Sunday, January 29, 2006


I've expressed my concerns about big-deck aircraft carriers surviving in a network-centric world:

We need carriers, I think, but the huge ships we plan may be too big to survive in a network-centric battlespace and too expensive to risk losing. And they may be irrelevant to fighting anyway as surface combatants and submarines with networked missiles and long-range cannons create the ability to mass effect without the need to have the projecting assets massed on one platform. Smaller carriers able to deploy smaller numbers of manned plans plus unmanned aerial combat vehicles, and able to double as amphibious warfare platforms, may be more appropriate for a networked Navy.

Our planned CVN-21 will be large and expensive. But this comparison chart from Defense Industry Daily does give me some reason to doubt what the solution is to operating in a network-centric environment.

--At one end of the scale at what I feared is too big is the full-deck CVN-21 at 90,000 tons, which will carry 90 aircraft.

--At the other end is the small British jump-jet carriers at 20,000 tons and 22 small, less capable aircraft.

--In the middle is the full-deck French nuclear carrier at 45,000 tons and 40 aircraft.

--The planned British-French full-deck carrier, CVF, will be 65,000 tons and 40 aircraft.

So from the CVF to the CV-21, we go up only 25,000 tons to more than double aircraft capacity? Is this design limitation or a continuation of the decades-old difference in design philosopy between American and British carrier designers? Historically, we put more planes on the same tonnage.

Could we put more than 40 planes (or whatever UCAV number that is equivalent) on a 65,000 ton hull if we went smaller? If we couldn't, it may well make sense--if we should have carriers in a network environment--to go up to 90,000 tons. In for a penny, in for a pound, as the saying goes.