Why a powerful modern fleet is impossible without aircraft carriers

On the mistakes of others

One epoch replaces another, technologies change along with it, and methods of warfare change with technology. In 1906, Britain built the world's first dreadnought - HMS Dreadnought, which was destined to change the course of the world once and for all stories. The secret to success was simple: to leave as the main weapons only the same type of large-caliber guns or all-big-gun. The highest point in the development of this concept can be considered the Japanese battleships "Yamato" and "Musashi": heroically dead, but who did not bring de facto any strategic benefit to their command.

It’s hard to blame the Japanese for stupidity or misunderstanding of the issue. After all, it was they (and Pearl Harbor showed it well) that the battleships lost the evolutionary struggle to the aircraft carriers, leaving the world scene forever as the first violin of the naval war.

Moreover, the aircraft carrier, as a separate class of warships, also did not evolve overnight. The best example is the British aircraft carriers of the Second World War period, the Illastries type, which had excellent booking, but also an important drawback: a small number of fighters. Only three dozen winged cars. And although all four ships survived the war, experience clearly showed that the most important thing for an aircraft carrier is the number of fighters. And no anti-aircraft artillery and armor can replace them. Not to mention the absurd in this case, shock and offensive weapons.

It is noteworthy that these obvious conclusions, whose strength only grew stronger in the post-war years, are still being called into question by many. Moreover, the authors are trying to find a variety of "loopholes" in order to show the reader that surface ships supposedly and so (that is, without air cover) can fulfill their tasks.

One example is a series of articles by Alexander Timokhin “Surface ships against airplanes”. First of all, I would like to thank the author for an alternative view of the history of naval conflicts. When someone has an opinion, it is always (or almost always) good. However, in the most interesting place of the narrative, logical inconsistencies and inconsistencies are found.

So, Timokhin, with reference to the combined arms committee of the Army and Navy JANAC приводит such data on the loss of warships that the United States inflicted on Japan in World War II. All USA sank 611 surface ships. From this number it was sunk:

“Submarines of the US Navy - 201;
Surface ships - 112;
Army Aviation - 70;
Navy Base Aviation - 20;
Navy Deck Aviation - 161;
Coastal artillery - 2;
Undermined by mines - 19;
Destroyed by other aircraft and agents - 26. ”

By themselves, this data is very, very interesting. However, the conclusion that the author then makes is, to put it mildly, strange. “Which of these is the conclusion?” And the conclusion is simple: in the presence of an aircraft carrier fleet, when aircraft carriers are the main warships and carry out the main tasks, and, at the same time, in the conditions of extremely intense air warfare waged by base aircraft against the Japanese fleet (both army and navy), aircraft of all types sank fewer ships than surface ships and submarines, ”the author concludes.

I wonder what exactly Alexander wants to convey? That surface ships and submarines are one and the same? Or that army aviation is not “aviation”. Or that it is not deck aviation ...

After all, a simple mathematical calculation shows that if we summarize the Japanese losses caused by the actions of the army aviation, the naval base aviation and the naval carrier-based aviation, it turns out that it was the aircraft that sank the most Japanese ships. Where exactly the bombers and torpedo bombers were based no longer plays a big role.

At the same time, it should be borne in mind that the destruction of the Four Japanese aircraft carriers in the Battle of Midway, a turning battle in the Pacific War, was made possible almost exclusively thanks to the coordinated actions of the US carrier-based aircraft. The heavy Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers (not deck, of course) then also attacked the Soryu and Hiru aircraft carriers, but they failed to inflict damage on the ships. U.S. submarine forces played a role, of course, but far from the main one.

That is, if it were not for the Douglas SBD Dauntless deck-diving, the outcome of the entire war in the Pacific could hypothetically be different: although here you need to understand the potentially higher "safety margin" of the United States. That is, a more powerful military, economic and human potential, which gave the Japanese, frankly, not so many chances.

New and latest TSA

No less interesting is next - also a very voluminous part of the work of Alexander Timokhin. It refers to the "rocket era." The result of what the author said can be summarized as follows. “What did the Falkland War show?” She showed that surface forces can fight against aviation and win. It’s also very difficult to sink a ship that is on the open sea on the move and ready to repel an attack ... ”, Timokhin writes.

It's hard to argue here. Can surface forces fight against aviation and win? Of course they can. In theory, even a gunboat could sink a nuclear submarine that unsuccessfully surfaced nearby. A corvette can sink a cruiser with a rocket if its crew, for some reason, remains inactive all the time.

But the theory is theory, and the consideration of the capabilities of modern carrier-based aviation, and its potential is impossible without an analysis of modern aviation weapons. Of course, not all. It is enough to analyze the main and most significant promising TSA of carrier-based aviation. For example, the new American long-range anti-ship missile AGM-158C LRASM: a product with stealth technology and high accuracy.

It is worth saying that aircraft carriers used to have a long arm in the face of high-precision TSAs, for example, the famous Harpoon missiles. However, their range did not exceed 280 kilometers. The LRASM range, according to information from open sources, may exceed 800 kilometers. It’s worth adding the combat radius of the fighter plane (the rocket carrier has F / A-18E / F Super Hornet — it is more than 700 kilometers) and you get another mini-revolution in naval battle tactics. And if you equip stealth fifth-generation fighters, such as the F-35C or the hypothetical deck J-31, with similar missiles, you get a completely “interesting” situation.

However, even taking into account aviation weapons of the Cold War era and modern reconnaissance and detection tools (satellites, carrier-based AWACS, submarines, etc.), no non-aircraft carrier ship is likely to be able to approach an aircraft carrier attack group at a distance of attack . Not to mention the possibility of destruction and incapacitation of ships from the AUG. It is also worth adding that the aircraft carrier group traditionally includes nuclear submarines and numerous ships, whose tasks include anti-submarine defense.

Summarize. In modern realities, the role of aircraft carriers in the war has increased significantly in comparison with the times of the Cold War. Insofar as:

- Enhanced ability to identify enemy ships and ships;
- The combat radius of carrier-based fighters has increased;
- The potential of aviation weapons has sharply increased;
- The commissioning of "inconspicuous" carrier-based fighters and inconspicuous ASPs began.

Thus, the role of the “non-aircraft-carrying” fleet in modern warfare has decreased to a secondary, and to be even more precise, purely auxiliary. Unless, of course, we are talking about nuclear weapons and submarine ballistic missiles. That is, to put it simply, a nuclear war, for which no country in the world in their right mind would dare.
Ilya Legat
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