Skip to comments.Aircraft carriers, naval aircraft and austerity
Posted on 10/03/2011 11:29:02 AM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
Aircraft carriers, naval aircraft and austerity
Rome, Italy - The project F-35 Lightning II is dying, the Harrier in retirement: what will Italy embark on the "Garibaldi" and on the "Conte di Cavour"?
(WAPA) - In recent weeks several media reported the withdrawal from the Libyan-Mediterranean war theater of the aircraft carrier "Garibaldi" (displacement of 13,000 tons, daily expense of 135,000 euros), which had been operating for about three months against the Gaddafi forces with six AV8-B Plus "Harrier II" fighter jets (no longer in production).
The "Garibaldi" was replaced by the support ship "San Giusto" (8,000 tons, three helicopters on average), while the navy's lack of contribution to the operations by the AV8-B Plus was compensated for by the Air Force "Tornado". At the end, it was published that these substitutions would have resulted in a cost advantage, which we quote with all the reserves, generally indicated as 90 million, resulting from the difference between the 42 million spent on the "Garibaldi" between March 18 and June 30, 2011 and 58 million planned expenditure from July to September 2011 for the replacement at that carrier.
These figures, pending confirmation and details, would require the Supreme Defence Council to make some reflection considering both Italy's current economic climate and the requirements needed by the carrier to fulfill its activities. The "Garibaldi" has been in service since 1985 and most probably needs a different (and expensive) refurbishment work, while the original fleet of eighteen AV8-B Plus (of which two-seater training aircraft), acquired after 1992 and cost 30 million dollars each (apart from installation charges in Italy...) lacking two private aircraft destroyed in flight accidents, is no longer considered adequate to the needs, considering the existence of our second aircraft carrier, the "Conte di Cavour "(cost 1,100 million euros, in service since 2009, with 27,000 tons displacement and has the capacity of eight AV8-B plus and a number of helicopters).
To complete the scenario, it would be useful to recall that at the time (the 90's) when the Cavour had been designed, the great ship had raised many objections from the navy. It was reported that even when the ship was docked in port it had the same cost as that of acquiring an offshore patrol vessel and, when in 2010 it was sent in aid of Haiti's victims, devastated by the earthquake, the diversion in Brazil, officially motivated to send on humanitarian aid for earthquake victims, actually tended to publicise the ship hoping that Brazilians would eventually buy it: this never happened.
Apart from this rumor, though significant for some aspects, the basic problem that arises is ensuring an acceptable operational capacity of the navy's air component on board (not only the capabilities of helicopters) until 2014-2016, when the twenty-two F-35B "Lightning II" were expected to enter service commissioned for Italian aircraft carriers (at a cost of more than 183 million dollars per aircraft). But apparently things are not so simple.
As already explained, the problem for the navy was (and still is) to ensure a minimum of two operational aircraft carriers ("Conte di Cavour" and "Garibaldi") with the existing sixteen combat aircraft (including trainers) AV8- B Plus, in service since 1991 - '96, and are no longer being produced, until scheduled deliveries for 2014-2015 of the twenty-two F-35B "Lightning II", commissioned by Italy to Lockheed Martin (at a cost of more than 183 million dollars per aircraft) for the above mentioned aircraft carriers specifically. But it is suspected that these F-35B will never arrive because one of three variants of the "Lightning II", the one which interested the navy most, is assumed that it will not be produced. The three variants are A, the conventional takeoff and landing, B, short takeoff and vertical landing on aircraft carriers deck which lack long flight decks (as the "Garibaldi" and "Conte di Cavour"), and C, for aircraft carriers equipped with long flight decks. Together with US, another 8 nations are contributing to the programme for the development and production of the F-35 with their innovative ideas, even though these usually end up on paper and remain there. But in recent weeks something more has happened. American defense secretary Robert Gates, has raised the possibility that America gives up the F-35B in view of the difficult development, the progressive increase in costs and the relatively small number of aircraft ordered: 350 for the marines, 150 for the British Air Force and 62 for the Italian Air Force (22 for the Navy and another 40 ordered for the Air Force, which has ordered 69 F-35A as well).
In view of all this, British government changed the order for the F-35B into an order for F-35C and requested that aircraft carriers under construction in English plants be modified with the long flight deck, capable of takeoffs and landings by the "C" model. Italy remains the only foreign purchases of the F-5B, decision that will most probably facilitate the US decision to abandon the development of this aircraft (F-35B). What will become of Italian aircraft carriers considering that it is operating the V8-B Plus, no longer being produced and the dying F-35B combat aircraft for short takeoff and vertical landing which do not exist and are not being produced? We will see ...
Well, they could always buy the Cobra/Viper helicopters I guess.
Math is math, you can preposition thousands of drones what it cost to operate a carrier group for one year.
The Sov, er, Russkis had a supersonic VTOL project. For a fee, I bet they’d be glad to re-open it and sell you a bunch of aircraft or airframes.
The we could strip and replace their avionics with western avionics. Might replace the engine, too.
Won’t be stealthy, though.
And if those thousands of drones can be effectively jammed, then what?
The whole LighSquared debacle has shown that GPS is vulnerable, if it wasn’t, a USAF flag officer wouldn’t have disregarded WH attempts to silence him on his testimony before Congress.
Drones have great utility, as long as you own the sky (which for the most part includes the RF spectrum) they operate in. I don’t see them being able to buy the sky outright, without pilots in an aircraft. That, and options for prepostitiong anything, drone or not, is not guaranteed, and or, Is subject to change.
Better to have flexibility.
When I see the words unmanned drone I think of one thing; target practice!!
been working thru a number of books on the opening of WWII in the Pacific. the IJN (Imperial Japanese Navy) believed battleships were the ultimate weapon and built hugely. they were wrong, aircraft carriers were the key weapon and there never was the showdown battle using the big battlewagons.
got to say, i think the next war will show the same for aircraft carriers. one nuke cruise missile will take out the whole carrier task force. or one torp. or one drone.
carriers are great for pounding Iraq. but anyone else who has a serious capability, they are totally vulnerable.
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Carriers have their place and will continue to have it for a long time to come, but it is not as important or sacrosanct as their backers would like to pretend it is.
Personally, I would like to see the USN moving away from big deck carriers to variants similar in size to Russia’s Kutnezsov. Maybe with the ski-jump, maybe without. It would be interesting to see how a “wolf pack” strategy of three such vessels (hosting a single combined airwing) and including a MAU would work out.
And, of course, there would be room for drones as well.
Former US SecNav and Naval Aviator John Lehman bemoaned the end of the swashbuckling Tom Cruise fighter jock in a recent article of USNA Proceedings, and he even complained that there has not been a Naval Aviator CNO in close to 30 years, but he can’t deny that the USN is STILL addicted to the big deck carriers.
This, despite the obvious fact that we can never have sufficient numbers of them to cover all our hotspots and that taking out the limited numbers that exist would basically defang our Navy.
Not good. We need other options.
This is why, despite the price tag, I remain hopeful that the F-35B will be produced. There are other potential customers.
Could we get by with fewer? Yes, certainly, so long as it is clear that the strategic role they are to play is dictating their numbers and not the other way around. The country that maintains the strategic initiative is the one that designs capability around strategy; stating that we can afford, say, eight carriers and here's what we can do with them is dangerous because it inevitably leads to over-extension of forces in the name of economy. That is, however, the solution that inaction in strategic planning will force upon us. IMHO, of course.
Battle of Surigao Straits, also see battles vcty of Guadalcanal, USS Washington and South Dakota v Japs.
THAT was a helluva fight! As was the clash of the destroyers in Leyte Gulf. Charging in despite the insurmountable odds. Every man in the squadron with a brain had to be fearful but they did their jobs.
I'd say that Big-Deck carriers have been essential for maintaining world peace these past 65+ years.
How many do we need, how many have to be on station at any given time, how many can we afford, what design should they be?? -- All that is subject to on-going review, calculations and thoughtful considerations.
But for keeping the peace, and fighting relatively small wars, nothing -- zero, zip, nada -- beats a US Big Deck aircraft carrier.
But what about another World War Two??
Well, can we be serious?
If hundreds or thousands of nuclear warheads start flying around, and nations are destroying each other's cities and populations, with tens and hundreds of millions dead, tens and tens of trillions of dollars in destruction -- in what sense is the survival of some aircraft carriers a matter of utmost concern?
Would the Big Deckers survive determined attacks?
Probably not, but then neither would anything else.
If at the end of such a war most of our carriers are sunk, then all of our enemies' navies will also be gone.
So, I'll repeat: Big Deck carriers are great for keeping the peace, and isn't that a wonderful idea?
Off Guadacanal, the night the Washington was the last big undamaged ship in the Pacific and turned back the Japs in a night surface action.
If Boeing is smart, they’ll have a plan to restart Harrier production with the Brits. Raytheon is developing a version of the APG-79 that would fit in F-16’s and Korean T-50’s, so you could certainly put it in a new-build Harrier.