Military Review

How the US Navy Aircraft Carriers Changed: Lessons from Desert Storm

33

F-14 Tomcat carrier-based fighter in front of burning oil wells in Kuwait, set on fire by the troops of Saddam Hussein.

Photo source: historyonthenet.com

The US Navy needs to be downsized and reconfigured to keep its defense functions in line with current realities. It is important that politicians do not cut the size of the naval fleet without reevaluating America's global military commitments - but they must get rid of those that are irrelevant now that the Cold War has already ended. Failure to adopt a more realistic US security policy is fraught with strategic problems that will prevent the Navy from effectively performing its tasks.
Given the collapse of the Soviet Union, we do not see a single serious naval rival that poses a threat to the United States of America.
The continued maintenance of existing surplus naval forces is an unaffordable luxury. Long-term planning, taking into account current realities, should include a large-scale program for the simultaneous reduction of the number of ships by decommissioning obsolete ships. The new navy should diminish the role of aircraft carriers, a holdover from the Cold War strategy to counter Soviet rule, and abandon the costly and unnecessary doctrine of forward presence ...

- from a memo by Christopher A. Preble, former US Navy officer and independent military analyst. Dated August 2, 1993.

With the end of the Cold War, the military priorities of the United States of America have changed dramatically, and one of the hardest hit parties in this era of change has been the Navy. The US Navy had been preparing for a global confrontation with an equal adversary for decades, but the Soviet Union suddenly disappeared - and with it the American carrier fleet risked disappearing. The 1986 Naval Strategy in an instant turned out to be outdated and ineffective - the era of local conflicts began, and the Navy had to adapt to them accordingly.

Already in 1991, the US Navy, together with the multinational force, participated in the liberation of Kuwait - there were more than 130 warships in the combat zone, including 6 aircraft carriers. Despite the absence of a serious naval enemy, the war for the fleet did not go according to plan ...

Doctrinal disaster


The 1980s naval strategy saw carrier strike groups as the main force in the naval war with the Soviet Union. The aircraft carriers were supposed to be at the forefront of the confrontation, and actively attack the Soviet Navy, pushing its ships away from key water communications.

The main idea of ​​the doctrine was to drive the Soviet fleet into the framework of passive defense, forcing it to be in closed waters and defend its shores, where it was quite easy prey. However, another thing was also important - in such a state, the Soviet Navy did not threaten the alliance's ocean communications, vital for the transfer of troops, equipment and equipment to the European theater of military operations.

According to the strategy, the United States increased the number of AUG from 12 to 15 formations built around heavy aircraft carriers. The combat ships of the strike group also underwent a serious strengthening - since it was expected that aircraft carriers would face attacks from Soviet Tu-22M bombers and a large number of anti-ship missiles, the Navy attached great importance to air and missile defense. It was supported by the Ticonderoga-class cruisers and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with the Aegis system.

The colossal spending was completely justified - the Soviet naval forces were a serious enemy. It is worth noting that in the 80s, the US Naval Command called 15 aircraft carrier strike groups the minimum necessary to ensure a strategic presence and offensive operations in the Pacific, Atlantic and Mediterranean regions.

However, the war with the Soviet fleet never happened - there was a war of a much smaller scale and with a much less serious enemy, which, however, forced the US Navy command to experience a slight shock. We are talking, of course, about the Gulf War.

As Desert Storm progressed, little confirmed the assumptions and conclusions of the 1986 Maritime Strategy. No naval forces challenged us: the enemy aviation our aircraft carriers have never attacked in waves, and submarines have not threatened the streams of people and equipment crossing the oceans. The Navy did not fight in the open ocean - and this is exactly what it had been preparing for over the previous 20 years ...

- Admiral of the United States Navy, William A. Owens, former deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Before the conflict with Iraq, there was a serious debate in the US armed forces about the military effectiveness of aircraft carriers: in different decades, different points of view prevailed - at the dawn of the emergence of ICBMs and strategic jet aviation, there was an opinion that aircraft carriers had already outlived theirs, and in the 80s the point of view of the fleet took over, which represented aircraft-carrying ships as almost an equivalent replacement for the land-based air force.

However, as practice has shown, all parties were equally wrong ...

In general, a number of basic naval myths and misconceptions looked like this:

1. Aircraft carriers can operate effectively without access and interaction with ground air bases.

2. They can deliver powerful series of strikes against ground targets located hundreds of kilometers from the coast.

3. Each attack aircraft on an aircraft carrier is capable of 4 sorties per day.

4. The Navy does not need aircraft with stealth technology (in the 80s the concept of stealth was just being introduced, and the Navy rejected it in every possible way).

With the outbreak of hostilities in the Persian Gulf, many details unpleasant for the fleet became clear - for example, the aircraft of the Navy could not use high-precision weapon with laser guidance to the target. Moreover, it was simply absent in the fleet - and the success of using unguided bombs against ground targets against the background of the work of the Air Force looked, to put it mildly, completely nondescript.

The situation was much worse with the intensity of flights - it turned out to be just disgusting.

After the war, the Center for Naval Analysis in Alexandria issued a report that a total of 6 sorties were made by naval aircraft.

A total of 24 sorties per day per aircraft carrier - against the planned 100-110.

How the US Navy Aircraft Carriers Changed: Lessons from Desert Storm
Loading supplies to the US aircraft carrier USS Ranger and the French destroyer Latouche-Treville. Perfect, time-honored logistics was one of the strengths of the US Navy. Photo source: defensemedianetwork.com

As an example, we can consider the combat work of the most effective aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71).

During the war, CVN-71 was in positions near Qatar, where it arrived with a very solid number of strike aircraft: it carried 20 F / A-18 multi-role fighters, 18 A-6 medium bombers and 18 F-14 interceptors. For 43 days of the war, carrier-based squadrons of an aircraft carrier made an average of only 2,03 sorties per aircraft per day - while it was expected that there will be at least 4 (as noted above, the USS Theodore Roosevelt was the most effective aircraft carrier in the operation - more than 4 sorties, during which more than 000 tons of ammunition were dropped).


US Navy Battle Group Zulu following the end of Operation Desert Storm, March 2, 1991. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

One would think that such a low efficiency of carrier-based aircraft was due to the inefficiency of the aircraft carriers themselves - but this would be a wrong conclusion.

Aircraft of the Navy simply turned out to be unprepared for participation in a local war - for several decades the development of their strategy and tactics was sharpened for naval battles, and "Desert Storm" set a completely different task for the fleet - work on ground targets. Despite all the conceptual shortcomings, the fleet's aviation proved to be at its best - the naval pilots played a key role in suppressing the Iraqi radar network, and the E-2C Hawkeyes provided control of the airspace filled with aircraft from different countries.

Naval pilots flew thousands of sorties in the face of anti-air defense, entered air battles, died and won.

The reaction of the leadership of the Navy to such obvious shortcomings of the naval doctrines of the Cold War was immediate: already in 1992 the fleet had a new concept and a new vision of its development ("From the Sea", carried out by order of the Commander of Naval Operations Admiral Frank B. Kelso II), Purchases of large consignments of high-precision weapons were organized and the composition of carrier-based aircraft was changed. A-6 Intruder attack aircraft began to be removed from service - now attack aircraft were represented exclusively by the F / A-18 Hornet and F-14 Tomcat. Thus, during Operation Deliberate Force (Bosnia, 1995), USS Theodore Roosevelt carried out combat missions exclusively with F / A-18s using precision weapons.

Naval Strategy remains on the shelf for now, but will be used again if necessary ...
We must be insured against the revival of Soviet naval power ...
In connection with the reduction of our forces and the reduction in the number of resources to ensure a military presence, we must develop new schemes for the deployment of battle groups of aircraft carriers and amphibious battle groups ...
PLATs are freed from the need to provide constant anti-submarine warfare on long-distance communications and can now be available for more missions to project naval power and support regional character ...

As for the AUG concept, it has undergone significant changes - from the central element of the fight against the enemy fleet, aircraft carriers have come to be considered as mobile forward air bases used as a means of ensuring a strategic presence. Also, the fleet completely abandons non-nuclear heavy aircraft-carrying ships - "Desert Storm" gave a clear example of the effectiveness of aircraft carriers with different types of power plants.

The aircraft carriers Saratoga, America and John F. Kennedy from Task Force 155. Photo source: defensemedianetwork.com

We can say that aircraft carriers are becoming more multi-tasking and functional weapons.

The Navy's ability to provide a wide range of firepower and high frequency of missions can have a large impact on the course / outcome of conflicts, especially during the most critical, early period of the campaign, when the continental United States is just beginning to enter the theater of war ...

- an excerpt from the 1997 Navy Operational Concept by Commander of Naval Operations, Admiral Jay L. Johnson.
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    1. AUL
      AUL 26 December 2021 08: 43
      +9
      Try to write better.
      “He who knows how, does it. He who does not know how, teaches others.” (C) K. Marx Capital Volume III.
  3. Lech from Android.
    Lech from Android. 26 December 2021 05: 27
    -14
    The article has no thoughts on countering the US AUG adversary.
    Times have changed ... AUGs have become more vulnerable ... that the Americans may come up with a new one against China and Russia hyper missiles.
    A very weak article in terms of details.
    1. Lykases1
      Lykases1 26 December 2021 09: 44
      +5
      I don’t think it’s that simple. If the aircraft carrier keeps scouts in the air, then how to issue target designation on it.
      1. YOUR
        YOUR 28 December 2021 03: 54
        +1
        The combat formation of the AUG is such that it is difficult to get close to it. There are forward patrols and lateral security. There is no need to make fools of the enemy. They will not walk in a dense group.
        Experience of the Second World War at a distance of 100 - 150 km, a pair of destroyers monitor the air, the same along the flanks and behind. Nearby there is a cruiser and an air defense ship. Hokai is constantly hanging in the air, drawing in a circle of 250 - 300 km, in the air it can be 3-4 hours, he went to the point to replace him, the next one on the aircraft carrier can be 3 pieces.
        A serious opponent.
    2. OgnennyiKotik
      OgnennyiKotik 26 December 2021 10: 00
      +16
      Quote: Lech from Android.
      The article has no thoughts on countering the US AUG adversary.

      A very strange claim. The author is making a series of articles about changes in tactics of using US AB, your question is not included in the logic of these articles.

      Quote: Lech from Android.
      Times have changed ... AUG have become more vulnerable.

      Yes, they have changed, but for the worse. The Putin regime has brought the navy to the point of inability to resist the AUG, we cannot sink the AV. Although under Yeltsin they could still.

      Quote: Lech from Android.
      that the Americans can come up with a new one against the hyper-missiles of China and Russia.

      This has already been invented and partially implemented. The plans are clear and feasible. Considering how much time you spend on VO, it’s strange that you don’t know.
      1. Romeo
        Romeo 26 December 2021 22: 12
        +3
        "Yes, they have changed, but for the worse. Putin's government has brought the navy to a state of inability to resist the AUG, we cannot sink the AV. Although we could still under Yeltsin."
        Do you seriously think that "not Putin's power" would make the development of the fleet a priority ?! Why's that? And what could have fought back under Yeltsin is the merit of "Yeltsin's power" ?!
    3. Blackmokona
      Blackmokona 26 December 2021 10: 03
      -1
      Russia knows how to shoot down hypersonic missiles, which means the United States will be able
      1. Kedrovich
        Kedrovich 27 December 2021 17: 05
        -3
        They are Iranian handicraft drones through one barely shoot down. Are you still hoping for something? On SM3? So they are sharpened for ballistic targets. In addition, they want to shoot down with a kinetic projectile. Not even with splinters, but with a "crowbar". And this requires jewelry precision, even for ballistic purposes. And here the hypersound walking to the right to the left. Yes, you are an optimist.
      2. 28st region
        28st region 28 December 2021 11: 17
        +2
        Which missiles does it shoot down? More precisely, at what speeds are moving?
        If these knock down, then the hypersonic ones, which, please, will slow down.
    4. Anzhey V.
      26 December 2021 10: 53
      +11
      The article has no thoughts on countering the US AUG adversary.


      I apologize, but what in its title or content prompted you to think that there should be discussions on how to deal with AUG?)
    5. Yarhann
      Yarhann 27 December 2021 13: 02
      0
      the article is about a new concept of using AUG in local conflicts of our time
  4. Andrei from Chelyabinsk
    Andrei from Chelyabinsk 26 December 2021 09: 26
    +9
    The situation was much worse with the intensity of flights - it turned out to be just disgusting.

    And it was quite consistent with the intensity of flights of land aircraft.
    1. Blackmokona
      Blackmokona 26 December 2021 10: 04
      +1
      It's just that the author does not take into account that you still need to find goals and plan tasks for all these armadas that have pulled together. And the main thing in staff investigations, as well as in police officers, is not to go out to ourselves in search of the guilty ones.
    2. Anzhey V.
      26 December 2021 11: 03
      +5
      Visual statistics, thank you. However, I have slightly different data from the document "AIR FORCE PERFORMANCE IN DESERT STORM" from the US Air Force Department: 65 thousand sorties of ground aviation, out of the total cumulative number of committed fighting sorties accounted for 59% of the Air Force.
      1. Andrei from Chelyabinsk
        Andrei from Chelyabinsk 26 December 2021 11: 29
        +9
        Quote: Anjay V.
        However, I have slightly different data from the document "AIR FORCE PERFORMANCE IN DESERT STORM" from the US Air Force Department:

        Forgive me generously, you completely ignore the basics of working with statistics
        Quote: Anjay V.
        65 thousand sorties of ground aviation, of the total aggregate number of committed combat sorties, 59% are accounted for by the Air Force.

        Now let's remember that there were many more Air Force planes than aircraft carrier planes. Simply put, for a correct comparison, you need to take the number of aircraft of the ground air force, and divide the number of sorties by them, then do the same with carrier-based aircraft.
        Otherwise, it may turn out like this - 8 land aircraft made 1 sortie each, and two deck aircraft - two each. Obviously, decks were used twice as much. But judging by the sorties alone, it turns out that the ground aircraft made 8 of them, and the deck aircraft only 4, and it turns out that the ground aircraft flew twice as intensively.
        So, about the number
        Heavy fighters of air supremacy - F-15 “Eagle”, 120 units.
        Stormtroopers - A-10 Tandrebolt, 132 units.
        Tactical bombers - F-111 "Anteater" (modifications E and F), 82 units.
        Other tactical combat aircraft, in the number of 395 units, including:
        F-16 Fighting Falken - 244 units
        F-117A "Nighthok" - 42 units
        F-15E "Strike Eagle" - 48 units.
        F-4G Wild Weasel - 61 units
        And in total, it turns out, 729 tactical aircraft, but in addition to it, strategic aviation was also involved - 66 units. strategic B-52G Stratofortress. And this is not counting the servicing aircraft - EF-111 "Raven", flying radar "Sentry", tanker aircraft and so on and so forth, the departures of which, by the way, also had to fall into the statistics given by you
        In addition to the Air Force, 190 US Marine Corps aircraft operated from ground airfields:
        AV-8B Harrier II - 86 units
        F / A-18 “Hornet” (mod. A, C and D) - 84 unit.
        A-6E Intruder - 20 units
        Based on the US aircraft carriers:
        F-14 "Tomcat" - 99 units
        F / A-18 - 85 units
        A-6E Intruder - 95 units
        A-7 Corsair II - 24 units

        In total, it turns out that the Americans threw 985 land-based aircraft and 303 carrier-based aircraft into battle, that is, 1288 combat aircraft, and the share of carrier-based aircraft is 23,5%.
        1. Artyom Karagodin
          Artyom Karagodin 26 December 2021 12: 29
          -2
          Forgive me generously, you completely ignore the basics of working with statistics


          The author does not bother with such things. He is not a stupid person, but he frankly "floats" in the military theme. Moreover, this is not the first time it has been noticed. True, he does not want to admit this.

          There are many who write that the Air Force is more effective than carrier-based aircraft. But it was Anrzej (actually, this Polish name is spelled as "Andrzej", but let's not quibble too much) who asked me in a dialogue under one publication, they say, you never thought about the fact that the authors supporting the development of the fleet receive money from the fleet ? Like it or not, but a counter question arises. Especially when you consider the stubbornness with which both Anzhey, and not only him, are pursuing their line. However, this is just a question.
          1. Anzhey V.
            26 December 2021 17: 51
            +5
            actually this Polish name is spelled as "Andrzej", but let's not be so nitpicky


            Well, with the Polish version - this is some kind of special love of local commentators who are trying to portray me as a NATO agent. Not to me, in short)

            Have you ever thought about the fact that the authors supporting the development of the fleet receive money from the fleet?


            And I will ask the same question about any person who actively promotes some topic - because I have seen and see too many such precedents with my own eyes.

            Especially when you consider the persistence with which both Anzhey, and not only him, are pursuing their line


            I am so desperately "conducting my line" with some "others" that I wrote as many as two (!!!) publications about aircraft carriers in Russia more than six months ago. Artem, you, right, are not funny yourself?)

            He is not a stupid person, but he frankly "floats" in the military theme. Moreover, this is not the first time it has been noticed. True, he does not want to admit this.


            Different people have different opinions on this matter, believe me. However, I never pretended to be a guru, which I have written about many times.
            But you yourself came up with a terrible story about me, as about the enemy of aircraft carriers, the fleet and in general all that is holy, and for a good seven to eight months you have been at war with windmills. Are you tired?)
        2. Anzhey V.
          26 December 2021 12: 56
          +1
          Once again, thank you for the data, although I get the impression that you have decided that I am arguing with you)
          1. Andrei from Chelyabinsk
            Andrei from Chelyabinsk 26 December 2021 15: 03
            +1
            Quote: Anjay V.
            although I get the impression that you have decided that I am arguing with you)

            So I'm not really arguing. hi Yet the phrase
            Quote: Anjay V.
            However, I have slightly different data from the document "AIR FORCE PERFORMANCE IN DESERT STORM"

            reads like an objection - and I have the same data, only spread over the planes
            1. Anzhey V.
              26 December 2021 17: 32
              +1
              reads like an objection - and I have the same data, only spread over the planes


              No, I just wanted to clarify that I started from several other numbers)

              Can you tell me where you can get statistics on sorties for individual conflicts?
  5. Rurikovich
    Rurikovich 26 December 2021 10: 04
    +9
    As I understand it, the author is writing a series of articles about how the concept of using AUG has changed after the collapse of the USSR. How in accordance with the new doctrines the aircraft armament of aircraft carriers changed, with what success it was used in the new realities of local conflicts. Author, am I right?
    I would like the commentators to express their opinion - people (gentlemen, comrades, or whatever you call yourself there) - wait for the whole cycle, analyze, compare the author's opinion with the type of historical reality and only then either stroke or tear your throat (depending, of course, on your database and your inner world).
    After all, as one popular blogger in his niche says, the truth is much more interesting than fiction ...
    It's one thing to communicate constructively, point out mistakes, agree with something or not, but right off the bat, that the author is a mediocre ... stop No.
    I am personally interested in following the author's opinion on this topic. And as I understand it, today was the first article in the cycle, the second came out earlier than the day before yesterday. Moreover, the author himself pointed out this.
    From me plus hi
    1. Anzhey V.
      26 December 2021 10: 39
      +4
      As I understand it, the author is writing a series of articles about how the concept of using AUG has changed after the collapse of the USSR. How in accordance with the new doctrines the aircraft armament of aircraft carriers changed, with what success it was used in the new realities of local conflicts. Author, am I right?


      You're right. The idea of ​​the cycle lies precisely in this plane)
    2. Andrei from Chelyabinsk
      Andrei from Chelyabinsk 26 December 2021 11: 31
      +2
      Quote: Rurikovich
      the truth is much more interesting than fiction ...

      laughing good hi
  6. Eug
    Eug 26 December 2021 11: 28
    +1
    As for me, the minke whales are worried - it looks like they are facing a serious struggle with China for the chains of islands in the Pacific Ocean, located much closer to China than to Hawaii and Midway ..
  7. Alexey RA
    Alexey RA 26 December 2021 12: 46
    +6
    With the outbreak of hostilities in the Persian Gulf, many details unpleasant for the fleet became clear - for example, the aircraft of the Navy could not use high-precision weapons with laser guidance on the target. Moreover, it was simply absent in the navy.

    And then what? smile

    Laser guided bombs being loaded onto A-6E Intruders aboard the USS John F Kennedy in preparations for strikes against Iraq. January 23rd 1991
    A laser-guided UAB suspension for A-6E Intruder attack aircraft aboard the John F. Kennedy aircraft in preparation for an attack on Iraq. January 23, 1991

    And here is a photo of 1987: the suspension of Mk84 bombs, equipped with a laser guidance system, under the A-6E Intruder attack aircraft on board the Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft.


    Actually, one of the tasks of modernizing attack aircraft A-6E arr. 1979 was precisely the installation of an on-board ammunition control system with a laser guidance system.
    1. Anzhey V.
      26 December 2021 17: 36
      +2
      And then what?


      You are absolutely right about the Intruders, but the total amount of precision-guided ammunition purchased by the fleet left much to be desired. In addition, the F / A-18s could not use them, and the F-14s were upgraded to use air-to-ground weapons only after the campaign.

      During Desert Storm, of the total number of bombs dropped by carrier-based aircraft, only 2% were high-precision bombs. The rest is good old cast iron)

      But thanks for the comment and photos, a very nice addition.
  8. The comment was deleted.
  9. Oorfene Juice and his wooden soldiers
    Oorfene Juice and his wooden soldiers 26 December 2021 16: 12
    0
    [media = https: //i.ibb.co/h83zxB8/FEc-PPZHXs-AAJMEk.jpg]
  10. Romeo
    Romeo 26 December 2021 19: 02
    -1
    The article is an example of how you can interest the heads of local readers. And there are a lot of such interesting topics. I remember my favorite magazine Foreign Military Review in the 80s. This is not Klimov / Skomorokhov / Kaptsov persistently instilling with their articles a feeling of the wretchedness of our fatherland.
    1. Rurikovich
      Rurikovich 26 December 2021 19: 27
      +5
      Quote: Romeo
      This is not Klimov / Skomorokhov / Kaptsov persistently instilling with their articles a feeling of the wretchedness of our fatherland

      And how do they inculcate "wretchedness"? By raising the truth? The cut of the USC budget is obvious. Really miserable terms for the construction of ships are evident. The awful state of affairs in naval armament (especially torpedo) is obvious. Nobody hates, for example, the same quality of our SU-57 or T-14 "Armata". They criticize the rate of arming with these complexes. Nobody criticizes the quality of electronic warfare equipment ..
      Criticize where the ass is REALLY. And I think this is correct. It is not necessary to hold parades, but to accelerate the rate of rearmament of the army, to deal with corruption in the spheres of the Defense Ministry. Otherwise, there will be a new Tsushima, especially in the Navy ...
  11. kig
    kig 27 December 2021 02: 19
    +1
    How did the aircraft carriers change ... but how, really? They were looking for weapons (other aircraft), the concept changed ... but how did the aircraft carriers change?
  12. Usher
    Usher 27 December 2021 23: 35
    0
    A total of 24 sorties per day per aircraft carrier

    and what is there not enough?
  13. AC130 Gunship
    AC130 Gunship 10 February 2022 17: 01
    0
    In general, an informative article. Incomprehensible ending. What is their development strategy now? Will they build more or not? What do they want to change the obsolete Fa18 and so on?