with an increased role with
relation to the air combat situation. The next line now a days usually has
an Aegis cruiser and another cruiser. Though in some configurations, it might
consist of an "ayatollah" class DDG (ala USS Kidd). (I've never operated
with a carrier group, so I wouldn't mind any corrections on this) The
possibility of a submarine or a missile getting through these defenses
is quite limited. Granted it CAN happen but the chances are not that
great. Even if a missile did get through, the damage it would do to a
Nimitz class (for example) would not be very great.

>In a conflict against an industrialized nation, like Argentina, capital ships
>must stay far away to avoid being hit by a Silkworm or an Exocet or even a
>torpedo.
>

See above. Again the chances are not that great.

>Only in a conflict with a third-world nation, like Lebanon or Libya, can
>sea power have any effect. And the same effect can be provided by long-range

>land-based bombers. In the [attack against Libya], our land-


>based bombers actually had enough range to detour around the Iberian
>peninsula and fly over the Strait of Gibraltar!
>

You can not project power continuously using land based craft in many
situations. The amount of time that a plane could stay on station would
be limited in many circumstances were it land based. Carriers provide an
air superiority factor that not only can NOT be ignored, it MUST be dealt
with. A land attack using air support can not depend on air bases that
are near the limit of the range of land based planes. Response time is slow,
air time over target is limited, pilots are worn out from longs flights,
the overall situation is very bad when the air bases are fairly removed
from the front.

>Aren't capital ships and carrier battle groups as obsolete as horse cavalry?
>Don't people remember HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales? How about
>HMS Sheffield and Gen. Belgrano? Do you actually have to send an AEGIS ship
>to the bottom in order to prove sea power obsolete? Or would even that
>be enough?

Don't you remember World War II? Pearl Harbor. Marianas turkey shoot.
Midway. There are many more that I am sure you remember as well. So many
battles in which the presence of carriers was crucial to the outcome of
the battle.

I realise your point is in the modern sense. However, before I touch on
that I want to go on a bit further in an "older" sense. Tactics are tactics.
Many tactics in use today are based on hard learned lessons from
decades, even centuries ago. West Point people study maps of battles from
even the revolutionary war and before. Why? Because tactics VERY rarely die.
Carriers are a weapon. Tactics have been developed to use them most
effectively. They are still VERY capable of fulfilling the mission they
were designed for.

The coming of the missile changes the tactical situation relevant to a
carrier, what is done? Phalanx CIWS system. This system is capable of
firing 3000 depleted uranium rounds per minute. It is entirely self automated.
Once turned on, it will take anything out of the air that it locks
on to. It asseses threats by proximity and speed relative to the platform.
This is only the very last defense the carriers have. There are far more
lines as stated above, and all the platforms stated above also carry
CIWS, as well as many other anti-missile mechanisms. While these mechanisms
and the tactics used to make them most beneficial against missiles do not
remove the threat of a missile attack on a carrier, they reduce it enough
to make the role of carriers a very viable one.

In any war in which sea power has played a role, ships have been sunk.
In the next war (god forbid), AEGIS equipped ships will go to the bottom
as well. This is a fact of war. One ships or several going to the
bottom will not change the fact that sea power is something that can
not be ignored. Dominance of the seas by this nation is not only critical
in a war time situation, it is necessary. No projection of power can be
achieved without sea power. No armies can be moved across an ocean.
No large quantities of ordinance and equipment can be moved across an ocean.
And none of these can get across that ocean without protection, protection that
land based craft simply can not provide in this day and age.

[I realise this was not said...but...] Carriers are not sitting ducks.
Carriers are among the fastest ships in the fleet, and one of them in
particular is probably *the* fastest ship in the fleet not counting PHMs.

If the logic of the United States and allies is skewed in building carriers,
then the logic of the Russians is also skewed, for they are at this time
building 8 new nuclear carriers.

[pant pant pant....didn't realise this would be this long!]

- G

William L. Rupp

unread,
Jan 20, 1989, 12:07:21 AM1/20/89
to

In article <32...@cbnews.ATT.COM> m...@cup.portal.com writes:
>What is the reason for having aircraft carriers? Aren't they a total waste
>of money?

Well, it may be of interest to consider what the opposition thinks about this.
The Soviets have had decades to observe both the use and overhead considerations
of attack aircraft carriers. They have now voted with their rubles that these
ships are an important part of a national defense (I believe they have two
large deck carriers under construction or nearing service).


>
>In a global conflict, the aircraft carriers would all be destroyed immediately
>by missiles. A missile costs a lot less than an aircraft carrier.

Why immediately? If that were so why weren't the Argentines able to knock off
the Royal Navy in a couple of missile attacks? There are counter measures,
you know.

>
>In a conflict against an industrialized nation, like Argentina, capital ships
>must stay far away to avoid being hit by a Silkworm or an Exocet or even a
>torpedo.

The Royal Navy stayed right where it had to stay, in the Falklands vicinity. It
was the Argentine navy that had to pay respect to the British aircraft carriers.


>
>Only in a conflict with a third-world nation, like Lebanon or Libya, can
>sea power have any effect.

Are we moving from the particular of carriers to the generalization of whole
navies? This seems to be a pretty shakey hypothesis.


> And the same effect can be provided by long-range
>land-based bombers.

Really? How long can a land-based bomber loiter over the middle of the Atlanticocean?

>In the assassination attempt against Khadaffi, our land-


>based bombers actually had enough range to detour around the Iberian
>peninsula and fly over the Strait of Gibraltar!

Yes, but that was stretching their range, if I am not mistaken.

>
>
>Aren't capital ships and carrier battle groups as obsolete as horse cavalry?
>Don't people remember HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales? How about
>HMS Sheffield and Gen. Belgrano? Do you actually have to send an AEGIS ship
>to the bottom in order to prove sea power obsolete? Or would even that
>be enough?

I understand submariners say there are two types of ships in wartime; submarinesand targets! But I think I would rather take my chances in a carrier battle
group.

As for the HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales, those ships were operating
without the benefit either of land-based or carrier-based aircraft, so I don't
see how their fates are relevant in a discussion of modern carrier battle
groups.

Actually, when it comes to staying power, there is nothing afloat that
can take the punishment an Iowa class battleship can withstand - and still keep
fighting with big guns and state-of-the-art missiles! I don't mean to suggest
that we should crank up 16" gun factories again, but the idea that surface shipsare totally obsolete seems a bit extreme. Perhaps we should concentrate on a
larger number of smaller, faster ships rather than very large flattops.


Bill....
disclaimer; these are purely my personal opinions and do not reflect official
policy of any institution.

Doug Krause

unread,
Jan 20, 1989, 12:07:47 AM1/20/89
to

In article <32...@cbnews.ATT.COM> go...@cs.umn.edu (Kenneth S Goss) writes:
>I could certainly see the advantages of having to travel several extra
>thousand miles during wartime to reach a target.

Which brings up a question. How long does it take a carrier to
get from the U.S. to say, the Mediterranean?

Douglas Krause "You can't legislate morality" -George Bush
--------------------------------------------------------------------
University of California, Irvine ARPANET: dkr...@orion.cf.uci.edu
"Irvine? Where's Irvine?" BITNET: DJKrause@ucivmsa

Sean Malloy

unread,
Jan 20, 1989, 12:09:10 AM1/20/89
to

In article <32...@cbnews.ATT.COM> mili...@att.att.com (Bill Thacker) writes:
>>How about HMS Sheffield and Gen. Belgrano?

>Sheffield showed that the British antimissile defense was imperfect; it
>remains to be seen whether the American system is any better (Sheffield
>didn't have Phalanx, while Stark's wasn't turned on when it was hit).
>You can hardly construe this incident as the death knell of surface ships.

After all this time, there is still misinformation about the loss of
the Sheffield. At the time the Sheffield was hit, her captain was
conducting an unauthorized satellite communication, which was causing
mutual interference with the radar systems, so the radar systems
were turned off. You can't spot a missile you're not looking
for. If the Sheffield _had_ had her radars operational, the Exocet
would have been detected far enough out for the Sea Wolf (I think that
is the SAM system the Sheffield class carries) to be used against it.

In fact, the actual direct cause for the sinking is weather. The
British had the Sheffield in tow, but were unable to put a damage control
team aboard her due to a storm, during which the ship broke in two and
sank. Certainly the Exocet caused the damage which resulted in the
sinking, but, had not the storm intervened, the Sheffield would have
been able to be repaired, just as the Stark was.

The above information is from Lt. Lane, RN, who served aboard HMS Coventry
until about fifteen minutes before it sank after being bombed by an
Argentinian aircraft during the Falklands conflict.

The Exocets the Argentinians used also point out a major problem in
missile warfare: Of all the Exocets fired by the Argentinians, the
only missiles that actually detonated properly on impact were
land-launched. The MM-38 (-39, -40) Exocet (the ground-launched
version) is stored in its launch container in an inert environment,
and requires no maintenance. The AM-38 (-39, -40) Exocet (the
air-launched version) must receive maintenance by weapons techs at
periodic intervals, particularly immediately before takeoff. It
requires skilled labor to maintain missile systems properly; lack of
proper maintenance severely degrades the performance of the system
where it remains capable of function at all.


Sean Malloy
Navy Personnel Research & Development Center
San Diego, CA 92152-6800
mal...@nprdc.arpa

Dan C Duval

unread,
Jan 20, 1989, 9:05:38 PM1/20/89
to
This is one of my favorite topics, so I'll give it a go-around. Please forgive
me if I bring up a bunch of semi-technical type stuff. I'm also going to
rearrange the order in which the points were made.

>What is the reason for having aircraft carriers? Aren't they a total waste

>of money? ...


>Aren't capital ships and carrier battle groups as obsolete as horse cavalry?
>Don't people remember HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales? How about
>HMS Sheffield and Gen. Belgrano? Do you actually have to send an AEGIS ship
>to the bottom in order to prove sea power obsolete? Or would even that
>be enough?

First of all, let's establish that ships will never go away. They are the
cheapest way of hauling bulk cargos from one point to the other and the
most efficient in terms of tons moved per mile per unit energy. If you discount
any one of those three terms -- tons, miles, or energy-unit -- there are better
ways than ships to move things. But all three taken together, ships will be
the most efficient, though slow, of course. So there will be ships.

Modern war is not so much war upon civilians (though it appears that way) as
it is upon the opponent's ability to produce weapons and use those weapons.
The fact that armies and navies fight each other is more a matter that each is
trying to keep the weapons of the other side from interfering with the flow
of weapons, manpower, and materiel into their own sides forces. In other words,
a submarine which is prosecuting a war would prefer to attack a warship only
because that warship will prevent the sub from attacking merchant vessels;
otherwise, it is better for the attacking nation to interfere with the merchant
vessels of the other side and even the survival of the sub is lower priority
than destroying the productive capacity of the enemy (though I imagine that the
crew has a somewhat different point of view on this.) This is the war of
attrition. Warriors would like to think there is some glory in this, knight
fighting knight and the like, but it is really nothing more glamorous than
kicking your opponent in the groin in order to win. Thus, ship will fight ship.

The submariners will try to tell you that everything that floats is a target
and that it is only a matter of time before everything on the surface has been
sunk. However, if a Sea King or LAMPS II scatters a pattern of actively-pinging
sonobuoys around, the sub will evade -- read that as: run away. And nothing
will put sweat on the lip of a bubblehead faster than suggesting that an
enemy sub is hiding in the bubblehead's prop wash.

The surface ships which carry the ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) helicopters
will be of every size from barges to supercarriers, the larger ships having
the capacity to carry more helicopters, more fuel and weaponry, and better
repair facitilies. More helicopters that operate more often make a better
protection from submarines than the one machine operating from a barge,
making only one one-hour scan every four to five hours. The modern supercarriers
can operate ASW helicopter patrols 24 hours per day for the better part of a
week.

The problem is that helicopters are easy targets to gunfire and missiles from
enemy aircraft and ships. So the fleet carries anti-air and anti-surface
weapons of various sorts, with the fixed-wing aircraft being the most
versatile and the ones with the longest reach. Piloted weapons are reusable and
can use better discrimination about which target to hit, but the unpiloted
fixed-wing aircraft (cruise missiles, for instance) are somewhat cheaper per
unit, though more expensive per use. Multiple weapons are kept in the inventory
to meet different needs and to prevent the enemy from coming up with a
single, effective countermeasure.

Land-based air advocates have claimed the death of the navy since airpower
started (Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell, for instance, during and just after
World War I.) Naval airpower has proved itself time and again to be better
because: 1) it is there (land-based planes take hours to arrive at the battle
scene when called; compare this with the ready-5 aircraft on a carrier, ready
to be on-station within five minutes); 2) it can stay there (an F-15 at the end
of its range might have only a 5-minute limit on how long it can engage; the
F-14 launched from a carrier deck can stay over the carrier for 2.5 hours or
until its weapons require reloading, whichever happens first); and 3) it is
more efficient in terms of aircraft to provide fleet cover (a carrier-based
aircraft which spends three hours over the battle group would have to be replaced
by three land-based planes which required two hours to get to the battle group
and each supplied only one hour's cover.) Combine all these together and it
is clear that the carrier-based aircraft can provide more planes over the group
for a longer time when they are needed than can a comparable number of land-based
aircraft.

The question then is, how long can a carrier survive in combat?

>In a global conflict, the aircraft carriers would all be destroyed immediately
>by missiles. A missile costs a lot less than an aircraft carrier.
>

>In a conflict against an industrialized nation, like Argentina, capital ships
>must stay far away to avoid being hit by a Silkworm or an Exocet or even a
>torpedo.

Let's rule out the use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons will most certainly
spell the end of any surface force, so I will grant that naval forces are
useless in a nuclear war. But then again, so is everything that has ever existed,
so it becomes a moot point.

Let's make it clear that we are talking about the US Navy, as it is the only
real carrier force in the world. Note that both France and the USSR are trying
to make themselves major players in the carrier game as well.

Let's also make it clear that the only military force capable of giving the
US Navy a run for its money is the navy of the Soviet Union. Even the blue-water
navies of France and Britain could only damage the US fleet, not really destroy it.

The Soviet Union poses essentially two major threats on the US Navy: the
nuclear attack submarines and combined missile-air strikes. As far as the
submarines go, the US Navy has frigates, aircraft (helos and fixed-wing),
and other submarines to counter these. Whether all this will be effective or not
in actual combat is not known.

For the aircraft threat, a number of things are done by the US Navy which are
not done by any other navy in the world. US carriers carry E-2C Hawkeyes to
start the air defense of the battle group far away, backed by F-14s armed with
the Phoenix missile, a stand-off weapon with a 100-mile range. Mid-range air
defense will be left to the Aegis systems, backed by Standard SM-2 and
RAMs (Rolling Airframe Missiles). Close-in defense will be handled by the
Phalanx systems.

In the Falklands, the British had a severe disadvantage against the
Argentine air attacks in that they had little early warning of air attacks.
Ships set out between the mainland and the Falklands to act as radar pickets
came under heavy attack, the same as the radar pickets used at the end of
Word War II by the US Navy. Their small carriers could not carry any sort of
AWACS aircraft and their closest land base was too far away for any land-based
air-search aircraft. The US Navy carries its AWACS aircraft with them, allowing
both the early warning of an air attack and the possibility of coordinating
the response to that attack.

The Soviet Navy will have to rely upon a massive strike (overwhelm the defenses
sort of attack) on a US battle group in order to get through to the ships. (This
is also about the only shot their ships and planes will have before both arms
have to go back to port/base to rearm.) This is what the Aegis systems were
designed to handle (not lone airliners). If they are able to do the job in combat,
we win. If not, there is still some question about how badly damaged the
battle group will be. As Bill Thacker said, the carriers will be able to
sustain some level of damage. How much? I don't know. The Navy doesn't know. The
Soviets don't know. I'm hoping there will never be an experiment under actual
combat conditions carried out between the two forces.

Because of the Falklands and the _Stark_ hit, some people have claimed that
the Exocet prevents hostile naval forces from operating anywhere near them.
Most of these people are those who build and/or sell the Exocet, mind you.
Note also that what has been proved by these incidents is that the Exocet
seems to work fine against ships which do not have or are not operating their
Close-In Weapons Systems (CIWS). The British frigates had no CIWS (their
ships have subsequently been armed with Phalanx first and recently upgraded
with the Goalkeeper CIWS.) The _Stark_ has Phalanx, but it was kept in Standby
mode, unable to fire. Neither of these situations is likely to occur in a
US-USSR knockdown-dragout: US Navy vessels have Phalanx and in a combat situation
they will be armed and operating (the Rules Of Engagement will not be the same
as those the _Stark_ was operating under.)

The sinking of the _Prince of Wales_ and the _Repulse_ showed that aircraft
could sink major warships (people didn't believe it up to that point.) The use
of the Exocet against the British ships off the Falklands showed that defenses
against missile attacks were necessary, on virtually all warships (people
didn't all seem to think so up to that point.) One thing that we can see from
history is that ships sink and weapons change and newer and better ships are
built. Individual ships become old and/or obsolete (some even as they are
built, such as the USS _Vesuvius_). But the concept of the warship has lasted
for several millenia and, except for a completely indiscriminate destroyer
like nuclear weaponry, I expect the concept to last for a little longer, at least.

One last note, on the revival of the battleships. In World War II, the battleships
_Yamato_ and _Musashi_ each required about 10 torpedos and 5+ armor-piercing bombs
(the _Musashi_ took 17(!) 1000lb. bomb hits) to sink them. The US _Iowa_ class
vessels are considered to have a comparable protection system (armor and
compartmentation). If one of these battleships took the same two missile hits
that the _Stark_ did, in the same place on the ship, the missiles (one of which
did not explode) would have impacted on 12 inches of hardened armor plate,
rather than on the unarmored skin of the frigate. Not to mention that the
Exocet is not an armor-piercing weapon. The general assessment is that the
current generation of sea-skimming missiles will not penetrate the armor of
the four battleships, allowing them to go places and absorb damage that other
ships could not do.

For instance, if we assume that the Soviet 533mm torpedos are roughly equivalent
to the US 22" torpedo of World War II in hitting power and that the SS-N-19
missile can do about the same amount of damage as the 1000lb armor-piercing
bomb, then if a Soviet _Akula_ class attack sub were to fire it six torpedos
tubes, reload, and fire six more and -- at the same time -- a Soviet
_Kirov_ class cruiser were to deliver its load of 20 SS-N-19s on that same
target, AND ALL OF THOSE TORPEDOS AND MISSILES HIT, the battleship would sink.
In other words, it would take two of the Soviet Union's most powerful warships
to sink one battleship, even if every weapon were a hit and both of the
attackers were allowed the time to get all of their weapons away.

One reason the battleship has a place in current naval warfare is because
the scale of battle has changed. More than four hundred aircraft were used
to attack the _Yamato_ (and these planes were available for a strike every day);
it would take the entire inventory of guided-missile cruisers and guided-missile
destroyers in the Soviet navy to deliver 400 missiles (and each missile could be
used only once.) Granted, the missiles are smarter today but so are the defenses.

All in all, the battleship is not invulnerable -- given enough time to work on
it, it can be sunk -- but it is much more survivable than any other warship
in existence today. And each battleship carries 48 missiles each, twice the
ordnance load of their nearest competitors (the Soviet _Kirov_ class cruisers.)

>Only in a conflict with a third-world nation, like Lebanon or Libya, can

>sea power have any effect. And the same effect can be provided by long-range
>land-based bombers. In the assassination attempt against Khadaffi, our land-


>based bombers actually had enough range to detour around the Iberian
>peninsula and fly over the Strait of Gibraltar!

This is false on its face. To counter the US Navy, the Soviets have built one
of the most powerful blue-water fleets that ever existed. Rather than relying
on just their attack submarines, they are building super-carriers. Rather than
building hordes of small missile boats, they have been building large missile
cruisers and missile destroyers. In other words, they are building a navy that
is very much like the US Navy in its composition and mix of ship types.

Now, if a nation with a strong maritime tradition, such as the US, France, or
Britain were expanding their fleet, we could claim that they were letting
past glories blind them to the realities of naval warfare. But the USSR is
not a long-time naval power. Their best-known naval adventure ended in an
inglorious defeat at the hands of the Japanese in 1902. Yet, a nation who
has traditionally depended upon their strong land army and land-based air force
spent the better part of the last two decades building a blue-water navy.
I expect it is because they see some value in warships and they do not believe
that airpower has made the naval warship obsolete.

Dan C Duval
da...@tekigm2.MEN.TEK.COM

I'll put my soap-box away for a bit, now.

Carl Witthoft

unread,
Jan 20, 1989, 9:06:01 PM1/20/89
to

First, ofall, let's ignore the standard rule that there are two types
of marine vessels: submarines and targets.
Now, we all know that ACcarriers are supervulnerable. On the other hand,
since most battlegroup and convoy formations depend critically on fixed
wing coverage of the perimeter (including OTH), so long as there is no
substitute for this coverage, the planes gotta land somewhere. So it
seems that a serious redesign of the entire battlegroup might follow
if ACcarriers are really to be eliminated.


--

Alix' Dad ( Carl Witthoft @ Adaptive Optics Associates)
" Axis-navigo, ergo sum."
{harvard,ima}!bbn!aoa!carl
54 CambridgePark Drive, Cambridge,MA 02140 617-864-0201
"disclaimer? I'm not a doctor, but I do have a Master's Degree in Science!"

John E Van Deusen III

unread,
Jan 22, 1989, 9:23:19 PM1/22/89
to

In order to keep shipping lanes open, it is required to actually place a
ship in contested waters. You can bomb a country to oblivion and only
establish your right to bomb them.
==
John E Van Deusen III, PO Box 9283, Boise, ID 83707, (208) 343-1865

uunet!visdc!jiii

he...@zoo.toronto.edu

unread,
Jan 22, 1989, 9:26:33 PM1/22/89
to
>>In a conflict against an industrialized nation, like Argentina, capital ships
>>must stay far away to avoid being hit by a Silkworm or an Exocet or even a
>>torpedo.
>
>So what happened to the Hermes? It never got hit...

Yes, and partly this was because the British carriers stayed as far out
as possible, which greatly limited their effectiveness. For example, it
was simply impossible to maintain a standing Sea Harrier patrol over San
Carlos Water, because endurance was too limited after the long flight in
from the carriers. Similarly, there was no effective warning of raids,
because maintaining a radar picket vessel in a suitable location was
unacceptably risky.

>... Ask the Argentines about


>sea power. They had LOTS of time to get ready - and they lost the
>Falklands.

Au contraire. They had practically no time to get ready, because they
did not expect Britain to go to war over the islands. They would have
been much better prepared otherwise. (For example, they had only a
handful of air-launched Exocets available, and France refused to supply
any more after the war started.)

Don't forget sheer incompetence, as well. The Argentines never did figure
out that their bombs were not fuzed properly for low-altitude drops. They
persisted in sending their aircraft in a few at a time, instead of in a
massed raid that would have made life much harder for the fleet. They
panicked after the first Vulcan raid and withdrew all their air-combat
units to the mainland, giving control of the air to Britain and removing
the threat the Harrier pilots were most worried about: a war of attrition
against a much larger force. Even during the brief period of air combat,
their tactics were utterly inept. (Comment by one of the Harrier pilots,
approximately: "One learns not to do things like that on day one at a
competent weapons school.") They completely failed to use their submarines
aggressively against the fleet. (Actually, it's hard to class this as
incompetence, since it's a known problem affecting most sub forces: their
peacetime training stresses stealth, but wartime effectiveness requires
boldness, since a sub cannot attack without revealing its presence.)
They made no attempt to attack the crucial base on Ascension Island.
They didn't mine Falkland Sound.

The Falklands War is an excellent example of the effectiveness of sea
power against an ineffective opponent. It says little about what would
happen against prepared, competent opposition. Indeed, given the non-
trivial losses that the fleet did take, what little it does say is ominous.

Henry Spencer at U of Toronto Zoology
uunet!attcan!utzoo!henry he...@zoo.toronto.edu

he...@zoo.toronto.edu

unread,
Jan 22, 1989, 9:26:55 PM1/22/89
to
>...A carrier will almost never be found without a large number
>of escorting ships... The

>possibility of a submarine or a missile getting through these defenses
>is quite limited. Granted it CAN happen but the chances are not that
>great. Even if a missile did get through, the damage it would do to a
>Nimitz class (for example) would not be very great.

One missile, yes (although one should not forget that the Sheffield was
gutted by a fire started by a missile which failed to even explode).
In a serious war against a prepared opponent, a carrier task force could
expect missiles to come in mass salvos, not one or two at a time.
The effectiveness of the defences against this sort of attack is much
less clear.

>... Phalanx CIWS system. This system is capable of


>firing 3000 depleted uranium rounds per minute. It is entirely self automated.

It's never been tested in its normal look-down orientation. (All major
tests that I'm aware of have put the Phalanx just above the water, a much
more favorable situation.) And the 3000/minute firing rate is a bit
academic when the standard Phalanx only carries something like 20 seconds'
worth of ammunition. (I forget the exact number, but it's not large.)
Even granted that it fires short bursts, it is not at all unrealistic to
expect it to run out of ammunition quickly when faced with a mass raid.

>In any war in which sea power has played a role, ships have been sunk.
>In the next war (god forbid), AEGIS equipped ships will go to the bottom
>as well. This is a fact of war. One ships or several going to the
>bottom will not change the fact that sea power is something that can

>not be ignored...

Sea power *can* be safely ignored if you can expect to sink much of it
in the first few days of a war. Current US shipbuilding policy basically
assumes that relatively few ships will be lost, at least in the crucial
categories (carriers, Aegis cruisers), because too few of them are built
to allow for major attrition. It is insane to be vitally dependent on
a resource which you can count on your fingers.

Rick O'Brien

unread,
Jan 22, 1989, 9:27:35 PM1/22/89
to

In article <32...@cbnews.ATT.COM>, ugth...@cs.buffalo.edu (Gregory Thompson) writes:
[Other stuff deleted]

> These are also primarily sub catchers, though with an increased role with
> relation to the air combat situation. The next line now a days usually has
> an Aegis cruiser and another cruiser. Though in some configurations, it might
> consist of an "ayatollah" class DDG (ala USS Kidd). (I've never operated
> with a carrier group, so I wouldn't mind any corrections on this) The
> possibility of a submarine or a missile getting through these defenses
> is quite limited. Granted it CAN happen but the chances are not that
> great. Even if a missile did get through, the damage it would do to a
> Nimitz class (for example) would not be very great.
>
> - G
I have to disagree with you on this one point ( Although I agree on all of
the others) It's my understanding that most American attack boats have
a photo collection of every American carrier, taken throuch the crosshairs
of a periscope. I don't want to get into an argument about how there's
only two types of ships, targets and submarines (because I think all such
statements are too simplistic.) The carriers can be damaged, and can
absorb a great deal of damage, but they can also be sunk. Even slowing
on down can be extremely important in a combat situation.

Rick O'Brien

Rick O'Brien

unread,
Jan 22, 1989, 9:28:54 PM1/22/89
to

In article <32...@cbnews.ATT.COM>, dkr...@ORION.CF.UCI.EDU (Doug Krause) writes:
> In article <32...@cbnews.ATT.COM> go...@cs.umn.edu (Kenneth S Goss) writes:
> >I could certainly see the advantages of having to travel several extra
> >thousand miles during wartime to reach a target.
> Which brings up a question. How long does it take a carrier to
> get from the U.S. to say, the Mediterranean?

I believe that there is always a U.S. Fleet on station in the Med. The U.S.
Navy wants 15 nuclear carrier battle groups, I believe that there are now
13. The Navy feels that 15 are needed to keep 5 on station at all times.
On station does not mean in transit. I may be wrong, but I think that there
is always a group on station in the Med, the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic, and
two in the Pacific. Anyone know for sure?

William B. Thacker

unread,
Jan 22, 1989, 9:32:38 PM1/22/89
to
>Let's rule out the use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons will most
>certainly spell the end of any surface force, so I will grant that naval
>forces are useless in a nuclear war. But then again, so is everything
>that has ever existed, so it becomes a moot point.

Why rule out nuclear weapons? Just because you wouldn't like the result
(no surviving surface navy) doesn't mean it won't happen.

In a European war, the principal NATO naval mission would be to protect
shipping. The principal Soviet naval mission would be to destroy shipping.
Why wouldn't the Soviets 'go nuclear' at sea, especially if the war were
going badly for them? If you wipe out all the surface ships, doesn't the
naval picture look a whole lot better from the Soviet perspective?

While nuclear war at sea carries some risk of escalation, the risk isn't
nearly as great as nuclear war on land. Since NATO sealift is so vital,
wouldn't the Soviets accept the risks of naval nuclear war?

he...@zoo.toronto.edu

unread,
Jan 22, 1989, 9:34:45 PM1/22/89
to
>... If the Sheffield _had_ had her radars operational, the Exocet

>would have been detected far enough out for the Sea Wolf (I think that
>is the SAM system the Sheffield class carries) to be used against it.

Alas, Sheffield did not carry Sea Wolf. The task force had only
a few Sea Wolf ships; after Sheffield was lost, the more exposed jobs
like radar picket generally went to those ships. It is not clear that
Sea Wolf could reliably stop an Exocet, but it would at least have a
reasonable chance; it (later) shot down an Exocet in a test.

Sheffield's chances certainly would have been *better* if its radar had
been active, mind you.

William B. Thacker

unread,
Jan 22, 1989, 9:50:53 PM1/22/89
to
In article <33...@cbnews.ATT.COM> mili...@cbnews.ATT.COM (William B. Thacker) writes:

I seem to have accidentally deleted the name of the sender of this article;
it was originated by someone in MIT Lincoln Laboratory. Unfortunately, I
have no way to tell who wrote it... an object lesson folks; .signature
files really solve this sort of problem. At any rate, my apologies to
the author.

In any case, I am not the author. This is the second posting of this
article, my attempts at cancelling the original having ended with
rn crashing.

Bill

-----

William B. Thacker

unread,
Jan 23, 1989, 9:49:56 PM1/23/89
to

With all this discussion of carrier survivability, I'm surprised
nobody has mentioned the chapter in Tom Clancy's book "Red Storm Rising"
that chronicles a Soviet ASM attack on a carrier task force. (I believe
the title of the chapter was "Day of the Vampires," as 'vampire' is
apparently the Navy term for an anti-ship missile.) The end result of the
attack was a fairly damaged task force, due to a combination of Russian
ECM, the size of the incoming missile raid, and ammunition limitations of
the Aegis cruisers.

Before anybody starts complaining that this was all in Clancy's
imagination, let me point out that the co-author of the book was Larry
Bond, developer of the game "Harpoon," and that many of the battles
described in "Red Storm Rising" were gamed using the "Harpoon" rules.

So, just to keep this discussion interesting, does anybody want to
comment on the validity (or the lack thereof) of the scenario described in
Clancy's book? What, if anything, did he not account for that would result
in the task force not getting hurt as badly as it did?


Warren J. Madden
...!eddie!rabbit
rab...@eddie.mit.edu

ross paul weiner

unread,
Jan 23, 1989, 9:50:33 PM1/23/89
to

>Land-based air advocates have claimed the death of the navy since airpower
>started (Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell, for instance, during and just after
>World War I.) Naval airpower has proved itself time and again to be better
>because: 1) it is there (land-based planes take hours to arrive at the battle
>scene when called; compare this with the ready-5 aircraft on a carrier, ready
>to be on-station within five minutes); 2) it can stay there (an F-15 at the end
>of its range might have only a 5-minute limit on how long it can engage; the
>F-14 launched from a carrier deck can stay over the carrier for 2.5 hours or
>until its weapons require reloading, whichever happens first); and 3) it is
>more efficient in terms of aircraft to provide fleet cover (a carrier-based
>aircraft which spends three hours over the battle group would have to be replaced
>by three land-based planes which required two hours to get to the battle group
>and each supplied only one hour's cover.) Combine all these together and it
>is clear that the carrier-based aircraft can provide more planes over the group
>for a longer time when they are needed than can a comparable number of land-based
>aircraft.

It is valid to ask if the technological edge is shifting to land power or
at least land based airpower. The endurance of landbased aircraft has
increased so dramatically over the last 30 years that we may question how to
most efficiently keep a large volume of ordnance available say 1000-1500
miles from a land based airfields, with numerous relatively-no flames please-
low payload and low endurance carrier based air (SA-3, A-6, F-14) or control
the same 10,000 sq nm with fewer heavy land based craft (P-3, B-52). And for
air control could a Phoenix follow on be hung from a similar low cost heavy
platform- 747 et al. When teamed with the superior land based AWACS could this
supply better open ocean air control than F-14s and E3s? I'm not claiming I
buy this argument but it is just the type of question this newsgroup should
examine. I know the carrier based equipment is good but the platform is
expensive compared to an airfield. For some locations distance or political
constraints may favor sea based airpower, for the Atlantic merchant escort
role, the most important naval mission in the event of a General War , land
based air may have the edge. The question is how many carriers? 14-20 can
only be justified if they are a relatively better investment than the alter-
native., and I believe in 6.5% of GNP for peacetime defense budgets, other
critics would give a harder time.

>The question then is, how long can a carrier survive in combat?

Agreed.

>Let's rule out the use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons will most certainly
>spell the end of any surface force, so I will grant that naval forces are
>useless in a nuclear war. But then again, so is everything that has ever existed,
>so it becomes a moot point.

Agreed, but this sharpens my point that since Naval power is most useful in
limited war, and granting that there has been -thank god- no Unlimited War
(the plural is impossible) our first priority in allocating resources must be
detering a General War, how much NavAir do we need?

>The Soviet Union poses essentially two major threats on the US Navy: the
>nuclear attack submarines and combined missile-air strikes. As far as the
>submarines go, the US Navy has frigates, aircraft (helos and fixed-wing),
>and other submarines to counter these. Whether all this will be effective or not
>in actual combat is not known.

But since we have already noted that the job is protecting the SLOCs, the sinews
of war, the merchants, the question is begged whether this can best be done
with sea based or land based air, protecting the Navy per se is secondary. I
agree with most of what you say about subs but it is still probably more
efficient to use submarines and P-3s in the ASW role wherever possible, they
don't have to be protected against Backfires.



>In the Falklands, the British had a severe disadvantage against the
>Argentine air attacks in that they had little early warning of air attacks.
>Ships set out between the mainland and the Falklands to act as radar pickets
>came under heavy attack, the same as the radar pickets used at the end of
>Word War II by the US Navy. Their small carriers could not carry any sort of
>AWACS aircraft and their closest land base was too far away for any land-based
>air-search aircraft. The US Navy carries its AWACS aircraft with them, allowing
>both the early warning of an air attack and the possibility of coordinating
>the response to that attack.

I agree the British could use two or three real carriers, and our LHD/LHA ships
are more flexible than their mini-carriers. The possibility of hanging the E-3
radar and the S-3 package on platforms like the V-22 Osprey means that in the
future the utility of non big carrier battle groups will probably increase. The
use of airships to provide aircontrol for surface naval groups, and Coast Guard surveillance is an exciting new technology. Our navy has made good progress in learning to cooperate with land based air.

The biggest problem in integrating catapult air, other naval assets, and land
based air is the unionization problem that afflicts all military beauracracies.
This should not be the focus of this group so lets keep responses down to a dull
roar, I'm just saying it is a problem. If the other guy can do the job, good.



> If not, there is still some question about how badly damaged the
>battle group will be. As Bill Thacker said, the carriers will be able to
>sustain some level of damage. How much? I don't know. The Navy doesn't know. The
>Soviets don't know. I'm hoping there will never be an experiment under actual
>combat conditions carried out between the two forces.

As Dunnigan pointed out in one of his delightful books, Aircraft Carriers are
the singular military platform that does simulate battle damage. Planes do
crash with affects that can be compared to hostile action. We should be able
to make a shrewd guess as to what would happen in a real war.

>Note also that what has been proved by these incidents is that the Exocet
>seems to work fine against ships which do not have or are not operating their
>Close-In Weapons Systems (CIWS).

CIWS is better than having the mess cranks throw spuds but it is a last ditch
defense. Also what is important is the ability to interdict and destroy the
enemy, if you can do that you won't have to worry about shooting his incoming
bullets.

>One last note, on the revival of the battleships.

I generally agree, the BBs are a gift from the past and a bargain. However
I assume that any war with the Soviets will probably turn nuclear. The
survivability of the BBs against the Soviet arsenal is probably moot. For
a conflict with Libya a BB and one CG plus a few FFGs may make the point
better than a carrier battlegroup.

>>Only in a conflict with a third-world nation, like Lebanon or Libya, can
>>sea power have any effect. And the same effect can be provided by long-range
>>land-based bombers. In the assassination attempt against Khadaffi, our land-
>>based bombers actually had enough range to detour around the Iberian
>>peninsula and fly over the Strait of Gibraltar!
>
>This is false on its face. To counter the US Navy, the Soviets have built one
>of the most powerful blue-water fleets that ever existed. Rather than relying
>on just their attack submarines, they are building super-carriers. Rather than
>building hordes of small missile boats, they have been building large missile
>cruisers and missile destroyers. In other words, they are building a navy that
>is very much like the US Navy in its composition and mix of ship types.
>
>Now, if a nation with a strong maritime tradition, such as the US, France, or
>Britain were expanding their fleet, we could claim that they were letting
>past glories blind them to the realities of naval warfare. But the USSR is
>not a long-time naval power. Their best-known naval adventure ended in an
>inglorious defeat at the hands of the Japanese in 1902. Yet, a nation who
>has traditionally depended upon their strong land army and land-based air force
>spent the better part of the last two decades building a blue-water navy.
>I expect it is because they see some value in warships and they do not believe
>that airpower has made the naval warship obsolete.

The `assasination' line put my back up too but we have to have a better reply
than `they're buying it also'. I'm not a consultant to the Politburo so I do
not care if they waste money apeing us, I hope they do. Navies are most useful
against the Third world, so what. That is where the wars are. The strategic
positions of the Soviets and Americans are assymetrical. They are a land power
seeking Sea Denial to prevent the reinforcement of Europe, we are a sea power
seeking Sea Control. We do not need their armed forces and they are fools if
they devote scarce resources to a surface blue water navy.

Ross P. Weiner
Former BPDSMS officer - the rocket powered rock
- Basicly Pointless Defense Surface Missile System

ugth...@cs.buffalo.edu

unread,
Jan 23, 1989, 9:50:59 PM1/23/89
to

In article <33...@cbnews.ATT.COM> he...@zoo.toronto.edu writes:
>>...A carrier will almost never be found without a large number
>>of escorting ships... The
>>possibility of a submarine or a missile getting through these defenses
>>is quite limited. Granted it CAN happen but the chances are not that
>>great. Even if a missile did get through, the damage it would do to a
>>Nimitz class (for example) would not be very great.

>One missile, yes (although one should not forget that the Sheffield was
>gutted by a fire started by a missile which failed to even explode).
>In a serious war against a prepared opponent, a carrier task force could
>expect missiles to come in mass salvos, not one or two at a time.
>The effectiveness of the defences against this sort of attack is much
>less clear.

As stated in a previous post, the damage caused to the Sheffield would
not very likely be so extensive on a US ship. the Sheffield's compart-
mentalization was limited at best, allowing for such a fire to spread
as rapidly as it did.

The large salvos you envision can indeed be brought to bear on
a task force centered on a carrier. Whether missiles can get through
such defenses in such a task force in numbers large enough to incapacitate
a carrier or not is not a matter of hardware. It is a matter or preparation.
If you have Interceptor craft out on the edges of the task force,
the chances are greatly reduced that the planes carrying the missiles
can get close enough. If the ships on the edges of the force are aware
of imminent attack, a more coordinated defense can be brought to bear.
Quick summary...the hardware to stop such an attack exists...
whether the task force is prepared or not would really determine the
outcome. Russian planes have been known to do flybys on carriers
without ever being detected prior to the flyby.

>>... Phalanx CIWS system. This system is capable of
>>firing 3000 depleted uranium rounds per minute. It is entirely self automated.
>It's never been tested in its normal look-down orientation. (All major
>tests that I'm aware of have put the Phalanx just above the water, a much
>more favorable situation.) And the 3000/minute firing rate is a bit
>academic when the standard Phalanx only carries something like 20 seconds'
>worth of ammunition. (I forget the exact number, but it's not large.)
>Even granted that it fires short bursts, it is not at all unrealistic to
>expect it to run out of ammunition quickly when faced with a mass raid.
>

I stand corrected (or modified? :-)) on this point. Phalanx has indeed
never been tested in it's look down configuration. Seeing that it was
made to fire from horizontal to vertical, and not below horizontal, it
is debatable if the system would work on say a Harpoon type missile.

However, your data on the magazine of the Phalanx is incorrect, rather
I should say out of date. I don't know if I am at liberty to say
so I won't. If someone else knows, without having the clearance,
then post it. All things considered, though the phalanx can only take
out a max of 5-6 targets by itself, there are other defenses as well.
This happens to be only one. And only one phalanx at that.


>>In any war in which sea power has played a role, ships have been sunk.
>>In the next war (god forbid), AEGIS equipped ships will go to the bottom
>>as well. This is a fact of war. One ships or several going to the
>>bottom will not change the fact that sea power is something that can
>>not be ignored...
>
>Sea power *can* be safely ignored if you can expect to sink much of it
>in the first few days of a war. Current US shipbuilding policy basically
>assumes that relatively few ships will be lost, at least in the crucial
>categories (carriers, Aegis cruisers), because too few of them are built
>to allow for major attrition. It is insane to be vitally dependent on
>a resource which you can count on your fingers.
>

Possibly. You could be right, you could be wrong. Attrition rates may
be alot lower than the experts suggest. they could be higher. Wartime
situations have a very big ? next to all of them. Can you expect to
knock out the 3-4 carrier groups in the atlantic? Can you knock out one
and have enough planes to launch another effective attack? Can you
guarantee the air over the routes needed to be taken to reach the groups?
Can you guarantee surprise? these are questions in favor of the US.
There are obviously others in favor of the USSR. Even still, the fact
remains that you have reacted to the presence of that task force and
risked large amounts of hardware that could be used elsewhere to reduce
the threat posed. You haven't ignored their presence. Furthermore,
you can't even guarantee that your goal will be achieved. *can* you expect
to neutralise the Atlantic fleet in a few days??? Who knows.

- G

ugth...@cs.buffalo.edu

unread,
Jan 23, 1989, 9:52:38 PM1/23/89
to

In article <33...@cbnews.ATT.COM> ri...@rosevax.Rosemount.COM (Rick O'Brien) writes:
>I believe that there is always a U.S. Fleet on station in the Med. The U.S.
>Navy wants 15 nuclear carrier battle groups, I believe that there are now
>13. The Navy feels that 15 are needed to keep 5 on station at all times.
>On station does not mean in transit. I may be wrong, but I think that there
>is always a group on station in the Med, the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic, and
>two in the Pacific. Anyone know for sure?

[yee gads...fourth today...bill, if any of this is irrelevant, ditch it!]

Rick, Slight correction...we don't have 13 "nuclear" groups. I think
it's more like 6, with the Washington coming out shortly to make 7.
The rest are conventional. Though, the Kennedy was designed to be
nuclear, the protesters forced congress to make it conventional *after*
she already had the reactors in her. This forced them to redesign the ship
after most of it was built. The Kennedy is really a bastardised ship
(though she is a good ship...don't get me wrong).

- G

ugth...@cs.buffalo.edu

unread,
Jan 23, 1989, 9:53:02 PM1/23/89
to
>Don't forget sheer incompetence, as well. The Argentines never did figure
>out that their bombs were not fuzed properly for low-altitude drops. They

It's rare that I disagree with you, or find error in your information
Henry, but I think I found one now. The Argentines did find out about
their fuze problems and tried to resolve them towards the end. Of course
I could be wrong on this, but the source I heard was a reliable one.

>The Falklands War is an excellent example of the effectiveness of sea
>power against an ineffective opponent. It says little about what would
>happen against prepared, competent opposition. Indeed, given the non-
>trivial losses that the fleet did take, what little it does say is ominous.

What little it does say concerns the effectiveness of the british fleet as
well. We have considered the ineptness of the argentines, but what of the
british? we assume they performed perfectly with adequate equipment.
>From what I have heard, one of the ships that went down went down because
of a "rules of the road" error on the part of the victim, and even though
the ship was hit rather severely, had it had a more modern compartmentalised
design, the standing opinion from one observer I talked to was that the
ship would not have gone down.

Modern technology can not fully replace many systems now in use, such
as your basic deck guns. There are other examples of this as well.
Modern designs of ships take into account modern threats. But some
of these designs also deal with age old problems, such as damage control.
United States ships have a heavy leaning towards damage control. Do
the russians? From what I know, they don't. Did the british ship that
sunk? From what I've heard, it didn't.

I think what the Falklands does portray is two nations ill-prepared
to go to war, and one nation who had the capability to project enough
power to win despite its many mistakes.

- G

ugth...@cs.buffalo.edu

unread,
Jan 23, 1989, 10:00:19 PM1/23/89
to

In article <33...@cbnews.ATT.COM> ri...@rosevax.Rosemount.COM (Rick O'Brien) writes:
>I have to disagree with you on this one point ( Although I agree on all of
>the others) It's my understanding that most American attack boats have
>a photo collection of every American carrier, taken throuch the crosshairs
>of a periscope. I don't want to get into an argument about how there's
>only two types of ships, targets and submarines (because I think all such
>statements are too simplistic.) The carriers can be damaged, and can
>absorb a great deal of damage, but they can also be sunk. Even slowing
>on down can be extremely important in a combat situation.
>
>Rick O'Brien

Rick,

Since I've never talked to a bubble head, or had much knowledge (post WWII)
on submarine operations I really can't comment from that side of the coin.
However, being on an ASW platform in the past, I can comment from that side.
The ship I was on was surprised by a russian sub only once, and we surprised
many a russian sub. The one time we were surprised we were attempting to find
an american sub, and the russian sub appeared "out of nowhere". However,
this happened during a time period when our propellers were damaged due to
a stupid egyptian harbor pilot. Thus we were noisy as hell. I'm not
saying it's impossible for carriers to be attacked by a sub, i'm merely
stating that there are stories from the other side as well on how effective
surface ships are against subs. [even still, I would MUCH rather be
on a sub than a carrier]

- G

p...@p.cs.uiuc.edu

unread,
Jan 24, 1989, 10:52:07 PM1/24/89
to

This is an interesting discussion, but I think it misses the most important
point. That is that space-based weapons might soon dominate the surface
of the seas. If they do, every cent spent on carriers might be just the
same as thrown away. It will all hinge on how expensive it will be
to build or destroy space based systems. The great Star Wars sales effort
should prove just how serious the situation really is.


Steve Pax

p...@CS.UIUC.EDU (INTERNET)
uiucdcs!pax (USENET or UUCP net)
p...@uiucdcs.BITNET (BITNET)

ugth...@cs.buffalo.edu

unread,
Jan 24, 1989, 10:52:08 PM1/24/89
to

> With all this discussion of carrier survivability, I'm surprised
>nobody has mentioned the chapter in Tom Clancy's book "Red Storm Rising"
>that chronicles a Soviet ASM attack on a carrier task force. (I believe
>the title of the chapter was "Day of the Vampires," as 'vampire' is
>apparently the Navy term for an anti-ship missile.) The end result of the
>attack was a fairly damaged task force, due to a combination of Russian
>ECM, the size of the incoming missile raid, and ammunition limitations of
>the Aegis cruisers.
>[...]

Warren,
What Clancy may have made a mistake on is this:
I read the book and read about the missiles coming up the tail end of
the carrier. I also read the part that said the CIWS couldn't discriminate
between the two targets and assign priority. I asked some people on the
ship I am attached to and they said that the two missiles would have to
be very close to each other to cause such a reaction from the CIWS.
Furthermore, if they were very close CIWS would treat it as one target, so
the chances of the missiles being at the proper position relative to
each other is slim.

Additionally, keep in mind that the task force is considered an expandable
force *if* they save the carrier. Of course, the idea is to lose as little
as possible, but if an aegis equipped ship goes down before the carrier
does and it saved the carrier, no one will be dissatisfied. The goal is
to save the carrier.

- G

Bill Thacker

unread,
Jan 24, 1989, 10:52:11 PM1/24/89
to

ru...@cod.nosc.mil (William L. Rupp) writes:
>
>Why confine our speculation to examining the effects of carrier accidents? The
>experiences of WWII show that it doesn't take much to strike a carrier off a
>navy's list of assets. Whereas a battleship can take a hell of a pounding and
>still keep firing (with a single turret left operational, a BB is still
>a disagreeable customer), a bomb or two on the flightdeck can make a flattop
>incapable of operating fixed wing aircraft. By the way, I have read that the
>RN carriers of WWII had armored flightdecks which allowed them to take more
>punishment than their U.S. navy counterparts. Do we armor our flightdecks now?

The Navy was very impressed with those British carriers, so that the
Midway Class, which came out just postwar, had armored flight decks.
The Forrestals were the first US carriers to use the flight deck as a
structural member (i.e., carrying the longitudinal load of the ship,
as opposed to an "add-on", and so the deck was constructed of 3" plate,
though it is not know whether this was armor or structural steel. While I
can find no reference, I feel confident that such is still our practice.

(reference: Roger Chesneau, "Aircraft Carriers of the World, 1914 to the
Present, an Illustrated Encyclopedia; Naval Institute Press, Annapolis,
1984)

BTW, while the British decks were quite resistant to bombs, if and when
they were penetrated, the ship was unrepairable at sea. In contrast,
US carriers, with the thinner wood/metal construction of the deck,
were capable of repairing some damage. For example, a the ragged edges of
the hole could be cut away, and the hole patched, while at sea. I seem
to recall several incidents, including Yorktown at Midway. She suffered
three bomb hits in the first attack, yet, as I recall, was ready to operate
aircraft again by the time the Japanese second wave appeared.

>Maybe we could build four 15,000 ton ships, each with 20-25
>VSTOL's for the price of one Nimitz class. Four little ships spread out over
>500 miles would present a more difficult target than one Nimitz.

Can a 15,000 ton ship carry Tomcats ? E2's ? British-style Harrier-
carriers have their uses, but they don't have the kind of capability of
a Nimitz; 6 of them don't have the same capability as one Nimitz. Better
in some ways, but worse in others.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Bill Thacker moderator, sci.military mili...@att.att.com

"War is a matter of vital importance to the State; the province of life
or death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be
thoroughly studied." - Sun Tzu

William L. Rupp

unread,
Jan 24, 1989, 10:52:14 PM1/24/89
to

In article <34...@cbnews.ATT.COM> esco%tank.uch...@oddjob.uchicago.edu (ross paul weiner) writes:

>As Dunnigan pointed out in one of his delightful books, Aircraft Carriers are
>the singular military platform that does simulate battle damage. Planes do
>crash with affects that can be compared to hostile action. We should be able
>to make a shrewd guess as to what would happen in a real war.

Why confine our speculation to examining the effects of carrier accidents? The


experiences of WWII show that it doesn't take much to strike a carrier off a
navy's list of assets. Whereas a battleship can take a hell of a pounding and
still keep firing (with a single turret left operational, a BB is still
a disagreeable customer), a bomb or two on the flightdeck can make a flattop
incapable of operating fixed wing aircraft. By the way, I have read that the
RN carriers of WWII had armored flightdecks which allowed them to take more
punishment than their U.S. navy counterparts. Do we armor our flightdecks now?

My concern about carriers is that they are now so big and expensive that each
represents an inordinate amount of a nation's resources; maybe Gary Hart's
40,000 ton mini-attack carriers will turn out to be a good idea yet...if we
can develop VSTOL planes with adequate performance. Even 40,000 tons is
pretty big. Maybe we could build four 15,000 ton ships, each with 20-25


VSTOL's for the price of one Nimitz class. Four little ships spread out over
500 miles would present a more difficult target than one Nimitz.

>Ross P. Weiner
>

Bill
-------------------------------------------
These are just my opinions, folks.
-------------------------------------------

Bruce Carlson

unread,
Jan 24, 1989, 10:52:23 PM1/24/89
to
In article <32...@cbnews.ATT.COM> n...@cbnews.ATT.COM (Neil A. Kirby) writes:
:
:>What is the reason for having aircraft carriers? Aren't they a total waste

:>of money?
:
:Let's look at the role of sea power first. The reasons to have sea forces
:are 1) protect merchant ships. 2) attack enemy shipping. 3) attack enemy
:shore. 4) Protect our shore from other sea powers. 5) Other reasons that
:don't occur to me but will to the rest of the net :-).
:
:
:>Only in a conflict with a third-world nation, like Lebanon or Libya, can
:>sea power have any effect. And the same effect can be provided by long-range
:>land-based bombers. In the assassination attempt against Khadaffi, our land-
:>based bombers actually had enough range to detour around the Iberian
:>peninsula and fly over the Strait of Gibraltar!
:
:I think that against anything but a major nation sea power has its uses.
:
:Neil Kirby
Since you've broadened this discussion from aircraft carriers to seapower in
general, I have a few comments to add.

If we get into any medium to large scale conflict one of the first problems
we will have is trying to maintain our resupply. Despite all the advances
in aircraft since WWII we still cannot afford to fly large amounts of heavy
supplies (like bullets and bombs) all the way to Europe or Libya.
I don't know what our supply status is in Europe, but I would guess that
we could only stock enough ammunition, food and other expendables for
a few weeks support to our troops during a conflict. If we have very
limited naval power we may not be able to protect our supply ships and we
may not be able to supply our troops; even if we do have good naval
power we will have difficulty protecting our ships.

It is relatively easy to maintain military units in a high state of
readiness and then deploy them to meet a short term threat. It is much
more difficult to keep them supplied for weeks or months over
supply lines of several thousand miles.

Bruce Carlson

William B. Thacker

unread,
Jan 24, 1989, 10:52:25 PM1/24/89
to
>While nuclear war at sea carries some risk of escalation, the risk isn't
>nearly as great as nuclear war on land. Since NATO sealift is so vital,
>wouldn't the Soviets accept the risks of naval nuclear war?

The Soviets, as I recall, do not accept the notion of a "limited" nuclear
war which is "unlikely" to escalate. They consider this NATO theory to
be insane. I'm afraid I must agree. And the Soviets are rapidly reaching
strength levels where they do not need to take the risk.

If I'm not mistaken, the Soviets have in fact at least made noises about
a "no first nuclear" policy. (It's a wonderful way to embarrass NATO,
since first nuclear use has essentially been NATO policy for many years,
as an alternative to building bigger conventional forces.)

rds

unread,
Jan 26, 1989, 9:51:27 AM1/26/89
to

From: r...@lzfmd.att.com (rds)

While reading the "Aircraft Carrier Obsolete" articles the following
questions occurred to me:

-Did the Nazis have aircraft carriers? Did they consider them?
-Did WW II England have them?
-Which nations today have them now? I seem to remember the Argentines
having one.


Also:

-What kind of N-warhead would it take to knock out a US task force given
the current Soviet missile accuracy?
-What is the approximate radius of a task force?
-What would be the differences in attack using Conventional (which I think
already has been adequately addressed) vs Nuclear weapons?
-If a Carrier is lost does a task force exist?

Just curios
Bob

Bill Thacker

unread,
Jan 26, 1989, 9:51:28 AM1/26/89
to

From: mili...@att.att.com (Bill Thacker)

r...@lzfmd.att.com (rds) writes:
>
>While reading the "Aircraft Carrier Obsolete" articles the following
>questions occurred to me:
>
>-Did the Nazis have aircraft carriers? Did they consider them?


The Germans did indeed have carriers, sort of. They initially began
construction of two sister-ships, Graf Zeppelin and Peter Strasser. The
latter was scrapped on the slip in 1940, while Graf Zeppelin continued
building in an intermittent manner, never actually nearing completion. She
was scuttled at the war's end, but raised by the Soviets, and was lost
while being towed to Leningrad.
Also, the heavy cruiser Seydlitz (Adm. Hipper class) was earmarked
for completion as a carrier; little was done. Finally, consideration was
given to converting the liners Potsdam, Europa, and Gneisenau, but the
idea was dropped.

The Italians were working on one carrier, Aquila, converted from the liner
Roma; she, too, was incomplete by war's end. Also, they were working on
another called Sparviero.

Both the German and Italian CV's were of the British style; armored
equivalently to a cruiser, small ( <30000 tons) displacement, and with a
relatively small complement ( <50 ) of aircraft.


>-Did WW II England have them?

Certainly ! Quite a few, in fact. Among their important victories were
the critical rudder hit to Bismarck, the sinking of the Italian fleet
in Taranto, and providing air cover for the Malta convoys. In addition,
the British operated American-built escort carriers for convoy protection,
and converted several merchantmen for similar roles.

>-Which nations today have them now? I seem to remember the Argentines
> having one.

As of 1984: (note: [heli] => helicopter only, [V/STOL]=> V/STOL only)

Argentina: 25 de Mayo (British-built Colossus class; ex-HMS Warrior)

Australia: Melbourne (British-built; ex-HMS Majestic) now in reserve.

Brazil: Minas Gerais (Colossus class; ex-HMS Vengeance)

France: Clemenceau, Foch (Clemenceau class)
Jeanne D'Arc [heli carrier]
plus a new design in the works, I believe.

Great Britain:
Bulwark, Hermes (Centaur class) in reserve
Invincible, Illustrious, Ark Royas (Invincible class) [V/STOL]

India: Vikrant (Majestic class, ex-HMS Hercules)

Italy: Giuseppe Garibaldi (Garibaldi class) [heli]

Soviet Union: Moskva, Leningrad (Moskva class) [heli]
Kiev, Minsk, Novorossisk, Kharkov (Kiev class) [V/STOL]
Leonid Brezhnev (under construction, and I think name has changed)

Spain: Dedalo (ex-USS Cabot) [V/STOL]
Principe De Asturias (under construction) [V/STOL]

USA: Lots and lots...


Reference: Roger Chesneau, "Aircraft Carriers of the World", 1984
Naval Institute Press, Annapolis.

>Also:
>
>-What kind of N-warhead would it take to knock out a US task force given
> the current Soviet missile accuracy?

The entire task force ? A very big one, or several MIRV's. As I recall
from the Bikini test (and this is a vague recollection), large ships
several hundred yards away from an airburst nuke (of low yield, relative
to modern weapons, I'm sure) were considered "combat worthy", while
those within about a thousand yards of a subsurface expolosion suffered
serious flooding or were sunk. I doubt you'd get more than one or two
ships with a given nuke, as they space out under combat conditions.

Nuclear torpedoes would probably cripple even the largest carrier, but I'm
not sure a singe hit would sink one. I've never heard what sort of yield
these torpedoes have.

>-What would be the differences in attack using Conventional (which I think
> already has been adequately addressed) vs Nuclear weapons?

Nuclear attack would be very effective against modern ships, but your
problem is delivering the nuke. ICBM's are out, because the ships are
moving targets; and if you use a cruise missile, etc, then the TF's
missile defense gets a chance to shoot it down.

>-If a Carrier is lost does a task force exist?

Sure, it's just not good for much.

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages