What should aircraft carriers and UDC do in the face of a hypersonic threat?

Somehow I already wrote about the fact that in the United States, in the face of the already, on the threshold of hypersonic missile threat, opponents of aircraft carriers among sailors and politicians "raised their heads". Of course, in the struggle between the “aircraft carriers” and the “anti-aircraft carriers” inside the Navy and near-Maritime circles there is partly a struggle for orders, kickbacks and influence. And also a “religious” battle like the Swift “blunt points” and “pointed ones” (or, if you like, battles of fans of Intel vs. AMD or NVidia vs. ATI and many others that shook the computer world). But there is also a considerable rational grain - someone understands that aircraft carriers are losing the status of the most valuable surface ships for the United States, while someone does not want to understand this. At the same time, this problem also faces the landing forces, that is, the US Marine Corps (ILC). Can there be any solutions?

Underwater monitor M-2 British Navy and submarine "Surfuf" French Navy

Commandant Berger in touch

The new ILC commandant (commander), General David Berger, introduced the concept of changes in the actions of his troops. In particular, he writes in his plan that the Soviet Navy already had enormous potential for long-range high-speed anti-ship missiles, but the US Navy did not plan really large landing operations where the Soviet fleet could concentrate its submarines with missiles and other means, but only there where it was far from the main operational areas of the USSR Navy. Later, the situation has changed, and now it is changing again. And all of the above threats require a new approach. In particular, he advocated the reduction and gradual abandonment of the current large and expensive UDC, DVKD and DTD. The main unit of the KMP in operations is the MAGTF - a landing force carrying an air group and MEU - an expeditionary detachment of marines, a reinforced battalion of the KMP (closer to the regiment in numbers), an 4 tank, 4 howitzer towed 155mm, dozens of armored vehicles. The connection consists of 1 UDC, 1 DVKD and 1 DTD, and carries 6 short-takeoff attack aircraft, 11 helicopters (including 4 supercobra attack aircraft) and 12 Osprey convertibles and unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as XNUM descent aircraft. In his opinion, these expensive ships in the current conditions may simply not reach the landing site and may be damaged or sunk.

Berger is in favor of changing the structure of the ILC and tasks, in fact, he generally advocates for a decrease in the proportion of airborne operations, because for the most part the marines simply come to the country where the local government allows them. And do not storm the unequipped shore with battle. For such operations, Berger proposes to build more much cheaper "expeditionary support vessels", built on the basis of dry cargo ships, equipped with hangars, boats and helicopter platforms. They are not so sorry to lose, and they cost less. Such ships are now being built in the USA, but their tasks are more auxiliary. He also advocates the transition to a smaller landing craft, but it is not very clear - is it something like our MDK? Or bigger?

New threats - the development of old

Today, aircraft carriers, AUGs and the surface fleet of the United States and its allies are threatened by the spread of perfect supersonic missiles and the beginning of the emergence of hypersonic anti-ship missiles in the arsenal of Russia (as well as fears that something similar will appear in China, and then other anti-American countries). Moreover, the range of new missiles may be even greater than even the most powerful supersonic anti-ship missiles of the previous generation, such as the P-700 Granite or P-1000 Volcano. And the time to counteract an attack of hypersonic anti-ship missiles can be measured in tens of seconds or even seconds - depending on where they find it. Yes, and what kind of opposition? There is nobody and nothing to shoot down, and this is for a long time.

Which, of course, caused the activation of the anti-avian lobby in the USA. About the fight against the order of an additional pair of aircraft carriers such as Ford, it was already written here earlier, but it was unsuccessful. However, the discussion continues.

One of the problems of an aircraft carrier is its huge size and rather high vulnerability of a ship full of fuel and ammunition. Dimensions facilitate RCC and defeat the target, and its detection. Practical aircraft carriers were not touched by the naval modern “mode” to reduce the ESR of ships by using various radio-absorbing materials, reducing the number of protruding antennas and other nodes, transferring weapons below deck (with these criteria, our first TIRKR Kirov was a serial ship, but not at all French frigate "Lafayette" or one of the candidates) and special "stealth" contours with obstruction of the sides and walls of superstructures outward, etc. Some measures to reduce EPR and other signatures on new projects are being carried out, but it should be clear to anyone that the elephant will not become much more inconspicuous for the hunter if he cuts off his tail and slightly cuts the tusks. He's just too big for that.

Correction Options

What are the possible remedies? Well, first of all, strengthening the air defense of the compound, but it can take a very long time to wait until the Americans and their allies can cope with hypersonic anti-ship missiles, when with supersonic everything is extremely difficult. This is a considerable problem for us even on land, despite the fact that the recent C-400 firing on hypersonic missile simulators (which included 5B55 missiles converted into targets of the Favorite-RM complex) were extremely successful. But hypersound is hypersonic, and we don’t know how these targets maneuvered, if we maneuvered. And the rockets will do it for sure. In any case, with the protection against these missiles, the Americans are even worse than with their creation. The options for defending electronic warfare are, of course, always good, but whether that helps is a very big question.

It would be ideal not to meddle in those areas where, say, Russian or Chinese (when such a situation appears in China weapon) submarines, surface ships and carrier aircraft hypersonic anti-ship missiles, or else avoid conflicts with such powers. But if with Russia and China, let’s say, this is possible, then the spread of new weapons around the world, including to various seemingly “convenient adversaries” for US forces and movements, will make this impossible. How common subsonic anti-ship missiles have spread, which can still be dangerous weapons, especially when used in large quantities, although they cannot be compared in terms of danger with supersonic and especially hypersonic missiles. The same light-weight anti-ship missiles are found in different ordinary guys in slippers and with a lump of kata behind their cheeks, and guys from Lebanon in well-fitted and sensible "gear", and many others. Who will give a guarantee that in 25 years the next guys in slippers will not have much more dangerous weapons for the USG Navy?

Instead of an aircraft carrier - a UAV?

One of the options offered, however, so far at the idea level, is the transformation of the aircraft carrier itself. But what? The answer lies in the carrier of reconnaissance and strike UAVs, the carrier with reduced signatures of physical fields. Both semi-submersible and low-profile ("landing" lower in the water after the adoption of ballast), and even underwater aircraft carriers are offered. More precisely, UAVs, while also equipped with silo launchers for cruise missiles. The most curious thing is that this has already happened before, on another round of the evolutionary spiral. There were also submarines carrying one or several aircraft (such as the pre-war French submarine Surkuf, which for many years remained the largest non-nuclear submarine in the world, or Japanese type I-400, British submarine monitors of type M), and projects of larger submarine aircraft carriers. For example, the American submarine nuclear carrier AN-1, designed in the 50's, capable of carrying a Boeing interceptor with an underwater displacement of 14700, with a maximum flight speed of up to M = 8, and with vertical take-off on three engines, two of which were discarded and could be reused. There was also the option of using F-3F interceptors, provided they were equipped with the same carpet-to-take-off system (this was the name for this detachable propulsion system). There were underwater carriers of shock drones. if you can call it "aircraft-shells" such as "Regulus-11" and "Regulus-1".

Halibat and Greyback submarines of the US Navy, carriers of Regulus-1 and Regulus-2 shells

Schematic representation of the nuclear submarine carrier AN-1 and its drawing

But such aircraft should have been carried by this underwater aircraft carrier

Among others, a well-known underwater military researcher, HI Sutton, proposed as an option a semi-submersible low-profile launch vehicle with silo launchers for missiles, a longitudinal runway without an angled landing deck (like wartime aircraft carriers). In this case, the take-off of vehicles should not be carried out by catapults, but by a springboard. Which, in relation to aircraft carriers of the "Soviet" type, experts very much like to criticize - usually the farther from carrier-based aviation, the stronger. Deck work with aircraft on it can be fully automated, unlike catapult. In addition, take-off from a catapult from such a low ship is simply much more dangerous than a springboard. Such a ship will indeed have much smaller signatures and constitute a much more difficult target for missiles. One of the advantages can also be called the fact that it will surely be cheaper than a nuclear aircraft carrier in 100 thousand tons, carrying, at the moment and in the future, only 44 fighter (plus helicopters and UAVs). Another plus of this project is that rescue helicopters are not needed.

"Low-Profile Semi-Submersible UAV Drum Carrier" by Mr. Sutton

Another issue is that, despite the progress in technology, UAVs are able to replace manned aircraft fully except in reconnaissance. With shock functions, everything is not so clear, and even in the medium term, a full-fledged replacement, most likely, will fail. And with fighter features even harder. In addition, if the devices are remotely piloted, then their command lines will be vulnerable to electronic warfare, and modern radio intelligence tools quickly detect the control channel itself and find the place where it works. And if they are autonomous, then the question arises with the reliability of controlling the grouping of devices, their resistance to electromagnetic impulse, the ability to respond to emergency situations, and so on. In addition, instead of a combat strike UAV, only the refueling tank will appear in the arsenal of the US Navy - with the X-47В they "did not succeed." And when there will be the next approach to the boom called "the creation of a shock jet carrier-based drones," is not yet clear. But, nevertheless, it can be assumed that something similar to this solution will make it possible to create an aircraft-carrying ship, which is much more resistant to modern and future threats, which can be used where these very means can drown it. And there will be an order of magnitude less potential dead on such a ship than on an aircraft carrier.

Repair method "Trishkin Kaftan"

But this is all just the suggestions of various experts. In the meantime, the court and the case, the construction of aircraft carriers of the "past war" continues. Recently, launch work has begun on the second body of aircraft carriers such as Ford - John F. Kennedy (CVN-79). On one of the two that Secretary of Defense Mattis did not want to order and was extremely reluctant to agree to build them, his temporary successor Shanahan. Moreover, the fact that this project has not solved a lot of problems, especially with electromagnetic catapults, which Trump demanded to replace with steam ones (so we'll see if his representatives from the naval and industrial aircraft carrier mafia obeyed). Now it’s already being asserted that “Gerald Ford (CVN-78) will not reach the state of readiness for operational deployment before the 2024 year. Most recently, it was about the 2022 g., Before that from the 2021 g., And even earlier this ship was introduced with pomp” fleet composition "(for show).

The repair of existing ships continues, although it is still not clear whether there will be a recharge of the core in one of the Nimitsy, or whether it will be written off.

But there are problems with the repair and recharging of the active zones. So, in early autumn, “Harry Truman” (CVN-75) could not go to sea on the planned six-month combat service. In preparing the ship for the campaign, there were serious malfunctions in the power supply system. As a result, the only naval carrier of the U.S. Navy on the East Coast got into repairs at the Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) shipyard, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, in Norfolk. At the same time, NNS Vice President Chris Meiner recently said that for the repair of CVN-75 part of the components and assemblies were removed from George Washington (CVN-73), which has been under repair and recharging of the core from 2017 in the same shipyard. At the same time, the ship was recently taken out of the dry dock and planned to be put back into operation at the end of 2021, but now this period will be delayed - the nodes were removed. The mere cannibalization of ships under repair or waiting for repairs is not out of the ordinary. This happened to us too, but the fact that this is happening now with the most important ships for the US Navy is not the best signal for them. It can be seen that Trump, who claims that America is more powerful than ever, is “a little mistaken”, like with nuclear power, where he is “mistaken” exactly the opposite?

Since the end of February of the 2019 of the year, George W. Bush (CVN-77) has been undergoing major repairs in Norfolk, which was planned for a period of 28 months. But here, not everything is going smoothly - part of the brigades was taken from him to the broken Truman, which needs to have its nose blood repaired faster so as not to completely disrupt the schedule of military services. And “John Stennis” (CVN-74) was supposed to dock at all after “George Washington,” but instead they put “George W. Bush” (CVN-77). And there is a struggle over Stennis - there is a desire to refuse to recharge it and send it in such a way that sucks, that is, in fact, write off. But in any case, there is nowhere to put it and there is no one to work on it. After all, there is also the “Dwight Eisenhower” (CVN-69) on the NNS, on the 36-month cycle of technical readiness restoration.

Even if the aircraft carriers cease to be the real basis of the surface military power of the US Navy, it is unlikely that they will decrease their income from those who wish to. However, such problems are likely to be faced by any serious fleet like the “first three” fleets (USA, RF, PRC), and even by a frivolous fleet - like the Navy of poor African countries or the Navy of “non-brotherly northern Somalia”.
Ya. Vyatkin, especially for "Military Review"
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