In this article, we will try to understand the issues of the size of the air group of a modern nuclear aircraft carrier of the Chester U. Nimitz type, as well as the capabilities of an aircraft carrier to support the operations of deck aircraft on board.
For a long time, the site continues the discussion of supporters and opponents of aircraft carriers. This dispute began long ago, and he has no end in sight, and it is unlikely that we will be able to witness its end. And all because the question: “What is an aircraft carrier — a prima-ballerina or a coffin?” Was discussed for decades both on numerous Internet resources and in general long before the appearance of the Internet — but there is no definitive answer to this very day. The number of supporters of aircraft carriers is very large, but their opponents are a little inferior (if at all inferior) to them in numbers.
I myself am convinced supporters of these giant leviathans of the gray ocean, but today I will not in any way agitate you, dear readers, for aircraft carriers as part of the modern Navy. In the framework of this article, I will consider several quite specific issues related to the size, preparation for take-off, lifting and landing of deck aircraft.
It would seem that there may be unclear? The number of wings, attributed to the aircraft carrier, is well known. By the end of 80, there were 3 types of aviation wings, the typical composition of which is given in the table (the “number of squadrons” - “the number of vehicles in the squadron” is indicated):
There were other options - for example, on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which participated in the hostilities against Iraq in January 1991, the aircraft wing consisted of 78 aircraft (20 F-14 Tomcat, 19 F / A-18 Hornet, 18 A-6E “Intruder”, five EA-6V “Proler”, four E-2C “Hokai”, eight S-3B “Viking” and four KA-6D), as well as six SH-3H helicopters. But subsequently the number of air groups was reduced. To date, the structure of a typical airborne deck aviation includes:
1) 4 squadron of fighter-attack aircraft (VFA) - 48 machines,
2) EW Squadron (VAQ) - 4 aircraft,
3) squadron AEW (VAW) - 4 machines,
4) Anti-submarine helicopter (HS) squadron - 8 machines,
5) C-2A (VRC) carrier-based transport aircraft squadron - 2 vehicles
And all, respectively, 66 machines - 58 aircraft and 8 helicopters. At the same time, the number of EW and / or DRLO aircraft can be increased from 4 to 6, and if necessary, the assault wing can be assigned to a fighter-assault squadron or a squadron of naval infantry helicopters.
The overwhelming majority of authors writing about aircraft carriers are, a priori, convinced that the aircraft carrier is fully able to fully exploit the air wing based on it. And really - how could it be otherwise? What is the point of basing aircraft on the ship that he cannot use? For a long time, the question of the effectiveness of the use of carrier-based aviation was not even raised. Especially since in print the number-standard in 140 (or 147 or even 149) of the departures per day for the aircraft carriers of the “Nimitz” type repeatedly slipped. In other words, for an aircraft group in 80 aircraft, the combat voltage (the number of departures per day per aircraft) would be 140 / 80 = 1,75 (although according to some data the standard combat voltage for deck aircraft in the US Navy is equal to 2), which corresponds to the same land aviation indicator in a normal combat situation. Of course, there are cases when land-based combat aircraft are forced to make both 3 and 5 sorties per day. But this happens either when flights are carried out at a very short range, i.e. are very short-lived, either due to force majeure circumstances, and then they cannot last for any length of time, if only because of the fatigue of the pilots — or additional replacement crews will be needed. However, 140-149 sorties per day from a nuclear aircraft carrier were also considered to be a standard, which, in extraordinary cases, could be exceeded. It is possible that the technical limit for aircraft carriers of the Nimitz type was considered to be the number of times I found myself in 200 sorties per day. Well, on the newest American aircraft carrier Gerald R.Ford it is planned to achieve even larger quantities - the norm in 160 sorties per day and before 270 sorties in critical situations.
However, behind all these considerations, a very important question has somehow been lost - what is the rate of recovery of aircraft from an aircraft carrier? Why is it important? Supporters of aircraft carriers usually lead to the devastating results of the attacks of almost the full aviation group of an atomic aircraft carrier on the ultimate combat radius (48 of the shock hornets * 4 RCC "Harpoon" on each = 192 RCC suddenly and unexpectedly attacked the enemy's order in 1000 km from the American air forces in the XNUMX, leaving the American air force in the XNUMX, unexpectedly attacking the enemy XNUMX enemy airplanes. This, of course, is beautiful, but ...
The same “Hornet” without refueling is able to be in the air for about 3 hours (although this time can be both increased and decreased - the presence and capacity of the PTB, the weight of the combat load, the flight profile, etc.) are of great importance. But if, for example, it took 2 hours to lift the entire Nimitz air group - this would mean that by the time the last plane leaves the giant ship's deck, the first flight hour will be the first! What departure range can we talk about? The first to fly, the Hornets are unlikely to retire more than 15-20 minutes from the flight of an aircraft carrier ... And what if it takes not an 2 but an 3 hour to lift the air group? Then by the time the last planes take off, the first will have to land already, since they run out of fuel ...
During a very lively discussion in the comments on the article by Oleg Kaptsov “The convoy to Alaska. Chronicles of sea battle " http://topwar.ru/31232-konvoy-na-alyasku-hroniki-morskogo-boya.html author of the article, based on a series of articles by Kabernik.V.V. "Evaluation of the combat power of aircraft carriers" http://eurasian-defence.ru/node/3602 announced significant restrictions on the use of carrier-based aviation, namely:
1) The number of Nimitz aircraft carriers — 75-85 aircraft — indicated in the press is a theoretical indicator that can be achieved only in clear weather and near the native coast. In reality, the Nimitz air group does not exceed 45 machines.
2) The rise rate of the air group is very low - 45 minutes are needed to lift a dozen cars, and a full hour and a half to lift 20 machines. Therefore, the maximum combat group that can be lifted from the deck of an aircraft carrier cannot exceed 20 airplanes, but in this case they will not be able to act on the full radius, since the first vehicles that had flown into the air consumed a significant part of the fuel - or they would be forced to hang PTBs in damage to the combat load.
I will not now enumerate the arguments of Kabernik V.V., I will only note that, in my memory, his work is the first attempt to deal with the peculiarities of the work and the organization of massive strikes by the forces of carrier-based aviation (meaning the first attempt in the open press, not I doubt that “where necessary” this issue has been studied for a long time and thoroughly). And as such, this attempt deserves respect. But are the conclusions of Kabernik VV correct?
What is the cycle of the aircraft lifting into the air? Obviously, the aircraft must be prepared for departure - it must undergo all the maintenance it needs, the aircraft must be raised to the flight deck (if it was in the hangar), it must be filled, the armament must be suspended and put on alert, a preflight check . The aircraft must be delivered to the catapult and hooked onto the hook of the accelerating piston, after which one more check of the aircraft and the catapult is required, and only then - the start!
Again, we’ll start from the end and see how long it takes to deliver an airplane fully ready for takeoff to the catapult, check before the ejection and takeoff.
What conclusions can we draw from this video? Firstly, in order to enter the catapult, the aircraft did not need a conveyor - he did it himself. Secondly - the plane opened the plane only on the catapult (this is important and later we will remember about it) And third - the final check before take-off takes quite a bit of time - the Hornet stopped after entering the catapult, approximately 1 min 15 seconds from the beginning of the video , and after 2 minutes and 41 seconds (in 3 minutes 56 seconds from the start of shooting), the plane pulled away from the deck of the ship. And this is not the limit! Watch the second video
It captured the work of two catapults simultaneously. For 6 min. 26 seconds from the start of shooting from the first catapult (closest to the operator performing the shooting) the 3 of the aircraft started. From a distant catapult - only two, while the second plane took off through 3 mines 35 seconds after the start of shooting, but did not apply for a catapult. In just 6 mines 26 seconds, 5 airplanes took off from two catapults. The time period between takeoffs is approximately 2 min 13 seconds - 2 min 20 seconds. This allows us to assume that if another plane had been sent to the distant catapult, we would have seen not 5 but 6 aircraft taking off during the shooting time.
What does this mean? Yes, only that one catapult is able to send one plane into the air in 2,2-2,5 minutes. Accordingly, two dozen aircraft could be lifted into the air with two catapults in 21-25 minutes. Three catapults would have done it in 15-17 minutes. But! Only if the planes are fully prepared for departure - all checks have been carried out (except for the terminal, on the catapult) weapons - suspended and activated, the pilot - in the cockpit, etc.
And what can prevent airplanes from being fully prepared for departure? Need maintenance? Let's see what it is. In the United States aviation, all the technical preparation of the aircraft is divided into pre-flight, post-flight after each flight, post-flight at the end of the flight day and after a certain number of flight hours.
Pre-flight preparation is carried out before the first flight on the day of flights and includes a pre-flight inspection, as well as some types of work, the main purpose of which is to prepare the aircraft for departure in accordance with the approved flight task. In this case, it is allowed not to carry out work on the preparation of those types of equipment that will not be used in upcoming flights.
After-flight training after each flight is carried out to prepare the aircraft for the next flight and includes refueling with fuel and lubricants, ammunition equipment, etc.
Post-flight training at the end of the flight day provides for refueling the aircraft and performing a special (small) list of preventive maintenance.
Post-flight training after a certain number of flight hours (several flying days) is carried out with the aim of maintaining the aircraft and its equipment in good condition by carrying out preventive and maintenance work with extensive use of special equipment.
This preparation, I must say, takes a lot of time. For example, to ensure one flying hour of the F-14, “Tomcat”, according to the standard, required 20 man-hours of maintenance, but in practice the value of this indicator sometimes reached 49. Hornet requires 25 man-hours of service per flight hour. This is quite a lot - it turns out that for the day in which the aircraft makes 2 departure for 3 hours each, “Tomcat” will need from 120 to 292 maintenance man hours, and “Hornet” - 150. But the air group specialists are quite capable of that - the fact is that for every plane on the aircraft carrier there are already 26 people serving staff (this is why the size of the aircraft group on the aircraft carrier is 2500 people) and the Hornet’s 150 service hours will not be too strong and straining in less than 6 hours of collaboration. But if Tomcat is going to foul up and require 49 man-hours per flight hour, it will be more difficult, because the group serving it will have to switch to a twelve-hour working day. Well, or ask for help from specialists who have freed themselves from the service of the Hornet.
This is a joke, of course, but there is a joke in every joke, and everything else is true, and it lies in the fact that the Nimitz crew is really able to provide maintenance for the aircraft group on 75-85 aircraft, provided they are used extensively. Especially after the decks of American aircraft carriers left the terribly voracious before maintenance, "Tomcats" and they were replaced by the relatively unpretentious "Hornet".
What else? Please note - refueling and loading ammunition are considered part of the maintenance of aircraft and taken into account earlier, but I will still say a few words about them. Unfortunately, I don’t know the time of refueling of combat aircraft, but the refueling of huge passenger Boeing 747 and Airbus (15,5-18,5 tons) takes 15-20 minutes, and the aircraft carrier is clearly far from one column. The existing ammunition supply systems are mechanized - from the cellars located below the waterline, special elevators serve bombs and rockets on the deck under the hangar. From there, two elevators deliver ammunition to the hangar deck, and three elevators deliver them to the flight deck. The system provides loading of 135 aircraft with ammunition per day. Is it a lot or a little? To ensure 140 sorties per day is more than enough, since part of the sorties are carried out by aircraft that do not need to load weapons (for example, airplanes ARLO "Hokai")
What conclusions can be drawn from all this?
Be sure to remember that carrier-based aviation does not engage in battle with spherical horses in a vacuum. Every combat mission is preceded by a certain planning and target designation. For example, an American aircraft carrier is moving forward to a certain area of military operations, or a hot spot, which is about to become such an area. The leadership of the operation will certainly set the aircraft carrier some tasks, for example, the destruction of large forces previously discovered from a satellite fleet the enemy and, after they are neutralized, the destruction of certain stationary targets on the territory of the enemy.
Suppose an aircraft carrier enters the danger zone in the morning. Who prevents his crew from conducting preflight training at night, refuel and arm aircraft to accomplish their priority task and prepare them for departure? Yes, no one. But in the morning, when the aircraft carrier entered the conflict zone, its planes are ready for battle, and now it is only necessary to find the forces of the enemy’s fleet. Duty patrols are rising, EW aircraft detect suspicious activity in the Alpha 12 square. The patrol “Hokai”, who had previously observed radio silence, cut in his “plate” and saw an enemy shipboard strike group covered by several land-based fighters in 800 km from the aircraft carrier. Immediately begins the preparation for the attack. But what is it? The plan of attack is being finalized, the pilots specify the flight mission, and the planes complete the pre-flight preparation. What does it mean? Well, for example, aviation munitions have 2 degrees of protection, let's call them (sorry for not knowing the terminology) fuse and check. After removing the rocket from the fuse, it will be enough to pull the tape tied to the check and the rocket will be ready for use. Incidentally, this was precisely the reason for the tragedy on the “Forrestol” - not wanting to mess with the safety on the upper deck, the crew chose to cock it back in the ammunition store. And the check ... well - what is a check? The wind blew harder, ripped up the ribbon, jumped out the check, the rocket rose on a combat platoon. And then - static discharge and random start. If everything was carried out according to the instructions, the rocket would have been on safety and nothing would have happened, but ... the instructions were not executed.
But feel the difference - the planes do not need to be refilled - they are already filled. On the aircraft do not need to hang weapons - it is already on them. All you need to do is to reset the fuses and pull up the checks ... The preparation time for departure is minimized. I suppose it would not be a mistake to say that the “remnants” of the pre-flight preparation of 30-35 planes I have described will take an hour, at most - one and a half (if you have to change something, add some weapon).
The aircraft carrier comes with a full airflight - part of the aircraft and helicopters in the hangar, and some - on the upper deck. But in the evening a shock group was formed on the flight deck - some extra aircraft were put into the hangar (say, there were too many Tomcats on the deck but not enough Hornets), respectively, some of the Tomcats were removed, replacing them with the Hornets. From traveling
Air Group on the upper deck deployed for lifting
What does this deployment mean?
When an aircraft carrier does not produce intensive flights, the aircraft on its flight deck are located approximately like this.
For the take-off of the patrol more than two catapults of the corner deck are enough, and after the take-off of the patrol the landing (corner) deck is free. After landing the patrol, its planes are being taxied into the nose or to the superstructure in order to refuel, if necessary, re-equip, well, and get other post-flight maintenance. However, due to the large number of airplanes on the flight deck (the Nimitz hangar accommodates approximately 50% of its air group) with such an arrangement, the nose of the aircraft carrier will be fully loaded - there is no possibility of using nasal catapults, as in this photo
The truth is that in this photo some planes are grouped aft, overlapping the corner deck of an aircraft carrier - probably this small group of aircraft will start from the angular deck catapults.
But this is a marching position. And if we are preparing to send a large air group into battle, then the aircraft on the aircraft carrier should be placed like this
In this case, the planes are grouped to feed them to the catapults, and 3 of four catapults are ready for takeoff. All three catapults already have planes ready for launch (on the 2 scheme, the Hokaya has already started from the corner deck catapults and is about to tear itself away from the deck), behind them the 2 aircraft are already in the pre-launch positions, so that as soon as the first ones start took their place with a minimum delay ... What will be the order of the start? The first planes are highlighted in black. Flight safety is paramount, and if suddenly an emergency landing is suddenly required for some aircraft, it is the black ones that will interfere with it - they block the landing area - the corner deck. After the launch of the “black” aircraft, the time “speckled” comes - especially those that are located in the bow and overlap the fourth catapult. After they are launched, the aircraft carrier is able to use all its 4 catapults. Now you can fly the rest of the aircraft strike group. How long will it take?
Not too much. Assuming that the fourth catapult “goes into action” after launching the 26 aircraft and remembering (remember the movie!) That one catapult can lift one aircraft into 2,1-2,5 minutes (take 2 minutes 30 seconds), then 3 catapults will lift 26 aircraft in about 22 minutes, and the rest of the 9 planes take off for another 7,5 minutes - (three catapults will launch two planes, one - three). Total, the rise of the air group in 35 aircraft from the position indicated in the diagram will take about half an hour!
So where did the Kabernik V.V. took the figure in 20 planes in an hour and a half? The fact is that this distinguished author, in my humble understanding, made one, but a fundamental error, distorting his calculations. He's writing:
The deck of the aircraft carrier is arranged in such a way that the elevators of the ammunition assembly are located near the standard pre-launch positions, and there is also all the necessary infrastructure for refueling and pre-launch checks. Delivery of ammunition to emergency positions takes considerable time, and the number of mobile means of mechanization is obviously limited. Thus, the preparation for the departure of the car at a non-standard position takes hardly twice as long - those same hours and a half instead of the standard 45 minutes. The maximum number of aircraft in one launch cycle implies the use of all available resources for training. At the same time, the capacity of the standard pre-launch positions is 12 machines - this is the squadron of the first echelon, which can be in the air in the first 45 minutes .... ... The maximum volume of the raised air group is no more than 20 machines ... ... But the rise of this compound into the air takes more than one and a half hours, which means the impossibility of using the full combat load. At least the first 6 vehicles in the launch cycle are forced to use outboard tanks in order to operate in conjunction with planes taking off later at the same range. From a tactical point of view, this means that the range of the strike connection can never reach its theoretical maximum, and the combat load will be at best half of the declared in the characteristics of the aircraft.
In other words, Kabernik V.V. this is the case - if 20 airplanes are on the deck, of which 12 are in 45-minute readiness, the remaining 8 machines have an hour and a half readiness because they are too far from the delivery and refueling infrastructure. This can be understood. But then comes the most surprising conclusion: since 12 machines are in 45-minute readiness, this means that all 12 machines can take off within 45 minutes. If the remaining 8 machines are in an hour and a half readiness, then all these 8 machines will be able to take to the air within an hour and a half. By the time the 20 machine rises into the air, the 1 machine is already flying an hour and a half over the deck of the aircraft carrier - accordingly, it is already meaningless to wait for the 21 car to rise, the first one will soon run out of fuel.
Error Cabernik V.V. lies in the fact that he incorrectly interprets the term “readiness for departure”. If 12 machines have an 45 minute readiness for departure, this means that in a dozen minutes 45 will be ready for departure. If the remaining 8 machines have an hour and a half readiness - these 8 machines (plus 12 machines with 45-minute readiness) will be ready for departure one and a half hours after the start of the pre-flight preparation. Thus, it is NOT necessary to lift 12 machines into the air and wait for the remaining 8 to undergo pre-flight preparation and take off in an hour and a half - IT IS NECESSARY TO WAIT THE HOUR HALF AND COMPLETE THE PLAIN PREPARATION ON ALL 20 MACHINES then all the 20 machines will be installed. the air group in the air in 15 minutes.
What is interesting is that in our calculation (the rise of the air group in the 35 aircraft in half an hour), the aircraft that first took off also lose a fair amount of fuel, waiting for the latest aircraft to take off. Is it critical? Totally uncritical. The thing is that planes of different types and with various combat loads will go on the attack on the enemy KUG. If the DRLO planes were lifted first (the Hokai are able to hang in the air for up to 7 hours without refueling against a fighter or attack aircraft’s 2,5-3 hours) and if they are next to lift the planes that will perform the air defense function -4 relatively light air-to-air UR, and 6 AMRAAM and a pair of Sidewiders all together weigh only 4 kg) then, of course, they can “grab” additional PTBs and at least equalize in distance with the later attack aircraft carrying much harder ly cargo.
However, there is another limitation - landing operations. Theoretically, the aircraft can land on the aircraft carrier every minute. In this video, we observe the classic landing of the “Hornet” and see how quickly the plane releases the runway.
But the minute is the ideal. When the weather worsens, the standard increases to one and a half minutes, and it should be remembered that the aircraft does not always manage to get on the first time, and often it has to go to another circle. It turns out that the group in the 20 planes may well sit down for half an hour or even more, and the group in the 35 planes can do 50-60 minutes. If dear Kabernik V.V. I also remembered this, he would probably have come to the conclusion that group flights of deck aviation are impossible in principle - an hour and a half - take-off, half an hour - landing ... The fuel will remain except to launch some target kilometers in 200 from an aircraft carrier.
But in our case (takeoff of the group in 35 airplanes - half an hour), the take-off and landing operations will take a lot of time. Yes, of course, you can always fly several “Hornets” into the air and refuel the aircraft returning from the mission (the SuperHornet can lift up to five tons of fuel in its own tank and 14 tons of fuel and work as a tanker, which caused the specialized tankers to be removed from the wing. ), but this is also a certain time ...
Apparently this is why I have never mentioned in any source mentioning the actions of the air group in more than 35 machines (even theoretically). Most likely, 35 machines are the limit that is capable of acting on a full combat radius and, probably, taking into account refueling landing operations. The size of the air group, perhaps, can be increased over 35 aircraft only if the target is close (say, 350-450 km) target.
And besides this - I believe that the number of airplanes on the Nimitz flight deck directly affects the number of aircraft being raised into the air. Prepared planes on the flight deck can start very quickly - but with the cars in the hangars, things are not so simple. Not only do they need to be raised to the flight deck - although the elevator rises / falls quite quickly (lifting takes 14-15 seconds), but the plane still needs to be dragged onto this lift, and this is not easy - naturally, the aircraft cannot move in the hangar and need a tractor. And the most important thing - as far as I know, a car standing on the hangar deck can not receive pre-flight training in full. In my (it is possible that I am mistaken) refueling can not be made in the hangar.
At the same time, it is obvious that it is impossible to place more 36-40 planes on pre-launch positions - we simply count the planes on the chart
Of course, some time after the beginning of their ascent, the elevators will be freed and it will be possible to raise new aircraft from the hangar, but ... the air group leaving the sky cannot wait until the raised aircraft refuel, receive preflight maintenance, etc. - fuel is expensive! Perhaps, if I am mistaken about refueling in the hangar (or if even a few filled cars are lowered into the hangar at the stage of pre-flight preparation), it is still possible to lift several more cars, in addition to those that were on the flight deck, but they can hardly be lot.
In the modern wing of the 58-60 aircraft. If 35 of them went to attack the enemy KUG, four of them are hanging in the air, four more are preparing to change this watch, and four-six fighters are at the catapults, preparing to rise in the air and strengthen the air patrol - that will we stay? Not so little 9-11 machines. And this is, in my opinion, the main reason for the reduction in the number of promising air groups.
During the Soviet era, in the event of a global war, American planes, carrying out their tasks, would have suffered very large losses, because a fight with the Air Force and Air Defense of the Soviet Union is, you know, not to bomb Libya. In order for at least some time to be able to provide its own air defense and strike at the fleet and infrastructure of the USSR, a considerable amount of aviation was required - that’s why six squadrons of fighter and attack aircraft (up to 60 aircraft, not including DRLO, EW and so on). Now why? To carry out police functions and wars with countries like Iraq - much less is enough. And if you suddenly need it - you can always add a Marine squadron to the 48 regular "Hornet", getting the same 60 strike aircraft on an aircraft carrier ...
In addition, it should be borne in mind that airplanes still occasionally require in-depth post-flight training after a certain number of hours of flying time - and some number of cars may be on tests in the hangar, when an urgent combat mission comes suddenly ...
Conclusion: In my humble opinion, the air group in the 75-90 aircraft is indeed too big for an aircraft carrier of the Nimitz type — it would be extremely difficult for him to use all his airplanes and helicopters at the same time. It is unlikely that a situation could arise in which an aircraft carrier would use 50-60 combat aircraft simultaneously (even taking into account those on duty on the deck). But the fact is that these aircraft carriers are designed for long-term intensive military operations, as a result of which the wing carries certain losses by downed and damaged aircraft - a certain reserve of pilots and airplanes provides compensation for losses and allows you to maintain a high combat capability of the aircraft carrier strike group longer than the limited the number of air group.
(to be continued)