Wednesday, February 01, 2017

If It Floats, It Can Sink

This defense of aircraft carrier survivability is as close to throwing your panties in writing as you can get.

No point in whining, let's have a go at this.

"[The] ten carriers in the current fleet are in continuous demand from regional commanders."

Sure. We are involved in a war of bombing right now and so our carriers are high in demand to fight foes who can't shoot at them. But please see the difference between these power projection missions and sea control missions.

"The cost issue is a canard. It only costs a fraction of one-percent of the federal budget to build, operate and sustain all of the Navy's carriers[.]"

When you start comparing the cost of something to the entire massive American federal budget, you know the numbers are huge.

And the issue is really what could the Navy buy instead of the huge carriers.

"Nobody has offered a credible alternative for accomplishing U.S. military objectives in their absence."

Okay, here's one. For the power projection missions we've been carrying out since 9/11, land-based aircraft could have carried out the vast majority of those missions.

Here's another. For the sea control mission, ships, planes, and submarines with anti-ship missiles and anti-submarine systems could do the trick.

And now we get to the fun part. Five reasons why an enemy is extremely unlikely to "take one out" short of using a nuke. He has sub-parts so it is really more than 5.

"No conventional torpedo or mine is likely to cause serious damage."

A single hit will likely not cause serious damage. How about ten of them? Or just 5? Or what about missiles? How about missiles that do a pop-up and dive through the deck?

"Finding and tracking them is difficult."

Aircraft managed to find and track--and sink--ships in World War II. Is it more difficult now?

And I'm sorry, but the ability of carriers to outrun submarines is a limited advantage in an age when subs have missiles and not just torpedoes and mines. An enemy will know where we need to go to launch. And there are aircraft and satellites to help find and track carriers.

"U.S. aircraft carriers are equipped with extensive active and passive defenses for defeating threats such as low-flying cruise missiles and hostile submarines. "

Nobody says that we don't have defenses. Enemies know about these defenses and will try to use their weapons and tactics to nullify our defenses. Maybe our defenses will work perfectly. We're really going to count on that? We're really going to under-estimate an enemy when it has been a long time since we have faced an enemy seriously trying to sink our carriers?

"Carriers typically deploy as part of a "carrier strike group" that includes multiple guided-missile warships equipped with the Aegis combat system."

Well now the author is just repeating past defenses. This is really just part of the point of carrier defenses. Of course we have ships protecting the carriers. The enemy will have multiple air, sub, and surface assets attacking our carriers.

"Their operational tactics have evolved to minimize risk[.]"

Okay. But unless this consists of staying out of range of air power or refusing to enter sea areas that haven't been tactically nuked, how do we truly avoid the risk?

And how much of the operational tactics to minimize risk make the entire point of putting so much money into carriers rather a waste?

"The most important advance of recent years has been the netting together of all naval assets in an area so that sensors and weapons can be used to maximum effect."

Again, this is part of the point about defending the carrier. Working networked defenses can raise the threshold of overwhelming carrier defenses, but it doesn't eliminate the ability to overwhelm defenses with salvoes of missiles.

"The bottom line on aircraft carrier survivability is that only a handful of countries can credibly pose a threat to America's most valuable warships, and short of using nuclear weapons none of those is likely to sink one."

It is irrelevant that Upper Whositstan and a lot of other countries can't threaten our carriers. Potential foes like Russia and China can, and that is what matters.

And if we keep putting our carriers in the Persian Gulf (so avoiding that constricted body of water isn't an operational tactic to minimize risk?!), Iran can pose a threat, too.

And if I may be so bold to say, a carrier can be mission killed without sinking it. If a carrier is out of action for two years for repair, it's as good as sunk for those two years. Is Thompson really going to claim that short of nukes they can't be put out of action?


Oh good Lord, this is a reprint from August 2016. I thought it sounded annoyingly familiar.

Let's see if I responded back then. Yes I did. Let me finish with the quote from that post:

I'm fine with having a sea power debate. We don't have battleship debates. Or ships of the line debates. Or trireme debates. Why have a carrier debate rather than a sea power debate?

Starting out the debate on the assumption that the carrier is a constant factor with an extended sneer at those who question how these expensive ships can survive against modern surveillance and precision weapons is no way to have a sea power debate.

That'll teach me to dive right in without reading to the end first.

I do respect Loren Thompson. But I have no idea why he thinks carriers are so invulnerable.

If it floats it can sink.

UPDATE: Oops. I added a link that I forgot to include.

UPDATE: Interesting that this post is on the MSN news site. I didn't know they pulled in blog posts.