Skip to comments.Navy eyes high-tech options for future aircraft carriers
Posted on 06/02/2013 1:30:22 AM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
Navy eyes high-tech options for future aircraft carriers
General Atomics briefs navy on magnetic catapult that launches unmanned fighters
The Indian Navy one of just nine navies that operate aircraft carriers is thinking high-tech in planning its second indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vishal. The admirals are deciding whether INS Vishal, still only a concept, should launch aircraft from its deck using a technology so advanced that it is not yet in service anywhere: the Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS).
Getting a fully loaded combat aircraft airborne off a short, 200-metre-long deck is a key challenge in aircraft carrier operations. The INS Viraat, currently Indias only aircraft carrier, uses Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) since its Harrier jump-jets take off and land almost like helicopters. INS Vikramaditya, which Russia will deliver this year, uses Short Take Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR). The Vikramadityas MiG-29K fighters will fly off an inclined ramp called a ski-jump; and land with the help of arrester wires laid across the deck, which snag on a hook on the fighters tail, literally dragging it to a halt. This system will also be used on the first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, which Cochin Shipyard plans to deliver by 2017.
But INS Vishal, which will follow the Vikrant, might employ a third technique that India has never used - Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery, or CATOBAR. Perfected by the US Navy since World War II, this has a steam-driven piston system along the flight deck catapulting the aircraft to 200 kilometres per hour, fast enough to get airborne. With greater steam pressure, significantly heavier aircraft can be launched. US Navy carriers launch the E-2D Hawkeye, a lumbering Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft that scans airspace over hundreds of kilometres.
EMALS, the new-generation catapult that the Indian Navy is evaluating, uses a powerful electro-magnetic field instead of steam. Developed by General Atomics, Americas largest privately held defence contractor, EMALS has been chosen by the US Department of Defence for its new-generation aircraft carriers. The first EMALS-equipped carrier, the USS Gerald R Ford, will enter service by 2016. In Delhi Last Thursday, General Atomics briefed thirty Indian Navy captains and admirals on EMALS. Scott Forney III, the senior General Atomics official who conducted the briefing, told Business Standard that tight US controls over this guarded technology required special permission from Washington for sharing technical details of EMALS with India.
Senior Indian naval planners tell Business Standard that INS Vikrant, Indias next 40,000 tonne aircraft carrier, will use STOBAR to operate its complement of MiG-29K and Tejas light fighters. But Vikrants successor, the 65,000 tonne INS Vishal, could well be a CATOBAR carrier that launches larger and more diverse aircraft.
While current fighters like the MiG-29K can operate with STOBAR systems, our options will increase with CATOBAR. We could operate heavier fighters, AEW aircraft and, crucially, UCAVs (unmanned combat air vehicles). A UCAV would require a CATOBAR system for launch, says one admiral.
The navy is closely following UCAV development in India and abroad. On May 14, the X-47B UCAV that Northrop Grumman is developing for the US Navy became the first UCAV to be catapulted off an aircraft carrier, the USS George HW Bush.
Naval planners believe that, with INS Vishal likely to enter service in the early 2020s, they should plan on operating UCAVs from that carrier, as well as an AEW aircraft, and medium and light fighters.
We could greatly expand our mission envelope with UCAVs, using the pilotless aircraft for high risk reconnaissance and SEAD (suppression of enemy air defences). Mid-air refueling would let us keep UCAVs on mission for 24-36 hours continuously, since pilot fatigue would not be a factor, says a naval planner.
General Atomics has emphasized the EMALS ability to launch multiple aircraft. It has told the navy that EMALS causes less wear and tear on carrier-launched aircraft since electric power can be delivered more accurately than steam. It also launches aircraft quicker; requires less personnel to operate; and its high acceleration allows launches in still conditions, when STOBAR aircraft carriers must sail at 20-30 knots to generate wind-over-deck, needed to create the lift required for take off.
We have completed 134 test launches across five classes of aircraft, including the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter; the F/A-18E Super Hornet; the C-2A Greyhound (delivery aircraft); the T-45 Goshawk trainer; and the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, Forney briefed the navy.
While the navy is impressed by the EMALS capabilities, there is apprehension that buying it may prove difficult. It would be a single-vendor procurement of a system that is untested in operational service, making it hard to validate General Atomics claim of being cheaper in the long term. But industry watchers point out that cutting-edge equipment like EMALS is what New Delhi wants from US-India defense relations. The EMALS enhances Indias strategic capability. If New Delhi deems this a priority for collaboration, the US might well sanction the release of this technology, says Manohar Thyagaraj, of the Observer Research Foundation.
I knew General Atomics when he was a colonel.
I for one allways look forward to your postings which are allways informative ..Thanks again
The proliferation of anti ship missile systems, asymmetrical tactics, development of drones, and the huge costs of maintaining naval task forces may make carriers white elephants. Yet carrier task forces still project power like no other military force available.
What do FReepers in the know think?
Carriers are obsolete, but try to project power or win a naval war with them.
You mean, without them?
It really isn’t the carrier that wins it, it is all those support combat ships that spread for miles out and protect that airstrip and its aircraft. If a country could make a runway on land and protect it for 100 miles out it would have the same effect
The last time I checked there were very few airstrips in the middle of the ocean. Also when destroyers can fly then they can carry out alpha strikes for us. But you are right a land based airstrip is cheaper. he problem is the are a stationery target a CVN is always moving.
The zoomies tried selling that same snakeoil back in the 40s.
thank you, for the informative post. :-D
The moving part isn’t a big issue as anything that can sink a carrier can also find it and kill it. The issue is that such weapons cannot be launched within 100+ miles of a carrier and multiple weapon systems layered around the carrier can down those weapons. We spend more on carrier protection than we do on the carrier and its aircraft.
The one thing we cannot protect a carrier from is multiple ballistic missiles and the Soviets had created a warhead for their ICBMs that can find and kill a carrier. We created Aegis to counter it, but we also know they can overwhelm that system and get a warhead through.
So, to me, against a country a carrier is design to fight, it is an antique. Against ragheads and rusty AH-47s, it’s perfectly safe...until it gets too close to shore and a raghead State has a friendly relationship with a country like China. Of course, we will know it was Chinese and the Chinese don’t want a war yet.
Submarines rule the seas. We did that back in the 1980’s when I was a submarine sonar tech. The war games were so one sided.
“The zoomies tried selling that same snakeoil back in the 40s. “
Other than bombing third world nations like Vietnam, Iraq, Bosnia, and Libya, what significant role has a carrier played?
Also you don't send a CVBG into waters that are not 100% sanitized i.e. every sub accounted for. this may restrict the CVBG making it a tactical victory for the bad guys. It is a probability game, maybe you go in 80% possub waters if the mission is that important.
I guess that is why Chinese subs have been popping up in our
Carrier group undetected. Or Chinese missile subs launch missiles off of CA and it gets covered up. Keep kidding yourself target sailor.
A nuclear sub transiting at 20+ knots trying to get into position is NOT as quite as you think....
quite = quiet.
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