Normal Polmar 2012 Article: U.S. Navy - A Paradigm Shift

U.S. Navy - A Paradigm Shift
 
http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2012-03/us-navy-paradigm-shift
 
I found this article last year and regret not posting it before now. In essence, Polmar argues that CVNs are too darn expensive to build in "eleven carrier" numbers and LHA/Ds can perform the most probable missions a large flat deck vessel will have for the foreseeable future (forget conventional war with China) that have not been supplanted by other, even cheaper technology. The only counter argument I can envision is "that's not the way we expect/want to fight." Draw your own conclusions, but you have to figure out how to pay for whatever you choose.


By Norman Polmar, USNI Proceedings, March 2012
 
 With little notice, the U.S. Navy is undergoing a paradigm shift. For the last 60 years of the 20th century and into the 21st century, the aircraft carrier has been the cornerstone of U.S. naval power and, in many respects, the measure of naval capabilities. While carriers still are impressive warships, the basic situation is changing with regard to them, and dramatically so, for five reasons:
 
Costs-absolute and relative. The carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), now under construction, will cost an estimated $12 to $16 billion; the next carrier, the planned CVN-79, will cost almost the same. The national (and Navy) fiscal situation cannot afford these costs for a single warship-no matter how capable-at four- or five-year intervals.
 
 On a relative basis, would a combatant commander rather have one more nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in his area of operations or four or five 45,000-ton LHD/LHA "large deck" amphibious ships with F-35B short-takeoff/vertical-landing (STOVL) aircraft and accommodations for more than 1,000 Marines?  While such an "air wing" could not stand up to a major land-based air force, few Third World countries possess large, effective air forces, while, as described below, surface combatants now perform many of the warfighting roles previously allocated to large carriers.
 
 From a "carrier" viewpoint, during the 1991 and 2003 operations in the Persian Gulf, several LHA/LHDs each operated 20-plus AV-8B Harriers in the fighter-attack role. Other than helicopters for various missions, these ships also operate MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor troop/cargo aircraft. And there have been proposals and preliminary designs for antisubmarine and airborne early-warning variants of the Osprey that could operate from these ships. (The Air Force currently operates the CV-22 variant in the special operations role.)
 
 The current LHD/LHA cost is $3 billion per ship. Thus, three or four or possibly five large-deck amphibious ships could be procured for the cost of one nuclear carrier. The manning requirements would be roughly the same, although LHD/LHA engineers would be less expensive to recruit, train, and retain than nuclear-qualified personnel on board the carriers.
 
 Vulnerability. Aircraft carriers have long been dependent on mobility for their survival, with their mobility making it difficult or impossible to pre-target them. Carriers are now vulnerable to continuous tracking by satellite and long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Related to this situation, modern carrier operations cannot be conducted in an electronically quiet or "emission control" environment, which, coupled with the energy that a nuclear carrier puts into the water when she moves, makes her impossible to hide.
 
 Capabilities. The Navy's carriers have suffered a severe reduction or loss in several capabilities during the past two decades:
 
 . long-range strike with retirement of the A-6E Intruder and the KA-6D Intruder and S-3B Viking tankers
 
 . fleet air defense with retirement of the long-range F-14 Tomcat and tankers
 
 . antisubmarine warfare with retirement of the S-3B and SH-3D Sea King, and replacement of the specialized SH-60F Sea Hawk with the multi-mission MH-60R helicopter
 
 . tactical reconnaissance with retirement of the specialized RF-4B Phantom and RF-8 Crusader, and their replacement by pods fitted to the F-14 and now the F/A-18 Hornet, the latter flown by fighter pilots with minimal training and interest in tactical reconnaissance.
 
 Several other systems are now available for these missions, among them satellites, UAVs (tactical and long-endurance), offensive cyber operations, cruisers and destroyers, and cruise missile-armed submarines.
 
 In particular, satellites and UAVs can provide more effective reconnaissance tools, with the latter responsive to fleet and even task-force commanders. At the same time, the Tomahawk land-attack missile (TLAM) can provide long-range strike opportunities that are in most respects superior to an F/A-18 strike aircraft-longer range, improved accuracy, and no pilot at risk. While a manned aircraft can provide improved effectiveness against mobile targets, the TacTom (Tactical Tomahawk) and other weapons could equal this capability.
 
 Indeed, the argument can be made that modern surface combatants have superior capabilities in comparison with carriers with respect to:
 
 . long-long-range strike (TLAM)
 
 . fleet air defense (Aegis)
 
 . ballistic missile defense (Aegis-plus)
 
 . antisubmarine warfare
 
 Numbers. For the foreseeable future the Navy will have 10 or 11 aircraft carriers compared with the current 84 Aegis/TLAM-armed cruisers and destroyers, plus more than 50 submarines armed with Tomahawks. (The four nuclear-powered guided missile submarines each can carry 154 TLAMs.)
 
 Political presence. The English political and military leader Oliver Cromwell astutely observed that a man-of-war is the best ambassador. Thus, a 100,000-ton nuclear carrier is the "bestest" ambassador. But ambassador to whom? Are Third World leaders more likely to be impressed by surface combatants and submarines that could rain Tomahawks on their cities and military bases, immune to their air-defense systems? Would Third World populations be just as impressed-or intimidated-by a 45,000-ton amphibious assault ship loaded with aircraft-a ship larger than a World War II Essex-class aircraft carrier?
 
 If CVN construction were slowed or halted, the "carrier yard"-Newport News-could construct additional LHD/LHA large-deck amphibious ships in their place to retain workforce and shipbuilding capabilities; the yard is already engaged in nuclear-submarine construction.
 
 Aircraft carriers are important, and the United States must retain the ships that we now have for as long as possible. But we must objectively look at future naval roles, missions, and requirements-and then determine the optimum and most effective force mix of new construction of 100,000-ton, nuclear-propelled carriers, large-deck amphibious ships, cruisers, and destroyers.
 -------
 
 Mr. Polmar, a columnist for Proceedings and Naval History magazines, has served as an adviser or consultant to three Secretaries of the Navy and to two Chiefs of Naval Operations, as well as to members of Congress. He is the author or coauthor of 50 books, including several editions of the Naval Institute's Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet. 


U.S. Navy - A Paradigm Shift U.S. Navy - A Paradigm Shift  http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2012-03/us-navy-paradigm-shift  By Norman Polmar, USNI Proceedings, March 2012  With little notice, the U.S. Navy is undergoing a paradigm shift. For the last 60 years of the 20th century and into the 21st century, the aircraft carrier has been the cornerstone of U.S. naval power and, in many respects, the measure of naval capabilities. While carriers still are impressive warships, the basic situation is changing with regard to them, and dramatically so, for five reasons: Costs-absolute and relative. The carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), now under construction, will cost an estimated $12 to $16 billion; the next carrier, the planned CVN-79, will cost almost the same. The national (and Navy) fiscal situation cannot afford these costs for a single warship-no matter how capable-at four- or five-year intervals.  On a relative basis, would a combatant commander rather have one more nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in his area of operations or four or five 45,000-ton LHD/LHA "large deck" amphibious ships with F-35B short-takeoff/vertical-landing (STOVL) aircraft and accommodations for more than 1,000 Marines?  While such an "air wing" could not stand up to a major land-based air force, few Third World countries possess large, effective air forces, while, as described below, surface combatants now perform many of the warfighting roles previously allocated to large carriers.  From a "carrier" viewpoint, during the 1991 and 2003 operations in the Persian Gulf, several LHA/LHDs each operated 20-plus AV-8B Harriers in the fighter-attack role. Other than helicopters for various missions, these ships also operate MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor troop/cargo aircraft. And there have been proposals and preliminary designs for antisubmarine and airborne early-warning variants of the Osprey that could operate from these ships. (The Air Force currently operates the CV-22 variant in the special operations role.)  The current LHD/LHA cost is $3 billion per ship. Thus, three or four or possibly five large-deck amphibious ships could be procured for the cost of one nuclear carrier. The manning requirements would be roughly the same, although LHD/LHA engineers would be less expensive to recruit, train, and retain than nuclear-qualified personnel on board the carriers.  Vulnerability. Aircraft carriers have long been dependent on mobility for their survival, with their mobility making it difficult or impossible to pre-target them. Carriers are now vulnerable to continuous tracking by satellite and long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Related to this situation, modern carrier operations cannot be conducted in an electronically quiet or "emission control" environment, which, coupled with the energy that a nuclear carrier puts into the water when she moves, makes her impossible to hide.  Capabilities. The Navy's carriers have suffered a severe reduction or loss in several capabilities during the past two decades:  . long-range strike with retirement of the A-6E Intruder and the KA-6D Intruder and S-3B Viking tankers  . fleet air defense with retirement of the long-range F-14 Tomcat and tankers  . antisubmarine warfare with retirement of the S-3B and SH-3D Sea King, and replacement of the specialized SH-60F Sea Hawk with the multi-mission MH-60R helicopter  . tactical reconnaissance with retirement of the specialized RF-4B Phantom and RF-8 Crusader, and their replacement by pods fitted to the F-14 and now the F/A-18 Hornet, the latter flown by fighter pilots with minimal training and interest in tactical reconnaissance.  Several other systems are now available for these missions, among them satellites, UAVs (tactical and long-endurance), offensive cyber operations, cruisers and destroyers, and cruise missile-armed submarines.  In particular, satellites and UAVs can provide more effective reconnaissance tools, with the latter responsive to fleet and even task-force commanders. At the same time, the Tomahawk land-attack missile (TLAM) can provide long-range strike opportunities that are in most respects superior to an F/A-18 strike aircraft-longer range, improved accuracy, and no pilot at risk. While a manned aircraft can provide improved effectiveness against mobile targets, the TacTom (Tactical Tomahawk) and other weapons could equal this capability.  Indeed, the argument can be made that modern surface combatants have superior capabilities in comparison with carriers with respect to:  . long-long-range strike (TLAM)  . fleet air defense (Aegis)  . ballistic missile defense (Aegis-plus)  . antisubmarine warfare  Numbers. For the foreseeable future the Navy will have 10 or 11 aircraft carriers compared with the current 84 Aegis/TLAM-armed cruisers and destroyers, plus more than 50 submarines armed with Tomahawks. (The four nuclear-powered guided missile submarines each can carry 154 TLAMs.)  Political presence. The English political and military leader Oliver Cromwell astutely observed that a man-of-war is the best ambassador. Thus, a 100,000-ton nuclear carrier is the "bestest" ambassador. But ambassador to whom? Are Third World leaders more likely to be impressed by surface combatants and submarines that could rain Tomahawks on their cities and military bases, immune to their air-defense systems? Would Third World populations be just as impressed-or intimidated-by a 45,000-ton amphibious assault ship loaded with aircraft-a ship larger than a World War II Essex-class aircraft carrier?  If CVN construction were slowed or halted, the "carrier yard"-Newport News-could construct additional LHD/LHA large-deck amphibious ships in their place to retain workforce and shipbuilding capabilities; the yard is already engaged in nuclear-submarine construction.  Aircraft carriers are important, and the United States must retain the ships that we now have for as long as possible. But we must objectively look at future naval roles, missions, and requirements-and then determine the optimum and most effective force mix of new construction of 100,000-ton, nuclear-propelled carriers, large-deck amphibious ships, cruisers, and destroyers.   Mr. Polmar, a columnist for Proceedings and Naval History magazines, has served as an adviser or consultant to three Secretaries of the Navy and to two Chiefs of Naval Operations, as well as to members of Congress. He is the author or coauthor of 50 books, including several editions of the Naval Institute's Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet.