If such a text were written, for example, by a Russian expert, it could easily be declared an information war. However, the opinion belongs to the Americans. Precisely in the plural, since not only the author David Wise (very, by the way, a serious analyst), but also a bunch of admirals fleet The United States supports, to one degree or another, that ...
Aircraft carriers are rapidly becoming obsolete and may soon disappear from the scene.
And this opinion, I emphasize, is not only an expert journalist, but also quite acting admirals of the US Navy, who believe that already in the middle and second half of the 21st century, an aircraft carrier will cease to be an actual type of weapon. Both offensive and defensive.
We will talk about what is meant in terms of the two types of aircraft carrier use at the very end, but for now it is worth remembering what path the aircraft carrier has traveled since its inception over the past 100 years.
Here is the man who actually became the father of the American Marine aviation, and on a global scale, it was a kind of cornerstone laid down in aircraft carriers.
Back in 1921, Mitchell tried to dispel the myth that battleships rule the seas by sinking the captured Ostfriesland. Yes, the maritime authorities took this as a fact that could not serve as evidence.
I do not know if Isoroku Yamamoto, who was studying at Harvard at the time, saw this show, but Yamamoto read the newspapers for sure, and after 20 years he “could repeat”, only on a large scale.
Yes, on November 12, 1940, the events in Taranto showed that the battleship was no longer at the top of the food chain at sea.
And on December 7, 1941, the events at Pearl Harbor confirmed this fact.
The aircraft carrier decisively replaced the battleship as the main ship of the fleet, but this dominance was rather short-lived. Yes, this class of ships dominated the battles where it took part from 1940 to 1945. But towards the end of the war, the United States began to gradually reorient its aircraft carriers towards strikes along the coast. This was caused primarily by the fact that the Japanese fleet had actually ended, but the army had to be driven out of the occupied territories for a long time and stubbornly.
The fact that after the loss of the Hornet in 1942, the US Navy did not lose a single aircraft carrier any more is the best confirmation of this.
However, this is not a confirmation that an aircraft carrier is such an unsinkable and all-killing thing. This suggests that since 1942, no one has made a serious attempt to sink it.
But what is an aircraft carrier today? Specifically in the US Navy?
Today it is very pompous and very expensive. It is worth remembering about the new supercarriers, the debugging of which is not as good as we would like. It is worth remembering about the F-35, which were created for these aircraft carriers and are also not quite ready to go into battle. But all this economy requires human time and money in very decent amounts. That, in general, strains even some naval ones. Of those who understand where the mackerel was drowned.
Therefore, Wise quite rightly asks the question: do we really need it? Can the United States afford such expensive toys in the future?
George Bush Sr. in 2009 cost the US $ 6,1 billion. The new generation aircraft carrier Gerald Ford gobbled up $ 12 billion.
And yes, planes are about 70% of the cost of each ship.
The 11 aircraft carriers in the US Navy today require about 46% of the fleet's personnel to service. This is, in fact, beyond reason, since the US fleet consists of 300 ships.
In fact, there are not 11 aircraft carriers. Problems with Truman and Lincoln, as well as Ford's failure to normalize, already put the US aircraft carrier fleet in a rather tight framework in terms of funding and timing.
Plus, funding began to decline for many programs. The financial structures of the United States saw a problem in the fact that the Navy is not only inefficiently spending money on the acquisition of new equipment, but also acquiring, to put it mildly, not what it claims. Rumor has it that the difference between the amounts requested by the fleet and the actual allocation may reach 30%.
There is serious talk that if the modern shipbuilding program is developed at the rate of 306 ships, then the real figure is 285. And in Congress they started talking about the fact that the US Navy could painlessly reduce to 240 ships tomorrow.
In this light, aircraft carriers look like a kind of cannibals, devouring their own fleet.
In 2005, work began on the aircraft carrier Ford, with an estimated purchase price of $ 10,5 billion. However, as construction progressed, the cost continued to increase. At first, up to $ 12,8 billion, and closer to the end - up to $ 14,2 billion. And it still continues to grow.
So the plan of the US Navy to spend 43 billion dollars on the purchase of "Ford" and the two subsequent ships after it, alas, may not be fulfilled. One new aircraft carrier in five years - now looks serious only in terms of what it will cost in excess of 43 billion.
Plus, the costs of F-35Cs, which were supposed to make up the wing of the same "Ford", are also increasing, while the problems of the aircraft are not decreasing.
As a result, there was a huge gap in the fleet procurement program between desires and capabilities. Not only did it suddenly become clear that the military budget has a bottom, but they can also knock on it from below.
Supporters of high-precision weapons... Chief of Naval Operations Planning Admiral Jonathan Greenert said about the use of precision weapons: "Instead of many sorties to one target, we are now talking about a single mission."
Grinert would gladly have strangled the aircraft carrier program, but, alas, the ships were laid down before he took office. And today, the aircraft carrier program continues to devour the money that could actually be spent tomorrow on new weapons that could give the United States an advantage on the world stage.
Strategy and tactics
Now it is worth asking one question: what is the point of using an aircraft carrier?
The fact that it is a floating airfield that can be moved with planes and helicopters anywhere and there to solve the tasks of reconnaissance, patrolling, destruction and so on.
How can you counteract an aircraft carrier? Let's forget about battles like the Coral Sea in World War II, when aircraft carriers fought aircraft carriers. This cannot be the case in the modern world, since the rest of the world simply does not have the same number of aircraft carriers that can decide on this.
The best weapon that can, if not destroy such a ship, then seriously complicate its life, is the anti-ship missile. One very meticulous captain from the financial department of the Navy, Henry Hendricks, somehow considered that for the money that went to the construction of the Abraham Lincoln, China could easily release 1 medium-range ballistic missiles of the DF-227D type.
Suppose, given that "Dongfeng" is an MRBM with a nuclear warhead, then one is enough to incinerate any aircraft carrier. From a distance of 1800 km.
And how much could YJ-83 anti-ship missiles, which are non-nuclear, but anti-ship, be produced for the same money? Yes, they would just stand every 300 meters along the entire coast of the PRC.
In principle, there probably is not much difference from which carrier the rocket will fly into the aircraft carrier. Whether it will be an airplane, a missile boat, a coastal launcher, it is important that the cost of a carrier capable of seriously damaging a floating suitcase in money is not comparable to the cost of an aircraft carrier.
Military analyst Robert Haddick believes that the development of weapons from other countries (China was taken as an example) jeopardizes the real safe use of aircraft carriers. The times when the AUG could come to the shore and solve any problems are good only where there will be no proper opposition. However, there are fewer and fewer such places on the political map of the world.
“Even more sinister are the squadrons of strike fighter-bombers, both sea and land-based, capable of launching dozens of long-range, high-speed anti-ship cruise missiles in quantities that threaten to overwhelm the most advanced fleet defenses.”
Not bad. But the PLA Navy also has Project 022 missile boats, each of which carries 8 anti-ship missiles. New boats made using stealth technology. We are not even talking about destroyers, corvettes and frigates.
A certain threat also comes from Russia, which not only produces, but also sells its missiles to everyone (well, almost everyone) who wish, which are very good. The Americans especially did not like the idea of the Kalibra-K / Club-K launchers (export version) hidden in sea containers placed on trucks, railway cars or merchant ships.
Basically, yes, it is a threat. But the threat is ... Retaliation, nothing more. But we must take it into account as well. Aircraft carriers cost so much that to risk getting a missile from the deck of a peaceful container ship ... In general, you cannot risk it, because there are billions of dollars on the map.
In the United States, many naval forces reassure themselves that since 1942, having won the Second World War (okay, forgive me), having won the Cold War, the Navy has not lost a single aircraft carrier.
But let us remember that during the entire indicated period, the American fleet only once seriously encountered a group of Soviet ships. It was during the Yom Kippur War. And the Americans did not get involved, moving to the western Mediterranean.
Of course, this is not about cowardice, but about the received order not to risk expensive ships. Although ... Is there a lot of difference?
Little. At the same time, in 2002, the unprecedented operational-tactical game Millennium Challenge was held at the headquarters of the US Navy, where the fleet conducted an operation, considering an attack on the US fleet from the side of a hypothetical Gulf state - Iraq or Iran.
The leader of the "red" team (the enemy of the United States) used brilliant asymmetric tactics, as a result of which the United States lost 16 ships, including two aircraft carriers. In a very short period of time. In fact, of course, this could hardly have happened, since the Americans were playing for the Reds, who were clearly superior to their hypothetical “colleagues”.
But in reality, the aircraft carrier is becoming more vulnerable every day. And it's not even about China's ability to throw a ballistic missile at the AUG; not only the PRC can afford it. The fact is that there are more and more willing and able people every day.
And don't discount submarines. It's hard to say which is worse. According to former US Chief of Naval Operations Gary Ruffhead, “You can disable a ship faster by punching a hole in the bottom (with a torpedo) than by punching a hole in the top (RCC).
One cannot but agree with the admiral. Moreover, even such seemingly non-leading naval powers as Denmark, Canada and Chile were “conditionally sunk” during joint exercises. And how many times did Soviet submarines break into the orders of formations ...
Of course, the world does not stand still. The range and speed of missiles are increased. Rockets are becoming more elusive and accurate. We don't even talk about nuclear warheads. Whatever one may say, the surface ships will feel less and less secure, despite the Aegis and other protection systems.
Cavitating torpedoes, hypersonic missiles, heavy attack UAVs - all this makes the life of a surface ship ever shorter in the realities of war. And the larger the ship, the more difficult it is for it to survive.
And in order to deliver planes with weapons to the desired point and strike, the aircraft carrier must be accompanied by at least one cruiser and two destroyers with the Aegis system, an attack submarine and other escort ships. The joint crew consists of over 6000 people. And all this in order to be able to operate the aircraft carrier's wing of 90 aircraft and helicopters.
On the one hand, ships, which collectively cost more than $ 30 billion, planes and helicopters, which cost at least $ 10 billion, plus consumables worth a billion.
And a cruise missile launched from a boat costing less than one F-35Cs can do some serious business with all of this. And if a missile salvo ...
With these arguments in mind, the US Navy is seriously discussing the operation of an 11-carrier power structure.
At a recent joint symposium of the military think tanks CSBA and the Center for a New American Security, experts called for the decommissioning of at least two aircraft carrier strike groups and a reduction in funding for the F-35 program.
It is recommended that over the next four to five decades move from large aircraft carriers, launching fifth generation fighters, to supercarriers of the Ford type, using both aircraft and unmanned systems. But in smaller quantities.
Many in the United States are concerned that the country's navy continues to rely on huge strike forces, while the trend around the world to use so-called cloud systems, when precision weapons are deployed on a wide range of non-specialized vessels, up to fishing trawlers, is increasing. This is a perfectly possible scenario.
The growing vulnerability of aircraft carriers presents the United States with a choice of Hobson: accept or expose the fleet to serious casualties and potential escalation.
But there is no escalation (fortunately or unfortunately). The fleet of nuclear attack submarines (not strategic) is planned to be reduced from 54 to 39 by 2030.
Currently, the US Navy is building two attack submarines a year at the cost of great effort, while it could afford to build 10 with just one aircraft carrier and its air wing. Perhaps this would give a greater result in terms of the ability to deter the enemy at distant approaches.
The US Navy is unquestionably the most powerful in the world today. Unfortunately, repeating this phrase like an incantation, hoping for change, is useless. While the entire US Navy seems to dominate on paper in terms of tonnage and in terms of sheer firepower, its actual capabilities may be far from perfect in a particular location.
Naturally, with the growth of technical achievements in different countries of the world, sooner or later it will be necessary to revise all existing doctrines of the use of fleets. By the middle of the century, the picture will become clear, which will require specific changes.
But the American expert Greenert is confident that no matter how the concept of combat changes, in the second half of the century the aircraft carrier will no longer play the role that was previously assigned to it.
Too many real opponents have appeared, albeit not so large in terms of tonnage, but no less effective. Therefore, the American believes, further investments in the construction of strike aircraft carriers and supercarriers may become not only erroneous, but even fatal for the US Navy.
Based on materials: https://nationalinterest.org/blog/reboot/us-navy-has-invested-billions-aircraft-carriers-was-it-worth-it-164943.