One of the outcomes of the Second World War in the development of naval armaments was the unconditional confirmation for aircraft carriers of the status of the main striking force in sea (ocean) theaters of military operations. At the same time, few people remember that in Russia the idea of creating such a class of warships as an aircraft carrier arose at the dawn of the last century.
One of the first to create a warship designed to base aircraft on it was proposed back in 1909 by Lev Matsievich, captain of the Marine Engineers Corps and one of the first Russian aviators. According to his plan, a promising ship, an aircraft carrier, was supposed to have a hinged flight deck and provide for the base of 25 aircraft on it. However, this and a number of other proposals were ignored due to the increase in coastal capabilities. aviation in the Baltic and the Black Sea.
As a result, Great Britain became the trendsetter on aircraft carriers in the First World War, and the United States in the Second World War. And if, to its beginning, the USA, Great Britain, Japan and France had aircraft carriers before 20, then during the war years it was built, taking into account the aircraft carriers that were completed in the first post-war years, around 200. In the USSR, during the aforementioned period, it was not up to the construction of ships of this class, although the Navy command, in its 1944 considerations of the year regarding the shipbuilding program for 1945 – 1947, proposed to complete the design of aircraft carriers for ocean fleets.
It was believed that only for the North fleet six large and six escort aircraft carriers will be required. However, at the end of 1945, the Council of People's Commissars approved the “Ten-Year Military Shipbuilding Plan for 1946–1955,” declaring the proposal to build eight aircraft carriers premature. Only in 1975-1987 did the four naval vessels of the Kiev type enter the USSR Navy, capable of carrying not only helicopters, but also vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOL), with a nominal total number of all aircraft (LA) of 30–35 units.
In the second half of the 1980-s in the USSR, two practically identical heavy aircraft carrier cruisers (TAVKR) were built: “Admiral Kuznetsov” (11435 project) and Varyag (11436 project) with a displacement of 60 thousand tons, capable of carrying up to 50 aircraft. Springboard and aerofinishers allowed the use of aircraft with the usual method of take-off and landing. The first ship in the 1990 year became part of the Navy of the USSR, the second one entered the 2013 year in the Chinese Navy.
After the normalization of the economic situation in Russia and the growth of spending on national defense, the command of the Russian Navy once again began to think about the development of aircraft carrier forces. So, in the 2005 year, the press reported that our naval commanders were planning to build four multi-purpose aircraft carriers; in 2007, we were already talking about six aircraft carriers — three each for the Northern and Pacific fleets. However, later the dates of their entry into the fighting composition moved significantly, and then the question completely hung in the air. However, while money for aircraft carriers and is not expected. On the other hand, it is obvious that the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) is interested in aircraft carriers, since the construction and repair of ships of this class as part of a stable shipbuilding program promises a guaranteed and permanent income for the next 50 – 70 years. It is equally obvious that the NNS 2020 leadership will not have the year to carry out any long-term program for the integrated construction of aircraft carrier strike groups, since the main efforts are focused on replacing old strategic missile submarines with new ships and on building and repairing ships. The general-purpose naval forces needed by the fleet in the first place. Consequently, there is time to think about whether aircraft carriers are needed for Russia and which ones. In this case, usually refer to the experience of other countries.
SHOCK FLEET FIST
Today, there are nine countries in the world that have aircraft carriers, and the United Kingdom will soon join them again. The United States has the strongest and most numerous aircraft carrier forces — they outnumber the rest of the world’s “aircraft carrier” countries of the world by the number of aircraft on their aircraft carriers. The aircraft carrier is involved in the struggle of the "fleet against the fleet" of the enemy and in the fight of the "fleet against the coast" of the enemy. Since the US Navy does not currently have a decent enemy at sea, the struggle of the "fleet against the coast" has become the main one. Therefore, for aircraft carriers and carrier strike groups (AUG) as a whole, the task of winning air and sea domination in the coastal area of the AUG maneuvering, gaining air superiority in the combat zone, attacking the coast, supporting ground forces (ground forces and working together with them, the marines) prevail over the tasks of providing landing, blockade or escort actions.
In 1998, at a hearing in the US Congress, a vivid description of the American atomic multipurpose aircraft carrier was given. The ship is designed to take part in 200 major crises and in three major conflicts. During 50 years, 500 will provide thousands of aircraft / helicopters take off / landings, spend 6 days at sea during this time, and 3 million will pass during this time. miles In the sea, an aircraft carrier is one-third of its life, an average of 10 thousand aircraft departures a year from it.
The capabilities of an aircraft carrier are primarily determined by the number of sorties and the number of targets hit during a certain period of time. Here are the results of a training experiment conducted with the Nimitz aircraft carrier as early as 1997. For four days, its air wing made a 1001 departure, of which 80% fell to F / A-18 fighter-attack planes, F-14 interceptor fighters and EW-EANXX e-fighters, and E-6 anti-aircraft, anti-aircraft S-20 aircraft and C-2 transport. It turned out that flights at this rate could continue for two more days. To some extent, this experience came in handy after a year during a four-day military operation against Iraq.
It should also be noted that as of the end of the twentieth century, naval experts of the United States believed that from an aircraft carrier per day for a twelve hour period of time with a cycle of one and a half hours in eight waves with 15 – 17 aircraft in the wave can be safely performed using 120 – 130 departures (with five or six flight days and with one or two days to restore combat capability per week). When creating a new generation of aircraft carriers such as "Gerald Ford" (CVN 78) expected to increase the usual rate of departures to 160, and around the clock - to 270 departures per day.
What is the actual performance of the American aircraft carriers?
The following figures were officially announced: before 1975, an aircraft carrier could hit a day at a distance of 370 km of 23 coastal objects, in 1991 - 162, in 1994 - 680 and in 2007 - 1080 objects. And if earlier several planes were assigned to one target, now one plane is striking, using high-precision weaponseveral goals. A report by the Congressional Budget Office of November 2013 of the year said that a Nimitz type aircraft wing could make 95 departures every day to use weapons using four nine hundred hundred kilograms aerial bombs on each aircraft (apparently, they were using these high-precision guided bombs in combat radius of airplanes about 1th. km).
Why is the performance calculation of the aircraft carrier carried out by senior officials at a distance of 370 kilometers? 50% lives in the urbanized world more than 370% at a distance of 75 km from the shores of the oceans and seas, and at a distance of 925 km - 95% of the total population. Thus, the aircraft carrier protects the interests of the United States in areas where almost 75% of the world's population live from the threat of destruction of the enemy with conventional (non-nuclear) weapons on the first day of 1080 objects, for the first four days 4320, etc. He can act on the areas of residence and 95% of the world's population, however, with less intensity. And since aircraft carriers create a “swarm” before the regional war (five or six AUGs are combined into one AUS — carrier strike force), these figures increase accordingly, allowing naval commanders to count on a victorious conclusion of the military conflict for 30 – 45 days.
It is useful to remember about the possibility of returning nuclear weapons to aircraft carriers, which was on board American aircraft carriers from 1950-s to 1992 year and was intended for use by the USSR and its allies in accordance with the strategic and regional plans of the United States and NATO. After the removal of nuclear aircraft bombs from aircraft carriers and the ability to keep aircraft carriers stored in 1993, the carrier-based aircraft to carry nuclear bombs provided for the possibility of returning nuclear weapons to aircraft carriers and airplanes for a period of three years from the date of the decision. Judging from the reports of British sources 90-s, in case of return, 200 nuclear bombs were reserved. And since the new F-35A fighters of the US Air Force will be able to carry nuclear weapons from 2021, they will probably also be armed, if necessary, with the F-35В / С aircraft of the Navy and the USMC.
Why are Americans passionate about aircraft carriers with a large displacement?
First, the area of the hangar and flight decks increases, which allows you to place more aircraft on them. The large dimensions of the flight deck provide the ability to place three aircraft lifters, four steam catapults, providing take-off from the nose and corner sections of the deck of the aircraft carrier at a rate of three aircraft per minute, and an aerofinishing device that allows you to land at an aircraft carrier at a rate of one aircraft per minute. The ability to land one aircraft every minute in conjunction with the duty in the air of tanker aircraft allowed and allows, if necessary, to carry out an urgent ascent into the air to 30 – 35 aircraft.
Secondly, a longer period of time between replenishments of fuel and ammunition on the go is ensured. It is believed that AVMA can have up to 8,5 – 9,5 thousand tons of fuel and lubricants and 1,6 – 2,6 thousand tons of ammunition. With the average daily consumption of 380 tons of aviation fuel, fuel and ammunition are replenished on the fly every six to seven days (F / A-18E / F spends on average 7,3 tons, F-35 - 6,7 tons, and E-2 - 5,4 tons to fly out ).
Thirdly, with increasing displacement, the ship’s ability to use its aircraft in difficult weather conditions increases. It is argued that the flight operations from the aircraft carrier can not be carried out when rolling a side more than five degrees and when pitching more than one degree. There are restrictions for take-off / landing due to wind speed. According to the research it was found that the US Navy aircraft carriers can carry out flight operations in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans 90% of the total time, while aircraft carriers of a lower displacement, about 60 thousand tons, - only 58%. There are no estimates of the use of aircraft carriers in the Arctic Ocean, although in 2009, the command of the US Navy noted the need to equip ships with deck heating and air conditioning facilities, as well as the feasibility of having ice-class ships.
Now let us turn to the aircraft wing of an aircraft carrier, which is one third of the time at sea and two thirds of the time ashore. A typical wing includes 65 – 75 airplanes and helicopters. Its strike core consists of four squadrons of fighter-attack aircraft (each with 10 – 12 machines of the F / A-18 family), one squadron of EW planes (four or five EA-18G) and one multipurpose helicopter squadron (up to 8 – 10XXXXXXXXXXX 60R). Their actions are provided by one squadron of early warning aircraft (four to five E-2C), one helicopter squadron of combat support (up to 8 – 10 MH-60S) and one detachment of transport aircraft (two C-2А).
In the wing of the aircraft carrier, fully combat-ready (capable of performing all the tasks - FMC) 44 – 81% of all aircraft and helicopters. The combatant (capable of performing the main task - MS) up to 91% fighter-attack aircraft, helicopters and up to 80% DRLO and EW aircraft. Duty forces can be in readiness for takeoff via 5, 15 and 30 minutes after the order is given, the rest of the forces - in hourly and lower readiness. The presence of 44 – 48 fighter-attack aircraft on an atomic aircraft carrier makes it possible to have six to seven vehicles in the air for continuous combat action (with a ratio of airborne to the number of regular 1: 6 – 7). Each tactical aviation aircraft has an 1,54 crew. A monthly raid on the crew of tactical aviation is provided for in 17,6 – 18,8 hours.
F / A-18 pilots are required to perform the 18 tasks for which this machine is intended. Aircraft life - 6 thousand hours. - extended for AD modifications to 8600 hour. and will be increased for E / F modifications to 9 thousand hours. The latter circumstance would allow aircraft of the last two modifications with an annual 350 raid on the car up to the 2040 year. An interesting fact. When forming the F / A-1992E / F creation program in 18, it was planned to build 1080 machines with 45% distribution to combat squadrons, 11% to training units, 11% to replace aircraft sent for repair, and 33% to replace losses . To date, the program has been cut in half and completed with the purchase of an X / NUMX F / A-552E / F aircraft (the purchase of the 18 EA-135G is completed). Machines of modifications AD and E / F for each hour of flight require 18 and 20 hours, respectively. service. The feature of the aircraft of the last two modifications is that they can be quickly delivered (and also quickly removed) equipment for refueling in the air with an additional internal tank. The combat radius without refueling exceeds 15 thousand. Km.
What are the costs of an aircraft carrier?
In the American weekly Defense News in 2003, on the occasion of the entry into service of the fleet of the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, designed for 50 years of service, data were presented on its full value in 1999 prices of the year: purchase - 4,6 (16,7%); - 13,21 (47,9%), operation - 9,2 (33,4), recycling - 0,55 (2%), and in just 50 years - 27,56 billion dollars. If you look at media reports in 2012 – 2013 years on the lead aircraft carrier of the “Gerald Ford” type it turns out that the cost of R & D was 3,6 billion dollars, and the cost of design and construction ozrosla with 5,1 2008 in the year to over $ 8 billion., reaching to the year 2014 12,8 billion dollars in total. (the total value of the head of the English medium aircraft carrier "Queen Elizabeth" is close to half the value of the US aircraft carrier). It is noteworthy that the cost of recycling AVMA "Enterprise" in 2013 – 2018 is estimated at 1,4 billion dollars, and a major overhaul with recharging the core of ABMA “Abraham Lincoln” reactors at 2013 – 2016 will cost 4,6 billion dollars.
In one analysis of the contract for the aircraft carrier, it was reported that the profit of the plant, calculated from the cost of the contract, will be 13% if the work is done qualitatively and ahead of schedule, 11% if the work is done qualitatively and on time, and 9% if there is a delay from surrender (elimination of deficiencies due to the plant). Americans assume that 11 aircraft carriers such as "Gerald Ford" can be in service at least 2094 year, and during this time will be replaced by several generations of aircraft and helicopters deck aircraft.
The strengths of the AVMA / AUG lie in their strike power (the combat radius of the wing without refueling is over 1 thousand km, the range of missile cruisers and destroyers is up to 2500 km), maneuverability (500 or more miles per day), balance (by the number of types of aircraft and ship classes, by the number of aircraft and ships). All this allows successful combat operations against enemy air, ground, surface and submarine forces. The weak sides of aircraft carriers include their high fire and explosion hazards, insufficient booking, greater metacentric height, dependence of deck aviation use on sea state, wind speed, air temperature, vulnerability of the flight deck landing section, etc.
It should be particularly noted that aircraft carriers with nuclear power plants have never been exposed to fire in a real battle, but only burned from the explosions of their own ammunition. So, the level of their combat stability and floodability is judged by theoretical calculations. The results of the "shooting" and drowning in 2005 of the decommissioned conventional aircraft carrier "America" with a displacement of 80 thousand tons were not made public. It is possible that, with favorable results on flooding, there would certainly be an information leak in the media with an “advertisement” of the combat stability of the aircraft carrier.
This is the case with aircraft carriers "they". And what is being done with us?
If you rely on scattered information in the media, it turns out that for three and a half years you can design an aircraft carrier and develop working design documentation, in 2018, lay the first aircraft carrier, and in 2022, transfer it to the fleet. It is alleged that the ship will be with a nuclear power plant, with electromagnetic catapults, and with a displacement of 80 thousand tons will carry up to 80 LA. It is believed that in the year 2060 we will have six aircraft carriers. To evaluate this information, it is necessary to revert to foreign experience.
For the construction of the first six AVMA type "Nimitz" Americans needed 24 year. In order for the lead ship of the Gerald Ford type aircraft carrier to begin its first 22 deployment to the advanced areas in 2018, it was necessary to start preparatory work in 2001, to activate its development in 2003, to begin cutting steel for the hull in 2005, to conclude contract for detailed design and construction in 2008, lay the ship in 2009, carry out its launch in 2013, and schedule the ship transfer to the fleet at the end of 2016.
Consider our situation if we worked on the American timelines. So, in our 2060 year - six aircraft carriers, the first of which goes to military service in the 2038 year. The fleet then needs to be handed over to the 2036 year, the descent of the aircraft carrier should be done in the 2033 year, and its bookmark should be sent to the 2029 year. In this case, the construction contract must then be concluded in 2028, cutting began in 2025, and design work on the ship began in 2021.
In addition, by the year 2036 it is necessary to have time to design, produce and transfer in sufficient numbers the first aircraft necessary for the aircraft carrier aircraft (deck fighter aircrafts, EW and DRLO helicopters, PLO helicopters, combat and rear support aircraft, reconnaissance and attack unmanned aerial vehicles) and necessary for AUG warships and support vessels. By this time, a system should be established for training highly paid personnel of the ship specialists for the aircraft carrier and the flight technical staff for its air group.
As a result, by the year 2025 it is necessary to decide on a mass of mutually related issues. What class of aircraft carrier do we need “within our means”: heavy, medium, light or, as the Americans suggested in 90, aircraft carrier-catamaran with a displacement of 30 KT; aircraft carrier on an airbag weighing 9 KT with two dozen short take-off and vertical landing aircraft; ice or normal class; with nuclear, steam-power, diesel, gas turbine or combined power plant, with full or partial electric propulsion; equipped with a springboard, steam or electromagnetic catapult; with regular take-off and landing aircraft or with short (vertical) take-off and vertical landing aircraft; with an air group capable only of defending its forces or performing all the tasks of fighting the enemy’s air, sea and land forces; with basic functions such as flag demonstrations, protection of the exclusive economic zone, fisheries and the continental shelf, the fight against terrorism, piracy and poaching, or with the main function - to fight and win with its deck aircraft, acting as part of the AUG along with coastal fleet forces.
You should also decide how we will build (sections at different plants with assembly on one or build entirely on one plant) and where we will build (only in our country or with the involvement of not only our own, but also foreign factories for building sections), how many new production areas and equipment for the construction and repair of aircraft carriers are required. Where can we buy high-strength lightweight steel, kevlar armor and composites? Where will we build equipped berths for aircraft carriers and create coastal infrastructure for carrier-based aviation? All this is required to calculate in order to know in advance the direct and indirect costs of creating and maintaining the carrier fleet of the Russian Navy.
HIGHLY NON-FRIENDLY FUTURE
However, the future of the sea giants in the long run is not at all as cloudless as they see it today. It is likely that by the turn of the 2050 – 2060 years, such high-precision long-range missile systems will be created that will put aircraft carriers at risk of existence. It is no coincidence that the Americans are building surface warships in series in more than 50 (corvettes) and 70 (destroyers) units with a displacement of 3 and 9 thousand tons.
In addition, there is another nuance. Our naval commanders believe that without the cover of an aircraft carrier, the Russian RPFs lose their combat stability already on the second day after leaving the base, because aviation is the main opponent of these boats. The logic of such statements should be understood as follows: the basis of our armed forces are strategic nuclear forces; the basis of the Navy are RPFSN; these RPFs will be protected if aircraft carriers cover them at sea; therefore, "give aircraft carriers!".
But then why did the Admiral Kuznetsov TAVKR leave our RPLSN unguarded, going “on cruises to warm seas”? Maybe because, in its current form, it does not meet the “cost-effectiveness” criterion for an aircraft carrier (the giant ship carries a dwarf air group; compared with the Americans it spends little time at sea, and its air group flies a little from an aircraft carrier, and and does not have DRLO and EW aircraft, without which it is less effective) and more like a raider than a means of winning air and sea supremacy?
There is another circumstance. For Americans, aircraft carriers are an offensive weapon, the long arm of an expeditionary fleet capable of operating force from the sea in almost any region of the world. In the Russian fleet, aircraft carriers, if built, will be defensive weapons. And in the absence of aircraft carriers, this role can be successfully fulfilled by the naval coastal aviation provided by a sufficient number of tanker aircraft.
Let's look at the development trends of military equipment. Observation and reconnaissance systems of the major powers of the world have reached a level in the medium and long term, at which large surface warships will be monitored continuously, despite the concealment and misleading measures they use. The development of non-nuclear high-precision weapons (for example, regional-range hypersonic missiles, global-range hypersonic planning missiles, anti-ship armored land-launch vehicles and air-defense missiles) and their targeting systems will put large ships in bases and at sea to the brink of survival.
Already, the experience of US military operations shows that neutralizing the runways of air bases and airfields, achieved by the use of long-range precision weapons, leads to the fact that combat aircraft with ordinary take-off and landing aircraft becomes a witness rather than a participant in military operations. Considering these circumstances, instead of concentrating the fleet's airpower on six vulnerable large displacement aircraft carriers, it is advisable to focus on separating the maximum possible number of aircraft and high-precision missiles of various range and speed (ship and aircraft) with the maximum possible number of surface combat ships of about 3 – 10 thousand displacement. It also requires powerful coastal aviation with a sufficient number of manned and unmanned aircraft, including short take-off and aircraft ikalnoy landing (capable of acting under the scrapping of the stationary airports).
The cruel prose of life requires parting with ambition, sadness for aircraft carriers, and illusions about the need and usefulness of ships of this class for the Russian Federation in the age of revolution in military affairs. The fleet could and could do without aircraft carriers, but is not able to conduct successful combat operations without strong coastal aviation and a significant number of warships of the main classes armed, including manned or unmanned aircraft. It remains only to hope for the revival in the shortest possible time of the strike power of the naval aviation of our country with its continuous subsequent updating of the corresponding time with military equipment.